Tag Archives: powder

Day 3 at The Sierra Nevada: Bluebird

sierra nevada, spain, granada, snow, powderFrankly, I’m ashamed to admit this outing marked only my third of the season. Perhaps if I was a student, or clever enough to forge one of these elusive student-status-corroborating matrículas like several of my friends, then I’d have gone up six or seven times by now. But I am neither of those things. So when I do go up I invariably end up having to shell out somewhere within the region of €60. And that’s without ski-hire. It ain’t cheap. But when snow and sun are in such abundance, as is the current case, skiing conditions are superlative in the most positive of senses.

Presently, The Sierra Nevada is enjoying its best spell in years, and last weekend, my trusty clan of skiadores and self set out to make the most of it. We took the early morning bus, aboard which there was none of the usual dosing and dim lighting – just people grinning from ear to ear and buzzing with uncontainable excitement.

The pistes couldn’t have looked any more inviting when we finally arrived. They were caked in the white stuff, gleaming under the cloudless sky. Curls of snow swept along the ridge of each mountain like silver linings, occasioning us to lick our lips in eager anticipation of what lay in wait.

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Anxious to get into the thick of it, we immediately headed leftward toward where we hoped would be a glut of vast, untracked powder fields. A second foray later in the day would prove that there were, but before we could reach the end of the annoyingly flat traverse that would take us there, our vehement spirits got the better of us. We ducked in and glided down a marginally mottled section of off-piste. Tracked or untracked, it was still a slice of hoary heaven.

More of the same ensued. It wasn’t long though, before we decided it was time for a spot of hiking. The fifteen-minute ascent aboard La Telecabina I not only serves as a means of transport but also as the perfect vantage point. Watching skiers and snowboarders alike hurl themselves down the off-piste sections to the right of the gondola, reachable only by foot, had wet, sorry, dowsed our appetites. We navigated a path and got to it. Twenty minutes and coughing fits later we had at last reached our zenith. We stood breathlessly on the same ridge that we had climbed on our last visit, staring into the pristine powder-bowl in the offing. I skulked across to steepest looking part, glancing over the edge every so often, and waited for friend, who had already plunged forth, to give his signal. He had been instructed to film me attempting to conquer a large boulder which had on the previous occasion defeated me. The signal came, and in I dropped, making a beeline for the rock. Don’t hold your breath. I’d love to be able to tell you that I span a perfect 540 with a flawless landing but, alas, I did not. Instead I landed awkwardly and performed another one of my textbook cartwheels. Defeated again.

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After lunch, I lost my friends, and, as I was to discover, my phone too, owing to one unzipped jacket pocket. There goes every contact ever made since moving to Spain. Oh well.

‘What better way to cheer myself up than going to the snow park for a couple of hours?’ I thought. ‘Perhaps there I’ll be able to make amends for the tumble taken off-piste earlier that morning’.

How erroneous of me. Not ten minutes after the commencement of my first run did I take a royally painful nosedive. I attempted to do something that I had no chance in hell of doing, basically. It involved a ‘box’ in the shape of a ‘c’, on a sideward incline, and I had soared towards it exhibiting all that sort of zest and pluckiness you’re supposed to when attempting something so dangerous, and leaped without hesitation…

Thwack! I was doomed from the moment I left the ground. Not even remotely close. I’d landed on the front edge of my board, leaning into the box – viz, I was done for. My board had slipped from under me, causing me to fly forward and smash my ribs onto the aluminum pipe that lined the box’s edge. I performed yet another textbook cartwheel, twice, and landed unceremoniously in a crumpled heap.“¿Estás bien tio?” a nearby voice called out. Winded and visibly wounded, all I could muster back was a croaky “Si. Gracias”. Clearly I wasn’t fine, but for the sake of avoiding further embarrassment, I quickly got to my feet, pretended to laugh and fled the scene. Seconds later, when out of sight, I sank to the ground and swore like a trooper.

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I left the park after that, feeling rather crestfallen and as though I should probably seek out a paramedic. I didn’t. Instead I soldiered on and ignored the pain. Stupid, I know, but these conditions were simply too good to pass up. I stuck to the easier-going pistes for the rest of the afternoon, while trying in vain to find my phone. Soon though, it was home time, but not before what has now become a après-ski ritual visit to 100 Montaditos. On Sundays, everything costs a euro, including beer. Suddenly my rib wasn’t hurting anymore, nor was I particularly bothered about my absent phone. It had been yet another epic day at the Sierra Nevada.

Day four hurry up already.

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Who else has been up to cash in on the perfect conditions we are currently having?

Day Two at The Sierra Nevada: KaPOW!

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The Sierra Nevada

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a starving vampire, stranded in a faraway place, void of all human life. You haven’t fed in months– a year even*. All you can think about is getting your fix, but it simply never comes. Nary a drop of blood has passed your lips, and you are growing weaker and more despondent by the day; you are essentially ready to give up the ghost. Then, out of nowhere, a mass deluge of the red stuff rains down on your sequestered castle, and you are suddenly spoilt rotten and overcome with euphoric joy. It’s literally a bloodbath. This, in essence, is what has just happened to me. No, I am not a vampire– though I do by my own admission possess a need almost as intrinsic as that of a vampire’s for blood: snow. Living in the south of Spain and all, this may come as a bit of a surprise to you. But, I’ll have you know that not one hour to the east there lies Europe’s most southerly ski resort. If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you may have already gathered as much– I do tend to go on about it a fair bit. Moreover, it won’t have escaped your notice that this post is in fact an account of my second outing into its hoary heights, therefore rendering the aforesaid analogy rather meaningless and inconsistent. However, that first foray, while undeniably enjoyable, lacked significantly in the very thing that makes the trip all worth the while: snow! IMG_0281 There was some snow, but we were, disappointingly, for the most part dependent on the efficiency of the resort’s ever-droning snowmakers, whose job it is to shower its otherwise ice-swathed slopes with artificial sheets of the fine matter. This was more or less the précis of last season’s woeful showing too. So, last week, when my inbox pinged with the latest weather update and I saw this…

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…I was, as you can probably imagine, giddier than a schoolgirl. A schoolgirl, if you’ll pardon the faux pas, on a cocktail of glue, helium, e and too much coke (of the cola variety of course). That, or keeping in line with the original analogy– a starving vampire knowingly on the cusp of a long overdue feeding frenzy. You choose. Either way, I was positively roused by what I had seen. Several misspelt and excited text messages later, and we had a date. We would venture forth on the Sunday, when there were, according to my trusty weather update, purportedly perfect conditions: masses of freshly fallen snow and bluebird skies. The drought looked to be finally over. Then, a profoundly fat spanner was flung into the works. Saturday had been so overcome with wind and snow that the mountain had been forced to close. This was a very unsettling development indeed. We ummed and ahhd at great length before concluding that we would still go– despite having lost our driver and there being simply no way of knowing for sure what the morning would bring. We clung in earnest to the hope that my weather update could be trusted.

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And still the snowmakers whir away…

Next morning we awoke at 06.30am to the sound of rain battering our bedroom windows. Not a good sign. We geared up, called a cab and raced down to the bus station with half an hour to spare– we didn’t want to be left ticketless with so much to lose. There was nobody there. This was also not a good sign, though the bus was still running, and after a spot of good foresight to call the resort’s automated phone line there was no indication that the resort remained closed. Still, anxiety overwhelmed us. Before long though, other similarly dubious-looking skiers and snowboarders slowly began to trickle in, and we were soon crammed into the back of a distinctly upbeat bus. Things were suddenly looking up. We arrived to most welcoming news– the mountain was indeed… open! Albeit not until 10am and half of the pistes were closed. This was a setback, but an understandable and ungrudgingly acceptable one considering the turn of the previous day’s events.

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Good morning!

As we waited inside a ski-hire shop, the sun abruptly broke through the dense clouds, and within minutes, we were staring at the powder-drenched mountain beneath a bold, blue sky. My weather update had proven its worth. The epicness of what lay in wait suddenly dawned on us. This was going to be something pretty special. After a warm-up run spent gliding down the Borreguiles and another all the way back to the underbelly, our exploratory spirits were spiraling out of control. We simply didn’t know where to look during our second ascent aboard la Telecabína; sheer, snow-caked cliff faces to our right, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t so much as draw a glance, were suddenly conceivable, and boulders smothered in untouched, icing-thick layers of snow seduced us to our left. We were basically looking at a new mountain, and anything seemed possible. sierra nevada, spain, snow, powder I could regale you with the fine details of every run but that would be ever so self-indulgent of me, and committing to an awful lot more words. One run will suffice. It came after we had hiked tirelessly up and across the Villén ridge– we had seen various skiers and snowboarders hurtling themselves down the off-piste powder fields that lay yonder all afternoon, and had been feverishly trying to figure out the route up. Eventually we had it, and wasted no time as the looming clouds threatened to spoil proceedings. We picked our spot, and dropped, from an almost vertical starting block, into a barely tracked bowl big enough to weave out seven or maybe eight giant carves. I flew over one of those seductive boulders and met an acrobatic end as I performed two textbook cartwheels on my wild landing. But I was fine. I could have cartwheeled all the way to the bottom and come out unscathed; there was simply so much snow that injuring myself, had I wanted to, was a genuinely difficult thing to do.

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Hiking the Villén ridge

And so it went on. We hiked, carved, hopped, popped and wobbled for the rest of the afternoon, lost in the zone and at the mercy of our most harebrained reveries. And it was incredible. I kid you not, there might actually be a smile permanently stretched across my face.

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Picture perfect
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Standard chairlift posing
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*I’ve an idea that according to folkloric rules vampires shouldn’t be able to live longer than a couple of weeks without feeding but for the sake of an analogy…) Who else has been up to the Sierra Nevada recently? Or any other ski resort? Have you had your powder fill yet? Do tell!