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Dispatches from the Road

March 30, 2010

Destination 3 Degrees: Adventures Against Plastic

By Guest Blogger

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Both-horny toad
Morgan Hoesterey and Jenny Kalmbach (Destination 3 Degrees)

In April, a unique adventure is launching from the Big Island of Hawaii with Kauai as its endpoint. Taking to the storied waters that connect the islands, stand-up paddlers Morgan Hoesterey and Jenny Kalmbach are headed for a destination that stretches across three degrees of latitude—over 200 nautical miles—and, as recent reports tell us, a whole lot of plastic debris.

Hoesterey and Kalmbach will paddle from one island to the next, exploring above and below the waterline to help illuminate the impact of plastics contamination on some of the world's most celebrated shorelines and the creatures these coasts shelter.

Bound only by the elements, the women will have unprecedented access to parts of the islands most people never get to see. They'll cross channels more than 80 miles long and 10,000 feet deep, sometimes under the light of the moon, and always with the cooperation of the winds. For their efforts we'll all be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking natural beauty our oceans have to offer.

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Eco-Tourism

March 24, 2010

No Mountain Too High

Sit Skier at PCMR
Sit Skier at Park City Mountain Resort, Utah (Gerry Wingenbach)

I am skiing with David. And I'm talking a pretty good game, even though I'm snowplowing my turns. I’ve got to talk when I ski with David. I am his eyes. David is blind.

Can you see me at all, David? No. I'm just a big blob, like a stained-glass image. Wow, David, that sounds better than I really look.

My buddy Mike McBee hooked me up with David. Mike and I enjoy epic powder days together in Park City. We make perfect figure 8s on black-diamond Widow Maker. Mike was born with the birth defect spina bifida and for most of the year he’s confined to a wheelchair, monotony probably his worse enemy. But everything changes come ski season when the schism between his physical will and actual capacities vanish.

Mike skis in a sit ski (a plastic bucket seat mounted on a ski) and plugs away as a ski instructor at Park City’s National Ability Center (NAC). He’s played a role with many of the 1,600-plus skiers with physical, cognitive, or developmental disabilities that NAC has worked with so far this season. The non-profit operates out of a slope-side trailer at Park City Mountain Resort, and the place reeks of courage and glory.

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Skiing & Snowboarding

March 23, 2010

Au Pair Adventures: Life in Leysin

By Guest Blogger

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Leysin, Switzerland (Wikipedia)

For those trying to dodge the ritzy air that can cloud fancy ski resorts, the small town of Leysin, Switzerland, offers a young, hip ski scene.

Nestled in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, the town is an hour and 20 minutes from Geneva by train. Try to catch a lift near sundown so you can see the Alps at their finest as you pass through some of the vineyards that make the country famous.

When day breaks you will understand why Leysin is often referred to as the sun porch of Switzerland—there is hardly a day when the weather isn't breathtakingly awesome. The sunny mountain location means it is often warmer than in the valley, creating a very nice ski environment.

Day lift tickets are around $47, with a half-day pass available at 1 P.M. Your pass includes Leysin's 60 kilometres (37 miles) of pisted trails (though many people prefer off-piste areas), along with access to nearby resort Les Mosses. Skis, snowboards, snowshoes, etc. can be rented at Hefti's, a shop across the street from the lift ticket office.

Continue reading "Au Pair Adventures: Life in Leysin" »

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March 18, 2010

See Cities With Local Guides, and Intrepid Travel

Thai local and Intrepid Travel guide Ae Thagoon biking in Bangkok (Nathan Borchelt)

With the near-constant scramble to achieve zero emissions and carbon neutrality, with off-set credits, slow skiing, geotourism, certifications, and the looooong list other eco-trends embraced by so many companies in the travel industry, it sometimes feels the allure of travel itself is getting scrubbed off by all the green washing. This ain’t no anti-environmental screed. I do “believe in” global warming, and applaud any and all pursuits to circumvent the damaging impact of long-haul flights, 4x4 safari excursions, and all the rest.  But to me the umbrella concept of eco-travel should speak to the larger concept of sustainable tourism as much as it does to the environment. It should incorporate both earth-friendly practices as well as a localist centralism that both stimulates the local economy where you’re visiting (good for your conscious), and provides interaction with the people who live there (good for your travel experience).

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Related Topics: All Inclusive Vacation · Dispatches from the Road · Eco-Tourism · Travel Tips · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

March 04, 2010

Jackson Offers More than Skiing and Boarding

Jackson Wildlife Safaris-Gerry
Looking out for animals on a Jackson Hole wildlife safari (Gerry Wingenbach)

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is not a place where skiers and snowboarders sprawl on chaise lounges. Not with that country mile of vertical and fire-engine red tram scaling its way up 10,500-foot Rendezvous Mountain. Unfortunately this week, under nothing but blue skies, it is a place you bring your rock skis. I’ve never seen such little snow here in March.

But who comes to Jackson just to ski? Even in a good year, when the Hobacks are nothing but powder, there is so much more than skiing going on in extraordinary Jackson Hole (the town is Jackson, the valley is Jackson Hole). It’s often the dalliances and the detours that make for a great ski trip. Friends and families here for a week of snow riding would be remiss not to take a day off from the slopes and experience Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge that sprawls between town and the mountain resort, where the surreal becomes real. It is a world exploding with wildlife that lays the wild world out for you every single day. This is America’s Serengeti.

Continue reading "Jackson Offers More than Skiing and Boarding" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Family Vacation · Skiing & Snowboarding

February 25, 2010

The BC Powder Highway: Day 8

A young skier masters the moguls at Whitewater Resort (Nathan Borchelt)

Where do you go when you’ve been air-lifted via helicopter to the top of a snow-covered mountain with nothing but virgin powder stretching out in every direction? If you’re heli-skiing with Snowwater, likely to Nelson, BC, a charming hamlet positioned on scenic Kootenay Lake about 20 minutes from Snowwater HQ. From there, you’ll likely wake before dawn for the three-hour drive south to Spokane, WA, for your flight back to the real world of pet feeding, bill paying, and conventional resort skiing.

But I had one…more…stop on my vagabond tour of British Columbia’s famed Powder Highway.  Whitewater Winter Ski Resort.

From the parking lot, Whitewater doesn’t look like much. As with Red Mountain outside of Rossland, the resort itself doesn’t boast much in the way of megaresort infrastructure—or lifts. Exit the main lodge and you stand at the V of the valley, with the Silver King double climbing the hill to your left, and the other double—Summit—carving up the mountain to your right. Directly before you, 7,874-foot Ymir Peak. Or so I was told. The day I arrived the conditions were too cloudy to actually see the peak itself. Instead, a pittance of snow scattered through the cold air like confetti.

Continue reading "The BC Powder Highway: Day 8" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Skiing & Snowboarding

February 24, 2010

Sites We Like:


I met Scott Dunn and his wife, Jill Richards, on a press trip to Phoenix, Arizona, last November. Scott, a mellow, no-nonsense Tennessean, was the PR guy for the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau; his West Coast wife was a photographer for the Arizona Republic. At the time they were planning a 12-month road trip hiatus to celebrate their first year of marriage, a dream that you can now follow at 12LegsTravel after they packed their few possessions, two mutts, and a handful of Scott's favorite books into their truck on New Year's Eve 2009. Enjoy stunning vistas of the American Southwest—more states to come as they head toward Mississippi and Louisiana, where Jill worked as a photojournalist after Katrina—as well as Scott's finely crafted insights about life out on the open road. And I'm not just shilling for a couple whose company I happened to enjoy over several days in and around Phoenix. In an online world saturated with travel opinions, information, and self-reflective narratives, shines an intimate light on what it means to travel through landscapes you cherish with the people (and animals) you love. Join them for the adventure.

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · National Parks · Outdoor Adventures · Road Trips · Travel Websites

Snowwater Heli-Skiing in Pictures

Landing on top of the world: Day 2 with Snowwater Heli-Ski in British Columbia

View from the summit. The red flag on the black stake marks the heli landing pad

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February 23, 2010

Au Pair Adventures: Mushing the Alps

By Guest Blogger

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Dog Sled-Caitlin
IT'S A DOG'S LIFE: Sled teams rest before hitting the trail (Caitlin Byrnes)

Between skiing fresh powder, sightseeing from gondolas, and tubing at lightning speeds, most ski resorts have more than enough to occupy your time. But for those who want a more unique experience in their winter vacation, dogsled racing offers the perfect opportunity. I checked out a five-day race through the Alps that began in my small town of Leysin last week, and it was one of the more interesting things I've ever done in the snow.

The sport's relative obscurity combined with rural meet locations means dogsled races, also called mushing, have an atmosphere unlike most other sporting events. Yes, plenty of people in the village gather. And yes, there were competitors from all over the world. However, it was free of the pompous, ritzy atmosphere found at more popular sporting events. It was really nice to walk up to the teams before they raced—a luxury I have never experienced before. (Can you imagine walking up to the Saints right before a playoff game and asking to touch the football?) All of the teams allowed you to pet and play with their dogs, and I even climbed onto a sled.

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February 19, 2010

American Skiers and Boarders Deliver Olympic Medals

Cypress Mountain, Olympic venue for the freestyle skiing and snowboard events (© VANOC/COVAN)

Shaun White’s gold in the men’s halfpipe and Lindsey Vonn’s gold in the women’s downhill were worth all the nervous delays caused by British Columbia’s fickle coastal weather. Add Bode Miller’s bronze medal in the men’s downhill (he was .09 seconds off the winning time) and you’ve got something to write home about. And let’s not forget American women Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark, who took silver and bronze in the women’s halfpipe.

And there are likely more medals to come from the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Team. Watch for Ted Ligety in the giant slalom and slalom next week.

White, 23, pulled off his new trick, Double McTwist 1260, a two-flip, three-and-a-half-spin wonder that he perfected on a remote halfpipe in Colorado, built by his sponsor Red Bull. Vonn, 25, did what she’s been doing all winter. She beat the fastest women in the world for the most daring and dramatic gold medal of the games, so far. Her American roommate, Julia Mancuso, who seemingly skied a perfect run, won silver. Mancuso was a gold medalist in giant slalom four years ago.

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Skiing & Snowboarding

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