First, a very brief introduction to me and why I’m writing this blog post. I’m 49 years old, married with three teenage kids and I work for Snow+Rock (as Multichannel Director). Although I love sport passionately, I am, unlike virtually everyone else who works at Snow+Rock, not obsessive about winter sports. I skied a few times in my 20’s, but a combination of family, cost, other sporting trips and generally not getting round to it, meant only two visits to the slopes in the last 25 years, with the most recent around a decade ago.
When in early January I was invited to the eConsultancy Digital Ski trip, a five day extravaganza in Courchevel, I was a little reticent. Would I still remember how to ski? Would I be fit enough? Would I cope with the après ski? Would I let down the UK’s premier snowsports retailer by being technically backward? And would I still fit into my C&A one-piece that had lain unused except by moths in my cupboard for 10 years.
Fortunately I didn’t have to worry about the last of these as my employer agreed to let me loose on the sample rail. And what a sample rail. A blizzard of top class skiwear lay in wait. Top brands like Schoffel, Eider, Spyder and The North Face – all from our catalogue photoshoot and barely worn. What to choose? I alighted on Kjus, one of our very top brands, selecting the Fusion Jacket and the Formula Pant, both masterpieces of fabric engineering equipped with every feature you could possibly imagine.
I also needed skis and here Snow+Rock also came good, allowing me to borrow a pair of Salomon BBR 8.0s, our favourite ski since their launch in Winter 2011. The surfboard styling was certainly different to the long planks I had skied on last time out, and I was assured by everyone that they would make skiing as easy as, well, falling down a hill.
So, I went on the trip, but what did I learn?
First, skiing is genuinely like riding a bike. It took a few minutes to warm up the muscles and few more to get into a rhythm, but within very little time at all it was as though I’d never been away. I even had the same quirks – turning left much better than turning right, hunching the shoulders like Tommy Cooper and progressively losing control the further I got down the mountain. With one fairly major wipe-out on the first morning to remind myself that falling doesn’t really hurt, I was away.
Second, the kit really is much better than it used to be. Yes, the Kjus outfit is on the expensive side, but, oh boy, does it perform. It offered great protection in all conditions – even at minus 15 I needed on a couple of levels of baselayer to keep me warm – and its ultra light weight and close fit meant I hardly noticed I had it on. And when it rained – yes, it rained at 2,000 metres – it allowed not a single drop to get through its breathable skin.
Also the skis. The BBRs have been a favourite of our teams in Snow+Rock since they were launched in Winter 2011 and they are a great all-round ski. On the piste they were fast and accurate and made turns almost with no involvement from me. The coped well with icier slopes, allowing good grip and sharp edging, and when it snowed – which it did, heavily – they really came into their own, seeming to float over the powder. All in all, a massive improvement on the skis of yore.
Third, while it does help to be ski fit, you can get by with basic sport fitness. A degree of over-excitement on the first day meant that day two was a little challenging, but skiing is a sport for which the phrase ‘second wind’ seems to have been invented. Faced with a nice piste in sunny conditions the mind says ‘definitely’ and the body always seems to be able to come up with the goods.
Fourth, whilst keeping up with the youngsters on the slopes was achievable, keeping up with them in the après ski was most definitely not. When did the craze for shots emerge? And, more pertinently, why? We used to be happy with a couple of glasses of wine and a fondue – Mr Jagermeister seems to have changed all of that.
Aside from the shots, I had a great time and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the slopes. I’ll definitely be taking my family for a trip next year, and I’m already working on persuading the company to deck us out in Kjus.
Econsultancy Digital Ski Movie courtesy of SearchLabs