Reflections (photographical)

With the spring weather and the melting of the ice and snow, comes a whole bunch of water. It collects in everything that can hold it: shovels, buckets, tubs, hot tubs, ponds, decks, everything. On a sunny day last week I was wandering around looking at these collections of H2O and noticing how the light reflects off the water displaying images of the surrounding landscape in a distorted, modern-art yet natural way.

Here are some of the pictures that I took as I reflected upon the reflections as well as a very cool picture that the very talented Marina Porl took in the car mirror as I was driving. I love how the sunset is mirrored in the shiny clean car with all of the amazing colors. That picture really tells a story with the sun setting behind us, a day done, and a new one starting ahead.

I like how in a lot of these reflection pictures it takes some close examination to find what is water and what is real. It almost bends my mind looking at some of them.


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Mt. Mansfield Backcountry

The snow was perfect the week that I got back from Europe so I took advantage of it by skinning up Mount Mansfield and tele skiing down through the powder.

The snow was nearly perfect with a fluffy layer on top and waist deep compact powder below that. My sister and I went up Tear Drop on the Southern part of Mt. Mansfield from the Underhill side and skied down through the jaw dropping snow and pristine glades parallel to Tear Drop. We had a blast; it was some of the best skiing I have ever done!

Rocks, stumps, and boulders were perfectly covered in powder creating impeccable jumps in the woods. It was a blast to float smooth turns through the trees between catching wonderful air off these natural jumps.

At one point we had to cross a ravine to get back towards the trail after getting carried away in the sweetest of Vermont powder. I lucky saw a huge tree across the gully with snow piled on top; a perfect bridge to avoid the digging and climbing required to get in and out of the canyon. I skied out to the midpoint, exclaimed my excitement to Suzanne (my sister), and then the snow collapsed off the side of the fallen tree and I found myself standing, on my feet, about five feet lower than I had been a second before! It was amazing that the only thing that I hit was a big bit of surprise from suddenly teleporting a few feet away from where I had been happily standing moments before.

It was a great day and here are some great pictures from it! I like how the powder puffs up around my legs as I pop into the air off the natural (perfect) jumps. I experimented with Black and White adjustments on one to emphasize the speed and activity of the skier (me) in the quite, undisturbed woods on the mountain. In that shot it is cool how you cannot see what I jumped off of; it seems like I am just soaring about the snow.


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Videos

The videos are up!

This first one is from Paragliding from Les Gets. It was a great experience and, despite the poor placement of the GoPro, the video came out well and it shows off the experience enough to get me want to go again soon!



This one is from my big off-piste adventure from Les Gets with my guide Nicolas. It was a great trip on an amazing day and Nicolas really knew his stuff. I think it was the best skiing I have ever done!

Chamonix

Chamonix. Mont Blanc.

Those are two big names and since I was only an hour away, I visited both on the second to last day of my trip.

The journey to the famous town took longer than predicted because it included a gas getting adventure and a toll that cost 4.10 Euros and all I had was 4. Eventually I made it to Chamonix and found a place to rent skis in the very center of the town which made it a challenge to get to the lit; it was about 55 degrees in town and walking in ski boots while carrying long and wide skis was a trial of strength and stamina. I thought I was going to pass out even before I made it to the mountain! I made it to the first gondola and made my way up a long way of mountain that looked much better suited to mountain biking than skiing.

At the top of the gondola I was a little lost; I forgot to pick up a map and French ski areas place their maps in very odd places. I found a red tail sign (blue is easy, red is medium, and black is difficult) and went for it. I was quickly flying down a super wide trail, more like a highway. It was not particularly steep but with nothing for reference I found myself going super fast which I did not realize until I had to stop at the bottom! It was exciting for a first run of the day.

The place I had ended up had five lifts all in the same general area. A few of them lead to a middle height station that a bunch of groomed trails started from but between two of these trails was a un-groomed section filled with boulders. It was a lot of fun to power through the deep, smushy, spring snow, jumping off the boulders and slaloming through them. I thought that was fun but then I took a higher lift to the real stuff.

The skiing from this lift was similar to the spring skiing, going over the boulders, and through the rock slalom but about ten times bigger. The mountain was steeper, the boulders were like cliffs, the snow was actually smushier, and the slalom was definitely giant. It was probably the biggest terrain I have ever skied from a ski lift. One groomed trail snaked it’s way down from the lift but infinite area to explore and make my own lines surrounded the lift which made it a super fun place to ski. With no lines and perfect weather, I was experiencing a perfect ski day.

After a few runs in that area, I took a tram up to the top of the Alp directly across Chamonix from Mont Blanc. It was an amazing panoramic view from the top with the sun reflecting off of Mont Blanc and miles of blue sky meeting sharp Alps in every other direction. At this point I was getting into that zone where I had energy but my eyes were glazed and I was skiing on autopilot; I needed some fuel. After hopping off the tram and taking some pictures I rounded the corner and saw this tiny snack shack. It sold crepes and drinks to the sun soaked skiers. It was perfect. I got a chocolate crepe and a Mont Blanc beer and ate sitting in a laid-back chair looking at the view in wonder. It was a perfect end to my trip: great food, great skiing, great beer, great weather, a great trip.

After a few more runs on the tram and on the smaller lifts I went back down the mountain biking gondola and crossed town over to Mont Blanc. I had my skis with me but I started to question that decision when the only two other people with skis on the crammed tram up Mont Blanc also had ice climbing equipment. Two trams shot me up to the top, they were the fastest trams I have ever been on; more extreme than a bunch of roller coasters at Disney World. At the top there was a tourist center with a cafeteria and a gift shop. From here the extreme climber skiers took off up Mont Blanc all strapped into harnesses. I decided that I wasn’t prepared and after admiring the view and the wonder of the highest mountain in Europe, I rode the trams back down the mountain. That was the highest I have ever been while still having my feet on the ground and it was mind blowing. Looking down on Chamonix was crazy because it looked like a toy town and I had been one of those minuscule ants just minutes before. It was truly amazing to be close to the top of THE Mont Blanc!

I did not have my camera with me so here are some phone pictures which really do not do the views justice. These shots do give a pretty good idea of the scale of these impressive mountains especially the one looking down the cable of the tram I took up to the crepe shack. The tram cable is to the right of the cable down to the snow and it crossed a huge gap with a huge drop and finished above the zig zagging trail you can see in the picture. The snow to the left of that picture is where I skied down below the steepest parts. You can see how the snow is reddish from the sand that got picked up in the Sahara Desert and landed in the French Alps.

Chamonix is famous for a reason. It was definitely worth visiting.


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More Pictures and Another Hike

I’m falling a little behind in my blog from the end on my trip; I’ve been home for a week now. Here are some pictures from the last few days that I was in Europe.

Most of these pictures are from a hike up the taller side of the mountain where I was staying. It was another beautiful day, a little chilly by the standards of the past two weeks but still shorts weather! The second picture, the landscape including Mont Blanc, is one of my favorite pictures from my trip. I love the depth of the colors, lights, and darks, as well as the whimsical clouds over sharp peaks.

The church is just a random church I saw in Switzerland on the way to visit BMC. I liked it and snapped a quick pic and it came out well despite the car window reflection in the bright blue sky. Great churches like this are normal in Europe, they are everywhere.

The picture below the church is from the window of the bedroom I used during my trip. It’s not a bad view with a small French village and some Alps including Mont Blanc.

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