Snow Club Blog – Playing with fire and Olympic flames

Ed Leigh
By Ed Leigh 

As promised in my last blog, 8 hours and 16 minutes is how long it took to get from Bad Gastein to Alp D’Huez according to my Garmin Dakota. I’m pretty proud of how quickly we did it considering there’s two mountain passes, Claviere/Montgenevre and the Lauteret. And as we passed through Serre Chevalier, even the most pessimistic observer would have estimated a solid half-metre of snow.

The next day we got stuck into a very basic rock line to loosen ourselves up before a photo shoot. I wasn’t amazed to see that my Foretrex 401accurately recorded that I was moving very slowly by my third hiking lap of the rocks. I wouldn’t even have blamed it for complaining about how much I was sweating!

Graham (Bell) was, as ever, the consummate pro. He knows what he can and can’t do and with a couple of hikes had banked some very nice tuck/drop style shots in his red jacket against a beautiful scenic backdrop. I haven’t shot action photos for almost seven years now and despite repeated attempts I couldn’t get a grab on a front-side three-sixty (I did land them both though). Then, horror of horrors, I got bogged on the run-up to a cliff and ignominiously went over the handlebars down the front of the cliff at about 5 miles an hour. I know that because even my Foretrex 401was teasing me by this stage.

After another punishing drive that saw us traverse all of Northern Italy, we tucked ourselves through the Maloja Pass and into St Moritz ready to meet the British Women’s Bobsleighpair, Nicola Minichello and Gillian Cooke.

Bobsleigh_Minichiello360Minichello and Cooke are the reigning World Champions, a title they achieved after only two months in the sled together, so you can understand why there has been quite a bit of hype surrounding them in the run-up to these Games. Disaster struck when Nicola contracted a rare eye condition while driving her sled in Winterberg just before Christmas. St Moritz was to be their first race back, and after a month off the circuit training and relaxing, they were raring to go. They made a storming return with a very comfortable eighth place.

With this season’s Ski Sunday wrapped up, I have just started on a new series for Red Bull. The title isn’t settled, but at the moment it’s called the Wing Man. Anyway, having done a pilot on Cliff Diving I flew to Munich to start filming the next episode, covering the Crashed Ice event.

Crashed Iceis one of the best hybrid sports in the world, borne out of ice hockey, speed skating, motocross and boarder X. From that list you can gather it is a four-man downhill race over jumps and berms on ice skates, and yes, it is absolute lunacy!

Crashed Ice 

I spent two days immersed in the event, meeting skaters, pioneers and even having a go myself. Stefan Aufschnaiter the inventor of the sport and ex downhill skier was trussed up in a sling thanks to his quest to progress the sport and make it a more viable proposition in terms of budget. In his twisted logic he had decided to use his ice skates on the downhill skiing course in Val Gardena.


Obviously it bit him, hard, leaving him with broken ribs and collarbone, but also an unerring confidence that this is where the future of the sport lies. It took a moment to sink in, but surely this IS the future of winter sports? What would you rather watch? One guy on skis or four guys on ice skates? The amazing thing was they had tested mountain bikes and skis and found that ice skates were quickest. But in Stefan’s own words ‘they still have some problems with traction’… Watch this space.

Next time you hear from me I’ll be in Vancouver. I can’t wait.