Travel

Japan, Part I: Traipsing Through Tokyo

I’ve never let a potential trip wait so long to be blogged as I have this trip to Japan.

Relevant for that leading sentence:

I remind myself that one reason I write about my trips is so I can look back in later years and remind myself of some good times. So here goes nothing.

First off: Jared and flew from NYC-> Hong Kong -> Sapporo (New Chitose Airport). The route from NYC-> Hong Kong only took 16 hours, took 16 hours, 16 hours, 16. That’s long enough for two sleeps. I took about 1, on account of the Advil PM; I also finished a book (without pictures).

My ass went numb at one point, too.

Hey, stop thinking about my butt.

flying to japan

I’m ready! (No I’m not.)

By the time we got to New Chitose Airport (close to Sapporo), we realized we were in Japan, which meant our brains were still working! That’s when we first encountered Onigiri.

Salmon wrapped in rice, wrapped in seaweed. $1.50 Onigiri!!

Salmon wrapped in rice, wrapped in seaweed. $1.50 Onigiri!!

And also, we discovered Japanese attention to detail/organization:

At that moment, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what time it was, even if I had a watch. We stopped at New Chitose because it is in Hokkaido, and Hokkaido was our final destination, since this was a ski trip after all. But before skiing, we had other business to take care of. Neither of us were “going to fly 32+ hours and not visit Tokyo.” So we went to bed, because the next morning, we were on our way to Tokyo.

I think we did a lot of the stuff in Tokyo that folks often do. In the interest of clarity, I’m going to break down our trip to Tokyo in categories.

Shibuya

We stayed in an AirBnb in Shibuya on Dogenzaka street. It was clearly an investment property — the owner never lived there and only rented it out. It was spacious.

The perfect fit.

The perfect fit.

There were sweet-ass arcades, apparently owned by SEGA?

Tekken UNLIMITED (whatever that means). I still play Paul Phoenix.

Tekken UNLIMITED (whatever that means). I still play Paul Phoenix.

We also ate at Freshness Burger.

It's so... fresh.

It’s so… fresh.

Checked out some views

Squad goals.

Squad goals.

Chilled with a doge

Hachikō the dog, frozen in time.

Hachikō the dog, frozen in time.

Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu Shrine

We sauntered.

I guess it's just a park. I don't know.

I guess it’s just a park. I don’t know.

And we found the bathrooms.

If the portos are unisex, then these signs must be an indication for...

If the portos are unisex, then these signs must be an indication for…

Ah, the signs were both actually just saying: "CAUTION."

Ah, the signs were both actually just indicating: “CAUTION.”

Then we discovered the entrance to the Meiji Shrine, and some decorative sake barrels.

Raise the roof.

These Sake Barrels are actually empty.

These Sake Barrels are actually empty.

And made it to the main shrine

Zen times Ten.

Zen times Ten.

Shinjuku Golden Gai

Drinking in the Golden Gai area was one of the most memorable and cool things we did in Tokyo. Quite a few of the bars won’t even allow tourists in, which is judged by one’s ability to speak Japanese. No Japanese? No entry.

The bars in the area are tiny. What you see here is pretty much what you get.

The bars in the area are tiny. What you see here is pretty much what you get.

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Tsukiji Fish Market

It’s the fish market you’ve all heard of. It’s massive, and they apparently auction off massive tunas in the early morning (5 a.m. or something). We couldn’t be bothered to wake up for that. But we took photos later anyway!

Off with his head.

Off with his head.

It's a real operation.

It’s a real operation.

Served on a leaf.

Served on a leaf.

Tsukiji SUV. 217 mpg.

Tsukiji SUV. It gets 217 mpg.

Tokyo Skytree and the Hyatt Hotel (“Lost in Translation” bar)

Easy tower, EASY.

Easy tower, EASY.

Mt. Fiji in the background. Civilization in the foreground.

Mt. Fuji in the background. Civilization in the foreground.

A bad nighttime shot of the skyline from the Hyatt Hotel.

A bad nighttime shot of the skyline from the Hyatt Hotel.

Harajuku & Takeshita Street

I imagine this is something like New York City’s St. Marks street.

Pals!

Pals!

Onesies on SALE. Get them while they're hot, or not.

Onesies on SALE. Get them while they’re hot, or not.

A good look for a pilot.

A good look for a pilot.

Food Things

The food, the food, the food. Best Ramen I had was at this place that has 3.5 stars on Google Reviews: Samurai Noodle. Oh well. A 3.5 ramen to the Japanese is 35.5 to me.

Heads down for ramen at Samurai Noodle, JP.

Heads down for ramen at “Samurai Noodle, JP”.

Ramen meal 1 of 74.

Ramen meal 1 of 74.

Plastic food displays! Very common and tasty.

Plastic food displays! Very common and tasty.

The stove-tops for DIY Okonomiyaki, "Japanese Pancakes."

The stove-tops for DIY Okonomiyaki, “Japanese Pancakes.”

Okonomiyaki in the making.

Okonomiyaki in the making.

Okonomiyaki, preparing to be eaten.

Okonomiyaki, preparing to be eaten.

I'll have THAT (pointing) one, please.

I’ll have THAT (pointing) one, please.

Vending machines on the exterior or entrance of restaurants will take your order and make you pay on the spot.

Vending machines on the exterior or entrance of restaurants will take your order and make you pay on the spot.

Ramen meal 2 of 74.

Ramen meal 2 of 74.

Japanese version of "street meat."

Japanese version of “street meat.”

Get ready to get eaten, little fishy.

Get ready to get eaten, little fishy.

Art and Decorations

Self-explanatory?

Always.

Always.

Collage?

Collage?

I think this was outside of a love hotel. Not sure if there is some deeper meaning here.

I think this was outside of a love hotel. Not sure if there is some deeper meaning here.

Sorry, we're open.

Sorry, we’re open.

This was written in backwards so that it could be read from a mirror opposite of it.

This was written backwards so that it could be read from a mirror opposite of it.

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Random Things!

Also self-explanatory?

The karaoke bar we went to was 5+ stories; the bathrooms were also filled with puke. :(

The karaoke bar we went to was 5+ stories; the bathrooms were also filled with puke. 😦

Smokers must stand in a sectioned off area.

Smokers must stand in a sectioned off area.

The decibel level for some construction is tracked.

The decibel level for some construction is tracked.

Some clubs have self-serve lockers!! Groundbreaking, folks.

Some clubs have self-serve lockers!! Groundbreaking, folks.

The public transportation manners were shocking. Look at that perfect escalator behavior.

The public transportation manners were shocking. Look at that perfect escalator behavior.

Those are the highlights. Tokyo was one of the most exciting cities I’ve been to in my life. I want to go back and stay for a few months, although I’m not sure when I’d carve the time out for that wishful endeavor. But, when we departed Tokyo, we weren’t really sad, and that’s because we were on our way back to Sapporo — our starting point for our ski exploration trip on the northern main island of Hokkaido. Read about the skiing in Japan Part II: Heaven is Actually Called Hokkaido.

Arigatou gozaimasu, Tokyo. Konnichiwa, Sapporo.

Bye!

Bye!

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Travel

Japan, Part II: Heaven is Hokkaido

After arriving in Sapporo and collecting the rest of our squad, we picked up the rental cars and started driving to Niseko. Worth mentioning: the steering wheels were on the Right side of the cars, and we were driving on the Left side of the road. But that’s normal for plenty of folks, I’ve heard, even when they’re sober.
"I think this is the GPS."

“I think this is the GPS.”

No clue, but they were great!

No clue, but they were great! (Beef jerky substitute.)

Once we learned how to drive again, we finally arrived at our condo in Niseko. We had a healthy weather forecast.
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We went out to the town to grab food around 7 p.m. and that’s when we realized that, during peak season (or Australian/Chinese holidays), you need a reservation in this town. So without a reservation, we starved… until we finally found a place that would seat us as a walk-in.
Japanese Pancakes!

Japanese Pancakes!

But, let’s talk about the skiing. From here, I’m just going to break this post down into sections for each ski area.

Niseko Annupuri

Niseko has four resorts on the one mountain, and plenty of interesting skiing. Some results from day one:

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niseko_night_ski

We even got to do some night skiing, which was exciting with dark-lens goggles on.

The next day, we were up skiing again (surprise surprise), and Scott discovered his Snowlipop.
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I don’t really know how these things amass, but we saw them amongst the plentiful powder while we were there, and I have never seen them skiing anywhere else.

We also saw some alpenglow:
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And we got above the clouds:
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Rusutsu

Once we arrived at Rusutsu, we were a bit surprised with the layout the resort. We parked at the “base,” which was home to a massive empty parking lot. We walked into a hotel, purchased our tickets, took an escalator and were walking on marble/tile floor. After walking past gift shops, we finally made it outside, where we loaded onto a gondola that took us across the highway, to another base lodge. The ski experience was starting to become familiar again once we took a high-speed quad for our first run. However, we were reminded that we were in a foreign country at the bottom of the run when we skied through a snow-covered amusement park. WTFs were whispered, spoken and even yelled.
Just tall enough to ride.

“Is that a ferris wheel?” … “Yup, that’s a ferris wheel.”

The amusement park sighting was a positive omen, indicating how the rest of our day was going to go. Because it went like this:
knee_deep

POWDER ALERT

At lunch, we discovered one of the most efficient ramen-making machines ever:

Kiroro

Two thumbs up for Kiroro. I think we hit it while we were in transit, on the way do Asahidake. But, despite being on a bit of a tight timetable, we still had plenty of powder to ski, and there were great views. This was a cool resort.

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Furano

Furano was kinda weird, but maybe it felt that way because we visited at the end of our trip. I always feel weird towards the end of a vacation. Here’s a photo of the trail map, because the skiing was average on that day, and that’s all I’ve got:
furano_map

Asahidake

At 7,517 feet, Asahidake is the tallest mountain (actually a volcano) in Hokkaido, duh. At the base of the mountain is a large hotel/resort called the Asahidake Manseikaku Hotel Bear Monte (quite the mouthful). This place comes equipped with a traditional Japanese onsen, which, was an unusual and through-provoking experience. It also had bus-loads of people dropping in to visit while we were there. The dining area was kind of a trip, since it was a buffet-cafeteria, which was unexpected at such a massive “up-scale” resort tucked away in the mountains. I will say that one of the most memorable experiences of the trip was the day spent trekking in Asahidake, where you could see plumes of smoke coming up from the surface of the volcano. The weather was pretty spectacular.
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asahidake_plumes

“Put that cigarette out!”

asahidake_on_the_moon
asahidake_melting

Apparently volcanoes can get hot.

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Traversing across the moon.

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Despite our last ski day of the trip occurring in Furano, I decided to end this post with Asahidake because it was so spectacular. Nobody wants to end on average. Ski you later.
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Travel

This Is Why You Should Care About Horse Racing

When the gates open for Race 11, the crowd cheers, but when there’s a Triple Crown on the line, the crowd erupts. With every galloping hoof imprinted on the sand, the crowd crescendos. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line. People are no longer sitting, they’re standing, or they’re jumping up and down.

There’s jostling in the crowds, and those who aren’t in a great position to see the race are trying their hardest to catch just a little glimpse of it from anywhere they can. The screaming and cheering continues, along with the horses, around the turns and over the straightaways. After the horses pass the final turn, the majority of the crowd realizes that the Triple Crown-hopeful is in the lead.

The crowd realizes that their hopes, which are sabotaged too often by life, may actually be fulfilled.

They’ve bet on this horse, not just to win money, but to see a dream come true. The galloping hooves continue and the crowd gets louder, and louder. And when American Pharaoh crosses the finish line, the sound is deafening. The cheering becomes one solid pitch of noise that happens to carry a multitude of human emotions.

You realize you just witnessed a being gain a piece of immortality and you hope that one day, you will too.

Here are some pictures from the day:

belmont_track_pano
American Pharaoh and Co. warming up.

American Pharaoh and Co. warming up.

Not a bad bet.

Not a bad bet.

I'm happy because it was my bet.

I’m happy because it was my bet.

And the day is over.

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Travel

Ziplining through Monteverde and Santa Elena, Costa Rica

I woke up to the sun breaking through the water and clouds, seemingly thousands of miles away.

Sunrise over Central America

 

It was 4:30 a.m., which meant our plane was over Central America. Once we landed, I actually blazed through immigration/customs in less than 15 minutes, which I’m told is quick for SJO airport. I didn’t really notice because the red eye had done something quite odd to me; it transformed me into a bonafide zombie.

 

Once I got outside, I was immediately heckled by cab drivers (official airport taxis, which are red and marked and others). I broke a rule; I went with a driver who was unofficial. I negotiated the price beforehand, and off we walked to the parking garage. I wondered if my zombie-minded decision would ultimately be the first cause of my first (and only) death.
Good news; he drove me to the hotel my friend was staying at, and he did all of this without mugging or killing me.

 

Once reunited with one of my traveling companions, I took a quick little nap that returned me to a human state. From there, we set off to pick up our car from Mapache Car Rental. Once we arrived, we hung out with this tree-guy for a while:

 

Why?

Why?

The man behind the counter explained to us all of the details of the insurance in perfectly spoken Spanish, which meant that we only understood 70% of what he was saying. Turns out, you really only need to understand 70% of the details of your insurance, if you never crash your car.

 

We finished the paperwork for the car and GPS (highly recommend getting a GPS) and drove off to the airport to pick up our third man. Once he was retrieved, we began our journey to Santa Elena/Monteverde.

 

Together, we deduced that “ceda” probably meant “yield,” but we still haven’t looked it up to confirm. My general impression of the roads was that they were much better than written about on most random travel sites online. The highways are good, but what can be a challenge are the off-roads through the mountains to places like Monteverde.

 

For example:

 

It started to get dark, which was good for when I was a zombie, but as a human driving a car in a foreign country on winding “roads, it was not ideal. But we mashed on, and perhaps one of the most interesting things I saw was a tarantula crawling across the road. I didn’t hit him, but I wouldn’t have been angry about it if I did.

 

 

It took us around 2.5 hours to get to our hostel, which I believe was due to being thoroughly inspired by Mario Andretti, and my father.

 

After checking in to the hostel, we checked out part of Santa Elena, grabbed some food, and asked one of the most important questions: “Where’s the bar with all the young people?” To this, we received the reply, “Los Amigos,” and that’s exactly where we went.

 

It was a Sunday night and quite tame at the onset, so my compadres shot some pool downstairs, and I pretended to do the same. As the evening progressed, so did our drunkenness, which directly increased our dancing abilities. We showed the dance floor who was boss.

 

The following morning, we all woke up, which was a bit of a late-Christmas miracle. The quick acquisition of coffee and water were essential by providing the spark for movement and the oil for our joints. We ate some almonds and other odd-ball snacks, then went off to our Extremo Monteverde zip-lining tour.

 

I have never gone zip-lining before, but I’m quite convinced that it provides a partial-to-full definition of the word “awesome.” In my infinite wisdom, I brought my GoPro with me. Here’s some photos/footage:

 

Zip Lining in Monteverde
 

 

OSHA approved.

OSHA-approved system for fastening the zip lines.


 

Upon further inspection, definitely OSHA approved.

Upon further inspection, definitely OSHA approved.

 

Going with two people is actually better because you can go faster.

Going with two people is actually better because you can go faster.

 

 

The “Tarzan Swing” was also pretty cool:

 

 

A photo finish.

A photo finish.

 

I will say though that one downside of being a man is realized once strapped into a harness by another man who seems to forget that you are, in fact, a man with manhood.


Upon completing our adrenaline-filled tour, we returned to the center of town for what was left unclaimed — breakfast and lunch. We were recommended to eat at Taco Taco.


The best (only?) tacos in town.

The best (only?) tacos in town.

Beef Taco Taco

We quickly learned how restaurants can benefit from having a modern, computerized order-tracking system.


We ate and following that, immediately went to take a long nap, which almost qualified as a “sleep.”


We woke up:
And then he rose from the dead.

And then he rose from the dead.


Then, with nothing better to do, we went on the jungle night tour. It cost something like $15 dollars, and the first thing we saw was a super poisonous snake. I offered to touch it, but the guide declined; he then held my hand for the rest of the tour.


We saw some frogs:
Love your red contacts, bro.

Love your red contacts, bro.


Once we got back from the night tour, we returned to Los Amigos bar for more cervazas. So many cervazas. So much party. So much Costa Rica, which led to so much bed. And that’s where we went straight to.


The following morning, we were off to Tamarindo.
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Debauchery, Travel

Talk Derby to Me, Baby (Road Tripping to the 140th Kentucky Derby)

I attended the 140th Kentucky Derby, and so did these restful folks:

Making snow angels.

Making snow angels.

Before we get to those live-wires, let me expound on the other activities that the Kentucky Derby demands, such as purchasing proper Derby attire. Since I was a first-time Derby-er, I used this Art of Manliness visual as a guide.

IMG_1360
I tried on some shoes.

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I got my hat!

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I ended up with this:

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With my outfit ready, I invited two good buddies, Rich and Brett. We spent minimal time planning, but had decided on one thing: it would be a road trip.

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

On Thursday evening, we began our 800-mile journey, which had three possible routes. We took the highlighted one below.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 12.01.16 AM

On the way, we stopped at a gas station (which would turn out to be a repeated activity); Rich made a new friend:

IMG_1376

Smells like. What the hell does this thing smell like?!

We forgot to take good advice from a good friend, and drove through not-so-good Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania is basically an empty state, in case you were wondering.) We spent the night at the Quality Inn at Breeze Manor. They only had one room left, which was for handicapped folks, and it also smelled like old cigarettes. This was a perfect fit, because all three of us are handicapped and smoke cigarettes.

When I woke up, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. And when I came out, I saw this:

IMG_1382

Sadie!

We made a new friend, as you can see!

Towards the end of our stay, I stumbled upon this nice Foursquare review from Shannon Guerin:
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To which I can only conclude, Shannon Guerin must normally live in a crowded, lightless basement at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, or, Hell.

Throughout Friday, we continued driving through awful Pennsylvania, and into Ohio. In Pennsylvania, the most exciting thing we saw for hundreds of miles was this bridge. I took a photo of it. It’s not worth uploading.

But once in Ohio, we stopped at thrift store in Columbus, where Rich acquired his Derby outfit (Miami Vice outfit) for the all-time low price of $25, which I think included tax. We also spent about an hour trying to navigate the 1,289,443 detours set up in Columbus so that I could make my first visit to what is apparently a great American institution, Cracker Barrel. I verify this, by providing this photo of 100%-engaged, middle-aged women:

"Let's buy some random knick-knacks, Carla!"

“Let’s buy some random knick-knacks, Carla!”

Cracker Barrel rocks, because you can play big-people checkers!

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After leaving the great American institution that is Cracker Barrel (and having one of the worst hamburgers of my life), we made our way to Cincinnati. I wasn’t driving, and was incredibly bored, which produced this car pano (“carpano?”):

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After an hour or so of driving away from Cracker Barrel, we made it to Cincinnati and searched high and low for the nicest hotel we could find:

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Found it. High class people stay here.

We immediately started drinking, and began our mission to explore this new city. This began with crossing the Ohio river, where only 60 or so seconds elapsed before we were approached by two young men who asked us if we wanted free hot dogs. (They were carrying about 200 of them.) In unison, we sang the beautiful song of “YES!” despite the fact that none of us were hungry. You just can’t pass up a free hot dog. We shared our victory over the water:

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Look at those hot dogs.

From the guidance of friends and Yelp!, we went to three bars, MOTR, The Famous Neon’s Unplugged, and Japp’s Since 1879. MOTR had solid music, and a cool sign outside:

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But no women…

Neon’s had adult Jenga!

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Isn’t that a stick-y situation? (Jenga at Neon’s)

But no women… And Japp’s had fancy drinks and nice lighting! But guess what they didn’t have? Women! Cincinnati is apparently a men-only city, and thus, not the right city for me (or my dos amigos). We made our way back to our comfortable Travelodge beds around 2 a.m.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Also known as, “DERBY DAY”

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We bought as many black clothing items as possible.

We went downstairs to check out the ol’ Travelodge’s Continental Breakfast. We found this spectacular ensemble:

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Do you want some milk with that white bread?

Brett had some fresh cereal:

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And we thought his misfortune was pretty damn funny.

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I questioned: If it was your first time visiting the United States, English was your second language, and you were invited to this “Continental Breakfast” already knowing what the word “Breakfast” meant, but not the word “Continental,” what would you think “Continental” meant? “Mediocre?” “Run-of-the-mill?” “Characterless?” Perhaps even “Prosaic?”

Nevermind the best breakfast ever, we were on our way to the Derby. And because we were still a bit hungry after our 5-course breakfast, we stopped at a gas station, which is where I saw this goddamned abomination.

IMG_1446

Guys, it stays cold LONGER! It’s totally worth it.

I did not partake in any of this nonsense. Fast forward a couple hours, and we’re in Louisville, dressed up, and on the way to the race track. Of course, we took a golf cart.

This driver had no name.

This driver had no name.

Rich had horrific blisters from his brand new thrift store kicks, so he made a wardrobe adjustment:

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Those are called sandals.

We made it to the gates of ol’ Churchill downs and snapped this gem:

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Busy looking good.

And then, it was time to enter. Apparently going to the Kentucky Derby costs money, like $50 for General Admission. We coughed up the cash, walked in, and were immediately surrounded by people looking like bright Crayola crayons, and generally, acting like they were in Kindergarten. We were bound to fit right in.

The drinking really picked up, and before we knew it, we were taking great photos of great things.

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A little landfill.

 

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I even caught someone trying to make it across the roofs of the Porta Potties!

And before we knew it, California Chrome won!

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Spectacular image quality.

California Chrome’s victory netted me $17.50, and I knew, at that moment, that I was unbelievably wealthy (by 1890’s standards).

After I collected my winnings, and people were clearing out, we began to recognize what sort of destruction had actually taken place, and we took the below photo.

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After posing like supermodels, we left Churchill Downs along with all of the other drunks. We had no arranged pickup or transportation planned, so we just started walking and stumbled into a dive bar called the Whirlaway Tavern. The place was a true dive-y masterpiece, filled with folks who were 2-2.5 times drunker than us, and also surprisingly, 2-2.5x older. After staying for an hour or so, Rich somehow negotiated a ride with someone he knew; it was a damn southern miracle.

We ran around the block to meet our saving grace and crammed into the 5-seater car — all 6 of us. As it turns out, the three other travelers, whose space we were invading, were completely sober. So then the car was filled with three people and three jackasses.

We all got past this fact, though, and before we knew it, we were at our next venue, The Garage Bar. And that’s basically where the day ended.

It was certainly a memorable day, (although, perhaps a few details are missing from my memory). And after some reflection, I’ve put together some bullet-proof advice for anyone attending the Derby:

  • Dress better than most.
  • Get there early, like, before 12 p.m., and place bets on all of the races for the rest of the day. Bet Trifecta Boxes!
  • Think about how much a horse weighs. Now, bring that amount in cash. No excuses, rob someone or a bank if you have to.
  • Have a mint julep; they’re delicious, and alcoholic.
  • Always bet on the winning horse.

Aftermath, Sunday May 4th, 2014

In short, we drove 12 hours in one day, and we thought about buying one of each of these shirts:

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I took a photo of the dash when we were nearly back to Hoboken, NJ to return the car:

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We arrived in Manhattan at 2:30 a.m. on Monday, and were back at work before noon. And it was totally worth it. If I go again next year, I’ll probably invite these guys:

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Rich

 

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Brett

Milo

Milo

Because they’re all really good at having fun.

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Debauchery, Travel

Unzipping Zermatt, Switzerland. (I kept my pants on.)

You can take a train to 3,135 meters, get off, put your skis on, and go. True story. The train that takes you is called the Gornergrat, and the place you’re skiing at? Zermatt (“Zermatt, Baby” is also an option).

gornergrat

Before we get to Zermatt, dear reader, let me explain where we were staying. Our group rested in a little town called Täsch. We decided to stay there because apparently everyone who stays in the town of Zermatt won the lottery, or can spend money like they won the lottery. (These people are very lucky!) Our little hotel was called the Monte Rosa, which was surprisingly good. I began to realize that it was hard for Zermatt and the surrounding areas to meet your lowest standards — the Swiss just don’t play that game.

monterosa

Our rooms with two single beds. Sweet pow skis not included with stay. (Sorta-ugly-puke-green-painted walls are, though.)

zermatt_monte_rosa_breakfast

On Sundays the Monte Rosa will serve eggs/sausage and pancakes. I basically quit Paleo while in Switzerland.

Täsch is only 12-15 minutes away from Zermatt… via train! So we were actually taking a train to Zermatt, and then we were taking another train up the mountain once we were there. Weird.

monte_rosa_train_Station

The Monte Rosa train station in Täsch.

zermatt_train

On board the train, there are places to store your skis and your luggage carts if you are heading in for the week to Zermatt.

It costs 16 Swiss Franks for a round trip ticket, which at the time of writing, converts to 17.38 USD. This alerted me to the fact that the Swiss apparently don’t mind paying a lot for transportation.

Once you make it to Zermatt, you have a few options for getting up the mountain. You can take 1) the Gornergrat train, 2) a funicular, or 3) a bus to a gondola. These are all obvious choices for American skiers… To uncover this information, we immediately went to the tourist information office.

“Sprechen sie Englisch?”

And yes, they did. If you can think of a language, the Swiss speak it. We got some directions and went skiing. We repeated this process mostly every day, but added some other activities. For example:

Activity #1: Drinking

zermatt_tbar

The “T-Bar”

Activity 2: Exploring Zermatt in a Snow Storm

They have a McDonald’s.

Activity 3: Buying Random Shit

Does not have side effects, other than the creation of a desire to take a photo.

Does not have side effects, other than the creation of a desire to take a photo.

Activity 4: Eating at Little Mountain Chalet-y Restaurants

Chemitta -- "the best fondue of my life."

Chemitta — “the best fondue of my life.”

Activity 5: Taking Pictures of Funny Signs

In case you were confused.

In case you were confused.

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Taken at Wilde Hilde, Zermatt. They served excellent and relatively inexpensive rotisserie chicken.

Activity 6: Après Skiing

We had a lot of fun at this place called Hennu Stall — maybe too much fun.

hennu stall

The white pole is for dancing.

The white pole is for dancing.

hennu_stall

Is that a shot-ski?

That is a shot-ski!

That is a shot-ski!

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Mission accomplished. 50 Swiss Franks for 10 shots of terrible alcohol.

Activity 7: Après Après Skiing

It starts to get dark, so you should probably…

Hold on to the lights!

Hold on to the lights, obviously.

Alternatively:

_flying

“If you drink enough, you can fly!”
“Like Peter Pan?”
“Yes, like Peter Pan.”

Activity 8: Skiing

Before aprés ski, there is actual ski. And we did a fair amount of that, in fresh powder.

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No fun.

happy

Blue skies.

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On our way to the promised land.

The promised land, 52.

The promised land, 52.

On our second to last day, we discovered 52, an off-piste section that was largely untracked. Once discovered, we skied 6 runs there; it was some of the best powder skiing of my life.

We also got to hang out with baby-thug-skiers (BTS):

This kid was prolly packin' heat.

This kid was prolly packin’ heat.

Despite all of the good fun, we never got to see the sun while we were in Zermatt.

Activity 9: Skiing With Your Eyes Closed

"Where does this chair go again?"

“Where does this chair go again?”

Activity 10: Trying to Spot the Matterhorn

Because of the great weather, our favorite thing to do was attempting to spot the Matterhorn and take a photo of it.

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“The Matterhorn, it’s over there!”

"I think that's the Matterhorn"

“I think it’s over there, actually.”

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“No, I can see it, it’s here.”

Activity 11: Accepting Useful Gifts

To remember this wonderful trip, my dad decided to give me something that I’ll hopefully need if I ever come back to Zermatt.

Sunglasses.

Sunglasses.

Looking for a good time? Come ski with these guys:

We are also exceptionally good-looking.

We are also exceptionally good-looking.

The end.

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Travel

Skiing (Hunting Powder) in Verbier, Switzerland and the 4 Valles

The vastness of skiable terrain here in the Alps is matched only by the amount it subsequently impresses those visiting. You cannot ski it all in a day. You cannot ski it all in a week. Sure, you could ski all of the chairs, maybe, but a single tram ride gives you access to thousands of skiable vertical feet. Subsequently, you can find more adventure than Indiana Jones while here.

For example, here’s a photo of the entrance to the top of Mont Fort:

DCIM100GOPRO

And here are some photos I took from the top:

DCIM100GOPRO

Bring your skis.

DCIM100GOPRO

Also, bring your skis.

Look down.

Look down.

mt_fort_pano

My buddy, Benjamin, is also captured taking some photos.

To get to this view, we had to do go up this way:

Another gem from the top:

And then I came down:

Nothing but smiles.

Nothing but smiles after coming down the gut.

This day stands as the best day of skiing so far, but there were some other good moments:

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Near the top of Mont Gele.

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My dad performing a fancy (and very intentional) pole trick.

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You can go your own way. (And I did.)

And finally, we ended our trip to the 4 Valles at ski bar Le Bob after skiing back to Nendaz. I’m guilty; I had a beer.

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