Friday, February 13, 2015

Skiing in Mongolia

Chris 0 Sky Resort 2

            For the uninformed, Sky Resort is the one ski resort in Mongolia, and yes just like the title says I fell……. Twice.  Now in my defense one of them was not my fault.  The kiddies since this was a school trip for the ski club, got ahead of me, and they didn't seem to understand the word stop.  Now this could have been due to the nature of all kids to run ahead when faced with a fun activity.  On the other hand it could have been due to a translation issue since I don’t speak Mongolian.  I leave it up to you to decide.  Anyway it was in my rushing to get ahead of them that I slipped and fell before I even got to the lift.

            Back to the Sky Resort, Mongolia’s only ski resort (opened in 2013 according to Wikipedia, 2009 everywhere else).  It is located 13 km outside of Ulaanbaatar, or about 20 minutes from the school and my apartment.  It’s basically go down to the main road and make a right and drive until you get to the site.  The resort is located on Bogd Khan Mountain, the same mountain I went hiking on a few months back soon after I got here.

Bogd Khan looking back towards the city

Ski Resort- from the Beginner hill

The city from the ski slope

FYI- they have camels here as well, but I couldn't get their picture

Sky Resort by the numbers

            Top elevation- 5,150 ft (1,570 m)
            Base Elevation- 4,524 ft (1,379 m)
            Vertical drop- 627 ft (191 m)

            Trail Map

            9 Trails
                        4 green squares
                        2 blue circles
                        1 black diamond
                        1 beginners slope
                        1 sledding hill
                        Longest trail- 0.66 miles (1.07km)

            7 Lifts
                        2 quad chairs
                        2 T bars
                        3 moving carpets (I know it sounds weird but they are actually pretty nifty)

            Snow- as reported.  The resort uses both natural and manmade snow, but more man made as it             does not snow much here in Mongolia
                        Base- 8 inch (20 cm)
                        Powder- unknown  
            Snow- as I skied
                        Base- I don’t know how thick it was, but I was skiing on ice a majority of the time
                        Powder- nonexistent in several places, but there was a good layer in most spots other                           than the beginner slope

            Season- Late November to early April

            Hours of operation
                        9am to 10pm
                        2 hour lift ticket and rental- 18,000 turgiks (9.25$ USD)
            Ski Resort info review- 2.9 out of 5 stars

The Skiing

            Me- It’s been a while since I’ve been skiing
            Frank- When was the last time you went skiing?
            Me- Ten years I think, maybe longer

            Me- Don’t worry it’s like riding a bike I’ll be fine
            Frank- if you say so

            Anyway we finally arrive get the kiddie’s skis, boots, poles, and lift tickets and we are off like a herd of…. Well a herd of something anyway.  The equipment is a bit old and worn, but the boots fit well, even if they are a bit bigger than I remember my old ones being.  The skis are clearly shorter, and not by a little bit.  My old skis are 205 (if I remember correctly) and I got the longest pair they had 170.  The length wasn't actually much of a problem and it might have actually helped a bit since it’s been so long since I was skiing.  The problem, was the skis weren't waxed or properly treated, or the snow was weird.  My vote is for the skis not being treated properly.  Thus I ended up sticking to the snow quite a bit in the flat areas and on the beginner slope.

The Beginner slope

            This small run is serviced by a moving carpet also known as a magic carpet (yes it is the actual technical term).

            Yes, it is exactly what it looks like an inclined version of one of those airport walkways.  It’s actually pretty easy to use and my beginners had very little trouble with it.  (Mainly going up the slope to get on).  And no you do not slide backwards down the mat at all.
            The beginners slope was a little icy but short, gently sloped, and quite wide.

            I had four kids who skied before, and one who is a newbie.  After several runs three of the more capable skiers headed out with the other chaperon, while I remained behind with the task of teaching the student how to ski.  Let me be frank (not my fellow teacher) here, teaching kids to swim, been there done that, teaching kids how to row, that was my bread and butter in NJ, teaching kids to ski, not so much.

            Well there is a first time for everything right, and people flip while rowing and crash while skiing, that makes them similar enough right.  Oh and they both need water.

Crew Boat flip

Ski crash

            Ok, maybe they aren't all that similar.  Either way I think I managed to demonstrate proper posture, and how to turn.  My stroke of genius (well I thought it was genius) was to ski right next to the girl so our skis were touching.  This way I could use my weight to push her into a turn and show her what it would feel like.  I think I had at least some success by the time the other teacher returned and we switched groups.

            I was now with the best three skiers of the group, while the newbie and weakest skier remained on the bunny slope.  So we headed for the first quad chair lift, which was a little slow….. No it was ridiculously slow, seriously I think it took almost ten minutes to reach the top.  On the upside we did get a fairly long run out of it Tenger 800  a green square.

            All of the kiddies made it down the slope safely, even if they didn't turn very much.  (Crazy little speed demons)  Thus began the real adventure or the trip up the second chair lift, which is even slower than the first one.

            Yes it gets that close the rocks.  I could grab a sample if I wanted to.

            This time the slope was a blue circle Zaisan 1070m long.

            Me- Now I want you guys to practice turning on the way down and take it slow the first time
            Kiddy 1- Ok
            Kiddy 2- Woohoo………
            Kiddy 3- I can’t stop!
            Me- #$#%%^@!@#%^^%*($#@........ You to go slow I need to catch up to kiddy number 3.

            As with many things in teaching plans do not survive first contact with the students.  As I sped off to catch up with number three, numbers 1 and 2 blew past me and I didn’t want to speed up and potentially cause problems going past them.  Much to my relief, and probably my job, they all made it to the bottom safely.  Now much to my stupidity, we went back up to do it again, but this time I resolved to teach kiddy 3 how to turn and stop.

            The plan worked reasonably well, and kiddy 3 did do some turns and make it down the slope slower, except the poor kiddy crashed this time.  However skiing is like rowing.

            Rule 1

            Rowing- You've never really learned how to row a single until you've flipped.
            Skiing- You've never really learned to ski until you've crashed.

            Rule 2

            Rowing- It’s not a matter of if you flip, but when you flip.
            Skiing- It’s not a matter of if you crash but when.

           These rules apply to everyone from beginners to experts, and even instructors.

            Ouch…. That kinda hurt and maybe I shouldn't take pictures and ski at the same time.  On the upside it has been a good recruiting tool to get more kids to come out for the ski club.  Who wouldn't want to see their teacher crash and lose their skis.

Warning Mongolian Culture content

             Bone Games also known as Shagai are games played with the astragalus (Talus) bone of a sheep or goat.  The bones themselves have three main uses, gifts as tokens of friendship, divination, or games.

              The bones act like dice and each side has a different meaning, horse, camel, goat or sheep.  It took me a while to figure this out as I thought they were a mix of horse camel, goat, and sheep bones.

Clockwise from the top
Horse- no ridges
Sheep- I don’t know
Camel- The ridge at the end is like the humps of a camel
Goat- See it kind of forms the horns of a goat


Horse Race- Played it, but don’t understand it
Birthing Camels
Cat’s game- I think the students were playing this one to
Full Toss
Open Catch
Twelve years
Tossing three Shagai
The four Shagai
Four Animals
Shooting- Outlawed by the communists, but they played it anyway
Flick- Played it, understand it, but I’m terrible at it

Horse race

            Line up all the bones except for one for each player as a playing piece, and four to be used as dice.  The orientation that the bones land in after you roll them determines the number of places you get to move.  I never was able to figure out all of it, but the kiddies were having fun.


            Gather up all the bones in your hand, and toss them into the circle of players.

            You then have to flick two bones of the same orientation into each other without hitting any other bones.  If you succeed you get to keep one of the bones, and keep on flicking.  When you make a mistake it goes to the next player.  This continues until all of the bones are taken.  The player with the most bones wins.  I do actually understand this game and played with the kiddies.  The problem is I am terrible at flicking.

            Well that’s it for this time guys.  Cya later, and I should have some interesting stuff to say about Mongolia after the Lunar Moon Holiday next week.