Sunday, November 27, 2011


At 8:20 PM on November 27, 2011, exactly 10 days, 5 hours, and 20 minutes since we were last skiing in Antarctica, we skied our ten turns on a warm, rainy night on Mount St. Bruno outside Montreal, Canada fulfilling the accomplishment of skiing all 7 continents in 10 days.

Thanks to Madpatski for the tip on Mt. St. Bruno after we discovered Mt. St. Sauveur was closed.  We are hungry and tired, and will post pictures of us sopping wet tomorrow. 

Six continents down, and North America is providing the glitch!

With a four-hour layover in Morocco (we got up at 3 am today), we decided to check the conditions at our final stop in Montreal.  To our surprise, Mount St. Sauveur has very little snow and therefore canceled night skiing this week preferring to close at 4 pm.  Our flight unfortunately arrives at 5:30 pm.  So, we have two plans in place.  First is a very heartfelt (or begging) email to the resort to see if they will allow us to ski after they close (I was thinking to ask blog followers to email the resort with their support for us, but decided to not inundate their inbox).  The second is to take a later flight to Houston on Monday so we can ski Monday morning.  The drawback to plan B is that we end up skiing all seven continents in 10 days, 18 hours.  Don't worry, I likely won't change the blog name to Ski710.75!  Stay tuned as to what happens!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Africa: Check

We had a very early start to the morning heading into the riskiest continent of th trip: Africa.  To our  surprise Africa turned out to be the best snow and most amazing cultural experience of the trip!  We left our hotel in Geneva at 4:45 AM to catch the flight to Morocco. Other than a painfully slow line at the passport control in Morocco, everything went well.  We met up with our contact, Ayoub, at the airport.  He had a guide and driver ready.  We owe a huge thanks to Kris Erickson whom we met on the Antarctica cruise for setting this up in such short time.  I will write a separate posting on his wife's charitable organization here in Morocco.  We drove up a narrow, winding road perched on the edge of a near-vertical valley wall into the Atlas Mountains and Oukaimeden, a primitive ski area.  With incredible luck, a winter storm dumped 12-18 inches of powder two days ago and because it is early in the season, the lifts were not able to transport skiers (although they could take people without skis to the top).  I figured this was a prime time to bribe but it didn't work, and instead Scott and I enjoyed a 1.5 hour skin to the top.  The view was incredible of the snow-covered Atlas mountains, and the red-rock valley and distant plains of Marrakech all available to absorb.  The turns down weren't just some of the best of the trip, but some of the best skiing we've ever had.  The snow was a perfect powder giving us insanely smooth and predictable turns.  It was truly a unique experience to know this was Africa at its best for skiing.  At the bottom we had enough time to give our guides some quick lessons in skiing before heading back down to Marrakech.  Back in town we went to the old center square of town, which has one of the largest, craziest, and oldest trading markets on the planet.  Tens of thousands of people wandered narrow alleys in search for bargained deals.  We enjoyed dinner overlooking the square before heading back for some sleep.  We get up at 3 am to head to Montreal for the final stop!

 A Moroccan village on the way to the mountains
 Scott not totally enthralled by all the snow on the mountains...for once.  

This ass won't get out of our way!  

Two languages on the sign and we are still clueless.  The ski lift in the background does not accept one critical component: skis (by government decree!)
 Marty on top of the world in Africa!
 Obligatory banana holder picture

 Scott rockin' the African powder!
 Yep...knee deep in the stuff making Marty look like a hero...for once.  
Later that night, we explore the central square in Marrakech.  Imagine this scene stretching for miles in a maze of alleys and stairs and rooms. 
    Oukaimeden , a primitive ski area

Friday, November 25, 2011

Europe: Check!

The morning started at 4:45.  We packed everything up and headed to the train station to start the three-hour journey to Zermatt.  It turns out trains seem to be designed for people who carry onlysmall luggage when they travel.  We are carrying a double ski bag whcih is big enough and heavy enough to double as a body bag.  After lifting the bag into a train car, trying unsuccessfully to shove it under the seat, I decided wot look down the train for a solution and found it in a car designed to hold bikes.  Two hours later we were in the town of Visp and transferrnig to a seond train.  This was actually a partial cog train designed to climb some impressively steep grades to get into Zermatt.  Another hour along a steep and rugged valley and gorge, and we arrived in the beautiful town of Zermatt.  The other trouble with a monster ski bag: finding a locker big enough to store it for the day.  We managed to find one in the train station and hiked up to the lift.  Along the way, we spotted Zermatt's most well-known landmark: the Matterhorn.  Zermatt in one large and incredible ski area.  We took a gondola up for nearly 30 minutes.  It just kept gaining elevation!.  By 10 AM we made our ten turns to qualify for Europe.  We then spent the next four hours tearing up groomer runs, taking gondolas to crazy locations, and had lunch in Italy.The end of the day was another mad scramble to catch the train to Geneva.  We noticed how we are always scrambling to make the train or the flight, and then have to sit on the train or plane and do nothing for the next several hours.  Next up:  we leave at 5 AM for Morocco!  Five down...two to go!
 Cog train to Zermatt
 An oxymoron?
 First views of the Matterhorn
 Scott taking some turns on the Italian side (you can tell because the Gondola looks like a Ferrari!)
 Marty in the foreground.  Boring Matterhorn in the background.
 On the border with deciding which side to ski.
 "This place is huge!!!"
 The Alps go on forever
Scott obscuring the sun with the fine snow!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Asia: Check!

Navigating to today's ski location proved more difficult than we anticipated.  First we had to take a train.  From the station, we had to boot it in to our first turns.  The map wasn't as helpful as we had hoped.  The familiar "you are here" red star was there, but everything else was in Arabic.  We looked for familiar landmarks in the landscape and slowly was able to figure out where to go.  Finally we arrived: the weather was a cold 23 degrees Fahrenheit; the coldest we've faced the entire trip.  We arrived early to attempt to make the first tracks of the day.  Our gamble paid off with hundreds or maybe thousands of square feet of fresh groomed corduroy.  We were to make the first turns of the day!  

Enthralled?  Good...because I just did my best to describe indoor skiing.  At 10:15 AM Scott and I made our turns in Dubai capturing our Asia as our fourth continent!

 Looking for signs from above to find the good ski runs
 Scott booting up some of the steeper ascents
 Reminders of Antarctica loom all around us
 We are getting close!
The neon blue is a nice touch!

 Scott pulling some great turns in the fresh groomed surface
 Marty aggressively hitting one of the steep sections
 Scott, the banana protector, and indoor skiing.  As the sign suggests, what more do you need?!
 Taking in the scenery
Here's to you, Winston!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Dubai!

We've arrived in Dubai on Thanksgiving day.  Strangely, there aren't many Turkeys around.  In fact this whole huge airport terminal reminds us of a Las Vegas casino...complete with over-the-top granite and marble tiling, colored lights, tons of security cameras, and lots of people standing around looking confused.  

We are waiting for the ski conditions to be just right for an optimal day.  Based on the forecast and local suggestions, that will occur at 10 AM.  In other words, we are waiting for the mall to open.  We have a 10 hour window here before heading on to Zurich for the night.  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

Somewhere over Sri Lanka

It's been three days since we were in Argentina.  In those three days we've spent 35 hours in airplanes, 9 hours in a car driving on the wrong side of the road,  5 hours sitting in airports, crossed 18 timezones, and have spent 2 hours skiing.  Luckily that skiing was on a volcano, in good snow, beneath a waterfall.  Totally worth it!  And as long as the plane isn't rolling 30 degrees like the ship in the Drake Passage we shouldn't complain too much.

Check in for the flight in New Zealand was a bit frustrating.  Our ski bag was 1 kg over the weight limit.  We removed some items.  Then a supervisor complained loudly about us carrying-on our ski boots.  She said they would confiscate them at security and we must go buy a duffle bag and check them.  To make it more fun, she said "Check-in for this flight closes in 20 minutes so you better hurry!"  After pleading to no avail, I ran down to a store in the airport, purchased a duffle bag, and we checked our boots.  We were instructed to place our gear in a room for fragile bags, which consisted of a 10' X 10' room with white walls and floor, and about 200 "Fragile" stickers littering the floors and walls.  We go through painless passport control, and at the security station I ask the guard whether it is ok to carry-on ski boots.  The answer: "absolutely!"  I learned the hard way that economy folks don't get as treated as well as when I fly business.  No matter, Emirates has slid way down my list of preferred carriers.

We boarded a plane, which is a monstrous Airbus A380-800.  This thing hold 450+ people on two floors.  Or at least I think two floors.  Being economy I am not allowed to even approach the staircase to the mythical first class cabin upstairs.  Regardless of the upstairs, the main level is huge, with a 3 seats, aisle, 4 seats, aisle, 3 seats configuration.  There are four cabins on the main level, each with about 25 rows.  It comes complete with mood lighting and a video camera feed from the top of the tail to see where the plane is going.

 The purple hue in the plane is either an ode to Prince or signifying the sun is setting, which I would not have known since we are about a football field away from the nearest window in this plane.
New security protocal.  Metal Knife: OK.  Metal pointed fork: OK.  Metal spoon: way to dangerous...better make it plastic.  
7-Up in arabic.  And miniature can.  With a 15-hour flight, we wouldn't want passengers to get too hydrated.
View from the tail of the aircraft.  This is pretty cool.  We are sitting over the wing, two-levels down.

Glow worms and endless turns

Yes, we are on a ski why am I writing about glow worms?  We decided to break up a four hour drive to the Auckland airport by stopping at the Waitomo Caves.  A typical privately owned tourist site, the tour bagan with an embellished history of the discovery of the caves followed by how the completely natural cave formations (stalagmites) formed over thousands of years through complex chemical reactions look like an ideallic family complete with dog chasing a cat.  In a particularly large cavern the guide insisted the group sing "Silent Night" to demonstrate the free-air reflection coefficient of a 5 GigaPascel compressibility limestone (ok, she didn't say that...I just wanted to make it geophysically interesting).  This was followed by an individual of the crowd particularly keen on serenading the rest of us in a solo.  With eyerolls, I wandered farther into the cave.  So...what made this interesting?  This cave features a fly whose life cycle includes a phosphorescent larval stage.  They hang from the ceiling and, when the lights are extinguished, glow bright green.  We then walked to the lowest portion of the cave and boarded boats to exit the cave.  Along the way we entered a pitch-dark chamber with the ceiling speckled with glowing worms.  We all looked upward with our mouths open in awe at the starry-night appearance, which may not have been a good idea considering there were thousands of worms attached only by a tiny thread above us.  We emerged into a river bed deep in a limestone ravine.  We departed and climbed up to the secondary cave in such a tour: the gift shop.  We escaped with our wallets intact and enjoyed some lunch down the road.

The next two hours were spent making some incredible turns.  Not on snow, but on some of the most incredible roads I've been on.  In nearly 80 km there was never a straight-away longer than 300 m (1000 feet for the conversion-challenged).  At points it was more than 30 continuous left-right turns stringed together.  Praise the engineer who didn't own a ruler!  The Subaru Forester was put through its paces complete with burnt brakes.  Top Gear seriously needs to come to New Zealand for they have the best roads of anywhere I've seen

PS, this post was made in the arabic form of google and blogspot, which prefers text be written right to left.  Who knows how it turns out!

.Scott emerges from Waitomo Caves
A "straight" section of road in New Zealand. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 6 of Ski710.

It's a beautiful day this morning and I am doing something I will only get to do once on this entire excursion: sleep in.  Having accomplished skiing Mt. Ruapehu in New Zealand yesterday, we find ourselves a bit ahead of schedule.  We are going to take a tourist drive north back to Auckland and stop at some caves in really well-preserved carbonate platforms, enjoy some local cuisine, and have fun driving the twisty and fast two-lane roads (or at least I will--Scott will possibly be terrified!).  We then board a brief Emirates flight consisting oof a 3 hour flight to Sidney, a two hour layover on the plane, and a 12+ hour flight to Dubai.  At least it is on the new giant Airbus A380, which means we can jog laps down the aisles and staircases to keep in shape! 

Australia/New Zealand: Check!

Three continents down!  We arrived at the ski area on the north side of Mount Ruapehu.  We were intending to ski the south side of the volcano but the snow appeared so close and enticing on the north side.  We geared up and hiked up through the lava fields through the snow.  Soon we were hiking up snow in a valley between two lava flows.  At the top we put on our skis and made nice turns over about a 1000 feet of soft, spring corn snow.  

 Scott hiking up the snow.
 Marty stepping over basalt to get to the start of the run
 Ski710 Round 3...
 New Zealand!  And Scott's banana keeper
 Marty making turns
Scott skiing below the waterfall emanating from the lava flow cliffs.

Getting to New Zealand

A nearly 14 hour flight from BA to Auckland started with a missing passenger which required a 30 minute delay to remove his luggage.  The flight was tremendously exciting...I could count the stitches in the seat in front of me because, A. the person in front completely reclined placing it about 5 inches from my face, and B. there was no in seat on demand entertainment system like most other international flights converted to 5 years ago.  Breakfast was a generous portion if they were feeding a kitten.  Dinner revealed the language barrier once again when both Scott and I ordered the pasta.  Scott's consisted of rigatoni with tomato sauce.  My pasta consisted of stewed beef in a mushroom sauce with mashed potatoes.  We landed in Auckland and immigration and customs was a breeze.  We got the rental car and decided on a strategy in which Scott would navigate and I would focus on not getting us into a head on collision with all these other drivers on the wrong side of the road.  Four hours later and we found ourselves at the base of Mount Ruapehu, a large volcano in the center of the North Island.  

 Scott at hour 10 on the flight
 We fly past our target:  Mt. Ruapehu, the snow-capped volcano at the center of the image.
 Apparently there is pretty scenery on the sides of the road.  I can't tell because I am trying to stay on the left side of the road.
Watch out for Kiwi birds on skis heading to Mount Ruapehu!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Buenos Aires Aeropuerta Adventure

We emerged unscathed from the Taxi and entered the airport.  A maze of wait-line ropes covered the vast expanse in front of us.  In the distance, our first objective:  the check in booth.  First we had to fend off the line-cutters.  There are very prevalent in this territory.  Then the passport-checkers dressed in green.  Approved!  Now we zig-zag back and forth through the ropes.  And then...the dreaded...the feared... the wait for the next available agent.  They must have 50 employees behind the desks, but only 6 or so actually seem to be working.  We make it to the counter.  The electronic scanner fails to read my passport number.  The agent tries again.  And again. And again.  He looks to his supervisor.  She tells him to try again.  He does.  Still nothing.  She tries it.  Nothing.  Finally they reserve themselves to manually typing in the 10 digit number.  The humanity!  Before long we make it through security and passport control (yes, MORE passport control).  We enter...the airport.  We are three hours early to our rendezvous with the plane.  It's a good thing...this airport is a jungle that needs to be navigated with caution.  First...the duty free store.  Here are all sorts of temptations.  A recent hunt yielded raw steaks and ribs.  The perfect accompaniment to a 15 hour flight.  Or cigarettes with ominous, obvious, and effective warnings, including one apparently directed at our friend Winston.  We venture deeper into the airport.  The light open spaces descend into a labyrinth of tighter and darker hallways.  We walk for a quarter mile.  We pass wood paneled hallways, black painted hallways, glass hallways, white hallways, grey hallways.  It feels like this is a longer hike than the one up to the Martial Glacier this morning.  Just when we reach a moment of despair...light!  Openess!  The gate!  We found it.  Now the three hour wait begins.  Time to blog....  (yes...we are tired.  It is 2 in the morning, we've been up since 6, and been all over the place).

 Some raw meat to chew on during your long flight?
 I like Argentina's Surgeon General.  Much more effective message.
 Winston: a message apparently directed at you.  Don't start smoking!
 The glass hallway
 The cream hallway
The grey hallway.  Not shown: the wood paneling hallway and the glossy black hallway.  The gate is around here somewhere...