Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

Spring Festival Pollution Bike Polo

Mittwoch, Februar 13th, 2013

Our Beijing bike polo coach Tom arranged a special bike polo session during this Spring Festival holiday. So today we met up at the usual winter time of 2pm at our usual spot at the West side of the Worker’s Gymnasium as every weekend.

Coach Tom invites for Spring Festival Bike Polo in Beijing

As it is Chinese New Year most of our Chinese bike polo players were celebrating with their families or otherwise engaged. So except for Honghong only foreigners showed up.

Beijing Pollution Bike Polo Meet-Up

Bike Polo in Beijing despite the high level of Air Pollution 2013

Actually another reason why only 8 people came could be the hazardous pollution level we had again in Beijing.

Beijing Air Pollution Index for Today

We had an air pollution maximum of over 400 just when we started playing! I was happy because of course I have my great Respro anti-pollution mask designed for urban use and sports to protect myself from all the particles down to the PM10, PM2.5 and even sub micron size. Actually most of us use Respro anti-pollution masks. My Respro Techno mask is in the so called „Ines“ pink color.

Respro Techno in Ines Pink and Ribcap Helmet Cap

I also had my Ribcap helmet cap which is so great for bike polo. Here are pictures of two Beijing Natooke bikes and the Beijing pollution haze.

Gabriel’s Flying Banana Polo Bike from Natooke

Ben’s Flying Banana Polo Bike from Natooke

After polo we packed up to go to a restaurant bar and have oven baked pizza and fresh waffles with loads of maple sirup, chocolate and whipped cream. Here is a creative way of carrying 2 bike polo mallets (the Respro mask and the green Ribcap fit well):

Beijing Bike Polo Ninja

Dolomiti Skiing and Hot Springs

Montag, Februar 11th, 2013

Third day of our holiday and we tried a third skiing resort: Italian Dolomiti. I always heard about this resort because they were said to have the fastest chair lift. Their ski lift is the kind that detaches plus it has a bubble cover to protect from the wind. That is of course much nicer than the old slow open chair lifts in Wanlong, but the issue is the other two lifts in Dolomiti are just single t-bar lifts in German called „Tellerlift“. A „Tellerlift“ is usually only used for beginners or in very old ski resorts. They are slow and only transport people one by one.

In this resort the view around was nice with natural snow also on the surrounding mountains.

Dolomiti Ski Resort in Chongli China

Natural Snow on Mountians surrounding Dolmiti in China

The „Tellerlift“ for accessing 3 advanced slopes only opened at 11am. We immediately went there. The lift attendant stopped us and said we need to be wearing helmets to be able to take this lift. We said we are wearing helmets and he said no, a cap does not count. I insisted that my Ribcap helmet cap is a skiing helmet. He was very skeptical, touched and squeezed the Ribcap and finally said yes, we can go. I love my Ribcap!

Ribcap Helmet Caps in the Skiing Lodge Locker in China

Today we only skied half a day as we wanted to also go to a public hot spring. We had lunch at Dolomiti. I thought it would be best to take Italian food so I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese which turned out to be „Penne“ Bolognese but still tasted good.

I also chatted with the Italian manager who told me about the history of Skiing in China. I was seeing the increasing amount of ski resorts as a sign that the market is growing. But maybe this development is a bit to fast for the market. Also the infrastructure is only partially developed. Here are some impressions of the partially dirt road leading to this ski resort and the farmer houses.

Dirt on Road to Dolomiti

Farmer Houses near Chongli

Poor Countryside in China

The main thing why the air was not so clear around here was the Zijin Mining Factory.

Zijin Mining Factory

Major Factory in the Countryside

One of the Factory Chimneys

All in all I think it is a long way until the Chongli area with all the ski resorts will deserve a name like „Davos of the East“ which they are trying to use already today. But actually already the prices for 1 day skiing are 588.-RMB. That is higher than in almost any of the European ski resorts.

We then headed to Huailai for the Diman Hot Springs. Their website looked impressive and made me chose this hot spring rather than any other one in the area. I already expected many people in this public hot spring as it is already the second day of the New Year and many people might go out with their families. But I did not expect the venue just to one big open room with different baths and many people. Of course we were the only foreigners. The Chinese people would sit in the water and smoke despite the non-smoking signs. Others would spit into the water. And of course the noise level was high.

But it was nice to sit in a green tea hot bath or a red wine hot bath. Each pool had a different temperature. I was confused because I had seen pictures of outdoor pools and jacuzzi but I could not find them. I asked the staff and one lady just kept shaking her head, but that was probably just her thinking „oh my god, a foreigner with a long nose is talking to me and I do not speak English“ despite the fact that I was asking in pure Mandarin. I asked another person and she said yes, we just need to go out and all the way towards the direction of the front gate. I thought she was kidding.

I had heard that we could book a room so I started my quest on how to book. I turns out that can only be done in an office at the entrance gate to the whole area containing many buildings and a hotel and parking lots and stuff. It did not make any sense to me, but that was how it was. We asked if we can go out and come back in on the same ticket and they said yes, but only for 2 hours and we need to inform the staff.

When we wanted to go to the hotel restaurant we told the staff we wanted to go out and they said yes sure, go. We asked for our shoes and they said no, we will only get them after we leave and pay. So we went out in the flipflops they provided.

[Here is a suggestion for anybody wanting to go to this hot spring and having no money. Just find a pair of shoes that you want to throw away, the hot spring takes your shoes in exchange for their flipflops, but that is all they have. They have no name or contact detail or car number or anything. You can spend a full day inside from 8am to almost 11pm and indulge yourself in massages and all sorts of stuff. When you want to leave you just walk out with the flipflops but you will have to sacrifice your shoes.]

Of course they have no way to monitor how long we stay outside so we had a long dinner with Spanish wine that I had received as a Christmas present in Europe.

Dinner with Wine in China

New Year’s Day Skiing

Sonntag, Februar 10th, 2013

First day of the Chinese New Year – the year of the Water Snake – and we are woken up by fire crackers that are right outside our window. 5 minutes later the hotel room phone rings and they ask when we want to have breakfast or if they should bring it to us. We said we will be right there. It was 7:30am and anyway the time our alarm clock rang.

Today we were definitely the only guests in the whole hotel. There was not even coffee because they knew we did not drink any yesterday. They had 3 small bags of milk because yesterday we drank 3 bags. In that sense the hotel does feel like 5 star. You get a very personal service and exclusive feeling.

Today we went to the older but bigger ski resort Wanlong. We were hoping to find still a lot of powder snow in this resort.

Wanlong Ski Resort Mountain View

It was a nice morning with blue sky. At least where we were. Actually if you look closely you can see the smog and air pollution in the South – the direction of Beijing – hanging as a band over the mountains.

Air Pollution over Beijing while the North is nice

After a full day of skiing I had frozen toes and fingers which took a while to defrost as this older resort does not have the convenient floor heating. On New Year’s Day most shops and even restaurants are closed but the most trendy place in Chongli village seems to still be the Popland serving ice cream and Taiwanese style drinks. We got a milk tea to warm up and to cover the time until dinner. We found an International Hotel that had a restaurant which was open and had many local families having big dinners together and taking family pictures.

Skiing in China

Samstag, Februar 9th, 2013

Chinese New Year or also known as Spring Festival is a very big holiday in China. In mainland everything shuts down, most companies are closed fro 7 days and everybody goes to celebrate with their families. Natooke shop is also closed for 7 days. So I have time to go skiing.

We booked a supposedly 5 star hotel Yalong Bay for 288.-RMB per night that has a SPA and swimming pool, sauna and all the other things a 5 star hotel should have. We drove the 300km North-West of Beijing yesterday night and arrived a an almost dark hotel with 1 car parked outside. The only lady at the reception said that we need to drive up the hill to where our room was. I asked what time the swimming pool closes and she just looked at me and said those things were only open in summer. Aha.

So we drove up the hill to find a brick 3 story building that looked more like a 3 star hotel. A lady was already expecting us and showed us our room. The room was warm and clean with floor heating. We had to laugh because we knew it could not be a real 5 star hotel for that price.

But the nice thing was that we were almost the only guests. We had an almost continental style breakfast with freshly fried bacon and sausages and coffee. We asked for tea but they did not have any. Only when were finished a family of three came. And counting the yoghourt or milk packages us 5 were the only guests.

We went to a newly open ski resort called Genting. The Genting Grand hotel (unbelievably massive) was still half under construction and there were no cars on any of the 5 huge parking lots. So we parked right in front of the ski lodge and asked if they were open. She said yes.

Ines in Genting Ski Resort

And the great thing was there was powder snow! it was so nice and fluffy! That is the great part of having such dry and cold air. The snow stayed fluffy all day and as there were not so many people we had loads of untouched snow.

Powder Snow in China

Birch Forest with Natural Snow in Genting China

It was really nice. Of course the hills here around Beijing are more rolling hills and not extremely steep, but the summit of the resort was over 2000m high. The surrounding mountains also were covered in snow (which is not so usual around here) making it a really enjoyable experience.

Beijing Northern Mountains in Snow

Huge Fields of Powder Snow in Chongli near Beijing

It was nice that the ski lodge had floor heating everywhere. It is so nice to take off the ski shoes after skiing at -15 degrees all day and then warming the frozen toes on a warm ground.

We then drove back to our hotel to find a chain and lock around the entrance to the part where are room was located. There was no other entrance door.

Chongli Hotel Locked

After seeing that we already had the feeling that the hotel restaurant might no be able to offer us a New Year’s Eve dinner.There was nobody at the reception. But in a side building we found a lady that actually had a key yo the lock.

We went to Chongli village to have an early dinner in a more real 5 star hotel and then relaxed in their spa.

Family Day on Weissensee

Dienstag, Januar 4th, 2011

This morning I got up early even though we did not go skiing. I saw that there were some clouds. When my mother got up she said it looks like the sun is hardly out and I told her that it is slightly cloudy. When we turned on the radio they mentioned the today will be a partial eclipse of the sun. And then finally someone said it is almost over. I rushed to the window and saw the last bits of it. Really nice! If I would have known earlier then we probably could have seen the 80% coverage that had been visible in southern Austria. Well the next full eclipse of the sun visible in Austria will be in 80 years.

The past few days have been very cold which has made very beautiful ice roses grow. I have not seen so many of these. They look almost like a coral reefs made out of ice.

Ice Crystals forming a Reef

We took a walk down to the bigger village. Here is a picture of my mother with the Gailtal valley in the background.

The Gailtal and my Mother

The family went together for a nice local meal at a restaurant a few villages away. They forgot to give me a side dish salad so then we got a wheat beer for free. And I had to realize that coke is more expensive than really good beer. We then drove to the Weissensee, a big lake of Carinthia that is frozen in winter.

Family Picture at the Weissensee

It is very romantic there. They have sleighs pulled by horses running around on the frozen lake. They are really on to lake!

Horse Sleighs on Weissensee in Austria

We heard that we can just rent ice skates at the sport shop on the northern coast of the lake. But as my mother gave me her ice skates we only needed to rent skates for Julien.When we entered the sport store we saw a huge empty shelf and the lady said she has only 1 last pair for rent but they are size 39. She said we could take a seat with teh others and wait for ice skates to be returned. As the sunwas about to set soon behind the mountain ridges we did not want to wait. So Julien and my parents walked on and around the lake.

Walking on the frozen Lake

While I went for a quick spin on ice skates on the 4.2km long loop. That was really nice.

Ines Brunn ice skating on the Weissensee

The rest of the evening was packing suitcases and having a nice last dinner. It was such a great relaxing holiday. And it was so nice to spend so much time with my parents. Looking forward to them coming to Beijing in April this year!

My Skis and Fixed Gear Bikes

Montag, Januar 3rd, 2011

Today was blue sky again. We were looking forward to a wonderful day of skiing. When we reached the top of the mountain at about 2000 meters we had the impression that it was cold. And after a while we realized it was actually freezing cold. I could soon not feel my toes and fingers anymore. But we were looking forward to lunch time with all the sun. I quickly went to a public toilet at the top of a ski lift and partially de-frosted my fingers on the heater. But they were soon frozen again.

Even at lunch time despite all the sun it was still very cold. We found a spot with almost no wind and a beautiful view.

Austrian and Italian mountains

But we could not remove our gloves nor hats nor jackets today. It was around -15 degrees Celcius and there was some wind.

Julien and the view

Ines and Julien at lunch time

I still did not get too many comments yet about my skis. A Slovenian guy pointed at my skis and said stuff to his friends while laughing. One Austrian pointed at my skis and told his friend „Those are skis“. The next sentence was that he got test skis from Fischer. Of course my skis are skis. The difference to the others is that they are completely straight. We spotted a guy wearing a neon orange and neon yellow and neon green ski suit with belt that looked like it was purchased in the 80’s. And guess what? He also had straight skis. Nowadays everybody has carving skis. It is much easier to ski with carving skis. You need much more technique to ski on straight skis. That is why I like them. I think it is like fixed gear biking. Of course the bike evolved from being fixed gear single speed when it was invented in 1880 to coasting single speed to the coasting multi speed we know today. But many people now chose the more technical fixed gear bikes from the old days. Skiing with straight skis is like riding a single speed bike. Closer to fixed gear cycling is skiing with Telemark technique like I did 2 years ago in France. But here in Austria the sport shops did not have Telemark skis for rent. Maybe I will buy some in future.

The wind kept going and the slopes stayed icy and hard. Even the off-piste which was nice the past few days was just frozen and icy today. So we called it a day even before the last lift went up the hill. I will probably not go skiing again this winter, but hopefully back country skiing next winter. And of course my back country skis are also straight. Actually back country skiing (that is walking up the hill and then skiing down) is as pure as fixed gear bike riding. Maybe that is why I love it too.

First Day of the New Year

Samstag, Januar 1st, 2011

Today we had great weather again: Blue sky and sunshine. I like the view from the Italian side of the skiing resort towards south.

Italian Nassfeld View

At the Gartnerkofel top hut we took some pictures. Despite the great weather nobody was in the beach chairs.

Ines in Austria Nassfeld
Ines Brunn in the ski resort

The great thing was that most people were sleeping in the morning so we had the ski slopes for ourselves. It is huge fun to ski on the fresh ski slopes. So we skied a lot. The majority of the people in the morning were elderly locals that enjoyed the great weather with us. I think that on average snow boarders drink more than skiers. And they seem to also be more hung over on New Years Day so they came later or not at all. It was nice to have less beginner snow boarders filling up the slopes.

Of course we again went off the slopes and did some off-piste skiing. In some areas the snow was still like powder but it has been a while since the last snow.

Off piste in Italy

New Years Eve

Freitag, Dezember 31st, 2010

Amazing. Another beautiful day on top of the Carinthian mountains. Here is our shadow of us in a chair lift. I think that looks like 2 birds.

Two birds in a ski chair lift

Handsome snow boarder

During our lunch we heard the helicopter come to the ski resort. And that is usually a bad sign. We were not sure if he was actually picking up an injured person as he was first flying around the whole resort. But it seems there was actually an injured person that probably did have some kind of head or back injury.

Emergency Helicopter

At the end of each day we do the long ride from the far top of the mountain to the valley. Each day we had a great sunset. Today it was really nice with the clouds in front of the Dobratsch mountain.

Dobratsch by Sunset

My mother thinks my hat is funny. Well actually a lot of people think my hat is funny. When I walked into the supermarket in search of my father all the employees of the supermarket started pointing at me and laughing. It is nice to see people smile after looking at me. And the reactions are astonishing as in China it is more normal to walk around with a funny hat, like for example a panda head hat.

Ines and her funny hat

For New Years Eve we had a nice dinner with my parents. Then we watched the very old classic movie „Dinner for One“. Same procedure as last year? Not for us. Then we played cards – that is like „Same procedure as yesterday“. At midnight we opened champagne and cheered. Then in Austria the radio plays the New-Years-Waltz (Kaiserwalzer) so my parents and we danced the waltz in the apartment.

My parents dancing away
Waltzing in the New Year
New-Years-Waltz in Austria

The neighbors had made a snow bar and put some lights.

Bar in the Snow

So we went down and watched the fireworks still drinking champagne. Our neighbor said it is much better to drink with a German physicist that opened a bike shop in Beijing than celebrating New Year with thousands of people in Berlin at the Brandenburger Gate – none of them have a bike shop in the country of the bicycles.

Outdoor celebration

Snow and Sunshine

Donnerstag, Dezember 30th, 2010

Another day of sunshine an blue sky. Perfect for skiing. Julien had switched a longer snowboard then the one he was renting yesterday.

Julien on Snowboard

Actually skiing here in Austria reminds me of cycling in Beijing traffic. You have to assume that anybody will do anything at any time and any place. Someone might suddenly stop in the middle of the slope. His friend might almost stop but then actually continue to ride. You might get someone at high speed coming from the side. Or a kid jumping out of the woods at high speed just in front of you. Or someone that was skiing downhill suddenly crossing the entire slope from left to right side. You have to be very aware of what is around you and anticipate even the most unlikely behaviors of other people on the slopes or close by. It is like people dodging on Beijing streets.

For lunch today we looked for a different remote spot and found something really nice. We had our food and enjoyed the sun and view.

Lunch in the mountains

Romantic rest

My skis are quite old. And I did not give them to service this year. So the edges of my skis are worn out. So I have not much grip on icy slopes and most of the slopes were icy as it had rained just recently even at 2000 meters. So skiing with these skis feels like riding a fixed gear bike at high speed in traffic without a brake. You have to be extremely awake and focussed on everybody around you and anticipate any of their sudden moves.

Skiing in Austria

Mittwoch, Dezember 29th, 2010

We got a 6 day ski pass for the Nassfeld ski resort in the south of Austria at the border with Italy and near Slovenia. That is the biggest skiing resort in Carinthia. There were some clouds today but in general we had sunshine. How nice it is to be outdoors the whole day and doing sport! I am so happy to be here!

Nassfeld Ski Resort

Compared to last time I was skiing in Austria some things changed. And that was only 2 years ago in the same resort. The average speed on the ski slopes has increased drastically. It is great as now more people are skiing at a similar speed as me. But a lot of them are not such good skiers so they cannot control their skis so well. And another part of them just does not look what is going on around them and so stupid unexpected moves on the slopes. There had been quite some accidents in the past years with head injuries so now almost everybody is wearing a helmet. And a lot of kids are required to wear a back protector to protect the spine. The helmet thing is great for the helmet industry. But I believe more people injure their knees or legs where a helmet does not really change the situation. And with the helmet I have the feeling people are more reckless. For example people suddenly just stop at random places on the slope. Or they just start skiing without checking if someone is coming down their way.

We brought our own lunch and found a spot outside of the slopes where we set up the snowboard and my skis as a bench with backrest. There was a nice view.

Ski Lunch

Nassfeld View

In the evening we had a great dinner with my parents and then we all played cards again. O-hell is quite fn with 4 people.