Trip Roulette: Grecco Roamin’
“Say hello to Trip Roulette, a concept I created to mix snowboarding, adventure and ecology (but not too boring, I promise). What’s the goal? Traveling differently to be eco-friendlier, snowboard, share good moments in the mountains with my friends, and then relay funny memories to you, the snowboard audience. The pitch is simple, but genius: Spin three wheels with various locations, riders, and means of eco-friendly transport. Whatever scenario comes out will be tons of fun and full of discoveries. Last year we went riding in the mountains of Corsica Island via sailboat. For this installment of Trip Roulette, snowboarding allowed for yet another incredible opportunity to discover a new country with beautiful mountains: an opportunity to get to know my friends better, to learn how to ride horses, to party hard and taste the best food. Most importantly, being disconnected in the wilderness and sharing time with the locals in such great places was priceless.
We travelled through Greece on horseback. Our guests? The magical combo of Niels Schack and Nils Mindnich, accompanied by Phil Jacques. Trip Roulette is the best idea ever.” – Victor Daviet
From the diary of Jérôme Tanon
Pame, Alladin! Pame! Pame, Alladin! Is this damn horse really not going to walk any further? Slap his butt. Harder. Stuff your ankles in his belly. Yell at him. Pame! No effect. To be fair to poor Alladin, some American tourist is on his back with a heavy backpack and a snowboard. They are trying to make him hike up a tricky mountain trail, full of rocks and ice. The caravan of nine horses and as many men will soon stop in a flat field on top of a cliff, where they will set camp, build a fire, and let the horses loose to munch on the juicy grass all around. But Alladin doesn’t know that. Alladin thinks these crazy folks want to ride him to the top of the great Timfy mountain! Alladin doesn’t want to die, so Alladin won’t move a single step. No matter how much giggling and wobbling and slapping the dude on top does. He doesn’t know how to ride anyway. Alladin knew that the second he saw this mysterious group come up to him and his herd. What the hell are these guys up to with their cowboy hats and snowboards?
From the diary of Nils Mindnich:
Thursday March 7, 2019 10:22am
“We’re here! The campsite is actually really nice. We’re a couple miles from the nearest village, I think it’s called Papingo. It’s a small town of strictly wood and stone that sits above the scenic Vikos Gorge. An abandoned cattle field is what we’ve decided to call home for the next week. We’re at the base of some amazing 2000-foot cliffs that remind me of the Dolomites. Off in the distance is Albania and all we can see are small villages scattered across the Greek countryside. You look one way and it feels like being in Utah hills, then I turn my head toward the massive cliffs and think otherwise. There’s some bird chirping away and the sun is starting to roast us all, which makes me feel like we’re about to take some laps on Hood.
I’m quite the outsider on this one. All of the other guys are native French speakers. Our local horse guides are Greek. Then there’s me, the lone Yank. They’re pretty cool about it, though. Everyone speaks English around me or at least reminds each other to speak English around me. Either way, there’s still an isolating factor I just have to roll with. Honestly though, I kind of like it. The disconnect makes it feel like it’s that much more of an adventure.
From the diary of Jérôme Tanon:
A linguistic singularity quickly appeared to us, as every Greek dude seemed to be named Yaniss or Dimitri. The ones from the horse ranch were no exception, who brought with them fifteen kilos of meat and a big bottle of Tsipuro. Tsipuro would compare to moonshine if moonshine tasted really good. The scene at night was one of a crackling fire, as delicious mutton sticks were passed around. Food is a very important part of Greek culture, as it is not only varied, delicious, and healthy, but also a key social binder.
We hiked up Mt. Timfy, found spots to build jumps and carve gullies, and rode down to camp in the mad orange sunset. Every day from sunrise to sunset, snowboarding with big smiles on our faces. It was the middle of March, the heart of backcountry season. While other crews are shooting in Whistler and Arlberg, we’re camping with horses, hiking fields of slush, and jumping around. We found hips, quarterpipes, and even some jibs. The boys enjoyed pushing each other and I got to snap legendary photos. After six days, armed with headlamps, we loaded our gear on our backs and started the descent back towards the village.
From the diary of Niels Schack:
When we finally got back to the village, there was a huge festival and everyone was dressed-up, drinking and throwing little fireworks. How lucky was that!? We all had a great time, obviously, since we had spent six days in the mountains. We were in heaven, drinking around a table with a plate full of local veggies and an assortment of grilled meat, tzatziki, saganaki (grilled cheese), feta, olive oil, salt, and bread. It’s not that the food is better than in any other places, but the way it’s presented and shared makes it seem better than in other places. There is a real appreciation for its simplicity, and that makes you respect what you’re eating. This was accentuated the next day when we went down to swim in a freezing cold river, it was a national day off after the carnival, and everyone was eating, laughing, and bathing.
Also, they were using these large kites that looked a lot of fun. A group of people flying kites was making fun of me because I was freezing when I came out of the water, and so I ended up talking with them. After some lovely banter, they invited us to eat with them. We had a long a road to go onto, so we had to sadly refuse, but they decided to put all their leftover food in a bag and gave us the best road picnic we could have dreamed off: beers, souvlaki, and grilled bread.
From the diary of Nils Mindnich
Thursday, March 14, 2019 // 5:30pm
The next day started off pretty slow as we were all a little dinged up from the night before, combined with all the camping and hiking from the previous week. We eventually checked out of the hotel in Papingo and made our way to Ioannina.
The city of Ioannina was packed with tight-knit, intertwined streets. I really felt like I wasn’t in the US or a privileged Alps ski town, which was fun for me. The past few days we had been staying at this weird hostel/lodge at a ski resort called, Vassilitsa. We even got to sneak in a powder day! Since we’re in between tourist seasons, the place was completely dead, and we quickly became good friends with everyone working there. They ran such a loose program, it was hilarious. I think I’ll remember it for a long time.
We’ve just gotten into the second camp zone below Mount Smolikas. It’s a basic cabin in the middle of the woods with one beat up stove, two rickety tables, and wide bench around the edge for sleeping. It only took us about one-and-a-half hours to get up here, and the place even came with sleeping pads! I’m not sure what tomorrow’s weather is going to be like, but I hope it’s clear. I think we’ll get above the tree line and be able to check out the mountain. We’re only up here for two nights. I believe we’re hiking around tomorrow. On Saturday, we’re planning on hiking up to ride and then hiking back to the van and driving straight to Athens. Sunday, I think we might check out the sea?
From the diary of Jérôme Tanon:
That stove almost killed us. It started to burn out and smoke like the ovens of hell in the middle of the night while we were snuggled up in our sleeping bags to beat the cold. Thankfully, somebody woke up to alert us. It took a ton of snow to stop the fire and we slept with all doors and windows open to evacuate the smoke. That forest had some kind of spirit. We felt so far from everything out here. It was just us and this cabin. Somebody gave us the key. For free. Themis arranged it for us. Themis is a local snowboard enthusiast who joined us for the good times, bringing his valuable knowledge and tea. He was often telling us stories in the night. It made me think that snowboarding is just a context, a common ground to stand on and look further.
As we drove down to Athens on the following day, we stopped to dive in a natural hot spring river. The trip had been perfect so far, but it still had a couple surprises for us. The first one was a boisterous club in the heart of Athens’ tagged-up and riot-filled streets. We found ourselves stacked up between all these interesting people, dancing to the crazy-ass techno music. It couldn’t have been more of a contrast from the previous days. Athens’ typical restaurants, a random acro-yoga session in a park, the view from the Parthenon, and the kind people, that’s what we fed on.
From the diary of Niels Schack:
Athens. After I thought there was no way to top every other restaurant we had been to on the trip, we go to eat in a cavern-like, family-owned spot with two guitarists that sang traditional folklore punk songs that were incredible. This place made me feel lucky to be invited into this intimate circle. We all ate till our bodies couldn’t lift one another. This is probably one of my fondest memories this season and I owe it to both my longtime friends and our new friends that showed always the best time!! So for this, efcharistó!
P.S. Don’t forget the 1.20 euros gyros though, they have not been mentioned so far in this story, but are nonetheless legendary!
From the diary of Jérôme Tanon:
Greece worships an urge to not urge. A glorification of taking it easy. All will be fine. The crushing state debt, the riots—no problem. All will be fine. As long as the sun shines and the sea is blue, we’ll take it easy and enjoy the ride. That’s how this place feels. Eventually our trip came to an end, but to make the most out of every hour spent on Greek land (a very strong motto on this trip), we drove up to Parnassos Ski Resort without expectations and found a world-class shredding mountain. Soft snow and sunshine made for an epic day of tchoo-tchoo train family shred session, ending with an insane sunset over the sea of the Peloponnese. At the last ray of sun, we dropped into the face and went top-to-bottom to wrap up a perfect adventure. So long, my friends. Efcharistó!
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