snowboarding

Socioeconomic Adventure Gaps: What’s the Solution?

Adventure is a state of mind, you could argue. Available to anyone, anywhere, with the right amount of determination and imagination, adventure is abundant in its infinite forms.

Let’s face it, though. Adventure is oftentimes cost prohibitive. Mountain biking, backpacking, traveling internationally, skydiving, whitewater rafting — you name it, certain components necessary to achieve adventure are simply not an option for many people.

The socioeconomic adventure gap exists, and it’s quite large.

This got me to thinking. What if the barrier to entry were easier? What if cost prohibitive adventures were accessible to everyone?

Let’s crunch a few numbers first. I’ll work within the confines of an activity which has given me countless hours of satisfaction and happiness at a particularly high cost: snowboarding.

General Costs Associated with Snowboarding (give or take a few dollars):

  • Snowboard: $500
  • Boots: $200
  • Bindings: $200
  • Snow Pants: $150
  • Jacket: $100
  • Gloves: $50
  • Goggles: $100
  • Lift Ticket: $90

For a grand total of: $1,390

Note that I did not include the cost of transportation to and from the mountain, or the cost of food/beverages.

Is a family bringing in about the same amount per month going to pony up that kind of cash for their kid to go snowboarding? Absolutely not. They’d be out of their minds.

This is where those of us in a particular community come in — whether you’re a climber, kayaker, snowboarder, or whatever. If you’re anything like me, you have a bunch of extra gear collecting dust. What if we were to put our gear to good use by donating to somebody in need? What if we were then to provide our guidance and transportation and support and everything else associated with the activity?

So many of those barriers would be eliminated.

How this works, I haven’t a clue. Which is why I’d love to hear your ideas. Please do share.

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Getting Old: Wise, or Missing Out on the Fun?

I think I’m getting old.

I can hear your sarcasm loud and clear already. Eric, that’s so amazing, you’re thinking. Weird how time marches on and people age. Yeah, yeah, whatever.

And before you older folks verbally accost me for the misuse of what appears to be my youth, hear me out.

The other day I was on wind hold at a Kirkwood lodge with a huge group of meetup.com pals. Ages varied, from those in their early ’20s to those of us not in our early ’20s.

The lifts weren’t spinning, nor were they going to anytime soon. Snow was blowing sideways at a rate of an inch per hour. Wisdom and experience said we weren’t going anywhere. So I joined two new friends, both of them grey in the goatee, for a few rounds of rummy.

Eventually the youngsters grew restless and decided to hike a ways uphill to take a few hard-earned powder turns. Several of them asked us older gentlemen if we’d like to join in on the fun. We took one incredulous look at each other and simultaneously said “you kids go on.”

That they did. I thought nothing of it at first, as my main priority was to destroy my rummy opponents. Later, when the the kiddies returned to the lodge exhausted, covered in snow, and jubilant, I had a moment of regret.

Maybe I should’ve went for a hike. A young Eric would not play cards waiting for the storm to pass. A young Eric would’ve went for a hike.

Sad story, right? Those of you who are many years my senior can now verbally accost me.

My point, though, is that maybe as we age, we develop a “been there, done that” mentality. We miss out on more opportunities to have fun.

Or maybe we’re a smarter bunch. How is a grueling hike uphill in waist deep powder considered fun, anyway?

Why you should take more spontaneous trips

You can only plan a few things in life.

And when it comes to traveling, planning becomes a practice of filling in the blanks. You know on Tuesday you’ll be climbing a mountain, but you certainly cannot plan all the circumstances associated with doing so.

When your planning is limited to purchasing a plane ticket, the possibilities are endless. Complete randomness becomes the blueprint for your trip.

In the next few weeks, I challenge you to take at least one spontaneous trip. It doesn’t have to be a complicated, long-distance vacation. Even something within a few hours of home is perfect.

I did just that this weekend. My buddy in Salt Lake City planted the seed when he pointed out a huge storm bearing down on the mountains above town.

After about an hour of discussion, we said to hell with it, let’s do this. So one buddy flew in from Denver, and another drove from Montrose, Colo. We were rewarded with feet of fresh powder for 10 hours straight. It was some of the most amazing snow I’ve ever shredded.

Look, I understand there are considerable drawbacks to taking such a lackadaisical approach to planning.

One of these days you will get screwed out of doing something because you didn’t make reservations or secure accommodations. Spontaneous travel might not be the most practical full-time approach to traveling.

Anything is probably better than sitting on the couch, though. Give it a shot. Go with the flow.

What is something spontaneous you have done recently?

The chairlift doesn’t bite

With so many families celebrating a new season on the slopes over the holiday weekend, I wanted to share one bit of snowboarding wisdom with you: the chairlift doesn’t bite.

When I was a snowboarding instructor, one challenge many of my students faced was overcoming a paralyzing fear of the chairlift.

It’s easy to understand why:  you’re strapped awkwardly to a board with one foot dangling while your annoying buddies pester you from behind.  The thought of falling while getting off the lift is unbearable.

For weeks I tried to figure out how to explain to students that getting on and off the lift was easier than riding a bike.  I consulted with fellow instructors and senior staff members, who mostly offered complex mechanical explanations on technique and form.

I knew there had to be an easier way to teach this.

Turns out there is. Here’s the trick:

Don’t think about it.

This realization came to me while sharing a chair with a student who was so scared of getting off the lift, I thought she might take it for a spin all afternoon. So I turned to her, said hey, look at me, don’t think about it.

She relaxed.  She got off the lift. And she flashed the biggest smile I saw all day.  She did it.  She conquered her first chair.

That’s what I’m talking about.

Turn on, tune in, drop out

To the backpacking, nature-loving purists out there, I’m sorry.  What I’m about to say may upset you.

I’m bringing my iPod along on my next backpacking trip.

I, too, was a purist of sorts at one time. I still am, mostly.  But I’ll admit, snowboarding and music are a perfect pair.

It took a while to reach this conclusion, as I’d scoff at the tight-pant wearing pretty boys shuffling through their playlists on the chairlift. And then I found a few metal tracks I really enjoyed. Several laps around the hill. Metal blasting. Bombing sections. Cold wind attacking my face.  I’m sold.

So what is the harm in at least trying an iPod on the trail? Will I stay plugged in until my battery expires?  Of course not.  Nature’s music is just as good.

Think about it, though. Your favorite track, hitting the crescendo, at the exact moment when Mother Nature is breathtakingly beautiful, pouring her eye candy all around you.

It would be interesting to hear what other backpackers have to say on the topic. I know plenty of thru-hikers won’t go without their iPod.  What about the day trippers? The weekend warriors?