Category Archives: Skiing

It’s the End…

Of the month and I hate going a whole month without posting. So, here’s my attempt for a post in April before May takes over. Heavy on the photos, but aren’t blogs supposed to be visually appealing anyway?

I started the month off right with a trip up to Mt. Baker for a little backcountry skiing to finish off a rather epic ski season. Contrary to what the ski area name might suggest, this is Mt. Shuksan on an absolute bluebird day.
Just a little rest before making a couple laps, had to soak up the view, after all. Despite multiple attempts at sunscreen application, my face experienced the first roasting of the changing season.
We skinned out to a back bowl and found ourselves some tasty turns on a north-facing aspect. Lange leads the way out of the bowl as we admire our picture-perfect S-turns off to the right. There's a little pocket of space somewhere between powder and sky that you find yourself in while making those turns, and if heaven is accessible in this life, no doubt that's where it exists.
After wrapping up on the mountain, headed home to celebrate Easter with the cutest cousins possible: Kaila and Ripley in their matching purple Easter dresses. Yes, the Easter bunny delivered enough chocolate to keep these two running in circles.
Event Headquarters at Seattle U, preparing the day before my biggest event of the year for work, a brunch in Campion Ballroom for 250+ guests. It was garden party themed in honor of Earth Day, can you tell?
Mom and I took a spontaneous trip to Skagit Valley to see the tulips. The photos look the same every year, but are somehow still obligatory.
The squishy, trampoline-like mud throughout the tulip fields (so cool) and a look inside a tulip--offers a bit of contrast.
Sadly, my roommate Shereen moved out and back to Canada--stupid visas requirements! Team 2512 is now down a man, but we're managing...barely.
For once, I wasn't the one leaving. And in no way did I envy this packing situation.
My former housemate from Sitka, Gina (who now lives in Hillsboro, OR as a second year JV) and I took an afternoon for Gorge exploring. We strolled our way down Old Highway 30, stopping at Vista House for this lovely little view.

Not too bad for an average month full of work. Promise to be more reflective and less reporting next time!

Juneau? Alaska!

Juneau what happened last month? Well, let me tell you! (I’m sorry, totally cheesey and completely irresistible. Had to take advantage of the word play).

After hearing about Juneau every day since arriving in Sitka (it is, after all, only 90 miles away and the “metropolis” of Southeast), I finally got the chance to travel there for our second retreat with the Alaska JVC community houses (Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, and Bethel) over President’s Day weekend. With only two flights out of Sitka each day (6 a.m. and 6 p.m.), all six of us stumbled out of the house shortly after 5 a.m. Friday morning and loaded our packs into Hank’s Cab bound for the airport. Prior to leaving for retreat, I realized we would be getting to Juneau rather early in the morning and that retreat didn’t start until 2 p.m., so I began plotting!

Conveniently, my friend Chris from Sitka was in Juneau on a little ski vacation and was looking for a ski buddy for Friday! So, despite thinking that I may not ski at all this year, after our arrival in Juneau and a brief time at the airport, Chris picked up me, my friend, Ian,  from Gonzaga (a JV in Juneau this year), and his housemate, Conor. We headed out to Eagle Crest ski area just 20 minutes down the road under perfect blue skies. The word “excited” drastically understates my feelings as we headed to the ski hill. I think I bounced up and down in the passenger seat on the way there, and I was so enthusiastic, in fact, that I lost my ability to think, and I left my ski boots at Ian and Conor’s house. Naturally, this became obvious when we got to Eagle Crest and began getting ready. . . Well done, Liz! So, we piled back in the car (Ian with one ski boot already on).  I endured relentless teasing from the boys, and we made a quick trip back to the JV house. Upon our second arrival at Eagle Crest, we had a more successful start! I believe a direct quote from me to Ian while on the chairlift was, “I feel like I’m reconnecting with my soul!” Needless to say, it felt amazing to be up on the mountain again, 14 months (not that I’m counting) after I made my last turns in Alta, Utah. I do not, however, have ski legs this season, so the half day we skied before retreat was plenty for me!

After heading down from the mountain, we managed to fit in a quick trip to Alaskan Brewery! The other JVs had arrived while we were skiing, so we quickly picked up Braden downtown (yay!) and headed out to get some local samples. You have to have a beer after skiing anyway, right? Alaskan Brewery was actually much smaller than I thought and even felt a bit similar to Baranof Island Brewing Co. here in Sitka. With the popularity of Alaskan, I had imagined the venue on a slightly larger scale. The samples were, of course, fabulous and then we headed on to retreat, since that was in fact what we came for!

Our retreat was held at The Shrine north of Juneau surrounded by water and snow-capped mountains. I had heard nothing but incredible things about it, and the setting did live up to expectations. Pictures to follow later when I have them available. Our weekend was facilitated by Father Thomas, a former parish priest in Juneau who has recently been moved to Wrangell/Petersburg. He led several hours of reflection and prayer throughout the weekend, and we were even treated to his lovely spinach/broccoli/almond blended delight in the mornings (not something I have continued to consume since!). The weekend went by quickly, we shared many stories of our jobs with one another, and, just like retreat in October, it felt wonderful to come together with the other JVs.

Though the retreat ended on Monday, I extended my time in Juneau for a couple of days, as did Braden and six people from the Bethel house. On the way back from retreat, we stopped by Mendenhall Glacier, which I thought would be cool, but it was significantly more impressive than I even imagined. Due to the cold temperatures and the storm that had blown through that weekend, Mendehall Lake was completely frozen and had about two feet of snow on top. On a perfectly sunny Monday afternoon, we all trekked out on the lake walking across the frozen and snowy surface to the base of the glacier. It was sunny. It was quiet. And it was BIG. I felt very little next to even a “small” piece of ice that had broken off and was stuck frozen in the lake. This was obviously a unique time to experience Mendenhall since most people have to kayak to the base during summer.

Throughout the rest of the time in Juneau we went to the Alaska State History Museum (which was actually way more interesting than I thought it would be), we hiked through the snowy meadow part way up Mt. Jumbo, toured around downtown Juneau, wandered through the ruins of old mines around Douglas, and went to the local rock climbing gym where they love JVs and let us climb for free! I also got the chance to visit the AWARE domestic violence shelter where Ian and his JV housemate work, which gave me a nice opportunity to see another shelter in action. It was much different than the SAFV shelter in Sitka and left me with plenty of thoughts about my work as an advocate. I can’t forget to mention, of course, the Island Pub in Douglas (across the channel from Juneau, where the JVs actually live) where I indulged in the greatest steak sandwich of my life. The weather was cold and sunny during our days of touring around town, and it was a nice change of scenery. Though Sitka and Juneau are often compared to each other, I came to the important conclusion that in Sitka the water is dominant, while the mountains are secondary, but in Juneau the mountains are dominant, while the water is secondary. I felt much more surrounded by mountains during my time in Juneau, whereas here in Sitka, I feel much more surrounded by water (perhaps because I’m on an island?). This might not sound like much of a revelation to someone who hasn’t been to either of these places, but for as similar as they are, they offered a much different feel, at least to me!

So, that is a bit of a report of the weekend/retreat events in Juneau. It was a wonderful time to be with other JVs, to see a new place, and to take a break from work. Back in Sitka, spring is on the horizon. The snow is melting, but what most makes it feel like spring here is the return of fishermen to town. Herring season begins in just a couple weeks and the docks are filling with people as many preparations for the opener take place! My life-long friend, Annie, is also coming to visit in just 12 days with her friend Amy and I very much look forward to showing them around and sharing my life in Sitka with them. I will post pictures as soon as they are available. Until the next report, I hope spring is beginning to reach you wherever you are!

Pictures Finally!

Ok I got the adapter and my laptop is working. I think there is a much easier way to upload photos, but for now I’m ignorant as to how to do that, so if you want to check out a few pictures of Chamonix you can go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizpurdy and hopefully it will work! More to come soon, but now my battery is dying!

With the help of Ferg I’ve gotten some pictures on the actual blog. Here are just a few to get a taste. I’ll be able to put more up on Flickr on Monday. Enjoy!

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Goodbye Chamonix, Quick Stop in Geneva, Arrival in UK #2

Hello!

I’ll start backwards and tell you I’ve just arrived at my host family’s house outside London this morning. Ken and Jan Keen are my host parents and they’re wonderful!! I walked out of the arrivals area and Ken was standing there with my name on a sign and a smile of his face. They’re so friendly and already I’m feeling quite at home. It’s been a relaxed Sunday (which I really appreciate) to get settled and rested before orientation starts in the morning at 10am. I live in a place in northwest London called Ruislip (pronounced Rise-lip, unlike Ru-slip which is how I said it before I arrived). It’ll be a long tube ride into school everyday, but it’s a nice quiet area here (reminds me a bit of Queen Anne so far, though I still have some exploring to do!), and I think it will be a great place to call home for a few months. This last week has flown by, though at times I was skeptical, and already it’s February and I’m imaging how fast this semester will go. Trying to remember how things are today, because come May it’ll seem like this was just a week ago when I arrived here.

I’ve taken a nap and gotten settled in a bit. I sat around and talked with Ken and Jan, heard about all their travels, they’re so fun, laughing and telling stories. They call me ‘love’ and ‘lovey’ all the time which I think is so incredibly British and cute, haha. Their son, Matthew, is coming for dinner tonight and then Jan and I have big plans to watch the LOST premiere tonight. (The UK finally caught up on episodes, so I can keep up while I’m here. It’s the only show I ever watch, so I’m allowed this one!!). Jan hasn’t watched it before, but I have high hopes of getting her addicted so it can be a weekly event 🙂

Anyway, I left Chamonix without much trouble on Friday. Had a really fun dinner with the 3 Aussies on Wednesday night and got in one last day of skiing at the Brevent/Flegere ski area on Thursday. On the way up the gondola met three Scottish guys from Aberdeen. They were impressed I knew the area and had friends in Banchory, so we talked the whole way up and then they invited me to ski with them for the day. They were all snowboarders and I asked if they were really good and would I slow them down. Looking back that was an incredibly stupid question… they’re from SCOTLAND, where the highlands are, not where the mountains are!! So I was quite a bit better than they, but since the snow wasn’t that great, I wasn’t missing any incredible skiing by staying with them. They were super friendly and made my last day of skiing really enjoyable.

Got into Geneva on Friday afternoon and was met at the train station by Emma, the daughter in the family who used to live on Queen Anne but who has moved just outside Geneva for Kim’s, Emma’s mom, work. A big thank you to Kim, Dan and Emma for allowing me to stay with them for a couple of nights. They live just outside Geneva across the border in France, but we talked Queen Anne and Seattle and about colleges for Emma. It was really nice to be with a great family and I felt very welcomed. So far, since I’ve been away, I’ve been incredibly blessed to always have been surrounded by a lot of really caring and welcoming people.

Yesterday afternoon I met up with Lisbee, who is studying in Geneva this semester. We walked a good portion of the city and saw basically all there was to see. Rick Steves has dubbed Geneva the most boring city and when I came in on the bus it seemed like there was a lot going on, so I was skeptical of its lack of entertainment. But after walking around for the day, I confirmed that in fact Rick does know what he’s talking about. We walked around the old town, saw a church John Calvin was at, saw a bizillion banks and watches and that was about it! We didn’t make it to the Red Cross museum, which I’ve heard is good, but I still feel content with the visit. Geneva gives the impression of being a big city because it’s incredibly diverse. With the UN there (we drove by a couple times, so I’ve seen it) something like 40% of the people in the city aren’t citizens of Switzerland (that’s what I was told, could be a bit different number, but you get the idea). It was fun to see Lisbee and hear about her program. I’m looking forward to a few more visits in the next few months with other friends who are also studying in Europe!

On to school tomorrow, I suppose that’s the whole reason I’m really here. Orientation and meeting all the other students starts in the morning. Should be great. Believe it or not, I think I’m ready for school again. Sorry I don’t have pictures up yet of Chamonix! I’ll get my computer and luggage from Devan tomorrow and get pictures up as soon after that as possible! Thanks to everyone I have heard from, hope everyone is well!

Chamonix II

here are some excerts from emails i’ve written to people recently to give you a feel for life here this week:

i had my first day of skiing today (mon 28th). i went to les grand montes which is supposedly the
hardest ski area here, but also i heard it had the best snow right now. they haven’t
gotten snow in a while and aren’t expected to have more, so to avoid the ice i went to
where i was told it was best. oh the very crowded bus on the way there, i was standing
next to a guy that had a “us forest service” key chain on his backpack and when i heard
him talk i knew for sure he was from the states. so i asked where from and he and his
wife were from oregon! WHOO!! they worked for the forest service and were on they’re
delayed honeymoon. anyway i saw them again at the top of the tram and he asked where i
was going to ski (keep in mind i had heard a lot of horror stories about glacier skiing
and crevasses, etc. so i was a little nervous). i told him i didn’t know but said bye and
to have a good day. so i went to check out the map and it looked… overwhelming. so i
walked back over to them and asked if maybe i could just start out the day skiing a
couple runs with them. they said no problem and actually it worked out great. they were
so nice and appreciated being able to have someone to talk to also. we ended up skiing
together into the afternoon. and i even went up to the top of this ski area (where the
scary stuff is supposed to be), but we checked out the guide book and stayed where we were
supposed to. anyway, the skiing was really good and i was surprised how good my legs felt,
even with the altitude (4000m at least). anyway, they’re going to be on the same ski tour
of vallee blanche tomorrow which is very cool. they headed down a little after one and i
just skied around on some different stuff. very good, i took lots of pictures and as soon
as i’m in london and have my computer i’ll get them online. the alps are truly amazing!!

so that was today, which went great. after i sent my email yesterday, i hopped back on
the bus thinking i would go back to the hostel… but oh no. i got on the right bus, but
it was also headed to the ski area at the end of the valley, les hoches, which is where the
world cup was held this weekend. so by the time we got to my stop there was NO WAY to
get off. so i thought “ok, i’ll just ride it to the end and catch it back” but then… i
was like “huh… why don’t i go to the world cup?” so yes… i did. and it was
ridiculous, i got there like 20 minutes before it started, i could not have planned it
better. I SAW BODE MILLER WIN!!!!!!!!! he skied a flawless run. i was right down at the
bottom near the finish line. i could see the big screen and scoreboard perfectly and
probably 10 -15 of the turns at the bottom of the hill. it was the men’s combined event.
bode led after the morning downhill and then he just dominated on the GS. unbelievable!!
anyway it was like a giant party (of course i didn’t talk to anyone so it was just great
people watching for me) it was so cool. so then i headed back (with the masses) to the
bus stop, and was literally the LAST person to get on the bus back to where i wanted. i
was standing on my tip toes the whole time and luckily a woman right next to me wanted to
get off where i did and yelled across everyone to the bus driver to open the door. haha,
also could not have planned that!! just got very lucky! so i headed back to the hostel to
drop some stuff off and then walked down the road again (it’s about a 5 min walk to the
bus station) to find the rental place phil the hostel owner suggested. i arrived again…
in perfect time. the guy had just opened and it wasn’t busy and he spoke english! WHOO!
so i got some skis, they’re not great, but they’re getting the job done and actually i
felt like i skied really well today, so i’m satisfied.

so, feeling pretty accomplished for the day, i headed back to the hostel to read (what i
really wanted to do was sleep, still kind of adjusting to the time) but i heard some
people come in so i opened my door and two australian brothers were in the room next to
mine. ha, they were super nice and i was so grateful to have someone to talk to in
english. we hung out for a good part of last night, one of them had been living in london
recently and had also skied all over the U.S. so we didn’t really run out of conversation
topics. anyway, that’s how the last day and a half have gone. pretty good!! it’s been
very successful so far! tomorrow morning is vallee blanche, but after warming up skiing
today and knowing that the couple from oregon will be there, it is reassuring. i’ve heard the
terrain isn’t too intense, so i might have even skied harder stuff today-who knows.

Tuesday – last night the three crazy norwegians who showed up late on sunday night came
back and had skied vallee blanche twice. unbelievable, they are out of control. as far as
i can tell chamonix redefines what it means to be “outdoorsy.” literally every picture for
rei advertising could be taken here. all you have to do is sit at the base of the tram
that you take to the top to ski vallee blanche (i would butcher the name, so i won’t even
try) and watch all the people show up between 8-9 with their backpacks, harnesses on, ice
picks, climbing gear, ropes, transceivers, helmets… it’s just ridiculous. i got
there a little early because of the bus schedule and just watched people for a while. any
“outdoorsy-ness” i claim became inadequate after seeing that, ha! on the bus to town today
there’s a huge rock and people were just climbing up it, and then i looked up and there
are about 10 paragliders above me just circling like a flock of birds. wow.

anyway i was so glad that the oregon couple were on my same ski tour today. they were
nice and actually helped me figure out where to go to meet with the guide. we ended up in
the same group which was great, along with a very nice couple from spain. our guide, denis
(pronounced “denny” of course), had a good sense of humor and was very nice to us. he
has been a guide here for 21 years and it sounds like he has been all over the world
doing ridiculous skiing/mountaineering things!  i was definitely nervous about the “trek”
that you have to do on the ridge down to the glacier, but it actually was much better
than i thought. they harness you together, i was the group leader, i had crampons on and
they have a permanent rope railing, so actually it was better than i expected.
unbelievable views from the top. i can’t wait to show you pictures. some of the skiing
was harder than i expected, but i think it was mostly because i was nervous about how
uncomfortably close i was to HUGE crevasses. the terrain wasn’t anything harder than what
i have skied before, but the thought of falling made it a little scary. not sure i’ll be
a regular glacier skier. i was also moving around in my boots a lot today, and didn’t
want to cramp them down tight because my legs would cramp. so i didn’t do my best skiing
today, but i did ski vallee blanche, so i can’t be too frustrated 🙂 also, they failed
to mention in the explanation of the ski tour that you have to climb about a bizillion
steps to the gondola to take you out of the valley. after trekking down the ridge (at
12,000 feet you can definitely feel the altitude) and skiing the glacier, it’s kinda the
last thing you want to do. also it’s been really warm here the last two days so with all
the layers, we were all sweating!! it actually feels a bit like a spring day here right
now. really nice out, if it were like this at home, i’d be reading on the porch.

WED – just as i was leaving town to catch the bus back to the hostel last night, the 3 Aussies i met the night before were at the bus stop trying to figure out how to get back. i was able to help them out and we ended up hanging out the rest of the night, playing cards and laughing about the differences in the way we say things. went skiing with two of them today, weather wasn’t great, low clouds and they’re in need of snow, but it isn’t supposed to come until tomorrow. maybe it’s snowing up there now, but the valley is mostly just wet from the melting snow recently. we didn’t ski too hard today since visibility was bad and there’s a lot of ice around, but still good to be up. we’re in town tonight going to get dinner and split the price of a taxi back so we can enjoy the town in the evening (which we can’t do otherwise because of the bus service). anyway the aussies are off tomorrow so i’ll ski tomorrow and really haven’t done much skiing by myself, so i’ll go check out another of the ski areas and have a good last night in chamonix before i catch the bus back to geneva on friday where i’m staying with a family that used to live on queen anne and meeting up with lisbee to hang out on saturday. should be good times!

Chamonix- getting acquainted

just an email i sent to a few people just now. not very nicely written, just a brief update if you’re interested.

hello!
i made it to chamonix last night. the geneva airport was insane! so many people, huge ski
groups and a lot of people trying to get organized meeting their ski group coordinators.
anyway i managed to call phil the owner of the hostel to let me him know when i would be
in. he was meeting a friend for a drink so he gave me the code to the ski room so i could
get it. i had to take a 23 euro taxi ride to get from the bus station to the hostel since
the buses had stopped running, which was kind of unfortunate, but that’s how it had to be.
so i got to my very quiet room at around 9pm and it was a nice relief to make it! this
morning i woke up, met phil and a couple from spain that had stayed for the weekend and
was leaving today. i talked to the woman in some broken english. on the bus on the way to
chamonix there was couple from san franciso who i talked with. the guy had lived here for
a year so he was able to tell me about it. they were very nice.

the view from my room is unbelievable. i think the picture on the website actually is my
room with the double doors out to the deck. so nice! very simple, but i think it’s a good
place for me to stay minus the fact that it’s out of town a ways and the last bus leaves
town around 7:30. so this morning i got dressed and took the bus into town. wondered
around for about 30 mins before finally asking someone where the tourist information was.
i had seen signs but wasn’t able to spot it without some help. went there got some info
on ski places and the tickets. i’m glad i’m taking a day just to get oriented. after i
left the tourist info i have just been walking all over town and found this very american
like internet cafe which is a nice relief. i’ll probably grab a sandwich here for lunch
and then head back closer to where i’m staying to get my skis. phil said there was a shop
that was convenient. hopefully still open when i get there. i’ve master hello, please and
thank you in french but that’s really about it. very glad that phil is english, i plan on
asking him several questions tonight, to make sure i make it skiing in the right place
tomorrow.

i’ve decided i’m somewhere in between all the people here. i’m not the most lost, but
definitely not totally aware of where i am all the time. there are plenty of people
wandering around the town today as lost tourists, so that’s nice to just wander with them.
i’m not even trying to pretend like i completely fit in. haha. also so many of the skiers
look incredibly hardcore, wearing harnesses over their ski pants and such. i think i
found the place where i’m supposed to meet the guides, but i’ll have to double check with
phil tonight. anyway, that’s about it, i won’t be living the night life for sure since
where i’m staying is out of the way and i’m kinda hoping to meet some more people (preferably
if they speak more english) from where i’m staying so we might be able to get a meal or
something in town sometime. we’ll see how it turns out. there are only 5 rooms where i’m
staying and i think only 3, including mine, were occupied last night. anyway i’ll keep you
updated as much as i can, but this place is a little expensive, so we’ll see. ok, well, i
guess i’m off to find some food, skis and maybe go back to the hostel/b&b to read all the
info i got. things are coming together, i’m just taking my time. love you a lot. talk to
you soon!

-Liz