Friday, January 22, 2010

My last two ski passes.

Previous to our move to Turkey, the last two times I skied was a stupendous day two years ago in the spring at Silverton Mountain Resort in Colorado, and a quick morning a year ago while visiting Boone, NC at Appalachian Ski Mountain. I decided to keep the ski passes on my jacket while in Ecuador for two years, to remind me that I was a skier, and to remind me that skiing is skiing, no matter where it is. Because, really, these two resorts couldn't be more different.

Appalachian Mountain is where I learned to ski, and later became a ski instructor. Vertical drop? 365 Feet. Annual snowfall? 60 to 80 inches. Terrain? Blacks in name only, really, it's only blues and greens. But seriously, it's a nice place to learn, because with 10 snow machines, they are able to cover the entire mountain! Their logo is of a skier cruising a mellow slope that looks to be about a 5% grade. That's about right. Contrast that with the other ski resort I last skied...

Then there is Silverton, which we headed to for spring corn snow conditions right before we left for Ecuador. Silverton only has one lift, and only had one type of run, super steep. It's lift accessed backcountry heaven. You have to sign 6 pages of waivers before you ski there, including, my favorite line, "if you cannot see snow on the horizon line, you must make a mandatory jump quickly" Vertical Drop? 3,287 feet. Average snow? 400 inches. Terrain? You must be guided through the 100% double black diamond runs during the snow-heavy winter months. Avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes, are all mandatory for the super steep double black diamond runs. The mountain logo is the classic yellow warning symbol with a person falling down the mountain. Yup, nuff said.

Those were my last two ski days. But, these days, after two years of living on the Equator, I'm back to skiing. Turkey is a bit like Appalachian, and the Alps are more like Silverton, but, I'll take any day on the mountain with my wonderful wife and friends that I can get....wherever it is. This photo is of a ski resort 2 hours north of us in Turkey. We're going to go check it out this weekend.

Today, the old ski passes come off.

Music from the Fall of 2009

I used to collect my favorite songs off of the radio and buy a CD of them every year, but this year there has been so much good music, that I'm going to have to break down and buy them now, otherwise I'll have a massive purchase to make in June.

Probably another reason the list has become so long is that KBCO recently started allowing listeners from overseas to listen to their podcast, and so now, I've got WNCW from Asheville and KBCO, from Boulder that I'm keeping up with.

God help me if Pandora ever lets those of us overseas start listening...


WNCW and KBCO Music

Todd Snider, Vinyl Records
Sam Bush, Circles Around Me (release in Oct)
Del McCoury, Take Me to the Mountains (new box set) AND Sweet Appalachia
Adam Stephy, A Broken Heart Just Keeps Beating
Guy Clark, Someday the Songs Write You
Steep Canyon Rangers, Sorrow Ain't Far Behind AND Turn up the bottle and drink it down
Robert Earl Keen, The Rose Hotel
The Sweetback Sisters, My Uncle Used to Love Me But Then She Died
Feelgood Factor, The Whole Church Should Get Drunk
Black River Killers, Blitzen Trapper
Jack Johnson Good People En Concert
Tut Taylor, Norman Blake, Nancy Blake Shacktown Road Shacktown Road
Infamous Stringdusters, hand my head and cry
David Rawlings, To Be Young (Is to be sad, is to be high)
John Forte's new album, style free
New Found Road, My shoes sure know how to get around
Keb Mo, Victims of Comfort
The Hagar's Mountain Boys. He died a Rounder at 21
Winsborro Cotton Mill Blues ???????????????
Barefoot, Don't Let Me Down

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Outdoor "Culture" in Europe

Culture is one of those words that takes up two pages in the dictionary. It's got about eighty definitions, and it's misinterpretation can take you off guard. In the U.S., when we talk about "outdoor culture," we are speaking about the norms and ethics of the outdoor crowd. And those ethics are anything BUT cultured. Mainly, the outdoor culture in America involves not taking a bath for weeks, eating lots of food from a can, and living in a tent--or in some cases, simply in the dirt. In Europe, "outdoor culture" it literally cultured. From Italian men checking their hair in the bathroom before heading out to the cliff to go rock climbing, to white-table clothed restaurants at the tops of ski mountains in the alps, to heated lift seats on the ski lifts--when the Europeans go outside, they don't leave their class behind.

Here we have a standard meal at any ski area in the states. Free crackers with free butter, honey, and borrowed mustard from the buffet. I believe this is in Vail, Colorado.

Contrast that with what you would eat at a ski resort in Turkey:

And that's just the salad buffet. The food took up the entire length of this dining room, and was included (along with beer, wine, and ski passes) in the $90 price for the room at this all inclusive resort.

Of course, all that food is in the bubble of a ski area. Nobody eats like that when they are just out camping. Instead, everyone eats like this:


This would be a typical meal, I think it is safe to say, at most climbers' campgrounds. A big pot of spaghetti cooked out of Glen's disgusting (call it, "well seasoned") camping stove. The whole thing fed probably 20 people and cost under 10 dollars.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we stayed at a climber's "resort" on the coast of Turkey where the cafe was packed every night with climbers from Europe shelling out 13 dollars (plus beer money) a meal every night. Thirteen dollars seems kind of expensive for climbers, but I'm telling you, there wasn't a free spot in the cafe from 6 to 9 at night. We opted to cook Thanksgiving dinner on the tailgate of our car...Colorado style.

We found turkey at the store (I know, turkey in's too funny), dried cranberries, corn, green beans, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Breadsticks crumbled up and crushed with raisins and spice made an acceptable stuffing, and Bailey's and Hot Mulled Cider rounded out the feast. Minus the booze, for far less than 26 dollars at the crowded cafe next to our camping spot.

And the next morning we woke up to this view of the crags above our car.

The expensive European dinners isn't something I need, or would pay for even if I had the money. But amazing limestone cragging a five minute walk from the car is worth whatever price they want to charge me. That's some climbing "class" I can get used to.

The climbing was pretty incredible here. The crag is called Geyikbari (Gay uk bai ruh) You can see the caves of limestone formed behind "Buddha" in the picture above (the car used to be owned by the Hungarian Ambassador...get it? Buda?) Anyway, we spent four days climbing here in the lap of Turkish-European luxury. The temps were perfect, the camping was 7 bucks a night with hot showers and a real flush toilet, and the climbing had everything you could ask for; from overhanging jug hauls, to stalactite stems, to technical faces...and every grade too. It was just Erin and I climbing, and so we don't have many photographs, but we sure enjoyed ourselves and can't wait to go back. You just can't beat sport climbing 40 minutes away from the Mediterranean Ocean.

Of course, not all of us were sleeping in tents and cooking on the backs of our cars. This resort had about 20 cabins with private bathrooms that were totally booked. I don't know about you, but the only time I've ever payed for a indoor room on a climbing trip was when it was so cold out that my whiskey was freezing. Clearly not the case this weekend.

Then, on the ultimate end of climbing luxury, is this guy, who clearly scored some sponsors after the Salt Lake crew came down and filmed a bouldering film at his local crag.

That's about all the outdoor "classy" culture I can take, but up next...heated lift seats in the Gondola in Austria. Nope, this ain't A-Basin.

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