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Shine a Light: Solar power your way through winter 


click to enlarge Sunset over Maui: not very SAD.
  • Sunset over Maui: not very SAD.
Sunset over Maui: not very SAD.At 2am on Sunday November 2, we "fall back." I call it the "Saddest Day of the Year." Thank goodness the Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended Daylight Savings Time one extra week, but all too soon it will be dark when you go to work and dark when you come home, a depressing situation for a solar-powered person like me. At least we're not in Portland, where the incessant grayness can make one suicidal. I lived in Portland through the icestorms of '95 and the mudslides of '96. We went months on end without seeing the sun and I couldn't seem to shake the gloominess. Eventually, I diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and bought an expensive, high-intensity, full-spectrum light for my cubicle. It attracted co-workers to my desk like moths to a flame, but it didn't really solve the problem, so I finally told my doctor how unhappy I was. He said, "Well, I can prescribe some anti-depressants... or you could move to Central Oregon!" Shortly thereafter, I picked up and moved to Bend... and never looked back.

As our well-placed promotion in last weekend's Warren Miller ski flick, Children of Winter, touted, "In Bend, the number of days of sunshine competes with the number of inches of snow." That's our saving grace. Mt. Bachelor's average annual snowfall is 370 inches at the base and Bend claims 300 sunny days per year (which I think is a marketing stretch), so I think the edge goes to the snow, but it would be an interesting statistic to track.

Relocating to Central Oregon is one way to defeat SAD. A few other suggestions follow.


I used to work at Nike in Beaverton where corporate culture frowns on scheduling any meetings between 11am and 1pm. Instead, you meet up with a few colleagues at the Bo (Bo Jackson Fitness Center) or the Lance (Lance Armstrong Fitness Center) for a lunchtime workout. There is nothing like getting outside for a run around the bark chip trails, a ride through Helvetia or a short soccer game to replenish your Vitamin D and re-energize your brain. It's totally worth coming in an hour early or staying an hour late (it's dark then anyway) to get in a satisfying mid-day escape. Hopefully, your boss gets it, too.


Don't let the darkness rob you of endorphins-now is when you need their uplift most! If you commute by bike, or can only get out in the dark before or after work, good lights make all the difference. I learned about the importance of good lights during my first 24-hour adventure race at Mt. Hood. I had assembled a team of first-time adventure racers and, after trekking around the mountain from sunrise to sunset; we reached the transition to our mountain bikes grateful to get off our feet. Unfortunately, we had cheap, wimpy bike lights that died on us in the middle of the Surveyor's Ridge trail. If you've ever ridden Surveyor's Ridge in the daylight, you know there are some pretty serious drop-offs. Not fun on a moonless night with lousy lights. To our dismay, we ended up back on our feet, walking our bikes, fearful of pitching off a cliff otherwise.

After that fiasco, I invested $400 into a NiteRider HID system with a heavy Nickel Metal Halide battery. That was seven years ago and lighting technology has continued to advance considerably out of the Dark Ages with LED bulbs and state of the art lithium ion batteries. A high-intensity system (with an equally intense price tag) is the way to go if you plan to travel fast at night (cycling or skiing); compare lumens and burn times to get the best value. A joke amongst my friends whenever we head out on an adventure that involves a little exploring, is "Did you bring the headlight?" There is no reason not to have a $20 LED headlight the size of a walnut in your pocket when you just might get benighted unexpectedly. I know my Petzel Zipka has come in quite handy more than a few times.


Sure, one great strategy for warding off SAD is to "Embrace winter!" Buy a season pass, get new backcountry gear and make sacrifices to Ullr, the Nordic ski god. However, a strategy that has worked even better for me the past few years is to "Get out of Dodge!" I highly recommend punctuating our long winter with a trip or two to warmer climes. Last year, I rode my bike around the South Island of New Zealand in December and the year before that I surfed the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in January. (By the way, check out for a surf camp in Costa Rica owned and operated by Bendite Tierza Davis.) I'm sure you can conjure up your own visions of umbrella drinks, white sand beaches and palm trees.

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