Friday, August 26, 2016

Sauna in Shenzhen

As a saunablogger, I had to report that I've been to sauna in a new city: Shenzhen, China. The sauna was in the Pavillion hotel. Not a great sauna, but I'm glad I went anyway. Turning on the temp setting made the experience better.

And I'm also glad I didn't push the white buttons in the sauna, as the watering system *did* work automatically, not by button press. The buttons were for alarms...

Shenzhen views:

Door to the sauna:

Hot pot stomach for dinner:

Photos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko

The Finnair A350 Experience

I've been accidentally flying the Finnair A350 on short routes, without knowing I'd be on it and expecting the usual A320s. But this week I was on the A350 for the first time on long-haul flight, Helsinki-Hong Kong-Helsinki.

I was on business class. My company uses the cheapest possible tickets, but I had some points that I could use to upgrade. This made it possible for me to sleep well. And work the next day.

Overall experience was quite positive: plane was on time and no major problems, feels very modern and high tech, very quiet. I particularly like the lights, the cabin colour scheme.

The entertainment system was easy to use, fast, and had a good large screen.

But I also had a few gripes:
  • The seatbelt airbag is fairly bulky on your lap.
  • To be honest, I felt a bit more cramped in the A350 seat than in the A330 seat. Though in the end it was very nice to sleep in both, so maybe that's just the initial feeling from the new herringbone arrangement.
  • Bathroom lighting was broken or configured differently; it didn't light up to become brighter when the door becomes locked.
  • Cabin personnel seemed quite busy. It always took a long time for them to visit our aisle so that I could ask for food when I woke up and so on. This might have been affected by the fact that I was on the second cabin compartment, which is shorter than the first business class compartment. The stewardesses were busy serving the larger first compartment.
  • On my shorter flights seat power was off, though it was unclear if this was actual breakage of if the cabin personnel did not yet have the adequate training to turn it on. It kinda sounded like the latter.
But overall, 1st world problems, small problems. Nice plane!

Photos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko

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.