A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers

- Pink Floyd


Adventure Travel

Mar 24, 2017

Leave it Better: Hikers Being Sponsored to Pick Up Your Trash

Upping the ‘Leave No Trace’ ante! To reverse the poor state of some of America’s trails, Granite Gear has hand-picked a team of dedicated ‘Grounds Keepers’ to hike their butts—and toenails—off, to clean up the parks you love.


Alyssa Fowler

“I’m confident that together we can inspire a positive shift in our nation’s values and help rejuvenate landscapes that are being loved to death.”

Words from Seth Orme, founder of Packing it Out and a huge part the inspiration behind the idea for Granite Gear’s Grounds Keepers program: selecting and sponsoring 15 individuals committed to thru-hiking long trails for the next year, scooping up as much garbage as they can find and documenting their experiences along the way.

Seth “Cap” Orme and Paul “Spice” Twedt heading in to pack it out.

In 2015, a chance meeting took place at the Appalachian Trail Days. Cap and Spice (trail names for Seth Orme and Paul Twedt), from Packing it Out sauntered up to the Granite Gear stand and nonchalantly mentioned that they were on a mission to remove 1,000 pounds of garbage from the Appalachian Trail that year. Instantly wanting to help, Rob Coughlin and Shelly Smith got involved and Granite Gear became the team’s first sponsor.

Packing It Out: Cleaning America’s Wild Trails from Colin Arisman on Vimeo.

Proving Cap and Spice’s belief that “attitudes are contagious”, Smith told The Outdoor Journal that their work continued to inspire the Granite Gear team until they asked Seth, “what if we had a bigger group and you were their mentor? People that were already committed to trails.”

So, that’s exactly what they did.

After placing the call out on the world wide web, over 200 serious thru-hikers applied to dedicate themselves to the Grounds Keeper program

“We found people that already had strong Leave No Trace ethics, who poured their hearts out to us, who really wanted to do this. They understood that it could be treacherous work and they were committed to it,” says Smith.

Overwhelmed with the amount of people still wanting to be involved, Coughlin, VP of Sales and Marketing for Granite Gear, told The Outdoor Journal, “we still have so many people out there that weren’t able to even apply that are helping out with the program. Picking up trash, whether on long trails or at their local park, and calling in to tell us about it. The idea is that anyone can be a Grounds Keeper at this point. You tell us what you’ve done out there and we’ll post it.”

At The Outdoor Journal, we are always impressed by brands that really stand-out in making an effort to protect this planet that lets us do what we love—no matter the size.
Rob makes it clear that “as an outdoor company, as any outdoor company, the trails, the thru-hikers, that’s our business. If we keep polluting our trails, we’re not going to have our business anymore.”

We’re not huge, we’re not Patagonia, but we’re going to do whatever we can and try to be as effective with the funds we have. 

Photo courtesy of Granite Gear
Photo courtesy of Granite Gear

Armed with their kit from Granite Gear, the Grounds Keepers will update the team throughout the year with as many stories, photos and increased numbers to the ‘total garbage collected’ tally as possible. The kit was worked on with Seth and includes the new Crown2 multi-day backpack, 1 Dump Trunk (Tactical Line), 2 16L Air Zippsacks, 1 7L Air Bag, 1 Scale and 1 Trash Grabber. They will also have access to Seth for any advice or inspiration if things get tough along the trails.

Some updates from the trails so far:

Ali “Chicory” Edwards (with special guests Aqua Pops, HoHo and Van Geaux)
Hiking with her boyfriend and their dads, optimism is high on the Arizona Trail as they’ve gathered over 30lbs so far (despite lost toenails). Continually impressing Chircory on the trail, her father replied with a sincere, “Well, it’ll grow back!”.

ali and all
It’s all smiles with Chicory, Aqua Pops, HoHo and Van Geaux.

Leland “Woodsy” Kolson
After 6 days of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, he’s already added 16.7lbs of trash to his tally—including a full blow-up mattress he found half a mile in, a selfie-stick and more dog poo than anyone expected.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 11.23.16
The man makes a good point…

Gretchen “Dirty Bowl” Matt
Through swampy waters and with more than one close call with alligators, she has cleared 29.6lbs of trash out of the Florida National Scenic Trail. Oh, and she celebrated her birthday the day she completed the trail—gator-free!

Already thinking about the future of Grounds Keepers, Rob speaks excitedly and confidently about what’s in store after this inaugural year:

We have 15 out there today, but 5 years from now, I would love for there to be hundreds! On trails throughout the world. And this is where we’re going.

We’ll be keeping up with the team and posting updates of their progress when we can. For more information on the members and their trails head to the Granite Gear Journal.

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Mar 19, 2019

Is ‘Sidecountry’ a Four-Letter Word?

A team of Avalanche experts define the word, and discuss how to deal with the phenomena. Do we attempt to stop the sidecountry locomotive, or shape the definition and attempt to harness its power?


This article originally appeared in The Avalanche Review, a trade and scientific journal serving the American Avalanche Association Membership. It was written by Scott Savage, Simon Trautman, Ethan Greene, and Doug Chabot.

Riding in the sidecountry is fun, and it is marketable. Google ‘sidecountry’ and you get 438,000 search results. As more people recreate in the sidecountry, ski areas promote it, equipment manufacturers capitalize on it, riders benefit through new technology and increased availability, the media eats it up, more people want the experience and WHAM! – we are lost somewhere in a very successful feedback loop. Ski area avalanche professionals and backcountry avalanche forecasters, however, are scratching their heads about how to deal with the phenomena; do we attempt to stop the sidecountry locomotive in its tracks or do we embrace the term, shape the definition to benefit our mission, and attempt to harness its branding power to educate the various user groups that recreate in terrain adjacent to ski areas?

One of the great slopes on Gornergrat with plenty of sidecountry opportunities, near the top, with the ever-distracting Matterhorn in the distance. Location: Zermatt. By Doc Searls Santa Barbara, USA

Currently, defining sidecountry is similar to defining pornography; people disagree on a formal definition but you know it when you see it. In our opinion, sidecountry is very useful term for describing a certain combination of human behavior and geography. It is intuitive because most people understand that sidecountry refers to the terrain adjacent to ski area boundaries. This terrain is easily accessed, easily “lapped”, and in many cases highly visible. Observing this reality and thinking about the term in a geographical and behavioral sense is important because it showcases the idea that sidecountry terrain is used differently than backcountry terrain, and as such, suggests that sidecountry users may have different needs than those traditionally addressed in avalanche education. We believe that using the term benefits avalanche professionals by allowing them to relate to audiences and be succinct when speaking, writing, or educating on sidecountry topics.

“Sidecountry is backcountry”

“Sidecountry is backcountry” is a recently coined phrase that is also highly descriptive and accurate regarding particular aspects of sidecountry. Sidecountry avalanche rescue is effectively a backcountry rescue – regardless of the proximity to a ski area, organized rescue may not arrive in time. Since ski areas do not perform avalanche hazard mitigation work in sidecountry terrain, the phrase is probably an effective tool to communicate avalanche danger, especially to novice and casual sidecountry users. “Sidecountry is backcountry” is a simple message that is easy to understand. There is power in this: power to educate, power to simplify, power to feel that one is addressing the problem. Unfortunately, we are not dealing with a simple problem or a singular, simple user group.

Ski areas do not perform avalanche hazard mitigation work in sidecountry terrain.

Novice, casual, and experienced sidecountry users have different levels of expertise, attitudes, decision-making techniques, and educational needs. In addition, novice and casual users are highly influenced by experienced users. A cursory look at recent sidecountry accident and near-miss reports reveals that experienced sidecountry users appear to be involved more frequently than the less experienced individuals. The experienced group generally visits the same sidecountry terrain frequently enough to become familiar with terrain features, may actively manage or mitigate avalanche hazard (slope cuts, cornice drops, etc.), and at times may have more intimate knowledge of the slope-scale snowpack structure and stability than local avalanche professionals. Most importantly, an “I’m going there because it’s there and I want to ski” attitude seems to be common; experienced users access the terrain and then decide whether to mitigate or avoid hazard or just forge ahead. Will telling these more risk tolerant individuals that “sidecountry is backcountry” reduce their risk? Will it help us communicate with them? Sidecountry may be the same as backcountry in some ways, but routine sidecountry users and backcountry users are disparate user groups.

Skilled, experienced professional avalanche educators can create effective sidecountry-specific educational programs and presentations. As we have learned while reaching out to snowmobilers, relevancy is everything. Just as force-feeding traditional avalanche education to someone who never gets off their sled is ineffective, so too is drawing a “backcountry box” around someone who skis out-of-bounds 50 days a year, but rarely or never uses skins or established backcountry stability evaluation and decision-making techniques. Sidecountry is a growth market for snow sports equipment and clothing manufacturers, and these companies may be interested in supporting educational and outreach efforts to sidecountry users (their customers). Instead of abandoning or over-simplifying the term, maybe the ski and avalanche community would be well served to take advantage of the strong, established sidecountry brand by partnering with the media and outdoor gear retail industry to accomplish the following:

  1. Define sidecountry as the unique geographical and behavioral issue that it is, focusing on the specific dangers associated with sidecountry recreation
  2. Identify and define specific user groups
  3. Tailor, market, and promote user group specific educational programs

The term ‘sidecountry’ is descriptive, intuitive, and useful. We agree with the recent NSAA Journal Editorial “There’s No Such Thing as ‘Sidecountry’ ” that the avalanche and snowsports communities must better communicate that riders are on their own when they leave ski area boundaries. Our common goals are to educate the public on the inherent risk of avalanches outside that boundary and to help users reduce their risk in this terrain. In our opinion, we can enhance communication by acknowledging the difference in behavior and risk tolerance between user groups, by identifying and targeting the needs of those groups, and by partnering with those that have the marketing and promotional power to deliver the message.

Read Next: Charge Hard, Stay Smart: Guidebook Guru, Fritz Sperry, on Safety in Avy-Prone Backcountry.

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