Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

The Ski House of the Day is the snow-covered Holiday House Hahnenkamm.  It's a well-situated, compact, 2-bedroom ski chalet on Hahnenkamm, the local mountain in Kitzbuhel, Austria.  The ski run leads directly back to the house - perfect!  I think this ski house is simply adorable...and oh-so-Austrian.  And check out that roof full of snow!

This could be the perfect place to ring in 2015 because of the spectacular fireworks over the ski slopes in Kitzbuhel on New Year's Eve.

Happy Skiing and Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

College Ski Cabin On the Road Less Traveled

It's early in the school year...that time when schools and colleges renew their efforts to educate, to inspire, and to encourage independent thinking.  Today's Ski House of the Day is one that exists because of some inspired college's the ski cabin owned by the Dartmouth Outing Club of Northern California.

This unique cabin, is owned, manged and enjoyed by alumni of Dartmouth College.  As they put it, it's a magical little piece of New Hampshire transplanted to California.  And as I see it, it's a magical little place...right along the road less traveled.

This ski house is a cute, compact, cozy cabin, with rustic logs (sporting the requisite Dartmouth "green" on its upper exterior), nestled in the snow among the pine trees in Donner Pass.  In winter it's only accessible over the snow (skis / snowshoes).

The common areas on the first floor include a kitchen plus a cozy, comfortable living room...

 ...and two (college dorm-style) bunk rooms on the upper floor:

It looks really great, and I bet those alums love being there;  but there's a story behind this ski cabin. The history of this place can be traced (at least in part) to 1934 when Johnny Ellis graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  Johnny Ellis, like poet Robert Frost (who also attended Dartmouth some 35 years earlier), took the road less traveled after he graduated from Dartmouth, when he made his way to the mountains of California.

According to the Donner Summit Historical Society, Johnny Ellis wasn't ready to go to traditional work after graduation (even though it was the Depression) so he left New Hampshire and headed out west to carve out his own future.  He found work helping to construct the Sierra Club's Clair Tappan Lodge and it must have suited him, because he stayed on as self-appointed "major domo and floor cleaner" performing the jobs of fireman, cook, plumber, doctor, ski-instructor, snow-shoveler, washroom-scrubber, cashier, etc.  (...the original "ski-bum"?).  "It was a grand job."  But Johnny had a few other big ideas, and soon took steps to put them into motion. One was the formation of the western version of the popular Dartmouth Outing Club (which he did, along with other alums), and the other was his grand vision of creating a ski resort at Donner Summit.

The first step was to acquire some land, which he did (for $3.50 an acre), on which he built a warming hut, and constructed the first tow-rope in the west in 1937.   Johnny's entrepreneurial spirit continued as he constructed two additional tows, and started land development of ski lodge lots.  He had specific plans for an innovative first-class ski resort development in 1941, but it was not to be. WW II broke out that year, and the ski tow, although successful, unfortunately was dismantled due to the war. Johnny headed back East, working in engineering, all the while gathering ideas for improving lift operations in the Sierra. After the war, Johnny did not return to the Sierra, but rather he moved on to "plastics" thus once again taking the road less traveled toward that new, innovative material, even before The Graduate.  So, his visionary ski resort was an idea that was left to others to pursue.  Whether ultimately successful or not, it seems to me that those with new ideas who break new ground and who travel their own path, create new opportunities for the rest of us, and leave inspiration in their wake.

After the war (1946), club members began constructing the ski cabin using discarded railroad timbers from Southern Pacific's snow sheds that were being rebuilt.  Two years later, electricity and a toilet were added. The 1950's brought an addition, running water, and dedication of a memorial fireplace (which even includes New Hampshire granite!):

According to the Donner Summit Historical Society, Johnny later said,  "Perhaps I left a mark or two on Donner is nice to know that some of the things I cared about are still growing."

I think this ski house is a testament to those, like Johnny Ellis, who see possibilities, dare to dream, and who dare to take the road less traveled.

Remnants of that original tow remain on the site of this ski cabin...invisible to some, but for the independent-minded adventurers who see the possibilities they can be found... they're right along the road less traveled.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Casa de Esqui

Looking forward to the upcoming South American ski season ... The Ski House of the Day is Casa Farellones on the mountain in Farellones, Chile.

This stylish luxury ski chalet is located one hour from Santiago, and is within minutes of three popular ski resorts:  El Colorado, La Parva, and Valle Nevado.  You can even walk or ski to the lifts at Farellones...and that's something I love about any ski house!  (And it looks like it's a nice ride from El Colorado to Farrellones on the slopes).

This huge and gorgeous house is actually divided into three apartments with a flexible configuration so that as much or as little can be combined / divided, as needed.  Smart design, I'd say.

So, the first thing I notice about this ski house is this really spectacular and inviting...garage!  Huh?  Garage?  I'm not usually one who cares much about garages, but this one is bright, spacious, attractive and overall pretty special!  (Update:  The owner has told me that since this photo was taken, they have added a cool bunk room above part of this garage - even better!):

The entrance area echos the South American flavor a bit, with combined influences Asian, culture, and local color wrapped in a snowy package - perfect.

The kitchen and dining areas (the photos shown are a combination of all three apartments) are modern and inviting, with a touch of a rustic feel that most skiers can appreciate:

And...check out this grill with a view!  Who wouldn't want to be the grill chef here? Pretty spectacular:

I love that the window is uncluttered and wide open to this view, and that the bed faces it to take full advantage of the beautiful view of the mountains:

And for the icing on the cake, there's a hot tub in the snow, with a wind-break along the side and unobstructed views all around (check out the view reflected in the window):


Me encanta esta casa de esqui!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ski House for the Future (of the Earth)

On Earth Day 2014, consider, for a moment, how interdependent are our energy consumption, our future quality of life, our climate, and even our snowfall.  Well, here's a ski house for the future that is a brilliant example of what can be done to minimize energy consumption, improve quality of life, and work with (not against) our earth's climate.  And this house embraces, in fact depends on, the legendary Utah "pow" to enhance its functionality!  Quite impressive -- especially on Earth Day!

The Ski House of the Day is the 125 Haus, a living laboratory, home and brainchild of Joerg Ruegemer, a University of Utah Architecture Professor.  Constructed a few years ago, this house, a modern 3-bedroom, 2400 sq. ft. residence, was conceived as an interdisciplinary research and design project for high energy-efficiency, and sustainability.

The house is located in prime ski country in Park City, Utah.  (And to make it even better, according to a ratings study by the Ski Area Citizens Coalition, the nearby Park City Mountain has one of the top ratings of sustainability among ski areas).

It's a very nice looking house...but the more I learned about how it works...the nicer looking it became! Incredibly, this house uses only about 10% of the the energy of a comparable house in this area!  (How about spending only $25 a month to heat/cool such a spacious and beautiful ski house in Utah?).  This house is 80-90% more energy efficient than a standard house --  even at its location which is at an elevation of 7,000 ft. Amazing!

How is this magic possible, you might be wondering.  The secret is passive design, and embracing simple low-tech and site-specific elements. First, the placement of the house is very precise in order to face South to soak up the sun. There is no furnace in this house, rather it uses a heat-recovery ventilation system that seems to recycle heat. With 15 inches of insulation, the walls are 2-3 times thicker than ordinary walls, and the house is air-tight, with high-performance, specifically shaped windows to balance views and sunlight in the precise proportion for efficiency.  Incredibly, this house was built for a cost that is comparable to a conventional house.

                                    Photo credit:  Scot Zimmerman, of Heber City, UT

You can hear about the impressive details from the architect himself, or check out for more.

This house is indeed one for the future, in more ways than one.  It's a house that will improve the future of the earth as it consumes less energy, contributes less to global climate change, and thus enhances the quality of life for all.  It seems to me to be a model of using low-tech simplicity to create high-efficiency highly impressive results.   And I, for one, hope this effort is duplicated in ski houses (and regular houses) all over the country.  I think it's truly a house for the future of the Earth.

And here's one more detail that (especially as a skier) I found refreshingly logical.  With annual snowfall in this part of the Wasatch Mountains at about 400 inches, there's truly a lot of snow for a home to handle.  Well, unlike most, this house (and its designer-homeowner) isn't wasting energy trying to melt it, move it, or get rid of it.  This house is designed to embrace it!  In fact, the flat roof is designed to capture and support the snow, and use it as a thermal blanket.  So, the home's thermal efficiency, like Utah's skiing, just keeps getting better as the snow piles up!  I absolutely love this.

Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Golden Opportunity, Slopestyle

Like other Americans, I was proud as I watched Sage Kostenburg win the first ever gold medal in Slopestyle Snowboarding recently in the 2014 Winter Olympics.  It was awesome to see him tear it up in Sochi. Congrats and thanks to Sage for the opportunity to ride along with him on that mountain of American pride!

In honor of Sage's Olympic Gold, the Ski House of the Day (...or maybe this time I should tweak it to Snowboard House of the Day...) is one in Sage's hometown, Park City, Utah.  

This house was recently on the market but here's the twist:  as it turns out, Sage's snowboarding Dad is among the real estate agents selling this cool house!

I'd say that the style of this house is, well, "slopestyle".....!  It's a compact yet spacious house within walking distance of the slopes of Park City Mountain.  This mountain was the site of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics' snowboarding events which Sage remembers watching at age 8 and, according to what he told Good Morning America, watching that "got me so stoked about snowboarding." 

The house has a sturdy, historic Old Town look on the outside, reminiscent of the mining town that Park City was (silver mines, and "gold" as well). On the inside the house has a sleek, modern style:

I like the stacked stone fireplace facing the living area and kitchen. There are upscale finishes including the flooring in the living area which appears to be slate - perfect for the Utah pow that might find its way inside.  

This inviting house has a spacious master bedroom with a vaulted ceiling and its own balcony:
\ two other bedrooms....plenty of room for the whole crew.

There are two bathrooms; and I absolutely love the beautiful over-sized shower: 

It's handy that the house has a garage - great place to stow the snowboards and other gear.

There's also a hot tub out on the deck overlooking the beautiful mountains of Park City where Sage Kostenburg perfected his tricks:

I like this house and its "slopestyle" vibe.  It could be a golden opportunity to get out there and shred Park City.  Like Sage, it's a slopestyle winner!

Thursday, February 6, 2014 much to Learn

With the Winter Olympics opening tomorrow in Russia,  excitement, as well as security concerns about Sochi, is mounting.  While security and other issues surrounding the Games are obviously paramount, I felt compelled to see what I could learn about the ski houses in Sochi. With Russia's unique culture and extensive history, surely there would be some fascinating local snow-covered ski houses, right?  I found that I had...and still have...a whole lot to learn before I can begin to understand anything about the ski houses there.

The first thing I learned is that Sochi is actually a seaside town, and more a summer resort than a winter one. But, beaches aside, the mountains are short distance (25 miles or so) away.  There's a newly constructed train, and brand new roads to get from the sea to the mountains.  This actually sounds like a fantastic location for a resort...beach and ski mountains in the same place - sweet!  (Ooops, strike it really true that part of the beach has been paved over with concrete just before the Olympics?).

The next thing I learned is that Sochi and the areas around Rosa Khutor and Krasnaya Polyana, the Olympic ski venues, have a long, complicated, turbulent and even "blood-soaked history".

Old mountain cottages of the past seem to have given way to the new construction blitz that has re-defined the mountain ski village as a sleek European style ski town, at least on its face.  My own preference in a ski house, ski village (and mountain) is that they are true to their own identity and that of their local culture.  According to Russia Beyond the Headlines ("the Russian government's paper of record"), these "sleepy mountain roads are now filled with European-style ski chalets", viewed as surreal, "as if Russia had built a winter Disneyland in the mountains".  But, I am unable to find details to learn more about these ski chalets (where are they?  who designed them?  who built them?  are the for rent?  for sale?  who owns them?...), so my uncomfortable skepticism reminds me that Disneyland, after all, is the tangible version of a pretend world.

With initial news reports questioning the quality of some of the new, seemingly sleek accommodations, and the above reference to Russia's new Disneyland-like village, I can't help but wonder about the original local mountain cottages that may have literally given way for the sake of the Olympics and this copy-cat version of a European ski village. Homes pushed aside for progress....a village redefined with a new identity? Maybe that's the ongoing echo of these mountains.

Whether or not this re-development will fuel the economy (or at least some narrow part of it) is yet to be seen, but it opens yet another chapter in the complex cultural evolution of these mountains.

Despite the overwhelming volume of new construction for the Olympics, there appears to be no houses lining the ski trails.  However, the ski trails themselves...they do seem pretty impressive.  Check out this bird's-eye preview of Ted Ligety's giant slalom run on the Sochi slopes, the views from this lift ride up and ski run down the slope, or this pow ride.  We're all cheering for the home team as they race the Sochi slopes!

In my research I'm accustomed to a multitude of details about ski houses in most resorts worldwide, but with this one, there seems to be a curious void of information. I can't be sure whether that is because there aren't really any houses that I'd call "ski houses" there, or whether there is simply a lack of published information about them. It's possible that because of the language barrier, I simply can't find an abundance of information.  And it's also possible that as someone who understands the value of shared information, I am simply accustomed to information being readily available, and my expectations for details are too high. Whatever the reason, it seems to me that something is missing.  As put by National Geographic and a local businessman who had created an earlier version of this ski hill, "Things you build attract the attention of someone who can take them away."  Maybe that sentiment hints at the void of ski houses, and/or information about them.

After searching, eventually (on wikitravel) I found this photo of a ski house in Sochi's Olympic mountain venue area, Krasnaya Polyana ski area.  It's title is the View at Aibga Ridge, from Polyana Grand, Krasnaya Polyana. To me it looks more North American than Russian, more Summer Olympics than Winter, but nonetheless the houses look welcoming, attractive and strong.  I can't be certain, but perhaps this is the Disneyland-like mountain road filled with European ski chalets.  Whatever it is, I like the sturdy logs, the familiar design, and the warmth of these all-wood ski houses.  At least from the outside, these Russian ski houses look pleasantly inviting:

I hope that the warm strength of the logs in this ski house symbolizes the strength of the safety and security that will surround all the Olympians in Sochi.

In researching Sochi ski houses, my end result was more questions than answers.  Maybe after the Olympics I'll be able to find some details about Sochi ski houses. (Anybody going?  I'd love to hear a first-hand account of the ski houses!).   I really hope that I can eventually find that elusive multitude of information, so I can continue to learn more about Sochi, its history, its Olympics, and its ski houses.  There's so much to learn.