The Science of Northern Utahs Outdoor Playground
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The Science of Northern Utah's Outdoor Playground

Nate Tomlinson

Recently, while reorganizing my spare bedroom gear closet, I got to drinking thinking. Does mountain bike season ever officially end? When should I break out all of my ski stuff? What if I get all of my ski stuff out but then it turns out bike season isn’t actually over? That would be a mess.

More specifically, what are the physiographic features of the Wasatch Mountains that make it so difficult to effectively organize and store my gear?

Now, you might say, “It’s because they’re mountains. Mountains have rapidly changing elevation, which impacts temperatures, weather...why are you writing a blog about this? You’re not even remotely qualified.” And you wouldn’t be wrong. In fact, you could argue that such a response answers my question in its entirety…negating the need for further analysis.

Further Analysis

After extensive Googling scientific research – undeterred by calls to relent on a project so “random” and “unassigned” – I was able to confirm some empirically neat facts. I'm a man of science now, so I'm obligated to share my findings. Please, consider the following.

Science name for different terrains Physiographic Features of Northern Utah

As it turns out, Park City’s location is slightly more unique than just “in the mountains.” It’s actually perched at the convergence of three very distinct landforms:

Rocky Mountains
Park City is in the Wasatch Mountains, which are a branch of the Middle Rocky Mountains province of the greater physiographic division known as the Rocky Mountain System. At 3,000ish miles long, the Rocky Mountain System reaches from British Columbia to New Mexico. This sprawling range is the result of mountain-building forces (“subduction”) caused when other plates started undercutting the North American Plate way over on the Pacific Coast. This occurred roughly around the period known as Dinosaur Times.

Wasatch Mountains in the Middle Rocky Mountains province of the Rocky Mountain System
Park City sits in the Wasatch the Middle Rocky the Rocky Mountain System. Photo: Ross Downard.

Great Basin
The Salt Lake Valley, while only 15ish miles west of Park City, is located in the Great Basin section of the Basin and Range Province (Intermontane Plateaus division.) The Basin and Range Province is the result of earth-stretching forces (“tectonic extension”) somehow happening in between here and California. The Great Basin within this province itself covers some 200,000ish square miles and is the largest closed basin in North America, meaning it isn’t connected to the ocean in any way. Parts of it used to be a giant lake, but now it’s mostly just a salty desert.

Also, between the Great Basin and Middle Rocky Mountains lies the Wasatch Fault (i.e. between Park City and Salt Lake) – capable of producing an (overdue) 7.5-magnitude earthquake. Which, scientifically speaking, is terrifying.

Wasatch Mountains meet Salt Lake Valley
The Wasatch Range drops into the Salt Lake Valley (Great Basin). Photo: Ross Downard

Colorado Plateau
The Heber Valley is 15ish miles southeast of Park City, yet it’s pretty much part of the Uinta Basin of the Colorado Plateaus province (same Intermontane Plateaus division.) The Colorado Plateau – home to nine National Parks and one Goblin Valley – is a solid tectonic block centered on the Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. Over quite a few hundreds of millions of years, it has developed a reputation for unflinching geologic stability, especially when compared to its growing, stretching, verge-of-earth-quaking neighbors.

So, to recap the past 600-millionish years in no particular order: the Rockies grew, the Great Basin stretched, and the Colorado Plateau just planted. Three distinct landforms with three distinct styles.

National Park Service Physiographic Provinces map
Screenshot of the National Park Service's interactive Physiographic Provinces map. Pink = Rocky Mountain System / Brown = Colorado Plateau / Purple = Basin and Range

All of this is a really long-winded way of saying that Park City is perched on a Rocky Mountain outcrop above the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. Which means, for example, when you descend from Park City in search of warmer or dryer conditions to bike, fish, hike, or whatever, you’re actually heading toward entirely distinct physiographic provinces – landforms that collectively span the United States north to south, and all the way to California. The Wasatch Front and Back that make up Park City’s surrounding outdoor playground are in fact steep shelves that mark the physical boundaries between one of the longest mountain ranges in the world (3rd), the largest closed basin in North America, and a solid, immovable block of National Parks.

That's pretty neat.

Choose Your Gear, Choose a Physiographic Province

Say it's November, and it's starting to snow in Park City.

Want to ski? Head further up into the Middle Rocky Mountains where crest lines over 10,000 feet could have plenty of snow.

Early-season snow in Park City, UT
Fall blends with winter when you're at elevation in the Rocky Mountains. Photo: Ross Downard.

Want to bike? Head 3,000ish-feet (30ish-minutes) down to the Great Basin where a giant saltwater lake that never freezes over helps moderate surrounding temperatures.

Biking around the Great Salt Lake, Utah
Near year-round mountain biking options in the Great Basin. Photo: Ross Downard.

Want to fish? The Colorado Plateau is loaded with rivers and streams chiseled by year-after-year of mountain runoff – they’re reliably fishable year-round.

Fly fishing below Mount Timpanogos near the Colorado Plateau
Fly fishing on (pretty much) the Colorado Plateau, with the Rockies in the background (Timpanogos). Photo: Ross Downard.

What is the Point of This?

The point, I guess, is that the rapid elevation change (and resulting climate changes) of this region mean that living in Park City you can manipulate your “season” in a car ride of 30 minutes or less. Which again is basically just describing a facet of mountain-living that you already knew. But what you might not have known is that those car rides are happening at the convergence of three massive, wholly unique landforms. It's the outdoor recreation trinity of Rocky Mountains, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau. We'll call it, Zona radicalis.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a think to finish.

Produced in association with the National Science Foundation

For more information, check out these additional resources:
National Park Service Province Maps
Scientific Journal of Wikipedia

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Science Guy

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Early January Storm Recap | Deer Valley in Park City, UT |
Alpine Skiing

Early January Storm Recap | Park City, UT

Nate Tomlinson

Coming up for air after 12 days of powder, I wanted to put the most recent storm cycle in perspective. Or just reminisce for personal enjoyment. Either way.

From January 2nd, when the Park City ridgeline started getting pounded with snow, until January 13th, when the sun finally reappeared, it “snowed like it used to.”

What does that mean? Take a look at Deer Valley’s snow totals over this 12-day period:

Deer Valley Snow Totals
Snow totals displayed in inches. Data courtesy of On The Snow historical snowfall records.

The Numbers

That’s 106 inches, or just shy of nine feet of new snow. That’s a lot of snow no matter where you are (settle down, California), but what made this storm cycle so glorious were the refills. Deer Valley reported new snow accumulation 11 out of the 12 days. Even with a brief slowdown from January 6th through the 8th (1, 0 and 2 inches respectively) the average daily new snow total during the storm was just shy of nine inches. That’s boot cuff deep. The past few seasons I skipped work for nine inches. So did my boss.

In 2014-2015 (the year we try to forget) Deer Valley didn’t surpass 106 inches for the season until March 3rd. The largest snowfall that season? 16 inches. We beat that on back-to-back days during this storm cycle and five times already since opening day.

Neck deep powder at Deer Valley
106 inches of snow in nine days provided the deep days of old.

The Science

Ok, you get it. This storm of yesteryear was awesome, and Utahns are feeling validated in their steadfast loyalty to the “Greatest Snow On Earth.” So what happened? Is some especially fleet-footed ski bum dancing for the snow gods? Does this have something to do with selling all of my fat skis at the swap this fall?

In an effort to provide an answer grounded in accepted science, I reached out to National Weather Service Senior Meteorologist, Brian McInerney. Here’s what he had to say:

“When we (the Meteorologists and Hydrologists at the National Weather Service) looked at the overall global weather pattern back in mid-November, one thing hit home – the cold pool of air that had been positioned over the Hudson Bay area and Greenland for the past five years had shifted to Eastern Siberia and Western Alaska, upstream of Utah. This is important. Utah’s weather originates out of the west. As such, we could expect a stronger gradient in the difference between cold and warm water on a giant scale. This gradient packs more energy and was expected to shift the jet stream away from the high-pressure ridging pattern we’ve seen in the past five years. High pressure is associated with nice weather, lack of storms, inverted air masses, and poor air quality in the valleys. Instead of a massive high pressure stationed over the western US, the staff surmised that we would see a more progressive weather pattern, bringing storms, cold air, and moisture in the form of snow.

Now understand, long-range forecasting beyond seven days is a risky business at best. But this was a big change, and anything to shift the stagnant western U.S, global pattern was a welcome relief.

Now shift to January 18th. Utah is experiencing a banner year so far. Snowpack averages are near 150-200% across the state. The high-pressure ridge is smaller and south of us, just west of Mexico. The skiing is fabulous and most days are powder days, as it should be.”

To get a sense for the global weather patterns Brian is talking about, I highly recommend checking out the Earth Null School maps. Below is the global temperature map.

Global Temperature Map
The all-important cold pool of air hanging out over Eastern Siberia and Western Alaska. View the moving visualization here.

Now look at the 3-Hour Precipitation Accumulation (3HPA) at the surface on January 9th – right before Deer Valley was pounded with three feet of snow over two days.

3-Hour Precipitation Totals for Park City, UT. January 9, 2017.
Park City's precipitation outlook as the brunt of the storm rolled in. View the moving visualization here.

Thank You Ski Patrol

So Siberia pulled through for us and it snowed a lot in Park City. We all skied pow, and high-fived, and skipped work – standard behavior when it’s nuking. But that doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games when nine feet of new snow falls in rapid succession.

No “Storm Recap” would be complete without a shout-out to the men and women of the Ski Patrol. While freeloaders like me feel accomplished for being booted-up and in line by 8:45 AM, the snow safety efforts of the Ski Patrol have been underway for hours. Deer Valley Ski Patrol Manager, Chris Erkkila, described the morning routine when the forecast is loaded with snow:

“Planning actually starts the day before. We come up with a schedule for routes and determine how many pounds of explosives we are going to need. The first patrollers to arrive for morning routes are here at 6:00 AM. They check the weather (both past and future) and head to our explosives storage magazine to gather the shots. We’re on the chair at 6:50 AM and head to the mountain patrol building. It takes a little time to assemble the explosives and then we are out the door. Routes usually consist of a combination of cornice kicking and placing our shots. Some of the routes are easier than others and we’re able to get them open sooner. The last routes are usually done no later than 10:00 AM (conditions permitting.)”

Next time you wake up to that beautiful sound of bombs in the morning, send a mental shout-out to the ski patrollers who are already up on the hill. They’re spending the cold, dark hours of dawn breaking trail up waist-deep bootpacks so we can swoop in for the goods at our leisure. And if you hear someone complaining about patrollers “poaching all the fresh tracks,” tell them to go kick their own cornices.

With Great Snow Comes Great Responsibility

While there was plenty of snow to be had in-bounds, the prospect of even fresher lines will always draw skiers into the backcountry. It goes without saying that a storm of this magnitude increases the risks associated with skiing “un-patrolled” terrain. But that doesn’t mean the backcountry needs to be avoided entirely. With proper training and respect for the forces at play, the backcountry can be responsibly enjoyed. Our very own Avalanche Education Program Director, Scott House, explained his approach to the backcountry over the past two weeks:

“This storm was like nothing we’ve seen in the past five years. It wasn’t the snow totals but the snow water equivalent, with up to six inches of water or more in places. The snowpack is like most humans – it doesn’t like change. With that much extra water it was a waiting game, and we had to give the snowpack time to adjust. During this storm it was important to follow the Utah Avalanche Center forecasts to see how the snow was adjusting, and what other skiers were finding around the Wasatch. You could find good skiing on low-angle slopes – with nothing steep above or below – on the northern half of the compass. With a little bit of time the snowpack adjusted nicely to the new load and with careful evaluation and good route finding you could start to step out into steeper terrain.”

Backcountry skiing in Big Cottonwood Canyon
Backcountry terrain in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.

Keep Dancing

Alright, let’s get to the question we all want an answer to: Is it going to keep snowing? Brian, what are the global weather patterns saying?

“Will the progressive pattern continue? Again, understand that we don’t do very well beyond seven days, and the short-term forecast calls for smaller storms and a bit of high-pressure ridging. We don’t want high pressure. It dominated our winter weather pattern for the past five years. But we look and Voila! The cold pool remains over Siberia and Alaska, and not so much over the Hudson Bay and Greenland. Granted, there are many variables that could derail our awesome powder forecast, but the big picture is intact, and we are optimistic that the storms will continue. Let’s cross our fingers and dance to the snow gods that the powder days will continue.”

How intense is the addiction to powder? It can make a scientist superstitious. So cross your fingers, flail your feet, and bring on the progressive weather pattern. With the right mix of science and luck, we just might be treated to a season like the old days. Until I get new powder skis and ruin it for everyone.

Special thanks to Brian McInerney, Chris Erkkila, and Scott House for their professional insight.

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How to Ski Deer Valley | Expert Opinion |
Alpine Skiing

How to Ski Deer Valley

Nate Tomlinson

Deer Valley opens this weekend – Saturday, December 3, 2016. In honor of the occasion, we wanted to share some thoughts on how to make the most of your time on the hill. With three Deer Valley locations, our staff here at Jans consists of some seasoned and loyal DV skiers.

Case in point: Jans Deer Valley at Snow Park Hardgoods Manager, Ramsey Moore. Born and raised in Park City, Ramsey has been skiing Deer Valley regularly for 22 years. That’s a lot of time to learn the nuances of a mountain, so we asked Ramsey to share some insight on how to approach a day at Deer Valley.

Deer Valley winter trail map.
21 lifts serving 101 runs, 2,026 skiable acres, and 3,000 vertical feet. Trail Map courtesy of Deer Valley Resort.

Note: What follows is, obviously, subjective. How do you ski Deer Valley? Well, that depends. But, How You Might Consider Skiing at Deer Valley Based on Ability, Conditions, Weather, Time of Day, Personal Preference, and Infinite Other Influencers… is a terrible title. So we went with a bold claim, and stuck Ramsey with the job of backing it up.

Your skiing style?

“I grew up in Park City so I’m comfortable skiing just about any terrain out here. Obviously my first choice will always be pow – if it’s there. But I’m also happy to spend the day ripping groomers, or cruising with the family. It’s never a bad day when you’re skiing.”

Jans Expert, Ramsey Moore, skiing at Deer Valley.

Where to ski on a powder day?

Lady Morgan
“A ton of terrain, good pitches, and some steeper sections for the deep days.”

“Probably offers the most vertical, with lots of tree stashes that hold their snow after storms. When other parts of the mountain are pretty skied out, you can still find plenty of untouched sections in the trees.”

“It needs to be a good snow year, but when it is this lift is great. Not a lot of people head over there. Its lower elevation, so you'll want to make sure you catch it in the morning before things warm up. It's best when a storm is still rolling through, or it stays really cold.”

Deer Valley winter trail map, best powder day lifts.
Sultan and Mayflower zone to looker's left, Lady Morgan zone to looker's right (highlighted in green). Trail Map courtesy of Deer Valley Resort.

Where to ski on a groomer day?

“It’s north facing so the snow stays really good throughout the day. Reward, Wizard, Legal Tender – they’re all awesome high-speed groomers. Plus my favorite groomer on the mountain, Keno, is off of this lift.”

“Check out Stein’s Way, Perseverance, and Tycoon. They are all fast, long, and have really nice pitches. Hit them in the early morning before the sun gets to them.”

Deer Valley winter trail map, best groomer day lift.
Use the Wasatch Express lift to lap Reward, Wizard, Legal Tender, and Keno (highlighted in green). Trail Map courtesy of Deer Valley Resort.

Where to ski with the family?

“The cool thing about Deer Valley is that you can take any level of skier and go pretty much everywhere. I probably wouldn’t take beginners straight to Empire or Sultan, but just about every lift has fun, mellow runs as an option. At a lot of mountains kids or inexperienced skiers are confined to the bottom of the hill. But at Deer Valley, you can take them all over without overwhelming them.”

Family-friendly skiing at Deer Valley.
Families with younger kids aren't confined to a single section of the mountain.

Most underrated zone?

Deer Crest
“Now that the Mountaineer Express is a high-speed chair you can get a ton of laps in without spending too much time on the lift. There aren’t a lot of runs, but the groomers over there are all awesome.”

“Again, it needs to be a good snow year, but nobody goes over there and the trees are loaded long after a storm.”

Most overrated zone?

“Talking specifically about powder days, I'd probably have to say Empire. There's a ton of awesome terrain – Daly Chutes, X-File trees – but it's also where everyone heads first. Obviously I'm not saying it's bad. It's just that it gets skied out really quickly and there's terrain that's just as good, if not better, elsewhere.”

Best spot for lunch?

“Empire Canyon Lodge, and get the fish tacos! It’s not as crazy as some of the other lodges and has an awesome deck for warm, sunny days. You’ll have more luck finding an open table outside here than anywhere else.

I recommend eating earlier in the day (around 11:00am) or holding off until after 2:00pm if you can. A lot of Deer Valley skiers tend to get to the hill right at 9:00am, and then they’re done by noon. So when they leave, and everyone else heads in for lunch, you can have the mountain to yourself.”

Lunch at Empire Canyon Lodge at Deer Valley.
Empire Canyon Lodge. Eat during off-hours to maximize ski time. Photo courtesy of Deer Valley Resort.

Best spot for après festivities?

“The EBS Lounge upstairs at Snow Park Lodge. It has a big deck that still gets sun later in the day, and during the spring they’ll have bands playing out there.”

Apres at the Snow Park Lodge at Deer Valley.
Enjoy the last of the sun on the deck at Snow Park Lodge. Or, head into the EBS Lounge for beverages. Photo courtesy of Deer Valley Resort.

We hope this insider information helps you maximize your Deer Valley skiing experience. Here's to the 2016/2017 season. Now bring on the snow!

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

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Park Citys Best Post-Work Rides for Fall | Jans Bike Shop |
Mountain Biking

Park City's Best Post-Work Mountain Bike Rides for Fall

Nate Tomlinson

Fall in Park City offers some of the best mountain biking of the season. The temperatures are cool, the dirt is tacky, and the colors are downright psychedelic. It’s riding so good you wish it would never end.

But like all things that bring joy to your life, there’s a tradeoff. With the sun setting earlier each day – but your unrelenting soul-crusher of a boss still making you stay until 5:00pm – the window for riding after work is quickly closing.

When Mother Nature and the Man are conspiring to limit your riding time, it’s important to have a solid strategy in place. So, I asked three Jans Experts to each detail their classic after-work rides for fall.

Paul's Shuttle Lap

Shuttle to Empire Pass - Corvair - Mid Mountain - Little Chief - Speedbag
Climb: 0
Descent: Approx. 1,700' over 5 miles
Duration: 30-45 minutes

PB: "I still want maximum vert so during the fall I shuttle as much as possible after work. Getting a ride at least as far up as Empire Pass gives you plenty of options to work with, and sometimes you end up having time for two different laps."

Map of ride route for Corvair, Mid Mountain, Little Chief and Speedbag in Park City, UT.
Shuttle to Empire Pass (Marsac Ave / Hwy 224), descend Corvair, Mid Mountain, Little Chief, Speedbag, and exit via Daly Ave.

View Paul's Shuttle Lap with the Mountain Trails Foundation Route Builder.

Ride Highlights:

"Flowy, fast turns, with steeper sections to keep you alert. There’s not much traffic so the trail holds itself together a little better."

Little Chief
"Tighter, twistier, and a little more loose than most modern trails. Old-school Park City riding at its best."

"Good balance of fast and smooth, to slow and techy – back-and-forth. It keeps you on your toes. Plus, there’s an intensity factor riding along deep ravines and picking your way over steep sections of roots and rocks. It’s a good final push in terms of having to pump and keep your speed up to clear obstacles, but without actually having to pedal much."

Cindi's Shuttle Lap

Wasatch over Wasatch (W.O.W.) trail - Midway reservoir to Wasatch State Park
Climb: Approx. 600'
Descent: Approx. 2,500' over 9 miles
Duration: 1.5 hours

CG: "I have been riding the WOW trail after work quite a bit this summer. I run a shuttle to the bottom of Wasatch State Park and then leave right from my cabin (near Guardsman Pass.) It takes about an hour-and-a-half, so I have to keep moving at a pretty good pace to finish before dark."

Map of ride route for WOW trail between Park City, UT and Midway, UT
Shuttle a car to Wasatch State Park, drive Guardsman Pass road to trailhead at Midway reservoir, rally back car #1.

View Cindi's Shuttle Lap with the Mountain Trails Foundation Route Builder.

Ride Highlights:

"Starts out with a short and fun climbing section and then you get 2,500-feet of flowy, bermed downhill."

Eric's Endurance Lap

Start at White Pine Touring - Daly - Tour de Suds - Team Big Bear - Moosebones - Corvair - Mid Mountain - Tour de Suds - Trappers
Climb: Approx. 2,150' over 7 miles
Descent: Approx. 2,150' over 8 miles
Duration: 2 hours

EL: "Even when I’m working with limited daylight I still like to try to get a real climb in. If you choose the right trails you can gain some serious vert without beating yourself up too badly – meaning there’s still time for a big, long, rowdy downhill before dark."

Map of ride route for Tour de Suds, Team Big Bear, Moosebones, Corvair, Mid Mountain, Tour de Suds and Trappers in Park City, UT.
Pedal the Poison Creek paved trail to the bottom of Swede Alley, pick your way through town up to Daly Ave, then get ready to suffer.

View Eric's Shuttle Lap with the Mountain Trails Foundation Route Builder.

Ride Highlights:

Daly (up)
"Great conversational double-track climb."

Tour de Suds (up)
"Classic old-school Park City hand-cut trail."

Team Big Bear (up)
"Great climb through a mix of aspens and pine trees. Semi-steep at points with some technical sections mixed in to keep you honest."

Moosebones (up)
"Last push before the downhill starts. A short section of climbing before you intersect with the Guardsman Pass road (Hwy 224) and then another short pedal up the pavement to the top of Empire Pass."

Corvair (down)
"Fast, flowy and fun descent through a mix of pine and aspen trees. If this one doesn’t put a smile on your face you might be dead."

Tour de Suds (down)
"Same as the climb, but this old-school trail takes on a new feel when you’re descending it."

Trappers (out)
"Look for this fun detour as a bonus on your way out. It’s another old, hand-cut trail. Short but sweet, with some tight and twisty sections."

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

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Club Ride Detour Jersey and Crush Shorts Review |Jans Bike Shop |
Clothing & Accessories

Club Ride Detour Jersey and Crush Shorts Review

Nate Tomlinson

Mountain Biking with

Expert Review

When I received my Detour jersey and Crush shorts one month ago, they were the first pieces of Club Ride apparel that I had ever worn. Truthfully, they were the first Club Ride products that I had ever so much as picked up. It’s not that I’m overly selective – I have jerseys and shorts from Fox, Dakine, Giro, Troy Lee Designs, even Sugoi. But Club Ride? It was never on my radar.

If you’d asked me to describe Club Ride, I would have told you this: It’s a dad brand. It’s the sort of bike clothing worn by middle-aged men with fingerless gloves and a Garmin mounted on the handlebars. That dad clacking around the grocery store in his clipless bike shoes? Probably wearing Club Ride.

So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I set out to review a mountain biking jersey/short combo that boasts of its ability to “work just as well on the single track as they do at lunch.” To me that translates to “the embarrassing stuff that your dad wears in public.” But hey, stereotypes are made to be broken. And who better to review Club Ride gear than a true skeptic.

And while I can’t speak to the lunch-date performance of the Detour and Crush, I have put them to the test with a month’s worth of varied trail riding. Here’s my take:

Club Ride Detour jersey and Crush shorts mountain biking clothing review
Detour jersey and Crush shorts. Embracing the Club Ride style with an open mind.

Technical Features

RideDryWear and DurX technologies, RideLight reflective accents, UV protection

With a middle-of-the-road price tag ($79.95), I would argue the Detour jersey exceeds expectations in terms of fabric technology. As a huge wimp about heat and humidity, I appreciated the performance of the RideDryWear fabric. It’s lightweight and quick-drying so you never feel like you’re draped in a wet blanket, and the full-length side mesh panels allow an impressive amount of air to circulate on the inside. And as a pale kid in constant search of shade, the high collar and UPF 30 rating have given me some added confidence to head out on exposed rides during the middle of the day.

The Crush shorts, meanwhile, price themselves into a slightly higher bracket ($119.95.) That being said, I would argue that you get your money’s worth out of the DurX fabric and durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. These shorts are lightweight and flexible enough for longer rides, but still have the sturdy feel that you’ll appreciate during the descent.

The side zip pockets are easy to access, though definitely on the smaller side – not ideal if you’re banking on storage space for tools. But they do neatly fit a standard size phone and wallet without digging into your leg, or worse, flopping around while you’re pedaling. They also feature a media port for connecting your headphones (although I personally don’t recommend trail riding with a cord dangling off the side of your bike.)

Club Ride Crush shorts side zip pockets
Side zip pockets are easy to open/close with gloves on, and keep phone/wallet securely in place while riding.

Both the Detour and Crush are equipped with Club Ride’s RideLight reflective accents, so you have some backup if you find yourself on the roads at dusk and didn’t plan on needing a taillight. I routinely overestimate the amount of light left in the day (or maybe I’m just out of shape), and find myself riding roads home long after the sun has ducked behind the ridgeline. It’s nice knowing that passing cars have some help picking me out of the shadows.

3.5/5 RATING


Temperature regulation, moisture management, riding performance

I’ve found the Detour jersey to be at its best on short- to mid-range rides of the after-work variety. It’s comfortable against the skin, and the cut has clearly been designed with attention to rider movement. That means there’s no on-the-fly resituating required when you’re quickly transitioning between sitting and standing.

On longer rides that require a backpack, I have noticed that the snap front has a tendency to work itself into some awkward positions under the sternum strap and hip belt. It’s never proven to be a source of discomfort or a hindrance to my riding, but it’s a mental distraction nonetheless.

Club Ride does not make the standard claims of “odor resistance” that so many brands are spitting out these days, and perhaps with good reason. After marinating in my laundry hamper overnight, the jersey was pretty potent when I threw it back on for my next ride. It’s not something I’ve worried too much about (comparatively, I’m no worse off than any of my riding buddies), but it’s worth noting given the claims of versatility for post-ride socializing. In appearance, people might not be able to tell you’ve been out on the trails, but depending on how sweaty the ride, your scent will give you away.

In terms of true, trail riding performance, the Crush shorts have impressed. They pedal well and haven’t shown any signs of weakness over the course of a month of varied riding. The poly-spandex fabric blend with four-way stretch never feels heavy or saggy during the climb, yet it still manages to hold its shape well during the descent – eliminating the annoying flapping that comes along with many of the thinner, lightweight shorts out there. If my review of the Crush’s performance feels brief, it’s because I truly have no complaints. They do what you hope for from a trusty pair of trail riding shorts – go largely unnoticed.

Mountain biking in the Club Ride Detour jersey and Crush shorts

Fit & Fashion

Relaxed fit, “Western” styling, seamless crotch gusset

The Detour claims to be “designed after classic Western shirts.” Why is that a selling point? I don’t know. But with its snap-front style and pointed-tip collar, it definitely has a cowboy-ish look. Admittedly, I’m more of a standard T-shirt rider, but I will say that I have appreciated the ability to pop a few snaps for added airflow on especially hot days. Just remember to re-snap before heading back into public – I’ve gotten some snarky comments from my buddies about the amount of chest showing.

Constructed with Club Ride’s Comfort fit, the Detour is relaxed enough to eliminate any points of restriction through the underarms and across the chest, yet stays comfortably in place when you’re in and out of the saddle. It also, presumably, allows you to hop off your bike and stroll into a respected establishment without getting judgmental looks – if that’s a concern.

The Crush uses Club Ride’s Sport fit construction to balance pedaling efficiency with a slightly more relaxed look and feel. I’ve worn these shorts with and without a chamois liner underneath, and found them to be comfortable in both scenarios. They do have a tendency to ride up during the climb, resulting in a shorter-feeling length than the 13-inch inseam would suggest. It’s not a hindrance since the seamless crotch gusset prevents that, just be prepared to occasionally see more of your pasty thighs than you would expect from a trail-riding short.

Despite my initial eye-rolling in response to off-the-bike performance, I have since become a Club Ride believer. I wear these shorts to work and around town on a regular basis – something I would never do with my other trail shorts. So what they lack in comparison to the fit and fashion of conventional freeride baggies, they make up for with everyday comfort and versatility. I would argue it’s a tradeoff that skews in favor of the middle-aged rider. If you wore the Crush with a full-face helmet at the bike park would you look out of place? Definitely. But you’d also look like you have a job. So take from that what you will.

Versatile style for use on the mountain bike trail and around town
Just riding some singletrack before an important lunch meeting.

Final Take

Club Ride’s commitment to on- and off-the-bike versatility has helped the company develop a loyal following of mountain bikers who sneak rides in whenever and wherever they can. If you’re looking for true, performance bike apparel for endurance XC rides, these products are not for you. Similarly, if you’re riding lifts and hitting jumps, you’re most likely going to feel a little stuffy out there. But if you’re riding singletrack in between life’s other commitments, the Detour and Crush have been designed for mountain bikers like you.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Experts Verdict

The Crush shorts are a winner. They’ve exceeded my expectations for comfort, performance, and versatility. And while the Detour jersey isn’t my ideal riding top, the right customer will find a comfortable and stylish shirt with true trail-riding capability. If you need a new kit, but you’re reluctant to shell out big bucks on clothing with a single function, the combined price tag of $200 for the Detour/Crush is a no-brainer.

4/5 Technical Features: The qualifier here is price point. You’d be hard-pressed to find an equivalent level of technology in a lower price bracket. RideDryWear and DurX fabrics exceed their modest performance claims, and thoughtful design elements have clearly been implemented with the specific needs of mountain bikers in mind.

3.5/5 Performance: Both the shirt and shorts made good on their claims of on- and off-the-bike versatility. Some knocks against the Detour for backpack compatibility and odor control. But I can’t say enough good things about the Crush shorts. In terms of on-trail performance, both the jersey and shorts are lightweight, comfortable, and adept at managing sweat – three key traits.

4/5 Fit & Fashion I’m still not sold on the concept of singletrack-to-lunch attire. But I’ll compromise with Club Ride and call this kit trail-and-street ready. In other words, highly functional trail riding clothes that aren’t blatantly single purpose in fit or appearance. With that as the goal, the Detour and Crush earn high marks.

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Where to Find Road Bike Lessons in Park City | Jans Bike Shop |
Road Biking

Road Bike Lessons in Park City

Nate Tomlinson

Road biking is one of those deceptively complex skills. At first glance, it just appears to be your standard two-wheeled cruise; albeit with skinnier tires and tighter clothing. But there's far more to the sport than sitting, pedaling, and soaking in the sun. In order to maximize your enjoyment out on the roads while maintaining the necessary level of safety, there are certain skills and techniques you must acquire.

That's where Expert instruction comes into play. Sure, you can improve as a road biker without anyone's help; repetition builds skill, after all. But if you're repeating the same bad habits over and over, you'll be looking at a long, uphill climb to take your riding to the next level.

Road Bike Lessons with in Park City, Utah

Our White Pine Touring Guiding Service offers three levels of road biking lessons. Taught by our experienced and highly-trained instructors, these lessons are designed to help cyclists of all ability levels improve their riding, and ultimately, enjoyment out on the roads.

In addition to being one of the most accomplished cyclists on staff, Tim Matthews is also one of our most versatile road biking instructors. He's as comfortable teaching a complete beginner as he is a lifelong cyclist; which anyone with education experience knows is far more difficult than it sounds. We hit up Tim with some of our customers' most frequently asked questions regarding our road biking lessons.

What are the immediate benefits of getting out on the roads with an instructor?

TM: As the student you will have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal. I have a vast understanding of the Park City area and can tailor lessons to meet your specific needs and goals. Are you a beginner who wants minimal climbing? An expert ready to tackle mountain climbs? Your time is valuable and my experience riding in this area allows me to customize a lesson to make the most of your time.

In addition, mechanical malfunctions may happen while you are on your bike. It is my job to minimize those malfunctions and assist with repairing things like flat tires or derailed chains, so that you can fully experience what this area has to offer.

How do I tell which lesson is right for me?

TM: When choosing the right fit for your lesson, you should ask yourself, "What would I like to achieve?" If you are looking to advance your descending skills, we can customize a road ride through Brown's Canyon to work on that particular skill. Perhaps you would simply like to take a scenic ride around Park City with some helpful pointers along the way. We can accommodate that. If you are unclear about your ability, don't worry, we can adapt on the fly. Honestly, there isn't a bad ride in this area. Your lesson can be challenging, beautiful, leisurely, and informative; all in one session.

Do you cover mechanics of the bike and how it functions before you ride?

TM: Absolutely. We will go through all the functionality of the bike before we hit the road, since we provide you with one of our rental bikes as part of the lesson. We want to ensure that you are comfortable with its operation and can operate the bike safely. Of course, I will be there to fix any malfunctions and perform any repairs needed to help us roll along seamlessly.

Road Bike Lessons with in Park City, Utah

How long is the lesson? How far do you go?

TM: We offer several options to choose from. Individuals or groups can book lessons based on a desired length of time, technical experience, or even scenery. We can go as far as you would like, climb as much as you want, and go as fast as you're comfortable going. You are the student and everything we do is designed to maximize your education while still having fun. I want to ensure that I have an understanding of your desired outcome for the lesson so that you can get out of it what you are looking to accomplish on the bike. As your instructor, it's my job to help you get the most out of your lesson.

What if "my friend who rides a lot" tells me to do something differently than my instructor?

TM: That is completely fine. For the most part, there is no right or wrong way. With my experience, I am simply passing along techniques that I have found to work best for me.

What qualifications and/or certifications do your instructors have?

TM: I have been riding in the Park City area for over ten years and racing competitively all over the West for more than 25 years. I am also Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certified.

Road Bike Lessons with in Park City, Utah

How do I sign up?

Visit our Road Bike Lessons in Park City page on, or call our White Pine Touring Guiding Service directly at 435-649-8710.

The goal of every lesson we teach is to equip you, the student, with the ability to take the skills taught by your instructor, and continue to improve upon them in your own time. In that sense, a road biking lesson with our White Pine Touring Guiding Service is simply the starting point for ongoing refinements to your riding.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer,

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Head World Cup Tuning Clinic Hosted By Rennstall | Video and Recap
Alpine Skiing

Jans Hosts the Head World Cup Tuning Clinic with Alex Martin | Video & Recap

Nate Tomlinson

Full disclosure – this video is not a “how-to” ski tuning tutorial. It is also long, highly technical, and cuts out before the clinic ends.

So what exactly is this video? It’s an open-forum Q&A with Alex Martin, ski tech for Ted Ligety. It’s a fascinating demonstration of prepping race skis for World Cup competition. And if nothing else, it’s a rare opportunity to bask in the glory of a master ski tech chatting casually about race skis…with an Austrian accent.

Unofficially, we’ll call it part of our “Ridiculously Specific Videos for Geeks” series. So if you enjoy watching experts in action as much as we do, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Then read on for our thoughts on the master craftsmanship of Alex Martin.

Ski Tuning with

Clinic Recap

No matter how much experience you acquire in a given field, you will always find someone whose knowledge and skill humbles you. In the world of ski tuning, Alex Martin is that guy.

An “Official Head Rebels Ski Service Master,” and Ted Ligety’s ski tech, Martin has been tuning skis at the World Cup and Olympic levels for more than 20 years. And befitting of his title as tech for one of ski racing’s biggest stars, operating on the world’s biggest stage, Alex is a legend in the slightly less publicized world of ski tuning.

As part of Head’s traveling World Cup Tuning Clinic, Alex visited us last spring at Rennstall for a four-hour clinic on the finer points of World Cup race prep. Progressing through his finely honed routine, patiently answering questions along the way, Alex covered the step-by-step process required to turn a pair of Ted’s newly pressed skis into race-ready contenders.

Alex Martin brushing skis

A well-tuned pair of skis is the result of the ability, knowledge, and skill of the tech who services them. Alex Martin was clearly born with a special ability. And through the years he has amassed an insane amount of knowledge. But it’s his skill – the all-important ability to execute – that has set him apart as one of the best in the business. And, as we learned during the World Cup Tuning Clinic, Alex’s skill is the result of his ability and knowledge being applied to the task at hand with a uniquely philosophical and creative approach.

Ability and Philosophy

It is, of course, impossible to adequately convey the precision with which Alex works. But it’s telling that, in a room full of experienced techs, his craftsmanship was making jaws drop. After pulling and sanding the sidewalls with the same tools we use at Rennstall, the results were humbling – even bordering on deflating. Perfectly tailored and buffed, the once factory-issue vertical sidewall was transformed into a fully customized shape to complement the extreme angulation that defines Ted Ligety’s racing style.

Alex is downright philosophical in his approach to edge work. In describing his process he makes precise hand tuning sound at once simple, yet maddeningly out of reach. He keeps his diamond stone dry, so he “can hear how it’s reacting with the edge.” He also doesn’t use file guides. “If you don’t have the feel with the diamond stone, you don’t have the feel to be tuning by hand,” he says. And like any master of a trade, Alex stresses patience. Addressing a question about how to tell when you’re done with an edge, he politely dismissed the notion that the answer could be so formulaic. “Take a break, wash your hands, then come back to feel the edge. Sometimes you’ll be done without knowing it.”

Knowledge and Creativity

There’s an image that comes to mind when you think of veteran ski tuners. They’re weathered, always right, and saltier with each passing season. They’re intimidating to talk with about skis because they know more than you, and aren’t particularly patient with your efforts to decipher their language. But with the exception of his Austrian ski-villain accent (think Rudy Garmisch from Hot Dog), Alex is so far from the stereotype of your lifelong ski tuner that it’s almost comical. Well-spoken, thoughtful in his responses, and clearly self-aware of the insanely specific line of work he’s in, Alex approaches ski tuning with a humble confidence.

For those of us trained in the hierarchical structure of a shop, it was fascinating to hear such an un-regimented mindset when it comes to ski tuning. Alex stressed repeatedly that there is no single “right way” to tune skis. While the goal is always the same – sharp edges and fast skis – there is no set formula to get there. In that sense, Alex’s approach to hand tuning stresses flexibility and creative thought, dispelling the notion that it’s strictly a job of manual labor.


At Rennstall we are fortunate to have highly advanced, efficient (and expensive) tuning machines. When the shop is running full-bore at 10:00 p.m. during Christmas week, it’s an impressive display. From start to finish, skis are in constant motion – tuned, waxed, and back on the rack in less than 30 minutes. It’s this level of mechanized efficiency that allows four techs to tune more than 60 pairs of skis in a single night.

But there’s a downside to that level of automation. For the technicians running the machines, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between what was accomplished through personal craftsmanship and what was the result of mindless button pushing.

In large part, that is what was so inspiring about hearing the way Alex describes ski tuning. His commitment to innovation and creativity dispelled the notion that machines could ever replace the role of human involvement in ski tuning. While machines can crank out mass-produced tunes that meet the quality-needs of recreational skiers, they will never be capable of the creative thought required to tune for World Cup athletes. When quality of work matters most, doing it by hand still prevails.

In this age of 3D printers, laser cutters, and robotic welders, it’s satisfying to know that craftsmen like Alex still exist in irreplaceable ways. His work is valued not in the way a handcrafted watch is – expensive because of the incredible number of hours that went into its production – but in the sense that it can’t be replicated by any mechanized process.

For the techs at Rennstall who specialize in hand tuning, this concept served as positive affirmation for the countless hours they spend on the bench. While the machines behind them pump out tunes at 10-times the rate, the quality of craftsmanship achieved by hand tuning validates their time-intensive efforts.

Alex Martin tuning skis

We are honored to have been able to host the Head World Cup Tuning Clinic, and we hope you enjoyed the video. Thank you to Alex for coming to show us his techniques and sharing his thoughts on race prep. At Rennstall, we’re always looking for ways to make your skis just a little faster, and a little more precise. There’s no better way to accomplish that goal than to learn from a master like Alex Martin.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer & Rennstall Ski Tech

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Jans Ultimate Powder Day Sweepstakes | 2015 Recap
Alpine Skiing

Jans Ultimate Powder Day Sweepstakes | 2015 Recap

Nate Tomlinson

The 2016 Jans Ultimate Powder Day Sweepstakes has begun. In case you needed a little extra incentive to enter, let us recap last year’s prize package for you.

Sweepstakes winner, Dan Kirk, pulled an all-time bro favor – choosing his buddy, Dane Taylor, as his weekend +1. Both Dan and Dane spent a day skiing untouched lines at Thousand Peaks Ranch with Park City Powder Cats & Heli-Ski, were put up for two nights courtesy of Park City Lodging, and received head-to-toe gear from Arc’teryx and Smith Optics. Either Dan owed Dane bigtime, or Dane’s just a really fun dude to ski with. Either way, they shared an Ultimate Powder Day last March.

Check out the pictures from their day of backcountry bliss, be inspired, and enter the sweepstakes this year.

Cat skiing laps at Thousand Peaks RanchThe Cat in its stomping grounds. The crew loading up for another lap.
Jans Expert, Scott House skiing untouched powderJans Expert, Scott House, with no tracks in sight.
Jans Expert, Scott House farming powder rowsFarming tidy rows for sustainable powder management.
Perfect powder turns in the Uinta MountainsSome kids refuse to color inside the lines.

“When I entered the Jans Ultimate Powder Day Sweepstakes I never imagined I would actually win and get to spend a day at the Thousand Peaks Ranch with Jans and PC Cats. Well, I didn’t win, but a good buddy of mine did… Jans hooked us up with the sweetest Arc’teryx and Smith Optics gear so we were ready for the ultimate pow-slaying adventure. The vast terrain and knowledgeable guides kept the stoke at an all time high.” – Dane Taylor, Winner's Freeloadin' Buddy

Cat skiing with Park City Powder Cats, Arc'teryx and Smith OpticsDropped at the top with nothing but untouched snow below."
Jans Expert, Ian McDonnell skiing in the Uinta MountainsJans employee, Ian McDonnell, making the most of his free ride on the Cat.
40,0000 acres of private terrain at Thousand Peaks Ranch in the Uinta Mountains40,000 acres of private, family-owned land makes Thousand Peaks Ranch bigger than Vail, Aspen and Killington combined.

We’re not trying to rub it in, we swear. We just wanted to share some photographic evidence of the pow-filled awesomeness you missed out on last year. OK, that was low. But think of it as motivation to enter the Jans Ultimate Powder Day Sweepstakes for this year. It’s free, takes less than 30 seconds, and just might be your ticket to the sweetness of the white room displayed above.

Enter the Ultimate Powder Day Sweepstakes

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Special thanks to our 2014/2015 partners:

Park City Powder Cats & Heli-Ski
Smith Optics
Park City Lodging

Photographs courtesy of Rebekah Stevens. Check out more of her work at

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Mountain Biking

On-Trail Mountain Bike Repairs - Jans Expert Series

Nate Tomlinson

Alpine Skiing with jans.comNordic Skiing with jans.comBackcountry Skiing with jans.comMountain Biking with jans.comRoad Biking with jans.comFly Fishing with jans.comSnowshoeing with jans.comHiking with jans.comRock Climbing with jans.comClothing & Accessories from

Welcome to our Jans Expert Series. This growing compilation of videos is focused on providing advanced technical tips in a way that is clear, concise, and most importantly, viewer-friendly.

Mountain Biking with

On-Trail Mountain Bike Repairs

In this installment of our Jans Expert Series we’ll show you how to perform the on-trail mountain bike repairs that every rider needs to know before they hit the dirt. Mountain biking experts Scott House and Cindi Grant will show you how to fix flat tires and broken chains, and discuss ways to address common issues with your shifting and disc brakes.

Before you head out on your next ride, make sure you have the knowledge and skills needed to deal with minor bike malfunctions when they happen. All of these fixes are simple once you get the hang of them, and can mean the difference between a quick pause in your ride or a long walk home. Check out the videos below for step-by-step demonstrations and detailed descriptions of how to perform four key mountain bike repairs out on the trail.

Part 1: How to Fix a Flat Tire

The most common of all on-trail malfunctions, flat tires are an inevitable side effect of riding bikes in the mountains. They are also an equipment failure that can’t be ignored – if you try to limp home with a flat, things will get expensive in a hurry. But that doesn’t mean the threat of a flat tire should confine you to mellow trails close to home. With the right tools and enough practice, flatting halfway through a lengthy out-and-back ride will become a small annoyance that can be solved with a quick and easy fix.

Part 2: How to Adjust Shifting

200 yards from the top of the biggest climb of the day, you push on your shifter looking for a little mercy. But instead of dropping a gear and letting you push through to the top, your shifter cables send sloppy messages to the derailleur, the chain and cassette fall out of sync, and your weary legs pay the price. Mountain biking is hard enough – you don’t need an indecisive drivetrain adding to your troubles. Learning how to use your barrel adjusters to keep your bike shifting with smooth precision is a key skill for riders of all ability levels.

Part 3: How to Fix a Broken Chain

If you’ve never broken one, it’s easy to forget how vital the chain is to your bike’s ability to…bike. And whether it was overzealous shifting or you were “just riding along,” when you break a chain things can get real dramatic, real quick. If you’re lucky, there’s a bunch of clanking, some Road Runner pedaling, and then a stroll back down the trail to find your chain. If you’re not, there’s a seized back wheel and a whole lot of sketchiness. But once you’ve gotten over the initial startle of a broken chain, this ride disruption can easily be fixed if you've come prepared and know what you’re doing. It can’t be stressed enough that, if you don’t have a chain tool and quick link, you won’t be fixing your chain. Never ride without them!

Part 4: How to Adjust Disc Brakes

When they’re functioning with freshly tuned precision, hydraulic disc brakes allow you to ride fast and aggressive with the confidence you’ll be able to shut it down in a hurry. When they’re out of whack, however, disc brakes can become a momentum-killing nuisance. And while you might not always be able to eliminate that distinctly annoying sound of rotor hitting brake pad, there are some useful tricks to try that can limit the unwanted resistance. Just keep in mind that heat-warped rotors, spent brake pads, or misaligned calipers don’t work themselves out over time. Any on-trail brake repair is performed based on immediate need and should always be followed up with a closer inspection from a trusted mechanic back in town.

Mountain bikes are intricate machines – the sum of many finely tuned parts reliant on other finely tuned parts. That’s not to say that mountain bikes are delicate. Their malfunctions have more to do with the rough and unforgiving nature of mountain bike trails than a predisposition to screwing us over.

When we choose ambitious lines through haggard rock gardens, our bikes forgive the lack of precision and help us through in one piece. We’re not perfect, and neither are our bikes. Taking the time to learn how to repair your ride when it falters out on the trails is the best way to ensure you both make it home no worse for wear.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

We hope this helps you keep your mountain bike running smoothly on the trails this summer. Be sure to subscribe to Jans Mountain Recreation Experts on YouTube to make sure you don’t miss out on any of our upcoming Jans Expert Series videos.


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Mountain Biking

Preseason Mountain Bike Checklist - Jans Expert Series

Nate Tomlinson

Alpine Skiing with jans.comNordic Skiing with jans.comBackcountry Skiing with jans.comBackcountry Skiing with jans.comMountain Biking with jans.comRoad Biking with jans.comFly Fishing with jans.comSnowshoeing with jans.comHiking with jans.comRock Climbing with jans.comClothing & Accessories from

Welcome to our Jans Expert Series. This growing compilation of videos is focused on providing advanced technical tips in a way that is clear, concise, and most importantly, viewer-friendly.

Every Expert at Jans has highly specialized and in-depth knowledge related to their field. The goal here is to harness the collective knowledge of our Experts, organize and consolidate the information, and present it to you in the most useful and efficient way possible. In other words, we don't want research to get in the way of adventure.

All of the Jans Expert Series videos will live permanently on our YouTube channel. Moving forward we’ll cover unique and relevant topics on all of your favorite mountain activities. We hope that you'll reference them whenever you find yourself in need of Expert advice.

Mountain Biking with

Preseason Mountain Bike Checklist

Our Preseason Mountain Bike Checklist is the first in a series of tech tip videos designed to help you spend less time making repairs, and more time riding. We've broken our checklist into the five key steps to making sure your mountain bike is ready for the upcoming season.

Part 1: Check Your Frame

Catching Cracks and Loose Bolts
It’s pretty simple — cracked frames are bad. But what’s not so simple, amidst all the benign imperfections of your paint job, is identifying the (often subtle) cracks that can compromise your frame. And loose bolts? They’re bad too. But before you go wrenching on them, there are some important specs to track down.

Part 2: Check Your Tires

Tires, Rims, Spokes, and So Much Pressure
It takes a unique type of biker to need help identifying a flat. You’re better than that. But what about knowing when to add more sealant to your tubeless setup? Or what tire pressure you should be running? How about checking to see if your wheels are true?

Part 3: Check Your Suspension

Stanchion Damage, Oil Leaks, and Sag
Unless you’re one of those sadistic purists who rides a rigid frame, you’re well aware of how much more fun your shocks make your mountain biking experience. Catching stanchion damage and small oil leaks before they become bigger issues is key to the longevity of your suspension. And sag? Get that dialed to your weight and riding style and you’ll feel like you can do no wrong.

Part 4: Check Your Brake Pads

Small, Hidden, and Ignored At Your Own Risk
Squeezing your brake levers and feeling drag is only one part of the brake-check equation. Visual inspection of your pads is the only way to be certain your life-saving brakes are ready for the added influence of gravity.

Part 5: Check Your Drivetrain

A New Use for Your Old Toothbrush
For a sport that thrives on dirt, mud, and rocks, the drivetrain that powers your mountain bike is a sensitive mechanism. Kinked chain links, bent teeth, loose derailleur pulleys — when one part of the machine fails, the whole thing can come to a screeching halt. Cleanliness is the key to identifying compromised components early on.

If you’re like many of us here at Jans, your mountain bike disappeared suddenly at the end of last fall — stored away hurriedly at the first prospect of lasting snow. Treating your bike that way is just part of the seasonal mountain lifestyle. It only becomes an issue when you forget to perform a diligent inspection prior to your first ride of spring.

Just like your body, your bike doesn’t start each season in its prime riding condition. But if you follow the preseason checklist above and get your bike the love it needs, then you can hit the freshly thawed trails knowing that you and your bike are ready for another full season of riding.

We hope this helps you get your mountain bike on the trails for spring and summer. Be sure to subscribe to Jans Mountain Recreation Experts on YouTube to make sure you don’t miss out on any of our upcoming Jans Expert Series videos.


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Marmot Origins X Ski Jacket Review
Alpine Skiing

Marmot Origins X Ski Jacket Review

Nate Tomlinson

Clothing and Accessories from

Expert Review

While I’ve used Marmot packs, sleeping bags, and rain gear for years now, the ski apparel was never something I had ever considered. Whether it was their mountaineering vibe, or popularity among middle-aged men, Marmot ski gear didn’t meet the “cool” factor that I (ironically) demanded from my outerwear.

In a way, it’s exactly that bias that made me a reliable reviewer of the Marmot Origins X ski jacket. More than just uninformed about Marmot’s ski gear, I had actively avoided it. If not a requisite of my job, there was no way I would be wearing Marmot on the hill – at least not at my age. In short, the Origins X was on thin ice before I even pulled it out of the box.

But that’s enough dramatic buildup to the heartwarming story of how I fell in love with Marmot ski apparel.


Technical Features

MemBrain®,Thermal R insulation, Angel-Wing Movement™, PitZips™, and one awesome wrist pocket

The Origins X utilizes a number of Marmot’s unique homegrown technologies designed for snow sports. For weather protection, Marmot’s waterproof and breathable MemBrain fabric provides the reliable 20,000 mm / 20,000 G rating that easily handles all but the wettest of east coast conditions. Thermal R polyester insulation offers one of the top warmth-to-weight ratios on the market, while excelling in the moisture management department. Even the fit features proprietary technology – Marmot’s Angel-Wing Movement which has revolutionized the fit of outerwear designed for dynamic action sports.

Fully seam taped to keep you dry, with PitZips providing ventilation, this jacket even features a roomy helmet-compatible hood. And though low in importance, and in no way unique to Marmot, my personal favorite feature (on any ski jacket) is the scanner-friendly wrist pocket for lift tickets or a season’s pass.

While not boasting the technical features needed for backcountry touring or mountaineering, the Origins X is a highly qualified candidate for everyday resort skiing.

Pass pocket on the Marmot Origins X ski jacketThe all-important wrist pocket for scanner-friendly pass storage.


Protection, warmth, and ventilation


While the pictures throughout this blog give no credibility to my claims of putting this jacket through the wringer, I promise it’s seen some undocumented days of nasty weather as well. The MemBrain technology has performed well to date, keeping me dry and comfortable through a relatively wide range of temperatures and weather conditions (for the West, anyway). Even on a couple of ski days when the snow line crept toward the upper mountain, making for a funky top-to-bottom transition from powder to rain, the MemBrain kept my under layers dry.

Skiing in the Marmot Origins X ski jacketThe Origins X is at its best when used as an everyday, in-bounds ski jacket.

The outer polyester stretch fabric, on the other hand, inspires less confidence. While definitely highly flexible and comfortable, the roughed texture of the fabric lets snow and water linger long enough to start to soak in, especially during lengthy lift rides. But since I haven’t noticed water getting any further than the outermost layer, this critique is more of a warning for fellow head cases. If you’re like me, and seeing water penetrate any layer of fabric quickly turns into phantom feelings of dampness on the inside, than get ready for some serious mind games.


A new convert to insulated ski jackets, I must admit that the Origins X has alleviated all my previous fears surrounding bulky apparel designed for cold weather wimps. On an especially windy day with temperatures in the low teens, I wore the Origins X over a lightweight baselayer/midlayer combo and only ever felt a hint of chill near the end of stalled lift rides. And on temperate sun-filled days like the one pictured in this blog, I’ve worn only a t-shirt underneath without experiencing the trapped-in-a-sauna feeling I once associated with insulated jackets. In short, the Thermal R insulation provides a balance of warmth and breathability more versatile than I expected.


The PitZips, however, are one aspect of the Origin X’s performance I need to do some therapeutic venting about. These undersized armpit holes feature some of the more uncooperative zippers I’ve ever battled. Quick and easy to open with a smooth downward pull, these zippers do some serious resisting on the way back up. Don’t be ashamed if you lose the fight – I don’t even try anymore. Just like with my helmet, a friend is required for any ventilation adjustments.



Comfort, mobility, and style

Here’s where the Origins X sets itself apart. This is, hands down, the best fitting ski jacket I’ve ever worn. At a scrawny 6’2” I bounce back and forth between large and x-large jackets – my gangly arms turning most larges into ¾ length and my Skeletor frame making XL’s look hand-me-down baggy.

But the Origins X in a large is absolutely perfect. Roomy and free without turning into a parachute at speed, this jacket provides coverage that was clearly designed with the full range of skiing-related movements in mind. Whether you’re hunched over on the lift, or say, working on your Spread extension in the park, this jacket never rides up or stresses its seams.

The attached helmet-compatible hood slides easily into place with minimal unzipping, and stays securely put while providing huge coverage. The integrated collar construction, with hood on the outside, eliminates the locked-in-place feeling that most hoods have when worn over your helmet. Perfect for battening down the hatches on the lift, and more than capable of being skied in its up position, this is the most functional and useful hood I’ve encountered on a ski jacket.

Helmet compatible hood on the Marmot Origins X ski jacketThe huge helmet-compatible hood is much appreciated on windy lift rides.

If I have to find one small grievance with the fit of the Origins X, it would be in the placement of the integrated powder skirt. Slightly higher than what I would consider standard, it has a tendency to slide above the waist of my pants over time – an inconvenience that could quickly become an annoyance during the first powder-day tomahawk of the season.

Final Take

Fit and warmth-to-weight ratio is where this jacket excels. Not the best option for diehard east coast skiers who catch first chair in the rain, the Origins X is a perfect dry climate ski jacket for the Rockies.

Given my initial resistance to Marmot ski gear, the fact that I now wear this jacket on a daily basis has to count for something. It’s classic, yet freeride-acceptable style and insanely comfortable fit make the Origins X a highly versatile jacket for skiers of all ages.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Experts Verdict

Though crazy to say, at $285 the Origins X is a price point jacket. Albeit one that brings enough performance and comfort to the table that it earns its distinction of over-achiever.

4/5 Technical Features: Not your jacket for serious mountaineering, the Origins X still gets high marks for providing solid Marmot technology at a very reasonable price. Other jackets are more advanced, but you'll pay double for the technology.

4/5 Performance: This rating may be misleading given how much I like the jacket. But ultimately it’s best used by strictly in-bounds skiers and in dry-snow conditions – bringing it down a tier from the top performing jackets on the market.

5/5 Fit: The definite selling point of this jacket, fit is where the Origins X earns its keep. Highly mobile and incredibly comfortable, you’ll catch yourself wearing it both on and off the hill.

related product(s)

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Shred Stupefy Ski Goggle Review
Alpine Skiing

Shred Stupefy Ski Goggle Review

Nate Tomlinson

Alpine skiing with

Expert Review

There is no region quite as demanding on ski goggles as the precipitation-heavy Pacific Northwest. During the summer months especially, when dense clouds roll in from the Pacific Ocean and settle wet and heavy in the mountains, goggles are put through the wringer.

With year-round skiing thanks to the Palmer Glacier, Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood has become a favorite place of ours to test ski gear before the upcoming season. This past summer we were lucky enough to meet up with Shred Optics rep, Vinny Principe, at the Summer Fun Nationals Masters ski race and get a sneak peak of the 2014/2015 Stupefy goggles.

With an especially gloomy cloud hanging over the glacier in the morning, and our Race Support duties making skiing an obligation, it was as good a day as any to see what the Stupefy brought to the table. It was trial by fire in some of the worst conditions this pampered Utah skier has ever whined through.


Sneak peak of the 2014 Shred Stupefy goggleCatching a sneak peak of the 2014/2015 Shred Optics lineup.

Technical Features

NODISTORTION lens, Anti-fog technology, NO-BS Lens Replacement System, and Helmet Compatibility

With a NODISTORTION™ lens, Anti-Fog technology, and a PORON™ filter, the Stupefy sounds great. Throw in Universal Helmet Compatibility, Whipped Cream Multilayer Face Foam, and the convenience of the NO BS™ Lens Replacement System, and you might just want to buy them on the spot.

If you’re like me, however, and have become jaded to the technological jargon each individual manufacturer triumphs, then technical features mean little compared to on-hill deliverables. While valuable information as a reference point when comparing goggles from the same brand, technical features remain irrelevant without knowing how they perform in action. For what it’s worth, however, the Stupefy comes with the full complement of advanced technologies you’d expect from goggles with a $180 price tag.



Lens quality, fog resistance, field of view


Since the Stupefy in question was equipped with the Rose lens, I can only speak to the lowlight capabilities of Shred lenses. That being said, the Rose is hands-down the best lowlight lens I’ve ever used. Even up in the cloud, where the snow and sky blended together into a complete whitewash, this lens provided remarkable contrast and definition. While other lowlight lenses I’ve used seem to add to the wall of gray, Shred’s Rose lens drew out snow variations and allowed me to ski with the confidence that I was properly anticipating the pitch and snowpack conditions ahead.

And when my jacket, pants and gloves were soaked through from the humidity alone, this lens only fogged after I made the amateur mistake of propping the goggles up on my soggy hat. Even then, they cleared rapidly and showed no signs of being fog-prone throughout the rest of the day.

Whiteout on Palmer Glacier, Mount Hood, OregonUp in the thick of it with some diehard Masters racers.

Even though I didn’t ski these goggles with any of the other 17 available lenses, if the Rose was any indicator, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Shred has optics figured out across the board. By all accounts the interchangeable lenses are a breeze to swap back and forth, but I’m done promoting the unknown.

Field of View

Labeled as “extra wide” by Shred, the view from the Stupefy is as close to 100% unhindered as I’ve ever seen. Most noteworthy are the bottom corners. My lower peripheral vision was so free from obstruction that it was almost distracting at first. But once I got used to seeing my shoulders creep into frame, I was hooked. In short, the Stupefy completely dispels the myth that goggles have to be frameless in order to provide a full field of view.



Comfort, coverage, recommended face size

With a nose that’s been broken too many times for a ski-bum pacifist, I struggle to find goggles that fit comfortably around my oversized beak. It’s why despite multiple experiments with goggles from different brands, I’ve stuck with the Smith I/O for seven straight years now.

Physical abnormalities aside, the Stupefy contoured to my face and fit like a well-worn pair of goggles right out of the box. The Whipped Cream whatchamacallit foam provided a full seal without any unnecessary bulk or uncomfortable pressure points, and the fit through the nose was especially forgiving – blocking all wind from creeping in under the eyes without causing that pinched, nasally feeling across the bridge of the nose.

For how much coverage they provide, the Stupefy goggles also manage to feel lightweight and low profile. At first glance, I was skeptical of their ability to integrate smoothly with my helmet (Smith Vantage), but the Stupefy slid into place seamlessly and comfortably without forcing the helmet out of position. While definitely not the best option out there for people with small or narrow faces, the Stupefy fit my beach ball of a head with ease.

Cloud over Palmer Glacier, Mount Hood, OregonSun hits the glacier as the clouds retreat – just in time for closing.

Final Take

If you have the face to fit the frame, I can’t recommend the Shred Stupefy enough. Insanely comfortable, featuring one of the best lenses I’ve ever used, and offering a huge field of view, these goggles check basically every demand on the list. Certainly a sizeable investment, especially when factoring in the cost of replacement lenses, the Stupefy is clearly designed for people who demand top quality from their goggles.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Experts Verdict

The Shred Stupefy exceeded my expectations, and then some. The lens quality alone makes them a must-see for anyone thinking about a new pair of goggles.

4/5 Technical Features: The NODISTORTION lens lives up to its claims of excellence and the Anti-Fog technology passed the test in soggy conditions. All in all, though, standard technology for the price.

5/5 Performance: The optical clarity is outstanding, the peripheral vision from the wide lens is the best I've seen, and the fit is as comfortable as they come.

4/5 Fit: Bigger than your average frame, the Stupefy is definitely designed for larger faces. But if it works, then the pinch-free nose and seamless helmet integration are top notch.

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How to Tell When You Need a New Ski Jacket
Clothing & Accessories

How to Tell When You Need a New Ski Jacket

Nate Tomlinson

Ski jackets are expensive. They also have a lifespan far longer than manufacturers and retailers would like to admit. That being said, there will come a time when every ski jacket's usefulness has run its course.

And whether you stash it in the closet to mature for future Clown Days or donate it to your local thrift shop, your trusty jacket will have earned its retirement. The point of this blog is to highlight a few of the telltale signs – beyond the obvious tears, broken zippers, stains, etc. – that will let you know it’s time to get yourself a new ski jacket.

Loss of Waterproofing

From that first day in a new ski jacket, when water beads up and runs off like you’re wrapped in an impenetrable force field, the process of degradation has already begun. And whether it takes 10 years or one season, your jacket is destined to one day complete its transformation into a waterlogged sponge. Before it gets to that point, however, there are a few life-extending tricks to try that can postpone the need for a pricey new purchase.

Simply washing your jacket will sometimes restore its waterproofing to unexpected levels of efficiency. Dirt lodged within the fabric's fibers, or the pores of the waterproof membrane, acts as a conduit for water to penetrate the protective layers. Removing this dirt will prevent water that lingers on the surface from finding sneaky entrances to your inside layers.

All fabric and insulation types call for different washing methods, so before ever tossing your ski jacket into the machine, call your local shop or visit the manufacturer’s website for detailed cleaning instructions. One constant to keep in mind is that commercial detergents – especially those in powder form – are never a good idea. These can clog up the pores of your jacket’s membrane, compromising breathability and further degrading its waterproofness.

If washing and drying doesn’t work, and you're left with a clean, but ultimately still worthless ski jacket, there are a number of aftermarket waterproof treatments you can try. The Nikwax products pictured above are a great option, but just keep in mind that they are a temporary fix to get you through the season. There’s only so long you can prop up the waterproofing of your jacket before it’s time to part ways and look for a new one.

Outdated Breathability

The last decade has seen some pretty remarkable development in fabric technology with regards to breathability. It used to be that getting 100% waterproof protection meant dealing with sweaty and suffocating repercussions. More often than not, it felt like the benefits your outerwear was providing in terms of weather protection from the outside were being compromised by the build-up of sweat on the inside.

Improvements in fabric breathability, moisture-wicking linings, and strategic venting systems have changed all that. Now ski jackets that provide fully waterproof and windproof protection are also highly adept at regulating internal climate and keeping you dry and comfortable, inside and out. If it’s been a while since you updated your jacket and you find yourself consistently struggling to maintain a comfortable temperature from the top of the hill to the bottom, then it’s time to start looking for a new jacket.

Antiquated Style

Styles change rapidly, and rash decisions in the name of staying “hip” can result in some serious buyer’s remorse. If your jacket is still functioning adequately, sticking with your classic style can be the best way to avoid an impulsive purchase with a short-lived reward.

At a certain point, however, the classic style excuse no longer applies.

Next time you find yourself standing in a stalled lift line, take a second to look around and do a quick jacket comparison. If your choice of outerwear has become unintentionally one-of-a-kind, or maybe even outright mocked by a group of especially boisterous drunk twentysomethings, it’s more than likely time to retire your jacket. Other indicators include, but are not limited to: un-ironic use of neon colors, oversized arrow and/or chevron patterns, ribbed stretch materials, large snap-closure collars, front kangaroo pockets…you get the idea.

There’s one last worthy reason to purchase a new ski jacket – sometimes, deep down, you just plain want one. Never be ashamed to treat yourself to an unnecessary wardrobe revamp. New gear is awesome, and you deserve it.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

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Marmot PreCip Jacket and Pants Review | Expert Review: Marmot Rain Protection
Clothing & Accessories

Marmot PreCip Jacket and Pants Review

Nate Tomlinson

Hiking with

Expert Review

On a damp and drizzling July day at the base of Mount Hood, Oregon, I put the Marmot Precip Jacket and Precip Pants to the test. With the temperatures in the mid-80’s, and the humidity rocking my world, a friend and I took a fast-paced loop around nearby Trillium Lake.

Admittedly, I’ve never had much use for rain gear. Living in Utah I don’t encounter a lot of unfrozen precipitation, and the jacket and pants I’ve worn in the past have always left me feeling clammy and overheated.

But being in Oregon to work (ski) on the Mount Hood glacier, and temporarily unable to do so, I put on a brave face, and headed out to perform my gear-review duties. Rain or shine.

Marmot PreCip review at base of Mount Hood, OR

Technical Features

PreCip & NanoPro technologies, Dry Touch, Angel-Wing Movement

Given its modest price tag ($100), the PreCip Jacket is loaded with an impressive amount of advanced fabric technologies. Marmot’s proprietary PreCip polyurethane coating is fully waterproof, windproof and breathable, while Dry Touch Technology eliminates the need for an inner liner and is designed to provide next-to-skin comfort (i.e. no clammy feeling.) Fully seam taped and boasting a helmet-compatible hood, elastic drawcord hem, and adjustable sleeve cuffs, the PreCip Jacket boasts some serious batten-down-the-hatches capability. With PitZips allowing excess heat to be shed, and Marmot’s Angel-Wing Movement preventing the jacket from riding up when you’re scrambling, the PreCip Jacket completes the checklist for fast-paced adventure in wet weather.

Also impressively affordable ($80), the PreCip Pants feature NanoPro, which Marmot claims is the most comfortable, fully-waterproof and breathable fabric coating. When combined with nylon ripstop, the result is a pair of rain pants that provide full weather protection, great breathability, and rugged durability – all while packing down to the size of a fist. With ankle side zips that help get these pants on and off when you’re wearing hiking boots, and an elastic waist that rides comfortably under a backpack hip belt, the PreCip Pant is definitely geared toward the backpacking crowd.



Waterproofing, breathability, and overal feel

I made a point of starting the Trillium Lake hike with the jacket and pants stashed in my pack to help get a sense for what it would be like to throw them on when wet weather caught you by surprise. I was impressed. The pair took up a minimal amount of space in my daypack, the pants had no problem slipping on over the rubber soles of my wet hiking shoes, and Marmot’s claims of breathability were only slightly exaggerated, if at all.

Twenty minutes into the hike, and after a quick splash of heavier rain, my skepticism regarding the effectiveness of Dry Touch Technology began to seem warranted. Even though I was fully dry on the inside, the jacket still felt damp and sticky against my bare arms.

By hike’s end, however, I was thoroughly impressed with the performance of both the jacket and pants. The hydrophobic coatings worked flawlessly and had no problem shedding the light rain while drying quickly and fully. And with the PitZips open on the PreCip Jacket, I stayed cool and dry on the inside even with the elevated temperatures.



Relative sizing and recommended activity use

At 6’2” I find myself bouncing back and forth between large and extra-large clothing depending on the brand. In this case, I was working with XL sizing for both, and while the jacket fit reasonably close to size (if a little boxy) the pants were positively enormous. I have since passed them along to a friend who is a stout 6’4” and they fit him with room to spare. And while the large openings of the pant cuffs were appreciated when putting them on over wet shoes, the lack of sleekness of these rain pants would not be ideal in faster-paced hiking or running scenarios. Overall, both the PreCip Jacket and Pant run large, and it’s safe to say that they are not designed for endurance activities.

Marmot PreCip rain gear for hiking

Final Take

If you’re looking for rain gear that can handle three hours of pouring rain, the Precip Jacket and Pant aren’t going to cut it. But that’s not what they’re designed for. I would put the PreCip Jacket and Pant in the precipitation-preparedness category – a great option to throw in your pack, or keep in the back of your car, for as-needed use. While people who are used to top-of-the-line GORE-TEX outerwear might find a few small annoyances with the PreCip Jacket and Pant, as far as affordable, lightweight and packable rain gear goes, Marmot definitely over-achieved in the protection department.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Experts Verdict

The Marmot PreCip Jacket and PreCip Pant certainly impressed. Wary of rain gear in general, and especially skeptical of this combo given the combined price of under $200, I can confidently say that they both exceeded my expectations.

5/5 Technical Features: Given their price tags, this jacket/pant combo comes loaded with performance features you’d expect to find in much higher end models.

4/5 Performance: Both made good on their claims to provide outstanding waterproofing, breathability, and range of motion. Dry Touch Technology, however, did not necessarily eliminate the clammy next-to-skin feeling.

3/5 Fit: The larger cut of the PreCip Jacket would be appreciated when worn over warm layers, but the fit of the PreCip Pant runs a full size larger than expected.

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Biking Safety Tips | Advanced Safety Tips for Mountain Biking
Mountain Biking

Mountain Biking Safety Tips - Reminders We Can All Use

Nate Tomlinson

The point of this list is to go beyond the safety tips that are borderline condescending with their implications: Always wear a helmet. Don’t forget to drink water. Learn how to ride a bike before you go mountain biking. While certainly sound advice, tips like those are better suited to people struggling to stay ahead of natural selection. The list you'll find below is for mountain bikers whose most basic desire for self-preservation makes a reminder to wear a helmet redundant.

But even as experienced mountain bikers, we’re all occasionally guilty of complacency when it comes to safety. The longer we go without a humbling reminder that mountain biking comes with its fair share of risks, the easier it is to relax our safety standards.

The following five safety tips are in no way a comprehensive guide to incident-free mountain biking. Consider them a friendly reminder of the safety standards we all normally apply, yet occasionally ignore.

Bring More Water Than You Need

Bringing more water than you anticipate drinking isn’t ideal in the weight department, but it’s the responsible thing to do. Whether you take a wrong turn while exploring a new trail system, suffer a major bike malfunction and end up lugging your rig all the way home, or spring a leak from your water supply, there are a lot of ways to end up without adequate hydration out on the trails.

A great way to avoid this dilemma is to use a mountain biking hydration pack and water bottle in conjunction. With a 2-liter hydration pack as your main water supply and a water bottle secured to your bike frame in a bottle cage, you can significantly reduce your chances of ending up in a parched predicament.

And if you’re riding outside of your normal and trusted crew, it’s nice to have some extra water for friends who didn’t come as prepared as you. Consider it a karma booster.

Ride With Friends

I use this one more in terms of general practice than a steadfast rule. A solo ride can be a great way to move at your own pace, work on technique, and catch a little quiet time. That being said, things don’t always go as planned out on the trails, and having at least one other person with you provides some reassurance that you won’t be left fending for yourself.

Ride with a friend when you're exploring new trail systems.

If you do head out for a solo ride, stick to trails that you know and make sure you’re prepared for the potential hiccups you may encounter.

Know Your Trail Etiquette

Mountain biking’s growing popularity is outpacing trail development, and it’s putting a strain on trail networks all over the country. Making sure that you are well versed in proper trail etiquette ensures that you won’t be the cause of any unpleasant bike-on-bike encounters. In high traffic areas, all it takes is one moment of recklessness to cause a serious accident. For more on this subject, check out our blog Trail Etiquette Refresher for Mountain Bikers, written by Jans Expert and professional mountain biker Evelyn Dong.

Learn the Trail System

When you’re exploring a new area, making sure that you have a solid understanding of the trail network will prevent the lengthy and/or unwanted detours that can leave you in a bind. From uphill-only routes to rowdy downhill courses, trail systems these days feature a wide range of options designed specifically for certain types of riding. Being certain you’re on the right trail, and headed in the right direction, will prevent potentially dangerous surprises.

Knowing (and respecting) how people use a specific trail helps prevent dangerous encounters.

There are tons of excellent websites that provide free access to thorough and interactive trail maps – a favorite of ours here at Jans is Skidmap. Also, most bike shops will have detailed maps of the local trails and a knowledgeable staff that can point you in the right direction.

If you happen to be in Park City, stop by our Jans Park Avenue location or White Pine Touring and pick up a copy of the current Mountain Trails Foundation Summer Trail Map. A small donation of $5 is suggested, and all proceeds go back to the Park City Trail System.

Ride Prepared for the Unexpected

As burly and invincible as they seem at times, mountain bikes are delicate machines. From flat tires and broken chains to loose bolts and broken spokes, there are a lot of ways your bike can break down. Having a proper bike repair kit, and knowing how to use it, is a must for mountain biking. For an excellent article on riding prepared, check out’s Trail Tech: What to pack for long mountain bike rides.

Being prepared for the unexpected also entails knowing the weather forecast before heading out on the trails. In mountainous areas, inclement weather can move in quickly and fiercely. If there’s a chance of storms, pack proper rain gear and plan your potential bailout routes in advance.

Mountain biking is one of the fastest, most exhilarating sports in the world. But it can also be dangerous. And if you don’t respect the sport’s inherent risks and make safety a priority, you’re asking for trouble.

In theory, we all know how to ride safely. So don’t let complacency put you in harm’s way. Before heading out on a ride of any length, remind yourself that no matter how many problem-free rides you’ve had in a row, the potential dangers of mountain biking cannot be ignored. Stay diligent when it comes to mountain biking safety, and live to ride another day.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer


Related Links:
Trail Etiquette Refresher for Mountain Bikers
Trail Tech: What to pack for long mountain bike rides
Jans at Park Avenue location
White Pine Touring

Hydration Packs
Water Bottles
Bike Accessories

View entire online Bike Shop

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Park City Food Tours - A Culinary Laymans Review
MTN Active

Park City Food Tours - A Culinary Layman's Review

Nate Tomlinson

My name is Nathaniel Baxter Tomlinson. I am a man of intellectual pursuits and refined taste. My passion for food is exceeded only by my culinary pre-eminence.

Just last night I made a classic meal from my extensive repertoire. It is a simple dish in essence, yet powerfully complex on the palate: One 7.25 oz. serving of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner “The Cheesiest” and two Hillshire Farms Polska Smoked Sausage Links, blended together and seasoned to taste with half a bottle of hot sauce.

Accented by James Beam’s fine Kentucky Bourbon and followed by a seductive chocolate cupcake Snack Pack, this meal is utilitarian, yet complex in flavor. Content with my indelible masterpiece of Polish-American fusion, I eased myself to the couch – another evening of kitchen brilliance in the books.

Inspired by my commitment to fine dining, and accurately predicting my propensity for leading classy and insightful dinner conversations, Jans recently asked me to put my wide-ranging talents to use as a food blogger. So, equipped only with a notepad and my sophisticated palate, I joined my fellow Jans employees on a Park City Food Tour.

From Mining to Dining

Run by 20-year local, Shirin Spangenberg, the Park City Food Tour is billed as “a walking historical tour with a culinary twist.” And if ever a town was tailor-made for just such a combination, it’s Park City.

Formerly a seedy enclave of silver mining, the story of our town is one of deep tunnels, railroads, prostitutes, and fires. Yet the Park City of old is in stark contrast to the current condition of the mountain destination. With the rise of ski tourism, and the subsequent influx of wealth, Park City is a gentrified façade of its former self. And I say that as a compliment.

The old railroad line has been transformed into an eco-friendly bike path. The red light district of Deer Valley Drive now features some of Park City’s choicest real estate. And Historic Main Street has become a haven for world-class restaurants, not drunken miners.

But before I steal too many of Shirin’s historical tidbits, let me share some of the specifics of my experience in the hopes of providing you with a sense of what to expect on a Park City Food Tour.

The Meeting Point

Treasure Mountain Inn

Location: 255 Main Street

Why It's On the Tour: Conveniently placed at the very top of Main Street, the Treasure Mountain Inn sets the tour up for easy downhill walking on full stomachs. The walls of the inn are also lined with historical photographs and antiques that help provide some initial perspective for the rest of the tour.

Park City historical photos in the Treasure Mountain InnHistorical photographs line the walls of the Treasure Mountain Inn.

Fun Fact: While on the run from the FBI, famed newspaper heiress turned bank robber, Patty Hearst, hid out at the Treasure Mountain Inn.

Restaurant #1

Wasatch Brew Pub

Location: 250 Main Street

The Food: Hand-breaded shrimp with mango dipping sauce. Paired with a sampling of Apricot Hefeweizen.

Why It's On the Tour: Started in 1986, the Wasatch Brewery was the first brewery in Utah. The Wasatch Brew Pub, at the top of Main Street in Park City, was opened just two years later and was also a first. In a state famous for its distaste for alcohol, the Wasatch Brewery remains undeterred in its efforts to bring great beer to the masses.

The Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City, UtahThe first Brew Pub in Utah is right here in Park City.

Fun Fact: In protest of a new beer tax a few years ago, founder Greg Schirf led a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party that involved 18th century attire and four kegs of First Amendment Lager dumped into the Great Salt Lake. Greg is also the uncle of professional photographer, Mike Schirf, whose photos you see here.

Restaurant #2

Bistro 412

Location: 412 Main Street

The Food: Wild mushroom sauté served on savory French toast with goat cheese, brandy cream, and balsamic reduction. Paired with samplings of wine.

Why It's On the Tour: I went to a bistro on the Champs-Elysees in Paris once. The food was delicious, but I know for a fact the waiter was mocking me. Bistro 412, on the other hand, “offers a comfortable American Bistro setting with a French flair.” In other words, this restaurant serves the same delicious food as a classic French bistro without the cruel judgment of your language skills.

Fun Fact: The owners of Bistro 412 make annual trips to France to bring back décor additions that keep things feeling authentically French. Also, the General Manager, William Marcy is the “map guy” from the Wasatch Trails Alliance.

Bistro 412 in Park City, UtahAuthentic French dècor provides a classic Bistro feel.

Restaurant #3

Riverhorse On Main

Location: 540 Main Street

The Food: Herbed butter and crusty bread followed by a French onion bite and a blue cornmeal dusted sea bass with a yuzu citrus marmalade accompanied by frisée salad and pickled cucumbers. And while I have no idea what I just said, it was delicious.

Why It's On the Tour: Forbes Travel Guide Four Star Distinction since 2000, DiRoNA Award since 1995, AAA Four Diamond Award, Vacation Roost’s Top Choice Award. Put in a context that I can understand, Riverhorse on Main is the Wayne Gretzky of Park City restaurants.

Riverhorse On Main in Park City, UtahThe award-winning Riverhorse On Main.

Fun Fact: Riverhorse is located in Park City’s renovated Masonic Hall. Constructed in 1908, this building served as the home for the Uintah Lodge No. 7 chapter of the Masons.

Restaurant #4

The Flying Sumo

Location: 838 Park Avenue

The Food: Tokyo Nachos with chopped tuna, guacamole, funky sauce, tobiko and sesame seeds. Plus Chef Adam’s special “Kitchen Sink” roll – not found on the menu and made especially for each tour.

Why It's On the Tour: Located at the bottom of Main Street, The Flying Sumo is one of the most respected sushi restaurants in town. Sophisticated, yet with a relaxed atmosphere, The Flying Sumo offers a huge variety of fish that are fresher than anything you’d expect to find in a landlocked state.

Fun Fact: If you’re visiting Park City during the summer, The Flying Sumo offers 50% off all of their rolls and nigiri. Plus, with only an $8.00 corkage fee, you can bring the wine or sake of your choosing. It’s a great way to get some of the best sushi in town without spending a fortune.

Mixed in between the various restaurants were stops at Park City’s historic Egyptian Theatre, the now famous graffiti work of UK-based artist, Banksy, and Mountain Town Olive Oil Co for an extensive taste test. Throughout the tour Shirin provided us with unique insight into the evolution of Park City as we know it today, and the history of the restaurants in which we dined.

More than just a gluttonous walking tour of Main Street, the Park City Food Tour was an informative and sophisticated experience. With so many restaurants to choose from, Shirin’s expert guidance provided the perfect sampling of the diverse dining options that Main Street has to offer.

And while I’m clearly not the food snob I jokingly professed to be, the Park City Food Tour was in no way a pretentious or exclusionary experience. Whether you’re a true foodie looking to sample Park City’s finest restaurants, or simply a hungry history buff, the Park City Food Tour is welcoming to all.

To book your own Park City Food Tours experience, visit or email

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Hungry Yet?

Wasatch Brew Pub's hand-breaded shrimp  Bistro 412's wild mushroom saute on French toastRiverhorse On Main's French onion bite and blue cornmeal dusted sea bass  The Flying Sumo's Tokyo nachos


Related Links:
Park City Food Tours
Treasure Mountain Inn
Wasatch Brewery
Bistro 412
Riverhorse On Main
The Flying Sumo
Mountain Town Olive Oil Co

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Bus Laps for Trail Riders - Free 1,000 Descents in Park City
Mountain Biking

Bus Laps for Trail Riders - Free 1,000' Descents in Park City

Nate Tomlinson

There are people with giant calves, efficient lungs, and impressive Strava times who ride 21-pound hardtail XC bikes in full spandex. These people use terms like “pain cave” and “chamois butter” and get high on endorphins.

We are not those people. We have functional calves, damaged lungs, and ride trail bikes in whatever baggies currently smell the least offensive. Long climbs are tolerated, not enjoyed, and when talking about fun rides we are referring specifically to the way down.

But thanks to a very unique public transportation system here in Park City, the pure joy of a long flowing singletrack descent is attainable for us mere endurance-mortals.

Bus Laps to the Rescue

All summer, from June 6 to September 1, the town of Park City runs free, bike-friendly transit buses 1,000 feet up into the mountains of Deer Valley. The Empire Pass route (Purple), and the Silver Lake Village route (Orange), run every 30 minutes from 7:43am to 5:40pm and are the answer for mountain bikers who aren’t too proud to bum a lift with their bike. With a bike rack on the front, and a common understanding that you’ll all work together to cram as many bikes inside as possible, these are the shuttles that make “bus laps” possible.

And while the Orange and Purple bus routes are most often associated with a crew rocking long-travel rigs and full-face helmets, they are also an incredibly versatile option for trail riders. Whether you’re just getting to town and adapting to the altitude, a little under the weather after a late night out, or simply in need of a quick adrenaline shot, some fast and flowing singletrack on your trail bike is the answer.

Bike-friendly free public bus in Park CityA typical weekend scene on the Orange Bus.

So to help fill you in on the sort-of-well-kept secret of trail bike bus laps here in Park City, a few of us from Jans headed out last week to “refresh our memory” of one of our favorite laps. We hope it serves as a starting point for those of you looking to try some bus laps for yourself.

Empire Pass to Mid Mountain and Empire Link

Ride Route:

2014 Summer Trail Map courtesy of Mountain Trails Foundation.

For this lap you’ll hop on the Purple bus headed to Empire Pass. Departing from the Old Town Transit Center the Purple climbs 1,300 feet up Marsac Avenue to the Empire Canyon Lodge bus stop. Pedal to the backside of the lodge and head straight up the hill on the steep, but short, climb up the service road directly in front of you.

After 100 yards or so, the road turns right onto the Mid Mountain trail. Make sure to watch for signs keeping you on Mid Mountain while you navigate a few trail and service road crossings. The first ½ mile is mostly flat with occasional moderate climbs while you work your way up to 8,500 feet. When you get to the crossing under Deer Valley’s Lady Morgan Express chairlift, take a minute to catch your breath, check out the view, and drop that seat post – from here it’s all downhill.

Entering the woods on the Mid Mountain trailMid Mountain begins one of its fastest sections after crossing under the Lady Morgan Express chairlift.

Entering the shady pines on the other side of the chairlift, Mid Mountain begins one of its fastest and smoothest sections. With tons of natural rollers, berms, and G-outs, this mile of Mid Mountain is perfectly graded and requires limited time on the brakes.

Rollers and natural berms on the Mid Mountain trailNatural rollers and berms provide some flow on Mid Mountain.

After a few tight switchbacks – the first you’ll encounter – keep your eye out for Empire Link on your right. This mile-long descent through the aspens is slightly tighter than Mid Mountain, but still offers the same flowing grade and natural features that trail bikes thrive on. It’s also the best way to set yourself up to conveniently get back to the Transit Center.

Mountain biking on Empire Link trailEmpire Link winding through the aspens above Daly Grind.

After Empire Link funnels you out onto the Daly Grind service road, hang a left and make your way down the canyon. With some loose gravel to contend with, Daly Grind isn’t the best spot to open it up too aggressively. But with plenty of small hits on the side, and an optional techy section through the remnants of the old Judge Mine site, it’s also not your typically boring double track.

Once back to the pavement of Daly Ave, you can kick back and relax while coasting down to the top of Main Street. If you’re feeling brave, stop by O’Shucks for a quick drink and then roll back down to the Transit Center for another lap.

Riding down Main Street to the Transit CenterRolling down Main Street and back to the Transit Center for another lap.

Additional Trail Bike Bus Laps

Orange Bus to Fourpoint, Deer Crest, Pipeline

After getting off the Orange bus at the Silver Lake Village stop, ride north on Fourpoint until it meets up with Deer Crest shortly after crossing over the NCS downhill trail. Follow Deer Crest to Pipeline – this section gets a little confusing, but if you watch out for trail markers and keep it pointed downhill toward The St. Regis hotel, you’ll end up where you need to be. With 1,000 feet of singletrack descent spread over two miles, this ride is quick, flowing, and will have you back to the Transit Center in time to catch the next bus.

Purple Bus to Mid Mountain, Jenni's, CMG

For this ride, start exactly as you would for the Mid Mountain – Empire Link bus lap. However, when you get to the junction with Empire Link, continue on Mid Mountain until you reach Mid Mountain Connect. Follow this down to the top of the Town Lift chairlift and look for Jenni’s trail on your left. Ride Jenni’s to Crescent Mine Grade (CMG) and all the way down to the base of Park City Mountain Resort. This ride stretches 1,500 feet of vertical descent over 5 ½ miles, while still setting you up for a quick road-pedal back to the bus.

Mountain bike purists might condemn these rides as cheating. And we’ll be the first to admit they are slightly excessive in their avoidance of uphill pedaling. A healthy climb is always a rewarding source of exercise, and there’s a time and place for pushing yourself physically. But if you’re like us, and don’t start every day of your life firing on all cylinders, than ignore the scoffs of the spandex crowd and wheel your bike onto the bus with your head held high.

Lazy? Comparatively, yes. But on days when you don’t feel like fighting gravity, let the bus handle the rough stuff. By the time the fight is over, gravity and you will be good friends again.

For your own copy of the Mountain Trails Foundation 2014 Summer Trail Map, stop by the Jans at Park Avenue or White Pine Touring bike shops in Park City. A donation of $5 is suggested, with all proceeds going back to the Park City trail system.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer


Related Links:
Mountain Trails Foundation Interactive Trail Map
Park City Transit Bus Routes & Schedules
Park City Transit Bus Maps & Timetables

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Guided Fly Fishing Tours For Beginners With Jans in Park City
Fly Fishing

Guided Fly Fishing Tours For Beginners With Jans in Park City

Nate Tomlinson

Knowing that our prospective first time fly fishing clients surely have some questions before committing to a day on the river, I was recently tasked with providing some insight on a Local Waters Full-Day fly fishing tour. Chosen based on my complete lack of fly fishing experience, I recruited two other novice anglers from the office to be fellow guinea pigs. Together with photographer, Ross Downard, and veteran Jans Fly Fishing Guide, Mason Osborne, we formed the fly fishing documentation crew.

The goal of the trip, first and foremost, was to selfishly enjoy a day outdoors, instead of in the office, but also to gain valuable insight on a Jans Guided Fly Fishing Tour through the eyes of first time anglers.

Before leaving on the tour, I wrote down a few questions I had as a beginner fly fishermen. So if you’re considering signing up for a Jans Fly Fishing Tour here in Park City, Utah, read on to find the answers to the questions of an admittedly apprehensive first-timer.

What Gear Do We Need to Bring?

Meeting up with Mason at our Jans Park Avenue location, the three of us newbies purchased our Utah State Fishing Licenses before heading to the gear room where we were outfitted with waders, felt-soled wading boots, rods and reels. With a cooler already packed with lunches provided by local catering service, Savoury Kitchen, and Mason providing all of the flies, hooks, and fishing line, the amount of gear each of us brought was easily contained within a single personal backpack.

While I went with the "wing-it" method when packing my backpack, for those who like to be more prepared, our guides have created a fly fishing tour checklist:

What to Bring on a Guided Fly Fishing Tour

  • Utah State Fishing License (view pricing)
  • Sun Hat (ball cap or wide brim with string)
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Moisture Wicking Socks (for use in waders)
  • Rain Jacket
  • Extra Layer Warm Clothing (no cotton)
  • Sunscreen

How Do We Get to the River?

Unbeknownst to me, even after six years with the company, the Jans Fly Fishing Guides have been bogarting some pretty plush vehicles. With fly rod tube racks on top, tons of space in back for all of the gear, and big leather seats, the Jans Guide Service luxury-tank took any hassle out of getting four people and a ton of gear down to the river.

While we made the 15-minute drive over to Heber and the middle Provo River, Mason briefed us on what we could expect from the day, while taking the time to get a sense of what we were hoping to accomplish. Given the wide range of clients that book fly fishing tours through Jans, it was clear that this driving time is a valuable chance for the guides to assess their clients’ goals and adapt the trip accordingly.

Arriving at the river in the Jans Guide Service vehicleArriving at the parking area in the Jans Guide Service vehicle.

Where Do We Fish?

Jans leads guided fly fishing trips at a wide range of locations, from the middle Provo, to the Weber River, to the remote Uinta Mountains. For our purposes as beginners, the middle Provo River provided the ideal combination of convenient access, easily fishable waters, and killer scenery.

The beneficiary of the extensive and recently completed Provo River Restoration Project, this section of river features deep fishing holes around every bend, plenty of unique features and outcroppings, and thriving wetland vegetation on the shores. Even just a few hundred yards from the passing highway, the feeling is one of remoteness and wildness.

Remote feeling at the fly fishing holeA remote feeling just minutes from the freeway.

Is Fly Fishing Strenuous?

Arriving at the water, the first lesson of the day was in successful river crossing. With slick, grapefruit-sized river rocks covering the entire bottom, and a surprisingly powerful and fast-moving current, carrying our gear and staying upright was not as simple as I had imagined. However, while my fear of falling was related directly to personal embarrassment, it paled in comparison to photographer, Ross Downard’s incentive to stay upright while carrying multiple professional cameras, one very expensive RC Helicopter, and of course, his dog Lily. So I put on a brave face and hoped my sketchy footwork wouldn’t show up in the photos.

Crossing the river while fly fishingTricky footing and a fast current require focus while crossing the river.

Less intimidating once you get the hang of it, there is no denying that wading in a fast-moving river takes a certain level of strength and coordination. But then again, so does just about any activity outside of say, playing video games.

Is Fly Fishing Hard to Learn?

Having successfully navigated the river crossing without humiliation, we reached Mason’s first stop on the tour. A wide S-turn in the river with a gradual bank, this spot provided the easy wading with plenty of room for errant casting that was ideal for our introduction to fly fishing. After a quick demonstration on how to cast, Mason had us spread out and get right to fishing. Learning-by-doing has always been my preferred method of figuring out a new skill, so I appreciated Mason’s willingness to forego prolonged chalk-talk and let us get immediately acquainted with the equipment at hand.

Fly fishing demonstration from the guideA quick tutorial from Mason before we were turned loose to try it ourselves.

Put in the context of a corny aphorism, my assessment of fly fishing would be that it is easy to learn, hard to master. While all three of us beginners were able to flick a hook into the river in a cast-like motion, I’m sure that experienced fly fishermen would be appalled by our form, placement, strategy, etc… In short, fly fishing isn’t too difficult to enjoy as a first timer, but it is also a humbling reminder of the amount of room for improvement.

Fly fishing proved easy to learn, but hard to masterEasy to Learn, Hard to Master.

Will We Catch Fish?

In just a few casts Jillian landed the first fish of the day – a clean looking brown trout that had some fight despite its smaller size. After a quick lesson on the gentle and proper handling of a fish, and a photo for evidence, the “brownie” was returned to the river if not completely unharmed, at least a little wiser for his troubles.

Jillian Ritter catches a brown trout while fly fishingJillian's first catch of the day was a healthy brown trout.

Before long, Mason had helped all three of us net a fish, and with fears of getting blanked laid to rest, we settled into the quiet rhythm of the day. Over the next six hours there would prove to be more than enough fish reeled in to keep things interesting, yet plenty of escapees to keep it feeling like a fair fight.

Is Fly Fishing Boring

Heading into the tour, I was admittedly skeptical of how my abbreviated attention span would meld with an activity as stationary and repetitive as fly fishing. As a skier and mountain biker, I had always written fly fishing off as a hobby for those who possess the confusing ability to use reduced thought as a means of mental escape.

But what surprised me the most about our day on the river was how genuinely engaging I found fly fishing to be. Far from boring and repetitive, focusing on improving my casts, finding the ideal flow-path of my line, intently watching for a strike, and ultimately, successfully bringing in another fish became an obsession.

The intense focus of fly fishingFly fishing proves to be incredibly engaging.

While standing in a meandering river, surrounded by snowcapped Utah mountains was certainly a source of peace and relaxation, the action at hand did not facilitate a wandering mind. Fearing a day of meditation in a river, fly fishing proved to be an encompassing act of hyper-focus.

Is Fly Fishing Kid Friendly?

All this talk of focus and attention spans leads to an obvious question: is fly fishing an activity for kids? With my own maturity level in mind, I posed that very question to Mason and his thoughts on the matter were insightful.

He pointed out that many of the Fly Fishing Guides at Jans have children themselves, and thus have personal experience teaching kids to fly fish in ways that are both engaging and instructional. In this day and age, as Mason said, “getting kids to spend a day ‘unplugged’ and immersed in nature can be a life-changing experience for them.”

And when asked about children whose motor skills toe the line of uselessness, he was undeterred in his encouragement for kids to come on a fly fishing tour. “Even if the kids aren’t protégés in the casting department,” he said, “most of the time they still find the etymology really exciting. Sometimes we’ll forget about casting for a while and I’ll show them how to pump a fish’s stomach to learn what it’s been eating, or turn over rocks to check out the current insect hatch.” Curiosity and fly fishing, it turns out, go hand-in-hand. And so even if casting skills aren’t the main focus, when a guide’s knowledge of natural science meets a child’s fascination with bugs, the result is a very kid-friendly experience.

But you never know, maybe you have a protégé on your hands.

The Final Take

As for a final take on the tour? I was immensely impressed by not only the skill and knowledge of Mason, but the patience and commitment he showed in teaching us the skills we needed to have a fun and successful day on the river. While fly fishing isn’t going to make me sell my mountain bike any time soon, it has certainly become an activity that I’ll dedicate a sunny day to from time to time. If, that is, there’s a guide who is willing to let me tagalong.

If fly fishing in Park City sounds like something you want to try for yourself, check out our available tours below and book yours online. The trout are waiting.

Brown trout under water

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Related Links:

Provo River Restoration Project
Savoury Kitchen
Ross Downard Photo

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Behind the Scenes: Professional Photographer, Ross Downard, Discusses His RC Heli Cam
MTN Active

Behind the Scenes: Professional Photographer, Ross Downard, Discusses His RC Heli Cam

Nate Tomlinson

In the age of 8-megapixel camera phones and Instagram filters, real professional photographers continue to distinguish their talents through innovative composition, spectacular lighting, and a tireless pursuit of the perfect shot. When you’re flipping though a magazine, or scrolling on a website, it is their photographs that stop you dead in your tracks.

Professional photographer, Ross Downard, is responsible for a majority of the stunning pictures that you see on this site. Always an artist, Ross found his love for photography while attending Miami University in Ohio. Now 14 years removed from that first photography class, the art form has become his livelihood and an all-encompassing passion.

No longer qualifying as an “aspiring photographer,” Ross’ work has been published in every major outdoor magazine, from Powder and Skiing to Outside. He is also an entrepreneur with his own mountain-lifestyle clothing brand, MtnRanks. A staple of the Park City downhill scene, MtnRanks offers a full line of men’s mountain bike t-shirts with a unique style directly influenced by Ross’ photography.

Three years ago, in an effort to stay ahead of the curve and keep innovating when it came to his photography, Ross dove headfirst into the new scene of unmanned aerial photography and camera-mounted Remote Control (RC) helicopters.

RC Helicopter with Gimbal Mount GoPro Camera Ross' RC heli with GoPro gimbal camera mount and custom landing skids.

While his RC helicopter is just one of the many tools that Ross employs to get his eye-catching shots, it is the newest and most exciting addition to his photo kit’s repertoire. Curious about what it was that inspired Ross to start taking his photography airborne, I caught up with him on one of the few days cold and rainy enough to make him put down his camera and come back to the office.

Q&A With Professional Photographer, Ross Downard

Q: First of all, what shoot are you just getting back from?

“I’m just getting back from Dutch John. I was up there with one of our fly fishing Experts, Dan Bell, floating the Green River through Flaming Gorge. We spent a few days camping, fishing, shooting a video and getting some photos for the website.”

Campsite photographed from above with RC helicopter camera Getting the heli dialed with a test flight above the campsite.

Q: What made you want to start using an RC helicopter for photography?

“I was doing a shoot for Volkl at Alpine Meadows, and the ‘Copter Kids’ were there filming with an RC helicopter, and it was the coolest damn thing I’d ever seen. Growing up I was always into RC stuff and had been flying planes for a while, so combining that with my career in photography was just a natural progression.”

Q: What was the learning curve like?

“Brutal. And expensive. I went through lots of parts from lots of crashes. At first, I was just flying small helis trying to get the hang of it, and slowly worked my way up to bigger and bigger ones as I got more consistent with the flying. My first one was a micro-nano heli, and now I’m flying a pretty legit 450 [size in millimeters of the helicopter blades].

Working on an RC helicopter camera  Flying an RC helicopter camera"The heli takes constant maintenance and a ton of test flights."

I’ve spent hours and hours learning how to tune the helis and balance the blades trying to improve the stability. Once I get one small problem smoothed out, it always seems like another one pops up. It’s a constant work-in-progress."

Q: What is it that makes RC helicopters so valuable to your job?

“It provides a perspective that isn’t normally seen, and usually requires a massive budget for a real helicopter. You can also fly an RC helicopter places that you could never get with a real helicopter – slot canyons, tight trees, up close and personal rock climbing shots.

RC helicopter flying in a slot canyon  Rock climber photographed with RC helicopter cameraCapturing fly fishing in a slot canyon and getting up close and personal with a climber.

As for video, it works really well for establishing shots. I can start really close to the subject and then pull back and up to provide the landscape-perspective. It’s a great way to set the scene for a video and definitely raises the production value a lot.

And then for sports like skiing and mountain biking, being able to follow or chase the subject adds a really unique dimension to a video. I’m always looking for ways to make my videos dynamic, as opposed to traditional stagnant filming from a tripod, and chasing-shots help me immerse the viewer in the action."

Q: What is it about the perspective offered by the RC heli that works so well with the wide-open landscape of the West?

“Well first, it’s nice not having to worry about flying into anything with all the room.

But also, with such wide open expanses out here, and such a vast scale that you’re working with, being able to get your camera elevated and increase the angle that you’re shooting from really helps do justice to just how big the western landscape really is. There’s no other way to get shots of huge vistas without using a real helicopter or hiking to a peak. But when there aren’t any high points of land to perch on, an RC heli is like having a virtual peak to shoot from, and that helps bring the vastness into perspective.

And for the sunsets out here, it’s perfect.”

Sunset photographed with RC helicopter cameraThe massive scale of the western landscape captured at sundown.

Q: What is your favorite sport to shoot with the RC heli?

"Even though I first started using the heli for skiing shots, that’s turned out to be really difficult. Utah winters and flying don’t mix well. LiPo (lithium polymer) batteries don’t last long in the cold, and with the lightness and depth of the powder out here it’s hard to find spots to take off and land.

Mountain biking and fishing have definitely become my favorite sports to shoot with the heli. The big thing is flight-lanes – a river is pretty much always open to fly above. The same is true for a lot of the mountain bike trails out here. Open flight paths make for easy shooting, and let me focus on the camera and not worry as much about crashing.”

Fly fishing photographed with RC helicopterWide-open flight lanes above rivers are ideal for the heli cam.

Q: Which sport’s photographs have benefited the most from the addition of your RC heli?

“I would have to say fishing. Being able to get my camera above the river and get shots looking down into it has really changed the way I’m able to present the varied colors and depths of the water. Also, the unstable footing in our rivers really limits your ability to move around and get the shots you want, so being able to get my camera up above the river and look down on the subject is pretty awesome. It’s not a view of the river that many fishermen get.

Aerial fly fishing photographCapturing the varied depths and colors of the river.

I’ve also just started to do more photography of rock climbing as we move into summer. Before the heli, I had to climb up the actual rock face and rig anchors in order to get set up for a photo shoot. It’s a time consuming and labor intensive way to get shots. Now, rather than the standard from-above view, or from-below butt-shot, I’m able to provide some perspective on what the climber has done, what they’re currently dealing with, and what’s to come."

Photographer anchored on rock wall  RC helicopter camera used to photographer rock climberRoss anchored on a rock wall and the heli getting in close for a shot.

Q: What’s next for the RC heli cam?

“The goal is to start flying a 700 soon, which will be able to carry my Pro DSLR camera. At that point it will be a two-man operation, with one person flying and the other controlling the camera. That way the flying will be more stable, and the panning and images more precise. The imagery that we’ll be able to produce in the future will blow any of my current stuff away.

RC helicopters are still such a new advancement in the world of action sports photography, so it’s a really exciting time to be a part of it. All of us photographers who are using this technology are constantly learning what’s possible from each other, and that’s making for some pretty rapid progression. Ultimately, it’s all about staying competitive while appreciating the other guy’s work.”

Q: Last couple of questions. How close could the RC heli get to a bedroom window?

“That depends on the person operating the remote. Why?”

Q: Can I borrow it?

“Absolutely not.”

Aerial photograph of campsite shot with RC helicopter cameraGetting the heli ready for the following day of shooting.

For more of Ross Downard's photography visit his website:

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Related Links:
MtnRanks Men's Mountain Bike T-Shirts
Copter Kids
Ross Downard Photo

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The Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail - History Lesson On A Bike
Mountain Biking

The Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail - History Lesson On A Bike

Nate Tomlinson

The significance of the transcontinental railroad in the development of the West is a staple of any American history class. But what if instead of learning about westward expansion and the building of the railroads while confined to a cramped desk, you got outside and interacted with history while riding your bike?

The Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail provides just that opportunity. Dedicated in 1992, this unique 28-mile-long and 10-feet-wide hiking and biking trail is technically also a State Park and is a celebration of both the rich and storied history of Park City, Utah, and the active outdoor lifestyle that is a staple of this community.

In a town made famous by silver mining, the ability to transport coal to the mines, and send silver ore back in return was key. And with the Union Pacific transcontinental line passing through the Wasatch Mountains just 28 miles away in Echo, Utah this required building a short, but critical spur of track known as the Echo – Park City Railway. It is this industrious route that the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail follows.

This non-motorized recreational trail is managed by Park City’s own Mountain Trails Foundation and is a way to preserve a piece of history while keeping it open for the enjoyment of the public. With 16 plaques along the trail providing facts, events and stories of historical significance, the Rail Trail is also an amazing education resource. But rather than bore you with another seated history lesson, the goal here is provide the information you need to bike the Historic Rail Trail yourself.

Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail in Park CityOne of 16 plaques providing historical details along the trail.

Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail Details

Leaving from the bottom of Main Street, in Park City, the Historic Rail Trail begins at an elevation of 6,800 feet, and descends at a mellow 2% grade for the first 14 miles. At first following beautiful Silver Creek and passing through the undeveloped wetlands in Silver Creek Canyon, the trail eventually reaches Interstate 80 as it starts its winding journey through the pass.

“...16 plaques along the trail provide facts, events and stories of historical significance...”

Upon reaching the small town of Wanship, the Rail Trail meets up with the Weber River flowing between Echo Reservoir to the north, and Rockport Reservoir to the south. At times running right alongside the river, the trail offers a glimpse of just how popular the Weber is for fly fishing.

Not long after diverging from the Weber River, the Rail Trail passes through the historic town of Coalville. With just a few miles left, the path saves some of the best scenery for last as it runs along the side of Echo Reservoir before ending at the western mouth of Echo Canyon.

Primarily a gravel trail, with the exception of the first three miles leaving Park City, the Rail Trail offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains, canyons, and rivers, while guaranteeing plenty of sightings of a wide range of wildlife.

What Types of Bikes Work Best on the Rail Trail?

The first three miles of pavement on the Rail Trail can be deceiving. Despite the smooth beginning, however, the next 25 miles are comprised of packed dirt and gravel with tough desert foliage scattered throughout. This combination of rugged terrain and sunbaked shrubbery are what make the Rail Trail distinctly unfriendly to the skinny tires of road bikes.

Basically, mountain bikes with lockout suspensions or cruiser bikes with wider tires are ideal. By riding a bike with some off-road capability, you’ll ensure that you don’t find yourself walking the Rail Trail with an incapacitated bike in tow.

Tips For Riding the Historic Rail Trail:

  • Bring plenty of water and food.

    Given that you’ll be riding in the dry heat and remote terrain of a high altitude desert, making sure you stay well hydrated and have plenty of food is essential. Generally, a single water bottle is not enough for a 28-mile bike ride, so you’ll want to make sure you have a hydration pack with at least two liters of water. This is also a convenient way to carry snacks, extra layers, and emergency supplies.
  • Bring a spare bike tube and educate yourself on how to change a flat tire.

    Rugged desert vegetation is notoriously thorny and sharp. And when these “puncture vines” have died, baked in the sun, and blown into the trail, they can be lethal to your bike’s tires. Bringing extra tire tubes and knowing how to change them will ensure that you don’t find yourself stranded out on the trail.
  • Account for the elevation change.

    Since the Historic Rail Trail descends for the first 14 miles at a 2% grade, it is easy to lose track of just how far you’ve cruised. And if you’re planning an out-and-back ride, the downhill grade that made for such an enjoyable journey to Echo becomes a very tiring ride on the way back to Park City. It’s all uphill and more often than not you’ll find yourself pedaling into an easterly headwind. Save enough energy for the ride back, or plan for a friend to pick you up in Echo.
  • Hire a Guide.

    One of the best ways to ensure an enjoyable experience on the Rail Trail is to hire an experienced guide. With years of experience leading Rail Trail trips, the guides at White Pine Touring are one of the best resources in town. From filling you in on local geography and wildlife, to helping you change a flat tire, these guides have the knowledge and experience to make for a great day. Check out the Rail Trail Bike Tour and book online if you’re looking for a little guidance.
    White Pine Touring on the Historic Rail Trail
    White Pine Touring is also positioned directly alongside the Historic Rail Trail on Bonanza Drive, allowing for both easy access to the trail and much-coveted parking. Offering both cruiser bike rentals and mountain bike rentals, White Pine Touring is a great resource for visitors who haven’t brought their bikes along with them.
“With just a few miles left, the path saves some of the best scenery for last...”

A History Lesson in the Great Outdoors

The history of the old Echo – Park City Railway spur, and the role of the Union Pacific railroad in Park City’s mining era, lives on in the form of the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail State Park. If you’re coming to Park City this summer, ride the Rail Trail and then head over to the Park City Museum - it's the best way to combine a history lesson with some healthy fun outdoors.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer


Related Links:

Mountain Trails Foundation Rail Trail Review
Rails To Trails, Trail of the Month
Trail Link Trail Map

related product(s)
Rail Trail Mountain Bike Tour with
Rail Trail Bike Tour
    Green Circle up to 58 miles

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