Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lifestyle: Skiing Season 2014-2015

I learned how to ski in the Alps back in my youth, when falling flat on my face was no thang.
I would merely bounce right back onto my feet and just fly down those hills again, racing the wind headfirst on my BigFoot wide skis, daring fate to stop me. 

My skiing has been sporadic, on and off, in the US, in Korea several times, and most recently, in Europe again after my childhood. I would describe my skill level as... cautiously intermediate, advancing as I become more comfortable in skillfully dodging death every run down the slopes. The key is all in ignoring that whole imminent death thing that really accelerates my skill level.

Ski Trip 1: A few friends and I went skiing December 23-24th, 2014 at Phoenix Park, which will be the 2018 site of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea. They're still doing quite a bit of renovations and remodeling, but we booked our usual two bedroom suites, intending for daytime skiing, some wind-time in the hot water park Blue Lagoon, and then some Korean BBQ and soju to fuel our dominance in the very small bowling alley located down below the condominiums, maybe some nighttime skiing if sobriety permits. The only photos I could take were with my phone, as events progressed too speedily for me to even consider using my Lumix for documenting this trip.

Got to the top. You snowboarders get to have so much homoerotic fun.
Bro-ing down the slopes. 
We went down a few slopes before they closed to prepare for the night session, so we checked in to our pension, changed into our swimsuits, and went to the heated sauna/waterpark on site. Filled with screaming school children, naturally. 
After some jacuzzi business and soaking out of the way, we went back to the rooms to change into ski/snowboard session part deux. This time Alejandro finally got his ass there to join us in the fun.
Night skiing is infinitely better- less people get in your way; the only sounds you hear are of the quiet calm of the night being broken occasionally by the swoosh of the snow as you dig in, carving your skis to make your path.
Gondolas and lifts were faster too.
Plenty of time and space on top for this.
After the night session, we retired to our rooms again for some pre-drinking before some bowling. 
None of us thought about a proper dinner, now that I think of it, so I think all we had in our systems were nachos and this instant black bean noodle ramen that I kept getting from the convenience store and feeding everyone in between their bowling times. That, and oh yes, plenty of gin and Absolut 100. Healthy and nutritious.
These arrows are pointing to the two strikes that were MINE. VICTORIOUS. Never mind the final score- I got two strikes in a row! Yassssss.
Alejandro admitting defeat... to Absolut 100.
How festive. How drunk.
So that was the KOREAN experience of skiing. Obviously an emphasis on extracurricular activities and less on serious skiing.


Ski Trip 2: While in Germany, a few friends and I drove down to the Tirolian part of the Alps in Austria, and can I please clarify here that the skiing conditions in the Alps is on FLEEK. There is actual snow whirling and obfuscating your view, wind chapping the hell out of your face, and on some slopes, there is no way to fall back on your cowardice and take the gondola down because THERE IS NO GONDOLA GOING DOWN. It's either you roll down that slope slowly or you embarrassingly call the snow patrol to drive you down the mountain on a snowmobile.
This is serious business. Weather watch, avalanche watch... quite a difference from Korea. 
Real mountains. Real snow. Really high. 3400 ft. Or meters. I forgot. But still really damn high.
Stopping for an espresso at the après-ski hut.
Unlike the ski slopes of Korea, the Tirolian slopes are open only until about 4 or 5PM, so the typical schedule is an ungodly early morning start of skiing, midday break/lunch, more skiing, and then après-ski drinking in earnest afterward. Or if you're inclined to go down the slopes in a hazy, half-inebriated manner, your après-ski drinking starts midday with a glühwein (mulled wine) or two.
If you were lucky, you got the butt-warming lifts :D
Ski lift selfie. Obvs.
While we were there, a few free-style skiers/snowboarders would deviate from the suggested flagged paths and go on God knows what paths of their own, thus triggering an avalanche of a minor kind. They had to dig people out. That doesn't happen in Korea. People stay on the flagged paths. 
I die for this lunch. Pork belly with fat to the max with gravy glugged on! And some crisp rösti (potatoes) and various vegetables.
Just looking at this beaut makes me salivate. 
And what Bavarian experience is not complete without a Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes with apple sauce, raisins, and powdered sugar). I like to pick out the burnt pieces, those are my favorite :D 

After skiing, we were pretty pooped, so we went to our rooms to rest and change before meeting the gang for dinner at this shit Italian restaurant. Sorry but it was pretty shitty. I won't even write the name of it on here, partly because I don't remember, but also because I don't care to Google it because the food was so shit.

Okay, this was the only yummy thing. Vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce and capers and lemons) was done pretty satisfactorily. 
BASIC tomato soup. They didn't even jazz it up with some herbs and extra crème fraîche. Come on now people.
White fish that had bones all over that nearly killed me. Potatoes that were undercooked. Underseasoned creamed spinach underneath that were passable after I dealt it some salt and pepper. BASIC SKILLS, PEOPLE.
The company was excellent, however, and we had a jolly good time gabbing on before retiring to bed for an early ski/snowboard session the next day. No drunken bowling or heated waterpark for this crew. 
Breakfast fare the next morning was the epitome of classic Bavarian breakfasts: cold cuts of salami and other meats, butter, several selections of cheese, cucumbers, paté, granola, yogurt, jams, and BREAD. SO MUCH BREAD. I have never in my life seen so much bread consumed. In Korea, it's relatively easy to be low-carb but Europeans love bread like they love their beer. And no, you can't ask for a gluten-free meal. No such thing exists. 
The only good thing about waking up that early is how beautifully silent and still the world is. It feels like the birds are tiptoeing around so as not to wake the dewdrops.
The second day proved fruitless for me in terms of skiing as my left toe became unusually bruised, tender, and BLACK. I am pretty sure the toenail will fall off. Too much information? In any case, I spent my morning watching Star Trek episodes (the originals yasssss) on my iPad and eating blueberries, hence my blueberry teeth below.
Then we all drove home, satisfyingly exhausted.

1) This was a long post.
2) I hope you enjoyed the juxtaposition of the ski/snowboard experience between Korea and Austria.
3) Highlights in Korea: you can unwind with bubbling hot tubs and drunken bowling. 
4) Highlights in Austria: the hearty Bavarian cuisine and the experience of fear when there is an avalanche threatening your life at any moment. 

Next skiing goals: Japan. Mostly for the hot springs/onsens and light powder that they're famous for.

Any skiing places you've been that you want to share?

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