Monday, April 21, 2014

Snowboarding In The Pyrenees

This trip was overdue. Like maybe six years overdue.

See, when I lived in California, I went snowboarding a lot. Starting waaay back in the winter of 1992-1993, sometimes I'd go a couple of days per week and, one year, I went somewhere around 70 days, which is pretty amazing if you consider that I was living near the beach at the time.

In many ways, southern California and Catalunya are similar. Both have good weather (although San Diego wins that contest hands down). Both are located along beaches and both have mountains with snow just a couple of hours away. Surprisingly, I haven't gone even once in the entire time I've lived in Barcelona or in Germany. Well, after an almost-six-year (!!!) absence, I'm back in the snow, this time in the Pyrenees:

I think part of the reason I haven't gone is that, although Diana likes skiing (I know, she's not snowboarding...yet), it's not the must-do activity that it used to be for me. Plus, it just wasn't enough of a priority, believe it or not, and the chance to go never "just happened". I can't believe I just wrote that. How wrong! Well, thanks to our friends Juan and Carol who have a house in the Cerdanya, the chance finally "came up" to go for a bit of late-season snow play.

Diana tearing it up:

Since it was a fairly long time, I didn't know what to expect of my maybe-forgotten ability. But, within about 10 seconds of strapping in, I was off and full of smiles!

I was extra impressed at the size of the "local" mountain, Masella. Local mountains in southern California tend to be fairly small but plenty entertaining. I really don't need a huge or particularly steep mountain but a big, spread-out mountain is definitely more fun. People in Barcelona kinda' turn their noses up at the local mountains much like their California counterparts. But I didn't have any problem at all and, like I said, the mountain was plenty big enough for me. Look at the size of this bowl (and that's France on the other side of the valley - cool, huh?):

But surely this "smallish local resort" must be packed with people, right? Hmm...not at all. I don't think I waited more than maybe eight minutes for any lift all day, and, owing that the Spanish can't resist eating a big-ole' lunch in the afternoon, the place was empty from about 1:30 p.m. until we wrapped it up for the day. Look at this ~2:00 p.m. lift line (or lack of):

Because I could, I decided to shoot a quick video, camera in hand, going down one of the slopes. The flying tomato, I'm not, but still a fun day!

I was also impressed with my relatively-beat-up rental equipment. The boots were decent and the board, although well-used, also was okay. As I've already brought all my snowboard clothes over from the U.S., I definitely need to bring the snowboards I still have. After all, they're all ones I made myself while working in the industry a bunch of years ago. So, I'll be that guy out on ancient equipment next time you see me out there! Ha!

And, of course, before I forget, the required selfie showing the Cerdanya valley down below and France (and maybe some of Andorra but I'm not sure) beyond:

Completely random but we stopped on the way home in Cercs, which is a town where you can visit an old coal mine. The tour begins with a hard-hats-required train ride into one of the tunnels:

The train, which is powered with fantastic-smelling diesel fuel, travels about five minutes - maybe a half mile into the tunnel:

The guide then leads the group back out of the mine on foot. Along the way they show you the glamorous life of a miner. Note this happy guy working away in a room held up by giant car jacks. Looks fun!

The tour reinforced my decision not to enter the mining field. Probably the best part, though, was the Village-People-like photos we got:

Snowboarding and coal mining! A combo made in heaven! And I waited almost six years for this experience! Don't worry, I'm already considering buying a season pass for next year. Hell, they're a relatively cheap 140 euros and it might make me go a bunch. Wanna' join me? I'll even stop by the mine on the way back if you'd like.