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Inside Out NEWS AND NOTES FROM THE WORLD OF ADVENTURE SPORTS

March 18, 2002
March 18, 2002

Table of Contents
March 18, 2002

Si Adventure

Inside Out NEWS AND NOTES FROM THE WORLD OF ADVENTURE SPORTS

Accidental Star
Brett Wolfe lost a leg in a motorcycle crash but found a calling
as an endurance mountain biker

This is an article from the March 18, 2002 issue

No matter how many endurance-mountain-bike races Brett Wolfe
competes in, he can't seem to finish better than the middle of
the pack. Yet when he does reach the finish, he's invariably met
by a wildly cheering crowd and a fair number of people who take
a look at him and shout out, "Holy s---!'"

That's a fair reaction upon realizing that Wolfe has no right
leg. By finishing the world's most demanding endurance
races--typically ahead of one third of the other racers--he is
covering ground that no one-legged man has covered before. "What
I hope I'm doing," says the 32-year-old Seattle resident, "is
shattering people's perceptions."

For Wolfe, having one leg is what getting older is to the rest of
us: It's not bad when you consider the alternative. In August
1990 he was whipping along an Alaskan highway on his motorcycle
when he struck a guardrail that tore off the bottom of his leg.
Wolfe was pitched 30 feet into the frigid Pacific Ocean below,
and doctors later said he was both a few minutes from dying of
hypothermia and a few minutes from dying of blood loss. The
overall trauma was so severe--he also broke three ribs and
suffered a collapsed lung--that Wolfe twice needed electric-shock
treatment to revive him during the surgery in which his leg was
amputated three quarters of the way up his leg. Four months later
he was going down a slope on a paraplegic monoski. Four months
after that, he started to mountain bike.

By now he's done all the most famously painful endurance
races--24 Hours of Moab, 24 Hours of Adrenalin, the Cream Puff
100--and last fall he completed La Ruta, the torturous three-day
traverse over 300 miles of Costa Rica's most punishing terrain.
He came in 167th out of 275 starters. Wolfe, who never wears a
prosthesis during races, rides with his left foot clipped to the
pedal. He often relies on trees to push off and gain his balance
over rough land, but it's not the biking that daunts him so much
as the hiking. Serious endurance races include long, unbikable
passages, and during La Ruta, for example, Wolfe traveled more
than 15 miles by hopping alongside his bike and gripping the
handlebars. That's a bit like doing a shoulder dip with each
step. "I use more of my upper body than other endurance racers,"
says Wolfe, "but otherwise, I'm not much different from the
two-legged variety." --Kostya Kennedy

indoor Adventure
David Breashears's new IMAX film comes with a nice view, but
without the cliff-hanging drama of Everest

Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa, IMAX. Opened March 8 People
don't die every time a climbing party goes up a really tall
mountain. That's why this 40-minute saunter by director David
Breashears lacks the urgency of his previous IMAX film, Everest,
which chronicles the 1996 storm that killed eight people near
the world's highest peak and generated $100 million in
box-office sales. Rather, Kilimanjaro--which follows one guide
and six ordinary folk, ranging from a 13-year-old Tanzanian boy
to a Danish model, on a 10-day ascent of Africa's highest
peak--feels more like a wicked cool geology lesson than an
adventure movie. Temperatures swing (from broiling to freezing),
flora changes (from 30-foot heather trees to plain dirt) and the
group discusses such issues as how craters are formed. Given the
success Breashears has had with the rubbernecking crowd, his
attempt to inject a sense of peril into the film is
understandable. It's also silly. No matter how grave the
intonations of the narrator, Jacob Kyungai, it's hard to get
worked up when British grandmum Audrey Salkeld has trouble
adjusting to the thin air, or when the 13-year-old, Hans Mmari,
twists his knee. Still, climbing 19,340 feet over 45 miles adds
up to one hell of a hike, and it leads to the icing on top: The
famous snows of Kilimanjaro are astounding in IMAX photography;
even if you've seen this ice cap before, it's worth the price of
admission. --K.K.

Etc.

In his first World Championship Tour event since coming out of
retirement, Kelly Slater was eliminated in the fourth round at
last week's Quiksilver Pro off Australia's Gold Coast. Said the
six-time surfing world champ, who was beaten by eventual winner
Joel Parkinson of Australia, "I'm surfing as good as I ever
have. The level on tour has risen." ... Among the notable
absentees at this weekend's U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships
at Vermont's Stratton Mountain will be Tara Dakides (left), who
broke a tibia and tore an ACL in a nasty wipeout while
practicing for the slopestyle competition at last month's world
snowboarding championship in Vail.... Franziska Rochat-Moser of
Switzerland, the winner of the 1997 New York Marathon, died on
March 7, one day after she was buried by an avalanche in the
Swiss Alps. Rochat-Moser, 35, who retired from competitive
running last summer after a hip operation, was on a skiing and
climbing trip.... Having endured too many chilly Alaska winters
and at times an even chillier reception from Alaskans resentful
of his outsider status, four-time Iditarod champion Doug
Swingley of Lincoln, Mont., is hanging up his sled. "The fact
that I'm tired of competing in the Iditarod has to do with a lot
of things," said Swingley, 48, the only non-Alaskan to win the
Iditarod in its 30-year history. "The remarks from my
competitors, Alaskans' snide remarks. I don't enjoy that part at
all. The easiest thing is to back away from it."

out There
A skidome with a rotating slope sounds like a snow job, but it's
almost real

As novel ideas go, the Ski-Trac skidome is a whopper. Inside
this 18-story-high colossus, which features a motorized indoor
slope that rotates upward, skiers can get in longer runs in the
confined space, all at a comfy, climate-controlled 45[degrees].
Safe to say that if someone plopped one down near you, you'd be
tempted to take a peek.

Kevin Ferris, the Australian founder of Ski-Trac, along with a
group of Welsh businessmen, recently submitted plans to build a
skidome in an economically depressed region of northwestern
Wales. The complex would include a 400-room luxury hotel and a
Dutch-style skating canal among other novelties. The rub, alas,
is that the skidome might be nothing more than a Rube Goldberg
contraption. When pressed by SI on the potential technological
glitches of the motorized indoor slope, Ferris, 62, admitted
that he didn't have a background in engineering or, for that
matter, the ski industry. "If I hadn't invented it, it would've
been invented by somebody else," he says.

Then there is the price tag. While he was intrigued by the
concept of the skidome and its motorized slope, Michael Berry,
president of the U.S. National Ski Areas Association, had a good
chuckle when apprised of the estimated $200 million cost of the
project. "Steamboat [in Colorado]," he says, "just sold for $92
million." --Bill Syken

COLOR PHOTO: OTTO GREULE Mettle to the pedal For Wolfe biking is the easy part; it's walking the bike that's proved far tougher.COLOR PHOTO: OTTO GREULE Making tracks Last fall Wolfe completed the brutally tough La Ruta race.COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICCOLOR PHOTO: JOEY TERRILLCOLOR PHOTO: SKI-TRAC.COM Uphill battle Wales will have to pay a steep price for indoor skiing.COLOR PHOTO: PIERRE TOSTEE/GETTY IMAGES Biff of the month Headed Down Under As entertaining as it may have been for onlookers standing on the nearby beach, this swell was no barrel of laughs for Cory Lopez during the first round of last week's Quiksilver Pro in Australia.

For Real

With its 1,150 miles of subzero temperatures, blizzards and
frozen tundra, Alaska's Iditarod is few people's idea of a
howling good time. By contrast, the Urban Iditarod, held on
Saturday in San Francisco, is just plain doggone fun. Less
slushy but far more sloshy than its cousin to the north, the
eighth Urban Iditarod featured some 150 racers clad in canine
costumes running across the city's downtown. Three miles later
the human mushers stumbled across the finish, having turned to
mush after their frequent rest stops at the numerous watering
holes along the way. "The goal is to dress up and have fun," one
competitor told the San Francisco Chronicle. "You don't want to
come in first because then you have to drink a lot."

Statitude

0
Deaths in adventure racing history before Tatiana Goldoni, 27,
of Uruguay collapsed from a heart attack roughly an hour from
the finish of the Desafio de los Volcanes in Argentina on Feb.
24. Only 35 of 65 teams completed the four-day event, which
included whitewater rafting, trekking and mountain biking
through the Patagonian terrain.

Good Surf

For more adventure, go to siadventure.com and check out these
features:

--Wild men: The Lewis and Clark rescue team shares its secrets
--Transworldmatrix.com: your source for extreme sports
--Trail guide: Complete U.S. National Parks info database