Wednesday, 21 November 2012

My World Cup comeback race in Lake Louise

In 8 days I will be ‘officially’ back. So weird to say that Lake Louise will be my World Cup comeback race* - I don’t think that is the right word - ‘comeback’. It suggests I went away, MIA... well I was never gone. Yes, I distracted myself with some fantastic opportunities like commentating for Eurosport and taking part in Dancing on Ice but skiing Chemmy was always there.

I know a lot of people expect a lot from this blog - you want to know the raw feelings of racing my first big race on the very hill that threatened to end my career and all that over-the-topness. But in fact I feel weirdly peaceful. I know the hill, I know the terrain, I know I will be nervous and I am prepared for the jittery stomach.

I think my peace comes from the not expecting. Don’t get me wrong I am as ambitious as ever and I want to be fast - but I don’t want that competitiveness to get in the way of me enjoying this momentous two minutes that I fought so hard to be part of my life.

People will probably watch me race with two mindsets - those who know and support me will just want me to be safe and happy; cynics will be interested in the mental side - how tough is she? Is she attacking or skiing passive? Is she fast? Has the last two years been worth it? Were the federation right to stop supporting her?

I am not naive, I know what some are saying but only I know the true satisfaction of pushing out that start gate.

I owe this World Cup start to so many - from my amazing family and boyfriend, to my buddy Adam who was always there however down I was, to the fantastic people who put me back together Claire Lawrence and Cliff Eaton, to the trainers at The Third Space and Surrey Sports Park, to the Canadian Team for once again taking in this black sheep, to those who spent their precious pennies voting for me on Dancing on Ice that gave me the confidence and drive to be competitive in sport, to the fab sponsors that have come forward and the kind people who have donated to my website...

When I race now, when I push out that start whether it be a World Cup, the World Champs next year in Schladming or the Olympics in 2014, I know that I am not racing alone, YOU are racing with me.

Thank you as always for your continued love and support.

* When I say comeback race, I am not entirely telling the truth! I had the opportunity to race two SG FIS races last week with a fantastic World Cup field in Copper Mountain. Finished both in the top 10 and was smiling all day!!!

Image credit: Colmar

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Skiers and snowboarders: why can't we just get along?

I’ve been thinking lately – why is it that skiers and snowboarders have such a strong rivalry, and sometimes even a mild antipathy towards each other, considering we have so much in common?

I have to start by saying, once again, this blog is likely to be highly biased since for 28 years I have been in favour of the two planks! But with an older brother who veered over to the dark side of the snowboard a decade ago, I will try and create a more balanced argument than you would expect of me!

  • We share the mountain
  • We share the breathtaking sunrises that encompass the white snow in pink hues
  • We share the lift rides (and the queues!)
  • We share the sweet first tracks on the perfectly groomed pistes
  • We share the fresh track after a night of deep snowfall
  • We share the exhilarating rush of air as we let gravity fly us downwards
Only one thing really tears us apart – I ski on 4 edges, they ski on two!

How I perceive snowboarding? Two words – cool and creative. It is an expressive form of artistic sport – from the amazing tricks in big air to how they look. I have nothing but admiration for their incredible skills.

I used to dabble with a board. Back in the day my father imported ‘clipper’ snowboard bindings so naturally I had to be a big fan! I took to it quite easily in its very basic form. Personally I think because of having just 2 edges to think about it can be easier to learn than skiing. But I found having my feet strapped to a board restrictive (still today I love surfing and yet feel slightly awkward wake-boarding for the same reason) I found I couldn’t generate as much speed as I can on skis.

Obviously this was partly due to the fact I was a very basic snowboarder and like to think I am a slightly more professional ski racer! I think there is more evidence to suggest one can be faster on skis – to quote Wikipedia “(skiing) is one of the fastest non-motorized sports on land. The current world record (2006) for skiing is 251.4 km/h (156 mph), held by Simone Origone.” Speed skiers are as the name suggests skiers, not boarders, however after much internet searching I did find this:  the highest recorded speed by a snowboarder is 201.907km/h (125.459mph) by Darren Powell (Australia) at Les Arcs, France in 1999. So actually not a huge amount of difference!

Snowboarding used to be what the cool kids who didn’t want to wear lycra and race downhill did. It let them be loose, creative and demonstrative – a way to show off your talents without using a timer. However the last decade has definitely seen a resurrection of free skiing and slope style on skis. Tricks that boarders invented have been re-born by skiers who put their own twists on them. I can’t say one of these art forms is better than the other because I don’t follow the sports closely enough but both talents are wondrous to me since they are so foreign. I could never hit a jump and do tricks – I fly through the air in an ‘egg’ shape aiming to touch down on the snow ASAP and make more speed (air time is slower than on snow time!)

If I could change one thing about snowboarders it would be to implant eyes into the back of their heads. Obviously snowboarders have a ‘blind’ side and I think it is this side that causes the most agro for us skiers. I am sure boarders don’t (always) intentionally cut skiers up but a lot of crashes are caused this way since they can only see one direction. My father had a really bad crash a few years ago – he is a formidable 6 foot 4 and even still the perpetrator had trouble seeing him!

I am sure boarders too have qualms about us skiers so if you are a boarder and want to let me know, please comment at the bottom!

Will snowboaders and skiers ever be compatible? Well as far as sharing the T bar goes, I don’t think so! But let’s make peace, let’s shake hands, respect each other and our love of the white stuff.

Image credit: Colmar

Chemmy is the ski ambassador for Monarch Airlines and this blog post is also published on

Monday, 12 November 2012

Are you posey, pretty, racy or straight out of the 80s?

The ski slopes are a people watching dream. Look to your right and you may see lycra-clad racers, to your left snow bunny kitted out wannabes with permanent, teeth-as-white-as-the-sparkling-snow, gleaming smiles and in front of you 3 years old kids with no fear (and probably not much technique) charging down the mountain to join their adversary heaped at the bottom of the slope as they try to learn to stop!

Where do you think you fit in? But more interestingly who do others see you as?

Posey Skier
The kind of person who watches Made In Chelsea and sees that skiing is ‘what one does’ so books a holiday to wherever they saw Prince William and Kate ski last year. Purchasing as much expensive designer ski gear as possible, sauntering up to the ski lift at midday, checks out the ski instructor talent during a few runs. Then heads to the poshest mountain restaurant drinks mulled wine (or the local version) then heads down to put on the tiniest bikini and sit in the hot tub with a glass of champers! Yessss darling!!

The (ex) Racer
Having learnt to ski as a youngster, you once invested in an ex GB catsuit for your yearly corporate event. It seemed a great idea at the time – however years of social beer drinking mean the zip popped and the safety pins holding it together aren’t as sexy as they looked when Liz Hurley wore that dress back in the 90s (probably same era when the zip easily glided over your toned stomach!). Your technique is good, decent, a mish mash of years of different styles of coaches – particular memorable are the benz ze knees and emphasize that pole plant. Tends to bob up and down a bit but generally a safe, fast skier. However be warned when The (ex) Racer is on a busy piste, tends to use fellow skiers as a human slalom – steer clear in that scenario!

Stuck in the Comfort Zone
The ‘stuck’ skier goes skiing once a year and loves it but never really gets the time to improve. Over the year, this skier loses confidence so starts on the blue runs and never gets the guts to make the move to the red. Misses the opportunity, decides to wait until next year but sadly this is a vicious circle of ‘blue-run-dom!’

We have all been there. Even me, when I am rusty on my first camp of the year and feeling great on a nice easy run, I think I will just stay here doing this again and again and feeling like a champ. why progress to a harder run that will take more effort and I won’t feel as great?? Why? WHY? Well sports like skiing give us the opportunity to push our boundaries – learn where our physical limit is. If you don’t take that chance then you will never know how good you could be!

Over Confident
This skier knows how to stop safely – so on that premise, disregards technique and just goes for it. Skis as ‘loose as a goose’ – all jelly legs and big warning signs. Probably has a skill level suited to a red but often frequents black runs (that person you see walking up to the top to collect the ski they lost before somersaulting 50 metres down the vertical descent!) But loves it regardless. Also often seen bragging at the bar at how many runs they skied and showing their  iPhone speed app to anyone and everyone who looks semi-interested (secretly hiding the fact that the 80kph it shows was actually not a result of fast skiing but an erratic bus driver on the way to the base of the mountain!)

1980s Ski Wizz
Despite having all the latest parabolic, huge side-cut skis, this person still skis as if s/he were on a mono board. Legs, knees, ankles glued as tightly together as possible – heaving the body weight from side to side. Also prone to the vintage look (which is actually coming back in fashion, conveniently for them!) from fluorescent colours to big headbands!

Extreme ‘the Piste is the Enemy’ Skier
The purveyor of anything deemed ‘wild’ so skinning up the mountain at the crack of dawn, a quick sip of something to warm the soul from his silver battered hip-flask before hurtling down any cruddy snow or deep powder – anything far away from the crowds and corduroy snow made by the piste machines. Uses the word radical a lot whilst pulling out a lot of peace signs (unless mittens are their glove of choice!)

Pretty Skier
Knows potentially they could be faster and keep up with their kids but has been complimented on being a beautiful, graceful skier so many times that fears jeopardising that by trying new techniques. Besides which skiing is about enjoying being out in the mountain, knowing that in all the cute pastel clothes they look good, especially the overly tight on the behinds’ over-trousers!

The “Dad Who is Desperately Trying to Stay Faster Than His Kids” Skier
Was really keen his kids should follow his love of snow sports. Tried to give them the opportunity he didn’t have by putting them on snow as soon as they could walk. The first few years were fun – skiing as a family, being the envy of all the other dads who sacrifice their fun, fast turns to teach their own kids the snow-plough. However, has recently noticed he can no longer keep up with them. Somehow in the blink of an eye they have left him in their plume of powdery snow. Now fears both his age and lack of fitness are holding him back from ever catching them up again!

This blog is all in jest – is it not by any means a reflection of anyone I know – so if you are friend or family reading this, thinking that I used you as a muse you are far from the truth – all my characters are fabrications of my over creative snowy filled mind!

What kind of skier are you? What kind of skier do your friends think you are? Tell me in the comments below!

Chemmy is the ski ambassador for Monarch Airlines and this blog post is also published on