article by Ondrej Sumavsky (Czech biker who used to live and ride in BC, Canada)
Have you been to Saalbach? And what about Davos? Don’t tell me that Switzerland can’t match Canada in terms of biking possibilities. These are the things that I keep on hearing when I am raving about riding in southwest Canada. Most guys won’t believe me until they try it themselves. Once they do, they understand what we are talking about. Canada is a place where mountain biker’s heart starts beating full speed. Riding local trails will get under your skin and won’t let you go that easily.
Thousands of bikers who visited the area of Sea to Sky highway will agree. In British Columbia you will come across an international community and mixture of dozens of cultures, languages and habits, where everybody goes to bed and wakes up with one single goal in mind...exploring the mountains.
North Shore is a legendary area in Northern Vancouver. Hundreds of kilometres of biking trails are spread on 3 mountains while local MTB association makes sure, that all the routes are in top-notch state. North Shore is a playground for all mountain biking generations. Classic „after-work“ ride can look something like this. Folks arrive from work, throw their bikes in the back of their pick ups and drive to the trail head. From there it’s always hard to expect how many runs await you, because after each lap, you will just feel like riding some more. Roots, stones, bridges and berms make you want to buy a little cottage in the neighborhood, hang out there and never come back to your homeland. Friendly community of local bikers is just one more reason to stay little longer.
Squamish is a worthwhile stop between Vancouver and Whistler. We recommend to stay at least 2 days. Famous trails such as Half Nelson will give you a rough idea why Squamish became well-known. Even world’s most read mountain bike magazine PinkBike.com is based right here. Every time local editors test something, it happens on these trails. It comes by no surprise, that the brand „Tested in Canada“ originates here.
After couple of days in Squamish, you will inevitably head north towards Whistler. Around here, I have to recommend Pemberton and surrounding trails. This is the place where locals migrate in order to find some peace, that is becoming hard to get in Whistler. Pemberton is renowned for its breathtaking views end never ending descents navigating through dense forests over long and fun-to-ride stones. Guys from local shops are happy to show you some new trails, especially if you support them with buying a bike snack or a new tube. Don’t tell anyone, but there is a high chance you will have the trails just for yourself.
So you can complete your perfect biking trip in British Columbia you can’t really miss Whistler. We know, it might be bit too famous already, but countless trails all the way from Cross Country to Downhill makes this little town ideal base for any biking enthusiasts. Plus, Whistler bikepark is probably the best park on the planet. New for 2016, there is one more lift starting in Creek Side. Little village, known for great enduro trails, is now connected to the rest of lift network. 1600 vertical metres of alpine terrain, rocks, forests and meadows are here waiting to be tackled. Think twice before you come over. Once here, there is a big chance of getting addicted and there is now way back from that :)
...and the answer for initial question about best spot for biking...we are sorry, but you need to come over to answer it yourself :) It might be quite pleasant research though.
Hokkaido – Japan. That's tons of powder, freeride in the forests, volcanoes, first-class food and onsen spa with beer in hand as a recovery session after a day of skiing. This year we wanted to go a step further and learn more about Hokkaido. We took a van, filled it with touring skis and other necessary ski toys and crisscrossed the island from north to south. We found beautiful powder resorts still untouched by tourism. We climbed several volcanoes, tasted local cuisine and got to know the real Japan.
Freeride at Hokkaido
Hokkaido is the northernmost and second largest Japanese island.. Until the second half of the 19th century, the island was inhabited by the original Ainu nation. Then the Japanese emperor said it would be a good idea to colonize it and strengthen the influence in the Far East. The island of Hokkaido was given a new name ("North Sea") and the indigenous population was gradually pushed out. Rather late Japanese colonization caused that the island is very sparsely populated compared to the rest of Japan. Apart from Sapporo, which is a town in the true sense, you will find mostly fishing towns and mountain resorts, the exact opposite of 35-million Tokyo.
Hokkaido is the place where the cold air from Siberia flowing through the Sea of Japan meets mainland. We can leave meteorology aside for now, you just need to know that as a result of this phenomenon it almost always snow on Hokkaido and many resorts on the island receive between 14 to 18 meters of powder snow annually . The most famous resort known from freeride movies is Niseko United. It consists of four interconnected ski fields. Niseko's biggest draw-card are open descents from Annupuri volcano's summit and first-class night skiing in the woods. With 940 vertical meters difference it has one of the longest runs on the island. Niseko is famous and is famous for a reason. However, it's not a bad idea to spare some days for other powder spots on the island. Moiwa is and ideal one-day powder retreat. Two other resorts in the southwestern part of Hokkaido rival Niseko with the amount of terrain, however they are still undiscovered by the tourist. Rusutsu offers the best skiing in the trees and natural freestyle park for those who feel like going little crazy. Kiroro is pretty much Japanese affair only. It can easily happen that you would end up cruising local powder stashes just on your own. If you want to ski as well as experience Japanese city-life try Sapporo's Teine or Kokusai. They don't get as much snow as Niseko, but if you get there on a powder day, you will enjoy world-class terrain, steepest slopes on the island and great ocean views as a bonus. If you don't mind some ski-touring and sweating a little for your powder turn, resorts in central Hokkaido offer perfect back country playground. On next couple lines you will find more about these powder spots.
The first stop of our trip was the majestic Mt. Yotei volcano. We climbed our favorite peak couple times already. My Spanish friend Dani told me about a guy who climbed the peak in the afternoon, saw most picturesque dusk, spent the night on top of the volcano, and enjoyed the sun rising behind the rim of the crater. After all this, he took 20 minute luxury powder descent back down. We chose "Yotei One-Night Stand“ as a name for the idea and immediately sticked to it. We got the warmest sleeping bags that Niseko has to offer and two days later we stood at the foot of the volcano. Previous four-hour climb to the summit filled me with optimism that we would handle this task in less than seven hours. Well, we have no other option either. After three hours of pleasant climb in the sunshine Dani decided our adventure was just way too light so far so his sleeping bag suddenly fell from his backpack. It felt like in a bad action movie when we watched in „slow motion“ the bag hopping down the slope. We were absolutely helpless. My friend Dani is not exactly the most experienced mountaineer, so he didn't pay much attention to securing vital piece of equipment such as sleeping bag. After a few seconds we lost sight of the sleeping bag completely and could finally fully concentrate on addressing the issue: What now? I told myself that I would use this opportunity for additional training. Dani continued up the hill, I left my poles and skis and started sliding down the volcano on my bum. After couple of minutes of this unusual mission and 400 vertical metres lower I found (by sheer coincidence) my sleeping bag. It took me another 2 hours of climbing before I reached Dani again. My watch was showing 5pm and it was becoming clear that this afternoon adventure was not going to be boring at all. After few minutes of chilling and witnessing absolutely gorgeous sunset, we kept on with our climbing endeavours having moon-light and headlamp as a company. To keep things more interesting, Dani fell couple times and for a moment it looked like he would end up as his sleeping bag. Well, let's just move to more joyful episodes of our trip. It was after 9Pm and we finally made it to the refuge. Being totally exhausted, it took us seconds to unpack, slip into our bags and fall asleep. If you think we took nice 8 hour rest, you are wrong. At 4am we dashed out of our sleeping bags and off we went to the rim of the volcano. We still had to complete the highlight of our mission, see the sun rising from behind of the crater rim. We sat on the ground with legs hanging down the crater and enjoyed first sunbeams reaching above the horizon. We let the sun defrost all the frozen muscles, put the skis on and skied right in the heart of the volcano, where we pulled out our breakfast. Regular picnic inside the volcano doesn't sound like a bad idea. The rest has to be experienced to be understood. What followed is 20 minutes long amazing powder run all the way to the foot of the volcano. Rather then skiing, we seemed to be hovering 10 cm above the snow. On the way down, we met all those unlucky skiers who still had 5 hours off strenuous hiking in front of them. Finding our car was not a big deal and we were already thinking about our next destination.
Highest peak in Hokkaido
We made some switches in our crew. Dani had some work assignments and had to stay in Niseko, Frenchman Pierre along with Japanese local Kuri joined the party. The plan was to stand on top of the highest peak of Hokkaido, Asahi-Dake. This spot is slowly getting on a radar of pro skiers with Mark Abma and his team filming some powder shots here this season. Girls from „Shades of Winter“ movie shot around Hokkaido in December. Moreover, we saw Swede Henrik Windstedt and his crew couple times on our favorite Niseko lift, the famous „Pizza Box“. So, if it is good enough for the pros, it should be good enough for us.
Wind was blowing pretty strong on the day of our ascent to Asahidake, so we had hard time staying on our feet. Pretty steep pitch made us think this wouldn't be just another afternoon hike. After 2 hour ascent we are ready to admire Japan Sea on the left and Pacific Ocean on the right. Weather things otherwise, and thus we are forced to pack all our stuff and get down. I am not gonna be full of cliché talking about Japanese powder, but, there was something truly special on the way down. We skied thru volcanic field where hot steam was still springing in the air. It felt like James Bond movie. I have skied on several places on our beautiful planet and believe me, you don't get this kind of thing everywhere. Reaching the bottom we still had time for some powder runs, so we dedicated the rest of the afternoon to exploring powder stashes of Asahi-dake. Our friend Kuri, as a true Japanese, strictly requires a combination of powder, onsen and proper food. The first item was checked. For the second one, Kuri knew an onsen with three outdoor natural pools varying in temperature. This didn't sound like a bad idea. Especially when there is best Izakaya food around just few steps away. Again, „Kuri Tours“ did not disappoint us.
Our last gig was Furano-Dake mountains near the famous ski resort of the same name. At the first sight you can see so many lines, that you could easily spend a week here without getting bored. Too bad it was our last day. The weather was great, so without further ado, we set up for our ski-touring routine. This time in T-Shirt and sunglasses. What else could you wish for. On the way up we noticed amazingly looking north slope and slightly reassessed itinerary for the day. We reckoned that we already had plenty of summit photos and decided against further ascent and tried to ski every square cm of the north slope. We found untouched powder snow, steep slopes, various jumps, gulleys and natural half pipes. We got the bottom and thought we can't leave the place with just one downhill in our pocket. We climbed back up and made another lap. And then another one. When you think the day can't get better, Kuri says something like: „Do you feel like sushi? I know a place in fishing village of Otaru.“ We had world-class sushi, I didn't know what to eat first and was wondering if I like Japan more for its skiing or food.
Those lines were just a taste of what we ski in Japan. If you want to join us or simply want to learn more about skiing in the country of rising sun, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check our site.
Back in 2010, sitting on a park bench in New Zealand I was thinking of where to go next. Japan has been on my hit list since long time ago. Three years later and a couple of nights putting visa papers together I found myself in the middle of Hokkaido in the Japanese mountain town of Niseko.
This is Hokkaido
Niseko is a place where you have to power through 5-metre snowdrifts on your way to the grocery store. Arriving to Niseko at the start of main season, I was a bit sceptic to all that stories saying, that half the town would soon disappear beneath the snow. What made me little concerned however was seeing the locals walking down the streets wearing gumboots that reached up to their waist. I was thus more than ready for the first dumps to come in from Siberia. Hokkaido is the kind of place you instantly fall in love with as you can feel the right „freeride vibe“ ever present. Most people are here for the same exact reason – the powder. The resorts get around 18m of snowfall each year. You never get to see many carvers in the slopes, however, you‘ll get most fans by showing up at the first gondola with big wide local skis in hand. The more your skis looks like 2 snowboards the better. Niseko not only caters to powder lovers, but is well suited for more demanding skiers too when it comes to things to do as there are plenty of hotels and restaurants to be found. Take tons of powder, playful terrain all around Niseko, add amazing food, hot Onsens and Japanese culture and you have ski experience that is hard to rival anywhere.
Trees, powder and volcanoes
„Niseko United“ is divided into four resorts (Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, Annupuri) and you may get one ski pass for all of them. Hokkaido, off course, is not just about Niseko. The ski areas of Moiwa, Rusutsu and Kiroro are only a short distance away. In fact, there‘s so much playground in Hokkaido, that even after 2 seasons of skiing every square cm of the island, we are still stoked when finding more and more new terrain. Not talking about the back-country options on hand. The best way to spice-up your Japanese trip is to strap your skins on, climb the Mt. Yotei volcano and experience how it‘s to ski inside the crater. The long and epic downhill back to the valley is among the best things you can experience on skis. Last time the volcano erupted was 1050 Before Christ so don’t worry about lava.
One day in Japan
Let me describe one day in Japan so you can grasp what skiing in here is really about. We start by waking up in the morning, shovel in some breakfast, hop into our gear and sprint to the gondola only a stonethrow from our lodge. Morning rush pays off as we‘re at the pole position of the lift line. At 8.30 we‘re taking the lift, still hypnotized by velvet powder surrounding us. From the gondola we go straight to onto old school one seat chair that we call „pizza box“. At the top we grab our skis and after a fifteen-minute hike we’re on top of the world. I mean Annupuri. As the first part is pretty wide we‘re rocketing through snow making almost no turns. After a couple of minutes we disappear into the forest. The real Niseko skiing starts here. Trees, bamboos and the terrain make us feel like we’re in a video game. We‘re flying through the forest, cheering, shouting and enjoying every second of it. We hit the half-pipe and some kickers on the way to the lift while finishing up this amazing run. Finally down by the lift line, we‘re highfiving everybody and don’t really worry too much that everyone were total strangers two minutes ago. Discussion whether we should do one more run lasts exactly 5 seconds and we are on the way up again. We are discovering new lines until our legs are completely burned out. This is when ramen (local noodle soup) sound like an excellent idea. We‘re trying not to get too drunk on sake and are going full force again in the afternoon. As it’s still snowing we don’t really have any other options than to ski as much as we possibly can for the day. When the sun is setting we put some serious head lamps and go for night-skiing. Night powder skiing in the forest is just as good as it can get and we‘re trying hard not to kill ourselves. Alright, it’s 8 o’clock, that’s it for today. When we think this day can’t possibly get any better we head to Seicomart (local 7Eleven) to get a couple of Sapporo beers and go for some outdoor onsen – public baths with hot volcanic water. Snow surrounds us as we‘re chilling in the water, cold beer in hand while talking about what we‘ve just experienced.
I‘m not J.K. Rowling and can’t do justice to what I experienced in last 2 years in Japan, however, I can invite you to join our Freeride Camps to see and experience for yourself. We run the camps in January and February. At the end of last winter, me and other guides, travel around the island to find some „off the beaten path“ spots and we have them ready for you for this season. Check it out.
guest post by Radek Bulva
There are sides to running which are not frequently discussed as nobody really thoughts of them as having any significant influence on performance. Breathing is without any doubt one of them. And yet, how many times has it happened to you that you had to slow down because you had run out of breath rather than because of muscle fatigue? Here are some tips which might help you with breathing more comfortably on your next run.
Belly Breathing vs. Chest Breathing
There are basically two patterns of breathing. Chest breathing relies on using the chest muscles to breathe and you can recognize it by feeling your chest rise and fall. While chest breathing is very common, it doesn’t use the capacity of lungs fully and is often labelled as shallow. A better alternative is belly breathing which is deeper and increases the amount of oxygen taken in and the amount of carbon dioxide removed from lungs. Signs of breathing from your belly properly are that your lower ribcage and abdomen expand while your chest remains still. Sometimes belly breathing is called diaphragmatic breathing but this is a bit misleading as the diaphragm is active in both breathing patterns. However, only in the second breathing pattern is the diaphragm able to fulfil its other key function which is the core stabilization. When you breathe in, the diaphragm and muscles around it contract and thus stabilize the core.
Nose Breathing vs. Mouth Breathing
The obvious goal is to get in as much air per breath as possible. Thus the question whether to breathe through nose or mouth while running is sort of irrelevant. Breathing through your nose and mouth together seems to be the most effective strategy in terms of potential oxygen intake. However, nose breathing seems to have an upper hand in certain circumstances. When running in cold weather it is sensible to breathe through your nose as the cold, dry air is moisturized and warmed to body temperature and thus irritates the lungs less. Moreover, nose breathing filters out pollutants from the inhaled air which is a definitive plus in winter months when air pollution levels tend to be elevated. Nose breathing also seems to be preferable for some runners while running at an easy pace. Not only does it help you breathe more deeply and lower your heart rate, it can be also used as a kind of cruise control system – when you start running out of breath, it means that you are no longer running at an easy pace and forces you to slow down. This comes handy especially in summer when hot temperatures and increased air humidity can alter your usual training paces by tens of seconds per kilometre.
Though you may not be aware of it, there is a good chance that your breathing is aligned to your stride rate. For example, when running fast you may inhale for two steps and exhale for the same amount. These breathing patterns are called breathing rhythms or breathing rates. Rhythmic breathing is said to be beneficial to your respiratory system and may even have a small effect on performance, but arguably its most important benefit is that it can teach you how to measure your effort and pace yourself.
Try it in real life
If you made this far, it looks like you really want to do something about your running. Try our free running sessions where you learn more tips and get to train in a group of runners.
by Vojta Lím
Nowadays, everybody is into carbon fibre, aero components with minimum air drag and other super high-tech equipment, which should cut off those decisive seconds from your race time . Group of guys from Plavsko decided to take quite different approach and organized a triathlon "Retro Style".
Plavsko is a picturesque village in southern Bohemia with a total of 472 inhabitants. This was already 15th edition of the race, 14 of which were normal competitions with no special rules. During the last couple of years, racers at this triathlon started to get all fancy by wearing swim caps, swim goggles and some even dared to use triathlon suits. Organizers wanted to put a stop to such manners and thus announced retro race this time.
It was my 3rd year at this race. I love it. Its hilly, thru very nice landscape and ends up in the pub. Also, it is one of the few races in the season, where I can actually compete for the first position. What else can you ask for? The task for this year seemed simple. Show up with a bike, which is old and has just one gear. I took my single speed bike from the 80s (in the gallery at the bottom) in naive hope that this would be old enough and other racers will have similar stuff. Little that I know, how dedicated are these Plavsko guys. My bike was around 30 years newer and much fancier than anything else in the improvised transition area. It was immediately labelled as inadequate and I fell in despair that I had spent one year of serious preparation in vain. Luckily, the locals were flexible enough to offer me a unique piece of bike, which originally served as a spare unit if any of the others wouldn't make it to the finish line. It was 16 kilo of solid metal from USSR - Ukraine (back then you could buy for 260 Kcs). Front tyre looked like it received some pretty rough treatment over the years, however, I was very happy to be able to race.
I didn't spend too much time checking rideability of the bike, I rested it against parked truck and headed towards the lake for the first part of the race. Organizers felt that explanation of race details would just decrease adventure aspect of the race so we jumped straight to the water and off we go. As usual, I was lazily swimming in a drag of someone else just to secure good position for the bike stage. 500m was fast gone and I found myself racing this 60 years old Ukrainian beast. I became little concerned that the bike would lose some of the vital components and I would end up face-planting local roads. Very soon I realized, that rear basket was not originally meant to hold water bottle, so I was forced to stick the bottle in my "speedos" (see the gallery, if you're brave enough:).
During the race I developed very specific technique, which helped me to get the most performance out of the vehicle. It felt a bit like "when you rob a bank and have to escape in no time." I would always spin the pedals up to 3000 rounds per minute, right to the point I was about to lose both of my limbs and then I would go straight to the most aero position to maintain that 26km/h speed for as long as humanly possible. I was staying in the leading group of four guys, thinking about the best place for my planned escape. This happened around 10 km before the end of the bike section. I put all my energy into those rusty cranks, bike luckily kept in one piece and soon my opponents were nowhere to be seen.
After 30 km on the bike and the fastest transition in the history of triathlon, (I literally just threw the bike away and went straight to the run, dropping my helmet few metres after), I worked my way to usual running race pace and made sure nobody was close enough to start thinking about chasing me. My finish time was around 5 minutes slower than my road-bike time from the last year, which made me contemplate about carbon fibre and related materials for a few minutes.
Bottom line, if you don't have the $$$ for 6 kilo road bike, go to the nearest wastebusters, find the most aerodynamic Ukrainian bike and I see you next year in Plavsko.
Have you ever tried similar stuff??? (leave your thoughts in the comments, cheers).