Posted by: sunshack | June 2, 2018


Sometime last year, I hit a wall. Not literally, but I found I could no longer write this Blog. I took a break, in the hope that I would feel refreshed. My break took a little longer than expected, and I’m now playing catch up with my Blogging.

I kicked off my Winter with a trip to Zermatt. Snow seems to be pretty reliable here each year, and it was possible to ski right into the village. I travelled unpackaged, after experiencing less than ideal performance and subsequent stress, caused by a mainstream UK Tour Operator early last winter. This year, I found that I was sharing my Hotel with the Ski Club of Great Britain, who were running their “Reps” training. It seemed to be a bit like Boot Camp, though I didn’t actually see anyone doing press ups.  Fortunately Zermatt is a big resort and delivered some fresh and fluffy early season Powder for me to play in.

January saw me take on my first Ski Trip to Canada. I flew Air Canada, and the seats are more cramped than Easyjet. I sat next to a guy who was unable to fit his knees down, he was simply too tall. I almost failed to make the flight, as my Visa number was wrong., even though it was the right number. Customer Services seemed to have an efficient system for fixing it. When I enquired, I was told they do the same about “100 times a day”.  I had chosen my Hotel in Whistler from a Brochure, and as it was my first visit, travelled with a mainstream Tour Operator. I arrived in Whistler at the start of Whistler Pride, and my hotel was the Headquarters with lots of late night events.  Whistler Resort is owned by Vail Resorts and seems to have problems with numbers of people using the lifts. I have not been used to big queues, in Whistler they seem hard to avoid. Queues for the lifts, toilets, food, restaurants in the town. I asked a Vancouver local, on a chairlift, if it was a Holiday, his response was, that the crowds were normal.  There are also lots of Trees, and it’s likely that you will, at some stage, find yourself wrapped around one, as I did. Aim for the spaces, it mostly works.

Still, the snow was plentiful, but on many days the Lift operators, seemed to be slow in opening up the hill. What was I expecting for CAD 150 per day? It’s true, it does rain lots in the village, bring Goretex. Whistler has a lot of terrain to offer, though I failed to access and experience some areas, as the queues were soul sapping in length. Off the hill,  the resort village is a bit scruffy in places. Never in 30 years of skiing, have I seen public toilets in a privately owned ski village so dirty.

Heading back to Vancouver city, I swear I have never seen that many tower blocks. Everywhere is high rise. The airport is well thought out and a pleasant space to wait. Probably the most calming airport I’ve ever visited.

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March saw me head off to Baqueira Beret in the Spanish Pyrenees. Another resort on my Bucket List, and I was rewarded with fresh powder, again.  The resort has a huge choice of lift served off piste, though the Avalanche Risk was high, and care and planning is needed to choose a safe slope. The main village uplift is either a Gondola, or a strange “skis off” chairlift. and my skis were too wide to fit in the pots! My low point came in satellite resort Bonaigua, when someone stole my Hestra Gloves. The Lift Office lent me a pair of gloves, from a box of abandoned gloves, to get me back to Baqueira, which was great.

April, saw me head to Chamonix. I nailed a good deal in a smart 4* hotel. Great Hotel but the behaviour of the staff was a little unusual. I was sitting on my bed and a Hotel workman marched into my room using a Keycard. No knocking or requesting permission. Apparently he wanted to repair something on the Balcony. I was somewhat surprised, and I think I was too stunned to kick him out. Room service was a bit random too. On the upside, there was a Spa with an Ice Room and free Popcorn!

The snow was surprisingly good for late season, and I managed to get some decent in bounds offpiste up at Argentiere, above Lognan.

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Posted by: sunshack | September 2, 2017



This summer I decided my Holiday would be activity based. I would be staying in the UK, and taking lessons in Surfing and Wakeboarding. I headed to Cornwall, and planned to split my time between lessons, Hiking and enjoying some Beach time. This was my view when I visited Newquay, and it was probably the best weather  I saw during my stay.

I stayed in a lovely  B&B in the village of Mawgan Porth. My Surfing lessons were with Kingsurf and I made good progress.

So, no lazing on the Beach for me between lessons, I went sightseeing. I visited Truro on a Sunday, which was busy with Tourists.




I took a day to visit the Eden Project near St Austell. It’s a great day out, and the Biodomes are full of wonderful plants, plus some Birds work there as Pest Controllers!



A Roul Roul at work in the Tropical Biodome




The Eden Project was one of the few venues that I visited which offered free parking to visitors. I feel that I spent more on parking the car than I did on food during my stay in Cornwall.

My Wakeboarding session was organised by Lakeview Wakepark at Waterside Cornwall in the village of Lanivet near Bodmin. The Lake has a cable tow system for Wakeboarding.  The night before my lesson, I’d seriously stubbed a toe in the shower at my Hotel. I’m pleased to say that having a toe which subsequently turned out to be broken made no difference at all to my lesson. I had hoped to be able to make it to my feet (and stay there). I was pretty pleased with my progress.



I took a look around Padstow one day. A very pretty town and fishing port, though everywhere you turn, Chef Rick Stein has made his mark, either a shop/restaurant/Cafe. This has resulted in the nickname for the town being Padstein. The lanes leading to the town are quite narrow, I had to reverse about 100 metres to make way for a Double Decker Bus!.

Yes, really!

Pretty Harbour in Padstow

Posted by: sunshack | July 11, 2017

Spring Slide

Gressoney La Trinite

For some strange reason I prepared this entry and failed to post it. Oh well, here is some snow to make you think of winter.

The end of my ski season. It’s always warm, snowy and a little sad as another winter on snow comes to a close. My destination was the Hamlet sized village of Gressoney La Tinite in the Monterosa ski area, in Aosta, Italy. Though I was definitely in Italy, I kept seeing German words throughout the village, and learned that the inhabitants of the villages were Walser’s who originally came from Swiss Valais. I had already spent a couple of days here a few years back, and knew I wanted to see more of the skiing. I stayed in a smart Hotel, but unfortunately my room overlooked the Kitchen dustbins, and I was treated to a nightly cacophony of empty Wine bottles being thrown into skips and the staff enjoying their Cigarette breaks directly below my room.

 The skiing is varied and extensive. Access from Gressoney La Trinite is via a rather old 2 person chairlift. Once up on the hill the terrain opens up, and the views are great.

Mother Nature delivered me some powder to play in. How could I resist. This is on the Alagna side of the system.

Powder 100% legal!

Some lovely long runs above Gressoney

I went for a Coffee at this Mountain Hut. Thought I’d check my emails, while I was there. Price for that is 5 Euros. Be warned.

The home run, after a few days of warm weather. Still open, and just about skiable,

I do wish that smart Hotels, would be more smart about their Bar billing. It’s not smart to try to rip of customers. Each evening I had the same drink with Dinner. Came to pay my Bill and I seem to have had a little binge. Still, a photo of each evening’s Main Course with the Bottle soon resolved the problem.

Posted by: sunshack | March 25, 2017


The Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Trust Museum at Manston, Kent, had an open day recently. This was the 72nd Anniversary Event for the Manston Spitfire TB752. A variety of attractions were on offer to help raise funds for the Museum.  The Museum is really well organised with friendly staff and even had some exhibits available for visitors to handle.

Spitfire at Manston

Spitfire Cockpit at Manston

Browning Machine Gun fitted to Spitfires

In the adjoining Hangar sits a Hurricane. Really well presented and restored.


I spent some time chatting to the staff, and they were very interested to hear about my experiences when  I flew in Spitfire MJ627  last year. The Spitfire, Spirit of Kent was due to attend, but cancelled on the day due to bad weather. Outside the venue, is a separate RAF Museum, which has a Doodlebug Bomb on display. Many of these V-1 bombs fell on London during WW2.


Listen to the sound of a Doodlebug passing overhead.

Some really unusual Vintage Cars attended.

Austin 7 Super Speed

The days before bicycle racks.

By the time I left, it was not just windy, but really windy.

Posted by: sunshack | March 20, 2017


P1040257.JPGWhen booking a Ski Trip to Switzerland, I did not give any thought to how I should behave during an Earthquake. It really did not cross my mind. I was more concerned about snow! So, there I was in bed, on the top floor of the second oldest Building in the village of Engelberg, and can say, honestly, that the earth did move for me! Actually my Bed was bouncing up and down, the whole room was creaking, and the light fitting was swaying from side to side, with a side serving of big deep bangs somewhere below me. My first Swiss Earthquake. The skiing was quite good too, though visibility some days left a bit to be desired. The sun, eventually put in an appearance, and showed me all the wonderful offpiste that is within the ski area. I was very tired by the time I’d finished.



The snow was deep and wonderfully fluffy. Not everyone got to enjoy the snow.


I made time to visit the Ice Cave on the Glacier, and take a good walk around the village.




A word of caution to anyone who has allergies or food intolerances. Zurich Airport Security don’t seem to be able to cope with travellers who carry with them Coffeemate powder, in order to enjoy a Coffee. They took mine away, after extensively searching all of my hand luggage, and after they finally returned it, I threw it away. It is a dried food, and I was unsure if it had been contaminated. I found nowhere offering Soya/Oat/Almond Milk with Coffee beyond the security area.

Posted by: sunshack | February 24, 2017



In December and January I skied 3 ski areas in 3 Countries. The conditions I experienced varied greatly. In December, I stayed in Zermatt, where conditions on the slopes had been augmented by artificial snow. Zermatt managed to open a couple of pistes back to the village. Hopping over the border into Italy at Cervinia during the same week, and I experienced the magical Powder. Of course, weather patterns play a big part of determining which resort gets the “freshies” and it was the turn of Cervinia, which shares glacier access with Zermatt.

I was happy that my favourite Black piste on the Zermatt side, was opened up. It was quiet, so I got stuck in straight away.

Furg to Furi piste

Furg to Furi piste

Ventured over to Cervinia several times. It can take quite a while to get there using the lift system. Going up onto the glacier, then skiing across the border into Italy. It was however, worth the trek.



 Christmas came and went, and I made the trip out to Chamonix in January. I had snowfall for my drive out, which made for a longer trip. The upside of all that big weather was powder for my first few days. Bliss!


It's a Powder Day!

It’s a Powder Day!


I visited Le Tour Vallorcine, expecting to find a little more of the nice soft powder. I’d not checked the wind forecast the day before I went up there. Oh dear! The off piste was hard, wind scoured crust within the system.

It's still snow, but not much fun

It’s still snow, but not much fun

The weather warmed up, and I thought I’d try another day at Les Houches. Some of the open pistes had insufficient snow.


Interesting snow crystals in Vallorcine.


The Bears have the right idea!


I rented an apartment near Brevent, which had superb views.

Room with a View!

Room with a View!

So far this winter, many mainstream European resorts have been short of snowfall. I’m hoping that the latter part of the season will see bumper snow.

Posted by: sunshack | November 18, 2016

Getting High



I will use any excuse to get some time on skis. New Ski Boots to run in? That will do nicely. So I packed a bag and headed for some early season sliding in Zermatt. At this time of the year, it’s mostly on the Glacier, which is quite extensive, though there are not many holiday tourists, it’s mostly National Ski Teams and their Trainers. It was fun being the worst skier on the hill. The snow was in superb condition, and the weather stayed cold. It’s always a little strange to come down to a mountain village, and find that it’s really warm, and I’m way overdressed!  The Lift Company had decided that they would service the main Gondola, that week, and everyone was trying to squeeze into the old Cable Car. Long queues, it was grim!

Up on the Glacier, conditions were superb. Wonderful squeaky snow.


 Great to watch, but I have no wish to try this!


I went for a Coffee in Italy!


The slopes close early in the Summer and Autumn,  so one afternoon, I went for a walk around in the old village of Zermatt. It’s very pretty, and has much more charm than the new Hotels.


With access by Train from Geneva or Zurich, Zermatt is a good choice for a short ski break.

Posted by: sunshack | November 5, 2016


I recently took a flight in a World War Two Spitfire. It was an amazing experience. I flew in this plane.


MJ627 is a WW2 Veteran, flown by the Canadian Airforce and was stationed in Belgium. My flight was organised by the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar who offer flights to the public during good weather.

A choice of routes are available, and it’s possible to fly as far as the Spitfire Memorial on top of the White Cliffs of Dover.

The weather for my flight was perfect, still air and light clouds. There is an extensive safety briefing carried out for all participants, as this is not like a commercial flight. I would be wearing a Parachute! By the end of the briefing, I knew how to use it.

It’s possible to withdraw and get a full refund if you change your mind. I was quite sure that I wanted to fly in this plane, as it’s been on my “Bucket List” of things to do for a long time. The option to withdraw, ends as the engine is started, and that was the point at which I wondered if I had done the right thing!


Lots of noise, smoke and shaking!

It’s not possible to take a Camera into the rear Cockpit, since it may interfere with the controls, so I left mine with the Ground Crew. The Plane can be flown from the seat I was in, so once the short takeoff was completed and I’d settled in, I was delighted to be offered the chance to take the Controls. Nervous? Well, yes, but the Flight Commander was very reassuring, and I managed to fly straight and level, and make some turns too.

There was the option of doing a Barrel Roll, so the Flight Commander accelerated to 240mph…..


This is the view of the Kent fields, below my head There was a Go-Pro Camera fitted behind me in the rear Cockpit, but I’ve not managed to make it play properly (bah)  If I ever make it work, I’ll post this segment, as it was amazing. There was no real sensation of the acceleration,  it’s nothing like being in  a commercial plane. Tiny plane,  27 litre, supercharged V12 engine.


Here is the Cockpit view, looks really complicated to me.


There are two heights for the Rudder Pedals. When flying Acrobatics Pilots use the higher set to help keep their blood flowing. I learned that 6g is possible.

This year, some events in my life, made me question just what am I waiting for. If I wanted to do this, then just do it. I’m very glad I did.


Posted by: sunshack | October 7, 2016


A week on Tenerife to recharge me. It’s been a busy summer, and I wanted to focus on being well for the winter. I chose a traditional Spanish Hotel, instead of a modern resort Hotel, and it felt comfortable and quiet.

P1030589.JPG Beautiful stained glass Atrium. At the top, there was a Rooftop swimming Pool with great views.

I did a little sightseeing, probably the highlight of the trips out was Whale and Dolphin watching. There are Whales and Dolphin’s in abundance within 1 km of the Harbour of Los Cristianos.

P1030686.JPGGoing out on a small boat does have advantages, as I felt really close to these beautiful sea creatures.

P1030722.JPG The local weather seems pretty reliable, I saw no rain during my stay, just the occasional cloud. The main Tourist areas, are quite well organised, everything in it’s place!


I visited Tenerife, a couple of years ago, and aimed to reach the summit of the Volcano  Mount Teide. Last time around, there was too much snow, this time, no snow at all, and it was very warm. The Cable Car ride, stops short of the summit at around 3555m. You need a Permit to ascend on foot to the summit.



Looking across to the Island of La Gomera from Mount Teide.

I could have spent much longer at the summit of the Cable Car, unfortunately, there is a Ticketing system, which times ascent and descent from when issue. Due to delays on ascent, I had only around 10 minutes, before starting to queue for the descent.

Some parts of Tenerife are focused firmly on shopping and eating with Mall’s and big Restaurant chains.P1030712.JPG

Sensory overload!

Will I be back? Ask me in a couple of years time!

Posted by: sunshack | May 25, 2016


I have recently spent over 6 weeks in Austria. In Kaprun for most of the time. It’s given me the chance to see a little more of how a ski resort functions. I stayed in one place throughout, which was organised by the provider of the course I attended. Called Freeride WG, the Tourist Office classified it as a Hostel, and it’s not a place I would have chosen for myself. I did expect it to be basic, however I was not happy with the standard of the property. The Housekeeper told me that everyone was very relaxed there.


Dirty walls and dangerous electrical fittings in my room. Reported on checking in, still not fixed 6 weeks later.

Some of my peers on the course were happy with the accommodation, and were prepared to stay there again. I met with the owner on the day I checked out, and he understands how I felt about my stay.


Towels on the left catch water leaking from the water inlet. Towels on the right catch waste water leaking from the soil pipe.

The Housekeeper did undertake a temporary fix on the water leaks, but it was unpleasant staying amongst this for a few days. I also found a large sink plunger in the Bathroom, this was because the Bathroom sink was blocked. I did try to clear it, but that resulted in waste from the blockage spraying out of the overflow and ending up on me. The Housekeeper came up and dismantled the pipe, and found that the sink was blocked with cigarette butts. Smoking was not allowed inside the property.

I had paid for bed and breakfast, tried the Breakfast and found the Cereal choices to be very basic, so purchased my own.

I was unable to get the radiators in my room to work, so I purchased a Fan Heater. The Housekeeper advised me that it was “not the coldest room” On one morning I found the communal Kitchen locked, so I went and purchased my own Kettle, and thereafter ensured that I had a hot drink to start my day. I did my washing up in the Bath, it seemed quicker all round.

The daily Bread delivery stopped, and the Housekeeper seemed unable to fix the problem, so after a few days one of my peers made a phone call to our course provider, which got this fixed.

I sat on the floor when studying in my room, as there was no chair. I’m not sure if this had any effect on the outcome of my course, but I can say that it was less uncomfortable than using the bed. I paid over £600 extra for the Double room.

I really wanted my Bedsheets changed after almost 3 weeks use, caught up with the Housekeeper in the kitchen and offered to change them myself. The Housekeeper then attended and changed them. You get the general idea.

Each day, I caught the bus. Most days it was to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier slopes outside Kaprun, although I did get to ski the Maiskogel slopes for a few days before it was closed.  The Maiskogel area is small tree lined and pretty, with traditional mountain restaurants.

The Bus to the glacier was at 7.45am, and each day over the 6 weeks, I saw people standing on board by the time the Bus reached the other end of the village. On a few occasions, folks were left at their Bus stop, as there was not enough room.

At the other end of the day, there always seemed to be quite a crush to get onboard the half hourly Bus back to Kaprun, plenty of pushing and shoving. I did see people left behind. It was as though the Bus company put on too few Buses for the number of people on the slopes. Some days it was very busy on the Glacier slopes.


Parked cars, as far as the eye can see. These are the folks who did not use the Bus!


Most people stay on Piste.

There does not seem to be any active crowd management on the slopes at Kitzsteinhorn. At places where slopes converge there is no flow management. This leads to collisions, as no-one is required to slow down, or give way. I did ask my Coach, and he told me that signage or artificial crowd management barriers such as Chicanes are not generally used in Austria. I saw plenty of collisions on piste. I was knocked over, and another member of my group was also knocked down.

For a Glacier resort, there is enough off piste skiing to occupy a moderate skier for a week. Slopes range from marked Itineraries, to steep unsecured slopes. Outside of marked Itineraries, Crevasses exist.


Our Coach took us down the resort’s Signature piste ” Black Mamba”during our first few days. I thought we had missed out the steep section, but apparently this was not the case. I came home without the T Shirt celebrating my achievement.

Eating and drinking at the Kitzsteinhorn is mostly at the giant Alpin Center building. Upstairs is a giant self service cafe with seating for hundreds, and queues to match.

It’s a fact that Austria is still in love with smoking, and the covered entrance to the Alpin Center is where the smokers gather on the steps.

 Off the slopes, I managed to find a non-smoking Cafe/Restaurant in Kaprun village. The staff were charming and the choice of food excellent. The Kennidi  also gets good reviews on Trip Advisor.

When I had some free time I visited the small Motor Museum, which contains lots of really small cars.


A Messerschmitt with wings, but not a plane!


Just put the Bubble cars on the top shelf!

It is many years since I last skied in Austria. Lifts have become bigger, and faster. Technology is being utilised, though I’m not sure I’m the right person to appreciate the benefit of heated seats inside a Gondola.

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