Friday, March 24, 2017

Pool with a view

I'm staying at the Chicago Swissotel for a conference. There was a break in Internet connectivity while we were setting up our network, so I decided to visit the sauna and pool at the 42nd floor of this high-rise hotel.

Very nice view. Good pool, well equipped gym also with a view. And a sauna! But it wasn't particularly special. Mediocre. No water to throw to the stones, and the wood parts needed a refresh. And no view from the sauna, WTF?

But I'm glad there was a sauna. Will use it again later in my meeting week.

Also, in the US there seems to be a lot of interest in using carpets in all kinds of places, in this case in the dressing rooms where people are likely to be still drying themselves, etc. I'd have used floor materials that are easier to clean...

Photo credits (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko

Backcountry Onsen

Sometimes skiing isn't just about the skiing. I can also be about hot springs in the middle of the backcountry skinning trip. We climbed Mt. Niseko Annupuri (1308m), skied the backside of the mountain and found an onsen, a Japanese hot spring.

Onsens are of course popular in Japan. But this one was special, being in the middle of the mountains and hard to reach. In the summer, a road leads through the mountains. In the winter, the road is closed. You can still reach the Goshiki Onsen via the tunnel side of the road, but not continue further. But most people visit the Goshiki on skis. We started this journey from the Annupuri ski area's high point, at 1152 meters, and proceeded to climb 150 meters higher to the top of Mt. Niseko Annupuri. In Niseko, you can only access the backcountry via special gates, and to get to the top you should use either gate G2 or G3. The former requires slightly more climbing, but much nicer views and mountain environment.

Once at the top of the mountain, we proceeded to ski down the backside, going the easy route that took us to the closed road.  There is also a steeper route more direct to the onsen. The route that we chose is a wide open bowl, but not particularly steep. The snow high up was hard, lower down among the trees it started to be more powdery.

Once we reached the road,  we skied on it, going slightly uphill for a kilometer and half, to reach the onsen.

From the onsen one can either take a taxi back to the village (half an hour drive, cost about 40€) or skin up to a ridge 65 meter higher than the onsen, and then ski down to the ski area through forests and bushes.

Skins are useful but not absolutely required on this trip. The initial climb to the mountain is too steep for skins, the road is so level that I didn't even free my heels from the bindings, and the way back to the ridge can also be walked.

The onsen visit costs 1000-1300 Yen (10-13€) depending on how many towels one wants.

The climb up Niseko Annupuri from gate G2:

Zach's skis have a message:

This is at the top of the Niseko Annupuri, starting our descent:

On our way towards the Onsen after the ski run down:

Speed limit on the skinning towards the Onsen. This is on top of a road that is only open for the summer:

Reached the Onsen:

Skiing down from the ridge between the Onsen and the ski area, we encountered some bushes:

Sunset back in the Niseko Annupuri ski area:

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Finally, the long awaited trip to Japan is starting. Janne and I are sitting on the Finnair plane at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, and ready to fly to Tokyo, and then continue on to Sapporo, and finally Niseko. There are two bus trips along the way, but hopefully we'll get there without problems.

We're joining Zach, Ari, and Tero who already are there.

March is a busy time for me, so our trip is a bit shorter than the other guy's trip and I'll be working the evenings. But, Niseko is a fabled ski resort! Very excited to finally experience proper Japanese snow, as so far I have only skied on artificial snow (in Karuizawa and Yokohama). Here is the snow-bringing-tube that I saw in Karuizawa's early season in 2011:

But Niseko has real snow. We will be staying here:

Photos (c) 2011-2017 by Jari Arkko and the Annapuri Lodge

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Over- and underground walk

I ended up going around Kauniainen's Gallträsk as my activity today. The day had been sunny, but the night wasn't bad either, nice evening views. I also included the underground sports arena on my tour, and got to walk long tunnels and stop by the climbing wall in the tunnels as well.

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Sunday.  Nothing particular going on, but a pressing need to get some exercise. The sun is shining, so I decided to hike around the Laajalahti area in Espoo.

I start my hike from Villa Elfik, in the middle of the nature reserve, and close to a nice wooden path, a loop around the reeds on the waterfront on the bay. Then I continue on the duckboards on the 2.5 km path towards Otaniemi. Unfortunately, closer to Otaniemi they have taken the boards out and the path goes closer to roads and civilisation. Oh well, apparently the cows will now have more space in the summer.

Ending with a quick soup lunch at the Villa Elfik cafeteria. Pretty good.

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Kangasala Caving

Janne and I often visit Tampere on his winter vacation from school. We did that again, and again went to explore some caves. This time in Kangasala.

We visited first the Lempokivi cave, which I thought was the interesting one. It was beautiful, with the afternoon sun just at the right angle to shine through the entrance to the cave. And with the cave being made from colourful, yellowish or even red stone. A small cave, one main room with two squeezes that lead a meter or two forward but ended.

We weren't quite sure if we wanted to try the nearby other cave, Ohtolan Pirunkallion luola or Ohtola Devil's Rock cave. The pictures on the web article didn't seem as inviting, but since it was just a few minutes drive away, we decided to make a visit.

Both of these caves are right next to the road. There's even easy parking, bus stops and forestry roads, but I have to tell you, nobody would believe there are caves in these places. They are both next to fields, in small forests, and there are no large hills or cliffs anywhere near.

But the caves are there. And boy, were we surprised by the Devil's cave. The "cliff wall" that the cave opening is on is just one meter high, but the cave drops further down, with a large main room. But this time the cave continues, as there is a narrow opening to another large but rather low room. And from that room there is continuation further several meters onward, on a very tight tunnel.

This cave is covered in clay and our clothing was quite remarkable looking once we exited the cave. But I'm happy we visited there, and Janne liked the second cave a lot, too.

More pictures from the first cave, the Lempokivi cave:

Pictures from the second cave, the Ohtola Pirunkallio Cave. First mold and gold:

Second room and Janne attempting to go further:

Me coming back from the second room to the main room:

Main room:

Me in the second room:

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