Review of the Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30 Backpack

Recently I was asked to review the Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30 Backpack with the new proprietary “Outdry” technology. According the company this new laminate is added to the inside of the pack and forms a “waterproof” membrane – perfect for alpine climbing situations that may get a bit damp. What I learned, though, is that it’s definitely not perfect for total submersion. Here’s a quote from the article:

“Evidently there are two kinds of ‘waterproof’ in the world. There’s the ‘waterproof’ that describes scuba diving dry suits, Ziploc bags and the feathers on a duck’s back. And then there’s the ‘waterproof’ that Mountain Hardware uses when referring to its new Scrambler Outdry Pack.”

Read more about this pack’s highlights and shortcomings in my review on the Backcountry Skiing Canada website.

Rotten Dreads – An Extra Foods Memorial

Two places in Nelson have a special place in my heart – or, more accurately, my stomach. First there’s the Kootenay Co-op grocery store where you’ll find healthy dreadlocked hippies crammed into tiny aisles filled with chaste consumables and $5 carrots.

And then there was the former Extra Foods store, a vast warehouse where you’d find hippies with rotten dreads purchasing $1 cans of carrots with day-glo yellow labels.

“Rotten dreads,” you say? “Isn’t that a bit harsh!” Well, hear me out. When I first moved to Nelson eight years ago, I went to Extra Foods and stood in line behind a guy with 16-inch-long dirty blond dreadlocks spraying out from underneath his knitted Rasta toque. I didn’t really pay much attention to him or his hair until he grabbed his grocery bag and as he turned to leave, one tendril of dread literally fell off his head and onto the check-out’s conveyor belt.

Amazingly, the hippie didn’t even notice part of his head had just fallen off. He just ambled out the door while the sales clerk and I stood there in disgust. Eventually, she took a piece of paper towel, picked up the dread and looked at me for a second, almost as if she was pleading for advice or, worse, wanting to know if I was interested in keeping it. Finally she dumped it into the garbage can.

Then she disinfected the shit out of that conveyor belt.

Today I watched as the old Extra Foods building was demolished, making way for the  Nelson Commons and the new home of the Kootenay Food Co-op. Part of me mourns the loss of Extra Foods but, like a scraggly, unwashed chunk of hair, I believe the time has come to sweep it aside and make way for more wholesome groceries.

Why You Should Love the Shoulder Season (and its dog turds)

The south-central BC weathermen are calling for flurries tonight and snow is forecasted to settle in the valley bottoms. This means we should wake up tomorrow to a beautiful world of grey skies and white and black streets bordered by brown yards pebbled with dog turds.

On second thought, that doesn’t sound so beautiful. In fact, it’s just a typical shoulder season scene in which the browns and blacks have yet to be buried under fields of virgin white. Rain interspersed with snow whips up brownie batter in the alleys and gutters and we’re left pining for real snow – the kind that allows you to ski the streets to work in the morning.

Do we really need that snow to see the beauty though?

Consider the chapter featuring JP Auclair in 2012′s All I Can film. It takes an overcast, dirty, rusty grey street scene and turns it into a joyous, yellow romp through the yards and alleys of two BC mountain towns: Trail and Nelson. (Was anyone else choked that Nelson didn’t get its due in the Chapter opener?)

It took director Dave Mossop of the Sherpas 14 days to film in the two cities (located about 70 kms apart) and in that time he said he shovelled almost as much dog poop as snow. He said that the grey skies were important for continuity and so it was probably the first time in history two skiers actually prayed for continuous rain clouds and not snow.

It was also one of the first times that a shoulder season shot usurped any footage of epic mountain powder turns. (When the Sherpas first posted Auclair’s street segment it hit 124,000 views on its first day and tipped the one million mark after a week.)

So while many of us stare out at the muddy landscape that is the typical shoulder season scene, remember there’s beauty to be found in the brown: get out there, pile up some poop, smear it with snow, and practice 360s over your neighbour’s laundry line. And rest assured in the knowledge that soon enough the world will once again go white.

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

5 Steps to a Perfect Tweet

Think of the last really good party you went to. No doubt there were fun people there talking about cool things that appealed to your interests right? Maybe there was some good tunes playing in the background and people were sharing stories or photos or videos of memorable things. There could have been some good food, or games, or gifts or intoxicants of every shape and colour or maybe there was just a few fun, sober people laughing about life.

Whatever the situation, there were definitely two things that were a part of that perfect party: stimulation and information.

This is important to remember when we’re navigating social media because all too often we get caught up in the myriad of programs or interfaces out there and we forget the “social” part of it all. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. They’re all just parties where people gather to socialize and share information.

With that in mind, let’s discuss just one of the “parties” on the internet – Twitter. Imagine Twitter as this giant building where there are an infinite number of parties going on in different rooms. In most instances you’ll be drawn to rooms where things that you’re interested in are going on. But there are a lot of rooms and you only have so much time to party. So where are you going to direct your attention? Here are five quick tips to remember when crafting conversation starters (or “tweets”) that will stimulate party-goers and encourage them to share your information.

#1. You Ain’t Usher. Know Your Audience

This is the most important rule for any journalist, novelist, producer and, yes, tweeter. Unless you are Usher (and you’re not, ‘cause you’ve got class – we can tell because you’re reading this) your audience is not the entire world. Figure out who you want to attend your “party” and then target your messaging to them.

#2. “Hey you…”

So you’ve figured out who you want to party with but how to get them to pay attention? Here’s a good rule of thumb: A Tweet is like a “Hey….” spoken across a room full of people. For example: “Check out these photos of Usher’s bodyguard pushing me down” or “Here are five easy ways to improve your tweets.” If you’re going to take the time to put a message out there, make it a good one that will catch people’s interest and encourage them to watch/listen/follow up with you. An easy way to ensure those people you want to interact with are getting your message is to use their Twitter handle (@Usher) or hashtag a topic that resonates  with them, such as “#musicbiz”.

#3. Never be boring

This is a party so don’t bore your guests. We’re human beings so don’t be afraid to inject some humanity into your tweets. Consider the difference between these two announcements: “Check out the new mural we just painted in our office” versus “We trusted a 9-year-old to be the art director of a giant mural in our office. Check it out.” The latter one appeals to the human in us all. Most tweets should do that. Sure, my professional self may be interested in your company’s profit-sharing strategy but after a while my personal self is going to be looking for something more, something deeper, something human.

#4. Encourage discussion

Nothing’s worse than going to a party where people just talk about themselves. In the Twitter world, that means every one of your tweets should have room for others to retweet. The ideal number of characters for a tweet is 120, which allows another person to inject their own 20 characters when they retweet it. Likewise, consider regularly crafting your tweets into the forms of questions to encourage discussion. “Do you agree that Usher should not read this post about crafting the perfect tweet?” is far more enticing than just “How to craft the perfect tweet.”

#5. Party on. And on

Actually, there is one thing worse than people just talking about themselves at a party: people not talking at all. Awkward silences definitely kill a good party vibe. Therefore, keep the conversation going by ensuring you’re regularly putting tweets out there. Some would argue that one tweet an hour, during business hours, is a perfect number. If you’re new to Twitter, this could be a bit intimidating but consider the fact that there are limitless parties going on with millions of people sharing there “Hey’s.” If you clam up for too long, you’ll be relegated to wallflower status in no time.

And so there you have it: five tips to help you be the life of the Twitter party. The most important thing to remember is Twitter is supposed to be fun. If you treat it too much like work, your party is going to get stale. And then there’ll be no chance Usher will ever show.

The Best Brownie Recipe on Earth

Before you get too excited, let me stress this recipe does not include any “magic” other than in the form of ease and deliciousness. It was introduced to me by my friend Amy about four years ago and it has changed my life. As someone who suffers from a mild case of chocoholicism, I’m a big fan of rich, gooey chocolatey goodness but when it comes to making deserts, I want them on my plate as quickly as possible.

Which is why these brownies are so good. They only take 5 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to bake and there are only 5 ingredients. Oh, and did I mention they’re gluten-free too? I’ve been asked for this recipe so often by other people, that I decided to do a blog post about it so that it’s out there for everyone now. And a huge thank you to Amy, one of the kindest people I know, for sharing this with me in the first place.

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate (or semi-sweet chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar (if using semi-sweet chocolate, only use 1/2 cup sugar)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup cocoa

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a small pot melt chocolate with butter. Whisk in sugar and eggs. Whisk in cocoa. Bake for 20 minutes. To ensure the brownies are deliciously gooey, I use a toaster oven, set to 350°F and only bake them for 10-12 minutes.

Five Easy Nutrition Tips

It’s amazing when you begin to research something as seemingly simple as eating. I mean, we all do it and we have done since the beginning of time so how hard can it be, right? The more I started unravelling the layers of this topic for a Mountain Trek blog post, though, the more I realized this is a really really big onion. (Sorry. Food similies…bad.)

So I decided to try and break down the topic into five core things that people (and most especially North Americans) can easily remember and digest. The first is crucial: “Drink Your Food; Eat Your Water.” In other words, take time to chew and swallow. Mash up that steak – that’s what you were given molars for. Swish that cool water around in your mouth before you guzzle – get those saliva glands helping with the entire digestion process. One easy trick to help you remember to eat slower is to put your utensil down between mouthfuls.

Here are all Five Easy Nutrition Tips and of them, #5 really struck a chord for me. My fiancé is celiac (she was diagnosed when she was four) and so there’s very little gluten to be found in our household. But there were tons of dairy products and once I started examining my relationship to it all, I realized my phlegmy head every morning may be caused by it. Sure enough, I cut back on my milk intake and voila, no more need for a daily neti pot session. Have a read about the “Sour 8″ and see what small things you can incorporate into your daily routine that many have massive consequences for your overall well-being.

The Ugliest Story Ever

My fiancé is a fish biologist and I have to admit there are occasions when it’s difficult for me to keep up with her day-to-day activities, which could include “ion regulation,” “Parr-Smolt transformation,” or “Leptocephali.” (I think that’s how it’s spelled.)

One day, though, she started describing a local sustainability movement to save this ugly looking fish called the burbot and it definitely made sense to my scientifically challenged brain. The story was incredible! Ice fishing in frigid February temperatures; orgy balls of breeding fish; and a myriad of government agencies in two countries all trying to bring back the population of a creature that is definitely not as endearing as a baby spotted owl.

I pitched the idea to Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine (which just won Western Canada’s Magazine of the Year award) and they too were smitten with the story of the ugliest fish in BC and its return from the brink of extinction. And so was born this latest piece, which just came out in the recent KMC.

Don’t let appearances fool you: this one may be the ugliest ever, but it’s pretty good reading. (If I do say so myself.) Long live the Kootenay burbot!

Read the entire story here: KMC 26 Burbot.

7 Crucial Healthy Eating Tips

I just finished a post for Mountain Trek about seven key things one should remember about food in order to maximize vitality. So many sources deal with what to eat but in this case I decided to look at WHEN to eat, which isn’t something you hear a lot of nutrition experts discussing. Having just completed the week-long program at Mountain Trek’s BC Lodge I was struck by how amazing the daily lectures were, especially the ones that detailed the key times our bodies are looking for nourishment and what they’ll do do when they get it.

For example, most of us in North America have a daily schedule that looks something like this: Wake up groggy ➨ Coffee ➨ Commute to office ➨ Coffee ➨ Quick lunch at desk ➨ Chocolate/Coffee to spike low energy ➨ Commute home ➨ Huge dinner ➨ Watch TV ➨ Sleep ➨ Wake up groggy

The issue with this model is that the coffee suppresses our appetite and so we don’t eat causing our bodies go into starvation mode and store calories as fat. We then eat a huge meal before bedtime and our bodies become further stressed and can’t work off the excess calories. (Because we’re just sitting there in front of the TV.)

So here are 7 Healthy Eating Tips that deal with everything from when to eat breakfast to how many snacks you should consume a day. (It’s a lot more than you might think.) Also included in this blog is the most popular salad dressing recipe at Mountain Trek, the Afterglow Almond Butter Dressing.

Surfing in the Arctic

I just finished a blog post for GuideAdvisor about photographer Chris Burkard and his trip to the arctic circle with filmmaker Chadd Konig and professional surfers Patrick Millin and Brett Barley. The fact they all braved freezing temperatures to go surfing in the arctic is pretty amazing and I had to share the video here as well.

I’m very familiar with the frigid temperatures of the North Atlantic. About eight years ago a rogue wave overturned my sea kayak in the 0°C waters off Random Island near Clarenville, Newfoundland, and I would describe the feeling of the ocean water rushing into my 5mm wetsuit as “painfully euphoric.” I say that because one second I was warm and cozy in the cockpit and the next second razor-sharp ice cubes were dousing every single fibre of my being. It happened so fast my reptilian brain went into overdrive and I was suddenly hyper-aware: colours became sharper; moments became longer; I could hear a sea gull flying 100 feet above me.

Luckily I was with 2 other guys and they helped me by performing a “T” rescue but my hyper-awareness stayed with me until we hit the shoreline. Then it all came crashing down. The adrenaline, the cortisol and all the other “flight or freeze” survival chemicals in my body dissipated and that night I slept like the dead for 11 hours straight.

To voluntarily jump into the waters of the world’s northern-most oceans takes a certain kind of bravery. And I’m positive these surfers slept well after this adventure.

How To Keep Healthy and Active as the Cold Weather Approaches

I just finished a post for Mountain Trek about how to stay active and healthy now that the days are getting shorter and the temperature is dropping. The first tip in the blog definitely struck a chord with me because I gave up coffee for this month. I’m not a huge coffee drinker (I might have two double espressos in the morning) but I don’t drink it in the afternoons nor do I drink caffeine-rich drip coffee.

In fact, it’s a common misconception that espresso has more caffeine in it but one 2 oz double espresso shot has about 80 milligrams of caffeine, whereas a 12 oz brewed coffee has about 120 milligrams.

However, the caffeine headache I had after giving up coffee on October 1st lasted 3 days! Three days! It definitely makes me re-evaluate my morning cuppa ritual. (But it’s so damn yummy though!) Thankfully the headaches are over and I’m swilling a caffeine-free barley malt drink every morning. Whether this will continue on Nov 1st remains to be seen.

Avoiding more hot caffeinated beverages like coffee in the cooler months is just one tip for health as we head into the winter. Here are nine more listed in the Mountain Trek blog. Oh, and there’s a delicious Pumpkin Beef Chili recipe in there as well!