To Wool or not to Wool? That is the question! Smartwool Merino Wool Socks

Why does Alpine Shop recommend merino wool socks, specifically the Smartwool brand?

Merino wool is an extraordinary fiber that out-performs cotton and synthetics in several ways. Moisture management is superior. Merino will wick away sweat and won’t retain moisture meaning it keeps you comfortable in any weather condition no matter you’re activity level. This also means less stink, since there’s no moisture to trap odor-causing bacteria in the wool fibers.

Smartwool socks on Half Dome - Yosemite National Park
Taking a rest at the top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, with my Smartwool Socks.

For a first-hand account on the benefits of Smartwool socks and merino wool, here’s a story from Alpine Shop’s Marketing Director, Todd Oswald:

The last time I was in Yosemite National Park, I experienced the benefits of Smartwool socks first-hand. Part of the fun involved with working at Alpine Shop is getting to try out new gear and I brought along a new pair of a competitor’s socks to try as I hiked to the top of Half Dome. Less than two hours into the 10-hour journey, these socks (a synthetic sock from a brand we no longer carry) were soaked in sweat and blisters were starting to form on my heel.

I took a brief break, took care of my feet and put on a pair of Smartwools that I had brought along as my back-up socks. Problem solved immediately. I made it to the top of Half Dome without a single blister forming after that. And even though the heat just kept increasing, my feet were dry and comfortable the entire time.

I haven’t worn a different brand of socks since.

If you’re looking to discover the benefits of Smartwool’s products, consider trying on a pair of Smartwool’s PhD socks. The 4 Degree Fit System is a four-point support system that provides an incredibly secure, comfortable fit around the heel, arch and instep. Translated: these socks won’t move around while you walk. They won’t fall down into your shoe. They won’t bunch up and cause blisters. In short, they stay where you want your socks to stay.

And even better, unlike many wool products, Smartwool socks can be throw in the washer and dryer without worrying about shrinking.

Smartwool has engineered all of their socks with details that will increase your comfort and enjoyment in all your everyday activities. If you haven’t tried a pair yet, we think you’ll be surprised at just how much you’ll love them.

Freedom to roam in your Smartwools!

The Continued Effort to Create Missouri’s Premiere Trail

This weekend, Alpine Shop and the Ozark Trail Association will host their ninth annual Mega Event on the Ozark Trail.

Many of us at Alpine Shop can still remember John Roth, the OTA’s founder, walking into the upstairs offices at our old Webster Groves store in 2002 and 2003, discussing plans for his vision of the OT and the organization he was founding.

2003 Alpine Shop and OTA Ad
Alpine Shop's 2003 Advertisement in our Spring Swap Guide introducing the Ozark Trail and the OT to its customers.

Alpine Shop helped design the first maps the OTA gave out. We helped introduce the OTA in a full-page ad in our 2003 Spring Swap Guide when almost no one knew what the Ozark Trail was, let alone an organization created with the sole purpose of finishing its creation and maintaining it.

Alpine Shop used its first Patagonia environmental grant to support the OTA in 2004 in a presentation during the intermission of the Banff Mountain Film Festival. At that festival, we announced and recruited the first of what would become the Spring OTA Mega Event. Throughout the years, the Mega Events have grown bigger and now include working with many of the Shop’s brands to come up with more than $12,000 in give-aways, auction items and donations each and every year.

For some multinational business that might not sound like a lot, but we’re a local business. “Local” is a vital part of our DNA. We do everything we can to transform our little slice of world here in the Midwest into a better place. Alpine Shop’s vision states that we strive for “Generations Transformed by Discovery Outdoors.” We believe that experiencing the outdoors fundamentally changes each and every one of us.

This is why the OTA is so dear to Alpine Shop. It’s a part of our creed to be a “Local Business Helping Local Organizations Transform Our World.” What better example of that is there than our relationship with the OTA? By transforming the Ozark Trail into the premiere trail throughout Missouri, the OTA has provided the perfect opportunity for generations of Missourians to transform their lives in the local beauty of the Ozarks.

So, this weekend, as nearly 200 people work to complete another section of the Ozark Trail, we send out and open invitation for a new generation to transform themselves in the discovery of this gem right in our own backyard.

Top 20 Outdoor Family Destinations Near St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri

Family Adventures Outdoors

St. Louis and Columbia are amazing locations for outdoor adventures with your children. With our two cities as your base camp, you have access to miles upon miles of wilderness featuring trails, rivers, springs, caves, forests, bluffs, rock formations, waterfalls and more. Set your sights within just two hours of our metro areas and we have more opportunities than we can possibly tell you here. Best of all, many of these locations are absolutely free for your family for a day visit. A camping trip may cost you as little as $10 for the night.

Each of the areas we have listed below have the potential to provide your children (and you) with experiences that will last a lifetime. We may not have the dramatic mountain silhouettes of the Rockies or the crashing waves of the ocean; but we do have the beauty of the Ozark Mountains, spring-fed rivers that run stunningly, perfectly clear and a vast system of caves that appeal to every child. Best of all, because of our Midwestern geography, most of our outdoor destinations are surprisingly kid-friendly.

So if you’re looking for some ideas for a new adventure for you and your kids, we’ve included a list of our top choices below. Some are nearby. Some are further away. But all of them offer families a chance to have fun and experience the great outdoors.

Camping Adventures

Meramec State Park, Sullivan, MO – The absolute gem for camping and outdoor adventures for kids. Trails, beaches on the river, and over 75 caves and numerous springs.
Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg, MO – Camping, cave tours, canoeing. Great place for a long weekend.
Silver Mines Recreation Area, Fredericktown, MO – One of Missouri’s unknown wonders. Explore an old dam. Watch whitewater kayakers make their way through the St. Francis River rapids. The Missouri Whitewater Championships are held upstream of this location each March.

Hiking & Exploring Adventures

Rockwoods Reservation, Eureka, MO – Trails for hikers of all ages and skill levels as well as wildlife exhibits. Plenty of picnic grounds and fields for group meals.
Powder Valley Nature Center, Kirkwood, MO – Easy to get to, incredible nature center, easy trails. Great local asset.
Amidon Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO – The Castor River Shut-ins here is one of Missouri’s best play spots for kids both young and old. (Shhhh! It’s a secret!)
Pickle Springs Natural Area near Farmington, MO – Short length, incredible rock formations, fun for everybody!
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Columbia, MO –  Diverse trail network for hiking or mountain biking, or plenty of space for a nice weather picnic as well. And for a true adventure, explore Devil’s Icebox on a park-led tour.

Paddling Adventures

Simpson Lake County Park, Valley Park, MO – A local, hidden gem just off Highway 141. Bring a bird guidebook, a canoe and fishing poles.
Meramec River, Consider launching your boat near Steelville, Leasburg or Sullivan for best water quality and natural beauty. Besides the Missouri and the Mississippi, probably the most recognized river in the area – and the easiest to access.
Huzzah Creek, Leasburg, MO – (Hoo-za) More advanced young paddlers can take off on their own sit-on-top kayaks (rented through numerous outfitters) on this gorgeous clearwater gem which drains into the Meramec near Leasburg, MO
Missouri River, West and South of Columbia, MO – Experience the same river Lewis and Clark explored; offers great opportunities for experienced paddlers.

Rock Climbing Adventures

Okay, we’re cheating on some of these here. Some aren’t really outdoors. They’re climbing gyms. But, the skills learned here could very well lead to the ability to tackle the real rock walls of the area.
Center of Clayton Climbing Gym – Clatyon, MO – Geared towards kids more than any other gym in St. Louis.
Upper Limits Climbing Gym – St. Louis, MO – Best overall climbing gym in the area.
Capen Park – Columbia, MO – Close to campus and featuring some good top roping and sport routes.
University of Missouri – Columbia Climbing Wall – Columbia, MO – Open to University Students and Staff

Biking Adventures

Grant’s Trail in South County, St. Louis – Flat, easy, and even at its most crowded is still enjoyable. And now the trail starts almost in our Kirkwood store’s backyard!
Katy Trail, beginning in St. Charles, MO – One-day trips to week-long adventures on 235 miles of bike trail between St. Charles and Clinton, MO.
Lost Valley Trail in the Weldon Springs Conservation Area in St. Charles – Fabulous for  both hiking and biking with clear creeks and miles of wooded, flat trails.
Forest Park, St. Louis, MO – Local, with a myriad of opportunities for other activities.
MKT Trail, Columbia, MO – Another rails to trails project, but runs right through Columbia for some easy, family-friendly riding.

Free $52 Gift Certificate with Purchase of $148 of The North Face Through 11/6

The first six days of November will bring some great deals to fans of The North Face brand at Alpine Shop. From the first to the sixth, any purchase total of $148 made up entirely of The North Face merchandise will receive a $52 gift certificate good for anything in a future purchase at Alpine Shop.

The North Face Denali Jacket, Cat's Meow BX Sleeping Bag
Either one of these items from The North Face, the Denali Jacket (for men and women) and the Cat's Meow BX Sleeping Bag, will earn you a Free Gift Certificate.

So, whether you earn that FREE gift certificate with one TNF Denali Jacket or a Cat’s Meow BX Sleeping Bag;

The North Face Peruvian Corded Beanie, Half Dome Hoodie, Etip Gloves and 100 TKA Microvelour Pants
Add these items up (The North Face Peruvian Corded Beanie, Half Dome Hoodie, Etip Gloves and 100 TKA Microvelour Pants) and you hit your $148 target to a Free $52 Gift Certificate.

or maybe you spread the TNF joy out a little and grab a hat, pants, gloves and hoodie like this Peruvian Cable Beanie Cap, these TKA 100 Microvelour Women’s Pants, a pair of these Etip Gloves that enable you to use your touchscreen phone while still wearing your gloves, and finally this Half Dome Hoodie to fill out our bill and grab yourself a $52 gift certificate for later on this holiday season.

A few notes on this promotion: Deal good through Sunday, 11/6/11. Limit 4 gift certificates per customer. $148 equals pre-tax total on The North Face brand clothing and gear. Gift card only good for future purchases. Previous purchases not eligible for deal. Return of goods purchased in order to receive certificate will result in forfeiture of certificate. Gift Certificate expires on 12/31/11.

See you in the Shop – or online at

Tent Goes Up. Get Your Used Gear In. Swap Starts Friday!

Alpine Shop's Winter Swap Tent Going Up

For 17 years, Alpine Shop has always had two distinct Swap Celebrations: a Spring Swap dedicated to bikes, boats, camping gear and all warm-weather pursuits, and the Winter Swap devoted to all things done outside in the cold including skiing, snowboarding and playing in the snow. So for the 18th year, of course, we threw all of that out the window.

Welcome to the 18th Annual Winter Swap.

Bring all of that stuff in this time. If the gear meets our standards, we’ll sell it out of the Swap tent and put some cash or store credit in your pocket. (Or if you’re at our Columbia location Swap, we’ll do the same thing without the tent!)

As of Monday, October 17 at 10 am, Alpine Shop Kirkwood and Columbia are ready to accept your used items into the Swap. Bring them in early to avoid the line. If you prefer to leave things until the last minute, please note that ALL used gear registration needs to be finished by 5 pm on Friday, Oct. 21. More than likely, this means you need to be in line at 4 pm at the latest to check-in your gear. As we continue to improve the Swap to make sure our lines don’t stretch back for hours on Friday night, that same technology has forced us to make some changes in how we do some things. Check-in is one of those things.

We’ll still open the tent at 7 pm on Friday night. We’ll still have people tailgating for the tent opening hours before then. You’ll still find the tent filled with great prices on used and clearance items. (Or, you’ll still see the money coming in from the items you’re selling!)

You will find a few changes inside our stores, however. All of our new-gear sales will begin when we open our doors first thing in the morning in Kirkwood, Chesterfield and Columbia (or on-line at If you’re just interested in new gear deals, you no longer have to wait until the 7 pm starting time anymore. Also, we’ll have Early Bird and Night Owl deals on new gear on both Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22-23 and Sat. and Sun., Oct. 29-30. You can find those limited time specials on page 3 of our on-line new-gear sale catalog here.

Used gear sales are open in Kirkwood and Columbia on Friday, Oct. 21 from 7 pm–11 pm; Sat., Oct. 22 from 9 am—9 pm and Sun., Oct. 23 from 11 am—6 pm.

See you soon!


Four Steps to a Better Boot Fit in the Heel

Alpine Shop certified pedorthist and senior bootfitter Angie Bono shows how Alpine Shop custom fits the heel of a boot for one of its customers.

Using a sequence of heat, pressure and cold, Alpine Shop bootfitters can remold the shape of your boots to perfectly fit your heel and ankle.

Alpine Shop can also use different techniques to help you deal with problems like bunions, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel and leg length discrepancies.

You can learn more from all of Alpine Shop’s boot fitters by stopping in any one of our locations in Missouri. You can also visit for continuing instructional videos.

How to Tell a Good Hiking Boot from a Bad One

Alpine Shop’s head bootfitter and Certified Pedorthist, Angie Bono, explains the main differences between a “Good” quality hiking boot and a “Bad” boot. Beware—Looks can be deceiving!

Back in the early 1900’s mountaineering and backpacking boots were built on steel shank. This was great for sturdiness and for protecting your feet from rocks and turned ankles. However, it was also heavy and unyielding—not quite the solution we are looking for today. With current technologies, the top quality hiking boots today are based on a nylon shank that runs the length of the boot from the toes to the heel. This stiff nylon helps to protect the hiker’s foot and ankles while also helping to keep weight down and comfort up.

All of Alpine Shop’s hiking boots will contain this feature. However, if you visit some other store that claims to sell hiking boots, watch out for cheap imitations that may put your body at significant risk. Once Angie shows you what’s inside two boots that look almost exactly the same on the outside, you’ll know where to look for your next boots—Alpine Shop!

Enjoy the video!

3 Lacing Techniques for a Better Fit – Fixing Footwear Problems with Alpine Shop

Alpine Shop’s head bootfitter and Certified Pedorthist, Angie Bono, spends a few minutes on this video going over some easy and effective lacing techniques to help your shoes or your hiking boots fit better.

For problems with your heel slipping in your boot or shoe, the “heel lock” technique helps lock your heel into the back of your footwear. This prevents your foot from moving and reduces the chance of a blister forming on the back of your heel.

If you have problems with too much pressure on sensitive parts of your foot, Angie shows you how to use the “box lace” technique to simply go around those sensitive parts while keeping your footwear as snug as it needs to be everywhere else.

Finally, Angie demonstrates how the “surgeon’s knot” can be used to custom tighten the lower section of a boot for new boot wearers (and another great option to help with heel slippage).

We hope you enjoy the video. We apologize for the focus coming in and out on the boot. We’ll get it fixed before our next video later this week!

Ambre’s Picks

Ambre Tiggs of Ginkgo Adventures recommends her favorite gear to anyone interested in camping, hiking, backpacking, climbing, and paddling.  Ambre’s Picks include basic gear that is essential for most outdoor adventures.


Ambre’s Top Picks:

Camelbak Mule

Eagle’s Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Jetboil Group Cooking System

McNett Aquamira Water Purification Tablets

MSR Whisperlite International Stove

Outdoor Research Coastal Sombrero

Outdoor Research Ultralight Ditty Sacks

Petzl e-lamp Headlamp



Ambre founded Ginkgo Adventures, an outdoor adventure company based in St Louis in 2006. In addition to running Ginkgo Adventures she is also an adjunct instructor at Meramec, Wildwood, and St. Charles Community Colleges teaching Backpacking/Hiking and Camping/Paddling.  Ambre is a Wilderness EMT and American Red Cross instructor in CPR, Standard First Aid, and Wilderness First Aid.  She backpacks, rock climbs, canoes, kayaks (whitewater, sea, and flat water), mountain bikes and snowboards.

Ambre Tiggs

Ginkgo Adventures



5 Tips for Trail Running in St Louis During August

If you’ve come to this page thinking you’re about to find an information-packed morsel of trail running goodness in St Louis, well you’re right. It just might not be the information you thought you were getting.

Register today for the Off-Road Racing League Trail Run Series

Instead, I’m going to share the five things you should know about participating in Alpine Shop‘s Trail Run Series – part of the Off-Road Racing League in St Louis. This series already has hosted four full nights of bike racing during July and now we turn to trail running for the month of August. (It’s all part of the big plan!) Our mission is nothing short of turning St. Louis into one of America’s Top 10 cities for outdoor activities.

1. Yes, we know it’s hot.

That’s why we’re trail running! We’ll be running in the shade most of the time on the great course that Big River Running Company has helped us set up. Even better – we’re going to run through a cool creek twice! Seriously, we know this time of year the temperature can be a real issue; but it doesn’t have to stop us from enjoying the great outdoors, getting some exercise and having some fun. Please bring water bottles or a CamelBak pack and participate at your own pace. And then enjoy the food and drink following the race.

2. Set your own pace.

We’ll have everyone from experts to flat out beginners in this series. How seriously you take it is up to you. For some of you, the only thing that will matter is finishing in the top 10. For others, the only thing that matters will just be finishing – period. Whatever your skill level, whatever your fitness level, this series is about having fun.

3. Have fun.

In the mountain biking part of this series, we’ve had guys dressed as cheerleaders, we’ve had people riding on tandems, we’ve had kids of all ages. If you feel like running in

Short Track Dirt Crit Series Cyclist Dressed as Cheerleader
The Off-Road Racing League is all about having fun

a costume – more power to you! If you want to race in a giant Fredbird costume (hint, hint Cardinals), we urge you to do so. If you’re more comfortable running in your trusted workout outfit, we happen to be St Louis Magazine’s A-List choice for athletic and workout gear (another hint, hint)! And after the race, The Wolf provides the food and New Belgium Brewery provides the adult beverages. All you have to do is enjoy yourself.

4. Get registered.

So what are you waiting for? If you sign up for the entire race series, you can save $10 on the price of the four races. The first race starts this Thursday, August 4 at 6 pm at Castlewood State Park. You can find out all the information you need here. Register today!

5. Spread the word.

Invite your friends to run with you. Help us turn this event into the party it should be. Help us celebrate the outdoor life in our great city of St Louis!