Monday, April 12, 2010

Leave home without it

If you have a US-issued American Express card and you're planning to attend the Soccer World Cup in South Africa in June, I strongly recommend that you bring another credit card with you.

South Africa is following Europe's lead in requiring a PIN rather than a signature for over the counter credit card transactions. Credit cards issued by US banks don't have PINs. The South African banks are supposed to cater for that by programming their point of sale terminals to recognise a US-issued card (you can readily tell which country a card is issued in from the card number) and not ask for a PIN for a card that doesn't have one. Based on my experience in the last week they've done so for Visa cards but not for American Express (I don't know about Mastercard since I don't have one to test).

Given that Visa is a Soccer World Cup sponsor it all seems a little too coincidental to me. I wouldn't be happy if I was American Express.

Will I be attending a game if I'm here in June? I'm torn between the fact that Australia and USA (I'm a dual citizen after all) have qualified and the fact that I hate soccer!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Interesting* birthday

Yesterday was my birthday; what I had originally planned to do was ski on my birthday, but due to the fact that I'm in South Africa rather than at home, that plan didn't work out and I went to a bunch of customer meetings instead.

The day did end up interesting* though because around midnight I ended up in a South African emergency room. I'd had a stomach bug earlier in the week that I though was over but by Friday night I was double over in agony. Nothing some intravenous pain killers couldn't fix. It wasn't quite the high tech experience of an ER visit in the US, but it was quick and efficient and cost about 20% of what it would have at home.

* That's interesting as in the traditional Chinese curse: "may you live in interesting times".

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Season summary

I promised on Thursday to post a summary of my ski season, so here it is.

I set out to ski every day. I didn't make that goal, but I did manage to ski 116 of the 135 days the mountain was open (the season was to be 137 days, but there were two days when the lifts were completely closed due to wind). And I managed to ski the first 107 days straight (November 26 to March 12).

I had a subsidiary goal of skiing 1.5 million vertical ft and I did make that with my season total being 1,537,544 vertical ft at a daily average of 13,255 vertical ft, although the distribution of that is quite uneven as you can see from the chart below. In particular, my daily average before Christmas was not great, mostly because so little of the mountain was open.

The statistic that really surprised me was the distance travelled. MY GPS shows me covering 2,369 miles (3,813 km). About 40% of that is the ride up on the lift, so it means I covered about 1,400 miles (2,900 km) on skis!

Here's the combined track for the entire season.

As you can see, my favourite place to ski is the trees on the Priest Creek face, so here's a closer look at that.

I didn't particularly set out to improve my skiing this season, but in the end I definitely did. Time on the snow and two rounds of local's clinics (10 sessions) with Jamie certainly contributed to that despite my primary motivation going in being to meet some locals of similar ability to ski with. My bump skiing in particular improved out of sight, which would not surprise those of you who noticed how often I posted on skiing bumps.

It wasn't the greatest season in terms of snow; it looks like the season total will be around 250 inches compared to the average of 350 and the past two seasons of over 400 inches. I still got in some really great skiing despite the shortage of powder days and not one of those truly epic days when the snow is so deep that you feel transported to another world. The best day of the season was probably February 26, followed by New Years Eve. December 31 actually had more snow, but the lack of a base made skiing the trees that day a bad idea.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Powder finish

I'm off to South Africa tomorrow for work so today was the 116th and last day of my season.

I was originally going to ski yesterday but the conditions didn't look great and there was snow in the forecast for today. So I was disappointed when the 5am report said only two inches and decided to continue with my travel preparations. But it kept snowing all morning and by noon I had everything under control, so I went out.

I'm glad I did. Six to eight inches of fresh - not too light which was good since it stuck to the hard pack underneath- and deeper in the trees.

Best run of the day was nearly 3.30 trees (where I ran into my friend Tom for the second time in a week - seems like we both like this run!); nearly but not quite because Shadows, my last tree run of the season, was even better. A great way to finish.

Here's today's track. 13,078 vertical ft (season total 1,537,544 ft) in 1:58.

I'll post a detailed season summary tomorrow or the next day, probably while I'm killing time in an airport somewhere.