Adventures in Backcountry - Just the Beginning

  Backcountry skiing is not something to embark on cavalierly. Unlike resort skiing, backcountry is unforgiving and, for some, deadly. To enter into the backcountry safely requires training, gear and acute gumption.

This winter my goal is to rock backcountry terrain.


For me, this is a goal that three years ago would not have been remotely possible. Now it is pretty much all I think about. To the extent that it is not uncommon for me to watch a single ski clip multiple times throughout a day and with each iteration my muscles twitch for action. In reality, my body nor skill set are at the level needed to be successful.

So how does an individual begging prepping for the backcountry experience? First, educate yourself! Learn as much as you can about safety, terrain, avalanche risk assessment and rescue techniques. This endeavor has, admittedly, been a bit difficult for me as I like to learn by doing and that is not safely possible. If you are unsure of where to start I recommend,

Conditioning is also immensely beneficial for a positive backcountry experience. Conditioning should include three things in my opinion: cardio, weights, and more squats than thought to be generally rational.  Also all conditioning should, if possible, start way before you begin dreaming of skiing.  I swiftly learned on my first day in “side country” that although I think I am in decent shape; I am not.

Next, get people involved with your quest. Especially those who have experience and don’t mind spending time helping you figure stuff out. Work out, skill practice and generously thank these people as they are your Virgil in your ski purgatory.  Most important: share the stoke! Outdoor experiences have a keen ability to create lasting relationships. Embrace it, these people will likely be lifelong friends.

Another necessary step is to inevitably get the appropriate gear. No longer will just skis, boots, bindings, polls, water resistant jacket and pants suffice. In order to be safe/capable one must now acquire beacon, shovel, probe, skins, touring bindings and possibly different skis and poles. These items are not cheap but can be bought through Craig’s list or eBay at a fairly low-cost.

Once you have completed aforementioned steps it is then time to start practicing skills on undeniably safe terrain. This is my current juncture. Over the weekend I took my first steps into the realm of backcountry terrain. It was fantastic and very educational. In a short amount of time I learned that I have a good bit of knowledge to obtain before being remotely proficient. Best of all though, I was able to demonstrate to myself that my crazy season goal is obtainable. It will take a lot of time, energy and patience but it is obtainable. I can’t wait. Bring on winter 2015-2016!

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Insanity Workouts and Cheez-its

Past the age of 25 there is a natural decline in the rate of the resting human metabolism. Initially, you may not notice the change but as years press on you suddenly notice that it takes significantly more activity to lose even the smallest amount of extra pudge.  Not to mention the extra effort needed to engage in fat burning activities as they directly compete with an ever growing list of “adult” responsibilities.

As a result, many of us turn to various weight loss/exercise methods to ensure that we are at least chipping away at our waist lines.  For me, I typically employ a mix of running, hiking and all around activeness in order to fight the battle of the buldge.  Recently I added an extra component to supplement running on rainy afternoons - Insanity workouts.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Insanity workouts I’ll keep it simple by saying that insanity is an accurate descriptor.  Each workout is approximately an hour long with 20-30 minutes of “warm-up” followed by a little cool down and then it pretty much kicks your ass.

Despite lingering hesitations and warnings from friends, yesterday on yet another rainy afternoon, I decide I am going to do an insanity workout.

Upon arriving home from work I am feeling a bit peckish so opt for a nice light snack before my workout, Cheez-its. Not just a handful of Cheez-its but at least 4, but possibly 5 or 6, heaping handfuls of the delicious cheesy snack cracker. Once I have sated my appetite I sit on my couch feeling somewhat guilty but determined that my indulgence will not hinder my insanity. Peeling myself off the couch I slowly pull on a set of my shortest workout shorts, shoes and a sports bra because nothing inspires working out like minimal clothing. Now appropriately dressed I turn on my computer, move some furniture for space, cue up a workout music mix and prepare to get my sweat on.

The video begins with some light stretching and jogging in place. Next, jumping jacks followed by high knees. “I’ve got this” I think to myself. Already I’m sweating. I feel it is important to add here that it has been rather hot these past few weeks and I’ve been using the air conditioner in my apartment minimally.  As a result the temperature in my apartment is sweltering.  All of a sudden the video kicks it up a notch and throws in some side to side lunges that involve you touching the floor. My stomach begins to turn. After about another 15 minutes of "warm-up", that feel like forever, we enter a short cool down phase. At this juncture sweat is pouring off my body like it has never done before. I grab a towel, a chug of water with barely enough time to get back in front of the screen before the bulk of the workout begins.

“Here it goes” I say to Dante who is looking at me balefully from beneath the kitchen table. I think he knows that this is about to not go well. Immediately side to side lunges ensue followed rapidly by skiers, climbers, burpees and jumping squats. I can barely keep up. It seems by the time I manage to get a move down they've already moved on to the next activity. As we enter yet another set I am actively feeling ill. I can feel the Cheez-its sitting like a brick in my stomach and that brick is rising. Still I press on. Well, that is until I burp mid set and a bit of vomit enters my mouth.  Next thing I know I’ve completely abandoned the workout out and find myself bent over the porcelain goddess. Gross, I know.

Sitting on my bathroom floor I lean against the cool tub and feel defeated. The sound of my workout mix still blares in the next room. All I can think is “Insanity workouts and Cheez-its do not mix”.

Dearest Dad - Happy Birthday

Dearest Dad,

Today is your birthday. Today you are 61 years young. Today I want to tell you how grateful I am to have you as my father.

I know you may read this and roll your eyes. But after you roll your eyes I hope you smile because you have one of the most infectious smiles around and on your birthday you should smile. When I think of your smile I envision that picture of you Mom has in her old Pi Beta Phi frame where you are grinning from ear to ear. It is one of my favorite pictures of you.

There are so many aspects of my life that are a reflection of you. From my endless love for the outdoors and adventure to my affinity for singer/songwriter music you have contributed to all of it. Even my inability to tell a joke comes from you. Yeah, Dad, you may think your jokes are super funny but I’ve found that most people give nothing but a blank response after I attempt one of your jokes.

My life is more beautiful because of you. It was my memory of your love for Colorado that brought me here 4 years ago. Every day I appreciate this beautiful state because you taught me to revel in natural beauty for all it has to offer as one day it may be gone.   Really though, there is nothing like hanging off the side of a cliff with the Rockies stretched out before you or finishing a class III rapid boat in tack to make you appreciate life.

I am a stronger person because of you. Growing up you always encouraged us to try new things and even if we weren’t the best at them to keep trying.  You never hesitated to offer tough advice even if we didn’t want to hear it. These are just some of the things that have made me stronger.

In no way is this an exhaustive list of how you have influenced me throughout my life.  All I hope to accomplish by writing this is to begin to demonstrate how grateful I am to be your daughter.

I would not be who I am today without you.

I love you.


Sarah's 6 Picks for Colorado Summer Playlists

Temperatures are rising making it the perfect time to pick tunes that will get you through this 'cruel, cruel summer'. Below are a few songs that make me think of riding bikes, evenings in the park, mountain exploring and brewery hoping with friends. Essentially all things that populate a Colorado summer.

Go Outside - The Cults

With Colorado's 300 sum odd days of sunshine it is hard not to want to 'Go Outside' every day of the week and this cheery little tune provides the perfect inspiration that will have you running to the nearest exit.

Young Blood - The Naked and The Famous

This song started on my skiing mix this last winter but with the warming weather it has become a staple in my anything outdoor playlist. When I hear this song I am instantly transported to running full speed through winding dirt trails along Colorado's front range with the city to my left and the Rockies to my right.

Closer to Fine - Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls will always have a special place in my heart. This song in particular I associate with summer fun in the sun. In fact on my first camping trip this summer my friend Mckenzie and I were driving back and this song came on the radio and we both starting belting it out. That is when I knew we would be close friends. Even if it was an entirely cliche moment, it was still summer-tastic.

Old Pine - Ben Howard

Dreamy and whimsical music often feels my heart when I find myself enjoying everything Colorado has to offer. For me, this song inspires thoughts of silent mountain vistas and friends hanging around a campfire laughing.  Life really can't get any better than laughter, love, and mountains.

Journey through the past (Neil Young cover) - James Mercer

When I hear this song it reminds me of sitting around a dying campfire with good friends. Each of us is silent in smoldering reflection as the smoke rises and the embers crack and spit.

Rocky Mountain High - John Denver

Last but certainly not least this classic Colorado summer song. It doesn't matter who I am with, when this song comes on everyone in ear shot takes pause as if it were some sort of anthem. It is in these moments that I am grateful that life has brought me to this spectacular place and that I am lucky enough to call it home. In reality who could be unhappy with great beer, delectable food and mountain vistas.

Cheers! May your summer be filled with good company, grand adventures, and unbounded love.

Friends, Food and Satisfaction

Good day family,

I meant to write up this tale and recipe last week but quickly became distracted by other life happenings. So without further ado I present: Friends, Food and Satisfaction.

Thursday, 5:30 p.m.

My friend Mckenzie arrives at my apartment for our weekly run. Quickly she changes and we set out towards city park. With Dante trotting gaily beside me she and I chat as we lightly jog the 3 blocks that stand between my place and the park. Once we arrive at the entrance to the park each of us open our gaits, lengthen our strides and breathe deep the cool spring air. “Today is the perfect day for a run” I think to myself as we make the first turn onto the path that borders the edge of the park. Quickly Mckenzie, who is a few inches taller than me, bounds ahead of me. I struggle to keep up feeling each foot fall against the gravel is not quite enough to propel me far enough forward in order to catch up. But I try. Within moments she is a good 50 feet in front of me as I huff and puff attempting to minimize the distance between us. I should also mention here that we were running uphill. As the terrain flattens I gain on her and feel my body relax into a rhythm.

Growing up Dad would often coax us kids into running or biking with him when he went on his weekend runs. At the time I remember feeling reluctance towards early morning exercise, but now, as an adult I am thankful for those moments and the exercise wisdom Dad passed on during those early morning sessions. As my body relaxes into the rhythm of running I can hear Dad’s breathing lesson echoing through my mind, “In, two, three, four…out, two, three, four”. As my feet land against the loose gravel my breathing begins to match my cadence. This is the space in which running becomes “easy” or as some people call it “the runner’s high”. Before long I am only 10 feet behind Mckenzie at which point she slows down to run alongside Dante and I. Towards the end of our run we crest one final hill and the city of Denver with the Rocky Mountains as a back drop lays before us in its entire spring glory.

After picking up a few items at one of the many grocery stores in close proximity to my place Mckenzie and I return to my place to make dinner. For this evening we have selected broiled brussel sprouts with salmon. When I chose this recipe I honestly didn’t think I would be as easy or delicious as it turned out to be. Below are the ingredients and directions needed to replicate this tasty dish:

Ingredients: - 14 cloves of garlic (I didn’t use this much but if you really like garlic this is a great recipe for you) - ¼ c of olive oil - 2 tbl sp of fresh herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary) - 1 tsp of salt - ¾ tsp of ground pepper - 6 c of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced (I just did enough to feed the two of us plus a little leftover) - ¾ c of white wine - 3 lbs of salmon fillet (I just picked up 1 lb for the two of us and I still had leftovers) - Lemon wedges

Directions: (as always this is a guide not strict directions) 1. Preheat oven to 450°F. 2. Mince 2 garlic cloves and combine in a small bowl with oil, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Halve the remaining garlic and toss with Brussels sprouts and 3 tablespoons of the seasoned oil in a large roasting pan. Roast, stirring once, for 15 minutes. 3. Add wine to the remaining oil mixture. Remove the pan from oven, stir the vegetables and place salmon on top. Drizzle with the wine mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges.

After consuming a wonderful meal in the warmly lit courtyard of my apartment building Mckenzie and I sat chatting and laughing at life, love and the pursuit of happiness. It is these simple moments that make up a life worth living. If anybody ever tells you differently they are probably trying to sell something.


Crunch, crunch, slush. Crunch, crunch, slush. Climbing through trees, that look as if they have been recently dipped in marshmallow cream, all you can hear is the sound of your snowshoes leaving their imprint in sparkling snow. Pressing on, your breath leads the way as it wafts through chilly mountain air up towards heaven. Everything around you takes on a crisp blueish hue as dappled sun light gets lost on its way to the forest floor. Even the birds take pause before making the slightest utterance for fear of disturbing the crystalline shell of winter. Once in a while though a clump breaks free from its arboreal captor and falls towards earth to rejoin its earth bound siblings. Here in snow entrenched mountains the world falls away. Peace creeps in and my soul smiles.

Wish you all were here.

Twas a Macrander eve before Christmas eve

On the eve before Christmas eve and all through the nation, Mom and Dad were driving to Baton Rouge and trying to agree on a radio station.

Excited to visit Todd and Nick, and wave goodbye to their daughter,

Mom exclaimed, ‘Oh my! Texas couldn’t be hotter.’

So far in the trip Dad had visited his sister,

And Mom had bought some cheap shoes that dad swore would cause a blister,

Shout out to Kayla, the newest addition to us all,

Who was born at just over six pounds on Friday and oh so small.

Todd was busy cleaning, while Nick busy mixing,

Lots of treats to fill their home, Mom and Dad would surely find transfixing,

Sarah was still in Denver, though lonely was not she,

For the beauty of friends and mountains, how much better could life be?

So this morning, Emily sits at her computer not working, oh no, no,

Excited to see Jarrod and family, but more to the point Santa, ho ho ho.

God is great, Jesus is born, this is the reason for the season,

But getting to see the ones we love sure is extra pleasin’

So as we close this year before,

Let’s enjoy our moments together and plan for many more.