Karl Egloff Just Beat Kilian Jornet’s Denali Record

22 Jun

On Thursday, Ecuadorian-Swiss alpinist Karl Egloff climbed up and back down Denali—at 20,310 feet, the highest peak in North America—in 11 hours and 44 minutes. In doing so, he broke the previous speed record, which was set in 2014 by Spanish alpinist Kilian Jornet, by just a single minute.  

Even more impressive is this: Egloff, who left basecamp at 7 A.M., topped out on Denali in seven hours and 40 minutes—two hours and five minutes faster than Jornet summited five years ago. What’s more, Jornet skied down Denali, a much faster mode of descent than what Egloff employed to get down the mountain, which was a combination of hiking boots, snowshoes, and running shoes.  

“It felt like I was running on water,” Egloff, 38, told me when I reached him by phone on Friday. He had just made it out of Denali National Park and was resting in the outpost town of Talkeetna, Alaska. “From Camp I to Camp III [6,400 feet of climbing], I used crampons attached to running shoes but it was still very slippery.”

From there, Egloff switched to boots and put on a heavy down jacket to help shield him from the nearly 20-mile-per-hour winds. Upon summiting, he looked at his watch and says he was surprised by his time. “I was thinking, ‘I have a huge gap’,” he says. “It was hard to believe I was more than two hours faster than Kilian.”

Still, Egloff knew it’d be difficult to beat the record. He’d developed a headache and was well aware that his ski-less descent would be slower. “But when I got back down to Camp III, I knew I could do it,” he says. “I started pushing myself. From Camp III on, I was watching the watch more than my own safety. I drank two litres of water on the way up but nothing on the way down. I was just going. I got to basecamp, saw that I was a minute faster, and I stretched my hands in the air.”

This isn’t the first time the little-known Egloff has knocked off one of Jornet’s records. In 2012, Jornet began the Summits of My Life project, in which he’d attempt to set fastest known times on what he calls seven of “the most important mountains on the planet,” which includes Denali, Argentina’s Aconcagua, the Matterhorn (Switzerland’s famous pyramidal peak), Mount Kilimanjaro, France’s Mont Blanc, Russia’s Mount Elbrus, and Mount Everest. He was successful during all of his record-setting attempts except for his climbs up Elbrus and Everest. On Elbrus, he was forced to turn around. On Everest, his time was several hours off the record set in 1996 by Italian Hans Kammerlander.

But in 2014, Egloff, who works as a mountain guide, decided he’d try to set speed records on each of the seven summits—the highest peak on each continent. That year, he bested Jornet’s time on Kilimanjaro. Seven months later, he eclipsed Jornet’s time on Aconcagua. In 2017, Egloff set the speed record on Elbrus.

Though Jornet fans tore into Egloff, accusing him of cheating and “destroying Kilian’s world,” Egloff and Jornet have developed a friendship. “Our sport is a gentleman’s sport,” says Egloff. “He’s the biggest sky runner in the world and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. Killian took this sport to another level and nobody would know who I am if it wasn’t for Kilian. He motivates me.”

On Friday, Jornet congratulated his friend on Twitter.

Next up for Egloff is Indonesia’s Puncak Jaya, the highest peak on the Australian continent. He hopes to tick that off next year. After that, he’ll climb Mount Vinson in Antarctica. And in two or three years, he’ll attempt to set the speed record on Everest. “I’ll need to go up and down in less than 22 hours,” he says. “I hope I can do it.”

It’s Official. Lindsey Vonn Announces Her Retirement.

2 Feb

In 1999, I moved to Vail, Colorado, to do some ski bumming. One day, I slid up beside my friend Reid Phillips, who was a coach for the local race program. As we chatted, a lanky young girl blasted through the slalom course, arcing turns and slapping plastic with the skill of a much older racer.

“She rips,” I said to Phillips. “Who is she?”

“That’s Lindsey Kildow,” said Phillips. “And, yeah, she does.”

The three of us got on the lift together and I looked at Kildow, who was 14, and said, “You’re really good.” She shyly sat there, her head lowered as she stared down at her dangling skis, and answered, “Thanks.”

A year later Kildow was named to the U.S. Ski Team. She gained muscle mass and pretty quickly began scoring points on the World Cup circuit. By the time she won the overall World Cup title in 2008, she’d married and was on her way to becoming a household name: Lindsey Vonn.

Vonn became known for her ultra-aggressive, somewhat insane approach to racing. “I’m slightly crazy and I don’t get scared,” she once told me. “I’m willing to risk everything.” That attitude garnered her three Olympic medals, seven World Championship medals, and another three overall titles. But it also caused spectacular crashes that often put her in hospitals, on bed rest, and forced her to miss huge chunks of the racing season.   

The next time I sat down with Vonn it was two years ago in her home in Vail, not far from the chairlift where we’d had our first “conversation.” She’d been through a lot. Numerous devastating injuries, one of which prevented her from racing in the 2014 Olympics, a divorce, and a very public breakup from golfer Tiger Woods. That day, she confidently looked me in the eye and told me her plan. At that point, she’d won 76 World Cup races, 11 short of the record held by Swedish racer Ingemar Stenmark. “I want to break that record,” she said. Later, I watched as Vonn grunted and swore through painful-looking exercises, all of which were specifically designed to try to fortify her busted joints and give her a shot at reaching her goals.

But it wasn’t enough. When Vonn, now 34, announced her retirement Friday, she’d won 82 World Cup races, five short of Stenmark’s record. In the end, it was the injuries that prevented her from attaining her goals. “Over the past few years I have had more injuries and surgeries than I care to admit,” she says in a post to Facebook today. “My body is broken beyond repair and it isn't letting me have the final season I dreamed of. My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen… Honestly, retiring isn’t what upsets me. Retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever.”

Though that may haunt Vonn, it won’t tarnish her legacy. She leaves the sport with the most World Cup wins by a woman. And she was one of the few ski racers to win in five events on the World Cup: downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, and combined. She has made more people care about ski racing and part of that is due to her celebrity. It’s fairly safe to say that no ski racer has ever been as famous as Vonn, and her walks down the red carpet at major events like the Oscars, photo spreads in magazines like Sports Illustrated and Vogue, and high–profile relationships, helped bring more fans to an otherwise niche sport. Vonn was also a committed ambassador who often made time to visit with kids—especially young girls—and share her experiences. Many, no doubt, walked away dreaming they’d become the next Lindsey Vonn.

But it was her athletics that drew the most eyeballs. Throughout her career, people tuned in to watch her crush the competition by seconds (eons in ski racing). People also watched to see if they might witness a dramatic Vonn crash, like the one in the super-G at the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria. In that race, Vonn careened off a jump, flew over the handlebars, and tore her ACL and MCL.

Her heroics were also noteworthy. Before the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, she injured her shin and publicly stated that she might not be able to race. She hobbled around for several days, then won the downhill race.

According to Bode Miller, considered the best American male skier to ever live, Vonn’s proven her greatness despite not catching Stenmark. “She has a lot of check marks that put her at the very, very top,” Miller told Reuters in January. “Stenmark lived in a different era, it wasn’t the modern era and he never had to deal with the things Lindsey had to deal with throughout her career.”

Vonn will race twice more before ending her career. On February 5, she’ll ski the super-G at the Alpine World Championships in Are, Sweden. On February 10, she’ll push through the start gate for a final time in the World Championship downhill. 

In her Facebook post Friday, she wrote: “I always say, ‘Never give up!’ So to all the kids out there, to my fans who have sent me messages of encouragement to keep going… I need to tell you that I’m not giving up! I’m just starting a new chapter.”

Vonn is likely to pour as much energy into whatever comes next (she’s hinted at an acting career) as she did her ski racing career. “There’s one gear for me and that’s going 100 percent,” she told me when we spoke two years ago. “That will never change.”    

Why Your North Face Jacket Is Called a “Ceptor”

26 Mar

In June 2016, Will Hagna, a senior designer for The North Face, and Austin Robbs, one of TNF’s senior product managers, sat in a small room in the company’s offices in Alameda, California, drinking beers and trying to come up with a name for a new jacket. The ski coat, which would hit store racks in fall 2017, was tough, minimalist, and utilitarian, featuring few pockets, big Velcro pull tabs on the cuffs, and exposed zippers with oversized pulls. It came in gray, blue, and khaki. As Robbs describes it, the jacket was a reaction to the frilly ski clothing dominating the market. “We wanted to go in the other direction and create something that was clean-looking and extremely functional,” he says.

Surrounding Hagna and Robbs were mood boards, ten-foot-high pieces of cardboard plastered with photos of punk rockers, muscle cars, and concrete buildings. The photos were meant to be a reflection of the jacket—images of things that are powerful, raw, classic, and functional—and to help inspire a name for the new coat. The method was tried and true, having yielded more than 100 product names for Robbs and Hagna in the past. But a year earlier, while trying to figure out what to call the jacket, the duo fell off-course.

“We’d road-tripped to Jackson Hole and considered naming it after one of the towns along the way,” Robbs says. “The Elko”—named after Elko, Nevada—“was circulating for a while, but it didn’t quite fit. It almost seemed like an inside joke.”

Now Robbs and Hagna were running out of time. Inside the small room, they began homing in on the pictures of buildings designed by brutalist architects. Like the jacket they were trying to name, brutalist designs are known for ruggedness and functionality. But there was more to consider. When choosing a product name, Hagna and Robbs say they try to avoid alliteration (“Too cute,” Robbs says) and puns (“Too hokey and confusing,” Hagna says). And they aim to keep names to two syllables. “If there’s a lot to say, people don’t like that,” Robbs says. “If it’s more than three syllables, it’s too cumbersome.”

“What about the Brutus?” Hagna asked. Derived from the French word brut, it conjured images of raw strength. The pair thought it would roll off the tongue and resonate with consumers. But that’s not the name the jacket ended up with.

What happened next is the classic story of how the outdoor gear we use is often christened with bizarre names. The Arc’teryx Arakys shoe, for example. Or Flylow’s Shregging pants. Or Patagonia’s Adze hoodie. Or, from TNF, the Ceptor and Repko jackets and the Rarig bib.

Hagna and Robbs sent 50 names, including Brutus (their favorite), to the company’s legal department for approval. Every one of them was rejected. “Ninety percent of the time, legal says no,” Robbs says. “They don’t really give us the reasons, but it’s mainly because we’d be stepping on the toes of somebody else who’s already using the name to build a business.”

Once again, the pair went back to the mood boards. They still felt like brutalist architecture was the right note to hit, but this time they went a level deeper, considering names of buildings and the architects who designed them. One stood out: the Balfron Tower, an apartment complex in London that sort of looks like it was built using an Erector Set.

The name Balfron was esoteric, but Robbs and Hagna liked its originality, and it passed the legal department’s smell test (the name of a jacket wouldn’t infringe on the commercial success of a building). In October 2017, the Balfron hit retailers; so far, TNF has sold more than 1,000 of the jackets—enough to consider the Balfron a modest success.

Naming gear wasn’t always so complicated. In the past, product names were usually descriptive, often spelling out the exact use of the item. L.L.Bean’s Maine Hunting Shoe, for example, is one of the most iconic pieces of gear ever made. Built in 1981, Specialized’s first mountain bike, the Stumpjumper, implied that the bike could, well, jump stumps. The product name was so popular that Specialized still builds a bike called the Stumpjumper, even though it couldn’t be more different than the original.

“Obviously, descriptive names have their advantages,” says Barbara Kahn, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. “The problem is that most of those names exist now. When you consider legal issues, translation issues, and what’s available, it cuts down a whole lot of options.”

That dearth of alternatives can lead to crossover, which sometimes leads to lawsuits. In 2011, First Descents, a Colorado nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for young adults with cancer, sued Eddie Bauer for a line of clothing it was calling First Descent, arguing that it infringed on its brand name. The case was settled, and Eddie Bauer stopped calling its line First Descent (though it continues to produce a line called First Ascent).

There are also examples of companies clashing over corporate names. In 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit settled a long legal battle between Black Diamond Equipment, the Salt Lake City–based gear and clothing manufacturer founded in 1989, and Black Diamond Sportswear, a Vermont-based company founded in 1990, finding that Black Diamond Equipment had the rights to both the name and the logo. Black Diamond Sportswear subsequently went out of business.

Sometimes, brands work things out without the help of legal arbitration. Yeti Coolers and Yeti Cycles have a deal in place that sets clear naming boundaries. You won’t, for example, ever see Yeti Coolers put its name on a bike, even for promotional purposes. But for the most part, potential legal ramifications have caused a chilling effect when it comes to naming products in the outdoor industry. “Those situations make making up a word a dominant alternative,” Kahn says.

When Dan Abrams and Greg Steen, founders and owners of Flylow, brainstorm ideas for their ski and bike apparel, they often turn to 1970s and ’80s TV shows and movies, seeking out obscure character names that wouldn’t already be assigned to a piece of outdoor apparel. “Say you look up the movie Fletch,” Abrams says. “There’s all these names in there, and then, bam: the Irwin sock and the Frieda sock. Nobody owns those names. Nobody has put a trademark on the names Irwin or Frieda.”

At Yeti Cycles, at least one name was based on an inside joke. “We always said that we wouldn’t make a 29er, because we thought they were dumb,” says Janette Sherman, marketing manager for Yeti Cycles. “We called them clown bikes. Then we realized they’re actually pretty great.” When Yeti named its first 29er, the company gave a nod to that preconception, calling it the Big Top.

Whether the name of a product has anything to do with its retail success is debatable. Kahn says that what really matters is the company’s brand recognition. “I instantly recognize The North Face logo,” she says. “That’s what draws me in. The name of the coat isn’t as important.” That might help explain why the names of some Patagonia products are uninspired: the Micro Puff and Nano Puff jackets, to name two.

For a smaller company like Flylow, Abrams argues that a product name can make a difference, noting that it can intrigue an otherwise indifferent retail-store buyer. “When you’re doing a showing, you sometimes see buyers eyes gloss over, and then you mention the Shregging pant and it wakes them up,” he says. “They’re like, ‘The what?’ And you say, ‘You know, a shred legging.’ You can ski or do yoga in it. That usually eases the tension, and they remember the name.”

Inside TNF offices, Robbs and Hagna are reminiscing.

“There was a jacket that Austin called the Oak Laser,” Hagna says. “It was a jacket that could go from the bar to the hill.”

“I live in Oakland, and it looked like a blazer,” Robbs says.

“I was like, what the hell is this? Oakland and a laser?” Hagna says.

“He’s never let me live that down,” Robbs says.

Not surprisingly, the jacket ended up with another bizarre name: the Alligare, a Latin word meaning “to bind together.” The men thought it was appropriate since the coat was a blend of mountain technical and ski-town chic. But that name posed problems because sales reps had trouble pronouncing it, which can make it confusing for customers.

Robbs says the pair learned a lesson from that. “Maybe we should just use climate-related names,” he jokes. “They’re usually easy to say, and they sometimes work.” In fact, one of TNF’s most successful jackets was the Vortex Triclimate, which was named at a moment when the Weather Channel hosts were spending significant time discussing the polar vortex.

“Oooh,” Hagna says. “The Bomb Cyclone is great name for a jacket.”

“I’ll write that down,” says Robbs.

The Quadruple Cork Is the Future of Snowboarding

23 Jan

Snowboarders in South Korea will fly higher and perform more-complicated maneuvers than ever before, thanks in part to practice airbags. The cushy landings provided by the stuntman-style crash pads mitigate injury risk, allowing riders to master tricks they’d otherwise never dream of trying. “The amount of progression that occurred during the 20 years when we didn’t have airbags has been matched during the four years since we started using them,” says Jack Mitrani, a former competitive rider.

Still, one of the hardest moves we’re likely to see at the 2018 Winter Games was developed the old-school way, by repeatedly bashing out attempt after attempt on cold, unforgiving snow. The quadruple cork—four off-axis flips and five 360s—requires a purpose-built jump to give athletes enough hang time for all those rotations and has been landed by only five men, including American Chris Corning, who nailed it last spring during a practice run at Mammoth Mountain in California. “It’s never even been tried in a slopestyle competition,” says Corning. “But it might be what it takes to win.” Here, Corning breaks down why the quad cork is so challenging.

Step 1: As you ride up the 65-foot-long jump, you get on the toe-side edge of your board in an athletic stance, ready to spring off the lip with enough power to launch 25 feet into the air and 80 feet across the snow.

Step 2: As you launch, you initiate the first flip and rotation by throwing your head and right hand to the left.

Step 3: As you rotate, you grab the heel edge of the board with your front hand. You’ll be completing four rotations, and in order to know where you are in the trick, it’s important to count the sky and the ground four times each, so you know when it’s time to land.

Step 4: During the fourth rotation, you spot the landing, let go of your board, and stop twisting your head. Then you brace for impact.

Step 5: The landing is the hardest part. You’ve created a lot of G-force that you now need to halt, and you’re coming down from a height of 25 feet. You have to be strong to handle the compression, which is why I do lots of back squats, squat jumps, and core work. For a flawless touchdown, you want to drop into a deep squat, keeping your chest upright and your hands off the ground.

The Nordic Team’s Secret to Olympic Success

23 Jan

A few months before the 2015 Nordic World Championships in Falun, Sweden, the women on the U.S. cross-country ski team were starting to get anxious. Jessie Diggins had an idea to calm the squad’s jitters and refocus everyone on racking up medals: make a music video. “We had all this nervous energy,” says the 26-year-old Diggins. “But it’s hard to worry about your next race when you’re doing the Macarena.”

She choreographed a dance routine to Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk” and, over the next several weeks, roped in the entire women’s team (and some male skiers, too) to shoot various scenes, lip-synching while moonwalking in ski boots through the streets of quaint European villages.

The video went viral, racking up millions of views before it was finally pulled from Facebook. “We didn’t have the rights to the music,” explains Diggins. But the stunt served its purpose. Diggins came away from the World Championships with silver, and teammate Caitlin Compton Gregg won bronze. “We’ve taken an individual sport and turned it into a team sport,” says Diggins. “We’re always cheering each other on and boosting each other up as much as we can. I see my teammates more than I see my actual family.”

That group mentality has helped elevate a traditionally also-ran cross-country ski team to one of the best in the world. Since 2013, six American women have stood on World Cup podiums a total of 27 times. Much of the credit for that goes to Kikkan Randall, the pink-haired star who, with 13 wins, has more World Cup victories than any other American. “It used to be that everybody was on their own plan,” says Randall. “But when we come together and push each other, we all improve.”

In South Korea, American cross-country skiers will be looking to win the team’s first Olympic medal since 1976, when Bill Koch won silver. The chances are good. “I don’t even think it takes a perfect day in the team sprint to get us on the stand,” says Randall.

But first, another music video. “If we can get the rights, I’ll be all about choreographing a new dance routine,” says Diggins. “It depends on whether Macklemore gets back to us.”

Bringing Your Plus-One

How new-mom athletes are shaking up the Games

Back in 2016, when cross-country skier Kikkan Randall was planning her first child, Breck, she timed the delivery so that she could be back in shape by the time the Winter Games in Pyeongchang rolled around. She wasn’t alone—three other top American and ­European nordic racers had babies within five months of one another. At the time, the International Ski Federation classified new moms and pregnant women as injured, which came with a rankings penalty and put sponsorships at risk. “When men want to have a family, they don’t have to stop competing or potentially lose their livelihood,” Randall says. So she and others petitioned the FIS to accommodate new moms. Starting last year, there was designated space for breastfeeding at races, housing assistance for families, and even team babysitters, policies that will continue in South Korea. Nordic is the first Olympic sport to institute a program of this kind, and success could determine whether it’s adopted by the International Olympic Committee. “Having a baby was my choice,” Randall says. “But I’m in a sport where you develop in your late twenties. I didn’t want to wait, and I didn’t want to walk away.” —Heather Hansman

5 Americans to Watch in the 2018 Olympics

23 Jan

From five different sports, here's who to root for on Team USA—and when to watch them.

Steven Nyman

35, alpine skiing

Nyman, of Park City, Utah, has won three World Cup races and came in third in the only World Cup event run on the South Korean course in 2016. He believes the track suits him. “It has lots of little jumps and rolls and wacky, bumpy terrain that I feel comfortable on,” he says. And despite tearing his knee last January, he likes his chances. “Most guys I talk to who’ve been through knee injuries say that a year out is when you feel 100 percent,” he says. “So these Olympics are good timing.”

Watch Nyman compete in the downhill on February 10, 8:30 P.M. EST, on NBC.

16 02 2017
Lowell Bailey (NordicFocus/U.S. Biathlon)

Lowell Bailey

36, biathlon

About halfway through the Sochi biathlon, Bailey, who lives in Lake Placid, New York, was well positioned to win the bronze. Then he missed a target, dropping him into eighth place and denying the Americans their first ever biathlon medal. That prompted the team to hire Matt Eamons, an Olympic gold-medal shooter, and Gerold Sattlecker, a biomechanics professor at Austria’s University of Salzburg. Together they used computer analysis to make minute adjustments to various aspects of the team’s shooting technique. The result was a gold medal for Bailey at the 2017 World Championships, the first by an American. “On any given day, there are 50 guys who have a chance of medaling,” says Bailey. “Winning gave me confidence that I know what it takes.”

Watch Bailey compete in the sprint biathlon on February 11, 5:45 A.M. EST, on NBC.

Jaime Greubel Poser (Leon Neal/Getty)

Jamie Greubel Poser

34, bobsled

Greubel Poser quit the bobsled after the first time she tried it. “I felt like I got put in a tin can and kicked off a cliff,” she says. The former Cornell University track athlete put down her helmet and went to graduate school, earning a master’s degree in early childhood education. Then she got a call from Phoebe Burns, a driver on the women’s bobsled team. “She knew I had a fast start time and wanted me to help push her,” says Greubel Poser. “So I decided to try again.” Good choice. In Sochi, Greubel Poser won bronze with teammate Aja Evans. Now she’s the top-ranked bobsledder in the world.

Watch Greubel Poser compete in the bobsled on February 18, 6:20 A.M. EST, on NBC.

Erin Hamlin (Jan Hetfleisch/Getty)

Erin Hamlin

31, luge

Thanks to a hefty budget and technically advanced sleds, Germans have dominated the luge for years. One bright spot for Americans is Hamlin, a native of Remsen, New York, who won bronze at the Sochi Olympics—the luge team’s only medal. Hamlin is now favored to win Team USA’s first Olympic gold medal in luge, partly because of the squad’s recent partnership with Dow Chemical and sandpaper manufacturer Norton Saint-Gobain. Using 3-D printing, computer modeling, and advanced aerodynamics, the two companies have manu­factured sleds with dramatically lower friction and vibration, saving precious tenths of a second. “Before, we sort of used homemade equipment,” says Hamlin. “Now there’s a lot more science that goes into it. It makes a big difference.”

Watch Hamlin compete in the luge on February 18, 5:20 A.M. EST, on NBC.

Joey Mantia

31, speed skating

The South Korea Games will mark the debut of mass-start speed skating, a head-to-head—and sometimes fist-to-back—race that sends up to 28 athletes 16 laps around the 400-meter oval at once. “It’s like Nascar on ice,” says Mantia. “People are grabbing hips and pushing.” Mantia, who is from Ocala, Florida, won 28 World Championship titles in in-line skating before switching to speed skating in 2011. Last year he won the World Championship and is a favorite to take the gold in the new event. “It’s a lot like in-line, the first to the finish line wins,” he says. “That’s right in my wheelhouse.”

Watch Mantia compete in the mass start on February 24, 5:30 A.M. EST, on NBC.

2018 Will be America’s Best Winter Olympics Ever

23 Jan

We’re calling it: South Korea will play host to Team America’s most successful Winter Olympics ever. Why? We’re stacked. We’ve got established superstars like Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White; a slew of ringers in some of the more unheralded sports, including biathlete Lowell Bailey and nordic skier Kikkan Randall; and a litter of fresh talent, many of whom have been quietly dominating their sport for the past couple of years.

Take a look, if you will, at our alpine athletes. Mikaela Shiffrin you probably know. The 22-year-old earned gold in slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games and took the overall World Cup title last year. This time around she’s favored to repeat in the slalom, and expected to be on the podium in the giant slalom and the super combined as well. Then there’s our young snowboarding crew: Red Gerard won his first World Cup slopestyle event last season; Maddie Mastro is consistently on the halfpipe podium at the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships; Hailey Langland won last year’s X Games big-air competition. All three are 17 years old.

Chloe Kim (Gabe L'Heureux)

Finally, there’s Chloe Kim. The snowboard prodigy broke out four years ago, when she was just 13, taking 12th in the halfpipe event at the 2013 U.S. Open in Vail, Colorado. “As soon as she came on the scene, you knew she’d be the future,” says Jack Mitrani, a former competitive snowboarder who announces the X Games for ESPN. “She has incredible style, and she goes ten feet higher above the pipe than anybody else.” In 2015 and 2016, she won back-to-back titles at the X Games.

“She’s the female Shaun White,” says Mitrani. Well, not quite. For that, Kim will need some Olympic bling and a hell of a lot more notoriety. But if all goes well, she’ll be leaving South Korea with her face on a Wheaties box and a Flying Tomato–esque nickname. Which seems appropriate, since this will likely be the last Olympics for White and the rest of his contemporaries, including Vonn and reigning Olympic GS champ Ted Ligety. The snowboard king will soon be dead. Long live the queen. But first: total Olympic domination by the most formidable U.S. squad ever to don full Lycra.

5 Americans to Watch in the 2018 Olympics

Get ready for these contenders to crush the Winter Games.

Snowboarder Shaun White (Adam Pretty/Getty)

The Nordic Team's Secret to Olympic Success

Our best team in ages wins more by having fun.

At the 2017 Nordic World Championships in Finland. Clockwise from top: Sadie Bjornsen, Liz Stephen, Kikkan Randall, Jessie Diggins. (U.S. Ski and Snowboard)

How New Tech Is Transforming Our Olympic Teams

From mountain bike-inspired prosthetics to couch skiing, Americans are using the latest advances to maximize their output.

Colour Image
Before American ski racers push through the gate in February, they will have already run the downhill course hundreds of times. (Future Publishing/Getty)

Jamie Anderson's Olympic Packing List

The essentials snowboarder Jamie Anderson will bring to the Olympic Village to help her perform at her best.

Snowboarder Jamie Anderson’s bag of stuff. (Hannah McCaughey)

The Quadruple Cork Is the Future of Snowboarding

How to master one of the toughest moves we’ll see at the 2018 Games.

Brit Billy Morgan sticks a quadruple cork in Italy. (Red Bull Media House)

We’ll Miss You, Julia Mancuso

19 Jan

In 2006, I sat in the library at the Outside offices and made my case for why the magazine needed a feature story on ski racer Julia Mancuso. Earlier that year, Mancuso had surprised everybody who pays any attention to ski racing by winning the gold medal in the giant slalom event at the Olympics in Torino, Italy. She hadn’t done a whole lot before, but she seemed on the brink of breaking out. She could be the first American woman to win an overall World Cup title in 25 years, I argued. Moreover, I thought that, due to her ability, sass (she wore a tiara in one of her races at the Olympics), and good looks, she could transcend the sport, taking on Maria Sharapova-like fame. 

“OK,” said Chris Keyes, the editor of the magazine. “So who are we gonna get to write it?” I was an associate editor and I’d never been sent outside the office to report a story. “Um, how about me?” I responded. Mancuso spent her offseason surfing, paddleboarding, and hiking around Maui. Going down there and tagging along seemed like a pretty great first assignment—and Keyes bit.

As it turned out, Mancuso played as hard as she ski raced. And she insisted that I play just as hard. After four days in Maui, I left black and blue and even more impressed by Mancuso, whose breeziness was infectious. As my colleague Grayson Schaffer later wrote, “Mancuso is the Olympic champion you’d want to drink a beer with.”

Julia Mancuso retired Friday after a remarkable 18-year career. She didn’t quite achieve everything that I’d predicted she would, but she still leaves the sport as one of the most important figures in the history of American ski racing. Because of her success at the important, high-pressure events, she earned a reputation as a big-race skier. She went on to win three more Olympic medals (two silvers and a bronze), making her the most decorated American ski racer in Olympic history. In addition, she won five World Championship medals and reached the podium in 36 World Cup races, winning seven.

But despite landing on magazine covers (including Outside's, in 2014), she didn’t reach mainstream celebrity status. That honor, of course, went to Mancuso’s teammate, Lindsey Vonn. If it wasn’t for Mancuso, though, Vonn might have never enjoyed the success that she has.

The two grew up racing against each other, constantly pushing each other to be better. Though their personal relationship always seemed a bit frosty, Vonn thanked her rival Friday. “If it wasn’t for Julia Mancuso,” she said, “I wouldn’t still be here and wouldn’t have been so successful. We pushed each other for so many years.”

Mancuso skied her final race Friday in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, the place where she scored her first World Cup podium. Still sassy as ever, she wore a red cape, her tiara now airbrushed onto her helmet.

Katie Bono Just Set the Speed Record Up Denali

22 Jun

Photo Gallery: Katie Bono Just Set the Speed Record Up Denali

On June 14 at 3 a.m., Katie Bono crawled into basecamp on Alaska’s Mount Denali, frostbitten and exhausted. Bono, 29, had left the same camp, located at 7,200 feet, at 6 a.m. the previous morning, summited the 20,310-foot peak (North America’s highest) in minus 40 degree temperatures at 8:46 p.m., then headed back down.

Her round-trip time of 21 hours, 6 minutes set the women’s speed record on the mountain, and was the third-fastest time ever recorded on Denali. What makes Bono’s accomplishment even more impressive is that, during the three-and-a-half weeks she spent on the mountain, she ran into a number of setbacks. Denali has been cold and stormy this year, resulting in only about 30 percent of permitted climbers reaching the summit. (Normally 50 percent make it.) Well into an earlier summit push, Bono had to turn around due to bad weather. In addition, she had to help a friend who’d fallen ill get off the mountain, and, during her record-setting attempt, she didn’t have enough food or water. Savannah Cummins, a photographer from Salt Lake City, was there to document the trip.
Bono left her home in Boulder, Colorado, and arrived on Denali via ski plane on May 20. Since January, Bono, a former Nordic ski racer for Dartmouth College, had been studying for the MCAT, finishing pre-requisite classes at the University of Colorado, and applying to medical school. In between that, she trained eight to 20 hours per week, doing long ski tours and short running intervals.
To acclimatize, Bono climbed from basecamp up to camp 14 at 14,000 feet. Most nights, at around midnight, she’d leave her tent to go to the bathroom and say, “Savannah, you have to see this sunset.”
From 14 camp, Bono did short training missions. On the morning captured here, on May 30, she prepped for a climb to 17,000 feet. On June 2, she left 14 camp and tried to tag the summit, but was turned around at 19,500 feet due to bad weather.
As part of her acclimatization, Bono joined another Denali climber, Mik Metzler, for a few days of skiing. That included ripping down Rescue Gully, a small 40-degree chute near 17,000 feet.
The village at 14 camp.
On June 5, Bono left 14 camp to head back down to basecamp in preparation for an attempt at the speed record. On the way out, Bono’s friend, Metzler, began complaining of stomach pain. “Where?” she asked. “Lower right,” Metzler responded. Bono immediately suspected that Metzler was suffering appendicitis. By the time they got near basecamp, Metzler was in bad shape, and they were forced to load him onto a gear sled and pull him to camp. Later, as seen in this photo, they loaded Metzler onto a helicopter that flew him to the hospital in Anchorage where he underwent successful surgery for appendicitis.
On June 7, Bono left basecamp at 6 a.m. and was able to make it to 18,100 feet in just 11 hours, 9 minutes. But a storm was fast approaching. “The wind was blowing 30 miles per hour and I knew it was just going to get worse,” she says. She turned around and headed back to basecamp.
At 6 a.m. on June 13, Bono checked her watch and set out for the summit. Early on, she was forced to break trail through a foot of recently fallen snow. “I’d taken a bunch of Aleve because I knew my hip was going to hurt,” she says. “It made it much better.” As she started up the fixed line at 15,800 feet, the water that she was keeping warm inside her coat fell out and careened down the mountain and out of sight. She was lucky to pass a friend who gave her half a liter, the only water she’d have for the next 10 hours. Then, at 19,700 feet, she bonked. She’d only consumed about 1,700 calories, mostly in the form of sports gels. “I was dehydrated and I should have brought more food,” she says.
When she got to the summit ridge at 20,100 feet, she tried to pull ice off her nose. “Then I realized it wasn’t ice that had frozen on my nose,” she says. “It was my nose.” She walked along the summit ridge to the summit, which took half an hour, reaching the top of the mountain in 14 hours, 45 minutes. “When I got there, I only had enough energy to make a funny pose for the camera,” she says.
Bono hiked back down to 14,000 feet, then put her skis on. “I actually got to make some pow turns in the snow that I’d broken trail through,” she says. “It was good skiing.” When she pulled back into basecamp at 3 a.m., she ate mac and cheese and drank hot chocolate. “I did some smiling,” she says. “But that’s about it. I was so tired.”