Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ketchum, Idaho

Best For: Hard-carving skiers and boarders who like playing “spot the movie star” 

Executive summary by darmansjah

The original Rocky Mountain ski resort, Ketchum’s Sun Valley featured the world’s first chairlift when it opened in 1936 and was long the stomping ground for classic-era Hollywood. The upscale mountain and its opulent lodges still carry the grandeur of their pre-war days while the old mining and sheep town of Ketchum, population 2,689, maintains a rustic elegance, with gourmet restaurants and steak-and-microbrew saloons in century-old brick buildings. The resort village of Sun Valley borders Ketchum at the base of Dollar Mountain, the original ski hill and now an ideal learner’s area with a ski school, terrain park, and separate, inexpensive lift tickets.

The main action for serious skiers and boarders is over at Bald Mountain, on the other side of town (free shuttle buses available), which features 3,400 vertical feet of some of the finest groomed plunges in the world. If you like never-ending, perfectly pitched corduroy, this is your mountain. Snowboarders will appreciate the mountain’s complete lack of flat areas, and abundant high-speed lifts means no one waits long in line. The resort’s proximity to exactly zero major population centers means the slopes are perpetually free of crowds, and top-to-bottom snowmaking means you’ll always have smooth groomers to carve. Don’t miss the luxurious Seattle Ridge Lodge atop Bald Mountain's Seattle Ridge, where mesmerizing views span the wild Pioneer and Sawtooth Mountains and the Woody River Valley below.

Ask a Local
Professional skier Reggie Crist has spent most of his life in Sun Valley. The former U.S. Ski Team member regularly appears in ski movies and is currently a consultant/athlete for Eddie Bauer/First Ascent and K2 Sports. Here are his recommendations.

Best Digs
Budget: Lift Tower Lodge
Swank: Sun Valley Lodge (this is where Hemingway worked on For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Best Eats
Cheap: Pioneer Saloon
Gourmet: Michel's Christiania

Best After-Ski Party Spot
Apples Bar and Grill

Best Rest-Day Activity
Visit Galena Lodge for lunch and drive to see the Sawtooth Mountains.

Sun Valley’s Classic Ski Run
Warm Springs—3,100 vertical feet of leg burn

Friday, February 27, 2015

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Valley

Executive summary by darmansjah

Round-Trip: 22 miles, 3 to 5 days

When to Go: May to September for drier weather; April or October for more solitude

The finest coastal hike in the world, this rugged route through Kauai’s impressive Nā Pali Coast will challenge you physically with tropical heat and steep trails, and scare you with exposure on muddy slopes. But after a day of slogging 11 miles through the fluted cliffs above surf that crashes like howitzer fire on the coast below, you are rewarded with a view of the impossibly serene mile-long arc of golden Kalalau Beach along the shimmering Pacific. The Kalalau Valley itself holds fairy-tale waterfalls and lush tropical jungle, well worthy of exploration, but the highlight is camping right on the beach, with the Western Pacific before you, reflecting the setting sun.

Insider Tip: It’s hot, and you’ll be tempted, but don’t even think about cooling off with a swim at Hanakapi’ai Beach on the way in. All those small, makeshift memorials are erected in the memory of hikers who thought they might enjoy wading in and were immediately swept out to sea by the violent rips.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


A Roman holiday in the Jordanian sands

Executive summary by darmansjah

A warm desert breeze whispers softly through Jarash’s hundreds of Roman columns, the bruised and fallen, the proud and unbending alike. It swishes about the Oval Forum, witness to this city’s ancient glory. Just 30 miles north of Jordan’s capital, Amman, Jarash was a part of the Decapolis, a set of semiautonomous cities that stretched across the Levant. With the visit of Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 129, it became the temporary seat of an empire. A new city has arisen, but Jarash remains home to some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world.

“The city was covered by sand for so many years. Today, you can still feel how these people lived,” says tour guide Ayman Khattab. You can see the scars of chariots on the original stones along the Cardo Maximus. At the Hippodrome, you can almost hear the clash of gladiator battles. And at the South Theater, contemporary sounds emerge. Its annual summertime showcase of national and international music and poetry is Jordan’s preeminent cultural event. A modern concert surrounded by these ancient stones deserves a standing ovation. —Benjamin Orbach

Travel Tips

When to Go: Mid-April through June and September-October

Relevant Dates: The Jarash Festival of Culture and Arts is a multiweek, midsummer event typically beginning in early July.

Where to Stay: Lodging is limited in Jarash and abundant in the capital, Amman. Indulge in the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel Amman or the newly renovated (November 2012) Sheraton Amman Ali Nabil Hotel & Towers.

How to Get Around: Jarash is an easy day trip from Amman. Public buses are available, but hiring a taxi, private driver, or rental car is more efficient.

Where to Eat or Drink: In Amman, head downtown to Hashem for quick and cheap local eats (falafel, hummus, hot mint tea), and to stately Fakhr El-Din Restaurant for a sumptuous Lebanese feast. Save room for the dessert: Halawet el Jebn (sweetened cheese with semolina).

What to Buy: Skip the tourist bazaar in Jarash. Instead, spend an evening meandering through the coffee shops, boutiques, and shisha (hookah) cafés lining Amman’s lively Rainbow Street. Buy spices, kaftans, and trinkets from the traditional souks along King Faisal Street.

Cultural Tips: Dress conservatively. Revealing clothing is inappropriate and shorts are rarely worn outside of hotel pool areas.

What to Read Before You Go: Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar (2005). Originally published in France in 1951, this first-person narration blends fact and fiction to reveal inner workings of the emperor and his time.

Fun Fact: The wall in Britain is not the only place to get a feel for the extent of Hadrian’s empire. One of Jerash’s main attractions is Hadrian’s Arch, built to commemorate the emperor’s visit in A.D. 129.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jackson, Wyoming

Best For: Advanced skiers and riders looking for test pieces and line dancing

Executive summary by darmansjah

The giant of American skiing—if your dreams are filled with big mountains and steep, powder-smothered slopes, Jackson Hole is the promised land. The town of Jackson, a 12-mile drive from the ski area, sits in a remote, high valley in northwestern Wyoming in the shadow of the mighty Teton Range and just south of Yellowstone National Park. From its wooden sidewalks and cowboy bars to its restaurants that sling unnecessarily large slabs of red meat, the town of just over 9,500 embraces its Wild West heritage. Much like Banff, Alberta, winter is actually the off-season in this town, so good ski-season deals on lodging abound.

One of the birthplaces of extreme skiing in the U.S., mighty Jackson Hole Resort does offer a few beginner runs, and intermediates will find a smattering of scenic groomed cruisers, but experts are the ones who’ll find their happy place. Advanced skiers and snowboarders will want to jump directly on the 100-person winter tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, at which point you’re looking at a leg-melting 4,139 feet of vertical drop to the base area, which is not only skiable in one sustained gulp, but offers a dizzying variety of chutes, bowls, glades, and cliff drops to get there. Even beginners should take a round-trip on the tram—from which you may spot experts plummeting into the legendary Corbet’s Couloir—for the top-of-the-world views from the summit.

If the 2,500 acres of intense in-bounds terrain doesn’t sate you, you can pass through the resort’s gates into another 3,000 acres of sidecountry powder (the resort’s Mountain Sports School offers excellent guides for backcountry neophytes).

Ask a Local 

Jess McMillan grew up ski racing at Jackson Hole and is now a professional skier and the 2007 IFSA World Tour Champion. Here are her recommendations.

Best Digs
Budget: The Hostel in Teton Village (at the base of the mountain)
Swank: Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa

Best Eats
Cheap: The cheapest good food is the Village Cafe in Teton Village. They have great pre-made breakfast burritos that you eat in tramline while waiting for the mountain to open, as well as to-die-for baked goods. The pizza is great. The Thai chicken burrito for lunch is a favorite.
Gourmet: Couloir is a must do while you’re in Jackson. It’s really cool to ride the gondola to dinner, and the food is incredible.

Best After-Ski Party Spot
Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon

Best Rest-Day Activity
Elk Refuge sleigh rides are a must—it’s so cool to be so close to the elk out on the refuge.

Jackson’s Classic Ski Run
“My favorite ski run is Alta 1. It is the quintessential steep chute in Jackson,” says McMillan. “For something a little less demanding, the classic run is Rendezvous Bowl to the Hobacks. It doesn't get much better than the 2,500 vert of wide open pow fields of the Hobacks.”

Monday, February 23, 2015


Harmonic Convergence

Executive summary by darmansjah

Dusk falls on a primeval landscape on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. A final relic from the world’s last ice age, this North Atlantic island nation is a world of knife-cut valleys, gargantuan fjords, monumental cliffs, black-sand beaches, thundering waterfalls, and silent white glaciers. Recent volcanic eruptions remind us that Iceland is still a country in the making, with changed landscapes that even Icelanders continue to discover.

Three years of financial recovery have made Iceland more affordable, with consumer prices now largely pegged to the euro. The country’s return to a humbler attitude stems from a thousand-year-old tradition of self-reliance—a tradition that has preserved one of the world’s oldest living languages and harnessed some of the cleanest energy on Earth.