The annual Winter Trails day is being held this upcoming weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 12th. This is a program that offers free snowshoe and XC ski equipment rentals at approximately 100 locations in 24 states.
In addition to Winter Trails snowshoe and cross country ski events, several state resort associations, including Ski Utah, Vermont Ski Areas Association, Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association, Colorado Ski Country USA, New Hampshire, Ski Areas Association and others, are offering free or affordable learning programs for alpine skiing and snowboarding. Many of these programs can be found at www.winterfeelsgood.com
This post has nothing to do with the outdoors. Or gear. But you should read it simply for the Schadenfreude of it all, which is to say reveling in my misery as I went down on the mat for a story with a trained Ultimate Fighter named Austin Judge last month. This story describes a practice session where I learned -- and was the recipient of -- moves like the skip knee, the Thai clinch and a neck-tweaking hold called the guillotine. . .
For the past decade in America, the discipline du jour has been ultimate fighting, an anything-goes form of combat that mixes martial arts, boxing and wrestling to create matches made to mimic a real-world quarrel. "It answers the age-old question of who can beat who, and what fighting style will win," said Eric Aasen, owner of the American School of Martial Arts in Savage, Minn.
Dubbed "human cockfighting" by opponents, ultimate fighting has for years struggled for legitimization. Early fights matched such improbable opponents as massive sumo wrestlers against lithe kickboxers. The sport's bloody, bare-knuckled duels, which took place in octagonal cages, appalled public figures as prominent as Sen. John McCain, who contacted state governors in 1996 in an attempt to stomp support.
Ultimate fighting -- also called extreme fighting, no-holds-barred fighting, or, more generally, mixed martial arts or MMA -- was banned from broadcast and vilified by state sports commissioners. New York outlawed the sport completely in 1997, with a district attorney in Brooklyn threatening assault charges for competitors if fights continued.
But the sport has matured in recent years, with new rules, imposed weight classes, and industry consolidation that has helped to standardize competition format. Government sports-sanctioning bodies now regulate mixed martial arts matches in many states, including Minnesota, which last summer passed a law to put ultimate fighting under the jurisdiction of the state's Boxing Commission.
At the American School of Martial Arts, Aasen has 15 active fighters in training, including Derek Abram, a 23-year-old competitor from Savage who spends more than 35 hours a week in the gym. Last month, on a frigid Tuesday evening, I joined Abram and 10 other students in an hourlong mixed martial arts class. Aasen led the session, which focused on grappling moves and close-range clinches.
Long-time Gear Junkie readers might still remember when the column only appeared in newsprint. That's right, my efforts to review all the world's greatest gear began in the humble back pages of a sports section in Minneapolis.
Well, the column has grown, spurning a web site (http://thegearjunkie.com) plus now 10 syndicate newspapers that spread the Gospel of the Gear Junkie to about 2 million readers a week, from Albuquerque to Seattle, east all the way to Greensboro, N.C. And today we welcome a new paper: The Twin Falls Times-News, an Idaho publication headquartered south a ways from Ketchum, east from Boise, and in the middle of some of the best undiscovered wilderness in the Lower 48s.
Now, in total, here is the running tally of Gear Junkie syndicate publications: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Albuquerque Journal, Casper Star-Tribune, Spokane Spokesman-Review, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Greensboro News-Record, Cape Cod Times, Jackson Hole Star Tribune, Redding Record Searchlight, Billings Gazette, Twin Falls Times-News + Active.com