Category Archives: News

Utah Man Reaches South Pole on a Bicycle

Dan Burton finished his 700-mile, 50-day bicycle ride to the South Pole today, arriving just a day before the last plane for the season is scheduled to leave Antarctica. “I called home to my wife and lost all control of my emotions. The black dots on the horizon were the most wonderful thing I have ever seen,” Burton wrote in his blog today, referring to the South Pole station. “It was starting to feel like I would never make it.”

Burton started his journey on December 2 at Hercules Inlet, located at the coast of the Earth’s southernmost continent. Since then he climbed more than 9,000 feet, braved minus 40 temperatures, endured whiteouts, fell into crevasses and experienced supply shortages, but was determined to keep going.

The owner of Epic Biking in his home town of Saratoga Springs, Burton is not new to riding in harsh conditions. He has gone on expeditions in cold weather before, but this time he rode alone and undertook a much more difficult type of a journey. He dedicated the expedition to the memory of his mother, who died from high cholesterol a year before he began his trip. Through his ride, he wanted to encourage others to stay active and overcome the “obesity crisis” of a “physically easy life” that many people lead today. In his blog, Burton suggests that the reason many people lose motivation for exercise is because they pick up activities they don’t enjoy in the first place. He encourages creating a culture of activity, where people should seek out things they actually like doing. “For me that is biking,” Burton says.

He pulled a sled behind him to carry part of his food and equipment, and put the rest into special bags on his bike, called panniers. Burton also made three resupply stops, where extra supplies were flown in to predetermined locations, and he would use GPS to navigate to these stations and to avoid crevasses on his way there. He jokingly called the entire process “a big geocaching game.”

Despite all the careful planning that went into the expedition, Burton ran out of supplies shortly before arriving at his destination. He was saved by Hannah McKeand – the record holder for the fastest unsupported solo ski trip to the South Pole – who showed up with the much needed food when his energy was running low. McKeand is part of Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions – the group that served as Burton’s emergency contact and with whom he stayed in constant contact throughout his journey. He used two satellite phones to keep in touch, recharging his batteries with solar energy. He called ALE once every 24 hours to update them on his condition and get help with navigation. If 48 hours went by without his phone call, the group would have started a search and rescue operation, the costs of which would be covered by Burton’s emergency extraction insurance.

Besides promoting healthy lifestyle, the expedition was also meant to encourage people to donate to the American Diabetes Association – the organization Burton has been involved with for several years now, doing their Tour de Cure every year. He updated his blog daily, telling stories of his adventures while trying to navigate the harsh climate with the help of mountains, wind and often misleading tracks of various ski expeditions. He’d finish every day’s post by reminding his readers to go out and stay active.

Burton’s ride to the South Pole coincided in timing with that of Juan Menendez Granado, a Spanish cyclist who arrived at the South Pole on January 18, completing his unassisted and unsupported solo expedition in 46 days, although Granado used skis and bicycle interchangeably, while Burton relied entirely on his bike. Both men were beaten by Maria Leijerstam, a¬†British cyclist who completed her 10-day expedition using a better route than the other two, a tricycle and a truck that carried her supplies part of the way. Considering that Leijerstam was using three wheels and Granado took a multi-sport approach, Burton’s can be considered the first “bicycle expedition” to the Pole, although all three have something to be proud of.

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Plaintiffs Challenge Alta’s Snowboarding Ban as Unconstitutional

January 15, 2014 – Wasatch Equality, a Utah nonprofit, together with four snowboarders have filed a lawsuit against Alta Ski Area and the U.S. Forest Service today, in an attempt to overturn the anti-snowboarder policy and snowboarding ban that are currently enforced by the resort. The plaintiffs claim that the prohibition violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit states that Alta treats snowboarders as unequal by not granting them access to the public lands on which the resort operates.

Alta is one of only three remaining U.S. winter resorts that ban snowboarders from their slopes, the other two being Utah’s Deer Valley and Vermont’s Mad River Glen. Unlike the other two, however, Alta runs under a Forest Service Permit, which states that the public lands “shall remain open to the public for all lawful purposes.”

“Discrimination without any rational basis perpetuates inequality by creating, fostering, and encouraging skier-versus-snowboarder attitudes that are hostile and divisive in a world where skiers and snowboarders, as a general matter, share the mountains, including those on all other public land, in harmony and without issue,” states the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court.

You can read the full text of the complaint here.

Federal Government Recognizes More Than 1,300 Same-Sex Marriages in Utah

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in a video today that it will recognize the legal status of the same-sex couples whose marriages were officiated in Utah. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. The ruling comes despite the announcement by Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert’s office on Wednesday that the marriages that have already been licensed will not be recognized as lawful while the appeal is in process.

Brief Background

Federal District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled on December 20 that the state’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman was in violation with the federal constitution. As more than 1,300 same-sex couples took advantage of their long-awaited opportunity to tie the knot, Utah government started the appeal process and asked a higher court to put the marriages on hold. A federal appeals court refused to do so in the weeks following the initial ruling, but on January 6 the Supreme Court issued a stay, which officially put same-sex marriages on hold in the state. The couples that already got married remained in a legal limbo, as it wasn’t originally clear whether their unions would be recognized by the law.

State vs. Federal

“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Holder said in the DOJ video today. In the light of the federal agency’s announcement, Herbert’s office issued a statement on its site saying that Utah agencies will comply with federal law when providing federal services, and will continue to be directed by state laws when providing state services.

Female Ski Jumpers Will Finally Compete in Winter Olympics

Photo: Jessica Jerome competes in the Olympic trials in Park City Sunday. Credit: Jim Urquhart/AP

Jessica Jerome made history Sunday by becoming the first winner of the U.S. Olympic Trials for the women’s ski jumping team. The event took place at Utah Olympic Park in her home town of Park City, with 5,000 fans lined up at the finish area. Lindsey Van finished second and Alissa Johnson was third. Besides Jerome, three more women will join the U.S. team to compete in the Winter Olympics in Sochi this February.

But Jerome’s two winning jumps are a small victory in the grand scheme of things. They signified the culmination of a much bigger eight-year-long battle for the International Olympic Committee to finally let women compete in ski jumping at the Olympic level. Fighting numerous court battles, the athletes were told over and over again that there weren’t enough high-level women to justify an Olympic-level competition. Even after Van set a world record for both women and men on the 90-meter jump in 2008, she still wasn’t allowed to compete in the Vancouver Olympics two years later.

Ski jumping was the last Olympic door that was closed for women. All other initially exclusively male Olympic sports became open to female athletes over the years, including bobsleigh, wrestling, boxing and luge.