Our editors made a lot of outdoor beginner blunders
It’s healthy to remember that even the most seasoned outdoor athlete was once a clumsy, stumbling noob. No matter what activity you pursue, you’re guaranteed to crash, get lost, or make a really stupid gear choice at some point early on in your progress. Outside publishers are no different. Here’s a collection of our best rookie mistake stories to remind you that everyone has to start somewhere.
Crash course on the slopes
The first time I tried downhill skiing was in the 1980s at the Snowshoe Resort in West Virginia. I was there with the same mixed group I went to the beach with twice a summer – a smart, cultured group of young East Coast adults who, alas, drank as hard as the shirtless men on the Ocean City boardwalk. Some members of the group knew how to ski but not me. Instead of taking a lesson – too expensive! – I asked an alpha male from New England to explain how the skis worked the day before our big first day on the slopes. He did a thorough job, but as I took it all drunk, I realized I had no idea what he was talking about. I looked at my rental equipment and thought of the old slang term for baseball catcher’s equipment: “tools of idiocy.”
Snowshoeing was summit lodging at the time, so the next morning I soloed it to the top of a green run, pointed my skis downhill, I pushed and… Hey, I was skiing! Very, very straight line. When it came time to turn left, I didn’t; instead, I flew into thick woods, flipping over and suffering a groin injury that ended my day’s skiing. I was really relieved and spent the rest of the day reading and drinking. The next day I rented some big clunky racquets, and let me tell you what: I took them like a natural. —Alex Heard, editor
Shreddy or not, here I come
I am not a mountain biker. Sport scares me, and for good reason. In 2011, I was testing expensive, tricked-out Scott mountain bikes on a gear trip near Salt Lake City, Utah, to Outside. I was younger, fitter and ready to try anything back then, so I jumped at the chance to ride with a handful of pros, as well as my editor friend. “I can probably follow!” I thought. I was wrong. First, we climbed 3,000 feet on forest roads and technical singletrack to the top of a ridge. “Fun! A good practice!” I thought. But then we embarked on a tough descent littered with rocks, roots, berms and jumps, and I quickly realized I was out of my element. I hiked the upper and middle sections of the trail without incident. I was happy to have done my first lap, but I made a rookie mistake: I spun on the last stretch of forest road going way too fast. The speed freaked me out, so I slammed on the brakes, but grabbed the front brake by mistake! In a blur, I somersaulted over the handlebars, leapt several feet into the air, and landed on my left shoulder and neck. According to my editor friend, I immediately jumped off, helmet askew, bloody, with sand and gravel stuck in my skin, and screamed, “Oh my God, is the bike OK?!” It was, but I was in shock. I went to the ER and the doctor told me that I had suffered a mild concussion and also sprained a vertebra in my neck. He lectured me on my recklessness and put me on hydrocodone for the pain. These days I stick to fat bike riding. The fluffy rides are where it’s at for me. —Patty Hodapp, Editor-in-Chief
A fun combination
The first time I surfed was on a work trip. I was working for a ski magazine at the time, and our bosses sent our editorial staff to California to “mind-merge” with writers who were part of the much cooler board sports division of our company. Snowboarding was against my religion, but I was a competent skater, so I was determined to quickly embrace surfing and prove my bona fides to the cool kids. Outfitted by a local friend with a learner-friendly longboard and a wetsuit not unlike my old GS race suit, I hit the beach.
Over the next three hours, I developed a deep appreciation for how long it would take me to reach even beginner surfing status. A surfer who can’t quite stand on a wave is just a really bad boogie boarder, and that Herculean feat wasn’t in the cards for me on day one. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the challenge and felt invigorated as our fledgling surf team returned to my friend’s house. Rinsing off and taking off the wetsuit in her outdoor shower, I smiled at the many waves to come in my new sport. At that moment, my friend burst my daydream bubble. In full view of the rest of the magazine staff, he pointed to my jumpsuit.
“Hi Micaiah,” he said.
“Yes?” I answered.
“Next time, the zipper of this thing will go in the back.” —Micah Abrams, Vice President of Adventure Sports
Wanted: A second pair of bike shorts
Like many new cyclists, I went through extreme shock when shopping for gear. I was in college at the time, so how was I supposed to afford Lycra outfits or aero wheels? My solution: buy the bare necessities, only one product per category, and aim for the cheapest model. So I bought a jersey, an inner tube and, alas, only one short. These were a nerdy red-white-blue pair from the discount rack of the now-defunct big-box store Performance Bicycle. My stingy strategy hit a snag once I joined the University of California Santa Cruz racing team, and started riding with more experienced riders every day. Wearing the same bike shorts day after day is bad enough for solo rides, but it’s terrible practice when there are other riders around to see and smell you. My teammates were kind enough to accept my smelly sartorial misstep, even after I crashed and ripped several holes exposing the flesh in the shorts. At the final team barbecue, I received a playful prize, which also served as a friendly boost to maybe invest in another pair of bike shorts. It was a hand-drawn image of a cyclist wearing threadbare shorts, with a large section of exposed buttocks peeking through. I saw a few smiles and giggles as I accepted my award. The message has been received. —Fred Dreier, Articles Editor
The pancakes ate the pan
I’m a big proponent of bringing impractical food on short backpacking trips. Life is too short to eat rehydrated porridge out of a bag. But figuring out what’s fun and useful (a miniature watermelon is my favorite for smooth roads) and what will be a total flop takes some trial and error. I started experimenting with impractical hiking foods in high school. I did a semi-independent trip to the North Cascades with a few friends one year. Being in charge of logistics for the first time – we were only in the back country with our families so far – we decided to bring pancake mix for breakfast. In an age-old tale, our parents warned us about food choice, and we ignored them. What they realized was that our pots were only a few millimeters thick. This surface, when placed over a torch-type stove, was not conducive to the production of breakfast delicacies. Our efforts yielded pancake-like foods that were mostly just uncooked batter scrambled like eggs and infused with a very strong smoky flavor. When we were done we noticed the incredibly dirty pot. The pancakes were pretty much inedible, but overall the trip was a resounding success. I learned two important lessons: it’s more fun to be creative and to bring extra oatmeal just in case. —Miyo McGinn, Technical Writer