Tag Archives: cold

Day One at The Sierra Nevada

It’s amazing how much covert energy suddenly manifests itself in the face of doing something that you love for an entire day. I’d barely slept a wink all night, yet at the first shrill beeping sound of my alarm had leaped out of bed and pretty much landed in my snowboarding boots in about 10 seconds flat. The day I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about had finally come, and being tired was simply not allowed. My brain full on rejected it.

It had rained the previous day (there I go about weather again…), though on this occasion I had been grateful, as normally rain in Granada = snow in Sierra Nevada, AND it was all supposed to have cleared up by Saturday, leaving nothing but bright blue skies. In other words, this would make for perfect conditions. Yes, you could say I was ever so slightly excited for this one.

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Yo (© Tony Lee Bruce)

We set off late, unsurprisingly, and for this we paid the price. Of course we’d expected it to be busy; it was Puente weekend, and this all but guaranteed that there would be crowds, but none of us had quite anticipated throngs of this magnitude. Finding a parking space took what seemed like an eternity and queuing to buy our passes, and subsequently board the gondola/chairlift added another maddening forty-five minutes to our waiting time. In fact, it wasn’t until 10.50am- two hours after we had left Granada- that we actually found ourselves looking down the mountain, as opposed to up the damn thing.

It also hadn’t gone unnoticed that conditions weren’t perfect. Actually, they were pretty far from it. Apparently, it hadn’t snowed the day before- it had rained! This meant only one thing: ice. Our hopes dashed, we pushed off down the slope for our first run, determined not be deterred and to make up for lost time.

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Icy Slopes (© Tony Lee Bruce)

Minutes later, it was over, and we were right back where we started- the tail end of the now even longer queue. Though to our pleasant surprise, the snow wasn’t all that bad, thanks to the whirring snowmakers on either side of the groomed pistes. Any off-piste exploits, however, were well out of the question- the immediate juddering brought on by the scores of frozen snowballs littering the off-piste track were a sure indication of that.

Eventually, the swarms scattered and the slopes opened up a bit, allowing us to really brush the cobwebs away. Predictably, I let myself become a little overzealous, and in an attempt to cut across a slope in order to reach the start of a run yet to be explored, I collided with a skier. A very, very, pissed off skier, might I add. Speed had been key, or else I risked slipping too far down the slope and overshooting my exit. I didn’t stick around to explain myself, preferring instead to hold up both my hands and yell ‘lo siento!’ at the top of my lungs, as I trundled away (he had ended up skis akimbo on the ground). I couldn’t quite hear his response, but as I watched his lips move I highly doubted that they were imparting words of forgiveness. Oops.

The best snow of the day was found along el zorro and el rebeco, beneath the stadium chairlift (click here for piste map), owing to a greater concentration of snowmakers sporadically showering the runs in artificial powder throughout the day. The loma dilar on the far right ridge, which leads to the resort’s presently substandard super park (1 jump and 4 boxes), also offered up some rare carving opportunities. Elsewhere, it was pretty underwhelming, but at this stage of the season you can’t expect the whole enchilada I suppose. Several chairlifts and the whole Laguna de las Yeguas section remain unopened, so there is plenty more to look forward to.

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(© Tony Lee Bruce)

By 4.30 the tiredness had definitely caught up with us; our group had shrunk from seven to two, and we were no longer in the least bit bothered about sticking together. I managed to catch the last lift of the day, and I mean THE LAST lift- not a single person was left in the queue behind me (which left me feeling rather smug), meaning that I could mosey down the mountain at my own pace, without any clumsy skiiers getting in the way…

Back in the much-welcomed warmth of the car, we gorged ourselves on mandarins and mini-donuts before committing the cardinal sin of falling asleep, leaving the equally as deadbeat driver to battle it out against his eyelids for the drive, or rather queue, home. Ordinarily I wouldn’t commit such atrocities but keeping my eyes open was futile. My body had countered, and my brain simply gave up. The countdown to day two has begun.

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(© Tony Lee Bruce)
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Sunset over the Sierra (© Tony Lee Bruce)

Anyone else been up to the Sierra Nevada yet? What did you think? Or are you planning to go? I’d gladly answer any questions…

How to… survive a Spanish winter *shock horror!*

This blog is only six weeks young and I can’t help but feel that I’m already getting quite the penchant for writing about Spanish weather. And quite frankly it concerns me, because everybody knows that weather is all together a rather boring topic of conversation- something better left for impromptu awkward silences or endless inane chatter between grannies on buses, let alone something to blog about. But given that I am presently sat in my bedroom, wearing a hat, gloves, hoody and my snowboarding jacket with two mini-heaters blasting hot, musty air at me, I also can’t help but feel that weather over here is something that one can’t help but talk, or indeed blog about.

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t just switched the central heating on. Well, I could switch the central heating on, if my housemates weren’t so uncompromisingly against it. “El crísi’!, el crísi’!” (andaluz translation for “The crisis, the crisis”) they keep yelling at me- in other words, the bills are getting harder to pay and we can’t afford to turn the central heating on yet. Mind you, at least we actually have the luxury of central heating in our house- many Spanish homes simply don’t bother with it, their tenants preferring instead to pay cheaper rent and risk freezing themselves to death.

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Bye bye suntan

So whether you share my circumstances, you’re new here, or considering the move, wearing nearly all your clothes and/or rocking back and forth in your frozen desk-chair in a state of shock, fret not. For you have just stumbled across the first ever ‘how to survive the winter in Spain even though it probably isn’t as cold as winter back at home’ blog post! So take my numbed and quivering hand as I walk you through some nifty tips on fighting el frio…

One: Dress sensibly

One can never underestimate the power of a good wooly jumper. If you haven’t got one, get one! They’re comfy, cozy and rather fashionable these days I believe. Grab a bargain at H&M or Pull & Bear.

Two: Cover the Floor

Buy a rug and pop it down next to your bed. The thought of peeling yourself away from beneath the duvet covers in the morning is an unpleasant one in any case, but during the winter months even conceiving the idea can be regarded as an achievement. If you don’t have a rug readily available nor the income to go splashing out on one, have your slippers at the ready. 

Three: Drink and eat well

Common sense this one really. But when in Spain you’ll no doubt discover that certain luxuries that were once easily acquired are no longer so. Fortunately, there is Mercadona, and thankfully it offers us Brits what no other Spanish supermarket can: tea. And I mean proper, actual tea, as in the one you add milk to. Not that ghastly fusion stuff. You’ll only find PG Tips but it’s better than nothing, and when you’re sat caressing a mug of it, shivering under a blanket in your subzero casa, you’ll have never felt so grateful.

Food-wise, I’ve often found that there is nothing more doctoring than a rich, delicious and mightily healthy bowl of ‘pisto’ to warm your entrails.

Four: Spoon a housemate

Why not? You’ll no doubt already know from that very first, clumsy double-cheek kiss greeting that the Spanish are a plainly uninhibited nation when it comes to bodily contact, so stick the telly on, and snuggle up. Body warmth is of the utmost importance and what better way is there to share some? Boys, just bear in mind potentially awkward consequences if you’re housemate is super hot. Girls- don’t insist on being big spoon for extra warmth, it’s extremely emasculating and we don’t like it.

Five: Steal someone else’s heat

As in go to someone else’s house where there is central heating and stay as long as possible. If you don’t have any friends with central heating, or if you simply don’t have any friends, then head to your nearest café or cozy restaurant. Not that I’m encouraging stinginess but it probably costs less for a few rounds of coffee than it does for just 15 minutes of your mini-heater. Take a book and find a quiet corner.

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Sierra Nevada peaking through the clouds at sunset © Tony Lee Bruce

Six: Jump around!

Jump up jump up and get down. Jump, jump, jump, jump… etc.

Seven: Utilize sunlight 

Another one that should really go without saying- leave your curtains open during the day and let in all that lovely sunlight. It may get cold in Spain (it does, honestly!) but we can at least rely on there being bright blue skies every day. Those golden rays will provide pockets of magnified toastiness for respite from the rest of your chilly living room. Shut them before bed though, or you’ll shiver yourself silly.

Eight: Sex it up

Presuming of course that you have another willing participant, this cold-combatting tactic is, needless to say, the most enjoyable. I won’t bother with all the scientific spiel- it’ll hardly be a turn-on for your other half if you attribute the reason for shagging to a statistically proven blood circulation increase of 30% etc. If you’re especially fond of bonking (first time I’ve ever used that word, by the way) then click here for some extra raunchy tips to keep yourselves pleasantly heated. However, click here, to learn about what not to do.

Nine: Microwave your socks

This is a neat, crafty little trick I picked up back at University, and never fails to provoke a long, gratifying sigh. Stick a cup of water in there as well to add some moisture and reduce the risk of your socks catching fire.

Ten: Sod it and get drunk

Sometimes the only effective measure in such drastic circumstances is to get suitably and unabashedly sloshed. Stick to spirits or wine though (cheap Supersol wine or Mercadona rum are best)- beer will only make matters worse. And don’t inadvertently turn yourself into an alcoholic. This will not solve any of your problems.

Got any more tips? Let’s hear them…

Sierra Nevada opens for 2012/13

And so it begins. Ski-bums from all over Spain will flock to Europe’s southernmost ski-resort in huge numbers this weekend, after seven long, snow-deprived months. And if all of this recent rain is anything to go by, then by eck are we in for a treat.

At least 11.5kms of untouched slopes will be open in the Nursery, Borreguiles and Veleta areas, and the RIO will be open by Saturday, allowing for skiing all the way down to Pradollano village. It’s an encouraging start, if we look back on last season’s woeful offerings.

The average snowfall peaked at just over 80cm in February- three times less than the year before and still well off the mark in comparison with other recent years gone by. Couple that with the fact that there still remained hordes of skiers and zigzagging ski-schools clogging up the slopes, plus gallingly time-consuming queues for chairlifts to boot, and we were left with a very bothersome case on our hands indeed.

Hiking to find the freshest lines last Spring

I suppose I hadn’t really considered the fact that here I would be but a sprat amongst the jostling crowd at the weekends and puentes, as opposed to a happy-go-lucky ski-bum tied only to a 3-shift-a-week bar job, like I was during my time in Canada three years ago.

In fact, if conditions had been just half as good as they were in Canada, then perhaps the hard-shell feelings of frustration and disappointment wouldn’t have been so overwhelming. Unfortunately, things never really improved. Instead, skiers and snowboarders alike had to rely solely on the resort’s droning piste-side snow-makers, which were constantly pumping artificial deluges of the white stuff onto its otherwise ice-swathed slopes, in order to find anything even remotely approaching ‘powder’.

However, with an unshakable snowboarding addiction like mine, it’s difficult not to have a good time, even if the conditions are as dire as they were. I only managed six or seven visits during the 11/12 season but at the end of each day I always left with a smile on my face.

Now I’m all giddy and restless, because this year I know things can only get better. My board is waxed and my iPod playlist is complete. Ready, shreddy, go…

Click here for information on ski-hire, ski-schools and all the latest news on the Sierra Nevada.

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The resort’s half-pipe on one of last season’s better days
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Line hunting
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The Sierra Nevada