For big powder fun, skin up a mountain, then ski down

Pam LeBlanc, in red pants, joined a group of women for a backcountry skiing adventure near Ouray, Colorado, last week. Photo by Kellyn Wilson
Pam LeBlanc, in red pants, joined a group of women for a backcountry skiing adventure near Ouray, Colorado, last week. Photo by Kellyn Wilson

 

A week ago today I was scrunching my way up a mountainside in a snowstorm, hoping I wouldn’t need the avalanche beacon strapped to my chest.

I spent the week near Ouray, in southwestern Colorado, with Chicks Climbing & Skiing. Guide Angela Hawse led our group of six women, all except me from Colorado, on an adventure that featured avalanche training, backcountry skiing and sleeping in off-the-grid mountain cabins.

We spent a night at OPUS Hut, an off-the-grid cabin in the San Juan Mountains. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
We spent a night at OPUS Hut, an off-the-grid cabin in the San Juan Mountains. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

The first thing I realized? When you live at 500 feet above sea level, you gasp like a guppy when you spend four and a half hours skinning up a mountain to a hut perched at 11,700 feet. Add a backpack full of gear (shovel, probe, snacks and clothes) to the equation, and you can expect some happy suffering.

I also realized that given enough time, and a group of encouraging (and much more skilled) skiers, I can do things I never thought I could do.So it didn’t matter that when we reached the OPUS Hut, a solar-powered, compost toilet-equipped, chef-staffed slice of heaven in the San Juan Mountains, all I could do was slurp up a bowl of hot soup and collapse in a heap in a cushioned reading nook, while the rest of the group headed out to enjoy the waist-deep powder.

We woke to about 14 inches of fresh powder the next morning. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
We woke to about 14 inches of fresh powder the next morning. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

Skinning, for uninitiated flatlanders like me, involves strapping a sticky strip of fabric to the bottom of a ski, so you can hike uphill. When you get to where you’re going, you peel off the skins, clamp down the bindings so your heel is locked in place, and ski down.

Look for my story in the Austin American-Statesman next fall. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Look for my story in the Austin American-Statesman next fall. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

In backcountry ski parlance, you “earn your turns.” Translated, that means you spend hours hiking up to ridgetops for short but spectacular payoffs. If the snow gods cooperate like they did last week, you’ll dive into fields of untouched snow for a fluffy, powder-shredding trip down the mountain.

We "earned our turns," skinning up several hours before clamping down our bindings and zipping down the slopes. Photo by Angela Hawse
We “earned our turns,” skinning up several hours before clamping down our bindings and zipping down the slopes. Photo by Angela Hawse/Chicks Climbing & Skiing

 

I got that experience, along with a good jolt of motivation, the next morning. You can read about my trip in the Austin American-Statesman next fall, when ski season gears up again.

In the meantime, I’m going to do more stuff that pushes me out of my comfort zone. I think we all should.

Pure Austin Quarry Lake kicks off open water swim series

Swimmers compete in last summer's open water swim series at Pure Austin Quarry Lake. Photo courtesy Pure Austin Fitness
Swimmers compete in last summer’s open water swim series at Pure Austin Quarry Lake. Photo courtesy Pure Austin Fitness

Time to stick your toes in the lake, swimmers.

Open-water swimming season kicks off this weekend at Pure Austin Quarry Lake, 4210 West Braker Lane. The fitness center will host three event series – the Distance Swim Challenge, the Open Water Race series and the Splash & Dash series.

A kick-off party is set for 9-11 a.m. April 2, with relays, wetsuit demos and giveaways.

The first swim in the Distance Swim Challenge starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 2. This month, athletes will swim one 750-meter loop of the quarry course. Each month through October, they’ll swim an additional lap. Races will take place the first Saturday of the month. Entry fee is $30 for members or $60 for non-members for the series.

Pure Austin Quarry Lake will host its Open Water Race series the second Tuesday of each month from April 12 through October. Swimmers can choose from one or two loops around the 750-meter course. Races start at 6 p.m. Entry fee is $20 per race.

The fitness center’s Splash & Dash series begins April 19. Athletes will swim 750 meters and run 3 kilometers. Races take place the third Tuesday of each month through Oc

ober.

To register for the events, go here.

Austin Slackline Festival set for March 26

The Austin Slackline Festival is set for March 26. Photo by Kimberly Margaret
The Austin Slackline Festival is set for March 26. Photo by Kimberly Margaret

 

You’ve seen them around town – those balance-conquering hipsters who traipse across narrow strips of fabric strung between two trees.

At the Austin Slackline Festival on Saturday, March 26, you can learn how they do it. Along the way, you’ll improve your mental focus and reduce anxiety, says festival director Mateo Daniel.

Eric Ward makes his way across a slackline. Photo by Tom Grundy
Eric Ward makes his way across a slackline. Photo by Tom Grundy

 

The event will feature live music, games and workshops to teach you slacklining, yoga and acroyoga, plus other games designed to help you hone your sense of balance.

The event, hosted by The YogaSlackers, will take place at 944 Springdale Road, across the street from the Austin Bouldering Project. All skill levels are welcome; no experience required. Admission is free.

For more information, email mateo@playfulwarrioryoga.com, call 512-619-6010 or go here.

Rogue Running tour shows off Austin’s moonlight towers

One of Austin's remaining moonlight towers, a fixture in the city for almost 120 years. Photo by Karen Warren for Austin American-Statesman
One of Austin’s remaining moonlight towers, a fixture in the city for almost 120 years. Photo by Karen Warren for Austin American-Statesman

You’ve probably heard of Austin’s moonlight towers, those 165-foot poles with lights at the top, designed to cast a moon-like glow over the city.

But have you seen them up close? Rogue Running coaches will lead a guided run past them on Thursday, March 24. Routes range from 3 to 10 miles, and Nuun Hydration and Austin Massage Company will man water stops along the way

Austin officials purchased 31 moonlight towers from the city of Detroit back in 1894, when they were popular around the country. Today it’s the only city in the country that still has some. The one at Zilker Park is transformed into a lighted tree every holiday season.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the run starts at 8 p.m. Runners will return by 10 p.m. for an after party.

Tickets are $10 and include the run, a drink ticket, post run snacks from Clif Bar and ZEN Japanese Food Fast, and giveaways from Saucony and Sof Sole. The first 150 to register get a special edition pint glass.

The event is open to all skill levels.

To register go here.

Catch a free class from The Barre Code at Whole Foods

The Barre Code is offering free weekly classes on the patio at Whole Foods. Photos courtesy The Barre Code
The Barre Code is offering free weekly classes on the patio at Whole Foods. Photos courtesy The Barre Code

 

Add this one to the “fitness doesn’t have to cost a lot of money” file…

The Barre Code, a new fitness studio that will open next month in Austin, will host a series of free pop-up classes in March and April.

The studio, located at 2300 South Lamar Boulevard, offers everything from ballet-inspired barre classes (think mashup of Pilates, dance and yoga) to boot camp-style strength training classes.

Check out this story I wrote about taking a barre class at Dancers Shape, alongside a bunch of NFL football players. And another I wrote about a class I took at Bar Method.

The next free class from The Barre Code – a 50-minute TBC (Total Body Conditioning/The Boot Camp) – is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, March 26 on the outdoor plaza at Whole Foods, 525 North Lamar Boulevard.

Free classes will also be offered at 7 a.m. every Thursday in April on the plaza at Whole Foods.

To register for the free classes, click on the following links:

Register for March 26 free class.

Register for April 7 free class.

Register for April 14 free class.

Register for April 21 free class.

Register for April 28 free class.

 

Tackle obstacles, get filthy at Dirty Girl Mud Run on April 2

Participants make their way over an obstacle at the Dirty Girl Mud Run. Photo courtesy Dirty Girl Mud Run
Participants make their way over an obstacle at the Dirty Girl Mud Run. Photo courtesy Dirty Girl Mud Run

 

For those who never grew tired of sloshing through mucky puddles, we present the Dirty Girl Mud Run.

Participants in the women’s only, untimed event will swoosh down muddy slides, scamper across rope nets, leap over flaming pits and dodge tire-sized swinging balls as they make their way through the 5K course at Flat Creek Crossing Ranch in Johnson City on April 2.

The Dirty Girl Mud Run will take place at Flat Creek Crossing Ranch in Johnson City on April 2. Photo courtesy Dirty Girl Mud Run
The Dirty Girl Mud Run will take place at Flat Creek Crossing Ranch in Johnson City on April 2. Photo courtesy Dirty Girl Mud Run

And don’t worry. After you’ve tackled obstacles with names like Utopian Tubes, Dirty Dancing, Get a Grip and Hot Mess, you can spend some time at a foam machine. Organizers will have plenty of soap on hand at the finish line, too. (Just pack clean clothes.)

The event benefits Bright Pink, a non-profit organization focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women.

Participants who fund raise for Bright Pink through Crowdrise can earn prizes and incentives. Leading fundraisers will win an expenses-paid trip to the final Dirty Girl Mud Run at Copper Mountain in Colorado. The Dirty Girl Mud Run will match all donations up to $50,000.

Women of all fitness levels are encouraged to sign up. Start times are staggered between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Entry fee is $75. The first 300 cancer survivors get in free.

For more information, go here.

Participants leap over flames at the Dirty Girl Mud Run. Photo courtesy Dirty Girl Mud Run.
Participants leap over flames at the Dirty Girl Mud Run. Photo courtesy Dirty Girl Mud Run.

Yoga DJ spins tunes for SXSW yoga classes

David Trap will spin music designed to enhance your yoga experience at a series of classes during SXSW. Photo courtesy David Trap
David Trap will spin music designed to enhance the yoga experience at a series of classes during SXSW. Photo courtesy Pendery imagery

 

The right musical backdrop can transform yoga from mere muscle-stretching exercise into something far more powerful.

That from David Trap, aka the Yoga DJ, who sets local yoga classes to music that he describes as down tempo, chill, ambient and electronic.

“I found yoga, then said, ‘This is not good enough. I can make it better,'” Trap said this morning, as he prepared for a series of SXSW yoga classes.

Trust us, some soothing stretch and balance work will ease the physical strain of all that late-night concert hopping.

“I get the best music and put it together in a format for yoga flow to give you that optimal feeling,” he said. “It gives you more of an experience, so you can feel the chemical balances change in your brain. It amps up the yoga experience.”

You can catch his work online, via soundcloud.com/davidtrap. Or catch one of the following classes, where Trap will spin tunes designed to enhance your downward dog. (That last class at Wanderlust is special – Trap has created a time-lapse video of outer space that he’ll project onto a wall to add yet another dimension to your yoga experience.):

  • 7 p.m. tonight at Whole Foods, with Black Swan yoga. Free.
  • 10 a.m. and noon Thursday, March 17, Black Swan Yoga, 403 Orchard Street. Free for SXSW pass holders.
  • 10 a.m. and noon Friday, March 18, Black Swan Yoga, 403 Orchard Street. Free for SXSW pass holders.
  • noon Saturday, March 19, Resolute Fitness, rooftop of Lamar Union Apartments, 1100 S. Lamar Boulevard. Free.
  • 11 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, Wanderlust Yoga, 206 E. Fourth Street. Drop-in fee.

Hill Country Conservancy, REI team up to host pop-up parks at SXSW

A lone hiker walks down a portion of the Violet Crown Trail. Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman
A lone hiker walks down a portion of the Violet Crown Trail. Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman

All the urban grit and fast-moving brain buzz of SXSW can grind a girl down.

That’s why the Hill Country Conservancy, along with REI, is creating a series of pop-up parks, places where festival goers can rest, recharge and connect with nature.

The temporary green spaces will feature a Violet Crown Trail photo booth, some trees, a solar charging station, water, cold brew coffee, yard games and more. YETI and Kammok will give away daily prizes to those who check into the parks via social media.

Today’s location? The outdoor lounge area at the W Hotel, 200 Lavaca Street. Park hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

More parks will pop up Wednesday and Thursday at various locations. The Hill Country Conservancy will announce the locations day by day on Facebook, Twitter and here.

 

Georgetown Cycling Expo set for March 17

Cyclists participate in a Georgetown Women's Day Ride. Photo courtesy Sharon Reed
Cyclists participate in a Georgetown Women’s Day Ride. Photo courtesy Georgetown Women’s Cycling

Five local cycling clubs will host a gathering to encourage people to get out and ride their bikes this spring.

The Georgetown Cycling Expo is set for 5-7 p.m. Thursday, March 17, at Georgetown CycleWerx, 3010 Williams Drive.

Members of the Sun City TX Cycling Club head out for a ride. Photo courtesy Sun City TX Cycling Club
Members of the Sun City TX Cyclists head out for a ride. Photo courtesy Sun City TX Cyclists

Representatives of five local cycling groups – Georgetown Women’s Cycling, Georgetown Triathletes, Sun City TX Cyclists, Georgetown Cyclopaths and Heritage Oaks Cycling – will help participants create training plans, offer advice on how to reach fitness goals, and provide some general encouragement.

Members of the Georgetown Women's Cycling Club pause for a break during a ride. Photo courtesy Georgetown Women's Cycling Club.
Members of the Georgetown Women’s Cycling Club pause for a break during a ride. Photo courtesy Georgetown Women’s Cycling Club.

Each of the clubs hosts regular rides of all distances and paces, for cyclists of all ability levels. The clubs also offer an easy way to meet other cyclists for training rides and social activities, organizers say.

Prizes and light refreshments will be available. For more information email Sharon Reed at sreedtexas@gmail.com.

Zilker Park second in polls for best city park in US

2/10/13 Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman;The Great Lawn of Zilker Park is a haven for Austinites as several groups play mini-soccer, a smaller version of the bigger game played with small nets. The entrance to the park is free on weekends until March 8, when the city implements a $3.00 parking fee per car. (feature only)
The Great Lawn at Zilker Park is a haven for Austinites. Photo by Ralph Barrera/ American-Statesman

 

Quick, vote for Zilker Park.

USA Today and 10Best are picking the best city parks in the United States, and as of this morning, Zilker Park was second in the polls.

The newspaper and the website, which offers travel and lifestyle advice, enlisted four park and planning experts to help them pick a field of finalists for the honor. They started with nearly 60 possibilities, but narrowed the field to 20. Readers can vote for their favorite once each day until polls close at noon March 28.

To cast a ballot, go here.

The winner doesn’t get anything, other than a nod as the best city park in the country.

On Monday, Zilker Park topped the list, followed by Forest Park in St. Louis and Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. This morning, Zilker Park and Forest Park swapped positions.

That still puts us ahead of iconic parks such as Central Park in New York City, Grant Park in Chicago and Boston Common & Public Garden in Boston.

To vote, go here.