My Mom and the TiVo

Often when I visit my parents in Point Reyes, a stack of clipped articles and a DVR full of TiVo’d shows await me.

It can feel like homework or a guilt trip, but in reality, it’s not that at all. It’s just my mother. From a young age, I’ve gone through what my parents have called “phases.” From dinosaurs to World War II aircraft, birds of prey to sports cars, I’ve had what I’d call “interests,” and reasonable people might call “obsessions.” Feverishly studying a given topic for hours on end, I was (ok, am) that kid.

My mom could have taken a stern hand, like so many parents, directing me towards things seen as more productive. Instead, she went out of her way – way, way out of her way – to support me: trips to the city for dinosaur museum displays, a visit to the Perigrine Fund, even shaping family vacations around my interests.

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More Fun, Less Forum Fighting

I’ve been in and around the outdoor industry for years – bike shops, ski shops, outdoor gear shops etc. I have been a gear geek and outdoor sports enthusiast for longer. The internet has been a great tool for sharing information.

And it’s also been a great way to get countless users to lose sight of the whole point of mountain biking, skiing, or whatever sport they’re trying to enjoy in the first place, instead spending countless hours going down the rabbit hole.

Internet forums are a great place to ask advice – what type of tires are right for the region I live? What skis for my terrain and ability level? There is so much choice (too much choice? See the million wheel size and hub standards in mountain biking now) in outdoor gear, it’s nice to get a little advice along the way.

But experts of the internet, kings of the digital domain, before you lay down the law with a snarky retort to the 3,001st person asking which ski is best or which bike is better, please remember one thing: The point of these activities in simple. FUN. Sure, fitness, competitiveness, mastery of skill are nice, but the underlying purpose is to have fun.

That means there isn’t a right or wrong ski, bike, shoe or backpack. I see this over and over again on internet forums: if you use a 98 mm waisted ski, not a 88 mm ski, you’re doing it wrong. If you are on a 120 mm travel mountain bike, not a 160, you’re doing it wrong. This is moronic, plain and simple.

If you have fun pedaling smooth XC trails on a slacked out enduro sled and you’re having fun, good. If you’re arcing turns down the groomer on 120 mm fully rockered powder skis and having a blast, you’re doing it right. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.

Sure, there may be a better tool for the job, but getting bogged down in number crunching is the opposite of what these sports are about, and looking at your skis, reading they’re 10mm too wide for the day and deciding not to ride is just sad. Go outside, have fun.

Another trend I see on the forums that drives me nuts are what I consider fashion questions. 29ers don’t look cool. What color helmet should I wear? Wearing a full face helmet on a cross country trail makes you look like a tool. STOP! If you want to play fashion show, pick another sport. I hear if you pick a team sport, they’ll pick a cute little color coordinated number for you. These are individual sports. Be an individual.

I’d probably get more clicks if I wrote a top 10 list of fashion flops in sport climbing, taking the 1,327th cheep shot at the shirtless bro with a beanie, but I honestly don’t care what other people wear while climbing, and neither should you. It affects our climbing zero percent. What skis you are on affects me zero percent.

The only place one person might voice objection to another person’s gear selection is if it’s doing harm – violating Leave No Trace, damaging a climbing crag, putting downhill skiers in the backcountry in harm’s way.

So that’s my rant. Do your homework, but don’t get bogged down in minutiae. Offer advice, but don’t mistake your opinion for gospel. Go outside, and have fun.

Flashback Friday – Getting Rescued by Avalanche Dogs

My time as a reporter here in the Truckee Tahoe area afforded me some great opportunities – hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail and flying on a World War II B17 bomber come to mind – but a story I always enjoy telling is the time I was rescued by Wylee the avalanche dog at Squaw Valley.

Squaw Valley’s Squaw Dogs avalanche team was invited to help out at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, so I went along on a training day to do a story. When I noticed a cave dug in the snow, I asked, “What’s that for?”

They answered their plan was to bury a newbie on the team for the avalanche dogs to find and dig up, and my reply was, “no, you’re burying me.”

Below are the photos I took for the Sierra Sun.

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Climbing Plastic with a Rock Legend

I’ve been writing for my friend and Editor of the Tahoe Quartlery, Kyle Magin, for a few years now. Generally when he picks a story idea and sends it my way, it’s right up my alley, but when he asked me to do a Q&A with Dave Nettle, a local climber and ski mountaineer, I couldn’t type yes and hit send fast enough.

All photos Reuben Shelton or Dave Nettle.

All photos Reuben Shelton or Dave Nettle.

One of the things I’ve really come to love about living in the Truckee-Tahoe area is the outdoors community, and a series of slideshows, put on by Alpenglow Sports, is a shining example of that. I first came across Nettle at one of these slideshows (the series, I later found out, co-founded by Nettle), and I loved his attitude and approach to his world-class climbs, ski descents and adventures.

reuben and dave midway up the asascent of mt asgard

All photos Reuben Shelton or Dave Nettle. Midway up Mt. Asgard, Baffin Island.

To still be at it after 40 plus years, he had to be doing something right, so to get to interview him was an exciting prospect. I reached out, offering the option of a phone interview (which I prefer for spontaneity in questions and answers) or questions sent by email, which many people prefer because it lets them pick and choose their wording in response.

All photos Reuben Shelton or Dave Nettle. Approach to Mt. Loki, Baffin Island.

All photos Reuben Shelton or Dave Nettle. Approach to Mt. Loki, Baffin Island.

Nettle did me one better. He wrote back: “So, for me one of the main incentives to do any interview IS to get a chance to meet someone new and interesting and be able to have a face to face encounter. Let’s do an in-person … We can hit RockSport, climb a bit then grab a beer and kick things around.”

My jaw dropped. As a perpetually novice climber, an opportunity to climb with someone I so admired was once in a lifetime, even if it was only on plastic. Despite a young gym punk trying to correct Nettle on belay technique (I reiterate, Nettle has been climbing over 40 years, and add he is a professional rope rigger), it was a fantastic experience and a great conversation.

Click here to read the Q&A with Dave Nettle in Tahoe Quarterly – Eye to Eye: Dave Nettle