It’s the last day of 2011 and this is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Whether it’s because life has become more interesting or just that I want to forget less or perhaps remember more, whatever the reason, this feels like a good thing to do.
My obsession in life has been skiing, I don’t really remember that first trip to Italy with my parents and sisters in the early 1980s but I am told that the itinerary was left on the kitchen table so the first night we didn’t stay in our booked hotel as my parents couldn’t remember the name of it. My father remembered its name the next morning when he looked out of the window and saw it printed on the building on the opposite side of the road. Things went down hill from there, with almost no skiing, lost comfort blankets (gollies), family wide illness and a bout of athletes foot that almost went gangrenous.
So why the obsession? At 6 I went with my father, uncle and cousins to Italy again and this has formed some of my earliest and happiest childhood memories, I’m told that after a couple of tantrums I took to it fairly quickly and was racing my Dad down the nursery slopes by day two. Other memories include my first big crash and humming the theme tune to Airwolf as I snowplowed with great speed and precision down the pistes. I can think of few another events from my past that I remember the details of so crisply.
After a change in fortunes that prohibited expensive skiing holidays I skiied once more at 13 with the school and then not again until 18 when I mentioned to my father how much I would love to do it again and he organised a boys skiing trip for the two of us. This trip became a regular feature of our calendar for the next 10 years. At 28 I went on a trip to Zermatt with some University friends and got chatting to a bloke in a bar who had seen a group of trainee ski instructors snaking down the mountain, each on only one ski. The thought that you coud train to become a ski instructor had literally never occurred to me, thinking back, the ski instructor gap year course may have been a relatively new beast.
So I signed up for a course in Meribel the next winter, just passed, did some teaching for Interski in Italy before returning to the UK. The skiing bug was sated for a few years but it was not long before I got the urge again. Fortunately an understanding boss and a very understanding and supportive wife let me swan off to Verbier, Switzerland for 5 months to teach and train. The plan was to take the ISIA qualification but cost prevented me tackling this final hurdle.
The part of the season I enjoyed the most was a 10 day mountain safety course ISIA module. This involved mostly off piste ski touring which is a mixture of cross country and downhill skiing. The obvious advantages to this form of skiing are escaping the crowded pistes and the challenge and peace of skiing in the wilderness. The less obvious and in many ways more rewarding benefit is climbing up what you ski down also known as the opportunity to “earn your turns”. The bottom line is the it’s the adventure that commercial skiing isn’t. I guess I just got rather disenchanted with the snowsports industry.
I didn’t even realise that I missed plummeting down a slope under my own steam until Beachy’s birthday bash in March 2011 at the Llandegla trail centre. My introduction to mountain biking had been at Llandegla for Beachy’s stag do in 2009, but a year and a half later and unwittingly suffering from adrenaline withdrawal I was ready to be bitten by a new hobby. I rented an Orange hardtail, not sure what model but it could have been called The Lead Pig, I was also very unfit.
That weekend in March just about finished me physically but I was hooked and it was time to buy a bike and make use of the peak district which just happens to be on my doorstep.