Category Archives: Skiing

Stories and images from my cross-country and backcountry skiing adventures, from family- and beginner-friendly to expert-level trips.

March 6, 2018 A climber on the Ptarmigan Traverse, North Cascades Range, Washington.

Training For a Big Hike or Mountain Climb

In Backpacking, Hiking, Paddling, Skiing, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   10 Comments

By Michael Lanza

When three friends and I decided to attempt to thru-hike the John Muir Trail—221 miles through California’s High Sierra, with numerous mountain passes ranging from 11,000 to over 13,000 feet in elevation—in just one week (backpackers traditionally take three weeks)—the plan seemed like a wild dream. Hike 31 miles a day for seven straight days through some of the biggest mountains in the Lower 48? It was an agenda for lunatics. So we started training. Seriously training. Continue reading →

February 20, 2018 Wallowa Mountains, Oregon.

12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

In Backpacking, Hiking, Skiing, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   18 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Staying warm while Nordic, downhill, or backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking in winter is a constant challenge: We sweat, our clothes get damp, then we get cold. But as humans have known for thousands of years, it’s a matter of smartly managing and insulating our body’s furnace (and today we have much better technical clothing than animal skins). As someone who runs hot when moving, cools off quickly, and gets cold fingers very easily, I’ve learned many tricks over nearly four decades of getting out in the backcountry in frigid temperatures. Follow these tips and you will be vastly more comfortable outdoors in winter.

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February 19, 2018 Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park.

The National Park Everyone Must See: Yellowstone

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

When I think about Yellowstone National Park, I recall seeing a wolf pack suddenly appear on a skyline ridge high above me and begin howling at the vast, impervious sky; and another wolf pack, on a bitterly cold winter day, descend at full speed upon an elk herd, spurring the entire herd to dash off, moving in unison as if it were one organism. Thinking about Yellowstone conjures mental images of Lower Yellowstone Falls pouring thunderously into the colorful magnificence of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, a sight I’ve witnessed both in summer and half frozen in the depths of winter.

I remember smiling at the reactions of my young kids to geysers erupting in the Upper Geyser Basin, or whistling fumaroles in the Lower Geyser Basin, or the kaleidoscopic surface of Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin. I vividly recall watching a black bear sow with cubs in tow shuffle across a meadow at dusk; hearing the nasal shriek of an elk bugling as I stood on a boardwalk in the steam of Mammoth Hot Springs at dawn on a chilly autumn morning (lead photo, above); and many times seeing hundreds of bison quietly grazing a grassy valley. Continue reading →

January 11, 2018 At Kaweah Gap, Sequoia National Park, California.

Why I Endanger My Kids in the Wilderness (Even Though It Scares the Sh!t Out of Me)

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   12 Comments

By Michael Lanza

A glacial wind pours through a snowy pass in the remote mountains of Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park. Virtually devoid of vegetation, the terrain offers no refuge from the relentless current of frigid air. Some of the troops are hungry, a little tired, and grumpy; mutiny doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility, so I don’t want to add “cold” to their growing list of grievances. I coax everyone to push on just a little farther, down out of the wind to a sun-splashed, snow-free area of dirt and rocks for lunch.

But I don’t like the looks of the steep slope we have to descend. Blanketed in snow made firm by freezing overnight temperatures, and littered with protruding boulders, it runs hundreds of feet down to a lake choked with icebergs—in mid-July. A trench stomped into the snow by other trekkers diagonals down to our lunch spot. It’s well traveled, but someone slipping in that track could rocket downhill at the speed of a car on a highway. I turn to our little party—which ranges in age from my nine-year-old daughter to my 75-year-old mother—and emphasize that we have to proceed extremely carefully. Continue reading →

January 3, 2018 Campsite, Dome Glacier, Ptarmigan Traverse, Glacier Peak Wilderness, North Cascades.

Ask Me: How Can You Tell How Warm a Down Jacket Is?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Hiking, Paddling, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments


With sleeping bags, we have temperature ratings. But with down/insulated/puffy jackets, what is best way to determine if a jacket will be warm or warmer or hot? Is it the amount of fill? Some but not all jackets indicate the amount of fill.



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