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Hanging out at Ninja Nation’s Centennial gym. Photo by Chayce Lanphear

Ask an Adventurer: Everything You Need to Know to Survive Until Spring

Our real-life risk-takers take on spring break excursions, avalanches, and biking to work in the winter.

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Q: Spring break starts this month—smack dab in the middle of slush season. Trails are sloppy and snowy, but if I don’t get these kids out of the house, I’m going to lose it. Any ideas?
To avoid the elements entirely, you can always take your children to one of the indoor parkour gyms that are the current craze. Both Apex (locations in Denver, Louisville, and Fort Collins) and Ninja Nation (a ninja-style gym with locations in Centennial and Lafayette) and Lafayette) offer open-gym times, when your brood can charge up different obstacles and swing from monkey bars until their energy reserves are depleted and sweet, serene exhaustion sets in. Another idea: Geocaching provides a sense of adventure without having to leave the car much. People hide objects, typically boxes with messages inside, in remote locations, and you use maps and GPS to track them down. I’ve seen kids transfixed looking for clues like “two intertwined trees.” When they finally get to the prize, the sense of accomplishment is amazing. (Geocaching.com tracks nearly 7,000 geocaches in and around Denver.) Finally, you can just embrace the elements. It’s not always going to be 60 degrees and sunny. Accepting that and telling your children, Hey, we’re going to have a muddy, fun adventure on the trail today, expands their love of nature and teaches them how to prepare for all sorts of conditions. Be sure to pack extra towels, though. —Eric Rightor, director of Avid4 Adventure at Mt. Evans, an overnight camp for grade-school kids located outside of Evergreen

Q: Colorado has more avalanche fatalities than any other state. What’s going on?
A: There are two main culprits—lousy snow stability and city dwellers unaware of the risks. Rapid changes in temperature, common in Colorado, break down snowflakes and stop them from sticking together. Add in a layer of new snowfall on top of the old, unstable stuff, and it’s like a house of cards waiting to break apart. Consult the Colorado Avalanche Information Center; it broadcasts snow conditions and tells you which slopes to avoid. The mountains in Colorado are also close to cities, so it’s easier for untrained novices to access risky spots. You should really take an avalanche-awareness class if you’re going to go gallivanting in the backcountry, and remember to listen to your group. One person who thinks an area doesn’t look safe—he or she might see damaged foliage and felled trees, a sign avalanches are common in the area—is reason enough to abort the excursion. And if you get caught in one? Keep your hands near your face, and when the avalanche debris decelerates, punch out to create an air pocket. —Susan Purvis, lead instructor for the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education

Q: Is there any way to make cold, snowy bike commuting (see: chapped lips, slippery streets, snot-crusted cheeks) less awful?
A: It’s actually not that bad, as long as you’re prepared. I always wear good, waterproof boots in case I need to get off the bike and walk, breathable jackets I can layer, and some sort of eyewear, including goggles when it snows. You don’t even need a special kind of bike: Road tires are so narrow they have a nice pizza-cutter effect in the snow—though thicker tires make most folks feel safer. Salt on the roads will rust chains and bikes, so I clean mine more and use a lot of chain lube to help prevent that. You also don’t want to ride too hard. The cold can really burn your lungs. —Derek Hetlage, manufacturing lead at Moots, a bike maker in Steamboat Springs

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