Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Shreddin' the Pow!

Got back from Chamonix yesterday and boy was it incredible! I planned on going to Crans Montana on Saturday but I met a girl, Mallory, Friday night who said she was going to Chamonix Sunday and Monday with one of my friends from my cours de vacances so I opted for that instead. I knew beforehand that Chamonix is super well known for skiing, but I was a bit hesitant because I read that if there isn’t fresh snow in Chamonix it’s not good for skiing.  At the same time, the forecast showed that it was supposed to snow in Chamonix Saturday, Sunday and Monday. And it didn’t just snow, it dumped!

On the train up to Chamonix we could see that it was already snowing even at the lower altitude, which was very promising. Once we got off the train we found the hostel and decided that we would go for the afternoon since it was already around 11:00. There were four of us Mallory, from Vancouver, Rob from Australia and Calvin from Hong Kong. Adri, a friend from my cours de vacances would show up at night because he wasn’t feeling well in the morning. Among us Mallory and I were the only ones who had ever been on the pistes before. Calvin decided to rent skis and Rob a snowboard.

Once we arrived on the mountain at around 1:00 we could barely see, the snow was coming down so hard. Mallory told me beforehand that we wouldn’t stay with the rookies all day and I was content with trying to teach them a few things but we basically showed them how to put on the skis and snowboard and where the bunny slope was and then Mallory told them that we would part ways because the snow was too good to pass up. I felt that this was kind of mean but I’m glad I’m not the one who said it. We were hoping they would want lessons but they decided to give it a go on their own. The pistes were very poorly marked and we had to ask people how to get to where we wanted to go especially since we couldn’t see anything.  The snow WAS fantastic but the visibility was not.  In fact I was following Mallory and then suddenly lost her and we would find each other until 1.5 hours later.

That night Calvin decided he wanted to leave because he wasn’t enjoying himself. Apparently he hit some kid, got told off in French and fell into a ditch and had to have people help him out. He returned his skis but was too late to take the last train back to Switzerland so he ended up staying the night. We saw Adri coming when we were on our way to dinner and told him he could take Calvin’s bed because we didn’t know that Calvin didn’t make the train. Nobody was working reception after 10:00 p.m. and there were plenty of extra beds in the hostel so Adri ended up getting to stay the night without paying.

There was a guy our age from London, Julian, whom we met in the hostel and he was telling us about his experiences that day. He was telling us where he was riding there was tons of untouched powder so we asked he could show us the next day. Turns out, he was vacationing for 2 weeks in Chamonix and was snowboarding every day. He was on day 7 and apparently just started that week which seems incredible, since he was really good.

It continued to snow through the night and in the morning it was clear. Perfect conditions for a powder day! We caught the lift up in the morning and were skiing by 10:30. I tried for a little bit to show Rob some things on the snowboard but then we reached an untouched powder field and that was the end of his lesson. He understood though and was repeatedly saying he didn’t want to slow us down. The pow is definitely all that it is hyped up to be. I wasn’t very good and still am not very good at riding it, but it was so much fun! We were the first ones to touch that pow so we were making our own lines. By around 1:00 the ice started to show up since it hadn’t snowed in Chamonix in over a month and the powder was being depleted.  Julian showed us another part of the mountain where he was and said the pow there was better and less touched.  We went over to explore and it was just as fun as the morning. In some places the snow was turning hard but mostly it was still perfect. We found a rock that was super fun to jump off of and there was no fear about not landing because the snow was up to our waists in some areas. And finally on the last run there was another little natural jump that I hit and got 4-5 ft of air, according to Julian, and landed it! It was such a blast!! I can’t wait for another powder day, which might not happen while I’m here but makes me want to continue once I return stateside so much more!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Snowboard Week! January 3-7

            What and incredible week. Snowboarding in the Swiss Alps with a bunch of fun people. It was definitely one of the best weeks I’ve had.  Starting out Monday, I was not too happy being put with a group of skiers.  I shouldn’t say I wasn’t happy because I mean come on I was snowboarding in an incredible place, but I was dissatisfied because I didn’t understand why the snowboard instructor wouldn’t help me out, being the rookie, and why he felt like he had to go with the snowboarders who have be doing it since forever.  We went to the glacier on Monday, which I had heard was really flat and not too much fun.  There was a huge piste to bomb down before getting to the other pistes which, I couldn’t bomb down since I wasn’t good enough so instead I ran out of speed on the flat and had to unstrap my back foot and push myself a long ways.  Not cool.  There weren’t really any lifts here, just teleskis because it wasn’t ever really steep enough.  I wanted to show the ski instructor, James,  that I wasn’t a complete rookie and tried to be impressive with my turning until I tried to get in one last turn before stopping and I ate it.  I fell straight on the spot where I got a huge bruise the week before.  Not on the first day! That was the last thing I wanted especially on easy pistes like these.  We had to take a ski lift to get to our lunch spot and before we got to the lift, more flatness.  This time I decided to just carry my board since it was actually slightly uphill, but still really far away.  The rest of the day was more of the same stuff.

            The second day I started out with the snowboard instructor, Alain, for a private lesson since I was the only snowboarder who actually needed lessons.  It went well but I felt like some of the things he told me to do were a bit difficult and actually made me worse.  There were a lot of rocks on the pistes that day because it hadn’t snowed in a while and I hit a lot of them and consequently, scratched up my board a lot.  In descending and trying to do one of the instructors exercises I tried to turn left, but that didn’t work and I was about to fall so I brought it back and turned right and right there was a skier in a red suit.  I hit him of course.  He was an instructor from the Swiss Ski School.  I felt fine but before I could say anything he points at me and says “C’est ta faute!” pauses and again says “C’est ta faute!” “Do you speak English? It’s you’re fault!”

            Great, I’m glad it’s my fault thanks for making sure I know asshole. I told him sorry a few times in French and asked if he was alright, which he said he was.  He stood up and looks to people he’s teaching, which I presume were English speakers and he says “Swiss Steel!” Yeah, OK buddy get over yourself.

            After lunch I went back with the group of skiers from the day before.  We were heading to Villars, another ski area connected to Diablerets,  We had to go down a narrow route to get to the actual pistes which I always hate because it’s difficult to stop and turn on a snowboard and the risking of hitting someone is constantly present.  Hitting someone or falling over the edge.  They are also always icy which makes them even more fun!  I was trying to slow down on a patch of ice before a turn when I slipped and fell backwards with my head taking all of the impact.  Everything was briefly black and I knew something bad had happened.  A concussion is my guess.  I sat on the snow wanting to take a break but James said it was no good and we could reach a big lodge soon but we had to keep going.  We made it down to the lift that we had to take to reach the restaurant.  For me it looked as if water were dripping down my goggles as if I were at the surface of the water about to go diving.  I told everyone and they checked my goggled and said there wasn’t any water.  I was sure there wasn’t but I thought it was best to tell them so they knew I wasn’t OK.  There were riddles on the way up that I couldn’t read but the others had a good time answering them.              When we got to the top we had to descend a bit.  There were people everywhere! It was snowing. I didn’t want to do it but I had no choice. The snow was at least good.  When we made it to the restaurant I got a water thinking it could be vital! We took about a 30-45 minutes break and I didn’t want to continue.  Things looked blurry out of my left eye.  I told everyone so they knew.  Finally James asked if I was ready to continue.  I didn’t want to but I said yes and that I can’t do anything about it now.  He agreed.  I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and finish off the day.  Besides, even if something was wrong I didn’t want to know about it.  It was still only day 2 of 5.  I journeyed on and took it easy that night.  No brewskis, although I thought it would be a bit comical, just hot wine.

            Wednesday the group of skiers and I split from everyone else and I went to a different area (Isneau) because the pistes there are more challenging than the glacier where everyone else went.  The other ski instructor, Valerie, came with us and brought skis and a snowboard.  She mostly helped the skiers in the morning but we really did the same exercises, and donned the snowboard to help me in the afternoon.  I heard her talking to someone the day before saying she wasn’t the best snowboarder and she was about average.  She borrowed the snowboard and boots for the week from a friend.  I wasn’t too pleased about having some “pretend” snowboard instructor but actually helped me out a ton.  Towards the end of the day I started getting a lot better.  She helped me to realize that snowboarding is a lot like cycling in a sense that you go where you look.  In cycling if you’re trying to take a corner going anything over 20 mph and you look at the street or the side or grass, then you’re not going to go exactly where you want and you’ve got a chance of eating it hard.  But, if you focus in the direction you want to go the entire time and keep you’re head straight you can really lean the bike over and do crazy turns without crashing.  I was beginning to feel like a legit snowboarder.  She also always saw me trying to do tricks so she showed me how to do a tail and nose press and nose turn, which I still can’t quite do you. I finally started having more movement in my leg since I didn’t fall as much and I made sure to fall on anything but my ass.  Be it elbow, shoulder, arm, head, whatever!

            Thursday morning the instructors told us we had the opportunity to go sledging (they call it “faire la luge” in French) in the afternoon if we wanted.  I think it was to give people a break from skiing because I think a lot of people were tired, but I was perfect! I was just getting into it!  I decided it would be fun to do it since I hadn’t done it before.  Valerie, the same instructor from the day before brought just a snowboard today and skiers did their own thing.  Today I was building off the progress I made from the day before and I felt about normal now with the movement in my leg.  Valerie showed me how to ollie and nollie (jumping) today, which I still also need work on and tried to get me to start riding switch (opposite foot in front).  Just before lunch all of the skiers and snowboarders happened to meet up on the same piste.  The instructors told one of the other snowboarders to set the pace and for everyone to follow her turns.  It was insane! There were 15 of us all descending at the same time and Valerie told me to stay right behind the person leading.  Someone started making the beeping noise that is made to countdown the downhill skiers and I started cracking up.  I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was because it seemed so crazy that I was about to do this.  I knew it was going to be nuts!  We started and the same person kept making the beeping noise every time we turned and I still thought it was hilarious.  I don’t know what was so funny about it.  We were going fast and I didn’t even think about what I was doing.  I was just watching the person out in front and it was automatic.  I had people on either side of me so I was boxed in.  I slowed down a little and a few people passed but I stayed with the group.  It was so much fun blazing down the mountain.  We had to descend down another piste to get our lunches and this time we just tried doing tricks.  We were all going sledging after lunch but I as pumped and wanted to go with the rest of the snowboarders Friday.  It was the highlight of the week. 

            After lunch we went to rent sledges.  It started raining, which I thought was bizarre being in the mountains with snow everywhere.  There were 3 price points to match the speed of the sledge.  We went for the ones in the middle, the “Austrian” sledge.  It sounded exotic and awesome.  There was an odd number of people so I was forced to go by myself instead of share one.  I was a bit nervous because I had no idea how to steer the things and I figured I’d go over the edge especially since the sign at the start of the run said it was icy and that we would go extra fast.  No one ever really told me exactly how to steer so I thought to hell with it and started down.  We all met up after the first drop and decided to race.  I knew I was at a disadvantage because I had less weight.  I actually passed two teams because they crashed.  I made some crazy turns that I don’t think I could have done with another person riding with me.  When we made it down after the first time two people said they didn’t want to ride with me because I was a crazy driver.  Great!  Just what I needed and what always happens!  I always get screwed and was about to get screwed again when I didn’t get selected in the random partner drawing.  So, I went down alone again and the third time down I had a partner who was an experience sledger.  He showed me how to sit in people’s draft before passing to gain speed.  He drove but he was a lot bigger than me and so I wasn’t at all comfortable riding down.  I’m sure it’d be different if I was with someone else my height.

            At the bar we always go to after skiing Valerie brought us some type of bread and we all took a piece.  After my first bite, I realized there was something in it.  Some type of nut I guess and I couldn’t decide whether to spit it out or keep pressing down with my jaw.  I didn’t want to be rude so I kept trying to break it until I realized it wasn’t going to happen.  I sat there with a bizarre look on my face and someone noticed and told me to spit it out and that I won.  It was a little plastic white figure of a priest.  They gave me a sort of paper burger king crown which I guess came with the pastry when they bought it and I wore it the rest of the night.  Crazy Swissies.

            Friday morning we had to decide what to do for the day but skiing wasn’t an option.  The rain from yesterday ruined the pistes.  It snowed on the glacier but the operators were considering closing the pistes due to heavy winds.  We had the options of going swimming, ice skating or sledging.  People decided between ice skating and sledging.  I opted for sledging but the sledging run was closed because it was too icy.  So the sledgers decided to get trash bags and slide down some hills on our butts to entertain ourselves for a few hours.  It was fun and you can view the video made from this event on youtube!  We took the earliest train from Diablerets, which left around 3:00 since we didn’t have much to do.  Despite not snowboarding Friday I still had a fun day hanging out with everyone.  It was such an incredible week.  I hope to get an opportunity to hang out with everyone again and hopefully do some snowboarding together!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Caissé le cul!

I went to Les Diablerets on Wednesday. The snow on the slopes was worse than when I went to Leysin on Monday, very icy in some places (like Leysin) but after lunch I took a gondola up to another place we went with the University and that was better. The snow was still crap but it was better.

I'm becoming a lot more confident with my skillz. I can do all of the blue runs that I've tried. I was going to try a red run and have it be my last for the day but it was 4:00 and the teleskis end at 4:30 and I figured it would be best to call it a day. Especially after the "accident"... I broke my ass(J'ai caissé le cul)!!

There was a section of a blue run that I remember my instructor told us was more like a red and I was feeling confident just after lunch and decided to try turn going down it instead of just easing my way down, but I tried in an icy patch and fell hard on my butt for the first time. I told myself I wasn't going to fall hard on the same spot again or I would be screwed. I went through the rest of the day becoming more and more confident with my abilities and rarely falling. Just when I started down the last run of the day (blue) I hit a big mound of snow that shouldn't have been there and WHAM! Fell straight on my ass!! I just stood on my knees for a bit with my head resting on the snow because I didn't want to move. I wanted a helicopter. But I made it down to the bottom OK after taking a rest a little ways down the piste. So that's the story of how I broke my ass!

I think I'm readying to conquer my first red now! I have a lot better control of what I'm doing now and feel like I'm making a lot of good progress. I fell off the teleskis only once that day and it was because I wasn't focused. This will be my last trip before my week of snowboarding next week. I'm pumped!! As for my butt, it hurts to sit, walk, go up and down the stairs, and sleep on my right side. I think it really is broke...

Friday, November 12, 2010


This week has been a good one. It started out with me not passing my test for my class where we read newspapers and learn about the Swiss government. I can do something to make up the points I missed so I can pass but it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world if I failed the test. We are required to pass the test to receive a final grade but I really could care less about that class so I didn’t ruin my week at all by not passing.

I DID pass my test for my grammar course, which I’m happy about because I have been struggling a bit in that class. I got a 4. The grading system is out of 6 here so a 4 is like getting a D in the US. I was only a half point away from a 4.5, or a C in the US, so I’m happy about that. I don’t think my actual grades will transfer back to the US, just the credit for the class, which is great!

And then came Wednesday, the normal day of the week for the pub nights except this week the pub night was organized at MAD! club.  The locals here say that MAD! is the best club in the city so I was happy to be able to go there. Someone even told me I needed to go there before I leave. It was different this time because it was open to everyone at the university and not just exchange students, like most pub nights. The theme for the night was Bad at MAD! the idea was to dress in stuff that doesn’t go together, basically creating bad associations. I didn’t have much of an idea of what to do so I just decided to go all out. I thought it might be dangerous if other people didn’t do the same but I thought it would be better if I stayed to the theme. Starting with the top, I wore a button up blue stripped shirt with a scarf, for bottoms, I decided to wear a swim suit, for shoes, I wore wool socks pulled all the way up and my Teva sandals.
Some of my flat mates saw me before leaving and one reminded me Halloween was last week so I had to explain the get-up to him. When I met my friends before leaving one told me I looked German with the socks and sandals (she’s German).  They were all dressed pretty ridiculously too. I actually sort of matched since my swimsuit is blue as well as my shirt. I was happy to have only paid 10 CHF for a ticket to the club because I guess on most nights it costs 25 CHF to enter the club.

The club was pretty cool. It had si-fi looking décor everywhere and was 3 or 4 floors, although they only had the first floor opened to us, which was all we needed. They had a bar in each corner of the place! They also had some DJ there who I guess is somewhat famous and he did indeed play some good music unlike some places. Oh and I forgot to mention everyone else dressed according to the theme so it was perfect! I thought I looked pretty ridiculous but I definitely was not the craziest. There were two guys who wore Borat type thongs with the shoulder straps and gold skin-tight stretch pants and no shirt. I definitely wasn’t dressed the craziest.

I was the only guy in the group of about 8 people that went together so I definitely felt like a stud. It was a bit funny to see all of these dudes coming over and trying to hit on the girls. After a bit a strange guy came over and would not leave! He would not stop trying to touch and dance with the girls and in general be creepy. They didn’t want to leave where we were because there wasn’t really anywhere else to go so that’s when I decided something needed to be done. I started off by just getting between the girls and the creeper as a sort of creeper-barrier. It however wasn’t enough and creeper found ways around the barrier.  Finally after trying a few different things to keep him away I decided it was time to dance… with the creeper. But not to worry, it was nothing serious, just to distract the guy and to give everyone around me a good laugh. I knew at that point he wouldn’t understand anyway. It worked for a bit and then he went back to creepin’ so I decided to dance with creeper again. This time he touched my back and continued to move his hand down to my ass. I immediately stopped and kept him at bay with my arm and told him No a few times and that it wasn’t cool. The girls finally decided to move and the creeper couldn’t find us for a while. At one point I remember someone even told him to “piss off” but he didn’t get it. Someone said they thought he was on drugs but I think he had some mental problems. Whenever he’d come around I’d employ one of my tactics to keep him at bay. We finally got back at 4:00. I had fun. It was an epic night. I remembered I had some work that was due for my first class at 10:00 so I worked until 6:30 on the assignment only to find out that we weren’t handing it in! Great! But that’s ok. It builds character right?

Today I tried to get a membership with the sports center here but no one was at the reception desk. I’ve been meaning to get one for a while because they have some free dance classes and ski weekends so I need to take advantage of that! I went to a bookstore for the first time and bought a French Bible and “The Sun Also Rises” translated in French. Tomorrow I’m planning on exploring the city and taking lots of pictures! It’s going to be a nice relaxing weekend! I'm glad I went to Zurich last weekend, it's changed me to not be so lame anymore and to get out and enjoy myself!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


            I definitely need to be updating this more, as here from my parents each week so I will make an effort to do this.  Yesterday, I finally broke out of my shell of being cooped up in the city and being lame and not traveling and made an excursion to Zurich! I didn’t spend much time there because I was there for one purpose… to buy a snowboard! Which I did. I went to the Swiss National Museum in Zurich and spent 2 hours there, although I should have spent longer. I was super tired and just wanted to go check out the snowboard so I didn’t care all that much that I didn’t spend too much time at the museum or see much of the city. I tried to go on a self-guided walking tour in my Rick Steves’ Switzerland book but I somehow managed to get lost even with a map in the book.  That’s what I get for taking a short cut. I’m sure I’ll go back so I’m not too worried.
            My first legit train experience was quite pleasant, although it cost 75 CHF just go travel to Zurich and back!! That was even WITH my half fare ticket so the lesson to be learned again, if you didn’t already know: Switzerland is expensive.  It would have cost 150 CHF without the card.  It’s weird because the trains are nice since you don’t have to worry about driving or anything, only getting off at the right stop, but I think I would have preferred to drive.  I got a little tired of being on the train after about 1.5 hours. Maybe it’s because because you can’t accelerate in a train the same way as you can in a car to pass the old people.
            I need to start planning what I will do over winter break because I have no less than 2 months to do whatever I wish! Which will probably include a lot of snowboarding.
            I caught a wild hedgehog the other day! I kept her in a box for about 10 minutes while I made sure they are native to Switzerland and she wasn’t someone’s pet before releasing her.  I wanted to take some pictures with her but after I picked her up all the bugs that we’re hang out on her decided they want to hang out with me!

No Shave November is now in full swing, as is my beard! I’m starting to wonder if this was a good idea…


Friday, October 1, 2010

First Weeks

It’s already been 3 weeks since I arrived! I can’t believe it. I feel like I just got here! It’s been an incredible experience so far. I feel like I’ve already met more people my first 3 weeks here than I did my first 3 weeks at K-State. Things are a bit different here; mostly in a good way. The worst part is the price of everything. Everything is much more expensive here than in the US and from what I understand, the rest of Europe too. I’m very fortunate to have a stipend to live off each month. I’m still wondering how far it will actually go. I think I have spent around 100 francs (basically $100) a week on food alone. I haven’t had anything extravagant either. Just pasta, rice and sandwiches. Oh and these hotdog sausage like things. They’re pretty tasty too. They look like hotdogs but that taste different. Maybe even better. Oh, but they cost 3.75 CHF for a pack of 4. I was hoping that maybe the stipend I am receiving would be more than I need each month and I could try to save it up and buy a nice Swiss watch at the end of the stay but I think I’ll actually be using most of it each month.

Classes finally started this week! Over a month later than they start in the US. They will definitely be challenging and maybe the hardest part will be keeping focused. All of my classes are 2 hours long and one is 2.5 hours! Since they are in French too I have to keep focused 100% of the time to understand what they are saying, which usually doesn’t happen. I’m thinking about the weather, or how I suddenly feel really hot because of the amount of people in the class, or hot because the sun has shifted since it’s a 2 hour class and the sun is now coming through the window that I decided to sit by. Or deciding that I’m hungry now, what will I eat for lunch. Is there really 45 minutes left!? Wait, what is the teacher talking about again?? Shoot I better stay focused!

Lausanne is different than I thought it would be, but none the less, is still amazing. I thought it would be completely surrounded by mountains, which it pretty much is, except the mountains are far away, but still within sight. The high mountains, from what I can see, are actually in France, on the other side of the lake, in the Savoie region, where I could have also studied but thought Switzerland would be better. But STILL I couldn’t be happier to be here! I’ve already made a lot of friends from all over the world. That’s another amazing thing about this city, people are from everywhere! Not just Switzerland but from countries that are actually part of the European Union, Africa, Asia, South America, Mexico and Canada. 

Something I am really surprised by is that everyone driving ALWAYS stops for pedestrians. I will see a car come blazing off the highway while I’m waiting to cross the street and they will slam on the breaks just to stop for me! I’m perfectly content with waiting for them to pass and to cross after but they actually stop! 99% of the time I could just run out into the street like a dog off a lease and not get hit, but 1% is enough of a risk for me.

Sunday I will be heading off to hike some mountain with some people from a sort of campus ministry thing so hopefully that will be good. I plan on taking more pictures so I promise I will post some here once I get it figured out!