Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Hiking Mt. Tam

April 27, 2014
When Ben's sister Miriam visited from Israel, we took the opportunity to correct one of our Bay Area oversights: we had never visited Mount Tamalpais. It's a popular camping and hiking destination just north of the city, but we've always bypassed it on our way to Point Reyes. We hiked the 6.5-mile Steep Ravine-Matt Davis Trail, starting from Stinson Beach. Everytrail says about the hike: "Cutting deep into the landscape over millennia the water rushing through Webb Creek has created a spectacularly steep sided and lush canyon shaded by towering redwood trees and populated with a wide variety of local flora and fauna. ... The coastal section of the Matt Davis Trail promises wide sweeping ocean views."

The previous photos were taken by Miriam. The following are by me and Ben.

- Steph

Powder day

April 14, 2014

After our four-day Tahoe trip in March, we thought we might be done skiing for the year. Then it snowed 41 inches in one week and we couldn't resist the allure of powder skiing. And damn, I now understand why people go out of their way to track down fresh powder. Powder skiing is almost a different sport from what we've been doing the rest of the year — I felt as if I had to learn to ski all over again. It is challenging, exhausting, exhilarating and not quite as terrifying as it seems because the snow is surprisingly soft when you fall. And as you can see from the following video, we fell a lot. Once again, we took turns filming with the GoPro on our helmets.

One of the best parts of skiing at Kirkwood is that when they have enough snow, you can go anywhere. On the backside of the mountain, you can ride pulley lifts along ridge lines and "drop in" wherever you want. You can crisscross between the trails or you can tuck and follow a groomer's tracks uphill and then make your way down what you originally thought was a sheer rock face. In the video, I tried to capture just how limitless the terrain feels. When you look around, all you see is snow and mountains.

Sometimes it's hard not to see skiing as a manufactured activity. When there's no fresh snow, you spend all day on hard pack, racing down as fast as you can, only to be whisked back up the mountain by a high-speed lift. But on this trip, surrounded by feet of fresh snow, skiing seemed like the most natural way in the world to get down the mountain. Halfway down we'd often collapse on the snow in need of a break, but this too seemed natural. We were working hard just to make it to the bottom.

Our passes are RFID-enabled to track our activity on the mountain. The technology doesn't work perfectly — the sensors sometimes missed me yet picked up Ben — but at the end of the day you see roughly how many runs you did and how many vertical feet you skied. According to the app, I skied 166,704 vertical feet and took 148 lift rides this year.

And finally, one of the best parts of the day was getting to try out my new skis in powder. My parents bought me my old pair of Salomon X-Screams about 14 years ago during the transition from straight to parabolic skis. They were getting a bit long in the tooth in terms of the technology behind them. Not to mention, they were long, literally. My new skis are a full 13 centimeters shorter. But still, 14 years ... not bad.

I had been halfheartedly saying for years that I wanted to get new skis, but it never seemed that pressing until we started skiing regularly this year. When I walked into the demo shop the first time, I had no idea what to look for in a new pair of skis. I hated the first pair I tried (I could barely stop on them and I learned how to stop on skis when I was three). If it had been up to me, I probably would have given up at that point and stuck with my old skis, but luckily, Ben was less easily deterred than me. On our next trip, I sweet-talked my way into a free demo day and tried four different pairs (Salomon Rockette, Volkl Aura, Nordica Hells Belles and Salomon Q-88 Lux). I couldn't get rid of the Rockettes fast enough, the Q-88 Lux didn't make much of an impression and the sizing didn't match up for me on the Hells Belles. But from the moment I put on the Volkl Aura, we just clicked.

Here's what Ski Magazine has to say about the Aura: "It's a damp and powerful athlete built to be as proficient in powder as hard pack. In the former, it prefers charging to skimming. On firm snow, it bites like a bulldog. It never gets bounced around, but it does demand muscle. This ski will encourage you to go fast and take chances." I asked the demo guy if I should have any reservations about buying the Aura. He said they might be more difficult to turn at low speeds. My response: "That's fine. I don't believe in going slow." The skis were sold out in the pro shop, giving me some extra time to waver about my decision. I called my dad for reassurance and found a women's skiing forum filled with adoration for the Aura. Decision made, we purchased the skis the next day.

Now they're one of my favorite possessions and I'm sad they have to spend the next eight months in the closet. I reassured them that we have already purchased our season's passes for next year.

The road to Kirkwood

Morning mist on the drive to Kirkwood

- Steph

Four days of skiing in March (with our new GoPro)

April 6, 2014
We took off four weekdays in March to ski at the three Vail resorts around Lake Tahoe, which our season passes get us into, without the weekend crowds.

It was our first ski trip with our new GoPro, and we alternated wearing it on our helmets. These are some of the best moments on video:

(Edited by Ben in iMovie. The music is a remix of Asaf Avidan's Reckoning Song.)

The first night we stayed on-mountain at Kirkwood. In the early morning, we watched the snow grooming and setup before the sunrise and the crowds. This was the view from our window:

Steph wanted to buy new skis, and had tried several demo skis on our last outing. This time she confirmed the right model — Volkl Aura's — but they didn't have them at Kirkwood. So the second day, we went to Northstar to pick up the new skis. On the third day we skied Heavenly, which had very little snow; the scenery is beautiful but the skiing is the least good of the three resorts. On the fourth day we skied at Kirkwood again. We confirmed our earlier impression that Kirkwood has the best snow, Northstar has the best infrastructure and food (and also very good skiing), and Heavenly is very big and beautiful but doesn't have great skiing.

I've been trying to improve my skiing; I ski the blacks and some double blacks but I still look and feel pretty sloppy. At Kirkwood the first day, while Steph was trying demo skis, I took a three-hour lesson. (They're normally absurdly expensive, but we found a deal that made it reasonable to do once.) It was a good lesson and I improved a little (focusing on pole plants and balance), but not much. I'm thinking next year I'll upgrade my skis too; they're beginners skis that I bought in college, and I wonder if having better skis will help me get to the next level.

For the last three nights we stayed in South Lake, and two nights in a row we had dinner at a great restaurant called Base Camp Pizza. They had live music outside, which we listened to sipping beer around a fire pit while waiting for our table. This was their excellent beer list:

Steph with her new skis:

These two were taken by the mountain photographer:

- Ben