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I will be writing about my adventures around the globe--whether they are about competing in world-class alpine ski racing, climbing a mountain, exploring European ski towns, or discovering significant personal experiences, relating external occurrences to internal reflections.

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Yeahhhhh, so this trip actually happened in January...but I decided it's time to catch up with my blogging. I am going to keep the words short and sweet--mainly because it was so long ago and I can't remember every intricate detail, but also because I am sitting in an airport and want to have this post done before I get on my plane headed for HOME! If you want to see plenty-a-picture from this post, visit my personal blog here.

Yeahhhhh, so this trip actually happened in January...but I decided it's time to catch up with my blogging. I am going to keep the words short and sweet--mainly because it was so long ago and I can't remember every intricate detail, but also because I am sitting in an airport and want to have this post done before I get on my plane headed for HOME! If you want to see plenty-a-picture from this post, visit my personal blog here.

It was tough to beat the time we spent on Lanzarote--with all the peace and solitude, delicious food, and gorgeous, isolated beaches. But Fuerteventura was like a completely distinct country. It was much less touristy (though it was down-season in Lanzarote, it still seemed like a tourist destination), had more local charm and character, and was a bit more upbeat. I was dying to surf once we got on the island, as I had heard that you could surf year round and there were plenty of good breaks around the island. But on our first afternoon on Fuerteventura--we arrived a little later than we thought--we had a workout to accomplish. So we looked around and decided to conquer a mountain. It was a small mountain, but nonetheless one of the highest on the island. It was really incredible and unique to be able to see ocean surrounding you--360 degrees around--something that makes you feel insignificant and infinitesimal (a feeling I inexplicably enjoy). I took some crazy photos from atop the mountain (see this page's headliner), and when we tired of being blown around by the powerful winds, we ran down the shaley, steep side hill...

We stayed in a wonderful hostel-type-house called "Beach Bums," owned by a few Italian folks and updated quite nicely. We bunked in one of the smaller, older rooms with two beds, a private bathroom, and a communal kitchen and lounge area. It was a very neat compound with fun people and a great vibe.

We awoke the next morning to go surfing.... It was pretty surreal to surf in the middle of the ski season. The water wasn't even all that cold--our wetsuits were only 3,2's. Stacey and I both had a tough time catching any waves in the incredible line of beach break. We pretty much just got pounded and did a lot of paddling. But the few waves I did catch made it all worth it, as I suppose it always is with surfing. I surely have mentioned this feeling before: working with something so big and powerful, riding something so pure and real, feeling a natural force so strong and unforgiving--it really is something perplexing and mystifying, only describable by a feeling...

The next day after our workout we went exploring down a dirt road--with no goal in mind and plenty of time we discovered a popcorn beach, a hippie shack, a crazy lighthouse, and the most incredible beach in the world with a gorgeous wade-pool inlet and a view to die for...

We drove along this dirt road all the way from Corralejo to El Cotillo, where we decided to sit at a restaurant on the water and watch the sun go down. What a lovely closing evening...delicious, fresh fish (with their heads still on, mouths agape), more Sangria, and another (boring) breathtaking sunset while sitting on the ocean deck of La Vaca Azul (the restaurant). 

The next morning we woke up, packed our things, and headed to Puerto Del Rosario to go for a jaunt and play in the ocean before catching our flight that early afternoon. We searched for a place to rent bikes, but as our time floated off we decided to just run along the beach and then jump in the water one last time before returning to winter again...

I was sad to leave Fuerteventura (and Lanzarote), and the Canary Islands in general, but it was a well-deserved mid-season break from our crazy world of snow that I was ready to return to. Overall I think I enjoyed Fuerteventura a bit more than Lanzarote--it simply felt more raw and real. It certainly was dirtier and probably a bit sketchier, but I enjoy exploring a place and its reality. I find it less charming when a culture has conformed from its roots to its tourism, and it seemed that Lanzarote had done that a bit. It was, however, incredibly relaxing to stay at a spa/resort and eat amazing food (not schnitzel!) for a few days before roughing it a bit more in Fuerteventura. 

After all is said and done, I am looking forward to the day when I can return to the Canary Islands, and I hope I get the opportunity to explore a few more of the islands next time. Considering the fact that I spend almost the whole winter in Europe every year, I see myself returning to the islands soon. And I am smiling just thinking about frolicking in the ocean mid-winter. What a trip.

Accordion
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It was sunny. And windy. And warm. It was a well-needed mid-ski-racing-season winterless-winter break.
Landing on the island (of Fuerteventura) was incredible—just looking out the window of the plane provided me with a big fresh breath of air. Stepping outside into the sunny warmth was a relief and a blessing, like the sneeze succeeding an itchy brain. I immediately removed my socks (which I was wearing with my Birkenstocks on the plane) and my sweater, and convinced myself I was going to get a sufficient mid-winter bronzing on my milk frosty skin.

 

It was sunny. And windy. And warm. It was a well-needed mid-ski-racing-season winterless-winter break. 
Landing on the island (of Fuerteventura) was incredible—just looking out the window of the plane provided me with a big fresh breath of air. Stepping outside into the sunny warmth was a relief and a blessing, like the sneeze succeeding an itchy brain.  I immediately removed my socks (which I was wearing with my Birkenstocks on the plane from Munich) and my sweater, and convinced myself I was going to get a sufficient mid-winter bronzing on my milk frosty skin. 
 
 
We (Stacey and I) had rented a Panda online and hopped right in after landing. Our plan was to head straight to the port in Corralejo and catch a ferry to Playa Blanca on the southern tip of Lanzarote. After some driving confusion (the signage is all but plentiful), we found the ferry port and bought a ticket to scoot our little panda onto the boat. The ferry ride was quite rough—I had to tune my eye on the horizon while Stacey thrived and giggled at me—but we made it safely to Playa Blanca and drove off onto the desert island.
 
 
The vegetation on Lanzarote seemed to be non-existent apart from the town plantings and the random cactus and palm tree. All the hills were brown and barren, but the ocean was visible from every angle we explored on the island. The roads were paved and lined with beautiful white stones, which matched all of the buildings/houses we managed to come across on the whole of the tiny island.
 
 
After the first day of travel we decided to head straight to our hotel to drop off our bags and get settled. We went for a walk around our hotel grounds, checked out the pools and sauna, and slipped out the back gate for a stroll along the ocean-lined cliffs. The water was blue and chilly, clear and sparkling, deep and endless. I couldn’t wait to get in.
 
 
We walked along the boardwalk from our hotel (Hesperia Lanzarote) to Puerto Calero for some sushi and called it a night. Day 2 was big. We woke up, ate at our gorgeous hotel buffet, lifted weights (I won’t write about that.) and headed to Yaiza for some jaunting and eating. Casona de Yaiza opened for lunch at two (we had planned on eating at this restaurant for a while, because it sounded simply scrumptious) so we drove the Panda up some steep rocky hill and climbed to the top to check out the view and take some photos.
 
 
From the tippy top of the hill we could see the ocean all around. It was sunny and colorful and winsome and wind-some. I nearly got blown into the clouds (which would have been alright).
 
 
Lunch was delicious (fried cheese with fig jam!!! the best!). We ventured into the natural (national?) park to check out the volcano, but it ended up costing 9 euro and involved a crowded bus ride to get to the top so we instead looked up and headed out. Off to El Golfo and the black-sand beach we went.
 
 
The sky was incredible, the rock formations true and yearning to be climbed. So that we did. And then we jumped off into the sunset…
 
 
La Lapa was a delicious restaurant we ate at that night in El Golfo. The sangria was far too good, the prawns were fresh, and the clams (rock clams?) were pesto-loved and incredible. We were tipsy, full, and sleepy—a perfect combination for a perfect night of sleep.
 
 
Day 3 was relatively uneventful. We needed a day off, so we hung out in the spa and walked to Puerto Calero for some more yummy food (Indian this time). It was a clear and moonlit night, perfect for some experimenting with my camera.
 
 
On the fourth day we woke up, packed our bags, and headed to ride some camels. I was a bit hesitant about this, but Stacey convinced me to jump on and get rocked by George (our camel) for 20 minutes. I thought I was going to fall off and get trampled. Alas! We survived and dismounted to safety. Poor camels: walking circles all-day, muzzled and knock-kneed. Although we didn’t actually get to sit on the camel (we were on an awkward-double-metal-chair contraption) it was still an experience that I’ll remember for at least a few more days. Good thing I took some pictures ☺
 
 
We drove back to Playa Blanca in the afternoon to catch the ferry back to Fuerteventura for some more adventures. Which I will expand upon in part 2…
 
 
Until then, bonne journée (oh yeah, I’m in Meribel, France)! Check out my blog for plenty of pictures: http://www.laurenneross.com/blog.html
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And 2012 is gone. Just like that. The days pass quickly when you live in clouds and dance around clocks. I can’t remember thinking this last year, but that’s probably due to the rapidity at which I move from thought to thought. There’s a drone in my head that helps blind me from actuality. Which is nice.

And 2012 is gone. Just like that. The days pass quickly when you live in clouds and dance around clocks. I can’t remember thinking this last year, but that’s probably due to the rapidity at which I move from thought to thought. There’s a drone in my head that helps blind me from actuality. Which is nice.

Another nice device: we lived through the end of the world! But what a fuss. It’s intriguing to think about the end… when it’s coming, where it’s coming from. What kind of mayhem will ensue. Hopefully it will come in a long, long while, but for all we know it could be just around the corner. So that’s a bit frightening. Speaking of fright, on my trip home from Europe, in my sleepless state of delirium, I wrote a bit about fear:

I am a mountain. I am agile, resilient, fierce. I am a weapon against myself, ever fighting my fear. Fear. Owning, birthing doubt, hate, sadness, time, confines. Earning its’ place in darkness - a something inevitable, intangible, limitless. An ocean of blackness. An invisible road. A mere thought. Like everything, stemming from nothing - from a place dreamt. A timeless dream, pursuing the unconscious, the unfathomable. Fighting joy and priorities and memories and love. Fighting breath, a dying burden… but passing, fleeting, fear.

Here is a video that I put together of my trip to Chile this year with the team: https://vimeo.com/55709546

 

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It's funny how elusive grace is when it is not recognized as a fresh face. As I grow I find my senses fading--it takes that much more to impress and inspire me: bigger mountains, brighter colors, more powder, pretty faces. This simple truth is something I am not proud of. It is an aspect of Western life that I am working to vanquish in my personal life. I aspire to grow younger with each breath, to see the world with untrained eyes, to realize the elegance of even the simplest things. 

It's funny how elusive grace is when it is not recognized as a fresh face. As I grow I find my senses fading--it takes that much more to impress and inspire me: bigger mountains, brighter colors, more powder, pretty faces. This simple truth is something I am not proud of. It is an aspect of Western life that I am working to vanquish in my personal life. I aspire to grow younger with each breath, to see the world with untrained eyes, to realize the elegance of even the simplest things. 

It is difficult to awake each morning without mechanically falling into the same pattern: sigh, stretch, think about the day's activities, eat, eat some more, stretch again, think, work out, eat again, bills, think about the night's activities, look ahead, ski, nap, draw, think, work out, eat, read, think, forget to observe and be aware and realize I forgot to realize, oh well, sleep. Though I cannot necessarily change the bustling motif, I can change the way I thread and walk within it.

As I visit the same places every year (this year was my fourth in New Zealand and my ninth in Chile), I attempt to discover new aspects: ski runs, hikes and walks, mountains, rocks, waters, skies and colors. It is hard to want to explore when I'm so exhausted every day after skiing relentlessly at over 10,000 feet. 

But I have found some mysterious elements, airy and bodiless. Features that require little physical energy and zest. The clarity and song of water. The scintillating blues and screams of the sky. The rolling and boundlessness of rocks. The sparkling fright of snow. Things I can only see unblinking and with piercing focus.

Then there is the tangible. This was my first year in Portillo to hike and ski off piste. Although there wasn't any new snow, light and fleecy as I crave, the corn was gorgeous and marvelously fun. Speed training in Portillo always seems to be challenging, and despite the overall lack of snow this year, the training was splendid.

The sunrises and sunsets were magnificently cheesy, the air was crystal crisp, and the water was bitter ice. I spent much more time down by the lake than I have in the past: kayaking, playing music, ice-bathing, and sun-soaking. 

"Just Bob" was fabricated in Portillo and premiered one night in the hotel bar. Stacey and I jammed on our guitars, Jan Hudec and Chelsea Marshall provided the beats, and Abby Ghent carried her diva voice to the racket. Though it was a rocking evening, there is certainly more to come from Just Bob. We are hoping to play a few times over the winter--we'll next meet up in Colorado for some jamming and perhaps another show. Nothing tickles me more than fashioning music with like-minded compadres.

Mostly the Chilean journey turned triumphant, but with the good intrudes the not-so. I had a slight mishap in downhill training one day and walked away (thankfully) with an annihilated left thumb's proximal phalynx. Youch.

I only missed the last two days of training, so my careful timing was nearly impeccable. My thumb is healing brilliantly now, and I'm back in the states for some off-snow training before heading to Colorado in November. Upon returning home from Chile I went under the knife for a bit of a fix. Now I'm back in Park City, Utah for some physical testing and a week of conditioning camp. I'm already getting antsy and feverish to start training in Colorado in two weeks, and then to race up in numbing Lake Louise at the end of November.

For now, I'll keep to the sticky gym and work my buns til they off themselves. I am toying on a video from Chile, but if you haven't yet seen the one I made from New Zealand you can find that here. Check in for an edit on Chile soon. You can find many silly pictures from my trip to Chile on my blog: http://www.laurenneross.com/blog.html

Until next time, there is always more to see never too distant... Perhaps I'll fathom new discoveries when I return to the old places this, next and all years to come.

Accordion
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It happened two months ago. But I want to return tomorrow. Maybe I'll stop through on my way home from Chile...I can't think of anything better to do. I think I have already clearly expressed my love and respect I have for Maui and it's waters, but while I was there I wrote in my sketch book every evening to recapture the day and my feelings. So I'll condense it, appropriate it, and revise it for public consumption.

 

It happened two months ago. But I want to return tomorrow. Maybe I'll stop through on my way home from Chile...I can't think of anything better to do. I think I have already clearly expressed my love and respect I have for Maui and it's waters, but while I was there I wrote in my sketch book every evening to recapture the day and my feelings. So I'll condense it, appropriate it, and revise it for public consumption.

Day 1: Snorkeling at Black Rock with Stacey. Julia has not yet arrived, so when we flew in last night we took a cab to her place and slept like babies in the Hawaiian breezes that blow through her house with song and ease. In the morning we purloined her truck and sped to town for some breakfast, then to the beach in excitement. I gave up technology at noon--although somewhat hesitant, I knew I would have a much better trip filled with conversations, friends, water and observation without twitter/facebook/phone calls.

Black Rock/Kaanapali beach was relatively crowded and touristy...not what I was hoping for, but what I was willing to deal with to swim with the tropical fish and dive through the clear blue waters among the reef and coral. We became hungry, as Stacey and Laurenne easily do, and ventured to Lahaina for some eats--to a little place called Honu. It was set right on the water, where I took my first picture of the trip...(check out laurenneross.com for all photos of the trip)

Though the views were sticky pretty, the food surpassed what I saw with my eyes. Yum. We shared a mozzarella/bruschetta/caprese type appetizer with olive bread. I could have eaten 6 servings. But I moved on to wok fried crab with quinoa and veggies, Stacey had the catch of the day, and we were both fat and happy and somewhat broke by the end of the evening. Regardless, I would go back in a second. We left just in time to get a bit lost on our way to the airport to pick up Julia. Then home to watch the waves crash on the beach before sleep.

Day 2: Ate at Paia Bay Cafe in the morn, then took off to the gym for a lift. Post lift, we headed to Alejandra's studio to work on alignment and core strength. I would call it something like Pilates, with more focus on connections from toe tip to pinky fingers and foreheads (more on this later). Home for a nap in the afternoon, then off to the beach in the evening for some waves--surfing and SUPing at Launio'poko...so small, yet so fun. This was my first time to ever SUP in the ocean, and I even caught a few waves :) Post-surf dinner at the fish market in Paia, then off to Lowe's for some jerry-rigged mounting contraptions for our GoPros.Yeehaw. Up early tomorrow for some surfing with the stars.... 

Day 3: 6 o'clock wakeup call from USADA for Julia, then off to the beach with Dave Kalama and his son for some more surfing and SUPing. We had an interesting SUP sesh with three girls on one board (click HERE to watch the ridiculous video of our so-called skills)...that didn't quite work out as we'd hoped, but it surely made for some laughs. Jules and I actually managed to catch some waves with the two of us on the big SUP board...though I fell over quite a few times. I am not used to the waves and power of the ocean--it's a bit different from SUPing up on the calm, clear Cascade Lakes. I keep bailing out of the wave a bit too late and proceed to hit the rocky bottom. Ouch. My poor big toes are completely destroyed--bloody, oozing, and full of sand. Yikes.

I saw Kazuko at the studio for some work midday--her massage is intense, but relieving and refreshing. She knows the body well, and understood where I needed some serious releasing. We took off for an INCREDIBLE bike ride on the road to Hana in the afternoon. I must say that it was my favorite road bike ride of all time. It winds through the tropical rain forests of bamboo and Eucalyptus trees with a few openings from the cliffs above to beautiful views of the ocean below. Although we had to do a sprint workout, I couldn't have been happier to be biking in such an amazing place. Before we departed we were afraid it was going to rain, but it turned out to be perfect weather.

Working with Alejandra and Kazuko has been amazing. Alejandra knows the human body so well, it is truly astonishing. The connections she enables are so essential, yet overlooked so easily everyday. She has helped me so much with my alignment and body awareness, I need to constantly think of these ideas in my everyday life--from simple walking, sitting, stretching, biking, and standing to skiing, lifting, plyos, agility and all other activities. If I can bring this awareness into my life in every way to make it more natural, I think my body will reap the benefits and feel better in everything I do. Lately I have been having some low-back issues, but when I remember to focus on my core and the significant connections within my body, the pain is relieved and my movements improve. I made a diagram of the Spiral Line--the essential connection that Alejandra has been teaching me about--that you can find also find on my blog here.

Alejandra calls her practice, "Neuro Kinesthetic Pilates" which makes perfect sense to me. You can find her website here and read about her practices, methods, and teachings here. She is an amazing person and Julia is so lucky to live so close to her and enjoy her teachings and innovative knowledge everyday that she is home in Maui. Thanks, Alejandra and Kazuko!

Day 4: A leisurely awakening (at about 7:45. hah!) and then off to Alejandra again with Stacey and Julia. After a good burn, I rode the Vespa home with Jules--I was the dork on the back with the GoPro. heh.

When we got back to Julia's house, we prepped for the beach then went out to lunch in Paia at Cafe des Amis for some very yummy Mediterranean/Indian food. I had a crepe with lentil curry, mozzarella and pesto. 'Twas delicious. From there we took off to the SE side of the island (Big Beach) for some fun and relaxation in the sand and waves. We took the paddle-ball boards and played on the beach, and also caught a few waves on the boogie boards. After some sun, we took off for the other side of the island and met up with Julia's friend, Kim McDonald, who is an artist on the island. She does very colorful and bold work of picturesque Hawaiian scenes. Julia has some of her paintings in her house, which work very well with the feeling of an island abode--flowery, colorful, and full of Hawaiian women figures, alive and dreamy. Then we went out to dinner at the Flatbread restaurant for some pizza with friends. One Gelato was calling our names post pizza, so we ventured for some crazy flavored ice-cream--I had the goat cheese and liliquoi (passion fruit) flavor, and a peanut butter scoop as well. It made my mouth go hells yes. Then off to bed...

Day 5: Up early for gymnastics in Kahului....a fun, explosive way to do agility and plyos (and also test my old gymnastics skills!). Then back home for a quick round-up before heading to the commando hike. I had been looking forward to this hike for a few years, as many of my ski racing friends have done it and told me all about it's craziness. It begins in a field (where Julia got chased by a bull...) and heads up a river. We had to hike through the water--over slippery rocks and through forests of vines--sometimes walking, sometimes swimming, sometimes climbing. The river eventually became a lava tube; it was completely dark and a bit eerie, but absolutely incredible. We had to wade and paddle through swimming holes, climb up through waterfalls in the dark, and grope for grip on slippery lava rock. And to top it off, at the end of the lava tube we walked up to the top of the hike to jump off of 3 cliffs! The first one was relatively small--about 25 feet or so. The second and third ones were pretty big--somewhere around 50 feet each. I took my GoPro on the hike and got some pretty amazing footage until I dropped it while jumping off of the final cliff. I hit the water funny and it got jerked out of my hand...man was that a buzz kill. But it was worth it, since Julia's friend Tarzan went to dive down and rescue it after we left Maui (I just got the memory card back, so am working on making a movie of the adventures!). On our way home from the hike we stopped at a crepe stand and had brie&honey crepes with chocolate-coconut smoothies. nummy.

Day 6: I thought the other days were early awakenings. Today we woke up at 3:40 to leave the house by 4 in order to catch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala... It was really beautiful, and I'm glad I did it so that I won't ever have to do it again. I hate getting up that early. blugh. Anyhow, we fly out at 9 pm tonight, so we mostly spent the day packing and getting ready for New Zealand (and also went on a rescue mission for the GoPro, which was unsuccessful...)

It was a really amazing trip, and the lack of a virtual world made it that much better for me. I felt like I could think clearer and breathe easier, knowing that I didn't have to respond to emails at the end of the day, didn't have to make that dreaded call to the insurance company, or the bank, or even my mum (though I love talking with you, mum). I felt lighter without my phone, and freer without my computer. I thought it would be much hotter and sweatier, but the temperatures were perfect, the ocean was kind, and the sun did not sizzle my fair freckled skin. Julia, Stacey and I have talked about making it an annual trip, and I really hope we follow through with those plans. For now, Portillo, Chile will have to do :)

I'm not complaining. Training here has been incredible thus far, and the snow gads timed it perfectly with their spewing today on our day off. It snowed just a few inches--enough to cover up some of those rocks that were peeking through near our training hill. So here I'll be for another 10 days, then back to Bend for a bit before heading to Washington for a wedding and then Park City for conditioning camp. I am already getting antsy for winter...today's new snow was such a tease. I am looking forward to the season and hopefully a bit of powder skiing this year.... though that's quite the opposite of the Hawaiian lifestyle. I indeed enjoy both sides of the world, all seasons they endure, and any form of h2o that comes with them. Peace.

Accordion
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España. Thought it has been over 4 months, I can still feel the cobblestone under my toes, smell the ham, and feel the ease of the Spanish way of life. And I already yearn to return!

 

España. Thought it has been over 4 months, I can still feel the cobblestone under my toes, smell the ham, and feel the ease of the Spanish way of life. And I already yearn to return!

Before World Cup Finals last season we all got a little break from the snow. Most of the girls traveled back home to the states for the week, but since Allana (my older sister) was living in Spain, I decided to go and spend some time with her there. Allana and her boyfriend Austin lived in Granada during the school year, both teaching English to Spanish kids. They lived in a tiny apartment on a hill above the Gran Via—the main street that runs through the city. On my initial climb up the cobblestone paths to their apartment I was in awe of all the Moroccan street vendors and their colorful fabrics. The pathways and alleys were so tiny and indistinguishable and established quite the maze in between Allanas apartment and the rest of the city—I had a tough time finding my way back to her place the first few times I left. 

Apart from all of the colors and mazes, I noticed one remarkable trait among the people surrounding me in Granada—a trait that is unique to the Spanish (as far as I have seen)—a calm, slow way of living. I have little understanding of the Spanish language, but from what I know this way of life can be explained with one word: tranquillo. Perhaps someone else has already explained this to me, or maybe I have made it up. I could be way off, but whatever the technical term for the Spanish mindset is, I like it. I was in awe of the pace at which people stroll to work, close up shop (no, of course they don’t mind if you step inside and look), and even converse (they want to know everything about you, it doesn’t matter that they’re 30 minutes late). It forced me to slow down myself—so that I didn’t look too out of place—and helped me to take my time, forget my worries, and leave behind the concept of measured time. I would leave my phone and watch in the house and go roam the streets of Granada with my camera. Without a schedule or a timeframe, I had the freedom to wander and return to my basic senses. I had the freedom to stop and look a while, to smell, taste, touch and be in touch with the things around me. I had freedom to just be…and that was something that I am yearning to return to Spain to feel again.

Though it may sound like I was just a mindless dawdler, curious and aloof, I actually embarked on some neat adventures during my time in Spain. The Alhambra is an incredible palace built in Granada by Arab rulers in the mid-14th century. I spent hours and hours pondering the artistic detail throughout the palace. The amount of work and time put into building that palace blows my mind!

Southern Spain is known for its music: Flamenco. It is a sound that I find very distinctive and impressive, and it is indeed very hard to accomplish on the guitar. You can find an example HERE. I went to a Flamenco bar with Allana one night—Le Chien Andalou --where they play, sing, and dance in a tiny little room (almost like a hallway with some chairs lining the sides)…so fun!

Allana and I decided to rent a car and drive to El Chorro to climb and adventure for a few days. So we took off one rainy morning, hoping that it would clear up so we could climb. When we arrived in El Chorro, it was still raining…so we set up camp at The Olive Branch (a bed and breakfast with campsites…very neat!) and planned our next few days. Before we left Granada, Allana and I had talked about doing the “Caminito Del Rey”—the king’s walkway. The Caminito Del Rey was built in 1905, with the original purpose of providing a platform to transport materials to and from the hydroelectric power plants at Chorro and Gaitanejo Falls. It was named “The King’s Walk” when King Alfonso XIII crossed it in 1921. The walkway is 3 feet wide, made of concrete resting on steel rails that are set in the cliff side over 350 feet above the ground and water. It winds through a narrow gorge near El Chorro, and was only a short drive from The Olive Branch. Allana had told be about how scary and splendid the hike was… and I’m always up for some insanity, so of course I was eager and hopeful that the weather would clear. And it did…

The view from the walkway is spectacular. Though I have ventured through many canyons within and viewed my fair share from above, never have I been able to witness the vast walls from a birds eye view. I must admit that standing on the middle of a cliff on an extremely worn-down walkway 400 feet above ground was a bit intimidating. But it was also breathtaking. Check out this video to see what I mean.

There is also great rock climbing in El Chorro, so we spent another day multi-pitching a route and got to see Andalucia from above. Most of the rock is made up of limestone—very different from what I’m used to in Oregon! But it was beautiful and peaceful, and I can’t wait to go back for some more climbing and exploring.

In fact, I have a feeling that I may go back to Spain for a longer period of time at some point in my life. I feel at ease there. Something wonderful happens to my brain while I’m in Spain…my shoulders slack and I forget to stress. Perhaps there is a little Spanish in my blood… Who knows, maybe I’ll follow in Allana’s footsteps and live there for a while. I think I’ll at least have to try.

Check out my blog for some photos that I took in Spain. You can find more photos that I took in Granada and some other pictures from around the world on my photography page. Enjoy.

Accordion
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Time passes, wounds heal, things change. I am adapting...every day feels different, new and fresh. I am working hard on a fresh perspective, because I have lately discovered that no moment is ordinary: nothing is regular, average, standard.

Time passes, wounds heal, things change. I am adapting...every day feels different, new and fresh. I am working hard on a fresh perspective, because I have lately discovered that no moment is ordinary: nothing is regular, average, standard.

Perhaps my crash and the following weeks of doubt and fear were a blessing in disguise. I learned much about myself during the long days of contemplation and confusion. After dedicating much of my life to one thing, how could I consider leaving it behind because of one little mistake? Not being able to recognize myself in the mirror may have had something to do with it, but the truth is--I was scared. I still am. I cannot stand the thought of another season-ending injury, another tumble through the fence, another broken finger. But I have accepted it. These are just things that happen--risks that I take when I push out of the start, risks that are worth the feeling I get when racing. Besides, the things that have happened in the past are just that--past.

Now I am here in Sölden, sitting on the couch in our apartment, typing away on my computer, enjoying a day off. A day of physical idleness, filled with emptiness. With potential for ideas, quiet, joy and stillness. I am letting my thoughts form into words in order to depart from my head. I am trying to leave the past behind and let the future create itself without worrying about or trying to control it...

Because external occurrences attempt to intrude and influence my mind and disposition--and as I become more aware of how often they accomplish this, I realize how my attitude is constantly affected by things that are beyond my control. I realize how crazy I let silly instances drive me. I begin to see where anger, frustration and fear come from. Understanding this concept is helping me to see more clearly: to know that I have control of my outlook and emotions, to let go, to relax, to breathe. It's not easy to be carefree--I have to continually step back and consciously remind myself to let go...because nothing is constant, there is no sense in being moved by change.

Maybe the key is in laughter--I am learning to laugh at myself, and not to take things so seriously. Perhaps it is all in the breath. Maybe it's all garbage. But I do know one thing: everything is changing. Nothing is consistent, steady, or usual. The only thing we can rely and depend on is change--that the things we rely and depend on will change. It's a strange concept, but I'm starting to become more and more comfortable with it. Once these thoughts are through with me, maybe it won't drive me crazy. Maybe nothing will drive me crazy, because nothing will stay.

Yeah, maybe I'm the one that's crazy. Hopefully the craze will eventually be calming and enjoyable. Until then, I'll continue to ponder these concepts that are becoming my friends. Perhaps I'll figure out the meaning of life, the key to happiness, the way the world works. Poof!

Perhaps I'll run around all crazed and naked like a headless chicken wearing a cape and combat boots.

Accordion
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It has been one week. One week since I came careening down snow at 75 miles per hour, a bit out of control yet completely in my element—calm, crazy, and contented. Now I’m sitting at my dining room table at home; wondering if my black eyes will be better tomorrow so I can go out in public, hoping my face will stop oozing and bleeding so that I can start sleeping on my stomach and sides again, expecting the ghost riding on my shoulders to quit pinching me in the forehead. But I am lucky…so very lucky. I have not a single bruise on the whole of my body, aside from my face.

It has been one week. One week since I came careening down snow at 75 miles per hour, a bit out of control yet completely in my element—calm, crazy, and contented. Now I’m sitting at my dining room table at home; wondering if my black eyes will be better tomorrow so I can go out in public, hoping my face will stop oozing and bleeding so that I can start sleeping on my stomach and sides again, expecting the ghost riding on my shoulders to quit pinching me in the forehead. But I am lucky…so very lucky. I have not a single bruise on the whole of my body, aside from my face. My injuries could have, and probably should have, ended up being a whole lot worse. There was something out there helping me, although I’m not sure what…and for that I am mighty grateful.

But it is so easy to turn around and see things from the other viewpoint; to feel unlucky and accident prone, to feel like the crashes happen to me, to accept that I will usually be the one in the fence, the one in the sled, the one in the hospital…because it has happened so many times before. I was not skiing recklessly—I didn’t even fall before I ran straight into the fence. I simply hit a bump in the middle of a turn, as racers often do, and was regaining my composure as I looked up to see a b-net fence 20 feet in front of me. And when you’re going 75 mph on 215 Downhill skis, avoiding any sort of obstacle that is 20 feet in front of you is practically impossible—especially when it is a long, lifeless fence. So I accepted the fence helplessly, and barely had the time to think, “it’s just a fence…it will cradle my fall. I am not even crashing!” Ha! Cradle! At 75 mph! That was a silly, naïve thought. The most dangerous way to crash is to go from a very high speed to a complete stop in a matter of seconds. I haven’t yet watched the crash, but I believe I stopped within the matter of 1 second. It was so fast, I don’t even remember what hit me in the face. I do remember the pain, though…and that is something I surely wish to forget.

The pain. The blood. The fact that whatever sliced my forehead to the bone could very well have cut my eyes, my throat, could have killed me. These are things that often return to my thoughts and make me want to return to my bed, to college, to my guitar, to something other than downhill ski racing. I question my choice of career, feeling sorry for my body and for the stress and harm it does to my mind. There is surely something out there for me that is painless, peaceful, and still enjoyable. There is something that is less scary, more predictable, and certainly safer. There is something still. But the more I think about it, the clearer I understand that that something is to come later. I have already reached that point of no return—of fracturing my pelvis in five places, of already slicing my face to the point of needing over 100 stitches, of dislocating my shoulder five times, of tearing my ACL…the list goes on. But each time I have healed. I have returned to the deranged sport, regardless of the repercussions—hungry, antsy, and in search of something greater—something greater than before, a speed faster than before, a more perfect run than before. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else at this point in my life.

As a ski racer there are many things that I have come to accept: I will crash, I will probably break some more bones, tear some more ligaments, and incur serious injuries to my body that would otherwise be avoided. These thoughts are scary but they simply come with the way of life, and every single ski racer knows this. I am learning that I can find peace within the chaos of my life, by calming my mind and accepting what comes my way. I have learned a few things about myself in the past week: I am emotional. I need a better mattress. I am a loud yoga breather. I desperately need this time at home with friends and family. I love skiing. To death. So I will get back on my skis as soon as I can…maybe it will be scary, maybe it will be perfect. Either way, I know the risks I am taking and I know that I need to treasure the time I have because there will soon come a day when I will have to obey slow signs on the mountain, get a real job, and lead a more steady, quiet life. If I can cannon into a fence on the fastest part of the fastest course on the women’s World Cup circuit and only suffer some cuts and bruises, I can handle anything else that is thrown my way. I have experienced the worst…so it can only get better, right?

Besides, ski racing wouldn’t be as entertaining, interesting or fun without the flailing, high speed crashes. At least I don’t have to run the Hahnenkamm…

I am home now until December 29th, when I will hopefully depart for Europe with the rest of the speed team. If everything works out accordingly, my next race will be in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria on January 7th and 8th. Until then, I will be recovering, making music and movies, taking pictures, enjoying Christmas at home, and hopefully working out and getting strong soon! Stay tuned for videos and more posts, as I will certainly have the time to create both. Peace, love, and happy holidays :)

Accordion
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