Friday, March 16, 2018

Navigating a Hike

  Seriously, if you don't know how to read a topographic trail map and use a compass, then don't go hiking. Seriously. Having someone in your group that knows how to use them is not good enough. You'll get separated from him and then you'll be in big trouble.
You really should learn How to Use a Compass - its a good tutorial describing maps, compasses, declination, topography, and more.

Stay On Course

  On many frontcountry hiking routes, such as state parks and nature centers, all you need is a simple trail map of the area. It's only a few miles on a well-traveled route so your chances of getting lost or injured are pretty slim. But, even there, a thunder storm, accident, or recent trail damage may force you to take a detour and lose the trail. On backcountry treks, understanding a topo map will help you plan where the more difficult steep ascents are and where you will have nice views from high ridgelines or be stuck in a gully with no view but the trail ahead. By reading a topo map at home, you can visualize what the terrain looks like even before you ever see it. You'll know the name of a high mountain in the distance and more importantly know it is East from where you are hiking in case you become disoriented.
Your compass is the other half of the navigating toolset that you need to bring. In some areas with enough visual landmarks, you can do just fine with a map alone. A compass alone can keep you heading in a certain direction, but you don't know what you are heading towards. For all areas, a map and compass together can get you home along the safest of routes. Using your compass to orient yourself and your map and then identifying objects on the map in your real world will keep you going the right direction.
Global Positioning Systems are very common now. Unfortunately, some people think they are magical devices that keep people from getting lost - Nope! They are useful tools, but you still need to know how to use your specific model and you need a trail map. And, if they run out of batteries, get wet, or break, then it would be a good idea to have a compass as a back-up.

Hiking First Aid

  Major injuries from hiking are rare. Walking doesn't tend to break bones or kill people. But, there are a whole bunch of smaller injuries and ailments that can make your day miserable. Being ready for the majority of them will make your trips more enjoyable and may help someone else that was not prepared.

First Aid Guidelines

  If a member of your hiking party is injured, you need to follow three guidelines. The highest priority is first, followed in order by the other two:
  • Stay Alive - yourself, others, and the victim. Especially yourself. If you are unable to help, then no one gets out alive.
  • Stabilize Injury - stop the injury from doing further damage to the victim. Stop bleeding, remove them from the cause.
  • Start Recovery - make the victim better. Fix the injury or ailment as much as possible.
You always have to keep yourself safe. Then, you need to ensure the survival of everyone else. This means getting the group to warmer shelter if one person is becoming hypothermic rather than having everyone stop to help that one person. This means running out of the way of a rockslide rather than jumping into it to save someone falling. If someone is injured or sick, you need to check that every action you are taking follows one of the three guidelines. If it does not, then it is probably not a necessary action.


  It is so much easier to provide first aid by preventing the need for it in the first place. Easily the biggest hazard for hikers is the environment - changes in weather or ill-prepared hikers get into the most trouble. Make sure everyone in your group has the necessary abilities to successfully complete the planned hike. Make sure they have proper clothing, plenty of water, and extra food. Everyone should have a small personal first aid kit and there should be one more complete kit for the group. There are pages discussing specific preparation for hiking at altitude, hiking in heat, and hiking in cold that you should read.
Before you go hiking in a new area, find out about poisonous plants, snakes, insects, dangerous animals, and other possible hazards.

First Aid Kit

  You can easily buy a ready-made first aid kit and there are some very good ones available through the links over on the right.
You may be able to save space by making your own, or by replacing some parts of a purchased kit. It is important that you know the purpose of and how to use every item in your kit - otherwise it's just extra weight.
You won't have much time to read a manual while administering to an injury. Taking wilderness first aid training should be a personal goal before heading into the wilds. "Medicine for the Backcountry" by B. Tilton has a good reputation for providing helpful first aid information. If you are going into the backcountry, its a good idea to have a small first aid pocket guide along. There are quite a few available, most with help on diagnosing and treating ills and injuries. Wilderness Medical Institute in Colorado offers classes around the country but there are other organizations too.
Inspect your kit before every outing and make sure the gear is clean and supplies are in good condition. Replace expired medications and add items that would have been helpful on your last trip. Be sure the kit is easily accessible and everyone in the group knows who has it.
However you decide to go, the following is a list of items commonly agreed on as being essential for a first aid kit:
  • Waterproof container - a strong zip-loc bag or plastic-lined kit bag. If it isn't waterproof, it will be a mess.
  • nitrile exam gloves
  • CPR face shield
  • Bandages:
    • Elastic roll bandage
    • Adhesive tape
    • Adhesive bandages, assorted sizes
    • Butterfly bandages
    • Gauze pads
    • Triangular bandage
    • New Skin in small plastic bottle; cuts, abrasions
    • Moleskin and molefoam; blisters, irritation
  • Consumable Items:
    • Alcohol swabs
    • Antiseptic ointment
    • Chemical heat and cold packs
    • Cotton swabs
    • Dry-wash pads or wipes
  • Other Gear:
    • Mirror, small and unbreakable
    • Safety pins
    • Scissors
    • Tweezers
    • Bulb irrigating syringe
  • Drugs:
    • Antacid
    • Antibiotic (Dicloxacillin, etc.); skin infections
    • Antihistamine (Benadryl, etc.); allergic reactions, insomnia
    • Anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen); inflammation, pain
    • Hydrocortisone cream (soothes allergic skin)
    • Potable Aqua; iodine water treatment

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Solo Hiking

Is Solo Hiking for You?

Take a look at the two images. Which looks more appealing to you?
an empty trail ahead or a few people with you?
We humans are social animals. We normally prefer others around us and enjoy sharing experiences with others.
In some situations, some of us like to experience the world alone. If the empty, open trail beckons to you, then solo hiking might be what you're looking for. Deciding to solo hike or not is completely your decision. Whether you go out alone, with a couple friends, or with a large group there are potential consequences with which you need to be prepared to deal.
Check out recent Lost Hikers and Deaths.

Benefits of Solo Hiking

Being out on the trail all by yourself can be very rewarding in many ways:
  • Spiritual Health - Solitude allows time for self-examination, relaxation away from the rat race for awhile, and a chance to meditate, contemplate, or just zone out for miles at a time.
  • Outdoor Skills - When part of a group, it is easy to rely on the skills of others to find your way, cook your food, keep you safe, and make all the tough decisions. Solo hiking relies on your own skills and knowledge. Ensuring you have the skills before going solo is key.
  • Own Pace - A group can only move as fast as its slowest member. That means everyone is either going faster or slower than they would like to be. A solo hiker moves as fast as he desires and can alter his pace whenever he wants.
  • Flexibility - Changes to your pace, camping location, route, rest breaks, and everything else having to do with the hike can be made as you want. There's no group buy-in required so you can hike your own hike. When significantly altering your route, it's important to inform someone of your new plans, just in case you need to be found.
  • Challenge - Push yourself to hike faster, farther, or longer hours than you're used to. Build up to more difficult trails, uncomfortable weather, and rough environments.
  • Meet your Fears - Many of us have fears that have little basis. Whether you're afraid of wild animals, heights, darkness, storms, being alone, or whatever, a solo hike can help you overcome those fears.
  • Meet Nature - Hiking with a group, especially youth, there is not much hope of seeing any real wildlife. The noise, smell, and general invasion will drive most everything away. Just a short hike alone in the early morning will allow you to see many kinds of animals - a longer solo hike gives you even more opportunity.
    Any bit of nature that interests you can be observed. The group won't let you sit and watch flowers, butterflies, waterfalls, clouds, animal tracks, or falling leaves for long. Out on your own, you can spend your hours however you like.
  • Responsibility - The solo hiker can say "I did it myself" when finished. Responsibility for the success of the adventure is completely his, as is the pride of completion. Along the way, responsibility for minimizing impact, caring for the trail, staying safe, and being self-sufficient is also his alone.

Concerns of Solo Hiking

Travel alone does have some potential drawbacks which you should address long before stepping foot on the trail:
  • Loneliness - The mental drain of isolation is a huge drawback to solo hiking. Long distance trail hikers fail to finish because of injury, poor planning, but most often because of loneliness - the days with no one to talk with become long and boring. Honestly assessing how this will affect you and how you'll deal with it is a crucial planning step. Will an electronic music player or book reader keep you sane? Do you enjoy being alone for days at a time already?
    This is different than living in an apartment alone. On the trail, there's no city noise, background traffic, or other white noise that lets you know you're in civilization.
  • Heavy Heart - With someone else around, they can encourage and support you when you're feeling down, tired, or grumpy. When it's just you, a bad case of the blues might be enough to send you off the trail and back home. This is the bane of thru-hikers.
  • Heavy Load - No one will be around to carry part of the gear. It's all on your shoulders. But, since there's only one person, there should be very little extra gear. Your shelter, kitchen, water treatment, first aid kit, and navigation items could be split among multiple people, but the rest increases directly as the group size grows.

Real Dangers

Whether alone or not, there are real dangers of being in the wild. Being prepared to deal with these is your responsibility when heading out:
  • Getting Lost - With no one to check your map reading and direction finding, losing your way is the most common problem for solo hikers. Just take a look at the Lost Hikers recent news and you'll see that it happens often. Learn all about wilderness navigation and practice it often before setting out on your own. There's a good beginner site at Compass Dude to start you in the right direction :-)
    Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are handy and efficient, but a map and compass should always be ready as a backup. Even with good navigation skills, nature can turn you around with wind, blizzards, fog, overgrown paths, and snow cover. Still the best thing to do when lost is S T O P - Stop Think Observe Plan.
    Whatever you do, don't expect your cellphone to save you.
  • Humans - Human attacks are a potential problem, especially for solo female hikers. The closer to populated areas you hike, the more probable you'll encounter a weirdo. Be friendly but not outgoing to people you meet. Give an impression that your hiking partner should be along soon. Pepper spray might be something to take with you if you are concerned with strangers.
  • Animals - Animals may attack you in order to protect themselves, their young, or their food. Keep your eyes and ears open.
    Large animal attacks, such as bear, cougar, or wolf are extremely rare. If you hike in their habitat, take some time to educate yourself on their behavior and how you should handle yourself. Hear are a couple starter pages about bears, cougars, wolves.
    Eating your meal on the trail a mile before you set up camp and then storing your smellable items securely solves most problems.

    You will more likely be bothered by insects, rodents, or an occasional snake. Insects bite, sting, and bother enough to make a hike completely miserable. Timing a hike to evade dusk and dawn, wearing appropriate clothing or netting, and using insect repellent will take care of most insects. Being careful not to disturb nests or hives is also a good idea.
    You might come across a snake sunning in the trail. Keep your eyes and ears open. If you encounter one, give it a wide berth and wait for it to slither off the trail. If you get bit, use your first aid skills to treat the bite and get to medical help.
    Most probably, you will have problems with mice, chipmunks, or raccoons seeking out your food. They can quickly chew through your pack and cause a real mess. Store your food and pack securely to prevent this problem.
  • Natural Events - Wind, rain, snow, lightning, sun, flood, earthquake, falling rocks, falling trees, wildfire - a long list of natural events that can be annoyances or catastrophies. Knowing how to read the weather is an important skill. Having proper gear to protect from adverse weather makes sense. Make camp in safe areas - not on high places, open places, close to cliffs, under large limbs, or close to creeks.
    There is little you can do about some natural events, such as earthquake, tsunami, or wildfire, but you can do some disaster preparedness.
  • Injuries - No matter how well you prepare nor how careful you are, an injury is always a real possibility in the wild. As long as you hike steadily on a well-groomed trail, the risk is minimal. But, rough terrain, water crossings, rock scrambling, cooking, and other risy tasks can result in stumbles and falls, burns, and cuts. Of course, an adequate first aid kit is an essential part of any hiking pack but the knowledge on how to use it and how to improvise other aid is even more essential. Before going solo, Wilderness First Aid training should be completed. You'll be the only one around so you'll need to know what to do and how to do it.

Solo Hiking Advice and Tips

OK, so there's good reasons to go solo, things that might make it not so fun, and some trouble you can get into. How about a few tips and tidbits to help keep you safe when you finally decide to give solo hiking a try:
  • Be realistic about your skills, pain threshold, endurance, and what you enjoy. If group hiking is more fun, stick with that.
  • Think of yourself as a person that you are with - you are not alone, you are with yourself! You can share the nature you see, hear, taste, and feel with yourself. You will have the memories of your experiences forever and you can recall them any time.
  • Make your hike FUN and SPECIAL - take a chunk of chocolate for a break at 5 miles, or plan on an ice cream sundae when you make it to the next town.
  • Know the area where you will hike - research weather patterns, trails, bailout points, wildlife range, elevations, water sources, private properties.
  • Stay on the Trail - cross-country travel can be exciting but damages the environment and makes it difficult to find you, just in case.
  • Take baby steps - short day hikes, overnighter trips, weekend outings, week-long backpacking, then long distance treks.
  • Become confident - this is different than arrogant. Arrogance is an attitude of superiority while confidence is faith that you will act in the right way because you have skills. Read, ask questions, practice skills, take baby steps, know how to use your gear, and finally take longer hikes.
  • Think through "What If" scenarios - what if the campsite is occupied, the stove breaks, the water filter breaks, my foot breaks, I lose my map or drop my compass, a bear/wolverine/cougar crosses my path or enters camp, the trail is closed, it rains for 1, 2, 3, 4 days, it snows, ... Don't waste time on farfetched scenarios, like snow in Florida on a June hike, but work your way through everything you can think of that might go wrong.
  • Make detailed plans - trail maps, weather forecast and seasonal weather, food requirements, expected mileage, and day-to-day plans will ensure you have longer hikes well planned.
  • Leave a travel itinerary with someone back home. Check in with a ranger station or other land manager at or near the trailhead and tell them your plans.
  • Think each trip through in your mind - using topo maps or Google Earth, visualize how you'll be hiking along, where the steep sections are, where there's forest, meadow, sage, or rock, when you'll be on a windy, open ridge or in a sheltered woods.
  • Get a feel for direction - at any point in time, you should be able to say, "North is that way" and be generally correct. Feeling the time of day and general direction of the sun is all it takes. Understanding where you are on your map, knowing where you want to be going, and having a feel for your direction will alert you to "something's not right" quickly if you take a wrong turn.
    This sense of direction is very difficult for some - if that's your case, you might be better off not going solo.

Pack for Hiking

The Right Pack

This is the fanny pack I use for day hikes.
It's not very big (215 cu. in.) but can hold everything I need for the day.   It's made by Outdoor Products and costs about $7.00
Outdoor Products makes inexpensive gear that works well for new hikers and backpackers.   Both my sons have O.P. backpacks for Boy Scouts and have had no problems so far.
Some people don't like the look of fanny packs but I think they're very useful.   If I get tired of having it around my waist, I can sling it over one shoulder or the other.
If you get something larger, such as this knapsack, you have to have it on your shoulder, not just your waist.   And, you tend to carry more because it has more room and people hate wasted space.   Two or three people could put all their stuff in one hiking backpack and take turns carrying it, but I'd hate to be without the pack when someone takes a wrong turn - you should always have your basic essentials on your body.

Minimize Weight

You wouldn't carry a bowling ball in each hand when you go on a hike.   It's just not comfortable.   But, with a 16 lb. pack, that's exactly what you are hauling up hill and down all day.   The amount of fun packed into a hike is inversely proportional to the amount of stuff packed into your bag.   Except for specific cold weather situations, you should have no need to carry more than 10 pounds in your pack for an all-day hike.   Carry less and enjoy more. A great way to minimize your gear and make future hike preparation easier is to create a gear list.   Gather all the stuff you are going to take, pack it, and just before you leave write down exactly everything that you have with you.   After your hike is over, go over your list and see what you didn't use. Find things you can leave home next time.   But, don't be dumb and choose raingear just because it didn't rain today.
For future hikes, just get out your list and gather what you need quickly.
When hiking with a partner or two, there are more opportunities for minimizing weight.   You can buy larger containers of food so the packaging waste is less.  You can take just one water filter, sunscreen, bug repellant, and other items that can be shared.   You need to coordinate this before the hike.
The types of clothing you choose will greatly effect your weight.   Light-weight synthetic fabrics do a specific job better than natural fiber at a reduced weight.  Some articles of clothing specifically wick away sweat while providing insulating warmth.   Others keep out rain but still allow perspiration to escape.  Hiking clothes come in so many colors, styles, and brands, its almost comical.  Spending a couple hours at an outdoors store should sufficiently overwhelm you and possibly drain your wallet.

Check Your Gear

Make sure your batteries are fresh.
Clean your water bottle.
Test the belts and buckles on your hiking pack.
Sharpen your knife.
Go through your first aid kit.
Basically, check out everything you are taking with you to make sure it will do its job.   Finding out that last year's boots are moldy or don't fit any longer is a bad thing the day you are to leave for a hike.

Hiking Dude's Tips

  • Always bring water, even on cold days, cloudy days, or short hikes
  • A cellphone can be a lifesaver. Just don't freak out when it's ruined from mud or rain or a fall. Wrap it in paper towel and put inside two zip-loc baggies for extra protection.
  • Carry a couple extra gallon-size zip-loc baggies. They have 101 uses and weigh nothing and they take very little room in your hiking backpack.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The best resorts for winter fat bikes

Fat biking, a discipline of mountain biking suited for snow-packed trails, has taken ski towns across North America by grip. Utilizing tires as wide as four to five inches, fat bikes make it easier—and more fun—to cruise through winter’s elements. From pedaling on a brewery tour in Telluride to venturing on a two-wheeled wildlife safari in Jackson Hole, here’s the lowdown on the best ski resorts for fat biking.

Aspen, CO

The town of Aspen is the tip of the Roaring Fork Valley fat-biking iceberg. With plenty of bike paths and singletrack to cruise, not to mention gorgeous scenery like the Maroon Bells, the Aspen area offers plenty of rides for fat bikers. The Aspen Fat Bike Loop is a 4.5-miler just west of downtown that winds around the Aspen Nordic Center and Marolt Trails. If you’re looking to pack in the miles, the Rio Grande Trail, a 20-mile groomed multi-use path, connects the historic towns of Basalt and Aspen.

Breckenridge, CO

Three days a week—Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays—fat bikers can cruise most of Gold Run Nordic Center’s 30k of green, blue and dark blue Nordic trails. The rest of the week, the center’s easy to intermediate singletrack snowshoe trails are open to fat bikers. Fat bike rentals are available onsite. For a guided experience, take a tour of downtown Breckenridge and the extensive trail network surrounding it.

Crested Butte, CO

New this winter, Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers on-mountain fat biking during non-lift hours. As one of summer’s top mountain biking destinations, it is no surprise the resort was one of the first to allow fat biking on ski trails. Crested Butte is also home to the Borealis Fat Bike World Championships in January.

Jackson Hole, WY

Gorgeous scenery makes Jackson Hole a natural choice for fat biking, where you can take a half- or full-day wildlife or Grand Teton National Park tour. In January, Jackson Hole hosts the Global Fat Bike Summit and Festival, complete with demos, clinics, races and more.

Steamboat Springs, CO

In Steamboat Springs, fat bikers have a vast selection of trails to pedal, including on BLM land, at Lake Catamount Touring Center and throughout Routt County. During non-lift hours, fat bikers can shred Steamboat resort’s ski trails.

Telluride, CO

Voted No. 1 for scenery by SKI magazine, Telluride is best explored by bike. Whether you’re after a leisurely cruise along the valley floor to Telluride Brewing Company or a challenging high-alpine ride, Telluride has fat-biking options for every taste and ability. For a self-guided adventure, check out Jurassic Trail, Alta Lakes Road or the Meadows in Mountain Village.

Top North America resorts to learn to ski

January is Learn to Ski Month, so there’s no better time to start thinking about where you’d like to experience your first ski vacation. We’ve compiled a list of North America’s best resorts for first timers thanks to their specialized learning programs, state-of-the-art facilities, accessibility and unique beginner experiences. After a lesson or two with one of the highly trained instructors at the top ski and snowboard schools listed below, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying years of wintertime bliss.
  1. Aspen Snowmass, Colorado

    With four ski areas—Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk—accessible in one resort destination and on one lift ticket, Aspen Snowmass is the perfect place to go on your first ski vacation. Offering a wide variety of terrain options, Aspen Snowmass is a great ski resort to bring along friends and family members that might have previous skiing or snowboarding experience. While you’re learning the basics, they can try out a new resort each day.
    Boasting excellent kid, teen, adult and adaptive learning programs, Snowmass and Buttermilk are where beginners will want to learn to ski
  2. Snowmass

    Kids love learning at Snowmass thanks to the gentle beginner areas, like Fanny Hill and Elk Camp, ski school characters and state-of-the-art facilities. The Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center is a 25,000-square-foot, forest-themed facility that provides a basecamp for hot chocolate breaks, lunch, playtime, arts and crafts and childcare. The little ones tend to learn quickly, and before long they will be able to make turns and stop. Then it’s time to head up the lifts and explore Snowmass’ uber-fun beginner tree trails.
    Aspen Snowmass’ Beginner’s Magic makes learning to ski a comfortable and enjoyable experience for adults, too. Knowledgeable rental staff members fit you with proper, comfortable equipment, and there’s an after-skiing shoe service so you don’t have to walk around in your ski boots when you’re done with your lesson. Atop the Elk Camp Gondola at Elk Camp Meadows, professional instructors will teach you the fundamental techniques, how to operate your equipment and mountain awareness—all while you enjoy spectacular alpine views.
    Schlepping ski gear and walking in ski boots can be one of the most challenging—and frustrating—aspects when learning to ski. Beginners love Snowmass because 95 percent of the resort’s lodging is located slopeside—it’s easy to get on and off the slopes.
    Where to stay: For a convenient ski in ski out location, tons of services and amenities and easy access to ski-school meeting areas, book your stay at Crestwood Condominiums.
  3. Buttermilk

    Buttermilk offers excellent green runs for Level 2 and 3 beginners, and the base area’s magic carpet and beginner lifts deliver skiers and snowboarders to a gentle, dedicated learning zone for first-timers. Kids and parents alike will be impressed with Buttermilk’s new Hideout Children’s Center. This innovative 7,500-square-foot facility features custom-designed play features like a playroom and lookout tower and will inspire a love of mountain adventure in children.
    Few resorts can boast beginner trails that yield views of Colorado’s famed 14,000-plus-foot peaks, so one of the highlights of learning to ski at Buttermilk is the chance to see Pyramid Peak from the Cliffhouse Lodge. Beginners at Buttermilk can even ski or snowboard next to the world-famous 22-foot-high, 500-foot-long X Games Superpipe and the monstrous jumps that make up the Slopestyle Course.
    Where to stay: For ski in ski out access to Buttermilk’s beginner-friendly slopes and convenience to the Hideout, an award-winning children’s ski school facility, stay at the Inn at Aspen.
  4. Steamboat Springs, Colorado

    A big part of skiing is enjoying mountain culture; downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado provides a true Western experience that first-timers won’t soon forget. Even if you don’t fall in love with skiing immediately, you will fall in love with Steamboat’s gorgeous Rocky Mountain views and idyllic cowboy atmosphere.
    There’s no shortage of crème-de-la-crème professional ski instructors at Steamboat. The Steamboat SnowSports School is comprised of certified Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors, winter Olympians, national team members and more than 550 instructors trained in the latest on-snow teaching techniques.
    Steamboat offers excellent programs for all ages, including adaptive learning, and beginner areas feature magic carpets and gentle, flat slopes with a seven to 10 percent grade. The resort has gone to great lengths to enhance the beginner experience by implementing terrain shaping, a new trend in the industry that helps first-timers learn how to control their speed and make turns with snow features. The gentle-grade slopes have small hills and banks that will naturally turn the beginner’s skis or board and help them slow down.
    Steamboat understands that adults learning to ski have different needs than children and offers two adult-learning zones: the Promenade and Ski Time Square.
    The resort lodging is mainly situated ski in, ski out, which is a nice feature for beginner skiers looking to make getting on and off the mountain as easy as possible.
    Where to stay: For slopeside location and high-touch hotel amenities and services, make Sheraton Steamboat Resort your beginner basecamp.
  5. Beaver Creek, Colorado

    Beaver Creek’s Ski and Snowboard School enjoys a reputation of one of North America’s top learning programs thanks to their video analysis program as well as a world-class, slopeside children’s beginner facility, The Ranch, which features a dedicated learning area with a dedicated gondola. Children’s ski and snowboard instructors are hand-selected for their patience and personality. The resort even customizes the learning terrain to facilitate the correct body movements.
    When it’s time to leave the learning zone and explore Beaver Creek’s high-alpine green slopes, you can also rest assured that you’re in good hands when learning to ski. Beaver Creek is the recipient of the National Ski Area Association’s Best Overall Safety Award.
    Where to stay: For easy access to ski school and the beginner gondola, plus five-star hotel services and amenities, nothing can compete with Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.
  6. Big Sky Resort, Montana

    Combine spectacular mountain scenery and 882 acres of beginner skiing with next to no crowds and you’ve got a first-timer’s paradise. Montana’s Big Sky Resort base area offers a magic carpet and poma lift for smoothing out the basics under the tutelage a certified Professional Ski Instructor.
  7. Deer Valley Resort, Utah

    From its complimentary ski valet and parking shuttle to plush lodges and world-class on-mountain restaurants, Deer Valley Resort is all about personalized attention for every guest.
    So it should come as little surprise that the resort goes above and beyond to make beginners feel comfortable when learning. Nearly 30 percent of Deer Valley’s perfectly manicured slopes are green runs. Every green run is marked “slow skiing” and the resort limits the number of lift tickets sold daily, so beginners don’t have to worry about crowds of more advanced skiers zooming by.
    Deer Valley ski school instructors provide an incredible, customized experience in both their acclaimed private lessons and “Max 4” lessons, which never exceed four people, so you can learn the basics at your own pace.
    Where to stay: If you have children learning to ski, being close to the ski-school center is key and why we recommend the St. Regis Deer Valley, which just a quick funicular ride away from Snow Park Lodge.
  8. Copper Mountain, Colorado

    Offering a designated learning area with gentle slopes, a magic carpet and beginner lift, Copper Mountain provides a private, divided setting for beginners. The learning area is ideally situated between the East Village and Center Village base areas, which makes it easy to access on foot no matter where you’re staying. The Copper Ski & Ride School provides private and group lessons for any age, ability level or interest.
    Copper Mountain is one of the world’s best destinations for beginner freestyle skiers or snowboarders, too. Woodward, Copper’s acclaimed freestyle programs and training facility, which includes indoor ramps, foam pits and trampolines, provide beginners with a safe and confidence-building setting and highly knowledgeable instructors. Many of these instructors have even coached Olympic freestyle and X Games athletes.
    When it’s time to leave the learning area and head up the chairlift to explore Copper’s green trails, beginners can do so comfortably, as the resort’s black, blue and green runs are naturally divided, which means beginners have a zone all to themselves. The Union Creek, Kokomo and Lumberjack chairlifts exclusively access green runs. Beginners can even ski or snowboard at elevations around 12,000 feet from the Rendevous chairlift and enjoy green trails all the way back to the base village.
    Where to stay: Make it a cinch to get to ski school in the morning and say in the Burning Stones Neighborhood, which is less than 250 yards from the chairlifts and morning meet-up spot.
  9. Okemo, Vermont

    Renowned as a family favorite of East Coast skiers, Okemo offers a lot for beginners to love. Okemo is accessible from several major Eastern hubs, including Boston and New York City.
    The new Jackson Gore Base Area lodge offers a Learning Center and beginner-friendly trails. Once the basics have been ticked off, beginners can enjoy 32 percent of Okemo’s terrain. Beginner skiers can even experience one of Okemo’s newest updates: a heated, six-person bubble chairlift will keep the New England cold out while transporting skiers to the Summit Lodge, where there are many green runs to enjoy.

Hiking in Bear Country

  Bears are reclusive and would just as soon not meet you or any other humans. You just have to let them know you're in the neighborhood and behave like a well-mannered guest using a bit of common sense. There are very few bear attacks and those occur only in territory inhabited by bears, so bear danger for hikers is very low.

Bear Aware

  Since you are a visitor, you should be aware of how to behave in bear country. Bears are always looking for food and instinctively try to get the most food for the least amount of work. Some common steps to take in bear country:
  • Educate everyone in your party about the procedures to follow when a bear is seen. Make sure they understand that this is serious business so they don't do stupid things at the wrong time.
  • Keep your eyes open for signs of bears. Footprints, droppings, trampled vegetation, clawed up tree trunks, overturned rocks, ripped up rotting logs.
  • Invest in some bear spray before entering bear country. Know how and when to use it.
  • Hike in groups. This gives you people to talk to, making noise is important to warn bears of your approach.
  • Feel the wind. If you are hiking into the wind, your scent will not reach bears ahead of you and the chances of encounter are higher. Be aware and consider making more warning noise.
  • Feel the land. Hiking across open meadows, ridges, or hillsides provides the opportunity for spotting bears at a distance. Hiking in gullies, thick forests, or along streams masks noise and scent and increases possibility of encounters.
  • Dispose of garbage in bear-proof containers, if they are available.
  • Hang all food, garbage, and smellable items in secure bear bags. Locate two trees about 200 feet from your campsite and at least 20 feet apart. Hang your smellables between them at least 12 feet up.
  • Never eat or even bring smellables into your tent. This includes toothpaste, perfume, snacks, gum, ... anything with an odor. This also includes the clothes you cooked in - put on different clothes for sleeping.
  • Cook at least 200 feet downwind from your tent. Even better, stop and cook your meal a mile before stopping to camp. Don't even open your food or garbage bag in camp.
  • Clean all dishes immediately. Do your washing 200 feet from camp.
  • Make sure you leave a spotless campsite. Remove all reason for a bear to visit this location looking for food.

When You See a Bear

  If you notice a bear at a distance, stay calm and assess your situation. Give the bear a wide privacy space - make a very wide 300 foot detour or go back the way you came and take a different route. If the bear is close when you first notice it, the situation requires more immediate evaluation and action:
  • Gather your group close together and make sure everyone understands there is a bear present.
  • Get your bear spray out if you have it. Otherwise, be ready with hiking sticks for protection.
  • Talk in a calm voice so the bear hears you and your group hears you.
  • Have your group slowly back away, the same direction from which you came if possible. But, don't run away.
  • Be ready for a 'bluff' charge where the bear lunges but then stops. The bear is trying to scare you off. Continue to back away calmly without losing your cool and turning to run.
If the bear continues to follow you, at some point you will come to the conclusion that the bear is considering you as prey. You need to convince the bear that you are not easy prey and will be a tough fight.
  • Stop and stand your ground with whatever weapon you have available - hiking stick, branch, or rocks.
  • Face the bear and look directly at it.
  • Shout loudly and look as big and threatening as you can. Stamp your feet and take a step towards the bear, with the intend of causing it to back away.
  • Use your bear spray if the bear is close enough
  • If the bear actually attacks and makes contact with you, then you are fighting for your life. Try to hit its eyes, nose, and face so it feels pain and stops the attack.

When Bears Attack

Bear attacks are rare, very rare. Historically, there is about 1 death from wild bear attack every 2 or 3 years in the United States - see list of bear deaths - but that number has grown to 1 per year during the past 15 years. Here's a few graphs. They show Black bear, Brown bear, and Combined data by decade for the past 65 years through 2014. Canada and Alaska are most dangerous.
You are more likely to die from a bee sting. You are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to your hike. You are more likely to get struck by lightning. Most bear encounters happen when the bear's natural behavior of avoidance changes to aggression because:
  • You surprised the bear and you are considered a threat - when hiking alone, you tend to be more quiet and can accidentally sneak up on a bear. By hiking in groups and carrying on conversations, you will alert animals to your presence. You don't need to yell, whistle, or ring bells, but don't be silent.
  • You are considered a threat to young cubs or food - accidentally getting between a bear and her young is a bad situation. Whenever you see a bear, assume that there are young around or the bear is feeding. Don't go any closer and keep your eyes open for cubs.
  • The bear is used to people and has lost its natural fear - in heavily trafficked areas, bears may become accustomed to people. Just take a drive through Yellowstone and you'll understand. These calm bears seem docile and cute, causing people to throw all their sense out the window and get close for a picture. They sometimes get more than they bargained for.
  • Your dog provoked the bear - keep your dog on a leash.

Training Bears

Every time you visit bear country, you are training the bears that live there. You are leaving an impact through your smell, tracks, sound, and sight.
You leave an impact and the bears relate that impact to some experience. If you just pass on through, and leave little impact, humans will remain a mystery to the bear. This is the best kind of training you can do. Unfortunately, many sloppy, lazy humans train bears in the wrong way. By leaving granola bar crumbs on a picnic table or half a peanut butter sandwich in a trash can, bears learn that these are great places for easy meals.
Every encounter reinforces in the bear that humans are a food source and not a threat. This causes the bears to become more aggressive and approach humans for food. Ultimately, this leads to the death of the bear because someone will get hurt or the bear will get a bad reputation and will be destroyed.

Bear Bags and Canisters

  To keep your food away from bears (and other critters), there are a few common methods available:
  • Bear Bag - Hang your food, garbage, and other smellable items from a tree branch. See one efficient way to hang your bag.
  • Bear Canister - Place food, garbage, and smellables in a container that bears can not breach. Most are heavy, hard-sided plastic cans, but Ursack makes a lightweight bag.
    When hiking in certain regulated areas, make sure your canister is on the land agency's approved list or you could get a hefty fine.
  • Food Vaults - some established campsites include metal boxes embedded in cement into which you place your food, garbage, and smellables. This keeps it safe from larger animals, but mice and chipmunks can usually get in. Still put your food inside protection, such as a plastic tupperware, when using a food vault.