Super Bowl Sunday Skiing

Sorry, Denver Broncos. Your game was terrible. But my day was pretty awesome – all thanks to you!

Not feeling too invested in this year’s Super Bowl (yes, I live in Denver but the Broncos are not my team), I’d decided I’d rather spend the day skiing, instead. I’d figured that no one would be in the mountains because all of Denver had jumped on the Broncos Bandwagon in the past 3 weeks.

And then, I got sick. I spent the last half of the week battling a cold and had written off Super Bowl Skiing. But when I woke up Sunday morning and could breath through my mouth AND nose? I packed up the car and headed west!

Super Bowl Skiing // lgsmash.com

I met other friends at Keystone (Heidi and Piper) at lunch time and was thrilled to see the mass exodus of skiers as I was walking in. No lift lines! No crowded runs!

Super Bowl Skiing // lgsmash.com

Heidi and I broke away from the group and spent our time on the Outback lift, carving through freshie pow pow (fresh powder, brah) in the trees. It was glorious! A beautiful day, open runs, new snow – definitely the best Sunday I’ve ever spent at a ski mountain ever.

Super Bowl Skiing // lgsmash.com

Super Bowl Skiing // lgsmash.com

I wish every Sunday could be day-after-a-snow-storm Super Bowl Sunday.

Winter Camping Chat on #STPLive Today! (or: That Time I Was Featured In an Internet Video!)

Had your fill of winter camping talk? Not yet, I hope!

If you’d like to chat with fellow winter campers and outdoor enthusiasts, join the #STPLive chat today at 4 p.m. MT. Yours truly will be hosting (yay!) and we’ll be talking all things winter camping – including winter camping safety.

Usually, there is ‘required reading’ (blog post on the chat topic) but today, there’s ‘required watching’!

Yes, yes. That is me! As a beginner on-air personality, I’m pretty happy with how Chris / Sierra Trading Post cut the video to make me look at least like I knew what I was doing. It’s good to have friends in high places!

Do you agree or disagree with the 10 essentials? Do you carry them with you? Let’s chat this afternoon! Just hop on over to Twitter at 4 p.m. MT / 5 p.m. CT / 6 p.m. ET and follow @SierraTP and me (@lgsmash) for 10 winter camping related questions. Use the ‘#STPLive‘ hashtag to participate and follow the conversation!

Winter Camping in Wyoming with Sierra Trading Post

Snow Camping, Medicine Bow Wilderness // lgsmash.com

The other weekend, Alex and I met up with the fine guys at Sierra Trading Post, Heidi and her husband, Heather and her boyfriend and a friend, to spend the night sleeping under a frigid but stunning full moon in the Medicine Bow Wilderness Area in southern Wyoming.

Having never been to Wyoming before, I was completely surprised by how frickin WINDY the state is! We snowshoed through some big gusts about 3+ miles into an area with plenty of tree cover to help minimize the wind. Fortunately for us, once we arrived at camp, the wind was calm enough to set up tents with no problems.

Snow Camping, Medicine Bow Wilderness  lgsmash.com

snow village.

 

Snow Camping, Medicine Bow Wilderness // lgsmash.com

Once camp was set up and as the sun started to dip behind the trees, we snowshoed around to explore and warm up our bodies and happened upon a giant hill that begged to be run up and down. Heidi and Chris used their split boards to get back down the hill; others of us – unsuccessfully – attempted a glissade. The snow was too soft to gain any speed sliding. Major bummer.

Snow Camping, Medicine Bow Wilderness // lgsmash.com

We headed back to our little snow camping village to boil some water for dinners and drinks. Per usually with winter camping activities, everything takes longer than you expect. To fill 4 Nalgenes and 1 thermos for hot tea (we forewent eating our dehydrated food meal in favor of cold no-need-to-reheat pizza), it took almost an hour. But once our bottles were filled (and thrown into sleeping bags for warmth!) Alex and I snuggled into our sleeping bags, played some hangman and munched on M&Ms.

Snow Camping, Medicine Bow Wilderness // lgsmash.com

Snow Camping, Medicine Bow Wilderness // lgsmash.com

dinner and drinks on a saturday night.

The wind picked up overnight and howled through camp. When I woke for a ‘bio break’ in the middle of the night, the wind was blowing so hard I was afraid it would blow me over when I ventured to our ‘bathroom tree’! (Thankfully, I returned to the tent unscathed.) (I know everyone reading this right now was concerned.)

It should also be noted that camping (and winter camping) under a full moon is something that just cannot be beat! It’s incredibly beautiful and really neat to see your surroundings lit up my moonlight. It was so bright I didn’t use my headlamp!

Another perk to camping in the winter is the late starts – the sun doesn’t rise until 7 a.m. so it feels very luxurious to sleep in! Alex and I joked that we sleep better and longer when winter camping than we do at our own apartment sometimes.

Snow Camping, Medicine Bow Wilderness // lgsmash.com

granola. it’s what for breakfast. #betterthanoatmeal

Once we did pull ourselves from the toasty sleeping bags, we ate some breakfast and began tearing down camp. We spent some time recording videos for STP featuring some of our favorite winter camping products and tips (sharing tomorrow!) and then began our 3+ mile trek back out.

Snow Camping, Medicine Bow Wilderness // lgsmash.com

One major perk about hanging out with the Sierra Trading Post guys is that Chris, the videographer, makes really sweet recap videos. It’s a really cool way to relive and share the experience!

LASTLY, to celebrate all things winter camping, Sierra Trading Post is offering 30% off on some key winter camping gear! Snowshoes, trekking poles, avalanche safety gear and mens and womens snowsport clothing are all discounted using this link. This 30% discount begins at noon (MST) today and runs until the end of February.

I did a little research and with that coupon, a showshoe and trekking pole ‘kit’ is less than $70! And avalanche beacons/transceivers (which are NEVER on sale) are included in the discount; the Ortovox Zoom+ is only $160! So if you’ve been considering investing in some winter gear, now is definitely the time.

Currently {January}

currently january // lgsmash.com

…loving the slow atmosphere of Whitefish, Montana.

…treasuring moments with faraway friends.

…wearing the crap out of my #findingwinter jacket. (Don’t make me give it back!!)

…devouring Into The Wild; unnerved by how much Alex Supertramp reminds me of my brother.

…Itching to read Into Thin Air next.

FOCUSING on what come next and what it means to make it happen.

…snacking on Capt’n Crunch snacks (like Rice Crispy Snacks but with Capt’n Crunch).

…listening to Ratatat over and over.

…cheering friends who are starting new jobs.

…loving vacation time with my husband and friends.

Can life get any better?! I submit that it cannot!

Preparing for Winter Camping: What Do I Bring?! Edition

This is the first of a 3 part series covering winter camping basics – gear, clothing and food!

Well, it’s officially here! There is snow on the ground and in the mountains which means it’s time to transition to winter camping gear.

Before taking the Winter Camping School last year at the Colorado Mountain Club, I had NO idea how to prepare for cold-weather or winter camping. Truthfully, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to venture out into the world of winter camping without taking this class first because we didn’t know about the right gear to have or tips and tricks for an enjoyable experience.

But fortunately, with a few extra pieces of gear in addition to your 10 essentials, some basic winter camping knowledge and a tolerance for chilly weather, you can be out winter camping, enjoying the outdoors in a whole new and beautiful way.

So, what are the key pieces of additional gear you’ll need to winter camp?

winter camping gear essentials // lgsmash.com

Required gear…

1. LIQUID FUEL STOVE. Jet Boils are popular for spring, summer and fall camping because they’re quick and easy to use. In the winter, you’ll want to leave your Jet Boil at home and invest in a liquid fuel stove that uses white gas. Using white gas means your fuel won’t freeze as the temps drop so you’ll still be able to heat water for your tasty dehydrated meals. We use the MSR WhisperLite and love how light it is and that we can buy fuel pretty cheap from most retailers (Coleman Camp Fuel = white gas).

2. SLEEPING PADS. In warmer months, we can get away with bringing only one sleeping pad. In the winter, keeping your body insulated from the cold ground can mean the difference between a successful or miserable overnight trip in the snow. What matters most in whichever sleeping pad system you use is the total R-value of your system. The R-value is a measure of thermal resistance in a material or, essentially, insulation; for winter camping, the higher the R-value, the warmer you’ll be. In class, we were taught that R-values between 5 and 8 will keep most campers warm. I use a closed-cell foam ThermaRest Z-Lite (R-value = 2.6) and ThermaRest self inflating (R-value = 3.8) for a combined R-value of 6.4 – right smack dab in the middle!

3. SNOW STAKES or ANCHORS. You’ll want to invest in snow stakes for your tent. Luckily, these are pretty inexpensive! Snow stakes are flatter metal stakes with holes punched in them; when buried in the snow, the snow fills in the holes and creates a super-tight bond to itself that makes your tent practically immovable. To remove the snow stake, you’ll need to hit the stake to break the bond between the snow crystals and the stake will come right out.

4. AVALANCHE SHOVEL. If headed into avalanche territory, this is absolutely something you need to carry for safety purposes. Supposing your adventuring and camping in non-avalanche territory, an avalanche shovel is extremely helpful in clearing out a campsite, digging walkways around camp (to other tents, the kitchen or bathroom) or brushing snow off the tent overnight/in the morning.

5. WATER BOTTLE INSULATOR. What does water do when it’s cold? It freezes! These are relatively inexpensive ($15-20) and will help keep your water drinkable while you backpack, snowshoe or sit around sipping whiskey at camp. Last year, I made my own insulators (tutorial here!) but noticed on one very cold trip my water start to freeze near the mouth. This year, I plan to invest in at least one zip-closed insulated holder before temps drop significantly.

Optional but Nice To Have Gear…

FOUR-SEASON TENT. The difference in a four-season tent from a three-season (spring/summer/fall) is that it’s built to withstand the weight of heavy snowfall. You can definitely camp in a three-season tent but it’s best done when heavy or blowing snow is not expected.

AVALANCHE PROBE. If you’re headed into avalanche territory, this is not optional but a must have. However, if you’re exploring and camping in a non-avalanche zone, carrying an avalanche probe can be helpful in determining how deep the snow beneath you is before setting up camp. Finding deep snow is great for building structures and learning if there are rocks beneath the surface is always better to know before you’re an hour into your digging or snow clearing.

With just a bit more preparation and a few pieces of key gear, it’s easy to warm and have an enjoyable time camping in the snow and winter conditions.

So, You Wanna Participate In A Medical Study?

Participating in a Medical Study // lgsmash.com

Yesterday afternoon, I showed up at my knee doctor’s office for my 2 year post-surgery check in. Most of the time, I hardly notice or remember my knee surgery until someone asks me about my knees or I head back to my doctor for a check in. And because I am participating in a research study, I’m following back up with my doctor far more than if I hadn’t participated.

Two and a half years ago when deciding about my surgery options, I had no idea participating in a medical study was something I could even do or what it meant to sign up. But it’s something I get asked about frequently – by email and in real life – and I thought I’d share what my experience has been.

Participating In The DeNovo NT Medical Study

Right off the bat, I’m gonna say that each study is different and this is just my experience.

My doctor had presented the ‘usual suspects’ as potential courses of action for treating my osteochondritis dissecans in my knee – microfracture (drilling tiny holes and letting the blood form scar cartilage), the OATS procedure (harvesting my own cartilage to regrow and reinsert) or to ‘just stop doing the things that aggravated my knees’. None were my favorite option and at the next appointment, he suggested that I might be a good fit for this medical research study for a new product, the DeNovo NT (NT = Natural Tissue = donor cartilage) by Zimmer.

After reviewing what DeNovo would offer, I definitely wanted to participate. The DeNovo NT is a cartilage graft from a juvenile donor so the cartilage is still young and growing. It ‘sticks’ better than scar tissue cartilage which is what the microfracture offers (and what I’d done in the past). And the best part was that because DeNovo was just cleaning the back junk out and adding fresh new junk in; if it didn’t work, I hadn’t caused more damage to my knees by drilling tiny holes into them.

Studies are in various stages of FDA approval and it’s important to now what stage your product is in before joining. I knew that I didn’t want to be the first round of guinea pigs – I wanted Zimmer to have it mostly down pat, just looking for more data which is exactly the phase DeNovo was in. Zimmer had FDA approval for DeNovo and shortly after my study, it was available for any patient who fit the criteria to ask for it. What Zimmer wants with my study is long-term data and real life experiences for osteochondritis dissecans of the knee.

I agreed to join the study and my doctor reviewed what my commitment would entail. Pre-surgery, I’d have to sign an agreement that I was participating on my own volition. It also prescribed that before surgery, I’d fill out a baseline questionnaire and would follow up with my doctor after surgery at 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and yearly for a total of 5 years.

But my participation was still up in the air – even until surgery! My doctor thought I was a great fit and my MRI showed that my lesions (part of my cartilage that was disintegrating) were the ‘right size’ but my doc wouldn’t know until he was looking at my actual cartilage if I’d fit the requirements. Lucky for me, I did fit the requirements because I was not too jazzed about option B (microfracture).

Is there compensation?

In some studies where surgery is involved, surgery could be ‘free’ for the patient. My surgery was not one of those surgeries. I paid for surgery myself and made it a point to have them both in the same calendar year so both surgeries would count against one out-of-pocket max. Surgery and initial follow up were business as usual – the study prescribed that I would go through surgery and routine follow up like any other knee surgery patient.

Post Surgery Crutches // lgsmash.com

But every follow up after that, I’m compensated for my time. It’s not much ($50 per leg) but it’s a nice token of appreciation for me taking the time to drive to my doctor’s office at their necessary intervals.

What happens in these follow ups, months and years later?

Remember that baseline questionnaire I completed pre-surgery, I am completing that same questionnaire. Over and over again. It’s about 15 pages of questions about how my knee feels and if my activities have been limited. Because my surgeries were completed within 3 months of each other, I’m able to complete both follow ups in the same office visit which is really nice. Kudos to Dr. Hewitt for making that work for me! Fortunately for me, the questionnaires have been pretty simple to complete – I’ve had no problems with my knees post surgery! (Except for snowshoeing on men’s snowshoes but that’s an easy fix)

Why did I participate?

Ultimately, I participated because I wanted to know I helped contribute to a product that could go on to help people like me who are affected with Osteochondritis Dissecans. Whether it worked or not, Zimmer would get data on what a 26 year old, active female’s experience was and what they can do better in the future.

And I blogged about the whole process so others of you dealing with osteochondritis dissecans know you aren’t alone and that you can still be active and do things you love. And because when I was considering surgery options, I couldn’t find a real person on the internet who also faced surgery for osteochondritis dissecans and only one person who had done the DeNovo surgery (hi Marc!). So I participated and started blogging about it in hopes that I can bring comfort or inspiration to other people who are in the shoes I was wearing a couple of years ago.

Last Day on Crutches // lgsmash.com

tldr: I participated in a medical study and it’s been neat. Helping people! YAY!

Team Building, Colorado Style (AKA: That Time We Went Skiing For Work)

One great thing about working for a small(ish) company with a small(ish) team in Denver is that we get to do some pretty neat team building events. One year, we went indoor skydiving!

This year, we opted to take a team building excursion to Copper Mountain for a ski day. There’s not much I enjoy more than an excuse to get out and play in the snow in the winter so the 4 of us packed our gear and caravaned through the mountains to shred some freshies, brah.

Of course, we picked the day with the ‘most treacherous conditions’ on the highway (blowing snow, huge gusty winds, slick roads) but we drove slowly and steadily and OsCar got us to Copper in one piece.

Colorado Team Building // lgsmash.com Colorado Team Building // lgsmash.com

Colorado Team Building // lgsmash.com Colorado Team Building // lgsmash.com Colorado Team Building // lgsmash.com

I’ve never skied Copper before but I already can’t wait to come back. Paula, Emilie, Heidi and Heather – you all are right! Copper rocks!

The mountain was windy, the temperature was in the teens and we couldn’t see for sh!t but boy, did it rule. We taught our boss ‘bro-speak’ and by the end of the day, he was slingin’ around the silly phrases with the best of ‘em.

I should also note the powder. The POWDER!! I was up to my knees in powder! And all day long, it continued to snow. It was glorious!

I love that this state is full of people who love being outside as much as I do. That my coworkers will brave freezing temps to spend time bonding on a ski run and apres ski drinks. That ski runs are within a short (or, some days, a long and arduous) drive.

Any day on a mountain is a day well spent, in my book – but especially so when it’s a work day.

(Note to self: Charge the dang Adventure Cam!)

Crafterday: Handmade Infinity Scarf

A problem about living in Colorado is that there are SO many things that I want to do and never enough time to do it all. A weekend flies by in an instant, leaving enough time to address a handful of items on the

Last weekend, I opted to stay in Denver rather than head out to play in the mountains. I’ve been itching to make something and decided that I would satisfy my craving by making the infinity scarf I’d seen on Rochelle’s blog in October.

As soon as I’d read her post and how easy it was to make (20 minutes!), I’d ventured out to JoAnn’s for fabric that sat on my sewing machine for weeks. That fabric came with me to Cincinnati where I expected I could make time one evening to sit down and sew. Nope. So last weekend, I committed to sitting down and making the dang scarf.

Handmade Infinity Scarf // lgsmash.com

It really was as easy as Rochelle said! And inexpensive! It required 6 fat quarters (a cut of fabric; can be found at JoAnns or your local fabric store), some thread (obviously) and a sewing machine.

Full instructions are here – very clear and easy to follow. Handmade Infinity Scarf // lgsmash.com

Will definitely be making a couple more of these this winter. Too easy! Anyone want a scarf?!

Gear Review: Nikon CoolPix AW110 Camera

Something I want to start posting about more frequently on this little blog is gear reviews. So often, when Alex and I are shopping for new gear, we’re looking online first for real-life, user reviews to determine if the gear will perform exactly how we’re expecting it to. And because we like to adventure around outside pretty regularly, we touch and use a LOT of different gear (and got some fun new backcountry toys for Christmas!) that others might find helpful reading or learning about!

So first up, I wanted to share about my super awesome camera, fondly named the Adventure Cam.

Gear Review: Nikon CoolPix AW110 // lgsmash.com

Gear Review: Nikon CoolPix AW110

Before our Boundary Waters trip last year, I started thinking about upgrading my old point-and-shoot camera for something that would take higher quality photos. As I was researching, I looked into waterproof cameras, hoping they’d come farther than the underwater cameras of my childhood, and in doing so, I happened upon a new-to-me segment of cameras: the Rugged Compact. These are cameras that are freezeproof, waterproof, shockproof and dustproof – perfect for (almost) every outdoor adventure!

After much deliberation, I decided on the Nikon CoolPix AW110. It was a similar price point as the other cameras I was considering (Olympus TG series) but offered extra features that I thought I might like to have.

The good: I truly love this camera. It takes high quality photos, is easy to use and is adventure ready.

The Nikon AW110 is freeze proof up to 14*, shockproof up to 6.6 feet and waterproof up to 59 feet.

I’ve taken this camera under water and skiing – both situation takes great photos. There are SO many manual options to customize your photo snapping – so many that I have only used a handful! (So much to learn!) It also has a GPS tagging option that will note exactly where your photo was taken (I haven’t used this yet but Alex has) and it’s wi-fi enabled so I can send photos directly to my smartphone or to upload online when connected (haven’t used this yet either – but I want to!). Beware, though – GPS eats up battery life and with limited battery, the wi-fi will not work.

I also really love the seemingly silly neck strap that comes with the camera – it feels dorky at first but man! Having the camera out and ready, hands free, is amazing.

Gear Review: Nikon CoolPix AW110 // lgsmash.com

There isn’t anywhere this durable camera doesn’t go with me – skiing, backpacking, hiking, hut tripping, canoeing, swimming, out with friends, around the apartment. It’s definitely my favorite purchase of 2013.

The bad: From my limited camera knowledge, the camera overexposes shots more often than not. It’s nothing a quick edit can’t fix but it’s a little bit annoying when there are hundreds of photos to touch up. But – this could be operator error too. I’m still learning about all of the options and settings!

Also, battery life isn’t particularly great. The camera ran out of batteries 3 days into my 6 day Boundary Waters trip and on 2 days into our 4 day Thanksgiving hut trip. If you plan to use this camera for multi-day trips, I’d suggest getting a second battery (or more!)

Overall: if you’re looking for a decent camera to take with you on adventures – big or small – I highly recommend the Nikon CoolPix AW110. Despite the silly CoolPix name, this camera is the bomb and I am so happy to be carting it along with me!