Christmas & New Year - 2014 Snow covered trees framing snow covered path

Snowshoeing Atzmannig
For our first attempt at snowshoeing, we headed back to Atzmannig where we knew we could rent equipment, and the terrain was fairly familiar. The equipment turned out to be fairly easy and cheap, about 26 Fr. For the snowshoes and a single lift ticket. We decided to do route "2" in reverse – walking up the hill, as route "1" which we walked in December was closed, having not been avalanche cleared. The snowshoeing was quite good fun, and fairly hard work – more so that the equivalent distance walking. The route was very pleasant, very quiet and peaceful (except for us huffing and puffing), but close enough to places we knew that we weren't too concerned with navigation, even with the reduced visibility. We made it back to the Bergrestaurant Atzmannig for lunch, which was very busy, but the lady recognized us from a month previous, which was quite impressive. We both had the FitnessTeller, which was very pleasant and good value for money. After lunch we headed back down the chairlift (an interesting experience) to arrive back at Atzmannig slightly tired but happy. All in all the 2.44 miles took us 2hrs, including one break, but not lunch, for the 1,495 / 435 ascent/descent. Not sure how to rate it, given it was our first outing, but we reckon about A/B. GPX link here

New Years Day - Uetliberg for champagne and wurst.
For a gentle stretch of the legs on New Years Day, Jules and I headed up the Utliberg for a stroll along the ridge. The weather was forecast good at the top, which was almost true – we were in bright (and warm) sunshine for about 50% of the time. The walk up from Triemli was fairly pleasant – a steady climb, but not so steep as to be challenging, and it was fairly sure underfoot even with all the snow about. We reached the top in good time and were greeted with the pleasant sight of a warm fire burning, and Prosecco and hot dogs being sold. We availed ourselves of all three and toasted the New Year - yours truly having gone to bed well before midnight the night before. From Uto Klum we headed along the ridge a short way before dropping down Albigutli, which was a bit treacherous underfoot – I managed to lose my footing completely and landed flat on my back. Fortunately the only damage (other than to my ego) was the sunglasses in my backpack and some aches and pains for a couple of days. All in all it was a pleasant day out, and without taking it too seriously the 3.6 miles took us 1hr35 including the 1,353 / 1,173 ft ascent/descent. The GPX track of our route is available here. GPX link here

Forch to Meilen
After an easy train journey to Forch we set off over the hill to Meilen. There was still snow on the ground after the recent cold snap, and we were grateful for the walking boots and thermals we were wearing. The navigation was pretty easy – a combination of well marked trails, and the GPX maps from Zuercher-Wanderwege made for hardly any questions or dramas on route. The route itself climbs gently up to Pfannelsteil, where we avoided climbing up the radio tower, before dropping down to Meilen. We had lunch at Restaurant Hochwacht which was a bit unfriendly and unwelcoming, but the food itself was good. Overall the 6.55 miles and 738 / 1,565 ft of ascent and descent took us 2hrs15 (not including lunch) and we'd rate it 3/10 for difficulty. The area itself is very pleasant, and quite close to Zurich so I imagine we'll be back here in the future. The GPX track of our route is available here. GPX link here

Interlaken - December View over the lake to Interlaken

For a bit of a relax and chill out, Jules and I decided to head to Interlaken for a long weekend. The aim was to spend some time not doing any admin, or worrying about moving house, and instead to do some walking/relaxing/restauranting/whatever. We took a train out of Zurich on Friday night, which took slightly under two hours to get to Interlaken. The train was a bit busy with people finishing for the week in Zurich, but we arrived safe and sound although a bit tired after the exertions of the previous days and weeks.

The weather was as good as we could have hoped in December, and so we took advantage and headed out for a number of really good walks in and around town.

We had a leisurely start on Saturday and walked from Interlaken to Iseltwald. This was a recomended walk around the south-west shore of the Brienzersee from Interlaken to Iseltwald.

The route was very well marked and signed with the normal Wanderweg signs, and picturesque where it wasn't right next to the main road. The weather was very kind to us for December - bright and sunny and about 8 degrees.

There were lovely views back towards Interlaken, particularly on the second half of the walk, and a rather impressive waterfall at Iseltwalt which would be spectacular in the spring melts. We were promised a Christmas market in Iseltwald, and we weren't disappointed - complete with gluhwein and a Raclette type affair for Jules.

All in the walk was 2hrs30, including breaks for 6.4 miles and 1,200ft gained/lost and we'd rate it 3/10 for difficulty. Our GPX plot for the route is here

View over the snowcovered Hoheweg towards Muren

For dinner on Saturday night we went to the Golden Anker, which was an interesting experience, somewhere between a locals pub and a restaurant. The food was fine, but we left feeling a bit old and confused!

On Sunday we decided to do a slightly more taxing walk and headed to Grutschalp above Lauterbrunnen to walk to Gimmelwald

We followed the Hoheweg from Grütschalp to Mürren, the slightly less well travelled route - grateful to follow someone's footsteps (and a dogs tracks) for most of the way which made the navigation much easier. To be fair, the route was well marked, but the fairly deep snow made it hard to see the path at times. We were very grateful for the red and white marks of the bergweg and the GPS plotter. The route was very picturesque, with the rather good views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau over the valley. It was quite hard going in the deeper snow - at worst it was over knee height, and this was reflected in our average speed - less than 2 mph for those sections of the route.

We stopped in Müren for a good lunch at the Hotel Bellevue-Crystal, typically generous portions! After lunch we continued on to Gimmelwald, continuing along the Bergweg through a pretty pine forest, although quite steep in places.

All in all the walk took us 3hrs10 for the 5.6 miles including 1,583/1999 ft. ascent/descent including breaks but not lunch. We'd rate it 6/10 given the deep snow in places, and a ranking of Good. Our GXP plot for the route is here

In terms of equipment, it was 4 degrees at the top. I was wearing; Full thermals (medium Capelene), Shirt, Blue Rab jacket, gators, leather boots, winter walking socks. In my pack I had; Hat & gloves, fleece, full waterproofs

Jules was wearing; White thermal top, jacket+zip in fleece, Rab thermal leggings, WPPs, Odlo trousers, gators, high boots, neck scarf, winter walking socks, Rab down vest. In her pack she had; Iceland hat. 2 pairs gloves, headband, full waterproofs, white fleece.

View over the lake from Harder Klum

On Monday, with the weather better than forecast for our last day in Interlaken we decided to walk up to the Harder Klum, which turned out to be a bit more strenuous than expected. We made good time up to the top - about 1hr50, including a stop for a break at Hardermandli (where Jules strategically left some water for later). The restaurant at the top was closed, but forewarned we'd brought sandwiches and tea and stopped for a little break before heading back down. We took a slight detour, owing to a small navigational error on the part of yours truly, but that did afford us a glimpse of a black squirrel and - one of the few wild animals we've seen walking so far in Switzerland.

All in all the walk was 5.85 miles, with a vertical gain/loss of 2,906 ft including the detour. In total it took us 3hrs50, including breaks and lunch. We'd rate it 7/10 & Good, and our GPX plot of the route is here.

Cycling Scotland - September View over heather towards Islay from Jura

For a bit of an adventure, and to see the famous tidal whirlpool at Corryvreckan Dad and I headed to the top end of Jura by bicycle. This turned out to be a slightly harder than expected, 4 day ride out across the western isles in good weather and with the obligatory sampling of the local whiskeys.

Tuesday - Glasgow to Islay.
We left Glasgow in the warm sunshine and made good progress on fairly ; quiet roads to Ardrossan. The route was fairly easy to navigate, following the A736 and A738. We made good time to Ardrossan stopping for frequent breaks along the way, and caught the first ferry on time. The second leg was surprisingly tough - the ride over Arran was only 14 miles and 200m gain but felt like a lot more. Arriving in Lochranza we had an excellent soup at The Sandwich Station whilst waiting for the ferry to Claonaig. ; We made good time across Kintyre and caught the last ferry of the day from from Kennacraig to Port Ellen. The last ride of the day was a crackingone - a night ride to Bowmore with a harvest moon over our shoulders - ; and the last 11 miles in 45 minutes. We arrived in Bowmore tired but happy having completed the longest day for the trip with no incidents or injuries, and ready for a pint and a whiskey in the (perfectly pleasant) Lockside Inn.

Wednesday - Islay to Jura
We left the Lochside Inn early in the morning, at around 6:50, and headed over to Port Askaig. We managed to catch an unscheduled ferry to Feolin and then cycled to the Jura Hotel in Craighouse to drop the bags and grab a bacon sarnie for breakfast. Suitably victualed, we headed off to the north of Jura leaving at about 9:30. It was quite a hard ride to the top of the island - the roads were quite hilly (although the peaks weren't that high) and the road surface deteriorated steadily throughout the route, with the last 5 miles being on very rough tracks - not ideal for a Condor with 25mm tyres at 110psi! The track finally ran out 2 miles from the destination, and we continued the last leg on foot. The Corryvreken race was in good form, with bright blue skies and the lovely colour of the heather on the slopes. We sat and watched the water until it was time to go, and then retraced our steps. We arrived back at the lovely Jura Hotel at a little before 7 in the evening, having been on the go for most of the last 12 hours very much looking forward to a shower, a beer, and some food. The lessons for the day were: (1) it was a lot harder than we reckoned and (2) we didn't take nearly enough water - if it hadn't been for a kind lady letting us refill our bottles then we'd have been very dehydrated by the time we got back.

View over the Coryvreken strait

Thursday - Jura to Islay.
A fairly gentle and relaxing recovery day, after the exertions of the last two days. We made our way back round the bottom of Jura and then to Bowmore, stopping for a very pleasant lunch in the brasserie next to the Bowmore restaurant. We made good time to Port Ellen, and then after dropping the bags off at The White Hart we headed on to Ardbeg for a well deserved distillery tour and sampling of the wares. We stayed for dinner in the White Hart, which was a bit tired as a restaurant and hotel, and the decor was a bit random. Not the best hotel we stayed at during the trip!

Friday - Islay to Glasgow
We took the early ferry to Kintyre, then had a fairly hard warmer-upperer over to Claonaig - just the thing to start the day. We stopped for a quick bite of lunch in The Sandwich Station in Lochranza - a very welcome tuna/cheese melt panini for yours truly and a rather good curried lentil soup for Dad. The ascent on Arran wasn't too bad - a bit long and tiring, but slow and steady on the way over the brow, then a gentle run around the coast to Brodick. We saw a red squirrel on the way (which was very exciting) and some seals basking on the rocks. The last leg was the 30 mile run back to Glasgow, which was mostly downhill for the last half - quite a welcome relief. We arrived in Glasgow tired but happy, with just time to have a refreshing pint (it might have been more than one, if we're honest) and a bite to eat before getting on the train back to London.

Emma & Jamie Wedding - France Emma and Jamie, just married

To celebrate Emma & Jamie's wedding, and to see a bit of France that we've never visited before, we enthusiastically set off for Carcassonne, in southern France for a lovely celebration, and a bit of a holiday as well.

We arrived on Friday, and after ferrying people around and generally meeting and greeting everyone we headed down to La Demeure du Pareur in Vilneuve Minervois to check into our (lovely) room and a very pleasant dinner followed by a cigar, sheltering under the outside bar through the rather spectacular thunderstorm.

Saturday started with a late breakfast and a gentle stroll around the village with Kirsten and Niels, taking in the windmill on the local hill. After freshening up, we got dressed up and went up to Cabrespine for the wedding ceremony and festivities, including a (nearly) impromptu speech by yours truly. A great time was had by all, and even the weather obliged, staying nicely warm and dry, but not too hot all evening.

Chateau Puilaurens, against the sky

Sunday started rather slowly over a late breakfast. The plan had been to walk up to Cabrespine, but confusion and a misplaced phone (yours truly being too cunning by half in his pre-festivites planning) put paid to that idea, so we drove up and went for a lovely circular walk around the local villages, guided by Jeremy, before returning for a swim in the pool. In the evening the village came around for some food and drink and to wish the happy couple well.

On Monday we headed off from Vilneuve Minervois and went to Carcasonne to see the Citie, which was interesting enough, but quite touristy. In the afternoon we drove down to Chateau Puilaurens - well worth the trip - which turned out to be a well preserved medieval castle on top of a steep hill, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Afterwards we headed on to Toulouse, arriving quite late but enjoying an excellent and very filling Cassoulet in Brasserie La Capoul.

We spent Tuesday exploring Toulouse mostly on foot - we saw the Capitole Square and the Pont Neuf and the St. Sermin Church, stopping in a little cafe overlooking the church for a nice glass of wine. In the evening we went to the Latin Quarter for a drink before wandering around and eventually going for a pretty poor dinner at Le J Go in Rue Victor Hugo.

On Wednesday we rented some not-so-high-tech bikes (Wo ist mein Condor, round #2) and went for a cycle ride along the Canal du Midi, which was very pleasant - traffic free and flat (for non-cycling fit ferkels). We managed about 26 km before turning round and heading back to town. ; In the evening we went for a lovely dinner in the Bistrot du Carmes and had the best seat in the house - right in front of the chef who fed us canapes until it was dinner time. Your truly made the mistake of having two courses, a carpaccio of beef and the largest salad I've ever seen, with (surprisingly good) confit gizzards.

On Thursday we headed over to Albi for a stroll around the very picturesque old town and a bite to eat before heading to the airport and going home.

Sailing Falmouth to Southampton - June View over Dartmouth harbour, with sailing boats moored

For a bit of a summer sail, I joined my father and Vanessa on the trip from Falmouth to Southampton. The weather was mostly very good, and the wind mostly fine, with just a few hours of motoring to get us to a suitable port where necessary. We spent the first few days pottering around the west country before doing the long leg back from Dartmouth in one go.

The days broke down as follows:

Sunday Falmouth - Fowey (25 miles)
Interesting but good departure springing off the pontoon. The weather was good, sunny and enough wind to sail. We arrived in Fowey in the early afternoon, which turned out to be a very pretty little Cornish fishing port. Yours truly managed to fall on a winch in the morning, in retrospect probably cracking a rib.

Monday Fowey to River Yealm (24 miles)
Bright and sunny, but an easterly wind meant that we drove most of the way to Plymouth. We sailed the last stretch which was very pleasant and then navigated the entrance to River Yealm. After tying up on a visitors bouy we headed off for a shower and a welcome pint of good, local beer in the Ship Inn before a perfectly passable dinner.

Tuesday River Yealm to Salcombe (17 miles)
The sea was a bit rough for yours truly, and I ended up horizontal for most of the trip, but managed to help out when it mattered, leaving River Yealm and arriving at Salcombe. The wind was OK, but it was a bit of a beat South East against a F4/5 Easterly. Sunny and pleasant when we arrived.

Wednesday Salcombe to Dartmouth (23 miles)
Mostly a good sailing day. There was some tacking to get around Start Point (which was very impressive in the sunshine), before turning to head up into Dartmouth. The wind died after lunch and we ended up motoring for the last hour or so. Arrived uneventfully in good weather - in stark contrast to the last time we were here!

Thursday Dartmouth to Solent-Hurst (85 miles)
Lovely day - bright, sunny and warm, but slightly too little wind to sail at first. We motored around Portland Bill, then sailed round Anvil Point and through Hurst . Saw a couple of dolphins (possibly Harbour Porpoises) just past Anvil Point. Arrived late in Hurst bay an dropped anchor for the night.

Friday Solent (Hurst) to Southampton (12 miles)
Easy sail in the Solent and up Southampton water - Lovely Westerly breeze, boat sailing very well (hit the top speed for the trip, at 7 knots). Arrived safe and happy back in dock.

Sardinia - April

For a bit of Easter sun, and the chance to do some walking, Jules and I headed to Sardinia, making a full week out of the Easter break. We've not been to this part of Italy before, but armed with a guide book, and a TripAdvisors recommendation for Refugio Gorropu we headed off.

The weather was very kind to us - warm and sunny on most days and we were certainly able to get out and enjoy the walking around Dorgali. The countryside is spectacular, the limestone of the Supramonte is stark and very beautiful, and the coastal walks were everything you'd hope for including good views of lovely beaches. Our guesses about the trip were mostly right - a car was quite important for getting around, although the journey times were a little longer than we'd anticipated. This actually ruled out some of the walks nearby - they're close as the crow flies, but the round trip via small mountain roads becomes a little prohibitive. The only thing we'd have done differently would have been to take a small book of Italian phrases - English isn't spoken much, although we managed to get by alright.

View down over Cala Goloritze - beautiful white shingle beach and torquise waters

The days panned out as follows:

After a very early start (but otherwise uneventful journey) we arrived in Olbia - a very pleasant and quiet airport with possibly the fastest rental car pickup ever - ; and headed to Refugio Gorropu. After a brief trip back to the airport to pick up the driving license and boarding pass we finally arrived properly in late afternoon. First impressions of Refugio Gorropu were very positive - superb views overlooking the valley from the terrace and a good sized room. After settling in we walked the couple of miles into Dorgali for a drink and a snack. Discovering that none of the cafes started serving food before 8pm (it's Italy, after all) we headed back to Refugio Gorropu for an excellent dinner and went to bed tired but sated and happy.

View south from Cala Gonone Beach

Walk # 9 in the Sunflower Sardinia guide to Cala Goloritze (GPX plot) After a bit of a drive to get to the Ristorante Golgo and a coffee to recover from the drive, we first went for a bit of a stroll around the Chiesa San Pietro before heading off towards the beach. The route was easy to follow (and very well trodden), winding over a low col before heading down towards the sea. The beach itself was lovely - secluded with fine white shingles and beautiful blue crystal clear waters. After relaxing for a bit, and the obligatory swim for yours truly we headed back the way we came. En route we saw some lizards, cows, semi wild pigs and butterflies. Overall the 7.85 miles took us 3:30 (actual walking time, no breaks), and we'd rate it 6/10. The views to and from the walk were pretty spectacular, even if it did make for nervous driving along the very narrow and windy mountain roads.

After a gentle start, we drove to Cala Gonone for a stroll around the village - a perfectly pleasant sea-side port with a promenade of restaurants and cafes. After an epic search for a supermarket (all three in Cala Gonone were closed, we assume for the off-season) we eventually bought some cheese & ham for lunch in Dorgali. Fully equipped we set off for walk # 5 in the Sunflower/Sardinia guide - Gola su Gorropu (GPX plot). This turned out to be a 3:10, 8.7 miles walk along the interesting valley to reach the gorge/clef of Gorropu (from where the agriturismo gets its name) which was surprisingly impressive, and definitely worth the (schon) walk to get to. We did an epic (Jules claims) walk through the canyon, taking pictures which won't do it justice, before heading back the way we came. Overall we'd rate the walk 4/10 for fit ferkels.

View over Cala Luna

Took the boat to Cala Luna - only just caught it, thinking that it went at 12 (it actually departed shortly after 11). Very nice cruise along the Golfo di Orosei, stopping briefly at the Grotto del Bue Marino before heading onto Cala Luna. From there we did walk # 6 from the Sunflower/Sardinia guide in reverse (GPX plot). This is a lovely walk, very reminiscent of Turkey, along the coast climbing quite steeply in places and with lovely views back and forwards along the grottos and caves and beaches. The GPS track disagrees with the book in this case - we recorded 4.9 miles, total VG/L 1,165 ft. The book reckons 6.2 miles and 620ft VG/L. Overall the walk took us 2:30 (actually walking time, no breaks) and we'd rate it 4/10. Finished with a schon cafe (but no Affogati) in a bar above the marina in Cala Gonone. Saw some wild pigs mit ferkels. Jules claims to have seen a snake en-route, but no independent verification of serpentine presence could be made. We finished with a break on the beach at Cala Gonone with yours truly going for a ; (very) brief swim in the surprisingly cold water.

View over the limestone plateau of the Supramonte

Walk # 3 from the Sunflower/Sardinia guide - Monte Corrasi (GPX plot) 3:25 (actual walking time, no breaks) 7.4 miles 2,652 VG/L. An excellent walk from above Oliena, up to the peak of Monte Corrasi. The route starts out on a road that becomes a track before a stretch across the Supramonte plateau to make the final ascent to Monte Corassi. The route up was a little sheer in places, but the way across the plateau (only attempt in good weather) and final ascent were fine. Spectacular views on the way up and particularly at the top , easily seeing as far as Dorgali and the coast beyond and to Nouro and much further to the north. A really spectacular & rewarding walk. 4/10 difficulty despite the VG/L. Drive back to Refugio very challenging for Jules, very narrow streets and a diversion over a temporary bridge adding to the excitement.

After a bit of a lie-in we had a final breakfast at Rifugio Gorropu before saying goodbye to Antonio. We then drove to Olbia and had a wander through the old town before having a bite of lunch - Jules finally getting spaghetti - and heading, slightly reluctantly, to the airport.

FBoT Iceland - March Geyser erupting

Many thanks to Slick for once again organizing a fantastic Fat Boys on Tour weekend away. The (lucky) venue this time was Iceland, and the FBs managed to squeeze some sightseeing in between the obligatory eating and drinking sessions....

We Arrived on the early flight, took the bus to Reykjavik and settled into the flat fat-boy style (whiskey or beer). Went for lunch in a little brasserie the Major having Icelandic foal and yours truly trying the whale steak. After lunch retired to the flat for a tactical kip before heading out for dinner and to see Pash DJ-ing in Kaffinbarinn bar.

Started with a FBoT breakfast, then went for a stroll around the docks, stopping for an excellent lobster soup at Sea Baron. Wander round town, see the sights, including the closest thing to walking up a hill and seeing a castle - a church - in town. Lazy afternoon watching some shit on TV (Carry On Behind), then out for good steak at Hereford, and back to Kaffinbarinn for some more drinks.

Rented a car (old Toyota Landcruiser, of dubious heritage, and sporting about 320,000kms) and headed off round the Golden Circle Tour. Started with the lake at Pingvellir, then on to Geyser (with a stop for an excellent lunch at Lindin Restaurant/Bistro). The geysers were good fun and then headed to Gilfoss to see the waterfall (very pretty) before heading south to the coast and along to the Blue Lagoon. After a nice hot relaxing soak, and fortified by beer and dinner headed out to try to see the Northern Lights. Clear skies, and did see some of the lights - very cool and slightly eery - much faster moving than expected. A bit more faint than we'd hoped for, but lovely to see.

After a proper FBoT breakfast headed out to go Whale Watching - the cetacean type. Saw some Minke whales, a Humpback Whale, some White sided Dolphin and some harbor Porpoises playing very close to the boat. Great conditions, bright clear and calm. Remarkably civilized and educational for the Fat Boys. We compensated by going back to the flat and doing our best to finish the duty-free beer....

Skiing in Austria - February View over the mountains up the Schmittenhohe

For the third week of skiing this year, Andy, Steve, Anna and I headed to Austria to meet up with Matt for a week of skiing in Zell am See. The snow conditions weren't quite as great as they might have been, but we had a good time anyway - mostly on piste and cruising around. We managed quite an impressive distance over the course of the week - 40,000m vertical descent and about 270km skiing overall.

Sunday - Schmittenhohe
Good day, covering most of the mountain. We started with a couple of runs around Kapekonbahn and Kettingbahn, then did one good run down #13 to Schmitental, then over to Sonnenbahn for a good blast around on that side of the mountain. We had lunch at Berghotel Blaichers Sonnenalm - Tiroller Grostall followed by Kaiserschmarm (all good skiing food). After lunch we headed back up to the top of the Schmittenhohe, including a couple of blasting runs down and run K and up Glocknerbahn then round and down to Zell am See via #11 (very slushy at the bottom) before heading back up to Schmittenhohe to pick up Anna (a badly fitting boot putting an early end to her day). We had a tactical recuperation in Schnapshans Alm Berghotel before heading down #14 to finish. Accidentally bought some new skis on the way home.

Monday - Konigstour @ Hochkonig
Good out and back tour from Mariaalm all the way to Muhlbak and back with only one minor detour from the classic at Dienten (courtesy of Anna) and another slight detour at lunch to make the day flow slightly better. Snow conditions were better higher up - a bit sugary lower down in the valleys. All in all a good fun, but long day - 36.4 km of skiing and 6,281 vertical descent. New skis very good - perfectly happy with them for on-piste. Lunch in the sun at FellersbachAlm - very pleasant

Tuesday - Round tour of Saalbach/Himterglemm
Started in Vorderglemm and went anti-clockwise around the valley, heading up as far as Spieleckogel. We had a good lunch in the sun at Walleggalm before heading over to the other side of the valley. We declined #14 (black) because the snow cover looked a little bare in places and instead did an extra run down under SesselbahnZehner before heading round to Schattberg West and East (looks a bit different in winter) before heading down 2a + 2b - quite icy and bumpy and long run down to the finish quite tired out by the 32km of skiing and the 5678m vertical descent.

The gang

Wednesday - Kitscheinhorn
Best snow so far, due to colder temperature at altitude. Started with a couple of runs off the t-bars at the top, but legs were feeling it so dropped down to the slow 2-man chair with some good off-piste sections just above it. . Then headed down the Alpin centre for a hot chocolate to steel us for a couple of runs down Black Mamba before heading up to the Gipfel Restaurant for a very good meal at the top, complete with Kaiserschmarm for Steve. After lunch we cruised back down to the area around Gratbahn and did the runs under Kristallbahn including X2, X3 & X5 to finish a good day.

Thursday - Hollersbach tour
Another big tour day! We started in Hollersbach and toured over to Kirchberg. totaling 44.4 km of skiing and 7,200m vertical descent. Overall the Kitzbuhel ski area was very pleasant - most of the area around Resterhohe and Pengelstein in quite high, (so the snow was still in quite good condition), and relatively empty. The whole area would be ski able between Resterhohe, Zweitausender and Barenbadkogel in a big powder dump, although the gradient is not that high. The favourite run of the day was #62, at least until Andy crashed into Matt - much to the amusement of everyone else - no shortage of beers that night! We had lunch to Kirchberg at the base of the Maiserbahn (just fine) and on the ride back up to we got a good view of the Wilder Kase, albeit a little covered in cloud.

Friday - Ski Amade
Slightly easier day in the ski amade region, starting above Alpendorf and heading over nearly to Flachau. The pistes were fairly wide, with a few good long runs, but there were more people around and some bottlenecks at times. The snow was pretty good, although Andy did manage to find a rock with his new skis. The region had lots of slopes facing north, so probably retaining snow conditions despite not being very high, and having quite a few people on them. The favourite runs were around Space Jets 2 & 3 - wide sweeping reds and not too busy.

Saturday - Bad Gastein
We headed up from Bad Hofgastein to schlossalm and then cruised over to Stubnerkogel ; above Bad Gastein. Not our favourite resort - lots of narrow tracks and the snow not great lower down. In the morning we made our way over to Bad Gastein, stopping for hot-chocolate at Ahornhutte and the went up, down, up and down again to/from Ski centre Angerthal, stopping for lunch at Waldgasthol. After lunch we headed back to Schlossalm for a few final runs, including the best run of the day - H2, and the worst run of the day - H2a - absolutely shocking at the bottom (we missed the turn-off to the funicular and had to walk the last 300 yards to finish a decent day - 40.2 km of skiing and 6895m vertical descent.

Skiing Canada - January The gang in Lake Lousie

Many thanks and much kudos to Bei for organizing a massive skiing holiday in Canada, with much the same gang as the 2012 Utah trip. Once again it was great fun, and a good chance to try a selection of resorts on the East side of the Canadian rockies.

We started in Banff, which was probably everyone's least favourite area (although not bad, by any definition of the word), but it was a bit of a trip to Lake Louise, and the snow was more tracked out than in the other resorts. After Banff we headed to Revelstone (via Kicking Horse) and then on to Fernie for a total of 11 days skiing in slightly over two weeks.

The days broke down as follows:

Saturday - Sunshine Village
Nice warm up day at Sunshine. Spent the first part of the morning under Continental Divide Express, until the queues got a little big. Then used Mount Standish Express for a few runs before & after lunch. Late in the afternoon went back to the sunny side up Continental Divide Express. Really enjoyed coming down off the side of Mt Standish Express to get to Continental Divide Express and had a couple of great runs down to the car - the first down Tee Pee Main Chutes and Middle Canyon under the Gondola

Sunday - Lake Louise
We started off on the Glacier Express, down and then up Top Of The World, down the back bowl. Then we headed round the back to Larch Express . A couple of runs down under Larch Express (good fun, fast blasting runs) before the cold wind drove us back to the sun under Top of the World. We did a couple of runs there before heading down for lunch. After lunch we did one more trip around Top of the World & the back bowl, up Paradise Chair and down Paradise Bowl and a couple of runs around Sunset Gulley and Grizzly Bowl to finish. Snow conditions a bit thin - lots of rocks sticking through and some bare patches, and I almost certainly caught an edge on one of these that needed repair. Good fun, bright & sunny and not too hardcore.

Kicking Horse, view from the top of T1 Bowl

Monday - Lake Louise
We started the day with some runs under Top of the World, then headed up the drag life to try the back face, which was surprisingly good - steep, but the snow was in good nick. Just a slight pity that your truly was still a bit tentative on newly rented skis so couldn’t quite make the most of it. Then we headed over to Larch lift and found some powder! Rock Gardens, which had just re-opened, had some untouched snow which made a nice change from hard packed runs. We did a couple of runs before heading down for lunch. We ate upstairs in the lodge and waited ages for a fairly mediocre pizza (won’t be in a rush to go back there).In the afternoon we played for a bit in the trees, then did a few fast runs down the Men’s downhill run - good for blasts down empty pistes. After skiing we went to the Fairmont Hotel at Lake Louise, and saw some very impressive ice sculptures.

Tuesday - Mt Norquay
Fairly easy day on Mt Norquay - quite a small resort, with only five lifts (yes, we did them all). Some good blasting runs, and a couple of decent mogul fields, but some of the more challenging runs were closed for lack of snow. After a few hours of blasting around we headed to the Terrain park where yours truly managed a pretty spectacular crash off a HUGE (actaully small/medium) jump! After lunch we toured around a little more, and saw the remains of an avalanche, whilst the boarders went to the tube park. I tried out some different skis (mine are still not repaired),including a pair of 179 cm (which were a bit long) and some 165’s which were a bit short, but probably closer to the length I want.

Wednesday - Kicking Horse
Stopped in at Kicking Horse on the way through to Revelstone. Great resort, which would have been awesome with more snow. We spent the morning cruising through the trees in Crystal Bowl under Stairway to Heaven , including dropping off the ridge and a couple of good cruises down in Euphoria and Bubbly to the main Golden Express Lift. Just before lunch we had our first man down of the trip - Andre unfortunately caught an edge catching some air through a compression, and broke his arm (the humerus, initially diagnosed as a dislocated shoulder), which put an end to his skiing this trip, unfortunately…. After lunch (with Andre packed off to the hospital) we trekked into T1 bowl - which was a long walk and a bit tasty at the top, but a great run down after that. Then one more blast down Crystal bowl before finishing with Bowl 1 - Sluiceway / upper . Saw an American Mink (or similar) on the way down the mountain

Thursday - Revelstone
Started easy at Revelstone - the extra hour convincing us to relax inthe morning. Headed up The Stoke lift in the morning, doing some good runs down Snow Rodeo and Pitch Black including a couple of drops into Stihl Life Glades. Feeling a bit tired we headed down to town for an (awful) coffee and a good lunch at La Baguette. In the afternoon we headed down Vertigo and then over into the North Bowl for a blast down to The Ripper then a good run down Chopper and through Powder Monkey Glades. Photo with very cute Avalanche Rescue Dog. Great runs through the trees - a bit challenging in places, but no less fun for that. The North Bowl was definitely a bit less tracked out, and with better snow than the Front Side.

Friday - Revelstone
After a late start we headed over to North Bowl via a couple of easy cruises. Did one run through Powder Monkey Glades - good fun but a little tasty in places. Feeling a bit tired on 7th day legs, we did a couple of cruising runs down Chopper and Denver Dollars / Sally Alley / Burn Down, before headed down to the base for a very good lunch at Rockford. In the afternoon we headed back to North Bowl via Vertigo (probably the favourite run in the resort), getting there just in time to catch the last lift up The Ripper, but did another consolation run down Vertigo before cruising back to town. All in all a fairly easy day, but with a couple of good runs thrown in.

Rest Day. The guys went dog sledging during the day- good fun (I'm told) until the dogs got a little over-excited. In the evening we went to see a local Ice Hockey game. It was good to watch other people doing exercise for a change!

Travelled to Fernie

Monday - Fernie
Good gentle day in Fernie. Started with a couple of runs under Timber Bowl Express and White Pass Quad but the visibility wasn't that great, and runs a bit tracked out and icy. Then we headed into Currie Bowl for runs down 123s & Currie Glades before heading into town for an early lunch. After a brief bite to eat headed up Great Bear Express for a couple of runs through the trees down Sunny Side and Sun Up. Deciding the conditions were slightly better we headed back to Timber Bowl for a crack at Liftline and Pillow Talk, finishing with one last run down through the trees in Currie Bowl. The highlight of the day was definitely the trees runs - nicely steep in most places, a few bumps but the trees quite widely spaced and great fun.

Tuesday - Fernie
after a slow start (beer-pong) we headed up to Timber Bowl for a nice warm up on a steep mogul field and then played in the trees under lift line and Pillow Talk before heading over to Currie Bowl for a nearly disastrous run down Currie Glades - yours truly nearly leading Andy & Bei over a cliff! After lunch we dropped into Shakey’s Acres a couple of times and did some good runs down through the trees near Puff and Currie Glades before cruising down Siberia Bowl to finish.

View from the top of the peak at Revelstone

Wednesday - Fernie
Snow at last! Just enough to freshen up the slopes and make the tree runs (the less tracked out ones) very pleasant. White Pass lift was a bit slow to open, so we did a couple of runs top to bottom in Timber Bowl To warm up, then had great fun coming down Shakey's Acres and into the trees back to the bottom of White Pass lift. ; For a bit of variety before and after lunch (cruising through the light powder in the trees took a long time to get boring) we went down Currie Glades and down through the trees to the village. For the last run of the day I had a crack at Lift line (a bit steep and bumpy) before having another run round the White Pass / Currie Bowl circuit.

Thursday - Fernie
We were up early and on the second chair up the mountain, to take advantage of a bit more snow, and probably the best conditions we’ve had for the whole trip. Did quite a few runs as per Wednesday (under White Pass Chair), through trees, and doing complete loops round down Currie Bowl, through Currie Glades, taking advantage of being first up, and putting down some good tracks before the areas got skied out.After lunch did a couple more runs, including heading up Peak Express which was a bit tasty at the top - bumpy and not very much fun getting down. Finished early on broken skis - two more edges popped out and one twisted and snapped off. Skis done for after 11 seasons (so a pretty good showing all in all).In the evening we went curling! Good fun, and we did pretty well considering. The last game even got quite tactical.