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:

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And here are some photos I took from the top:

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Bring your skis.

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Also, bring your skis.

Look down.

Look down.

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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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Travel

Nendaz, Switzerland (It’s pronounced like “Hawaii”)

If you haven’t been to the Alps before, Swiss, French, German, Austrian or Italian, then I’ll have you know that they are large. (Large enough to pass through those 5 countries, and a few others.)

We are staying in Nendaz, which is in Switzerland. Our place is called Chalet Natacha and was rented to us by a company called Interhome. Chalet Natacha’s name reminds me of Russian girls (pretty ones). To be clear, there are no Russian women staying in our chalet. Chalet Natacha rests on a steep hill, which is actually more aptly referred to as an impenetrable fortress of a mountain. You may try to drive your car up to Chalet Natacha, but you will slide backwards, forever and always. So you park at the bottom of the hill and walk up. And we’re gonna call that exercise.

My little Russian woman loves views. In fact, this is what she offers us from the living room:

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Despite the terrible view, we are still having a grandiose ol’ time. I’ve had no problems maintaing my diet from the Whole Life Challenge. Because all of Europe, especially France, Italy and Switzerland are known for their Paleo-only menu selections and their general disdain for wine, cheese and chocolate. My one major obstacle right now is that I’m supposed to be on a diet. I am basically slapping bread out of the hands that try to feed it to me. In lieu of bread, I have chosen air as my primary form of sustenance. So far I’ve lost all of my weight. I suspect I will perish shortly.

This is a joke. I’ve broken lots of my dietary restriction rules and now have “CD” (Carpe Diem) stamped on my forehead. Skiing is the name of the game here, and that’s what I came to do.

“I’ll take my skiing with some ice,

please, snowtender.”

My first day of skiing and I was questioning my equipment selection. I thought I should have brought my ice skates and Kristi Yamaguchi out there with me.

I didn’t take a lot of photos because the conditions were marginal and I was still jetlagged. When you’re jetlagged, you forget how to use cameras, duh.

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Food, Random

Day 4, Lost in a Sea of “Bad” Food

Dearest Isabella,

Our ship capsized over the Atlantic very near the Titanic and it was quite frigid in the water. I can only say that I survived by eating others in the life raft.

Dearest Isabella,

I arrived at work yesterday and found a mysterious brown bag sitting on my desk, motionless. I resolved to investigate this paper parcel in an effort to fully realize the contents within. What I found was most disturbing. Please see Exhibit A:

photo (9)

Most mysterious and mischievous.

By now, you must understand my overwhelming consternation that was coursing through the veins of my living self.

Bread?

What devilish soul would impart such a gift upon me. They must know that I am not allowed even a morsel of this catastrophic carbohydrate to enter my mouth. And yet they did it anyway. Cruel (and most unusual!).

Yet I will have you know that I was not led into temptation by the flour-filled flavorful snack of the demon gods. I stood steady on my ground and passed the bag to another traveler, and perhaps their own temptations led them to damnation. I cannot say for sure. But darling Isabel, I must go to bed now.

With love,

Sir Alexander of Paleo (King of the 20 Kingdoms of Kingdoms of the North and South and East and West, 5th Lord to the Second Brother of Charles, and 19th Cousin to the Lady Mary)

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Food

The Whole Life Challenge: You Mean I Can’t Eat Pizza?

I’m doing the Whole Life Challenge and it has yet to be determined whether it is the best or worst decision I’ve made in my life.

Reasons it Could Be the Worst

I can’t eat any of these things:

sees

Now you see ’em, now you can’t frickin’ eat ’em.

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Pizza? That stuff sucks. I hate it.

pizza

I hate pizza so much that I eat it a lot.

pancakes

Pancakes? Nope. Definitely rhymes with “nope.”

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Powdered sugar is out. So are empanadas. But I can stare at them. Forever.

kasespatzen

Käsespätzle is also a “no,” and it doesn’t matter how sexy the girl is that makes it for you.

icecream

I scream, you scream, we — “dude stop screaming”

cookies

Cookies! 🙂

cookie happy

Cookies! 😦

candy

Gummy bears? No. Real bears? Yes, but you have to kill them with your bare hands.

bread

Bread and cheese. Those things suck together.

beer2

Who needs alcohol when you can have water?

beer

Can’t have beer. Can have powder.

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In burritos we trust.

Reasons it Could Be the Best

It’s challenging. And for people that like challenges, that’s enough.

What I Ate On Day 1/2

Day 1

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 protein shake with 22G protein
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 chicken
  • 1/3 of a Sweet potato
  • 1 side salad.
  • 1 coffee
  • 3 + liters of water

Day 2:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 chicken
  • 1 side salad
  • 3 bananas (2 in the morning, 1 in the evening)
  • 1/2 a can of sardines.
  • 1.5 coffees
  • 3 + liters of water

As you can see, I’m probably lacking protein.

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Lists, New York City, Random

Things In New York That You Stop Taking Photos Of

During my first year in New York City (moved out in October, 2009), I took quite a few photos of things that were, at the time, novel. Novelty photos are great because they unveil subject matter that excites an individual. I think we should always feel excited about our environment, and if you are not, it may be indicative that you need to change your life-clothes. Here are some of my gems.

99centpizza

WHAT? 99 CENTS? You mean that I can have a slice of pizza for 99 cents? You mean that I can actually eat something for less than $1 in Manhattan? “Sir, I will take 99 slices, please and thank you.”

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First snow in the city is magical. Now it’s a nuisance, because melted snow = puddles, which turns the entire city into a giant game of Frogger. In this photo, we can see that NYC stays consistent throughout the years — you never know if your street is gonna get plowed or not.

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This is a busy street.

snow

Even bike thieves are afraid of the snow.

ground zero

Ground Zero, which, I actually still might take a photo of, because One World Trade Center now stands here.

subwaywork

Subway guys working on subway stuff. Definitely never take photos of this anymore. Now when I see this, I know it means any of these things: 1) it’s passed 12 a.m. and I should be in bed, 2) my train is going to be delayed, or 3) my train is never going to come.

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The subway is water-tight, which is why you see water pouring into most stations whenever there is more than 1 centimeter of rain. Don’t forget to bring your rain catcher.

streetstatues

This crazy art. And this weird dog. Since I’ll never see both of them together again, I’m glad I captured this. I also know that now I would see this dog and be pissed at the owner for having such a long leash on a busy street.

santacon

Santa Con before I knew what Santa Con was. Now I know what Santa Con is. 

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I actually forgot that I’ve ever seen this tree in person. If I had to go this year, first, I’d rent some ice skates. Then, I’d use them to create a wall of defense around me. You know, like Wolverine does.

plaza

This is the Plaza Hotel. You remember Home Alone, don’t you? I’ll just Google it now. That way I can avoid taking the subway to go see this tourist-surrounded monstrosity.

nye

New Year’s Eve. I’m glad I took a photo, because I can’t remember any of it.

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This was my first mouse kill. You can now call me the mouse mercenary with at least 15 kills under my belt. I’m not happy about it. The sad story with this little guy was that the first trap caught his tail. I then led him into the second one. Let’s agree to call this euthanasia. 😦

middle finger

Welcome to New York City! These days I just give the finger right back.

landlord

Alternatively you can just call any landlord — they’re all crazy.

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The Highline. It’s like a train track, but it’s a park. Still cool to go here, but it has lost its picture-worthiness.

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This cat did not learn how to read in school.

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This cat is the store’s security. Little Felix also is a shirt-folding machine.

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People selling stuff on the streets in the Lower East Side. At the time, it surprised me that any streets in Manhattan were used for anything other than driving/jay-walking. I am still surprised by this photo —  these people actually sell their wares.

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Look at that beautiful polluted water!

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Katz’s Delicatessen. I had one of these sandwiches this December. It took me 3 years to make it back here; I’m not a big fan of lines.

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I think Obama might have been in town. Maybe I was hoping to get a photo of him. Definitely don’t care anymore.

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There are 10 flower beds in the city. There are 10,000 dogs. Sadly, dog-owners need to be reminded that their dog should not be peeing or pooping on 1/10 beautiful things in the city.

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Once you’ve got it once, you don’t need it again. This is still great though.

donut_pub

Why did I take this photo? I must have been trying to prove a point — that there are donut shops in Manhattan which are not Dunkin Donuts.

bad accident

“Hey dude, you flipped your car in the middle of Broadway/Houston… Yeah, the really busy street that smells like bad Cologne because of the Hollister on the corner.”

union_snow

This is an empty Union Square, with snow. Did you hear me? Union Square. Empty.

I ❤ NY.

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Travel

Climbing Mt. Shasta, Camping on a Glacier, and Skiing Down

Once you’ve got an idea in your head, you have to do something with it — let it die, or act on it. We brought ours to life.

“Let’s climb Mt. Shasta.”

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“OK.”

I just wanted to do something fun. Climbing mountains is fun. Or is it? Things that come with climbing a mountain or can come with climbing a mountain:

  • A diet primarily based on beef-jerky and energy bars.
  • Snow.
  • Snow in your face.
  • Snow in your boots.
  • Snow in your tent.
  • Wind.
  • Wind in your face.
  • Wind outside of your tent (which subsequently makes you think that the big bad wolf is outside about to blow your goddamned tent down the goddamned mountain.)
  • Wind inside of your tent, because the wind can be everywhere.
  • Discomfort caused by “rural” or “ancient” methods of relieving oneself.
  • Pride in overcoming the challenge of the previous point.
  • Tiredness.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Fear.
  • Joy.

Let me elaborate on that.

I flew back on a Thursday night to meet up with my dad. He was my climbing partner at the youthful age of sixty-one. My dad can kick your dad’s ass (unless your dad knows jujitsu, and is in his 20s, and you can read this, somehow.) We drove up to Shasta from the bay area, approximately a 4.5-hour drive and spent the night at the Best Western. Holy shit. Have you ever stayed at a Best Western? It’s what I imagine staying at the Ritz Carlton is like, or maybe just the Carlton. We slept like babies that had a fresh pair of diapers and woke up the next morning for some buffetfest. Eggs, sausage, pancakes, the works, everything I ever wanted and dreamed of — I have big dreams.

We shot over to the meeting spot and met the guide and the other two gents in the group. I was the youngest by 21 years. I promised everyone I would make it to the top before them. I did this simply by standing there and not speaking. Oh, the power of youthfulness.

We drove over to the backside of Shasta; made it to our beginning trail over there and got our backpacks on. I mention this because backpacks are often trivial, unless you’re climbing a mountain, staying two nights there, and skiing down it. In that case, you need things like: food, water, plastic bags, ice axes, shovels, transceivers, avalanche probes, ski crampons, skis, ski skins, ski boots, ski clothing, ski poles, bandaids, camping stoves, fuel, alleve (optional), pepto bismol (optional, but recommended), toothbrush/toothpaste (optional, but not advised), sleeping bag, a mat for your sleeping bag, and a giant fucking backpack to carry all of the aforementioned. Also optional: bringing a girl with you to keep you warm at night, but in that case, you’d probably want to bring a toothbrush/toothpaste. See gear:

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We got on our merry way. Peculiar to me was the entire setup I had going on my feet. I never went ski touring before in my life. What do you mean my heel comes up? What do you mean I won’t slide backwards on this hill? Are you sure these skin things work? They work. They just don’t work as well as you’d hope when you have 0 experience. As such, my first 15 minutes on this randonee setup was, to say the least, exciting.

Remember when you were a baby learning how to walk? Me neither, but that’s how I felt.

We hiked from 7,000 to 10,000 feet and made camp. We used our shovels to flatten an area and then we pitched our tents right there on the mountainside.

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As the night rolled in, the wind picked up, a lot. I’ve never camped at 10,000 feet. I’ve also never camped at 10,000 feet when there’s 30-45 mph winds outside. Shit, I’ve hardly even camped. We cooked dinner inside the tent, which, apparently, is generally a no-no because you can asphyxiate yourself if you don’t have air coming through it. (Asphyxiation is bad.) Also, you can pretty much blow up your tent, which is not an advisable action either. But we cooked inside anyway, all five of us in a 4-person tent, which was really like a 3-person tent. It was cozy.

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Dad didn’t know I took this picture of us:

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After getting the water boiling, we ate ramen and other choice gourmet foods (actually wasn’t that bad). Then we went to bed. Then the wind picked up even more. And it was snowing.

Tent vs. wind: which one would you bet on?

Our tent survived the night, and so did we. But we missed our chance to summit, because to summit, we needed to leave at 5 a.m.. At 5 a.m., there was a fortified storm outside, and we hardly had a fort protecting us.

The wind finally died down around 8 a.m. and we went ski touring, climbing up to about 11,000 feet. We saw stuff like this:

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And this:

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And this:

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After touring around on the glacier, we went back to camp. The weather was OK and we were actually able to cook from outside of the tent that evening. After eating, we went to bed. Around 10 p.m., the wind picked up. It howled throughout the night which made for ideal sleeping conditions, up until the morning. At 7 a.m., we were all up and the objective was clear: get the hell out of dodge. A blizzard had come, in May, and it was up in our grill, eating all of our meat and vegetables. We packed up in an hour, slapped on the skis and made our way down.

Good news: some decent powder.
Bad news: not for long.

Once we were down to about 8,000 feet, the snow became ice and the terrain shifted away from the smooth plane it once was, and it became somewhat of a minefield filled with “suncups.” These do not make for ideal skiing conditions. But, we made it look as good as we could and we powered through.

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Once we got towards closer to the car, the snow was bountiful:

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After making it back to the car, we drove to the Goat-Tavern bar back in Shasta City. I had a beer and I washed my hands, with soap. I couldn’t tell you which one I enjoyed more.

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