Graham Bell – Mt Blanc this summer…?

It was a patchy season at best in the Alps, with some occasional good snow falls in the southern parts of Italy, Switzerland and Austria, but one of the worst seasons ever in the French resorts most visited by British skiers.  In contrast the US had the season of a lifetime, particularly California with record snow-falls in Squaw Valley and Mammoth Mountain.  It was still snowing into mid-May, with the first stage of the Tour of California cycling cancelled because of snow!


Unable to afford a flight over to the USA, I opted for the next best thing and headed to the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead.  Disability Snowsports UK were running their third annual 666 Number of the Piste Skiathon.  Over the 6 indoor snow centres in the UK, teams of 6 skiers and snowboarders would ski 666 runs in 6 hours.  There was even a child there greeting us who had been born on the 6th June 2006!  Not really I just made that bit up.

Of course a race like this is purely dependent on the speed of the lift and the length of the queue.  I was lapping at about 3-4 minutes per lap: 2 mins in the queue, 1.5 mins on the lift, and 15 secs for the descent.  If you straight line the first half of the slope you get enough speed for three good GS turns at the bottom.   I was racing with a team of ringers from the Aosta Valley and the Ski Club of Great Britain, so predictably we won.  At the prize giving, I had a fit of conscience and put my prize, Ice Climbing with Ellis Brigham and a bottle of wine back up for auction.   Thanks to Pete Bell (no relation) from Crystal for stumping up another £50 for the charity.

After chatting with the guys from the Aosta Valley I’m now trying to cook up a plan to going skiing off the top of Mt Blanc on mid-summers day!  Anything to keep the snow fix going over the summer months.  Of course the real summer skiing is to be had either in New Zealand or South America, so if anyone has any ideas for possible Ski Sunday features down in the Southern Hemisphere please let me know.