Saturday, February 10, 2024

Albania skiing with goats and chicken

Topped off my 2023 by skiing in Albania. A bit early season... but friendly people, great restaurant, beautiful scenery. and lots of other skiers on the slopes with goatees and fresh eggs. Ski Pista Bigell, in Dardhe, near Korcë.

The ski area is bigger than the pictures show, due to lack of snow only the "RC Courchevel" magic carpet lift was running. Lift ticket was 10 euros, not sure how long I could have skied with that. But there was unlimited hike-up-by-yourself options.

It was not easy getting here. I mean it was easy to get here once we knew where we were going. But ... it was not easy to figure out if there were ski areas in Albania, and if so, if they were open. Skiresort.info has a nice list of ski resorts for each country. Their list of Albanian ski resorts is odd, though. Bigëll – Dardhë is the only one they have some actual information on. The other possible resorts are just listed but without any information, along with a note "Unfortunately, we do not have any detailed information about this ski resort". I googled all of them for quite some time, but could find nothing. Ski Pista Bigell, however, friendly answered phone, spoke perfect English, and said they were open! They did apologize for having only the training lift open, though, given lack of snow. Well, it was early season (December) so that's to be expected. 

I was so happy that there was a slope, and that it was within a reasonable driving distance. 

As an aside, this and my previous day's skiing in Mavrovo, North Macedonia puts my country count to 64 I think. What I'm missing within Europe is Moldova, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Kosovo, Gibraltar, and ... the Vatican but I could be missing some micronations. Principality of Sealand? And anybody have connections to the Vatican, I heard it goes up pretty high?

Mavrovo was great, by the way. The only place in Macedonia that was open, but a ton of fun and they had plenty of snow. Other areas like Popova Shapka seemed even bigger and interesting but were not open yet. See the other article for more details!

Video:

More pictures, starting with the lift:


The ski lodge:


Goats and chicken:


The view of the goats, with the ski lodge and lift behind:


The bottom of the slope:


The restaurant:


A horse on the (road) way down from the resort:


My lift ticket:


Other slopes:


The snow cat, seen its best days:


Border crossing to Albania:


Author on the lift:


This article has also appeared at TGR. Read the full Planetskier series at planetskier.net, or all blog articles from BlogspotTGR. Photos, videos, and text (c) 2023 by Jari Arkko.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Night skiing. Really night, as in no lights.


Lux Nuuksio is an event in the wintery Nuuksio, in a popular national park north of the capital region of Finland. The scenery is lit with candles, fires, lanterns, and ... skier's headlamps. And in my case, skier's Christmas lights and the big, shining Mickey Mouse ears.

Both Jarmo and I had noted this event, and went there. The skier's part took place in Swinghill, a small ski hill popular among the die hard skiers and uphill skinners. 

It was wonderful, people (not me) skiing moguls with just their headlight, the scenery around the mountain was still lit a bit by street lights and the receding sunset, everything looked much prettier in the night.

My outfit? It was ok in the end, though it was the second iteration, and actually a failure of that second iteration. I didn't start out by trying to put on Mickey Mouse ears :-) I started out by trying to build a Chinese-style Ikea lamp paper shade (4.90€) around my helmet. But, as you might guess I did not find a way to insert my helmet into this tensioned wire and paper ball. Or my head for that matter. 

Plan B was to put up two Lumonite headlamps in my helmet, but do it in a way that they would end up being inside blue rubber balloons. I didn't have much trust that this would succeed, but to my surprise it was possible to pull the balloon opening over half of the lamp, still blow it up, still operate the lamp buttons that were now inside the balloon, and not have the hot LEDs burn through the rubber.

However, in the process the bright lights - even if set at the lowest setting - overpowered the blue color, so I ended up with two bright lamps dangling above my helmet. 

It looked pretty stupid, but did fit my character so why not? 

I jumped into my car and grabbed a batter powered Christmas lights to wrap around myself for added measure. And added stupidity.

And it was actually fun! The mouse ears gave just enough light to barely see a bit of the slope, even with the helmet visor on. 

The only downside was that despite advice, I went to do this while slightly feeling my throat. Been feeling that all week... and the outing did not improve the condition :-(

Helmet construction:

Views:




The professional dress code:



Cafeteria:


Me:




Read the full Planetskier series at planetskier.net, or all blog articles from BlogspotTGR. Photos, videos, and text (c) 2024 by Jari Arkko and Jarmo Ruuth. Actually, photos mostly by Jarmo (thanks!)

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Väsjöbacken: night skiing in northern Stockholm

The nice work trip turned even nicer with an evening visit to the Vasjöbacken, local ski hill somewhere between Kista and Arlanda. Not bad at all!

Väsjöbacken is a super active training place for kids wanting to be racers. Nice, reminds of my home town ski hill in this sense. But it is also not a bad ski hill in other ways, it is big enough to have slopes going in multiple directions, the slopes are long enough to get some rhythm in.

And the views! While I was there in the night, the lake next door was wonderful in the clear weather. 

On site there's a nice cafeteria. Bathrooms are in a separate building at the bottom of the slopes. 

To get to the slopes one has to park quite far (0.5 - 1km away) and walk. Next to the slope there is only official vehicles and a turning place where you can drop people but not park.

The official home page of the slopes is here.

See also my other article about the hotel I stayed in, to get to Väsjöbacken I needed a car, and ... well read the article :-) And there's also yet another article on how I managed with my skis in the Bromma airport...

Video:

Photos:







Lake:


Cafeteria:


Read the full Planetskier series at planetskier.net, or all blog articles from BlogspotTGR. Photos, videos, and text (c) 2024 by Jari Arkko.

The Studio Sauna Again


I've been here before, but again... The Studio Hotel is a modern but nice hotel in Kista, where I often have to visit for work. The rooms are pretty small, but it is very affordable (61€ per night), has a good breakfast, is walkable but not too near to the offices, has parking, and most importantly, has a good sauna that is open late night.

This time I was particularly happy as I was allowed to use their sauna even in the evening after checking out. It took only few minutes to warm up, and had me warmed up after some walks in the cold and windy streets. And fresh and clean for traveling home :-)

Parking was important for me, see my other article on skiing in the neighborhood. For going to the skiing I needed a car.



Walks in Kista:


Returning the car to the Bromma airport (see another article):


For more sauna and swimming stories, check out planetswimmer.com and saunablogger.cool websites! Read more urban exploration stories from theurbanexplorer.net, and other underground stories from planetcaver.net. Read the full Planetskier series at planetskier.net, or all blog articles from Blogspot or TGR. Photos and text (c) 2024 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.  I never photograph pools, beaches or saunas unless the facility is closed or empty.

Siltamäki suburb swimming hall


I realized there's more swimming pools in the Helsinki area that I have not visited. Today I visited the Siltamäki swimming pool. a small sports facility in the suburb of Siltamäki in Helsinki. My expectations were not high, and the pool being four lanes, 17m long, and only 80cm deep for half it... it wasn't a super good place for laps in the pool. But, it was a nice visit to a new place! And the sauna was just perfect temperature and design.

All in all, a good place to do a quick visit to the saunas and showers, and some dip in the water. Difficult for longer swimming attempts.

The place is altogether small, but you will also not find crowds.

The Siltamäki facilities are run by Urheiluhallit, a commercial provider that serves the city. The official page for the facilities is here. There's also a wikipedia article, a newspaper article from their 50th anniversary in 2023, and a blog article on how the pool can be booked for children's birthday parties or maybe even a bachelor party :-) 

And in 2020 there was a chemical accident in the facility (no on hurt, fortunately, no word on whether this was a regular accident or due to a bachelor party...)




Surrounded by services (pubs etc):


For more sauna and swimming stories, check out planetswimmer.com and saunablogger.cool websites! Read more urban exploration stories from theurbanexplorer.net, and other underground stories from planetcaver.net. Read the full Planetskier series at planetskier.net, or all blog articles from Blogspot or TGR. Photos and text (c) 2024 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.  I never photograph pools, beaches or saunas unless the facility is closed or empty.

Bromma lounge


I travel less than I used to. Good for me, good for the environment. However, sometimes I get to travel, and it is to see new places, go skiing, or work with your colleagues. After a long pause I visited Sweden for work, and on return flew through my local airport, Bromma.

The airport has been renewed recently, so now there's a lounge inside the secure area, the BRA VIP Lounge. I was there close to the closing time, and actually it was kind of an off day for the airport since most flights to southern Sweden were cancelled due to high winds. But Finland was still OK :-)

The lounge is small, but has some sandwiches, juice, coffee, has bathrooms and WiFi. They could have more power plugs though. Only few of the tables had them, and not the ones where it was comfortable to sit :-)

On the way in I had plenty of luggage (due to the skiing adventure during one of my evenings). And the checkin was not open yet. I ended up sitting in the empty airport, in the empty restaurant, enjoying a meal of Swedish meatballs :-) Fortunately I had a my friend, the Skibag with me sitting in the table. The conversations we had!







For more flying stories, check out the planetflier.com website! And of course the Planetcaver, and Planetskier blogs for other stories in Blogspot and TGR! The photos and text (c) 2024 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.