Snow Club Blog – Graham Bell takes on Val d’Isere

GB 1 BBC Ski Sunday kicked off the season
from the Premier Neige in Val d’Isere mid December.  It was Graham's first chance to scrape the travel
wax off the old speed boards for the personal challenge that is the camera run, plus his first major use of the Foretrex 401. 

"The initial idea was simple: get an
ex-racer, give them a camera, then chuck them out of the start gate before the
race starts.  In the early days the
camera runner would just have to concentrate on keeping the camera level, but
soon enough microphones were added to the mix, and the camera runners were
expected to commentate their way down the course.  Each broadcaster has their own ex-racer, and
it is quite an exclusive club, double gold medallist Markus Wasmeier runs for
German TV, and World Cup winners Hans Knauss for the Austrians, and William
Besse for the Swiss.

I first started for the BBC in 2001,
and have been slowly pushing the boundaries of skiing with onboard cameras ever
since.  Because we are not live,
generally we will film a race on Saturday for the programme broadcast Sunday
afternoon, we have no issues with turning the tape around quickly.  We started using two cameras facing in
different directions and editing them together: one hand held and one rear facing
on the boot.  Although it means that you
have to ski with only one ski pole, the hand held camera tends to be smoother
than a helmet mounted camera, and you have the added advantage of turning the
camera on yourself halfway down. 
Recently we have added a camera mounted to the ski tip that looks back
up at the skier, although it took some experimenting and a few broken bullet
cams along the way.

The latest addition to the kit is the
Garmin Foretrex, which will measure everything from speed, elevation and rate
of decent, etc.  Compared to the cameras,
it was very simple to set up.  It was
just a question of setting the fields in the trip computer to show Speed,
Elevation, Max Speed, and Average Speed. 
I know that the Garmin is capable of much more, but in this case it’s
speed that we were interested in.

When Val d’Isere was mentioned as our
first stop, I had hoped we would be skiing the old Men’s Downhill course down
to La Daille.  It is a high speed cruise,
and although this week a Super-G instead of a Downhill was planned I was
confident I would manage it safely.   No
such luck; because of the excellent early snow conditions the organisers had
decided to move the race onto the World Championship slope known as the Face de
Bellevarde, a horribly steep and icy slope that even the top racers were
nervous of. 

Rightly so as it turned out; come race
day, throw a little bad light into the equation, and only half the field of 65
starters made the finish.  My camera run
did not exactly go to plan either, I smacked my new helmet camera on a gate just
out of the start, missed a gate on the middle of the course, then almost hit a
course worker who had strayed onto the track just a few gates from home.  The Foretrex 401 did however work perfectly as you
can see from the data download."

In the next Snow Club blog Graham and Ed are heading to Val Gardena
in Italy, home of the famous camel bumps. 
Hoping to up their speed on a downhill Graham knows and enjoys!