Video: “Stuff” skiers say

I’m in Lake Tahoe–California and Nevada’s premier ski destination–visiting my brother and his family. My teenage nephew, a member of the Olympic Valley Freeride & Freestyle Team, turned me on to this farcical video about things skiers say. If you’re a skier–or snowboarder–you’re fully aware that there are certain phrases ubiquitous to those who spend their days on the slopes–even if the language between the two sports differs slightly.

Even if you don’t dig snow, you’ll likely appreciate this. And if you’re a flatlander heading to the mountains for a weekend of shreddin’….please…don’t act like a gaper. “Now go get your sesh on.”

Warning: this clip contains language that may be offensive to some.


Chile’s Valle Nevado ski resort rolls out early-bird special

chile skiingDedicated pow hounds tend to hightail it to the Southern Hemisphere once summer rears its sunny head. Chile is justly famous for its snow, as well as its lack of crowds, above-timberline terrain, and epic backcountry and vertical accessible via heli-skiing.

Valle Nevado, located 20 miles east of Santiago, is already the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere. This year, during its June 22-October 2nd winter season, it has even more enticements to offer.

North American and UK guests who book and pay before March 31st, 2012, will receive up to 50% off a season-long package that includes a seven-night stay at any of Valle Nevado’s three hotels (which range from high-end to budget), and two interconnect tickets for the neighboring resorts of La Parva and El Colorado, which opens 7,400 acres of skiable terrain (that’s more than Vail, for you ski and snowboard die-hards).

The promotion also includes 25% off equipment rental, a complimentary 30-minute massage, and free attendance at the weekly Thursday Wine Festival. Look for forthcoming announcements on heli-skiing packages, as well. To book, call 1-800-669-0554 from the U.S., or email reservas@vallenevado.com.

Tips for Powder Skiing

8 winter hikes for outdoor enthusiasts

dolomite mountains Warm-weather months aren’t the only time to get a good hike in. In fact, there are many trekking trails all over the world that offer superb hiking and snowshoeing. This winter, why not plan a trip to experience one of these active and enjoyable hikes for people of all fitness levels.

The Dolomites, Italy

While the Dolomite Mountains are beautiful all year long, there is something especially captivating about them covered in a layer of sparkling white snow. While snowshoeing in the Dolomites, you will be able to explore numerous trails while taking in high snow walls, white-capped mountains, and trees so covered in flurries they look fake. Adding to the charm of the trek, ambient Alpine-huts line the path, offering a warm and cozy place to stay with a fireplace, hot cappuccinos, and freshly made strudel. Interested in doing a long trek with a group? Dolomite Mountains, a locally based company, offers an 8-day Dolomite snowshoeing tour.The Swiss Alps, Switzerland

The beauty of the Swiss Alps cannot be described in words. No matter how many photographs I took while I was there I still felt as though the diverse landscape, the snowy mountains, crystal lakes, and lush green fields couldn’t be captured on film but needed to be seen in person. If you’re backpacking, home-base in Interlaken, a hotspot adventure destination on the backpacker circuit. From there, you’ll be able to access the beautiful Bernese Oberland as well as numerous trails and mountains, including my personal favorite, the Jungfrau. Click here to view a list of numerous Swiss Alp winter walks.

utah Zion National Park, Utah, USA

For those who want to experience nature in winter but aren’t big fans of the cold, Zion National Park has mild winters while still getting those blankets of flawless snow that make for stunning photographs. For the most scenic winter hikes, go to the east side of the park (along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway), where the white frost sticks itself over sheets of flat burnt rock like iced oatmeal cookies. This is where the snow is deepest in the park, so snowshoes are advisable. For a less snowy hiking experience, the Watchman, Coalpits, Chinle, Huber, Eagle Crags, and Scoggins trails, which are unbearable in the summer, are pleasant and sunny in the winter.

Chugach State Park, Anchorage, Alaska, USA

There are many excellent snowshoeing trails in Archorage, one of which is Chugach State Park, the third largest state park in America. Over a half-million acres of well-developed hiking trails give visitors options for easy, moderate, or difficult hikes along with the chance to experience the backcountry of Alaska (and possibly even encounter a moose!). For an easy hike featuring a mixture of lakes, mountains, and thick pine forests, as well as an educational preview of the trek, start at the Eagle River Nature Center, where you can access various paths for beginners, like the Rodak Nature Loop, which gives you access to beaver and salmon viewing, and the 3-mile Dew Mountain Trail, where you will be able to see Dew Mound, a unique glacial erratic, as well as Dew Lake and Eagle Creek Valley. For something a bit more challenging as well as historical, opt for the Crow Pass National Historical Trail, which you can access from either the Eagle River Nature Center or the Crow Creek Trailhead in Girdwood. The trail is 21-miles one-way and gains an elevation of 3,100 feet to 2,100 feet respectively, depending where you start. Along with seeing waterfalls, wildlife, glaciers, and old mining ruins, you will be following the historic Iditarod supply route. Click here for a detailed list of trail maps for the park.

banffBanff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Traversing through Banff National Park during the winter will allow you to experience the Canadian Rockies from a unique perspective. The air is clean and crisp and offers a serenity that can only be found when snow covers the ground. According to BanffNationalPark.com, the region also contains about 932 miles of hiking trails, more than any other mountain park in the world. If you’re looking for an easy trek try the Fenland loop, a 1.2 mile round-trip flat stroll near the Vermillion Lakes that can be accessed along Mt. Norquay Road, between the railroad tracks and the Trans-Canada Highway. If you want something more difficult, do the Sulphur Mountain Summit, which is about 3.5 miles one-way and gains an elevation of 2,149 feet, helping to provide panoramic views of the Bow Valley. You can access the trailhead from the Upper Hot Springs parking lot. For more detailed hike descriptions, click here.

Nahuel Huapi National Park, Bariloche, Patagonia

Often considered the “true wilderness”, Patagonia is a prime destination for snowshoeing. Nahuel Huapi National Park encompasses 1,875,000 acres of land and stretches from the Patagonia Steppes to the high Andes. It is also the country’s first national park. Remember that their winter is from June to September, although all year round you can enjoy hiking on well-marked trails. One of the most interesting features of the area is the vast quantity of crystal-clear lakes and rivers set against backdrops of ancient glaciers, native forests dusted with white powder, deep valleys, and high peak mountains. Take in Tronador, an extinct stratovolcano standing at 11,454 feet, as well as the glacial-formed Lake Nahuel Huapi and panoramic views of the city of Bariloche.

new zealand Westland Tai Poutini National Park, South Island, New Zealand

There are many reasons that New Zealand makes for a perfect winter hiking destination. For one, the country usually enjoys a mild climate. Remember that New Zealand is another country where the seasons are switched, and when traveling there in December through February you will actually be experiencing summer. Nevertheless, a trek at Westland Tai Poutini National Park during these months will expose you to an array of seasons and landscapes. Because the park is split by the Alpine fault, the landscape is dramatically contrasting, with glaciers, the high peaks of the Southern Alps, ice rivers, rainforests, hot springs, coastline, and lakes. Visit Fox Glacier, a large ice rock with a unique location right next to a rainforest, cross over a 230-foot long suspension bridge that swings over Fox River, and, if you’re in really good shape, hike up the high peaks, which offer mountain hut accommodation for those looking to do some serious trekking. Click here for more information on hiking trails.

Yatsugatake Mountain Range, Honshu Island, Japan

While Japan isn’t typically known for its snowshoeing and trekking, the country is actually very mountainous, making it a great spot for winter trekking. The Yatsugatake Mountains, a volcanic mountain range, is home to eight major mountain peaks including Akadake, which is 9,511 feet high. A range of different trails are available for all levels, including rolling hill strolls and steep rocky climbs, all along snow covered trees, deep white valleys, stratavolcanoes, lava domes, and freshly iced mountains with striking definition and patterns. For those who want to do more than just a day hike, mountain huts are available for accommodation. While Yatsugatake is located on the island of Honshu, it is less than 3 hours from Tokyo.

Boulder’s mixology scene the place for holiday spirit(s)

mixologyBy now, we’re well into the Third Wave of the mixology craze. Cosmopolitans begat new types of martinis begat the revival of pre-Prohibition-era cocktails (which begat bartenders donning suspenders or dapper suit vests).

The revival of classic cocktails and trending toward intelligent, seasonally-driven mixology made with craft-distilled spirits has been driven by America’s mania for all things artisanal and/or local.

Ignore the pretentious b.s. that muddies the waters of the food and wine et al. industries. You’ll find that most consumers, chefs, farmers, and food artisans are merely interested in the provenance of certain ingredients, and the traditional methods used to produce or prepare products like cheese, charcuterie, boutique wine, craft beer, and distilled spirits. This is a good thing. And, I might add, who doesn’t appreciate a great meal or well-made beverage?

That, in a nutshell, is why Boulder, Colorado has been making headlines as one of America’s most progressive dining destinations. As a former resident, (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I move. A lot.), I can attest that Boulder is on the cutting edge of conscious eating. But where it really shines, in my opinion, is its mixology scene.

Bonus: Boulder’s best drinking spots are located on or just one block off of Pearl Street, which runs through the heart of downtown and the pedestrian mall. This time of year, Pearl is aglow with fairy lights adorning the trees, and (if you’re lucky) snowfall: it’s a wonderful place to spend the holidays. If you like to imbibe, try a glass (or three) of good cheer at any of the restaurant/bars following the jump.

mixologyWhen I first moved to Boulder in 2006, I lamented the shortage of decent watering holes (meaning, places not overrun by frat boys; it is, after all, a college town). Fortunately, the two best restaurants in town, nationally-acclaimed Frasca, and The Kitchen, (in this instance, I refer to its adjacent, second-floor sister spot, [Upstairs]), put the same thought and care into their beer and wine lists and the crafting of cocktails as their food. Thus, I happily spent many nights cozied up to the bar of one or the other.

Frasca has since undergone a remodel and expansion, and last spring opened Pizzeria Locale next door, which has its own impressive beer and wine list. The cocktail progam at Frasca–overseen by bar manager Allison Anderson–is still fantastic, as are the selection of apertifs and digestifs, including premium grappas. For a light, festive holiday drink, try the Promessa d’Italia (Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur, Blue Gin, and Prosecco).

Former Frasca beverage program director Bryan Dayton opened OAK at Fourteenth with chef/co-owner Steven Redzikowski in November, 2010. The restaurant immediately attracted attention for both its localized New American cuisine focused around the oak-fired oven and grill, as well as Dayton’s stellar mixology program. Sadly, a kitchen fire destroyed the restaurant several months after opening.

But, as they say, every cloud has a (Don Julio) Silver lining. In September, Dayton won Bombay Sapphire’s “Most Inspired Bartender of 2011,” and is currently gracing the cover of 5,000 copies of the December issue of GQ as part of his handsome reward (his winning drink: a “Colorado-inspired blend of juiced pears: simple syrup infused with sage, fennel and juniper; blackberry; Bombay Sapphire East; yellow chartreuse, and lime”).

OAK just celebrated its reopening on December 14th, with a revamped design and slew of inspired takes on classic cocktails, featuring Dayton’s passion for craft spirits. On the menu for the holidays: Oaxacan Winter (Sombra mezcal, Antica Carpano, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Navan, molé bitters, and agave), and the Oak Martini (Death’s Door Vodka or Gin, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, and grapefruit bitters). New to OAK’s beverage program are house-created and -bottled sodas, in flavors such as kumquat and tarragon or cucumber and basil.

Last June, The Kitchen opened [Next Door], a “community gastropub.” There’s more of the same rustic, localized fare The Kitchen is known for, but you’ll also find an abbreviated selection of beer, wine, and natural sodas served on tap. It’s part of The Kitchen beverage program director Ray Decker’s ongoing commitment to source the best craft beers, boutique wines, and distilled spirits available.
mixology
At The Bitter Bar, located around the corner from The Kitchen, you’ll find a short, appealing American bistroish menu, but mixology is the star of the show just as proprietor/manager Mark Stoddard intended. Thumbs up, too, for the “staff picks” section on the menu listing cocktail and entree pairings.

If late night cocktails are your thing, I suggest making The Bitter Bar your last stop, but be prepared: these drinks pack a wallop. Friendly, informative mixologists serve seasonal cocktails (in warmer weather, some ingredients are sourced from the property’s own herb garden) in vintage crystal stemware–a nice touch. There are always seasonal specials, but don’t dismiss “Bitter Originals” such as The Gunner’s Daughter (Eldorado 5 Year Rum, Smith & Cross Navy Strength Jamaica Rum, Domaine de Canton–a ginger liqueur– Cynar, and Allspice Dram) and the Hokkaido Highball (Yamazaki 12-Year Single Malt Japanese whiskey, elderflower cordial, and apple drinking vinegar). Happy holidays indeed!

Tip: Boulder is located at 5,430 feet, so if you’re not used to the altitude, you should be more concerned with drinking water than alcohol. Remember that one drink is equivalent to two at this elevation. Pace yourself, drink lots of water, and pop a couple of aspirin before you turn in for the night.

From Mark Stoddard at The Bitter Bar comes this sophisticated upgrade on eggnog.
Tom & Jerry
serves 1

1 egg
1 oz. aged rum
1 oz. Cognac
1 oz. hot milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 allspice berry, ground
1/2 clove
4 oz. hot water
nutmeg, for garnish

Separate the egg white and yolk into two bowls. In one bowl, add rum and brandy to the yolk and beat together until frothy. In the other bowl, beat the egg white until it forms a peak, and then add milk, sugar, ground allspice, and clove. Fold the rum, Cognac, and yolk into the egg white bowl, and stir. Strain into a tall mug or tempered glass and top with hot water. Garnish with grated nutmeg on top (a microplane zester works well).

[Photo credit: Tom & Jerry; Bryce Clark]

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Video of the Day: Salt boarding

Some people love winter sports so much, they don’t give a hang if there’s an absence of snow. Check out this epic video, where a group of shredders hit the Utah Salt Flats for kicks at speeds up to 50 mph. The boards were supplied by snowboard company BLANK; no word on who handed out the road rash salve.