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Archive for the Outdoor Sport Category

Why We Travel: Offline on the Umpqua

Posted by Josie | June 27th, 2013 | Filed under Bikes, Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection, Travel, Who We Are

This summer, in the Thought Kitchen, we explore why we love to travel. First up in our series—Josie Norris—our beloved producer and wild queen of single track, goes offline on the Umpqua. 

En route to Ashland from central Oregon two weeks ago, I accidentally found my new favorite wild place in Oregon. The Umpqua River sucked me in and I never made it to Ashland.

On day one, I spent hours on the North Umpqua River Trail (79 miles of beautifully maintained single-track) and didn’t see a single person. In the absence of cell reception, I left a note on my car the second day that said “if you’re reading this note after 8:00 p.m. on Saturday June 15th please send help…..”.

Thank you Verizon and thank you Oregon, for reminding me what it means to be truly disconnected.

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Engineering the Perfect Ski: An Interview with Pete Wagner

Posted by leighann | January 8th, 2013 | Filed under Design, Outdoor Sport, Partnerships

Courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis

How do you build the perfect ski? All you need is some sugar maple, Kevlar and the world’s most badass computer algorithm. Oh, and you need Pete Wagner, too. The computer-nerd turned ski-craftsman who started Wagner Custom Skis is single-handedly changing the way an industry makes skis. This week in the Thought Kitchen, we sit down with the man behind the planks to learn more about the number cruncher and his coveted custom boards.

OTG: It’s a bluebird day in Telluride and you’re on the phone talking to me. I’m honored.
Pete: (Laugh) That’s alright, I got out this morning.

OTG: You moved to Telluride in 1998 with a mechanical engineering degree and an impressive career customizing high-end golf clubs. So how does one make the leap from computer nerd to ski-maker?
Pete: Well I bought a pair of telemark skis that I couldn’t demo. But they were the right size, length, width, and they were from a good company, so I bought them anyways. I skied on them for about 70 days, then tried another set and realized I had been crippling myself. At the time, I was working as an engineer developing software for design analysis and manufacturing of golf equipment and I thought, why wasn’t anyone doing this type of fitting technology for skiers? I was spending my energy trying to figure this out in a parallel industry. So that’s what inspired me to create the software for fitting people into the right ski.

OTG: Funny, when I think of making skis, I don’t think of software. And the few boutique ski-makers which do exist in the country mostly rely on precast molds, but you don’t use molds, you use—as you said— software. How’s that possible?
Pete: Our software designs the skis and programs our manufacturing equipment to fabricate all of our parts for the skis. Using high tech machinery, we fabricate all of the components of the skis—the base, bending the steel edges, the wood core, sidewalls, structural layers. Then we use the scrap material from cutting out these different parts—along with our computer-controlled milling equipment—to create the molds for our skis. So every ski gets a unique mold which allows us to go through the same steps each time we build a product, but build a completely unique product every time. It’s a mass customization manufacturing model.

Pete putting the final finish on a pair of Wagner Custom Skis. Image courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis.

OTG: So would you say Wagner Custom Skis are the most customized ski on the market?
Pete: As far as we know. Because every ski we design is uniquely optimized for the individual skier based on length, width, side cut, tail shapes, camber, and rocker. We calibrate the stiffness and flex pattern based on a person’s size and skier preferences. We choose the perfect set of materials, and they get to choose their own graphics.

OTG: You also use Kevlar and Carbon wraps with a traditional wood core. Why do you choose these materials?
Pete: The way we build our skis is the way they built World Cup skis back in the 70’s, and that technology hasn’t changed that much. We take proven materials that work well for ski construction, performance and longevity and we focus on the fit. That way, we can create a design that can help improve someone’s balance, comfort, control, efficiency and power. Ultimately, we create a product that makes skiing easier and more fun for people, and we do that by focusing on the fit rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with materials.

OTG: I think you just answered my next question, but I’ll ask it anyways: How is a Wagner Custom Ski going to change my experience?
Pete: It’s going to help your balance, comfort, control, improve your efficiency, allow you to conserve your leg strength and energy so you can ski longer in the day. It also improves your power, so you can ski with better control and more fluidity. If you look at the best skiers in the world like Bode Miller and Ted Legity, you realize that they aren’t skiing in off-the-shelf skis. They’re sponsored by a company which has a small prototyping shop with a team of dedicated engineers which are making sure that they are on the perfect equipment that will allow them to ski at their absolute highest potential. That’s what Wagner Custom Skis does for recreational skiers. We’re a team of engineers and craftsmen who help people ski their best by making sure they are on their perfect fit equipment.

Courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis

OTG: Well, I’m sold. At Nau, sustainability and performance are two of our core values. And you already touched upon performance as your core value, but how is sustainability reflected in your business?
Pete: We focus on two things: energy and conservation. From an energy perspective, we have a solar thermal system that is on the roof of our building which supplies all of the heat and hot water for our shop. We buy wind energy to run our computers and factory equipment. From a conservation approach, we try and minimize our energy usage by using programmable thermostats and energy efficient lights and work stations to conserving the materials we use and minimizing our waste stream.

OTG: Many people don’t realize that there’s a personal component to sustainability which involves maintaining a sustainable work/life balance, something that’s hard to do as you become more successful. Obviously, you’ve done just that, so how do you strike a balance?
Pete: One thing that we do to help us stay focused on that balance is that we have a Powder Day Clause. So if the snow report for the Telluride Ski Resort shows five inches or more, we work from 1pm to 9pm so that we can get out and take advantage of the best skiing.

OTG: Excuse me, I think I need to go convince our GM to include a Powder Day Clause.

Winter Respite: Oh, The Places We’ll Go

Posted by leighann | December 20th, 2012 | Filed under Design, Outdoor Sport, Travel

It’s dumping in the Cascades and there’s a blizzard heading for the midwest. Winter is here, my friends. And it’s a perfect time for our seasonal nod to cabin porn and the snowy escapes that help us find respite during the insanity of the holidays (and the end of the Mayan Calendar). Here’s a compilation of our favorite winter refuges. First stop: the Tin Hat Cabin.

Weekend Cabin: Tin Hat Cabin, British Columbia. Located on the midpoint of the Sunshine Coast Trail, a 180-kilometer route that runs roughly northwest-southeast along the Straight of Georgia (west of Whistler, people, east of Vancouver Island), and it was built just last year by a large and extended family of volunteers who make up the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society. Courtesy of Adventure Journal


Built by hand using trees within walking distance in the Adirondack mountains, New York. Submitted by Zach Kolodziejski to

The timmelsjoch experience by werner tscholl architects, from

Cottage on an island near Nora, Sweden. Submitted by Jonas Loiske to

Cabin near Mazama, Wa. Built by Olson Kundig Architects. This 1,000 square-foot weekend cabin, basically a steel box on stilts, can be completely shuttered when the owner is away. Situated near a river in a floodplain, the 20’ x 20’ square footprint rises three stories and is topped by the living room/kitchen. Large, 10’ x 18’ steel shutters can be closed simultaneously using a hand crank.

Weekend Cabin in La Clusaz, France, Courtesy of

Heading South for the Winter

Posted by leighann | November 30th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Travel

embedded by Embedded Video

In case you’re like us and need a little reprieve from all the holiday hullabaloo, here’s a visual meditation that will bring you back to what truly matters. A few guys traveling the vast landscape of SouthAmerica put together this beautiful montage of pampas, windy horizons, distant cultures, and waterfalls. It’s not hard to see why vimeo chose it as their pick of the week. Now for that one-way ticket to Patagonia, please.


Riding Big: The Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic

Posted by Guest | November 13th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, surf

If you’re like us, you may have spent some time imagining what it feels like to ride a surfboard down the choppy face of a 30-foot wave. Hell, maybe you’ve done it and can tell us the tale. But for those of us who just dream about serious surfing, there’s something undeniably thrilling about knowing professional big wave surfers can conquer the unconquerable.

Some of the best big wave riders in the world may soon be arriving in our Oregon backyard if the weather gods cooperate. Until December 31, a surf competition called the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic is in a “holding period.” When forecasters predict swells of 30 feet or greater, competitors will have 72 hours to show up in Lincoln City, Oregon. They’ll arrive ready to ride.

Half a mile offshore, the Nelscott Reef produces legendary waves. For most of the eight years of the competition’s history, surfers were towed to the break by jet skis, but starting in 2008, some competitors chose to manually paddle to the waves so they could get the full drop, says event organizer John Forse.

That attitude mirrors the development of the sport. “Big wave surfing has evolved a lot. They [surfers] found out that even when they eat shit on a 40- or 50-foot wave, they could survive,” he says. “That was the biggest fear, handling the wipeout. So then they said, ‘Shit, let’s paddle it.’”

One of those big wave surfers, Dave Wassel, who competed at Nelscott in 2010 and spends his days life guarding on the North Shore of Oahu, said that while he was out catching the 40- and 50-foot waves on the reef, he saw a wave with a 70-foot face—the largest paddleable wave he’s ever seen.

This year, surfers will compete for a $10,000 purse and a chance to become the champion of the Big Wave World Tour, a series of five big wave competitions that includes the Nelscott Classic. Sign up for an email update about the start of the competition and find more info on their website.

Award-winning author and writer Lucy Burningham has been working as a journalist for the past twelve years. She covers travel, food, and craft beer for a variety of magazines, newspapers, and guidebooks.

Postcard From Slovenia

Posted by Alex | October 2nd, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection, Who We Are

Slovenian Alps

“Excuse me, but why would Americans come here?”

By ‘here,’ my Italian bunkmate doesn’t mean the attic dormitory of the Valentina Stamca Hut; he means Slovenia. We’ve met in one of high refuges of the Julian Alps, a range of dolomite just across the border from some better-known Italian peaks made of the same stuff. But while visiting the Dolomites conjures up images of flights into Venice, hand-pulled espressos and lasagna dinners, Slovenia…well, where the hell is Slovenia, anyway?

A pocket nation of just two million people squeezed between Italy, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia secured its independence from Yogoslavia in 1991 through a ten-day war. Yet while that conflict was largely bloodless, Slovenia still bears the scars of earlier battles. As in the Dolomites, Austrians and Italians fought in the Julian Alps from trenches and gun nests dug into the mountains. It’s here that Hemingway wrote about in A Farewell To Arms, where mountain peaks were crowned in barbed wire, and where 60,000 soldiers lost their lives just to avalanches.

Today in the Jullian Alps, the vestiges of that war remain: crumbling stone barracks, rusting gun carriages, blunted barbed wire. But it’s not this that’s brought us here. It’s the paths: beautifully graded army roads and fantastically engineered high-mountain via-ferrata. Built to give access to the high mountains, these war-time paths established new ways of moving through the steep and exposed terrain. The result is that Triglav National Park offers remarkable access to some of the world’s most dramatic mountains. What once was used to make war now accesses beauty.

Outside the bunk room window, one such peak rears up above the Austrian horizon. I point, and smile. Sure, it may not have Italian coffee, but after a long day in these mountains the goulash is pretty darn good.

Riding Across the Cultural Divide

Posted by Guest | June 26th, 2012 | Filed under Bikes, Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection


Editor’s Note: Yeah, we like bikes. But our obsession for the velocipede goes beyond the obvious. This week, in the Thought Kitchen, friend, freelance writer and fellow rider, Ellee Thalheimer echoes yet another reason why we trade in four wheels for two—to experience something far better than cruise control and heated seats.

By Ellee Thalheimer

Throughout the wind-thrashed land of Argentina’s Pampa, the remote, bustling hamlets became ghost towns for three hours every afternoon. After the siesta, everyone from leathery-skinned cowboys to laughing women in designer jeans would huddle in groups sipping yerba mate from a communal gourd and metal straw.

On this trip and many others, my secret tool to bridge the cultural divide and nose my way into the heart of another culture was my massively loaded bicycle. At car checkpoints, Argentine police officers would invite me to share a mate, and curious onlookers approached me as a fascinating—and possibly off-my-rocker—oddity.

They wanted to know where I was from, where I was going, how far I’d come, and how many miles per day I rode. That inquisitiveness enabled me to ask intimate questions and wiggle my way into some pretty stellar conversations and cultural understanding.

People’s curiosity in exotic places like Argentina, interestingly enough, is not all that different than at home. Crossing over the West Hills, just outside of metro Portland, Oregon, the culture subtly changes; there are slight differences in how people talk to each other, variant political signs in front yards, and deviations in restaurant menus.

A bicycle, with bags slung all over it, seldom fails to pique folk’s interest, even if they are used to cyclists. So the rural Oregonian with a gun rack chats with the Portland cyclist toting Kombucha in a non-toxic metal bottle.

The bicycle ends up building a link between diverse people who might never have interacted. And when folks from disparate cultures connect and learn about each other, empathy is born, and the world becomes a better place. A two-wheeled device all of the sudden accomplishes more than anyone would have ever expected.

Elle is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her past work includes Cycling Italy and contributions to the Lonely Planet editions of Mexico, USA, Caribbean Islands and Pacific Northwest guidebooks. Learn more about cycle touring in Oregon in her new guidebook: Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-day Tours in Oregon by checking out her website And stay tuned for her upcoming venture: Hop in the Saddle: A Guide to Portland’s Craft Beer Scene, By Bike available in November.

Dealer Dispatch: The Wild Trails of Rock Creek

Posted by Bryanna | June 12th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Partnerships, Positive Change


Located in the heart of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rock/Creek Outfitters has been named one of the “Top 25 Outdoor Retailers” year over year. They’ve also been a long time brand ambassador and retailer of Nau Clothing. This week in the Thought Kitchen, we caught up with the adventure retailer to find out more about their Rock/Creek Trail Series: an eight-race event benefiting Wild Trails, an organization dedicated to the use, expansion and promotions of trails in Tennessee.

Ten years ago, Matt Simms—a Rock/Creek employee at the time—decided it was time for the general public to discover the wilderness in Chattanooga. So he, and a few others, started a trail race called the Rock/Creek River Gorge, one of the eight races still in the series today.

Needless to say, the races were a hit. So in 2007 Matt, along with a few others who shared his vision, founded the Wilderness Trail Running Association  Their mission? To promote the sport of trail running and the preservation of trails not just for runners but for everyone with a passion for the outdoors.

In the months following, the board went through a process of refining its mission and evaluating what would be required to build a sustainable organization committed to promoting outdoor recreation and preserving trails in the region. One of the founder of Wild Trails says, “Trail running will always be our first love, but we realized that the work we were doing on trails was benefiting not just the trail running community but all users of trails. We also realized that to gain the momentum we needed to affect positive change and create a culture of commitment to preservation we needed the support of more than just the trail running community. “

While some of the races are strictly for experienced marathoners, the appeal of the Trail Series is to have everyone enjoy running on trails.  As Jeff Bartlett, organizer for the series, says, “Some will start out running 10k races and end up running 50k races, and some won’t, and we think that’s just fine!”

Jeff’s attitude is the epitome of Wild Trails mission, to get the people out and active on these trails while preserving them for generations to come.

To donate, participate or just learn more, check out Wild Trails and the Salmon Rock/Creek Trail Series.

Deserted in Utah

Posted by leighann | April 20th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Who We Are

You have to have a rig like that to get to a place like this. You know, that place? That place where depth, time and geology is laid open like no other landscape; where high plateaus, alpine peaks and deep river canyons conjoin; where, in a world of 7 billion people, it still remains relatively isolated and unscathed. For Mark, our GM, that place is somewhere in Utah, along the White Rim Trail and the San Rafael Swell.



Printemps: A snapshot of our break

Posted by leighann | April 9th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Who We Are

Just in case you were wondering why things have been a little quiet around here….

We experienced our first 70 degree day of the year yesterday punctuating a brilliant end to our record-breaking deluge in March (that’s right, nearly eight inches in 31 days). Luckily, most of us were able to escape the sogginess for a much-needed break from our northwest spring. Here’s a few photos of our travels, near and far.

JosieJosie “claims” she was sworn to secrecy (by a friend of a friend) never to divulge the whereabouts of this tourist-free, utopian Mexican paradise. That’s alright, we’ll find out soon enough. A little beer, some peach schnapps….we’ll get her talking.


That’s Sarah, the Goat Whisperer, down in Arizona, far from the soggy northwest.

LeighLeigh’s happy feet somewhere south of the panhandle, after she was unexpectedly sidelined in Dallas (for two days) by last week’s tornadoes.

brett a

Brett’s mini road trip through Eastern Oregon: fossil beds, lots of wide open spaces and cattle farms. Yeeehaw.

SusanDear god (or whomever you worship): Thank you for the epic surf today.  Love, Susan

TysonWhile most of us were off recreating, Tyson was building this impressive bee house. Time from start to finish: 12 hours.

BryBry, exploring a new part of town. (Also, a big congrats to Bry for moving into her new abode last week).

PeterWe haven’t seen Peter in the office yet today, although he did send us this photo. Location: somewhere on the Oregon coast.

photo-1Me: enjoying the first 70 degree day of 2012 at the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia Rivers.