Monday, January 30, 2017


Uh... my skis are delaminating. They already were doing it a bit earlier, and that got fixed in Skiservice. But they warned that the skis are not going to last long. I'm trying to glue the skis back together, lets see if it works.

I wish I had counted the miles on these babies. A lot. And two days ago I was doing 102 km/h on them, when I loaned Ari's GPS-tracker for one run. Glad they didn't delaminate then...

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bulgarian Powder

What's it going to be, Tero? Shall we fly tomorrow morning for a day trip to Kazakhstan? Or for day and half in Bulgaria? We opted for the latter, because that Tero disliked the ten hour wait at a Moscow airport.

And it was a good choice. I didn't expect or know much, but that weekend turned out to be great for skiing Bulgaria. It had been dumping light snow for days... we arrived in the afternoon and to quickly find the local small hill. GPS gave us five options to reach Vitosha, the local hill next to Sofia, just 15 minutes from the airport. We ended up at the bottom of an ancient ski lift housed in a farmhouse. But it was still snowing, and we headed up.

The snow came thicker and thicker, and the lift kept going up and up. Two hair-rising chairlift rides later we were 850 meters above the parking lot.

And still saw no ski runs. Or other lifts. Or other skiers. Just forest and some paths. We had no idea where to go, so we hiked a bit higher to reach the nearby ridge, and started skiing down.

We decided to ski further down, along the lift track and in the forest.

If this sounds depressing, it wasn't. The half of meter of fresh snow more than made up for the lack of any official ski runs!

The forest was quite thick further down, so we had to ski carefully. In the end we had to revert to navigating with Tero's GPS, to find back to the car as the darkness was already descending on us. One run, but what a great run!

Our next stop was to take the car and ourselves to Borovets, one of the larger areas in Bulgaria. What we found was surprising. First off, it felt like a major ski destination, comparable to many places in Austria for instance. And the village... we were surprised about the number of people visiting this place. And the bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, casinos, and many other things made for the tourists. A very active small village, with several very large hotels. Much more active than most other sleepy villages in the alps!

And the skiing: even more epic than at Vitosha. In the morning, the snow had stopped falling and the sun was shining. The forests in the lower parts of the mountain were too thick to ski them, but if you took the gondola to the upper ski area, the mountain between the narrow ski runs was covered by bushes. And on top of those bushes was at least half a meter of fresh snow. Nobody seemed to be skiing these areas, so we had them just for us.

Details: we stayed at the Hotel Rila, the Casino-spa-hotel with great saunas. Cost was a bit over 100€ for the two of us, including the half-board dinner reminiscent of servings on the boats between Finland and Sweden. Much recommended, except for the food. But it also cost just a few Euros per person.

Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko and Tero Kivinen. This blog is also available on the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Windscreen Wiping in Volvo

The pump in my windshield wipers failed. I drove around for a week, while periodically opening the window and spraying water to the windscreen.

Turned out the problem was burned out pump, changed only a year ago. Warranty paid for the repair, and it took only 15 minutes... and I was very happy again with the service at my repair shop (Autofit Latokaski).

Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The New Leppävaara Pool

I have finally visited the refurbished Leppävaara swimming pool centre. Generally, a very positive experience! So many new pools!

The old space for changing rooms and saunas is still in the same place, just refurbished. The old main pool and children's pool are still there. But they've built a new space for jacuzzis, cold pool, small children's pool and a general-purpose play/therapy pool. And amazingly, I was staring at a wall from the therapy pool, thinking that I'm seeing a reflection of the main pool. But no, there's another 25 pool now, and jumping platforms up to 5 meters. Nice done!

The only complaints I'd have is that first, half of the showers on men's side don't seem to work. Crappy high tech showers :-) And second, the space between the showers and the saunas is so narrow that it is difficult for people to move around, particularly when there are a lot of people. Otherwise, perfect!

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Vihti by Night

I was contemplating going hiking when Jarmo sent me a message; he was going skiing to Vihti. I decided to join, and I'm glad I did. The late afternoon and evening lights and colours on the hill are great.

Amazingly, the hill was packed with people, even with the overcast, somewhat dark day. I'm happy they have good business.

I've not actually been to Vihti ever with all their slopes open, skied for the first time on the back slopes for instance.

I also managed to fall by skiing too direct to a big icy lid created by snowmaking. Yard sale, with one ski, both poles, and my glove all gone. No damage, however. And I managed to get it on video :-)

Earlier in the Jarmo had identified some off-piste opportunities:

Photos and videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko, Jarmo Ruuth, and Eino Ruuth.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Gallen-Kallela Castle

Today's morning was too slow to do anything else than to scramble to the car to get to a local museum before it closed at 4pm.

Janne and I went to Tarvaspää, Akseli Gallen-Kallela's ateljé (studio). This is a small castle-like building was built in 1911-1913, and served also as the home of the family. It is a beautiful building, but in the darkening evening the colours around the museum made it particularly beautiful.

The building is also full of details, like the bathroom that feels like it was placed in the staircase. It can be entered from multiple rooms at multiple levels, but yes, there's also a proper staircase in the building :-) Or the lights where shadows will strengthen and enlarge the design's patterns.

What a wonderful place this must have been for the artist Gallen-Kallela, right next to the sea, on top of a cliff. Gallen-Kallela has been quoted as dreaming of owning a castle in the middle of the wilderness. And it feels like that here, though we are 7 kilometres away from the Helsinki* city centre :-)

I can also recommend the the cafeteria next door; today they served salmon soup, it was very good!

*) Fortunately the building is on the Espoo side -- if this place was in Helsinki they'd probably have demolished it already. As an example, Helsinki plans to destroy the historic Malmi Airport, often listed as one of the world's most endangered cultural history sites.

Photos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko

Friday, January 6, 2017

Nippy? Swimming at -18C

Nippy a bit? Swimming at a lake when it is -18C.

It has been exceptionally cold in Finland on recent days (in the warmed-up climate at least). I wanted to enjoy the smoke sauna at Kuusijärvi again, so I did that, and also dipped into the hole in the lake. Very quickly, and only about breast level, not all the way in.

Felt good. The sauna was overfull today, but it seemed like everyone found a place eventually.

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko.


At first I thought it was just an oversize advertisement. Then the ski lift took me inside it. I kept wondering what they would do to the lift, it the ski area suddenly switched to advertising M&Ms. Or worse yet, how about insurance or toilet seats?

I had my answer soon. At the top of the next ski lift was this advertisement:

Well. At least I didn't have to go through a hole toilet bowl on my lift ride.

This wonderful advertising was found from Arosa, a ski area newly connected to another ski area, Lenzerheide. Both in Switzerland, near the town of Chur. This newly connected mega-area is big, very big, and since we only had one day we were able to cover leas than half of it. Like Davos, the conditions were little natural snow and plenty of man-made ice.

The skiing was good, again on narrow icy but nicely steep slopes overlooking the valley. The connection between Arosa and Lenzerheide takes a while though. But parking was easier and much better organised than in Davos.

We liked Restaurant Heimberg at the bottom of the Heimberg lift. The Goulash index, however, was a shocking 15.50€. Or 10.50€, if you consider the smaller portion as the standard portion. I didn't try the soup this time so I can't say which one was comparable to Goulash bowls in other resorts.

Photos and videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko. This blog exists also on the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

World Eskimo Forum (WEF) in Davos

The world's leading eskimos meet every winter in Davos to collaborate in shaping global, regional, and industry igloos. Well not really, but to my surprise the skiing in this village mostly known for the political and business elite is quite decent.

Or maybe even great, not just decent. This year there hasn't been much snow, so the off-piste options were limited and the official slopes were basically ice. Nevertheless, the slopes, like the run down from Weissfluhjoch to Davos Dorf were incredible: a vertical kilometer of sustained, nicely steep and increasingly narrow run above the village. And back up on the Parsennbahn train. I could feel my underused leg muscles after this run. Or take the run to Schifer or Serneous; it starts out less steep, but keeps pushing you. Very nice.

Davos is a set of nearby but not fully connected ski areas. On the other side of the valley across from Parsenn there is the Jacobshorn ski area. I really liked the Moräne run from Brämabüel to Jschalp, 600 meters of steep ice, again above Davos and the lake.

Even with the little snow, we found nice couloir or side valley on the right side of the Jatz run. Untouched by other skiers... a bit scary for possible rocks buried in the few centimetres of snow, but a very nice run with occasional deeper patches of soft snow.

But that's the skiing. A friend had noted that Davos isn't the greatest looking place, but I was still surprised a bit about the Davos village. It didn't match my expectation of a Swiss alpine village, but rather a basic, even agricultural town with half of the buildings made of ugly concrete. Be that as it may, our biggest grief in Davos was the traffic. You would think the elite wants to have a well-working traffic system, but no. But maybe they fly in helicopters? But for the rest of us, going two kilometres from one side of the village to the other can take over an hour, and parking is a nightmare.

Oh well. We opted to ski two days in Davos, and go someplace else on the third day. Our accommodation was half an hour away from Davos, down the valley, and closer to many other places (including Liechtenstein that we came from). Our room was reasonably priced and the half board dinner was... stellar, probably Michelin-class. However, it felt odd how badly Internet works in many of these places. Our accommodation was Sommerfeld, a big gasthof in Pragg-Jenaz. They had one access point for the entire building, and when I complained that it didn't reach our room as advertised, they promised to fix the situation. And they did -- they moved the access point to a different corner in the room it was in, closer to our room. Hope the other guests didn't mind! Also, later I realised this particular brand of access point benefits from hourly reboots "to improve performance" as they say.

Oh well. But I also wanted to say I really liked the Sauna in Landgasthaus Sommerfeld: very Finnish, 80 degrees and with a bucket of water to use for making it even hotter. Nicely done.

Two burgers, two cokes, two desserts: 80€!

The Finns like this "WTF" Swiss brand!

The sauna:

The access point:

Somewhat odd looking sink in the sauna area. Or at least I thought it was a sink:

Skating rink in Davos:

Photos and videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko. This blog exists also on the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.