Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chilling in Iceland (Part 6): Bless Bless, Iceland

Good-bye in Icelandic is "bless."  Fittingly so, we saw it as a blessing to experience the raw winter energy of March in Iceland.  Sometimes we still can't believe that we got to see so much.  Pretty much one year ago from today, we flew on a red-eye to Reykjavik, with as little insight into the city's pronunciation as its extreme weather conditions.  Right when we exited the airport, the wind barbarically whipped against us and I literally retreated backward through the automatic doors while our car rental papers blew out of sight.  We'd seen so many magnificent pictures from tourism in this country that we were NOT expecting this kind of a welcome.  Iceland taught us how to be humble travelers and to abide by the ways of the land, not to force ourselves upon its offerings.  It wasn't your average vacation, checking things off the bucket list and lining up places to eat.  Even the tours we booked were totally up in the air, dependent on weather conditions.  This taught us patience, flexibility, and deepened our appreciation for everything.

The road conditions were crazy from day one, but we hadn't come all the way out here to chill in the comfort of the city (even though there was no shortage of good Scandinavian food to eat there).  Yeah, we questioned our sanity numerous times while we were on Route 1 (because there is really only 1 route).  It felt like we were just bargaining with the weather the entire time, going in one direction with no turning back.  We'd get a peek at an awesome waterfall, and then we'd be instantly shrouded in the whitest, most opaque snowstorm ever- ponchos flapping ridiculously in the wind.  Nonetheless, we were rewarded for our perseverance and our courage (or stupidity) for going to Iceland in the winter.  The northern lights came out to play, our ice cave tour was not cancelled (but it was postponed), it didn't rain on us when we were snorkeling, and the famous landmarks were mostly deserted and crowd-free.  Like, we could pee in the middle of a picnic area (which we did, because there was nowhere else as everything was closed for the season and there were zero gas stations).  So anyway, here's the last of our photos that I never posted from our unplanned, bonus day in Skaftafell, and some other favorites from the trip, for the sake of reminiscing.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


8,171 skiable acres, 7,494 feet at its highest peak, an epic 7-mile run, a Guinness World Record holding gondola, spruce trees as far as the eye can's not just any ski resort.  Whistler is like the A5 Wagyu of ski resorts.  I guess we've been on a roll with visiting very cold places and snowboarding once or twice a month anyway, so the sub-zero temperatures didn't scare us...especially if that meant buttery-smooth snow and wide open runs with jaw-dropping views of the Garibaldi Ranges at every turn.

I didn't realize how quick and easy of a flight it was to get from LA to Vancouver, or how close Whistler is to Vancouver.  I'd always wanted to check out Vancouver, and we've been really getting into snowboarding lately, so we booked travel to British Columbia for the second time in the same year (we were in Bamfield in August).  On the second day of 2017, we woke up at 4 AM and lugged our odd-shaped snowboard bags to the airport, taking up probably 5 or 6 escalator stairs each.  That was really the hardest part.  Checking the snowboards was a pain-free process and didn't cost any extra because we flew WestJet.  We had two days to tour around Vancouver and three days to snowboard.  At first, I didn't think that my muscles could handle three days in a row on the slopes, but I quickly realized that three days was barely enough time after we got our hands on a trail map.

There are two peaks with 200+ trails combined... 

And a 2-mile cable that connects the two.  People come out here just to ride this gondola, and I say that it is definitely worth it.  I've never seen so many trees, covered in snow, from this point of view.

We went to both peaks, but we spent more time on the Whistler Peak because the texture of the snow was a little less rocky over there.  The views were unbeatable from both sides, though.  Just breathtaking (literally!  That 7000-ft altitude!).

Of course, we had to have some poutine, even if it was just at the slopeside cafeteria.  Despite the gross sound of the word "curds," I can say that I didn't mind that squeaky cheese so much when it was paired with fries and gravy.  Gravy seems to have that sort of magical effect on things.

Wes and I both left Canada feeling really fulfilled - snowboarding here was more than we could have asked for.  We realized that we were probably quite lucky to have good weather and clear views, as it can get pretty hairy up there...although there was that middle day where we weren't quite so lucky.  Going to the tippity top of the mountain during a blizzard was probably not the smartest thing to do...but we struggled our way back down to visible territory eventually (like, an hour later).  So, I guess Whistler both spoiled and punished us.  Humbling experiences on all days.  In the end, the experience made us better snowboarders for sure.