Sunday, January 15, 2012

Seasons Pass!

This is how we do seasons tickets in Kauniainen
I have a seasons pass! ... for Kauniainen. Getting one makes sense if I go to my local hill at least ten times this season. I'm thinking that if I have a ticket I'll be more likely to drop by in the evenings, instead of going swimming or walking. That's a good thing, as I have realized that I need to get into better shape and do more sports on a daily basis. Being able to ski will help with the motivation for that.

But as I went to the ski slope today, I was scared more than I have been in a long time. Not due to dangerous off-piste adventures ahead, but due to testing gear. I have a new helmet, new pants, and most importantly, new touring skis, boots, and skins with lightweight but suspicious looking Dynafit bindings. I did not want to blow a knee when I have two big ski trips coming up in couple of days. I've never skied with Dynafit bindings before, so this was a first. And the system is indeed worrisome. According to Dynafit, this particular binding is "the lightest freeride binding in the world", at only 530 g per pair. I do not plan to ski on these skis normally, they are reserved for those occasions where I have to climb up big mountains on my own. They are optimized for that, not for descents or for aggressive skiing. Go up light, come back carefully. As expected, I found that going up with the new skis and skins worked well, never had it so easy before. The skins stick to the skis perfectly, yet I can edge where needed. Going up steep slopes is no problem. And it felt effortless. Granted, Kauniainen is only 50 meters high, but still.

Top of Kauniainen
The downside, however, is that the bindings are not as adjustable and flexible for ski release for the downhill part. I realized that I still have some work to do to learn how to adjust mine in the right way. Another downside is that the Dynafit system is not compatible with usual boots and bindings. So whenever I take these skis, I also have to take special boots. Unless I'm particularly planning to just climb big mountains, that usually means taking two sets of skis and boots on a trip.

Snowmaking in the progress, still

I was also scared for another reason. The slope opened yesterday and I had understood that even today they would not be open until later in the day. This would work well for me, as I could go up without having to worry about the hundred kids from the ski school. However, as you know I've been visiting this ski slope at inappropriate times before, and a couple of days ago there was a serious accident when some drunken person went to the ski slope in the night, and, after attempting to climb to a moving snow cat, was seriously injured. The ski area personnel might not look so leniently on off-hour visits any more. I hope the injured guy recovers well. And to all kids & stupid adults (like myself): lets be careful out there. Use your brain. Stay away from moving machinery, avalanche-prone slopes, cliffs and anything else that might hurt you. Stay in control at all times, know what you are doing, look around, and go slow when needed. Even on open slopes. And use protective gear, for your head and back.

Fortunately, the area was already open by the time I got there.

My new helmet is Atomic Xeed. It replaces a helmet that I bought for 30€ from Lidl that is getting too worn out. But it was a surprisingly good helmet, nevertheless. The new pants are replacing my Halti pants which, after 15 years, have too many holes in them.

New skis and skins

Strictly speaking, the skis are not new, I already bought them some months ago. But this was their first test. I also had my ski shop modify the K2 "Backside - tools for adventure" skins for the K2 superlights. These skis are an old, lightweight and narrow ski model and the new skins do not normally fit them. Moreover, K2 skins have are not easily modified as they attachments are sewn. But the shop found some spare parts to make the modifications. The result was very good. If you are looking for an expert ski shop in the Helsinki area, Skiservice should be your choice.

And big news on the food side, too! This year, "Cafe Alpenhütte" has soup in their menu. At 3.5€, their Goulash index competes well with most western ski areas. Take Zillertal in Austria, for instance. They may boast a 1600 meter vertical compared to Kauniainen's 50 meters, but hey, even if Zillertal is one of the cheapest places food-wise in western Europe, their soup still costs 1€ more than in Kauniainen. As this cafeteria will also serve "pinaattilätyt" (spinach pancakes), "makaronilaatikko" (macaroni casserole), and luomulimu (ecological soft drink) it is clearly the destination for the gourmet traveler.

Menu at Grani

Photo credits (c) 2012 by Jari Arkko


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