Winter Olympics 2006 – Torino

Turin played host to the 2006 Winter Olympics, so in this time of heightening excitement about London 2012 it seems fitting to look back at the time when winter sports came to the forefront. It also fits well because the Torino olympics actually took place in the Milky Way region, which is where the places I have previously looked at are situated.

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Hotel Review – Gran Trün

This is a fantastic little hotel based in the old town area of Souze d’Oulx, just a short walk from the ski lifts. From the outside it advertises itself as a wine bar, but venture through the modern glass doors, up the stairs and you will find a selection of nicely decorated, simple, clean and comfy rooms.

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Sauze d’Oulx – Day 1 on the mountain

After a two hour drive from Milan Malpensa airport we arrived in Souze d’Oulx, after a brief and clueless drive around we found our quaint little hotel down one of the side streets in the old part of the town. Situated opposite a very modern looking design shop was our hotel, The Gran Trun. At first glance it advertised itself as more of a wine bar than a hotel, however we went in, bags in tow and were met by a lovely woman from Liverpool. We collected our keys and went to our rooms, tired from all the travelling we had done.

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Ski Accessories – Sony Bloggie Touch – Review

The Sony Bloggie Touch is full 1080p HD video camera that is smaller than the average smartphone. Yet it’s a feature packed device that is great if your after a cheap way to record your skiing experiences.

Packed into the rectangle of Aluminium is a 4GB flash drive, a 3 inch touch screen, micro HDMI port and an Auto-focus 5mp stills camera, along with the 1080p video camera.

All the footage you record and the photos you take are stored on the internal flash memory, so there is no need to buy extra SD cards. At 4GB’s you can get about 40 minutes of 1080p video, increasing to 2 hours if you record at 720p.

There are only three buttons on the camera, one for turning it on and off, one is a double stage shutter button for taking still images and possibly the most important of them all the is the big button on the front which when pressed begins to record the video. All other functions are controlled by the touch screen. I found the screen to be fairly responsive, not quite up there with an iPhone but still easy to use and as the on screen controls are quite big you won’t have much trouble making a selection. One minor problem is the quality of the screen, it can be quite hard to get a full idea of the video or image quality on the device because the screen looks a little yellow and washed out.

The software is very simple and there are not many options to play around with. You can change the quality of video, going from 720p 30 FPS, 720p at 60 FPS and 1080p. The same goes with photos with the only manual options being able to change the quality from 12 megapixels to 8 megapixels and 2 megapixels. Obviously changing the quality of the images will increase the amount you can store. You can easily scroll through all your photos and watch your videos on the device.

To transfer the content to your computer there is no need for a cable of any kind, just simply press the bottom and a USB arm pops out allowing for direct connection to either a PC or Mac. When you connect it to a Mac running OSX it will automatically open iPhoto allowing you to quickly import. If you’re on a PC then you can use the supplied software, which should open the first time you connect the camera.

If you want to view your content on the big screen then you can connect the camera to an HD television through the micro HDMI port on the side. However you will have to buy this separately as there is not one included in the box, though they can be picked up very cheaply.

I found the video quality to be pretty excellent, very good colours and amazing detail for such a small device. I used it to record some footage while I was skiing and the inclusion of image stabilisation takes away some of jitteriness you would normally expect. Also the inclusion of 60 FPS recording gives a very smooth looking video. It managed to pick very small details in the snow and it focuses itself so there is no need to worry about it being out of focus. There is also a lanyard which can be attached to the bottom so you don’t need to worry about dropping it.

On the still photo front things aren’t quite as strong, the 12 megapixel photos are definitely not as good as with a dedicated stills camera and it can be a couple of seconds between when you press the shutter button to when the photo actually saves. Also as there is no flash you will have little luck if your taking photos at night.

Overall the Sony Bloggie Touch is a great little device and at £110 it is cheaper than a lot of other small video cameras. It will fit with no trouble into your ski jacket so you can quickly bring out when the moment arises. The footage is great and with no need for a USB cable you can plug it straight into a computer. Obviously if you have cash to spare then i’d recommend something like the GoPro HD Hero as this is made specifically for sport but these retail for close to the £250 mark, but for the money the Sony Bloggie is a great buy.

A look inside my ski bag…

This is a look inside the bag which I used as my hand luggage when travelling to Italy, as mentioned in the previous post. Now, I am a massive fan of technology and whenever I travel abroad I think its the perfect time to test out some new things in a different environment.

The Bag – Paul Smith Union Jack style holdall

I went through loads of bags before I finally got this one, even for a while using a big blue bag from Ikea. This bag is perfect for hand luggage as it fits all the tough requirements cheap airlines put on baggage these days. It has plenty of room inside and a few padded pockets for some of the more delicate things. As you would expect with Paul Smith the bag is made fantastically and feels like it could last a lifetime, each part feels sturdy and full of quality.

iPhone 4

The perfect travel device and while it is always in my pocket rather than my bag i felt it had to be included. Not really much can be said about the phone which hasn’t already but it is a quality device and still feels like a top of the range product nearly 2 years after release.

Macbook Air 13inch

Last year I got the new Macbook Air to replace my 7 year old Macbook Pro and I have to say it was a great choice. The Air is perfect for travelling as its so thin and weighing just over 1 kilo, yet it is very powerful and all the tasks that I use it for such as photo and video editing it breezes through. The screen is fantastic for watching films and the battery life will easily outlast a European flight.

iPad 1st generation 

If I’m honest the iPad has not been used as much recently as the Macbook is just as portable, but it is still a great device. I never upgraded to the iPad 2, but the first generation is perfect for me and the majority of apps still work with it.

Notepads

Not at all technical but something that is always needed. I cannot really take notes on anything else apart from paper, it is just so much quicker to write than type so having a notepad around is essential.

Canon Ixus 130

I took all the photos you will see in the upcoming posts and on the Flickr feed with this camera and I think the quality of the camera was excellent. It was fast to turn on, essential to capture that perfect ski photo and the zoom did not deter the quality of the photos. It is also a perfect size to slide into a small coat pocket. A great little camera.

Jawbone Jambox

This small block box may look like a lego brick but it is actually a really high quality sounding wireless speaker. Instead of plugging the speaker into your phone or computer you just connect them together by Bluetooth. I was very surprised by the sound quality and the battery lasts a good 9 hours so you won’t run out of juice in a hurry.

National Geographic Traveller Magazine

As with taking notes, I am not a fan of reading on the iPad. I just think the screen doesn’t really work for looking at text for long periods. So I always take a real magazine with me for a plane journey. This travel magazine was a cheap subscription through Groupon and has great photography and well written pieces. A great magazine if your a travel fan.

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

I’m not really a big novel reader but I have to read this tale of growing up for my course, so put it in my bag for the trip. Definitely better than I expected.

Other bits – chargers, adaptors etc.

I also seem to forget when I go away to take a European plug adaptor with me and that is a real pain. My bag also seems to fill with countless tangled chargers, hopefully one day one charger will be sufficient to charge everything.

Souze d’Oulx – Italy

Every year, at about this time, we head somewhere into Europe for a long weekend of skiing. Normally for about three or four days. Each time we go, it is easily one of the best weekends of the whole year.

This year our destination was Souze d’Oulx, a small village in the Milky Way ski region in Italy. About a two hour drive from Milan Malpensa airport.

Souze d’Oulx itself is a village of two halfs, one side is a classic Italian village, full of fine restaurants and crumbling old buildings full of beautiful architcture. Walk through this part and things change a little into a bustling ski village, full of, I thought quite surprisingly, cockneys and scousers. This part of the town is made up of countless bars, all catering to the apres ski crowd.

As with many Italian towns food is a large part and you can find some great places to eat in Souze, I shall get into some of the best places in an upcoming post.

So check back in the coming days for many more posts of my time in Souze d’Oulx.

Enjoy!

Ski Runs – A Quick Guide

A Piste Map, the most valuable skiing accessory

If you are a first time skier then before you set off you should have a look at the types of runs that are available in the area you are going. Normally, in Europe, there are four different colours of runs, ranging from beginner to expert. Here they are:

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Green – Learner/ For the first day 

These tend to be quite rare and are often situated in the learner area of the slope. They are where you would normally get your first experience of skiing. They tend to be almost flat and cover a big area to allow plenty of room to manoeuvre around.

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Blue – Beginner/ For the relaxed 

The first of the ‘big three’. A blue run will normally consist of a medium to long length slope with plenty of room for big sweeping turns. A great way to get your confidence up if your a first timer or simply haven’t been on a slope in a while. They are also good for long, leisurely trips looking at the scenery.

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 Red – Intermediate/For  the more confident!

Now they start to get a little more tricky. Red runs, I find anyway, can often be quite varied. Some can only be a small step up from blue runs, while others can be downright tough. They are often narrow and can be very winding, however the steeper ones tend to be wider to allow for more turns. Once you master the red run you should be able to explore the majority of the resort.

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Black – Experienced/ For the very daring

Credit to DimiTalenBlack runs are the toughest in Europe and can be found in nearly all resorts. They are often quite small, narrow and very steep. Sometimes they are full of moguls, small bumps of snow, and this causes them to be difficult to successfully manoeuvre. Black runs are great for a rush of adrenaline and to really show how far you have come.

 

Note : Runs normally have more than one way of getting down, so if your going with a large party and some feel more confident than others then don’t worry. A few can attempt a black while the other can go down the red or blue. 

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Unmarked or Off Piste – For the adventurous

Not all parts of the mountains are marked runs, many often have areas which are not flattened by the Piste bashers, the large tractor like vehicles which compact and spread out the snow. These unmarked runs are normally full of thick snow and can be difficult to plough through. However you do get to see a less touristy version of the resort and there can be some stunning scenery to be had when your skiing through the trees.

Heading off piste?

So there is plenty of choice, for whatever level you think your at. Just work your way up and your confidence will build. Enjoy!

Top 10 – Songs To Ski Too


There is nothing better than standing at the top of a mountain, staring at the view of snow covered mountains, blue sky and hundreds of skiers making their way down. The only way to make this scene better is to have the perfect song playing in your ears. Here is the top 10 songs to ski too:

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1. Karen O, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – Immigrant Song (2011)

Now there is no doubt that the original Led Zeppelin song is a classic, but this version by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails creates an instant atmosphere. It makes you feel cold just listening to it and would be a perfect fit on a day when theres lots of fog about and your speeding down a black run.

2. Run DMC – It’s Tricky

Another classic song and one that is often refered to in winter sports terms after its inclusion in the loved Snowboard game SSX. A great fit for snowboarders and will definitely get you in the mood for pulling off some tricks.

3. Lana Del Ray – Diet Mountain Dew

A much more relaxed song by America singer of the moment Lana Del Ray which would suit a long winding run through some trees or even relaxing with a coffee having a mid morning break. Whichever, this song deserves a place on your skiing playlist.

4. M83 – Midnight City

This is a great anthemic tune from French band M83, it has been everywhere recently and has a chorus tune that will stay in your head for hours.

5. Coldplay – Paradise

This song needs no introduction, an up lifting tune and lyrics that fit perfectly when your standing in the clouds on top of a mountain. A must.

6. Daft Punk – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

This song is all about motivation and the title should make that clear. Great for when you need a little extra push to get down an especially hard run or at the start of the day to get you doing.

7. Cassius – I ❤ U so

Another song with a tune that will stay in your head all day and one that would fit in with whatever you were on the mountain.

8. The Big Pink – Hit The Ground (Superman)

This song relates to skiing perfectly and the large amount of times you’ll be hitting the ground especially when your learning. So just put this song on and it will motivate you to get straight back up!

9. Gorillaz – Glitter Freeze

Similar to the Immigrant Song in terms of creating an atmosphere, but a slightly more lighter one. With a great beat and the added effect of Mark E Smith’s vocals it is definitely another Gorillaz classic.

and 10. Elbow – One Day Like This

This song just reminds me of past skiing holidays and whenever it comes on it brings back memories. I don’t think I could make a skiing playlist without it!

So theres the list, if you have Spotify (If you don’t you can get it here) click this link and the playlist will save for you to listen to anytime!