Skiing in Sierra Nevada

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Friday, Saturday and Sunday of last week I went skiing in Sierra Nevada with some friends.  Alberto (one of the teachers I work with), his wife Maria, Mario (Alberto’s brother), Mario’s girlfriend and two other friends Virginia and Caste.   Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the region of Andalucia and it is next to the famous city of Granada; where you can find the Alhambra.  It is the southernmost ski resort in Europe and the only place to ski in the bottom half of Spain.  There are 117 trails and over 110 of them were open when we were there. The highest skiing point is about 3,300 m or around 11,000 ft.  When it was clear, there was an incredible view of the surrounding country.

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There is a town called Pradollano located at the foot of the slopes at 2,100 m or 6,890 ft.  It is the hub of all activity in the area with various bars, hotels, shops and places to rent equipment.  We stayed in an apartment more towards the top with an amazing view of the mountain.  It was incredibly to see because I’ve never experienced anything like it.  I would guess it’s similar to Aspen or ski towns in Colorado. Normally when I got skiing, it’s a day trip to a relatively nearby mountain in Jersey or New York.  Before this skiing adventure, the last time I had gone skiing was three years ago; before that it was only once a winter with my dad and sister on a extremely small mountain in upstate New York.  It was always fun and we always had a great time, but skiing Sierra Nevada made me realize how tiny the upstate mountain is.  A trail from top to bottom could be skied in approximately 1 min and a half while this is only a fraction of a trail in Sierra Nevada.

The Mountain

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The mountain was absolutely stunning.  The breadth and expanse of ski lifts and trails was unbelievable. There were 117 trails that spanned over an altitude difference of 5,000 ft! There were three different valleys with three different levels of chairlifts.  Halfway up the mountain in the center was the main section; located there was a lounge and a cafeteria.  It was also the most crowded because it’s where the lifts to the easier trails were found, so we stayed away from it.  The right valley is where we spent most of our time skiing because it consisted of the harder trails (reds and blacks) and it was harder to reach.  You couldn’t see it from the central valley.  There was one trail that we did a couple of times that snaked it’s way along the entire left side of the mountain.  It was about a 3.5 mile trail.  It was incredible.

Skiing

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Skiing the mountain was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  Not only was it the best skiing of my life, but it was naturally beautiful places I have been to in my life. By the third day, it was also one of the most tiring.  We arrived to Sierra Nevada around 10:30ish on Friday and got on the slopes by 11:15ish.  We skied until about 2, took an hour break and then skied from 3 to 5.  The first day was mostly spent checking out the different areas and trying to figure out how to get from ski lift to ski lift.  We spent a decent amount of time looking at the map.  It was definitely necessary because without it, you could miss a quarter or more of the mountain.  The weather was perfect and so were the conditions.  Little to no clouds, sunny and a nice layer of powder. We were sweating waiting to catch the ski lifts.

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Saturday was a different story.  We woke up nice and early because the mountain opened at 9 and we wanted to get on as soon as possible.  We ended up getting on by 9:30.  From the start the conditions were vastly different.  It was windier, but even worse, the mountain was covered in clouds.  Visibility was horrible.  We went to the right valley to ski because it’s the less crowded part.  It’s also where the highest trail is at 3,300 m.  The chair lift was like a ride into the abyss.  You couldn’t see the chair in front of you, where as on Friday you were able to see the top of the mountain.  Visibility at the top was even worse.  Skiers disappeared 15 ft in front of you.  Luckily it was still early so there weren’t many people on the Mountain.  We all had to take off our goggles because we couldn’t see with them on.  It was disorienting and hard to gauge depth because everything was white.  While scary, it was an exhilarating and an awesome experience.  I had never skied in conditions like it.  As the day progressed it got a little better, but the top half was still covered in clouds and we were unable to see the expanse of land below.  The trails started getting a little more icier because more and more people were going down them, but it wasn’t too bad.  Again, we stopped for lunch around 2, took an hour break and then skied until 5.  It was another fun an exhausting day.

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Sunday was our last day and again we woke up early to hit the slopes for a few hours before leaving.  We packed everything before leaving  because we were going to ski until 3 and then leave.  We were again able to get on the slopes by 9:30ish.  Sunday was beautiful, sun from the start and no clouds.  My legs were incredibly tired; I didn’t think I’d be able to ski until 3.  The trail conditions were worse than any other day.  The reds that we were skiing the other days, were covered in ice.  At some points, it was incredibly tricky to get down.  But, the weather was beautiful and it was our last day so we enjoyed every minute.  I almost made it through the weekend without taking a big fall.  It was our second to last run and we had just completed a red with great conditions.  No ice.  My legs were exhausted and we’re at the bottom speeding toward the chair lifts; I’m about to yell, “wow, that was really smooth.”  I didn’t pick up my right leg enough on a slight turn to slow down and lose it.  My right ski comes off immediately, I start to fall, but I’m on my left leg (ski still on) right leg in the air and then eventually fall and slide for about 8 feet.  I ended up like 20 feet away from my right ski and it was all in front of the chair lift.  At least I put on a good show.  The last trail we took was the amazing 3.5 mile trail.  It’s a red, so there are a lot of difficult parts, but there’s also a lot of flat parts.  The first half is on the upper left ridge of the mountain and you can see everything.  The mountain is so large, the people below were like ants.  Eventually we got to the car and we ended the day exhausted and ready to go home.

After arriving back to Tomelloso it was weird not seeing white after being surrounded by it for three days.

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