Thursday, April 7, 2011

6th season wrap-up

Under a not so great sky, we spend our last day visiting the beautiful city of Budapest.


We packed everything and from the camper and went back to drop our ride.
There, we had the not so great surprise to be welcome with an invoice of over 500 euros for the repair of our previous rental.... Considering there was only a light to change (hard snowbank!), it was really overprice! We argue for hours, but since they had a deposit there wasn't much we were able to deal! We finally cut it off since our plane was leaving in only and hour or so!

What seem a great deal at the beginning turns out to be a real rip-off and I don't think you want to deal with If you do, make sure you don't give them a too big deposit.... Anyway, we are in the process of trying to settle this out, but there isn't much hope from this side of the ocean! Damn, Hugarians!

The flight went flawlessly and after 82 days on this epic journey, 14 different planes, about 80 hours spend sitting in different planes, visiting/passing through 15 countries, skiing in 9 countries, driving over 6000km, I was finally back home (and a bit drunk from the open bar on the flight!).
Even if I have only been able to nail down about 63 days on the snow (this is an all-time low!!!), the experience was better than what I was expected. Having been able to have a real travel experience while being able to ski most of the time was quite a thrill that I think more people should try! To be able to get a taste (or at least a glimpse) of the local culture is really cool and I think made me love skiing even more! I am even more lucky to have been able to share this epic journey with people that I really care about and that are important to me.

It's been over a week that I am back home and I have been fairly buzy shovelling my car out of the snowbank, watching TV and drinking beer with my non ski-travelling-friends.

It seems like I will be able to have a job allowing me to take the 2012 season off again! I'm really stoke about that and I think I will start planning right now! I can't be sure, but I will certainly try to have some kind of international plan again!

Hope you have liked the 2011 edition and I am really looking forward to entertain you again next winter!

Have a end of the season for the lucky of you that are having a longer season that us in Quebec! I am starting my whitewater season tomorrow!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Not much skiing, but some great discovery!

Just after posting, we drove towards Malyovitsa, Bulgaria. According to the information of GoogleMaps, we drove towards Rila valley.

This ride up this small valley took us about 3 hours until we realized that we weren't in the right valley. Actually, to make it up to this small resort with some apparently good backcountry access, you have to make it almost to Borovets.

We finally arrived to make it up to the resort at about 15h00….

The resort is small and by talking to some fellow coming back from the backcountry, it takes about 3 hours to make it up to the top of the run.

We were so frustrated to have miss a nice ski day, that we left just some after some snack towards Brezovica, Kosovo.

I have heard the mountain range around the resort was steep and gnarly. So we made the drive out of Bulgaria, into Macedonia and finally in Kosovo.

We entered the small Republic without problem and slept in the small town just next to the ski operation.

As we showed up, the lift were pretty much all closed but the small T-Bar. There are a lot of lift that haven't run in a long time! With a nice sun shinning up and the warm temperatures, we started skinning unto the upper slopes.


The lift serve terrain is just a fraction of what it was when the resort was in full operation.
 It is some great news for someone willing to hike up! We made it up to an open bowl face with steep terrain and slightly melted down from the sun.

The turns were great but our best findings was the adjacent mountain you can access.

Just in a slight distance, the mountain are steep and offers some of the best skiing terrain I have seen in the Balkans! With the time ticking, we maded it our plan for the following day. The turns we made were great and we lapped it a few times under the warm sun. We make it back to the RV with great plans for the next day!

We woked up to the always bothering sounds of rain falling onto our rooftop… In desolation, we had a long breakfast talking of our options. 

As we were doing so, the rain stopped and the weather cleared out!!! With our late start, we agreed that we were too late to make it up to the terrain we scouted the day before and head towards the bowl next to the one we skied.


We founded again some nice warmed up snow on which we only had time to make one lap…

With the time flying by, we figured Kopaonik in Serbia can be a nice destination. We finally made it up to the border around 22h00. We left the border of Kosovo without problem… but never made it into Serbia! Since Kosovo isn't recognize as a country by Serbia, the border patrol didn't recognize the stamp we got as we made it into Kosovo.

Our options were either to drive all the way south into Macedonia (14+hours) or southwest to Montenegro(10+ hours). From either those two country, we would be able to enter Serbia. After telling us not to make the drive at night because the road was robbery-proned and too dangerous at night, we went sleeping in a truck stop he pointed us as a safe spot to sleep.

We chose to drive to Montenegro. If you ever try to go into Montenegro from Kosovo, don't chose the road GoogleMap will give you as it will leads you onto a small winding road more suited for a 4x4 than a RV.

We agreed to make it back to Pec for some pizza and beer to change our minds.

After driving up into Montenegro by the main road that was going toward Rozaje, we eventually reach Kopaonik 24hours later…


We again woked up to the sounds of the falling rain… for our last ski day, we were left with with the clouds just 50m in the sky, 1Celsius and the wind blowing at 50km/h!

We made the decision to make our way back to Belgrade to spend our day and to get closer to Budapest from which we would fly from.

The city is not the greatest city I have visit and after spending the afternoon wandering around its street, we made the decision to drive towards Budapest in which we will spend our last day visiting.

I am writing this last ski-report from the rest area just next of the Hungarian-Serbian border. I'll write you the wrap up of the last winter, once I'll be back!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Good late season cold and dry powder from the Balkan!

We woked up on a beautiful and warm day in a greek resort named Vasilitsa. As we were getting ready for skiing, we realized we didn't have any euros to buy the tickets. The ski resort, being small and local, didn't take our credit card.
After some talking and negotiations with the nice and friendly ticket seller, she let me have the two passes for free because Greeks are just really nice people!!! We were excited about saving the 8 euros the day ticket cost.

We took the chairlift and made it to the top. After one run down the upper chairlift, this later one broke down and would be down for the whole day…. Another badluck with the chairlift (after Popova Sapka)! Nevertheless, we found some really good snow on the nearby sidecountry!

Surprinsingly, a 10m vertical hike that took us 5 minutes has discouraged the greek skiers to come get the goods near the lower chair! This would be our playground for the day as the groomed runs weren't much exciting.

After debating about some ski spots to hit on the drive up to Budapest, we finally agreed about going to Kozuf in Macedonia. We used the toll-highway and made it back to Macedonia pretty fast. We slept in Gevgelija, a small town just past the border.

From Gevgelija, we followed the signs to make it towards Kozuf. It is pretty well indicated and rather surprisingly easy to follow the good road on the hour or so it took us from Gevgelija to the last town before Kozuf called Smrdliva Voda. We then realize a new sign as been put on the indications: ROAD CLOSED.

We checked out with some rather alcohol smelly locals the different options to figured out there was no way we would be able to make it up to Kozuf for the day. It was too bad since apparently, this local mountain features some really nice terrain both inbounds and out of bounds. While trying to get up the road, we met Zlatko Paliluleski, a really motivated Macedonian skier. He was so stoked about meeting some Canadians who were in his country for skiing that he invited us for a coffee to talk about the different skiing options in the Balkans.

We went to a small coffee in Gevgelija that seemed more out from a hype neighbour of Montreal than from a little town of Macedonia. Around a good cold-sugary-creamy style coffee, we spend some hours talking about skiing and also the political struggle of Macedonia to get recognized as a country of the United Nation.

He convinced us to go to Bansko, Bulgaria… even if we had statued the day before that we wouldn't go there because it was too far.

This resort is probably the biggest in the Balkans and features all the modern facilities you would expect from your favourite resort. It has been the host of a Men's Ski World Cup at the end of February and the slope they are using for this event is one of the most impressive I have seen in any resorts.

As you load in the gondola, there is not a flake of snow on the ground but this high speed lift takes you to the base of this impressive resort. Bansko Resort has mainly wide groomed runs that were pretty hard since it had been warm in the past days and it was just a bit too cold to melt the slopes on our visit. The top of the resort features backcountry access to a nice steep face.


Unfortunately, most of the best top lines have already been skied. We gave a try to the lower part since it was north facing, The snow was not deep but pretty dry and soft. There was even a ski out back to the chairlift.

After having few laps, we randomly bumped into the Swiss family that sent us down towards Vasilitsa. After some talking for some times, Germain (the Dad) decided to come check out the slope with his 7 year old kid, Alex.

He hiked the 100m vertical without taking any break and without complaining. After some help of his dad to clean his boot, he clicked his skis on and traverse to the open bowl without hesitating. He skied down without too much problem and even made the ski out throughout the tight trees faster than us! He was certainly one of the most hardcore 7 years old I have skied with!

On the hike up towards the little north face at the top, there is a nice long open face. We figured it would be a great way to finish our day. After crossing onto the slope, I realized that a shaded side of a couloir had nice soft snow but it was steep!

This is certainly the steepest slope I have been on with Amelie! We both made it down without much problem ! I was quite proud of Amelie to be able to ski down without complaining (for once!!!). Her legs were shaking as we got to the bottom from all the steep turns!

We have previously agreed with the Swiss couple to meet them later on and after a good soak into a hot-tub, we joined them from a few drinks. A really nice finish to a nice meeting deep down in the Balkans. We have planned to go to Malyovitsa today. This small resort is just next to Borovets and is supposedly featuring some really good backcountry.