Michael Martin: From Cham to Japan
As an associate professor for Colorado Mountain College’s Ski and Snowboard Business department in Steamboat Springs, Michael Martin juggles time in the classroom with time in the white room. Last year, that balancing act brought him on a 20-day ski trip traipsing the globe from Chamonix to Japan.
A filmmaker on the side, shooting promotional material for such clients as Nordica, Martin made his second trip to Chamonix last January, hitting it in the ideal powder window.
“We got ski the ‘other’ side of Chamonix,” says Martin, who regularly clocks 100-plus days a season. “We didn’t get to ski the extreme, steep lines it’s known for, but we hit deep powder every day, which was great.” En route, he also hooked up with a couple of former Steamboat residents now living in Munich.
From there, it was across umpteen lines of longitude straight to Japan, where the powder stars again aligned. This time, he toured out of Kirroro on the north island of Hokkaido, adding more untracked lines to his steep and deep dossier. “It was kind of like skiing Steamboat on its best day, every day,” he says of the terrain.
He also used the trip as a scouting mission to create a study abroad course for CMC’s Ski Business department, in partnership with tour operator Sass Travel. The class will have students create a marketing plan for Liberty Skis and acquire footage and other assets for it on a 10-day trip to Kirroro next January. “It’ll be a great class,” says Martin. “Plus, the students will get a chance to ski Japan.”
Ed Miesen: Hiking the Continental Divide Trail
Hiking all 3,100 miles of the Continental Divide Trail is tough to do in a year. Just ask Ed Miesen, who knocked off 2,100 miles of the Canada-to-Mexico traverse through the Rockies in 2015, and nearly all the rest of it last year by tackling the Colorado leg.
“I hiked to Rabbit Ears Pass in 2015 from the U.S. border of Canada, after completing the New Mexico section in spring,” says Miesen, who also notched the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2014. “I flipped over Colorado in June of that year due to the unstable snowpack. Then, I decided to winter in Steamboat with a friend.”
When not vagabonding on trails through the West, he works at the ticket office at Steamboat Ski Area.
On his 2016 Colorado crusade, he finished another 612 miles from Cumbres Pass to Steamboat. “Unlike some other sections, the Colorado route goes high up on the Continental Divide and stays there,” he says, adding that one day he encountered two elk herds, a fox, a bull and cow moose and various birds of prey. “During monsoon season, this means a front-row seat to afternoon thunderstorms. The challenge is to miss them when climbing the passes. It was never summer-like weather up there.”
Founded in 1978, the CDT extends 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico, carrying hikers through a multitude of ecosystems, from tundra to desert and high alpine mountains, and dishing out an elevation range varying between 4,000 and 14,000 feet. It’s heralded as the highest, most challenging and remote National Scenic Trail in the country, luring about 150 ambitious, Dr. Scholl’s-wearing souls to attempt it in its entirety every year.
As for Miesen, he’s not quite finished with Colorado yet. “Last September, I climbed from Berthoud Pass to the top of 13,123-foot Mt. Flora in a freezing rainstorm and turned around to stay at the hostel in Grand Lake,” he says. “This created a gap, so I'll complete the last 55 miles this year. Taking three seasons to finish the CDT is no big deal because hiking in the ancient natural world lifts my spirit.”
Cam Boyd: Wahoo fishing (and chasing Hemingway) in Cuba
Trolling a fishing line deep in the Atlantic off the Cuba coast, Steamboat Springs Realtor Cam Boyd couldn’t help but feel a hint of Hemingway this past fall, even if Boyd was chasing wahoo instead of marlin.
“My old college roommate invite me to compete in a fishing tournament over there,” says Boyd, a relative novice at competitive deep sea fishing. “It was a pretty unique opportunity.”
So he found himself crossing the Straits of Florida on a 36-foot, open, sport fishing boat, with four, custom 300-horsepower engines that topped 60 mph. Even that, however, wasn’t enough to prevent the 1.5-hour crossing from becoming a seven-hour, seasick-filled sufferfest caused by 15-foot seas.
“At one point, a wave crashed over the bow, shattering the windshield and filling the hull with a foot of water,” Boyd says. “It was a pretty rough trip.”
Stomachs settled, they finally arrived at Marina Hemingway near Havana, where the three-day fishing tournament began for wahoo, a sportfish that can swim up to 60 mph and reach 100 pounds.
“But it was rough, too,” says Boyd. “The seas were about 12 feet, we were continually drenched, and the fishing wasn’t all that good. But we ended up winning the tournament.”
From there it was on to Cuba’s more traditional attractions, like driving around in vintage 1950s-era automobiles, exploring Havana, dancing the Mambo, and visiting the home of Hemingway, who lived there for nearly 20 years, prompting “The Old Man and the Sea.”
“Hemingway’s still a big deal down there,” Boyd says. “There are photos of him all over. But I think he caught a few more marlins than we did wahoo.”
Nathan Proper: Using bikes to power computers in Nepal
Feel good about riding your bike up Emerald Mountain? You’d feel better philanthropically if you followed Nathan Proper’s lead and set up a program to power computers by bicycle in a remote valley in Nepal.
That’s what Proper, a Steamboat Springs High School graduate, and Alex Moon from the nonprofit Maya Sherpa Project did this past summer, bringing laptops and pedal-power to the village of Mera.
“We had a request from monks at Mera’s monastery on how they could power computers to help residents learn,” says Moon. “The main issue is generating consistent power; laptops use more than lightbulbs, and Mera only gets its power from a small hydro-electric system, which was damaged by the 2015 earthquake.”
So Proper, an electrical engineer, designed a pedal-power system to generate the necessary energy, and the Maya Sherpa Project’s Computer Power program was born.
“The computer aspect was easy,” says Proper, adding that Germany’s Mountain Spirit donated laptops, pre-installed with education software and an offline version of Wikipedia. “The power aspect was more involved.”
On an earlier trip, the two had joked about harnessing the power of the young monks running around by putting them in hamster wheels. This led to the bike-power idea to produce electricity.
A few months later, after flying to Kathmandu, jeeping for 10 hours and hiking for four more, Proper and Moon arrived at Mera’s monastery and began assembling the project. The result: a custom-built controller and bank of four car batteries, recharged by a roof-mounted wind turbine. A bicycle connected to a small generator helped power the battery box.
“We knew efficiency would be an issue, which is why we incorporated the wind turbine,” says Proper, who plans to add solar panels in the future.
After an uneasy day or two, not knowing if the turbine would work, a windy day confirmed that the batteries were charging back to 100 percent. The laptops worked and the monks loved the software – especially the touch-typing.
And while the bike-power also worked, Proper says there’s some room for improvement. “Bike’s aren’t terribly efficient at generating power,” he says. “We need to mess around with the gearing. But it was by far the biggest hit. Someone was always on it pedaling like crazy, trying to keep their robes out of the way and laughing the whole time.”