Monday, February 28, 2011

The dark side of RV travel

Since the last post, most of the days had happen with their little (or quite big) misadventure with the RV. After the nice skiing we were able to get close to Pordoi pass between Arraba and Canazei, we figured we should camp out at the top of the pass to be close to the face we were planning to ski the following day.
What we didn't know at that time is that the diesel, if not bought as Antigelo (anti-freeze) gas freezes in the tank! So we woked up the following morning and tried to get the camper started.
After pushing to get the camper to the sun, using a booster pack and trying to start it by using the compression we cut our efforts and left to ski.
Our options were limited starting from where we were parked and we skied the nearby north facing aspect. The snow was allright but the 150-200m long laps weren't much exciting.
After lapping for about 3 hours all the good terrain we were next to, we came back to the van to see if anything happen during the day as we left our camper with the hood wide open to warm it up under the sun! It wasn't working at all and with the cold weather in the forecast, we had to call a towing to get towed down to Arraba.
The towing guy was like most of the towing guys I have met in my life: frustrated about having to towed you! The guy at the garage wasn't much helpful and after understanding that we weren't going to be able to sleep in the camper for that night, we gather the necessary and took off to find a place to sleep. Here we were at 20h00, homeless and searching for a place to stay in this small village!
We were finally able to get a room for 2 where we packed 5 guys!
Since we were stuck in town, we left to check out the nightlife of Arraba on a wednesday night. Some Weissbier and shooter helping we were all able to get a good night of sleep!
The camper was all fixed the following morning and 320 euros later, we were all set to go… We drove down towards Corvara and since there wasn't much stuff interesting in sight, we kept driving around. We finally ended up in Passo Sella where we took off to get some turns. A closed gondola has left a nice face track only by a few turns.
The climb was rather slow considering the physical health of the troups, but we finally made it up the Forcella Cinque Dita couloir that had some nice sheltered snow in some places but also had few wind-harden snow in other places.
We drove down the pass to get a night of sleep next to Canazei.

By looking at the maps and books we had, we figured that the Marmolada massif will provides us some nice turns. We were quite wrong on this one since most of the lines and faces we thought about hitting were already tracked. We kept driving and finally made it to San Pellegrino pass. After getting stuck one more time with the camper, we were able to try our home-modified chains to take us out of the snowbanks.
We scouted a nice open face and took off to check it out.
The snow was really wind-scoured and it is the least to say it was really challenging to ski it down! We all made it down this hard-soft snow challenge but we kinda left our motivation on the way down.
The wind has really affected the snow and after having to avoid the south and west faces, we now had to find some east and north protected from but wind but still high enough to have some nice snow.
This is getting really complicated for a first visit!

The boys took off to get some turns inbounds at Cortina d'Ampezzo as I tried to set up a good plans for the coming days. A storm is supposed to hit quite hard the Western Alps and leaving some snow north from where we were.
We are now driving north towards Austria where some snow has fallen lately and more is forecasted overnight. Hopefully, this will ends up our unlucky strike of 2 days without good snow!

Austria here we come!

Friday, February 25, 2011

From Budapest to the Dolomites!!

The crew I was to meet consisted in my friends JS Ratté from Vancouver, JF Marchand now living in Grenoble, JP Paiement from Montreal and Étienne Bernier right from Suriname. I met the three first one in Budapest at the airport and Étienne was arriving the following day.
After catching up with the boys at the airport, we made it up to Laukoauto from where we were to get our RV for the next weeks.
The RV is really cool and we certainly have a lot of room to put all the gear. We were all super excited about our ride for the next 2 weeks.
It is my first time travelling in such a luxurious ride, but it wasn't much expensive than renting 2 cars for the 5 of us. Since Étienne was landing a day after everyone, we had a night to spend in the Hungarian capital. After packing it and stopping to get some supply, we parked almost downtown Budapest and took off to celebrate our gathering.
We had some big plans for that night but after just few beers, we totally collapsed from the jetlag and made it back to the camper for our first night.
Étienne finally arrived as expected and we were able to finally take off towards a skiing destination.

After searching for the best option, and cross-checking all the information about the yearly snowfall and the latest accumulation, we settle our minds that the best destination possible was the Dolomites in the northeast of Italy.
After driving for 8 hours, we were not even close to our destination. We figured it would be a great plan to check out Kransjka Gora which is one of the best resorts in Slovenia. Kransjka got some really nice vertical but this season has been really bad for snow for this resort.
This small but steep resort is home of an FIS slalom event in the coming week, but we won't stick around to check it out. Anyway, it was cool to get some turns in Europe even if most of them was from an artificial source.
Another 6 hours drive later and we were…… stuck at Col Gallina. The chain we got with the RV weren't the good size for the tires we had. The tiny bit of snow on that rather steep pass forced us to camp.

Fortunately for us, they salted the road and we were able to make it to Arraba in the heart of the Dolomites where 140cm of snow has been reported in the last 7 days. After debating the best options around, we took off for a nearby tour to see the options available around!
The mountain range around here are really stunning and the skiing options are simply endless. The Dolomiti Superski features 450 ski lifts that interconnect valleys and towns limiting the skiing options to your imagination. Our imagination for that first tour was a bit limited, but the snow was really nice around Passo Campolongo.

We figured our best option was a nearby north face from Pordoi Pass. After some hard time just to get the camper out of the parking lot, we were finally able to make it up the pass at around noon….
The skin up went fairly smoothly and the turns we were able to get were certainly the best we had so far in the trip! 
We were able to get three runs in before the face we were on was totally tracked (at least to my standard!)
A nearby face is our plan for tomorrow and with the clear sky and the cold temperature, we are certainly looking at another great day of skiing tomorrow!