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Osprey Athlete Alison Gannett’s favorite places to ski…or MTB?

March 28th, 2015

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“My Favorite Places to Ski, Part 2″ was to be the subject of this post.The weather has been so strange this year (I’ll save that rant forlater), that I pondered writing my favorite places to mountain bike instead. Then is started snowing again! So instead I’ll write about where I’ve skied and biked recently. Quite a year it is when you can do both in the same day!

Whistler, BC, Canada has long been a favorite place for me. Big alpine lines, impressive backcountry access, beyond-stellar views, big big big…the list goes on and on.

 

Since I’m a small town girl, I adore staying in Pemberton, BC instead of in the fancy Whistler resort. Only a half hour away, Pemberton’s lush valley is surrounded by animal, veggie and berry farms, with mountains like Mt. Curry rising 8,000 feet above. For food, don’t miss Mile One – burgers with local Pemby Beef that are to die for, especially with toppings like handmade goat cheese.

The Whistler/Blackcomb resort is so massive that finding a local guide is essential to link the goods together. They do offer free guided tours (check the map/grooming report/big boards for info) or just post on Facebook before heading there and find a friend or friend of friend to guide you. Unless you want to spend a lot of time on lifts or looking at vistas, choose either Whistler or Blackcomb to ski for any given day.

The backcountry is vast, and often requires a sled, but I’ve found plenty great stuff via skins as well. The Duffy is one of the local classic places to go tour. This video below is of Alaska, but it reminds me of the alpine terrain in that area:

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So while there last week, the skiing was, well, just ok. Temps had gotten so warm the week before, going above freezing in the valley and all the way to the summits way above. BUMMER. Alas, Whistler and Blackcomb are so extensive, that we even had fun cruising all the groomers. I had fun testing my new Meier Skis – a new women’s prototype that we are working on together that will launch next season. Like our new graphic? Its in the photo above. Venturing off piste was sketchy, slide for life conditions to say the least. So we puckered ourselves just a bit anyway – why not?

Since our backcountry plans got stuffed (no snow on the approaches), we turned to mountain biking those areas instead. Why not? Since my plush Juliana was at home in Colorado, I demoed a more appropriate gravity bike 65 degrees of slackness and 6 front and back to ease my fears from Bike Co. Even though I make a living teaching Mountain Bike camps with Osprey Packs, I wanted to push my own riding. So my friend Susan set me up with Pro-Downhiller and MTB Coach Sylvie Allen and Sweet Skills Mountain Bike Coaching. Whoop, whoop! She took my riding to a new level, with a bit of boosted confidence from my plush ride. One line in particular, to the side of the main Cream Puff trail, had me puckered with its slanting fall line but with some help, voila! Thanks Sylvie! Here is a short video of some of the splendor:

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Up next this year: KEEN Rippin Chix Mountain Bike Camps with complimentary Osprey Packs hydration pack demos. I’m hoping the new Osprey Zealots will be in the mail this week, so that you can try them in my upcoming MTB skills and singletrack camps in Fruita, followed by Eagle/Vail, Paonia, Crested Butte, and Moab.

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This hydration pack not only has all my favorite great looks and features (bite valve/hose magnet, rigid reservoir, helmet carrying fixins, special tool compartment/carrying system, etc), but also enables carrying of your more gravity oriented equipment.

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The Story of a Backcountry Underdog: Ski Blades

March 6th, 2015

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Here in Colorado the snow has been hit or miss, with heavy storms in December and basically non-existent snowfall in January for much of the west. As a result of the poor to mediocre skiing a dialogue began between myself and a couple co-workers. We began discussing couloir skiing and how reasonable it is for the time of year and how we might make it even better. Naturally ski blades were introduced into the conversation. If you’re not familiar with ski blades, simply imagine a pair of skis that instead of making it to your nose, barely make it to your hip.

A few days later the ski blades were on order and plans were made to pull touring bindings off of an old pair of skis to mount on the blades upon their arrival. All the while, heated discussions were had regarding the pros and cons of ski blades. Sure they’ll be more maneuverable in tight couloirs where jump turns will be made easy, but how will they do in powder, mixed snow conditions, how well balanced will they be for touring, will the bindings rip out? After chatting with another co-worker that happens to shoot professionally we decided it would be only reasonable to made a sweet short film about the future of backcountry touring and mountaineering.

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After the ski blades arrival we quickly got to work on grinding down screws so they wouldn’t go through the base when mounting new bindings, figuring out where on the ski to place the bindings (ended up mounting them 1cm back from center) as well as adjusting some kicker skins to fit the new setup. After a couple hours of work I was ready to set off on a three-day hut trip outside of Aspen, CO.

 

Three days later after dozens of miles of touring and skiing slopes up to 50 degrees psyche was higher than ever. Slapping the blades on my Kode ABS Compatible pack and boot packing up ridges was a breeze. Sure I fell many more times than I usually do, it took a bit more work to figure out the powder turns…but once I did I got twice as many as my friends. And don’t even get me started on the tours to and from the hut, those puppies weigh next to nothing and are not afraid to go fast.

 

In short the trip was a raging success, I anticipate spending many more days on the blades and I expect to start seeing more and more ski blades appear in the backcountry because they are the future.  DSC_9332

 

My name is Sam Feuerborn, and I have spent the last three years living in various vans in order to pursue my passions on my own schedule. Having grown up traveling and spending much of my formative years with my family outside hiking, camping and skiing it has been DSC_9344-Edita natural transition to embrace the dirtbag lifestyle.With many of my adventures fueled my coffee and stoke, I like to keep the van well stocked. With this addictive I have spent months at a time climbing in the desert, hitchhiking through Africa, mountain biking through the San Juans, backcountry skiing in the Elks, climbing in Yosemite as well as countless games of Settlers of Catan around the world. I have been lucky enough to embrace this lifestyle and make it work thanks to the support of countless friends and strangers alike, encouraging me to think outside the box and play as often as possible.

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Earn Your Turns: 101 Months in a Row

March 1st, 2015

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From suncups to blower pow, huge peaks to bunny hills, North Vancouver brothers Mike and Andy Traslin have been consecutively earning their turns every month of the year for the past…wait for it… 101 months. They’re not alone in the endless pursuit of ‘turns all year,’ but they sure are passionate about it.

The quest for earning your backcountry ‘turns all year’ is especially popular with zealous skiers and riders in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and of course here at home in BC. With huge peaks holding snow year round, especially the Cascade Volcanoes, it almost makes you wonder why every skier doesn’t do it.

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Like Mike says — if you’re really jonesing for some ski turns in the fall, why wait? Just go do it!

In celebration of Mike & Andy’s 101th month (and hopefully hundreds more to come) here is a quick freeflow of thoughts from Mike, and some image highlights from the last 30 or so months: Read more…

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Winter Stars: Astrophotography in New England

February 27th, 2015

 

Fritz_Bacon_Kode_32_Night_Sky_Osprey_Packs.jpgI’ve been shooting photos ever since I can remember, but after watching a video a few years ago where the Milky Way sprawled out above a mirror-like lake, I knew I had to try my hand at astrophotography.

It’s not everyday that you get to see the stars clearly when living in New England.  I learned this the hard way when I moved out East after living in Colorado for 15 years.  It was a whole new world, one that was rainy, cloudy and whose inhabitants were not nearly as friendly.  Luckily for me I chose to attend the University of Connecticut, which at certain times of the year has a decent enough view of stars for me to get the shots that I want.

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The past few months I have been venturing out into UConn’s woods armed with a 120-lumen flashlight, my Osprey Packs Kode 32 packed with all my camera gear and the ever-important thermal underwear.  I try to venture out each week when the conditions are ideal; I’m talking no clouds and little moonlight to get the clearest possible shot.  This winter has offered a good amount of chances to get out and shoot.  It is an amazing feeling to venture out in the dead of night to gaze up into the sky — especially when everything is silent, muffled by the recent snow. Read more…

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Around the World: Alison Gannett’s Favorite Places to Ski

February 4th, 2015

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I’m often asked about my favorite places to ski, so here are some of my recommendations from around the world:

Kootnay Mountains, British Columbia’s Red Mountain Resort and Whitewater Resorts:
While I love almost all of the skiing in BC, I’m choosing this area because of the consistently great snow that adheres to rocks, GREAT ski towns, the friendliest locals, phenomenally varied steep terrain, affordability and easy access (flights to Spokane,Washington,USA and short drive across border). When folks ask me if and where I have a pass, I respond that I don’t, but if I did I wish it was here and I wish I could live in Nelson or Rossland! Almost nowhere in the world have I experienced pillows like those in Steep Roots at Red Mountain, or powder that felt like backcountry but was actually inbounds like in Whitewater. It’s no wonder I choose to spend most of my season at these two places and that I run most of my Steep Skiing Camps in the Kootnays. What I also adore is the non-resort vibe at these towns/ski areas – reminds me of my childhood at Crotched Mountain New Hampshire. This is skiing as it should be.

Tip: Don’t miss the $25 dorm rooms at the Adventure Hotel or pay-as-you can or trade for rooms at Angie’s B&B. Don’t forget about the great slackcountry — bring all your backcountry gear almost every day to these areas.

 

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Verbier, Switzerland + Chamonix, France or La Grave + Serre Chevalier, France:
I’m mushing these together because different folks may want one over the other or, ideally, both. Both are beyond words when using the lifts to access the backcountry. When I want to scare myself, I go to ski the couloirs in Cham. Besides Argentina, I don’t think I’ve ever almost peed my pants like when we skied the Rhonde when icy, and a guide died that day in the couloir next door in the same hour. I’ve also skied almost 7,000 feet of blower snow in a chute almost all to ourselves. Verbier also has epic backcountry off the lifts, but it is more wide open peak to peak adventure skiing and if you want to end up at a place with a bus or train back where you started, hire a guide or make a good friend at the bar. Another strong contender in this category is La Grave (pucker factor even higher than Cham) and Serre Chevalier (OMG steep trees/spines).

Tip: Be prepared to always wear a harness/crevasse rescue gear and use a rope frequently. Make sure to have great maps and at least two ski touring guides.
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Manali, Indian Himalayas:

Typical response, “what Mountains are there?” Duh, they’re the HIMALAYAS, only the greatest, tallest and most epic mountain range in the WORLD. But great mountains don’t always make for a great skiing experience. Case in point, I adore skiing in the Chugatch Range of Alaska (Valdez, etc), but the rest – grey weather, greasy food, epic down time, heli expense, lack of trees for backcountry hiking on gray days, etc.) don’t contribute to my absolute favorite overall experience. Manali is an breathtaking Indian honeymoon destination, which changes everything. Epically tasty and inexpensive cuisine, no AK47’s like Kashmir/Gulmarg, colorful and almost weekly Buddhist and Hindu  festivals, 5-star lodging and service at a budget hostel expense, Colorado-like weather/snow with Utah-like Intercontinental snowpack, and the mountains? Well, need I say more? Don’t leave home without: CR Spooner’s book “Ski Touring India’s Kullu Valley.”

Tip: Use airline miles for dirt bag trip sidetrip and go surfing in Sri Lanka!
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To Be Continued…

 

Osprey Athlete ALISON GANNETT is a self-sufficient farmer, World Champion Extreme FreeSkier, mountain biker, award-winning global cooling consultant and founder of the multiple non-profits. In addition to being an athlete, ambassador and keynote speaking, Alison runs KEEN Rippin Chix Camps which offer women’s steep skiing, biking and surf camps around the globe. She has starred in many movies, TV shows, and magazines receiving many awards for her work including National Geographic’s “Woman Adventurer of the Year,” Powder Magazine’s “48 Greatest Skiers of All Time,” and Outside Magazine’s “Green All-Star of the Year.”  In 2010, she and her husband Jason bought Holy Terror Farm, kicking off their next chapter of personal health and self-sustainability.

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Mt. Fuji Skiing with Osprey Athletes Mike & Andy Traslin

December 22nd, 2014

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Fresh off the plane and on our way through customs, we stopped and stared at a poster of Mt Fuji. We were still wearing the Variant 37 ski mountaineering packs we’d crammed into the overhead compartments to avoid extra baggage fees. The stewardess first thought we were participants in “The Amazing Race,” but now with Mt Fuji in front of us, the method to our madness was being revealed. Nevertheless, her comments boosted my motivation for what lay ahead.

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We spent the next tens days climbing and skiing in Hakuba, Kita Alps and surrounding areas. Then we set our sights on Fuji. One evening, I asked the owner of the pension Mr. Maruyama about climbing Mt. Fuji, and his eyes immediately lit up. He grabbed his homemade green tea, some paper and pens, and crafted a hand written map of Mt. Fuji. He spoke few English words, and used his  daughter for translations where needed. He had fond memories of driving to and from Hakuba and Mt Fuji to climb it in a day. “Fuji Attack! Fuji-san Attack! Attack!” I thought I was getting ready for a hockey game, further boosting our motivation. He even lent us his special edition Mt. Fuji mountain bikes. We managed to sneak in a training ride on the local singletrack trails.
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The bus system in the area is efficient when you know what to ask for. We hopped on the bus to Shinjinku en route to Fuji, where we hit a logistics roadblock when we were told ‘no bus to Fuji or climbing’. After scrambling around Shinjinku for alternatives, my brother asked the same people the same questions and sure enough – there was a bus to Fuji that evening. Oh, traveling and language barriers.When got where we needed to be, found a hostel, and lined up a 10am departure for Fuji… just to add to the challenge.

Mt Fuji is known as the most visited mountain in the world, with some 300,000 climbers and hikers each year. We met plenty along the way. The Germans were skeptical about our summit bid, and I wasn’t giving us very good odds either with a late start and clouds hovering on the mountain.

The backpackers blasted off the bus with their running shoes and cotton t-shirts, while we stood with our gear perfectly prepped for departure at the back door. The jammed back door. Waiting for each and every hiker to unload through the front. Not your usual start to a mountain wilderness experience.

We got on the move, and traversed to a sign that detailed a complete ’14 step how-to guide to the summit’. Good to see we were on the right side of the mountain and off to a good start.

 

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Once we hit snowline it was go time and we could safely abandon the signed route and do things the old-fashioned way. Up, up and away, past the T-shirt and running shoe crews.

As I was cresting the crater, a couple of Japanese climbers looked at me from above. No crampons, eh! A couple sporty front point ice moves with no gloves did the trick.

 

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But the true summit was the highest point of the crest, not where we were standing. After some debate with the Japanese about traveling by rock or snow, we of course chose snow. We’re from the Coast after all, and snow travel is always faster. So we wished luck to the rock walkers and sprint skinned to the summit to avoid the impending whiteout.

 

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We’d bagged the summit, but the Amazing Race was far from over. We had a plane to catch. We dropped off the summit and skied epic corn on the 40 degree SE Face, one eye on the snow, one eye on the watch.

 

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Story: Andy Traslin

 

 

 

 

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Learning to Catch Air with Osprey Athlete Alison Gannett

December 19th, 2014

 

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One of the main reasons I started KEEN Rippin Chix Steep Skiing Camps was frustration. There was no information out there regarding catching air, let alone doing it well. In order to win freeskiing competitions, I had to up my game and my airs were just not consistent or confident. I even landed on my face jumping from a tramway in a ski movie. Embarrassing!

So I started asking the top male pros how they did each air, and why did they choose different ways to catch air off of different obstacles. Most responses consisted of “I just go”, “don’t hesitate” and “all air is just the same.” Needless to say, this didn’t help one bit. Clearly there must be certain muscles flexed and not flexed, focal points for the eyes that would increase success, better places to put my hands/arms/shoulders/knees/ankles/ass/etc.

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Years of observation, success and failures have enabled me to develop my own special way to catch air, which ultimately led to my step-by-step process to teach ANYONE to be successful catching air if the desire is there. A memorable moment was teaching three 80-year old ladies and their 90-year old friend – I’ve never seen smiles so large.

So what are the keys to catching air? Read more…

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Holy Terror Farm: Fall Harvest with Alison Gannett

December 3rd, 2014

I love and I hate farming. It all started with a quest to grow and raise all our own food five years ago. I even remember the last month I needed to actually go to the grocery store – April 2010.

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Certainly there are a few key exceptions – coffee for my hubby Jason, chocolate for me, spices that we can’t grow, and life-maintaining Real Salt from Utah – for ourselves and the animals.

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But back to the love and hate thing – I adore having this connection to our land, this feeling that we are doing something immensely important, and this incredible sense of self-reliance. Everyday I learn something new that my grandmother must have done her whole life.

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She never had to figure out make all this garden/orchard/pasture bounty to last for months – to render lard/tallow, make butter, dry herbs and veggies, can tomatoes, ferment peppers/cucumbers, cure squash/pumpkins/nuts/shallots/onions/animal forages (corn, sunflowers, barley, wheat)….the list is endless.

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The days are long, tedious, exhausting – feed, water, harvest, cook, feed, water, irrigate, harvest again, dry, preserve, freeze, jar, vacuum seal. When tasked with putting up all our food for the long winter, quitting is not an option. Skipping out for a bike ride and leaving the tomatoes to freeze and burst or the walnuts to be stolen by the squirrels he “inbox” is never empty.

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But in the end, with the root cellar and freezers full of our 10 months of hard labor, we are pleasantly content to enter the long winter. Now finishing our fifth year, it has gotten a bit easier as we have figured out our ancestor’s systems. And while I wish we could take irresponsible vacations together more often, the “prepper” in me feels ready just in case.

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In reality, I will most likely just have the world record amount of our farm food in all of my Osprey Packs (Transporters, Ozones, Snowplay) as I travel to my many KEEN Rippin Chix Steep Skiing/Adventure/Powder Camps this winter – Silverton, Crystal, Whitewater, Red Mtn and to anywhere the snow is DUMPING! Join me?

Think Snow!

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Hakuba Sanzan

September 15th, 2014

 

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Unless you’ve been living under a very big rock, you’ve heard the tales of Japan’s surreal terrain, neck deep powder on tap — day or night. The hype was buzzing extra strong this season and we were itching to go get a taste of it one way or another. When the plans finally took shape, it was May! Not exactly the prime month for free refills of pow, but if we didn’t pounce on the trip this year, it might have never happened, right? So we went with the flow and booked a ticket.

Touchdown Narita airport where the culture shock began. In a bustling world far from home, we circled through security not once but twice, but it worked out for the better. Our extra lap bumped us right into a Japanese snowboarder wearing a Canada toque, fresh off a winter in Canmore. Turns out our new friend Yuske (last name), local snowboard legend, also rode a G3 split and represented the Caravan crew we were trying to meet. Off to a good start. Yuske led us and our bulky bags through the maze of Tokyo train systems to a meet up with the Caravan crew, G3’s Japan distributors. After food, drinks, and a classic night in a ‘capsule’, we were eager to escape the bustling city for the mountains. Our bus to Hakuba pushed us upstream through nonstop currents of cities and people in constant motion before dropping us at the source…the mountains.

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A world apart, we found mountains quite reminiscent of our Coast Mountains back at home, with multi-peak linkups just waiting to be skied. After a week of fun, we were ready for the bigger days. Fortunately our pension owner in Gakuei-kan was an instructor, guide and pro back in his day, with a wealth of Japanese ski touring history to share with us, shaping ideas for where to head next. The plan hatched for the Hakuba Sanzan, linking the 3 highest peaks in Hakuba in a day.

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Meeting at precisely 6:00am on his orders, we hopped in the van and headed up with a vengeance. With only a brief pause before the off-road section, he pinned it and we held on for the ride. This wasn’t his first rodeo. Even the river wouldn’t have stopped him but we insisted on saving his car (and us for that matter), so we jumped out and let our feet do the rest. Most people enjoy the luxury of a 2 day trip with a mountain lodge overnight stay, but with our fine thread budget it wasn’t an option. So we slogged in the spring heat and enjoyed it for all it was worth, transition after transition – hike, skin, ski, repeat.
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But even we were hardly roughing it. With a cafe 500 ft from the last summit, we couldn’t say no to a soup and coffee before bagging the last peak. Solid weather, fun skiing, and our unstoppable shuttle driver all made for a great trifecta of the three high peaks of Hakuba.
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With one amazing Japan ski trip in the bag, we’re already plotting a mid-winter return for the legendary winter conditions. With any luck we’ll once again land in the hands of friendly,  seasoned locals, and the powder refills will flow as constantly as the sake from our first night in Tokyo.
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Story: Andy Traslin

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Black Lake Chute–The Run of the Season

July 9th, 2014

The Black Lake Chute took me ten years to ski. All that time it teased me from Anchorage. Above my home it looked like a thin white thread tied to the summit of O’Malley Peak. It hung down the north face and draped off of the lower wall. It became my White Whale. Sometimes, between attempts, I’d try to talk myself out of it. It’s too dangerous. There’s plenty of other stuff to ski. But I wanted it so bad….

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Read more…

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