Snow, Tragedy and Motor Sports at The Donner Pass

March 11, 1911 –  Just three years before 1911 a new craze had gripped the United States and Europe.  Automobile racing.

Picture from

People didn’t smile for pictures in 1911

In 1908 a race sponsored by the New York Times and a French newspaper created the “world’s most grueling race.”  This became known as the New York to Paris Road Race.  Thirteen cars were entered but only six ended up racing.

They would travel from Lincoln Square in New York City to San Francisco then to Valdez, Alaska.  From there cars were shipped to Japan then drove through the Siberia Tundra in Russia and then finally after 22,00 miles in Paris.

During the trip drivers faced bad weather, muddy roads and something we all face today:  bad drivers.

There is one really funny event that happened during the New York to Paris race.  Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, basically the guy that pushed World War I along put a car in the race.  He claimed it was superior to any other car in the field.  It was towed out of the mud by the American Thomas Flyer car driven by Schushter.

Did you think any era was immune to bad drivers?

The Donner Pass

Won't cost you a thing but your life..

Won’t cost you a thing but your life..

From the turn of the 1900s and beginning with the New York to Paris Road Race increasing numbers of people began to travel towards California.  Local hotels began seeing an economic opportunity and staged their own races where “gasoline buggies” and bikes would race.

So in the spring of 1911 the Tahoe Tavern in Tahoe City held it’s own race offering a brilliant silver trophy.  Mark McLaughlin who writes for the Tahoe Tribune writes extensively about the race and said (link):

When businesses realized future tourism dollars were going to arrive by car, not passenger train, they began to pressure the state and county governments to improve mountain roads. Years before the first highway was constructed over Donner Pass, intrepid drivers were fighting their way over this portion of the rugged Sierra, using block and tackle and tying ropes around their tires for traction.

This race would have a lengthy delay.  When the March 11th storm hit, it left 40 feet of snow drifts on the ground completely blocking the pass.  A winner of the race until June of that year.

Nature can create weather patterns of legendary proportions.  Just ask Napolean.  Or the residents of New Orleans.

Courtesty of

Courtesty of

But the racers in 1911 were lucky.  What they may have remember is another group of people who tried to get through the pass which at that time had no name.  But the story of that family and their companions gave rise to one of the most tragic episodes in the migration of humans from one place to another.

Nearly seventy years before, the Donner Family left their home to journey west in the hopes of finding riches in California.  The gold rush was one of America’s first get rich quick schemes and the Donner Party was one of its most tragic victims.  In February 1847 with no food, no hope of getting through the massive snow drifts…the Donner Party engaged in cannibalism.

Such was the mystique of this pass.  Massive movements of people, historical road races and yes…tourism.  Two things remain constant about the pass:  motorists and violent snow storms.

I can personally tell you that travelling through the Donner Pass you’re surrounded by beauty.  Even in June you can see snow capped mountains, sparkling waters and majestic pine trees.  In a place with such amazing beauty you tend to forget that much of the history in the west passed through the Donner Pass.

Here’s a question for you.  If you were to go on a winter road race in through the Donner Pass, what gear would you bring?

Here’s an idea:  12V Heated Jacket Liner with Wireless Remote:  Link


Donner Pass Race, New York to Paris – Tahoe Daily Tribune

New York To Paris The Hard Way

What the Donner Party Ate In The Final Days

Hello Fans…Your Game Time Temperature Is -59 Degrees Below Zero

January 10, 1982 –

That day a huge football game was scheduled between the visiting San Diego Chargers and host Cincinnati Bengals.  Not just an ordinary regular season game, this match up decided who played in the Super Bowl.  But this game would be unlike any before it.  Yes, there have been cold football games, but this one possibly was one of the coldest in the history of professional football.

The first person on the field for the Chargers was Hank Bauer.  Bauer made it a point to run out on the field and begin his pre-game routine of fielding punts and kickoffs.  Just one problem…

Picture from Sheila Gray

Probably didn’t keep you warm

Warming up was going to be virtually impossible.  See the ambient temperature outside was -9 Fahrenheit.

Oh but it gets worse.  Add 35 mph winds and now you have an actual temperature that’s -59 below zero!  The prior week San Diego played the Miami Dolphins in South Florida and the temperature there was in the 80s with high humidity.  In fact so humid that star tight end Kellen Winslow was helped off the field from exhaustion.

Just to give you an idea how cold that is, the coldest inhabited place on earth is a place called Oymyakon, Russia where on February 6, 1933 the temperature was recorded at -90F below zero.

By the end of the game, anything having to do with being warm would become a joke you told friends or over drinks.

Just to keep his feet warm, Bauer kept his cleats on top of the heater near the Chargers’ bench.  The cleats began to melt but Bauer said he couldn’t feel any heat coming from his footwear.  Players on the Cincinnati side wanted to show some bravado by not wearing more layers of clothing and exposing their skin to the brutal conditions.  After a few minutes in the cold they opted to rub Vaseline on their arms to keep the skin from cracking.

Even Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts had icicles hanging off his beard.

While the players struggled with the frigid conditions, fans didn’t fare much better.  Fans like Bengal supporter Gary Berliner sat on the floor of the men’s restroom wrapping paper towels around his feet.  Why?  “It’s a wood product, it’s the best insulation,” Berliner said.  He had multiple pairs of socks on which caused his feet to perspire and of course made them even colder.

Now if you had a ticket to a major sporting event and had to go, what piece of clothing or equipment would you bring to stay warm?

Heated Stadium Seat Cushion – take a look by clicking here


“A ch-ch-chilling recollection of the Ice Bowl”  by Frank Luska

“Cold reality: ’81 AFC title game a struggle from start to finish” by William Bendetson

Coldest Inhabited Place on Earth –

Fans’ Burning Spirit Helps Them Survive – Martin Hogan Jr. Jan 11, 1982

How To Deal With “The Year Without A Summer”

So picture this…you’ve taken a time machine back (you borrowed Marty McFly’s flux capacitor just humor me) and you’re in the year 1816.

Europe was just beginning to recover from the French Revolution and Napoleanic Wars when a volcano in Indonesia blew its top.  The previous year, Mount Tambora which at the time was an active volcano erupted.  In fact, nearly a third of the mountain blew apart during the eruption sending tons of debris and dust into the atmosphere.  This dust formed its own giant layer literally blocking out the sun in parts of North America and Europe.

What must have completely confused everyone is the bizarre weather patterns that followed.  As Spring gave way to Summer, people prepared to harvest crops when instead of warm sun they got…winter.  In parts of the United States like New York and Massachusetts locals were treated to frigid winds, snows in June and outright mayhem.  Crops failed, food prices skyrocketed and starvation became a real threat.  Even the rain didn’t look right.  During rainstorms in some areas, the drops were red instead of clear because of the dust in the atmosphere.

The rich and famous didn’t escape.  In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson had recently retired to his estates and looked forward to years of selling his crops but instead went deeply into debt to finance his farms.

To give you a feel for how people felt during The Year Without a Summer, here’s an article from The Boston Independent Journal dated June 17, 1816:

“On the night of 6th instant, after a cold day, Jack Frost paid another visit to this region of the country, and nipped the beans, cucumbers, and other tender plants. This surely is cold weather for summer.

On the 5th we had quite warm weather, and in the afternoon copious showers attended with lightning and thunder — then followed high cold winds from the northwest, and back back again the above mentioned unwelcome visitor. On the 6th, 7th, and 8th June, fires were quite agreeable company in our habitations.”

The insane weather actually inspired a classic horror tale, one you’re familiar with.  In Switzerland, the intense winter weather inspired Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft to write horror stories.  Frankenstein came alive because of the Year Without A Summer.

So here’s the question for you, what would you do to deal with a summer without heat or sun?

Not sure, here’s some ideas:

Tri-Zone Base Layer Top – link

Battery Heated Fleece Jacket – link

Source:  Robert McNamara, History Channel – link

How To Survive In The Cold – Venture Heat Winter Survival Guide

Just because the temperature drops outside doesn’t mean you need to put your favorite past times in hibernation.  Over the next few weeks, we’re going to get  you all the information you need to survive the cold and keep on playing outside.

First things first….safety!

Cold weather has its good, bad and ugly parts to it.  The good?  According to Harvard Medical School you can burn lots of brown fat by exposing yourself to cold weather.

Yes, your body needs to produce heat so it takes those nasty fat cells and begins firing them up.  Guess you can call it your “cold diet”.

The bad?  When the temperature begins to drop your body begins prioritizing where it needs heat the most.  Primarily it’s your body’s critical organs like your heart.  The losers in this game are your extremities namely your fingers and toes.

Now for the ugly…

As your body relocates heat from  your extremities, those body parts are more susceptible to frostbite.    What happens is you experience a “pins and needles” feeling in those body parts followed by numbness.

With prolonged exposure you run the risk of losing those body parts.

Question is, how do we keep this from happening in the first place?

The National Institute of Health (USA) first suggests to plan ahead when it comes to winter outdoor activities.

For instance, if you plan on being outside for several hours avoid drinking alcohol and get plenty of sleep.  But there’s one major thing you can do to avoid frostbite.

Reducing exposure to the cold.

Any bit of skin that’s exposed to the cold is going to result in you losing body heat…super fast.

In fact the Weather Channel suggests that within seconds, with temperatures in the 20s you can lose 40% of your body heat from one exposed area.

First thing you need to do in extreme cold weather is make sure that your base layers (clothing touching your skin) completely covers every square centimeter (inch for US people).

Hands, ears, nose and yes, toes (you’d be fairly crazy to go outside barefoot) need to be completely covered.  If you do go outside barefoot, please seek help.

Here’s what you should look like in terms of keeping your skin covered, take a look:



Xtreme Weather Protection Suit

That’s part one of your Winter Survival Guide.

Got some great ideas or tricks you use to play in the cold, share them below we’d love to hear them.

How To Choose Between 12V and Battery Heated Gear

Here’s the most basic question you need to ask when looking at heated gear:

“Which type of power source is best for my needs?”

With all the brands and choices you have put in front of you, making a decision can be incredibly difficult.  Do I use 12V gear that plugs into my vehicle?  What about battery heated gear…will that give me enough heating for my hiking?

In part one of our battery heated buyer’s guide we’re going to help clarify those choices so you can take the stress out of your decision making process.  Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • why you should buy gear based on your lifestyle
  • how long can battery heated gear keep you warm?
  • what parts of my body will it keep warm?

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