Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The midwinter light in Norway has a quality I have missed. The sun hangs at an acute angle in the sky, blindingly bright but somehow lacking the warmth of even the feeblest summer sun. The few precious hours of light available beg to be used to their fullest extent. Ski!

Audun in the sun on lake Jonsvatnet.

Unfortunately, the snow cover around Trondheim and most of Norway has been rather thin. But the cold conditions and dry weather had created good ice skating conditions. In fact, it was the arrival of 5 cm of snow just before I flew back that prevented the conditions from being truly great. Wind packed the snow into patches on lake Jonsvatnet, creating a labyrinth of stiff snow on a surface of smooth ice.

Zoë in the snow labyrinth
We had a couple trips to Jonsvatnet, the first of which provided the most dramatic light and conditions. Minus 10 C and blowing snow keeps you skating fast to keep your core temperature up!
Self-portrait in the ice with blowing snow
Christmas eve and day were filled with skiing and skating by day, and food and family by night. On the 27th me and Audun headed over to his parents a couple hours south. Since then we've been eating more traditional Norwegian Christmas food, and enjoying a fresh but short lived dump of snow.
Skiing near Tingvoll
Tomorrow we're heading to a cabin the mountains near Oppdal for New Year's Eve with some friends, which makes this officially the last post of the first year of this blog.

This year has been excellent: I have skiied powder in Chamonix, spent three weeks touring Japan, run a marathon, mountain biked in Morocco, climbed Norway's third highest peak, biked Tour de Mont Blanc, and conquered legendary Tour de France climbs on my road bike...

Hopefully next year will be every bit as epic as this year; I'm certainly laying plans for it to be so. A big New Year's hug to friends, family and followers around the world - see you next year!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Ski Season has finally really started!

 My birthday on November 29 brought a familiar face to Grenoble:

Dad! Here half way up the Bastille, in his famous pencil-necked geek persona.
Unlike Mom, who came to enjoy French culture, Dad basically came to ski. Unfortunately, the week before he came, there was no snow. Anywhere. So we decided we would get some late season hiking in, and Dad didn't bring his skis.

Like the man who leaves his house without an umbrella, as soon as Dad arrived, it began to snow. So with rental skis, we headed off to Les Deux Alpes for the opening Saturday. With, it seemed, the rest of Grenoble. The bus to the ski area left a full 45 minutes late because of the difficulties of loading a crowd of desperate would-be skiers onto a bus. Luckily the combination of Dad (very tall) and me (very small) is useful for violent queuing - I put Dad like a beanpole in the front of the line while I snuck around to stick our skis under bus and then wormed my way back into the queue.

When we arrived a Les Deux Alpes an hour or so later, and dismaying sight met our eyes. The ticket line was absolutely massive. But to go ski at a ski area (without skins) you need a ticket, so we stood in line. This is what I thought about it:

Me considering becoming a hermit because I hate masses of people so much.

But patience and persistence finally got us up on the mountain. Although the base was thin, we found good snow, and spent the day happily living by the motto 'one good turn deserves another'.
Dad on the glacier at Les Deux Alpes

Dad stayed for the better part of a week, and we ate good food, hiked up the Bastille, went to the European Outdoor Film Tour, and many other things which shall go largely undocumented. A visit from home was the best birthday present I could ask for!

And so I shall skip ahead a week to yesterday, when I finally headed out to the slopes of Les Deux Alpes again, this time with three Swedes Joel, Joel and Hannes.
Hannes and Joel lovin' it

The conditions were absolutely legendary - a whole new sector of the mountain was opened, and we had run after run of fresh powder. It was one of those days when stopping for lunch felt absolutely suicidal - why miss a run just to eat?!

Enough powder, Joel?

It was cold and clear for the whole day, and the view was fabulous. Here's to more ski days like that this season! (And now, time to study for exams!)

Afternoon sun on the mountains; Hannes and Joel triumphant after a wonderful day of skiing!

- The Wild Bazilchuk