Sunday, August 21, 2016

Anti-Gravity Lift Towers

The Swiss are clever innovators. The latest example of this that I saw were the lift towers in Saas Fee. Floating in mid-air, not standing on ground like regular towers. Anti-gravity in action!

In the summer the ski area closes at noon, so after a nice morning of summer skiing in rain and fog, I was left with a free afternoon. It turns out that that at the top station there's an ice cave. I did not expect much, these tunnels seem present in almost all glacier resorts.

But I was surprised. And maybe a bit shaken. Not just by the beauty of the ice carvings, but also of the spooky nature of the place. Buttons that you are tempted to press but shouldn't, flowers decorations that feel like they're from somebody's funeral, dark chapels with shadowy figures on the walls, and exits that lead nowhere. Nicely done, now I can't sleep!

The chapel:

The flowers:

More from the chapel:

The crevasse:

Colours in the ice cave:

Photo and video credits (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko. This blog is also available in TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Soleil à Saint-Sauveur

It is late May, and Saint-Sauveur is one of the only two open ski areas in the east. And I've already been to the other one, Killington. And what's more, all the ski crazies are here!

It was a long weekend drive to Canada from Boston where my meetings were. But in this case it was worth it. The sun was shining, and the skiing was good.

Two ski runs remained open. The main slope was fully open, and had a nice bumps run on the lower part. In the morning the bumps were suitably small and soft for me, and I was happy to be able to ski the full run through them in one go. That doesn't happen often. By afternoon, the bumps had grown big enough that I no longer was able to ski them. Or maybe my legs were tired.

The other run was "Nordic", one of the side runs. I enjoyed the profile better here than on the main run, particularly the lower part, even if that part was already closed off. You could still ski it down, but you had to walk 50 meters to the lift.

But more important than the specific slopes were the people who were there. For the second weekend in row I met Patrick Corcoran ("Mad Pat Ski") who like me is a skiing nut, traveling around the world and skiing through summers. And not only him, it seemed that on this late May weekend, all the people crazy about skiing gathered here. There weren't more than a couple of dozen skiers on the hill, but they all were dedicated skiers! And they all seemed to know each other.

Saint-Sauveur ended up continuing after this weekend, but we couldn't predict the weather at the time; we all considered our season-ending ski day. When the weather turned into hard rain in the late afternoon, that just inspired people to go to the slope and keep skiing it. It was fun crowd to ski with!

I stayed at Manoir Saint-Sauveur, a nearby resort with spas and saunas. It had been too long without sauna on this trip, so the facilities were much appreciated!

After our day on the slopes, Patrick took me to museum of skiing in Saint-Sauveur, which was also interesting.

Looking forward to meeting these people on some other mountains in the future!

Romantic flamingos in the bar:

Groundhogs observing my grass skiing:

Saint-Sauveur ski area across the lake (photo by Patrick Corcoran):

Ski art at the ski museum:

Bar during the day:

Patrick and Greg:

Patrick and me (photo by Patrick):

One of the crazy skiers, crossing a pond:

Colourful buildings nearby:

View from the hill:

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

South... but not so far

I wanted go far this summer, ski the untried countries. But it was not to be, because work. And because Peru was cancelled.

I had my finger on the button to book tickets, but called first. Unfortunately, the Pastoruri Glacier, located at the Parque Nacional Huascarán at an altitude of five kilometres, is suffering from global warming. They used to have skiing on the glacier, but it is melting so fast that they do everything to try and extend its remaining life. So skiing is no longer allowed.

Oh well. I'm taking a few days off to tour around European summer ski areas, starting with a weekend with Tero at Hintertux, Austria. We've just arrived, and it is raining, but I'm hoping the rain means fresh snow in tomorrow's sunny day!

I can also recommend the Neuhintertux hotel, which among other things provides backpacks for all customers in case they want to go hiking. Nice touch! And now I do want to go hiking, then sauna, so talk to you later!

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Argentinian Dunes

Argentina is too big. It is winter, but getting to the slopes in Las Leñas takes a two-hour flight and four hours of driving. My weekend is too short for that, as I have be back in my meetings in Buenos Aires soon.

But what could I do instead? I'd like to go caving, but the caves are even further away than the slopes.  Horseback-riding on the pampas perhaps? But most of the ranches are closed at this time of the year. Canoeing in the Tigre? But I've already done that.

Fortunately, the Atlantic shore south of Buenos Aires is interesting. There are plenty of parks, beaches, forests, and little towns alongside the shore.

So I ended up going to the slopes on the one vehicle that I have not tried yet: an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), a four-wheeled small buggy. There are some sand dunes in the seashore area, not too many but enough to try out some skiing. My miniskis are again in action, feeling at home on the sandy slopes. With enough steepness, the small skis slide better than long ones, turn better, and are easy to carry.

Photos and videos (c) 2015 by Jari Arkko. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


I don't often relax, but when I do, it has to be muddy. Wet. And underground.

I had to attend two conferences in Germany in July. While driving on the autobahns is stressful, I also didn't want to enter the airline system again, so I chose to drive from southern Germany to Berlin. The added bonus was that I was able to stop where I wanted. Snow would have been too big of a detour, but there are many caves in Germany, so I decided to look for one. I ended up in the small, sleepy village of Ennepetal, near Cologne.

Ennepetal is the home Kluterthöhle, second largest cave in Germany. This is a 5.5km karst cave. It is also a show cave, with visits arranged both for tourists and those willing to get a bit more dirty and crawl through the passages of the cave. These adventure tours are not demanding, small kids can take them, but they you will be totally wet and covered in clay at the end of it. The 90 minute tour takes you through large and small passages in this mostly clay-covered system.

The organisers told me that I didn't need my rubber boots, but if you rubber boots you will need them. I was able to climb above the water in the passages, but my hiking boots were full of clay afterwards.

Much recommended. The only complaint that I have is that the tours went on a relatively fast pace, and I didn't have much time to take photographs. In fact, I got left behind at one point due to taking photographs, and didn't know what tunnel the rest of the team took going forward. But I eventually found them :-)

The cave's website has their contact information. The adventure tour costs only 8€ and can take everyone from 8 year olds onward. There's also an extreme tour, but that runs very rarely, and is limited to 16 year olds and over.

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016


I guess we can blame ourselves, as we were looking for the wormhole. We didn't realise the world would change if we went through it. Lost in time for a while, but managed to return back to our universe by going through the wormhole again.

Nokian Pirunpesänkivi (some 30 kilometres from Tampere) is a tafoni, a rock with holes through it as if they were made by worms. It is a wonder of nature that can be visited without any special equipment or knowledge. Just be careful about going through...

See also the articles at Retkipaikka about this and other tafonis in Finland.

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Water in Boots

Hulubergsgrottan. Sipoo, Finland. Tiny hole, only crawable. And now filled with dirty water. What could be more fun to explore?

Hulubergsgrottan is one of the few karst caves in Finland. It has been formed as part of a chemical process where water dissolves certain types of rock. This cave is just a few meters long, but still offers a nice caving experience given its low ceiling and hidden opening in the thick forest around it.

The cave has two chambers, the first of which is sometimes free of water. But not on our visit; we had to crawl in the water and mud to move around. The cave's ceiling is nice and for-Finland-rare limestone. At the end of the main chamber there is a hole that should continue to the second chamber, but we were unable to enter there with all the water filling the tunnel.

The article in retkipaikka by Antti Huttunen is the best resource for this cave. Antti has also visited the second chamber in the cave. The coordinates of the cave are N 60° 19.406' E 25° 16.633'. The cave is protected; treat it with care.

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