Good winter reads

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Backcountry biking
The latest edition of Tom Barnhart's "Steamboat Single Tracks, The Mountain Biking Guide to Steamboat Springs, Colorado," is indispensable for area cyclists searching for new routes to test their skills and endurance.
Barely 75 pages in length, this little book is almost an extended pamphlet but is packed with usable information and concise directions on how to find trailheads and what to expect along the trail. There are no scenic photos, but there are easy to visualize elevation charts. The trail maps are simple adaptations of USGS topographic maps, but they are readable and give riders the information they need.
Particularly enjoyable are Barnhart's "trip tips," such as how to avoid mud snakes.

A passion for photography
Every landscape photographer in Colorado admires what John Fielder has accomplished, both with his 4x5 view camera and in the world of book publishing. Can there be many households in the state that don't contain one of Fielder's books or calendars?
Fielder is so secure in his role as Colorado's pre-eminent nature photographer that he's published a book, "John Fielder's Best of Colorado, 165 Top Scenic Places." In it, he not only tells readers how to replicate some of his best scenic shots but where to eat dinner or golf once they put the camera down for the day.
The book is organized by the state's geographic regions. A map of the state pinpoints the location of each of the 165 locations where memorable photographs can be shot. Smaller maps are repeated throughout the volume showing exceptionally clear road maps.
The bulk of the text is devoted to Fielder's tips on how to enjoy a road trip through Colorado, with advice on everything from the best restaurants and B&B's to fishing opportunities. But the heart of the book is represented by the 165 Fielder landscapes with precise information on where the photographs were taken.
Fielder tells readers when to slow down and crane their necks to avoid missing a great view, and when to use a wide-angle lens to get the shot.
He tells his readers how best to compose in their viewfinders the sweep of fall color in the cottonwoods along the Rio Grande River and how to maximize depth of field while photographing wildflowers and aspen trees on Buffalo Pass outside Steamboat Springs.
This may be the ultimate guide to the Centennial State for anyone who is passionate about photography.

You wanna be like Lance?
Anyone who has ever pedaled a bicycle was thrilled to the spills and near-spills of Lance Armstrong during last summer's Tour de France. And by now, it's pretty well known that Armstrong is a physiological freak in terms of his body's suitability for climbing the Alps on two wheels.
That fact won't keep weekend cyclists from wanting to train the way Lance trains. Now, his personal fitness coach has laid it out in a new book.
Armstrong's coach since 1999 has been Chris Carmichael of Carmichael Training systems in Colorado Springs. One of Carmichael's employees, Jim Rutberg, has co-authored "Lance Armstrong, The Ultimate Ride."
The book contains complete workout programs designed to help cyclists of all abilities maximize their workouts.
The advice on physical training is combined with nutritional advice, goal-setting methods and mental exercises intended to help riders take leaps in performance.
Carmichael's training systems are based on "pyramids of success."
They worked for Lance Armstrong and many other athletes; the book appears indispensable for Steamboat's serious aerobic athletes.

Connecting Grateful Dead, fly fishing
Author John Gierach is everyone's second-favorite fishing buddy. It may sound preposterous, but there are probably people who do not fish who still consider Gierach to be their best angling amigo. And it's certainly safe to say there are readers who have never met the man who claim to know him well.
Gierach writes collections of essays about fly fishing for trout, primarily in Colorado but also in other Rocky Mountain states. His books, including the newly released "At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman," are perfect for late November and early December reading. Although the glories of snow sports are near at hand this time of year, it's difficult for outdoors people to avoid being a little wistful about giving in to the long nights of winter and the certainty that the return of green leaves is at least five months away.
Gierach has the rare gift of spinning fishing yarns that inform and entertain in an unpretentious way.
Another author, Carl Hiaasen, says of Gierach: "The next best thing to fly fishing is reading John Gierach's essays about it. Nobody understands better the fine line between healthy passions and clinical pathology that we anglers so comically tread."
Gierach could be the only writer who would dare to draw an analogy between fly fishing and attending a Grateful Dead concert. He pulls it off in this passage from "At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman":
"Once, sometime in the 1960s, I went to my first Grateful Dead concert. At first I didn't get it. The band was up on stage honking away in an uninspired way, while the people in the audience were talking, reading, napping, playing Frisbee, and conducting certain shady-looking transactions. I wondered what was going on. The Dead were supposed to be great, and their concerts were known to go for many hours and be life-changing.
"I considered leaving, but then I'd either paid good money to get in or climbed a perfectly good chain-link fence, so I stuck it out.
"Then, maybe an hour into the performance, something just clicked. I couldn't tell you what it was, but I recognized it as if it happened every day: the band was playing brilliantly, the audience put away its books and Frisbees, and a few thousand of us were kicking out the jams, as we used to say. The hatch had started, the trout were rising, and everyone had the right fly."
So that's what fly fishing is all about.

Endangered wilderness
One of the publishing triumphs of the holiday season is "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, a Photographic Journey by Subhankar Banerjee."
ANWR is a place most Americans will never visit, but it's reassuring to know that a landscape this vast and untouched still remains in North America.
The awe-inspiring images in the book are accompanied by a foreword from former President Jimmy Carter and chapters by some of the country's foremost naturalist writers, Peter Matthiessen and Terry Tempest Williams among them.

Zen of snowboarding
Summer is but a distant daydream for residents of the Yampa Valley, and the best plan of action is to make the most of the snow that is certain to pile up over the next five months.
Anyone for whom skiing and snowboarding border on a mystical, if not downright religious experience will savor "Snowboarding to Nirvana" by Frederick Lenz. This volume, a sequel to "surfing the Himalayas," is not what most people will expect after glancing at the action photo on the cover. However, reading the slim book will help anyone elevate their experiences in the mountains to a transcendental level.
And isn't that what it's all about?

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