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December 2009

December 30, 2009

Five Best Places to Bicycle in Chile

PASSING ON THE RIGHT: Biking with the cows in Chiloé, Chile (ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours)

From the Atacama Desert in the north to Chiloé Island in the south, Chile has an incredible diversity of culture, history, and scenery packed into its 100-mile-wide strip of territory. If you are looking for sunshine in February or springtime in November, Chile is the place to be. A solid infrastructure throughout the country means a variety of quiet paved and unpaved roads, which tempt cyclists to jump on their bikes and start exploring. Here are our five favorite places to bicycle in Chile.

- 5. The Atacama Desert: Cycling in the Atacama Desert will change the way you think about wide-open spaces. Tucked between the Pacific Coast and the high Andean Plateau, some parts of this 600-mile desert have never recorded rainfall. With horizons that go on forever, bicycling in the Atacama offers miles of traffic-free, smooth roads. The endless view is the only thing that might interrupt your ride as you bicycle in the driest place on earth.

- 4. The Andean Altiplano: The "high plateau" of the Andes is exactly as the name suggests: high and relatively flat. At an average altitude of 12,300 feet (3,750 meters) a bicycle ride on the altiplano allows for a surprising amount of well-paved roads with little traffic and striking views of the surrounding mountains and colors. Mineral deposits from the past few million years have created a landscape scattered with red, brown, orange, and gold colors. A magical place to bicycle, the altiplano has near perfect conditions for anyone interested in long-distance cycling and high-altitude training.

Continue reading "Five Best Places to Bicycle in Chile" »

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Related Topics: Outdoor Adventures · South America Travel · Trip Ideas

December 29, 2009

Best iPhone Apps for Skiing and Snowboarding

If you were lucky enough to wake up to a new iPhone 3GS this holiday season, I'm sure you wasted no time in loading it up with apps. If your other presents included wax and hand warmers, chances are you went right to the sportssection of the iTunes Store and started looking through the myriad options for on-snow apps. Here are a few of the new and noteworthy:

RealSki by Resort Technology Partners (; $.99 per resort)

Our tech team here at says augmented reality apps (those that combine the GPS and camera to provide real-time, in-your-face directions) are "the next big thing." Sure, getting lost at a ski resort can be part of the adventure, but not when it's 3:30 in the afternoon and your ride home is half a mountain away. Pull out your phone, fire up RTP's latest invention, point the camera at the slope in front of you. You'll see arrows pointing to the names of runs and their difficulty, complete with green circles, blue squares, etc. The app does require a little knowledge (it won't tell you whether "Lower Exhibition" drops you at the main base lodge or some far corner of the resort), and the initial roll-out includes just five resorts. But company spokesman Michael McDermett says the full version will be in the iTunes Store "any day now" and will include 80 resorts for .99 cents per resort. You don't need a 3G or wireless internet service to use the app, and an innovative sleep mode lets you shut down the phone and stow it, saving battery life in cold weather. They even hope to add European resorts in the next version. See the video here:

Resorts Tapped Jackson Hole Mountain Resort App (; $6)

Maybe I'm biased because I'm skiing in Jackson Hole right now. Certainly, other resorts have their own proprietary iPhone apps. And yes, you can get something like Snocator that wraps 70 resorts, GPS locator maps, and current conditions into one package. But this Jackson-specific program, developed by two locals and JHMR employees, has a few nice bells and whistles that some of the others don't. GPS sharing technology lets you find friends on the slope (or yes, in the bar). Lift status updates let you know when they drop the rope to your favorite stash. And you can instantly share the runs you've taken that day via Facebook or check them out on Google Earth. The map is a real trail map, as opposed the the hard-to-follow topo maps some generic applications use. If you're taking a two-week trip to a big Western resort this year, it's definitely worth looking in to whether they have their own app.

OnTheSnow iPhone Reports (; $1.99) has been a leader in online and mobile ski reports since before the iPhone was a glimmer in Steve Jobs's eye. Where once you had to check your text messages (or, gasp!, call in) for new snow totals, OnTheSnow's app gives a barebones detailing of recent snowfall, base depth, total open runs, and surface conditions for over 2,000 resorts in North America and abroad. So if you're looking for just the facts, ma'am, and you don't mind finding out that Vail is snowed under while your local resort is getting nada, this is your choice.

There are plenty of other options out there. Be wary that in some mountain areas, cell phone coverage and wireless availability are better than  If you find something in the iTunes store you like and works well, let us know.

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December 28, 2009

New Year's Eve in Edinburgh: The World’s Best Street Party?

Partying in the new year at Hogmanay (courtesy, Edinburgh Hogmanay)

Lots of cities vie for the title of world’s best New Year’s Eve party—you know, Sydney, New York City, Berlin—but when it comes to the ball actually dropping, let’s be honest, a small gathering in some far-off yurt can be just as exciting and memorable as some blowout city shindig. That said (OK, and as a biased Scot), the Scottish capital of Edinburgh really does put on one amazing show, with festivities that start almost as soon as the Christmas turkey is off the bone. The Scottish capital is abuzz with crowds from as early as December 27, enjoying the holiday lights, street fair, special concerts and parades, not to mention Edinburgh’s many atmospheric pubs and clubs. New Year’s Eve itself, known as Hogmanay in Scotland, culminates with a huge outdoor street party and fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle. With hundreds of thousands of revelers filling the streets, it’s a truly unique occasion, though here are a few tips on making the most of your Hogmanay:

- You need a ticket to access the main areas of the big downtown street party. Buy passes at
- Wrap up warmly. The weather can get wild at this time of year, and you’ll be standing around for long spells in the lead up to the midnight bells. Likewise, don’t expect to hail a taxi to get home; chances are you’ll be walking, so be warm and wear comfortable shoes.
- Have a plan after the show. Many locals will head to private parties or ticket-only events in the pubs and clubs. It’s very unlikely you’ll just stroll into a pub after 12 o’clock, and if you do it’ll probably take you till January 2nd to get served.
- Don’t worry if you can’t get tickets to the street party. There are lots of other cool vantage points from which to see the fireworks, including Calton Hill and the Royal Botanical Gardens. Pack a bottle of bubbly, some vintage snacks, and a blanket to enjoy the show without the crush of people who will be a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ down in Edinburgh’s downtown Royal Mile and Princes Street areas.
- Most of Scotland is a dead zone until January 3, with the 2nd being a public holiday as well as New Year's Day. This means that public transportation and many shops and services will remain closed or on a modified schedule. Don't expect to get anywhere quickly until at least January 2nd!

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Related Topics: European Travel · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Trip Ideas

December 27, 2009

Celebrate New Years Eve 16 Hours Ahead of NYC, PLUS: Melbourne's New Art Hotel

Cullen_Hotel_Day#1_021109-00546-crop Forget huddling with the freezing masses in Times Square waiting for the always-anticlimactic ball to drop.  Instead, jump ahead of the rest of the United States—literally—by heading to Melbourne.  The Aussie cultural capital will enter 2010 a full 16 hours before NYC, celebrating tne endof the aughts with a spectacular display of midnight fireworks bursting over the skyline, visible throughout the city.

Of course gouing down under is hardly a spur-of-the-moment fly-by travel impulse.  But Melbourne boasts loads of antipodal allure for days-long distractions, from hosting the Australian Open this January to museum and gallery hopping to simply wandering the downtown side streets in search of the next great bar. Liquor licenses in the city cost only $500 (AU), so there’s a profusion of fantastic small spots. They typically spring up on the “lane ways”—pedestrian alleys that branch off the major downtown streets.  The joints are often a collection of tiny rooms on the second floor, boasting an intimate, local vibe right in the beating heart of a busy metropolis. It makes for a refreshing alternative to the bigger club scene.

And when looking to bed down for the night, embrace the city’s famed artistic identity by booking a room at The Cullen, a new $48 million luxury boutique hotel in the inner-suburb city of Prahran.  It houses more than 450 works by famed Aussie artist Adam Cullen, with 155 rooms and a lush rooftop garden with private bungalows and a cocktail bar.  This is the first in a series of the Art Series Hotels, a $300 million project that will bring five other new art-inspired properties to the city.  The next, named for renowned painter John Olsen, will open in February 2010, and will have the world’s largest glass-bottom swimming pool that'll hang over Chapel Street in Melbourne’s shopping district.

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Places to Stay

December 26, 2009

Nikon Offers Tips for Cold-Weather Photography


In Nikon's recent post on photo Insights and Techniques, famed professional wildlife photographer Weldon Lee offers some great tips on successful ways to take photos during the snowiest, cold-weather months.  A few highlights:

1. Keep your spare batteries inside your jacket to let your body warmth retain the charge. 
2. Protect your camera from the foul weather.
3. When you come back in from the cold, leave your camera in your backpack for up to 45 minutes so that it slowly acclimatizes and won't fog up.
4. Keep lens swapping to a minimum; moisture could get into the camera body and then freeze, causing permanent damage.

Regarding point two, check out the Rain Sleeve from OP/TEC USA.  It's just a long plastic sock with a right-angle bend. Slip your hands into one hole, secure the other end over the lens cover with a rubber band, and slide the eyecup over the pre-cut opening and you've got a great way to take pictures in all but the most extreme weather.  For under $10, it might be the least expensive and most versital camera accessory on the market. OP/TECH USA also makes more hardcore weather protection for budding professionals.

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Related Topics: From Around the Web · Skiing & Snowboarding · Travel Photography

December 23, 2009

The Canyons Resort, Park City, Utah

UNTOUCHED SNOW: Skier in the solitude of fresh powder at The Canyons Resort (The Canyons Resort)

Don't be fooled by the stylish cabriolet rising from the lower parking lot, the swanky ski-in accommodations, or the spiffy, carless village. The Canyons Resort is all about extraordinary skiing. It's everywhere up there, spilling over the mountain like a fat guy in a Lycra downhill suit. Sure, they pass themselves off as a wonderland for families (which they most certainly are), or a tony meeting place for Fortune 500 suits (right on, again), but they're stuck with that incomparable mountain. Make that eight peaks, to be precise.

The Canyons, which is just four miles from Park City's historic Main Street, is the gnarliest and largest of the three ski resorts that border the best little ski town in America (Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resortcomplete this trifecta of stand-alone resorts). The Canyons is both wide and tall—3,700 skiable acres and 3,190 vertical feet—with a whopping average annual snowfall of 355 inches. The lift arsenal of high-speed quads and an eight-passenger gondola whisks snow riders into the thin air of snowy boulevards, tree-lined steeps, off-piste bowls, and miles of sun-dappled powder shots that snake and splinter through drop-dead gorgeous aspen groves. But the place is also about as good as it gets for kids, the snow rolled out like a carpet, offering everything but a docile St. Bernard.

Continue reading "The Canyons Resort, Park City, Utah" »

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Related Topics: Outdoor Adventures · Skiing & Snowboarding

December 22, 2009

Cool Gadget: Nikon Lens Simulator

By Lacy Morris

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Nikon The masterminds behind Nikon released a web-based lens simulator that allows you to test drive the lens and camera body before purchase. Start with choosing your camera, either FX formats (D3x, D3, and D700) or DX formats (D90, D300s, D5000, D3000s). Then you can choose a lens you are interested in (wide-angle, telephoto, macro, etc.) or slide a toggle bar to view anything from 10mm to 600mm. Previewing focal lengths will help in purchasing the lens that best suits your needs. You can also test out different sensor formats and change your angle of view. Check it out on the Nikon website.

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Related Topics: Travel Photography · Travel Websites

December 18, 2009

The Upside of Warming?: Sea Kayak Greenland's Forbidden Coast

As the Copenhagen climate conference grinds to its final tortured impasse today, here’s some news that ought to get the delegates’ attention: next summer, Explorers’ Corner founder Olaf Malver will personally lead the first ever commercial kayaking tour of Greenland’s remote Kangerdlussuaq Fjord, now accessible to small-boat tours because of the Arctic’s receding icepack. “It’s a sad thing that the area’s opening up,” Malver told in a recent phone interview, “but this is a really unique, exploratory opportunity.” A 32-hour boat ride from Iceland, the area—known as Greenland’s “Forbidden Coast”—was previously only accessible to a few hardy Inuit hunters and well-heeled explorers with access to boat and helicopter transport for getting around. In 2010, Explorers’ Corner will lead two groups of seven experienced kayakers on back-to-back trips that will delve into eastern Greenland’s wilderness by boat, from there they’ll launch out in sea kayaks to explore a lattice of remote islands, fjords, and inlets, as well as take day hikes onshore in the shadow of Greenland’s highest peaks. The rugged region is home to narwhals, polar bears, seals, and other Arctic wildlife. Both trips are now fully booked, although Malver expects to be able to offer the same expedition in 2011. A great opportunity for a truly unique adventure, it’s also one more indication that global warming is already altering the world we know.

Check out the video below of an Explorer's Corner Expedition through Greenland's Sermilik Fjord for a taste of what to expect:

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Related Topics: Eco-Tourism · Travel News

Sites We Like:'s World Cup Site

Istopover With some reports indicating that there may be a shortage of accommodation for fans attending the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, entrepreneurial websites like are getting into the mix by offering non-traditional listings from locals who own apartments and houses in and around the World Cup venues.’s World Cup site, which launched at the beginning of October, currently has over 800 listings submitted directly by local property owners. Fans can browse photos and other amenities, plus contact the owner directly with more questions. takes a small cut on the final booking fee, which is not due until you complete your stay. On booking, payment goes directly to via secure third-party, and is then held for release to the owner until after the stay is complete. Like other vacation-rental sites and community-oriented sites like, there is an element of uncertainty to actual levels of comfort, cleanliness, and convenience, but’s role as facilitator between guest and host means you assume more direct control over the trip-planning process. Beyond the World Cup, look for these types of sites to keep growing as more and more small businesses and individuals cut into a space normally dominated by the large hotel aggregators and portals.

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Related Topics: 2010 World Cup · Africa Travel · Travel Websites

Big Sky, Montana: Big Everything!

Mike under cliffjump_(Ryan-Turner)At Montana's Big Sky Resort I hooked up with Mike Mannelin, a 34-year-old couch surfer and sometime parking-lot camper. Mike grew up ski racing in Minnesota and has skied big lines in Warren Miller and Greg Stump ski movies. He summers in Alaska. "Nothin's handed to you in Alaska," he said.

On the lift he never spoke of cold. (No good boarder or skier does.) Nor did he talk a big game. He let the resort's challenging terrain and abundant snow speak for itself. On the subject of skiing, all he said was "the rewards are always going to be there." On our first run he barreled down a black diamond, sometimes straight-lining, sometimes tightening things up into perfect slalom turns. His main obsession is freedom. I liked him instantly.

Over the course of two days, I tailed Mike around the biggest skiing in America (5,300 acres and a vertical drop of 4,350 feet). All the back-of-beyond riders on the 11,000-foot-high Lone Mountain tram knew him. "He's the best on the mountain," one of them whispered to me.

Continue reading "Big Sky, Montana: Big Everything!" »

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Related Topics: Outdoor Adventures · Skiing & Snowboarding

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