Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday Morning Time Waster


Jon Griffith's short film of Ueli Steck last winter setting the speed record for climbing the north face of the Grandes Jorasses by the Colton-MacIntyre (and a harder variation) in less than three hours. Griffith's website has details and killer still photos.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Twisted

I just finished four days of reporting for the Outdoor Retailer Show Daily, the daily newspaper of the trade show. It's a hard but fun gig that I've done two summers now, and a fresh way to participate in a show I've been visiting for well over a decade. This was the 10th anniversary of the tornado that struck downtown Salt Lake City during the trade show's set-up day, killing one person, injuring dozens, and wiping out more than 300 exhibitors' booths, including the one I was helping to set up for Rock & Ice. For the last day of the show daily, I wrote a column remembering the tornado.

For those curious about the tornado, here's my original text:

When the tornado struck, we were standing just outside Pavilion I, one of two football-field-size tents that housed Summer Market exhibitors before the Salt Palace expansion. We were lucky: We could see the storm coming. Even so, the tornado that struck Salt Lake City at 1 p.m. on August 11, 1999, Summer Market's set-up day, created some of the most terrifying and yet ultimately gratifying memories of my life.

I was publisher and editor of Rock & Ice magazine, and we were setting up a portable climbing wall outside the pavilion's main entrance when the sky turned green and began swirling ominously. Down the street, we saw roof panels flying off the Delta Center (now the Energy Solutions Arena). A whirling mass of dust and debris headed toward us. I looked for cover and saw only the Wyndham Hotel (now the Radisson) across South Temple—to get there we'd have to race toward the tornado, but it was our only choice. I screamed at the friends around me to run. We dashed into the lobby just as the tornado roared past and filled the air with glass.

Outdoor Retailer show director Kenji Haroutunian, then an account executive at his first show, was working near the Wyndham, too. “As a climbing instructor, I've been on rescues, including fatal accidents, but this was by far the most intense triage situation I've encountered,” he recalled. Nearly 100 people were injured by the 10-minute storm, a dozen critically, and one man—Allen Crandy, a set-up supervisor working inside Pavilion I—was killed.

Stunned, my small staff and I wandered around the wrecked pavilions as ambulances and police arrived. With no booth to set up, we gaped at the destruction and wondered what would happen next. Most of us just wanted to go home. It seemed impossible that the show could continue.

But over the next few hours, something amazing happened. Haroutunian said show officials soon began hearing from exhibitors—he recalls that Kelty was among the first—offering to share booth space with vendors who'd been in the pavilions. By late afternoon, when hundreds of anxious vendors packed into the Marriott, a tentative plan was in place: Day One of Summer Market would be canceled, but the show would go on. Dozens of exhibitors offered to share their booths with one or more displaced companies—Timberland ended up with 12 guest exhibitors--and the city scrambled to find rooms for attendees staying at the badly damaged Wyndham.

The Rock & Ice staff shacked up with our friends at Five Ten, and we cobbled together a pathetic display of the magazines and business cards we'd salvaged from the wreckage. But our meetings went on without a hitch. Climbing magazine, our arch-rival, reshuffled its demo schedule at the indoor climbing wall and allowed us to host a full slate of the events we'd hoped to put on outside Pavilion I. Throughout the Salt Palace, similar stories were unfolding.

“The show was obviously different, and it was tragic of course, but it was also really cool,” Haroutunian said. “It became a contest of who could be the most generous.”

That generous spirit continued after the show. The Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America passed the hat and collected more than $100,000 for a relief fund, which came as a huge relief to my small business when insurance wouldn't cover thousands of dollars of damage to our rental car.

I still have a souvenir of the tornado on my desk: my calculator, which I discovered in the wreckage outside Pavilion I, its surface twisted into a spiral by the force of the storm. It reminds me that the outdoor industry is blessed with a spirit that, when put to the test, can be more powerful than Mother Nature herself.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beautiful Ten Sleep

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