Saturday, October 22, 2011

38,000 Kilometers for Nothing

Map of my route, courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper

I am about to take yet another round the world trip, a three week and 38,000 kilometer journey. It may be for nothing.

Don't get me wrong. There are important meetings along the way. But when I travel I also want to do some fun things during weekends and evenings. Skiing, if it is at all possible. In the last two years I have been on some kind of a trip almost every week, and only left my skis home on three of these trips. But this time it is very difficult to find skiing. My route is challenging. My schedule is too tight. It is the wrong time of the year. I might complete this trip and not find any skiing at all, or only visit one or two indoor ski places. Or make lengthy and costly side trips only to find out that there are no open ski areas yet.

My route

My route takes me through Beijing, but this time I have no time to visit the local indoor ski place. Besides I was there just a few weeks ago. For some reason, I was able to acquire a round-the-world trip ticket that stops twice in Hong Kong, however, and they have Slope Infinity, a different type of indoor skiing. I hope that the few hours that I have on my first stop will allow me to make a visit.

I also have a day and a half in Tokyo. But weather and ski area opening dates are the unknown factor here. Apparently, some areas might open mid-November. Japan has fast trains and good air travel; it might be possible to reach these places. How would you like skiing in Alts Bandai, Fukushima Prefecture, for instance? A shiny example of Japanese ski destinations, I'm sure. As a backup option there are indoor ski locations around the country, for instance, in Yokohoma.

Pu'u 'O'o

But what I really wanted to do on this trip is to make a stop over in Hawaii. Unfortunately, One World round-the-world tickets did not seem to make that possible. What I wanted to do is to drive up Mauna Kea, climb the snowy parts, and ski down. This would have added yet another state and yet another volcano to my list. But even at 13,000 feet, Manua Kea is unlikely to have snow in November. Maybe on another trip, January and February are the best times to visit this mountain. Of course, such a trip would not be completely without dangers. As the Hawaii ski club says: "Due to safety and environmental-impact issues and health concerns, the Hawaii Ski Club no longer sponsors group ski trips to the Mauna Kea volcano". To catch the snow, one may have to travel at a few day's notice. The high altitude, road closures, and likelihood of high winds conspire to make successful access to this mountain an unlikely event at the right time to find the snow.


In any case, Hawaii is always a recommended place to visit. Volcano sightings are guaranteed, you might even get a view of the red stuff. I made another stop here in a similar business trip ten years ago: 29 hours on the islands and still had time for an inter-island flight, driving a couple of hundred miles around the Big Island, acquire a hiking permit from the rangers, hike 20 miles, and camp alone one night on the slopes of the Pu'o 'O'o. The company saved on hotel costs that night.

Camping out near the Pu'u 'O'o volcano. Alone.

But now I am flying over Hawaii, direct to San Francisco. And this is where I will attempt to find some real skiing, by flying to Anchorage, Alaska after my meetings are over. The Alyeska ski area might open on the day that I am going there. Assuming the snow has arrived by then. I might find out that I dragged myself and my skis there for nothing.

Puu Huluhulu

Photo credits (c) 2001-2011 by Jari Arkko and the Great Circle Mapper

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