Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bruxelles Ski de Plastique

Brussels has run out. They do not have enough for themselves, let alone for Greece. The Eurocrisis is getting worse. We're out of snow.

Well, there's really no snow in Brusseles, but fortunately they have come up with ways to deal with this difficult situation. Some years ago I found indoor ski slopes from Peer and Comines villages.

I am proud of my ability to find potential ski places. But I was blissfully unaware of a great slope not too far from the centre of Brussels. My friend and avid skier Catharina (CC) moved to Brussels some time ago, and found Yeti Ski. Interestingly, none of the locals that I asked about this had ever heard of the place. Yeti Ski resides in Anderlecht, near other sports venues and ten kilometres from the centre.

A networking conference took me to Brussels for a couple of days in April. This allowed us to go explore this plastic hill on one of the evenings, after the conference.

The hill is kept wet by sprinklers placed every few meters across the whole slope. Skiing wet plastic is surprisingly challenging. Both of us were recovering, I was trying to heal my broken ribs and CC was dealing with a flu. We skied only a couple of runs, but it was clear that practicing on this hill would improve anyone's skiing skills.

One difference to real snow is that it is much more difficult for your skis to get a grip on the plastic. Braking and turning needs to be done much more aggressively.

I can recommend a visit here, if you are in Brussels! You should take some protective clothing with you, i.e., long pants, long sleeves, and gloves. Falling on the plastic can hurt you otherwise.

Photos and videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko. This blog is also available at TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Snowing in May @ The Beast

The morning was warm and sunny both in Canada and US, as it should be in mid-May. Ted was planning to have a sunshine-filled ski day. But by the time we reached Killington, it was snowing.  Winter conditions!

Fortunately, I had a extra jacket in my luggage, problem solved. But, it didn't help much with the skiing. I hadn't skied properly in two months, and Ted hadn't had much skiing this year either. At this time of the year, Killington's Superstar is the only open lift and ski run, but it is a demanding, steep moguls run. On the previous weekend, the easier Skye Hawk run still had snow, and would offer a welcome break from skiing the bumps all day.

The snow on Skye Hawk had mostly disappeared during the week. But today's snowing was covering the grass with a dusting of snow, so I decided to take my chance and try skiing it. I was able to ski it almost to the end, though at few points I had to step with my skis to avoid damaging them on rocks.

It is a rare opportunity to ski in these conditions in May. And Killington is one of the only two open ski areas in eastern North America. They are open for an amazingly long time, given that it has been a bad snow year. The trick is of course snowmaking. Superstar still had as much as ten meters of snow in the middle of the run.

And it was a rare opportunity to ski with Ted as well. We've known each other for 10+ years, worked in the same team, saw each other in conferences, and always talked about going skiing together. But somehow it never turned into reality until now. Very happy that we got to do that now! I am on a long business trip in the US, wanted to keep weekends free instead of working through them, and the few ski areas still open made it possible for both of us to drive to the same one.

I also got to stay at Ted's and Andreas wonderful, hi-tech and energy-efficient, passive home in Brattleboro. Thank you!

On the way back to Boston for my meetings, I also stopped in the New Hampshire ski area, Granite Gorge. It had no snow left, but seemed like a friendly local ski hill, including the Volkswagen Kleinbus sporting Bernie stickers and the "Live free. Shred hard." slogan.

Volkswagen Kleinbus at Granite Gorge:

A traditional American hotel room, perhaps, in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

Ted and me on the lift at Killington:

Top of Killington:

The closed run, Skye Hawk:

Snowing at the parking lot:

Snow covered areas that had been previously all clear:

Google Maps knew that on May 16, Granite Gorge would not be open :-) :

Photos and videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko and Ted Lemon. This blog is also available at TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Wappu, or first of May is a huge celebration in Finland, traditionally celebrated by hiking to a hill and drinking alcohol. This is very different from other festivities in Finland, where the part about the hill is omitted.

The hill that people traditionally climb is one of the park hills in Helsinki, but this year Janne and I decided to go searching for caves and holes in Espoo. We found the Saunalahti hole, a crystal opening where the crystals have long since departed, just the surrounding granite remains.

We also searched for caves from a large boulder in Suomenoja, and found some small holes under this 5x5x5 cube-formed rock. But what was more interesting was the bouldering routes along the sides. Janne didn't have climbing shoes to try them properly, but it seemed that a few moves could also be made with slippery rubber boots.

Finally, I skied the traditional May run in the Grani ski hill in Kauniainen, my home town. I almost didn't make it, having to leave for a business trip and being late with packing, but in the end I found the half an hour to visit and make a fun ski run in the blazing sunshine, wearing a t-shirt and wondering why the ski area has closed when there's so much snow left.

Photos and videos (c) 2016 Jari Arkko. This blog is also available at TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.