Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

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Stubai Glacier

The Stubaier Gletscher, as Deutsch speakers would call it, is one of Austria’s premier glaciers. For someone living in Munich, it’s ideal: just 2 hours 15 minutes away. That’s a few minutes farther than Hintertux, and almost an hour closer than Soelden. Early in the season (which is when I hit up the glaciers), it seems like there’s a LOT more open at Stubai than at the other glaciers. Hintertux has quite a few slopes, but early in the year a huge number are used for closed-off team racecourses (I counted 4 slopes last week, totaling ~40 racecourses). Another plus at Stubai: tons of chairlifts, and not many T-bars.

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A lot of glaciers have mostly gondolas (where you have to take off your skis/board) and T-bars (which are less susceptible to wind). That’s another thing: I feel that Stubai generally has lower wind speeds than Hintertux. That’s super-important when your starting temperature is often –10C to –20C (-20C is –4F!), before wind chill.

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Before you have too long to drool over the fresh tracks in a foot of new POW, here are my new goggles. The old ones lasted me a good 10 years before the foam started to disintegrate. Not a bad view in the background, eh? That’s the Stubaital, or Stubai Valley.

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I ended up at a Pension (B&B) in the center of Neustift im Stubaital. My normal plan worked well – just go to the tourism bureau after a day of boarding and ask for a room. Took under 10 minutes to find one for €30, including breakfast and wifi.

Here’s an interesting twilight view. I love the transition from a few hanging autumn leaves to full on, snow-encrusted evergreens in the clouds just a few hundred feet higher up.

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That’s all for my brief return to on-the-road blogging. Dinner is calling me, perhaps a venison schnitzel or a steak with potatoes! Mmm…

Posted 6 years, 4 months ago.

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Carving Masters 20X!

This winter (or spring, rather?) I went to my first hardboot snowboard carver meetup. Carving Masters in Soelden was fantastic fun! The weather was good for 3 of 4 days. I demoed snowboards from Virus, Apex, F2, Goltes, and Oxess.

Most of the time I talked in German, so I really improved my skillz. We stayed in a great Pension (Bed & Breakfast) that was quite cheap, and right in the town center.

Here are a couple of choice still photos:

Tobi carving on his Coiler raceboard

A nice relaxed toeside raceboard carve

And, a gallery with the best few photos of each person that passed by:

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Action photos were taken with a Nikon D90 and the 18-200mm VR lens. Should anyone want a full-res photo of themselves, just leave a comment here and tell me which rider you are! Videos may have to wait a few months until I’m back from my round-the-world trip.

Thanks to all the organizers at Frozen Backside, and to the vendors who made such a great effort and let us try their boards free of charge!

About Carving Masters

  • See the official Carving Masters website here, though it will be a while before any information about CM 2011 is available.
  • You can also find information about Carving Masters on the Frozen Backside hardboot forum.
  • I can highly recommend staying at Pension Andre Arnold in Soelden. Clean and modern rooms, an excellent location, and a reasonable price. It’s run by a 4-time pro world ski champion! Imagine winning the world championships 4 years in a row from 1978-1981. Impressive.
  • Try “Die Alm” at your own risk – we had the most rude service ever from the bartender there. Literally, I’ve never seen such bad service in my entire life, except perhaps once in Blacksburg, VA when a waitress told us (when our food was VERY slow coming) “It’ll come when it comes. I don’t run the kitchen.”

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago.

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Carving up the Glacier

While a volcano melts the glacier in Iceland, carvers are cutting up the Austrian glaciers on raceboards! Here’s Lowcarver this past weekend, riding his Virus snowboard at Hintertux…

Lowcarver at Hintertux

Below is a gallery of the best carving photos from Hintertux (and a couple of a friend who skis). I can’t wait for Carving Masters in just one week at Soelden! Hopefully I’ll get great shots and video of lots of carvers there.

For more on Hintertux, please see this earlier post with info of how to get there.

Photos were taken with a Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR lens, and a circular polarizing filter.

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Posted 6 years, 11 months ago.

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Sexy new look

Until now, the blog has used the standard format of post-after-post on the front page. Not anymore! Armed with my ability to hack (but not write) code, I’ve set up a nice new front page. Check it out!

AND – you may notice the URL is different! I’m splitting the photo & travel blog off from my fantasy novel website http://daviddouglasbooks.com and making it a standalone domain, http://traveldave.com!

  • I’d love your feedback on the new look. Is there anything you’d suggest that I change? Some particular widget or improvement that would help boost my blog into the stratosphere? I would gladly hear your ideas, just leave a comment below.

Lastly, here’s what I was up to lately, besides blog editing. Taken at Hintertux on the infamous carver-piste #11; it was snowing. I’ve got at least one more snowboarding session planned before I depart for tropical climates on my round-the-world trip!

Dave Carving

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Posted 6 years, 11 months ago.

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Hot Snowboard Carving

Bernd Snowboard Carving

Alright, you’ve probably seen a few videos like my latest craziness from February. For March I decided to put up some D-SLR snowboard carving photos taken with the Nikon D90 and 70-300mm VR lens. For all those riding hardboots, check these out! Raceboards are one major step faster than freeride boards, and provide superior stability and grip to carve serious trenches in the snow at high speed.

Here Peter shows off some really amazing turns on his Oxess snowboard… first the frontside,

Peter Snowboard Frontside Carve Oxess

And now the backside turn (I swear it’s not a mirror image of the frontside photo!),

Peter Snowboard Backside Carve Oxess

I think my body doesn’t turn far enough to be able to kiss the snow on the backside… heh. Here are a few shots of the author; you can see I’m not as practiced as Peter (and I wasn’t as confident on the bumpy/slushy snow we had later in the day when Bernd took these shots of me).

Dave Snowboard Backside Carve Virus

My Virus Xtremecarver snowboard grips like mad. I think I just need to learn to ride it better. The frontside turn, as always, is easier than the backside:

Dave Snowboard Carving Frontside Virus

If any carvers out there have some advice how I can improve my technique, please do leave a comment here! I have a feeling my stance may need adjustment, and I need to turn my upper body more on the backside turns.

Lastly, here’s Bernd on his trusty (~15-year-old) F2 Speedster SL. I’m curious how he’d do on a Silberpfeil, one of the most known factory-standard carving boards.

Bernd Snowboard Frontside Carve F2

And the tricky backside turn:

Bernd Snowboard Backside Carve F2

Below you’ll find a whole album with many more photos from all three of us. Enjoy, and leave a comment if you have some helpful advice about technique! (I’m the second rider).

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Posted 7 years ago.

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Frostbite and the Captain Morgan Twins

The snow this winter isn’t that bountiful, so I’ve been quite often to nearby glacier ski resorts. I’ll give a few details later about the charming town of Lanersbach in the Zillertal valley. But first you have to see the temperature at the top of Hintertux Glacier on our first day:

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“Heiter” usually means fair, clear, or bright. But in this case the sign was WRONG. Outdoors it was cloudy, snowing lightly, and the wind was blowing at 40-50km/h (up to 30mph). –22C equates to –8F… and the wind chill, well, that was around –38C (–37F). Keep in mind that’s before accounting for the speed we were moving downhill (directly into the wind). I got a bit of frostnip on my ears, so I wore a liner cap under my helmet on the following days. “Gefrorene Wand” was quite accurate on this trip: Frozen Face!

It wasn’t all snow and frostbite. One evening we went to Kleine Tenne in Lanersbach, and found that Captain Morgan Austria was there with the Captain Morgan Twins and their bikinis! Paul was kind enough to pose for a photo with the twins.

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Good music, a kicker (foosball) table, and Zillertal Pils made it a great night, although we were a bit too tired from the cold to party like rock stars. We made it back to the Kleine Tenne one more night, when the Bavarian party band Chari Vari was there… although none of our group was a big fan of the folky-rock style with double accordions.

The rest of the trip was all about skiing and snowboarding. Here is a choice view from the quad chairlift above Sommerberg, where you can see the neighboring T-bar:

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And, on the last day, this beautiful view of Hintertux greeted us upon arrival. You can just see the moon over the peaks toward the left side of the picture.

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Getting to Lanersbach:

  • Here’s a Google map of Lanersbach. I highly recommend Lanersbach if you’re going to Hintertux for an extended trip. It’s about 10-15min drive to the mountain base by car or ski bus, and you have a much wider selection of nightlife and restaurants than in Hintertux itself. The town is about 2h drive from Munich, and a little less from Innsbruck.
  • There is a Spar grocery store in Lanersbach, but beware, in Austria the stores close very early (6:00pm I believe).
  • Restaurants are plentiful, and we went to several on the one-way street (north of the main street). Hermanns Klause restaurant (associated with a bed & breakfast) had tasty food, but was smoky. The restaurant at Hotel Jaeger had a non-smoking area, salad bar, and excellent food. As one of our party was sick at home, they even made a “to-go” entree and gave us a real plate & silverware with it. Of course, one night we went up the hill to Madseit to our favorite: Alte Huette at Hotel Berghaus. I had a fantastic lamb schnitzel, a dish I’d never seen before.
  • Kleine Tenne had a good number of people on both Friday and Saturday nights. We were lucky that it wasn’t too smoky, but don’t expect a non-smoking nightclub in Austria. There was another nightclub next door that we didn’t try out, so clearly there is some party potential in Lanersbach if you’re there on the right week/weekend.
  • Skiing possibilities abound: you can ski Eggalm right in Lanersbach, try Rastkogel or Finkenburg a few km down the valley, go up the valley to Hintertux, or even drive 20min down to Mayrhofen for a larger-town experience (and Austria’s steepest prepared ski slope “Harakiri” with 78% grade!).

If you give Lanersbach a try, I hope you enjoy the trip, and come back here to tell us about it!

Posted 7 years ago.

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Being Frozen in Stubai

When you think of a glacier, you probably already think “cold.” But of the many days I’ve spent at glacier ski areas this year, none were colder than this past Sunday and Monday at Stubai. The temperature was about –15 to –20C (that’s 5F to –4F) on Sunday, and in the evening the winds picked up. Monday the wind chill must have been way below –20C, even though the temps warmed up a few degrees. Check out the snow being blown from the peaks:

Wind at Stubai glacier

Now, don’t get the impression it wasn’t FUN! This was one of the best ski weekends I’ve had this year (from 18 days snowboarding so far). The snow was perfect for carving, and off-piste there was about a foot of powder.

Steep and deep at Stubai glacier

For those wishing to travel to Stubai, don’t expect huge nightlife. The nearest big town is Neustift im Stubaital, and it’s nothing like Mayrhofen, St. Anton, or Sölden for nightlife. We stayed in a small Pension in Milders, near Neustift. “The Farm,” the big apres-ski place in Milders, had a total of 3 people at 9:30pm (and they were all smoking). However, BIG PROPS to Restaurant Steinadler, which we found was non-smoking. That’s very rare for Austria. Besides that, the food was fantastic. Here was my Cordon Bleu (which also came with a salad plate and a side of cranberry sauce):

Restaurant Steinadler Cordon Bleu

I had a surreal experience there. I dropped my fork, and as I looked around for our server (maybe 7 seconds later), there she came – with a new fork. Apparently she had heard it from the other room, and recognized the difference between fork and knife hitting the ground. Amazing!

Pensions (= Bed & Breakfasts) vary quite a bit throughout Germany and Austria, but in my experience you’re guaranteed a decent bed and a simple breakfast for a bargain price. Our pick in Milders was okay, but a few features might turn off some travelers. Ask yourself: what percentage of today’s Americans would physically be able to sit down on this toilet!?

Tiny bathroom

The next morning we went back out for more adventure on the slopes. It was a windy day, but once we were on the slopes (wind at our backs) it was great. I figured out the settings on my bindings and boots to let me carve like crazy on my Virus Xtremecarver, leaning all the way over so my nose was almost touching the snow on every turn. And the views were fantastic!

View from Stubai glacier

Check out this distant mountain formation which looks like a bowl full of clouds:

Bowl full of clouds at Stubai

Getting to Stubai

  • See this Google Map for the location of Stubai; you’ll find Neustift im Stubaital along the road leading to it. Note that it’s 16km or so from Neustift (the nearest large town) to Stubai.
  • Pensions (= Bed & Breakfasts) are a great place to stay. Usually the proprietors are very friendly and helpful. Often the room is fantastic for the price; although sometimes it’s a bit lacking in one area or another. Occasionally you find “WC im Flur” which means a shared bathroom in the hall, but you’ll often save €5-10 a night for such a room.
  • I highly recommend the restaurant Steinadler in Milders. Non-smoking, fantastic food, friendly service, and psychic at bringing replacement forks. From the card I picked up there, I found they also have a Pension with a quite reasonable room rate (€24 per person for double room with breakfast; even cheaper in the summer at €20). Google map here. Milders is a cheap taxi ride from Neustift central, in case you’re there on a weekend and want to try for bigger nightlife than “The Farm” apres-ski in Milders.

Posted 7 years ago.

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Snowboarding Helmetcam Update

I had a few questions come up about my video setup… so here it is, in all its simplicity. At first it was side mounted, but this hurt my neck after several hours, so now it’s on top.

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Equipment:

  • Nvertigo-X Skydiving camera helmet with chin cup
  • Canon Vixia HF200
  • Kenko KGW-05 wide adapter
  • Manfrotto 323 quick-change adapter
  • Newton cross ring sight with Schumacher rotating clamp
  • Home-made neoprene “camera condom,” from an old wetsuit hood
  • Piece of gaffer’s tape over the “mode” switch so it stays on video, can’t be bumped to photo mode (which screws everything up if you don’t notice it)
  • Pattex glue for the neoprene (glues neoprene like nothing else, according to some friends who SCUBA)

Photos of the new Neoprene cover with side opening. I left an open area by the lens so the Instant AF sensor can still work.

Top-mounted Helmet Cam

I made this side opening cover after many pain-in-the-$%# moments on the slope, when I had to completely remove the (old) cover to use the viewscreen.

Side-opening Neoprene camera condom

Settings:

  • Highest quality setting, at 1920×1080 Full HD
  • Shutter speed (Tv mode) 1/500 or higher (maybe 1/250 but then you get a bit more motion blur in the video)
  • Optical stabilizer on, though it doesn’t help much when you are moving
  • Virtualdub and Deshaker software used to stabilize clips
  • Editing done with Pinnacle Studio 14 Ultimate Collection

Hope this helps some other camera-amateurs like myself! Next on my list (if I find time) is to make one of the home-made steadicams from PVC pipe, like you see in many YouTube tutorials. Not sure I’d put it on the helmet, but for handheld stuff, it might eliminate the need for the (slow, slight-quality-reducing) Deshaker step.

Posted 7 years, 1 month ago.

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Beautiful Views at Hintertux Glacier

If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably saw my post about Hintertux just as this winter began. In past years, I’ve only gone there when the other areas didn’t have enough snow. But this year I went back mid-season and found piles of the stuff, way deeper POW than the other resorts at lower altitudes.

Here are a few scenic shots:

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The clouds were quite amazing at times on Sunday, as a storm cleared off.

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In my last Hintertux post I mentioned extreme weather. Well, here’s the result when it’s –15C with snow in the air. Oh, let’s not forget, the whole top of the mountain was in a cloud.

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After I melted all this ice out of my beard, I gave up and put on my neoprene facemask. Heh.

Pictures are all from my trusty Canon SD1000. That little camera has gone more vertical miles in my pocket than any other piece of electronics I own. And despite my taking the occasional hard spill on an icy slope, it’s still unscathed!

Since I love these shots, and don’t have any particular “favorite photo” (how would one choose?), the frozen beard goes out to Wendy from down under!

Posted 7 years, 1 month ago.

4 comments

Snowboard Carving – Feb Craziness!

Alright, it’s finally time for a little taste of what’s possible with my final video setup! I just threw together a couple good carving clips from two trips, one in early Jan and one in early Feb.

Go to YouTube to watch the video in HD!

Thanks to the amazing carvers in the video: Peti, Lowcarver, and Alexey. They ride boards from Oxess, Virus, and Prior. I need to improve my technique to get those nice, laid-over turns, especially on the backside!

The first clip is at Zillertal Arena, the rest are at Hintertux glacier (both in Austria). Next week I’ll post a bit more about my Canon HF200 camera setup, so if you want to read about that, subscribe with the orange buttons on the left sidebar for RSS or email notification. Hope you enjoy the video!

Posted 7 years, 1 month ago.

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