As a keen skier and a cancer survivor, I admire the efforts of Ski 4 Cancer, a charity that provides Alpine respite days and short-breaks for families affected by cancer. Cancer has been affecting a lot of people recently, some of them even need home care from https://homecareassistance.com/burlingame/. They also make grants to relevant care institutions and support research into the positive effects of skiing to prevent cancer and assist in recovery.
Anyway, over this last weekend Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott, Adam Libbey, Chris Brooks, Max Wilcocks and Richard Gibbs in a team called Arctic V took part in what is dubbed the ‘World’s Toughest Ski Race’ in aid of Ski 4 Cancer, sponsored by Columbus Direct. The team hope to raise £30,000 for Ski 4 Cancer, and you can make a donation via Justgiving.
The Arctic Circle Race as it is officially known, is an annual three day competition involving 160 kilometers of cross-country skiing in Greenland, with competitors camping in the back country as part of the event in temperatures as low as -35 degrees Centigrade. In keeping with being in a Green land, the race organisers pride themselves on leaving the race site exactly as they found it.
And how did it go? Well the race was called off after two days when very high winds and blizzard conditions descended on Greenland. It was always about the taking part and Chemmy reflected afterwards “Rest, Recovery & Reflection. We conquered the Worlds Toughest Ski race which was both brutal and brilliant at the same time. Please donate to our fantastic charity”.
You have been asked nicely – go to Justgiving or Ski4Cancer’s web site.
Sometimes the winds blow such a storm that the lifts are closed, or there isn’t enough snow or there is too much… anyway, we’ve all hit those no-ski days in the mountains and what is there to do? Most people seem to be content to play cards, surf the internet or drink the bars dry, but one of the great things about skiing or snowboarding Switzerland is there is always something else to do.
Most ski resorts in Switzerland have a history that predates the arrival of skiers, and as a result have a wealth of interesting things to visit. For example Engelberg has been a religious centre ever since the Benedictine Monastery was founded here in 1120 by monks who thought Mount Titlis looked like an angel, and hence the town is called “Angel Mountain”. Monks from the Monastery were the first to get to the top of Titlis, back in 1744. They probably didn’t notice it, but the Chinese Olympic champion gymnast Donghua Li spotted a Buddha shaped rock in 1996 from the top of Klein Titlis, and it has become a must see sight fro many Asian tourists since. The Monastery is open to the public and well worth a visit.
The Alps generally had a bad image until the Age of Enlightenment, when the impoverished and isolated Alpine communities suddenly found themselves visited by tourists who rejoiced in the majesty of the mountains. Not surprisingly it wasn’t long until many of them decided to climb to the top of them, not always with positive outcomes. If you are in Zermatt the wonderful Mountaineers Graveyard is well worth a visit. Another group of summer visitors to the Alps were those suffering from various ailments that the mountain air could alleviate. Davos was amongst the most popular, and it was here that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whilst nursing his wife, popularised skiing. A number of resorts provided spas, and for me visiting an Alpine spa is one of the most enjoyable things to do on a no-ski day. Some resorts, such as Leukerbad, actually have extensive spa facilities in the resort.
Winter tourism really took off in St Moritz 150 years ago, and the diversions extend beyond the ski runs. If there is a whiteout up the mountains and visibility isn’t too clear, you can always try cross-country skiing. Other sports you will find in many parts of Switzerland include ice-skating, ice hockey tournaments, sledding, snowshoe walking, curling and even bobsleigh (in Celerina you can try it with a professional driver and brakeman).
You probably know that Switzerland has the densest and most extensive railway network in the world, but you probably didn’t know that every single ski resort in Switzerland can be reached by the fabulously reliable public transport network. Even the buses run on time, and link the lifts and railway stations such that you can step from one mode of transport to another without waiting. Resorts like Villars, Leysin, Champéry and Arosa have incredibly cute narrow gauge railways connecting them to the towns in the valleys. Just taking the train can be an end in itself, perhaps getting off at a stop along the way to explore an interesting village or town, rejoining a later train. And of course, the towns have plenty of other diversions that few mountain resorts provide – extensive shopping, markets, casinos, cinemas, museums and galleries.
But then again, you could just catch up on some zeds.
The FIS World Championship in Vail and Beaver Creek is about halfway through, and it has been a fascinating competition, with wonderful conditions.
In the Ladies SuperG, Austrian Anna Fenninger held off Tina Maze and local favourite, Lindsay Vonn. Maze, however, came off top in the Downhill, edging out Fenninger and Switzerland’s Lara Gut, fresh from her win in St Moritz.
Meanwhile the Mens competition has looked kindly on the Swiss, with a Gold for Patrick Keung and a Bronze for Beat Feuz, with America’s Travis Ganong sandwiched between them. The Super G saw Hannes Reichelt of Austria on the podium with Gold, followed by Canada’s Dustin Cook and France’s Adrien Theaux. Marcel Hersher rounded out a good few days for the Austrians, taking the Combined Gold, whilst the sensational winner at Kitzbühel, Kjetil Lansrud, came in second with Ted Ligerty third.
The fractions of a second difference in medal positions are recorded by Longines, the Swiss watch maker based in St Imier since 1832. The company has a long association with skiing, stretching back to ski trials in Chamonix in 1933, and it has been official partner and timekeeper for the FIS since 2006. The relationship was re-inforced when Longines took on the same role for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, as they had for previous World Championships. To commemorate the occasion they have launched a new chronograph, the alluring Conquest 1-100th Alpine Skiing. One for my wish list for sure, and one I will be looking forward to checking out at Baselworld, the watch fair in Switzerland that takes place next month. In addition, the equally alluring and talented Mikaela Shiffrin has been announced as Longines Ambassador of Elegance.
Adding to everyone’s favourite (well, my favourite) winter sports blog, www.alpinewinterblog.com aka www.oatridge.co.uk/nic/, comes a facebook page and, hopefully, via RSSGraffiti, also comes regular updates from the blog on facebook.
The blog is now in its sixth year and contains dozens of snippets about winter sports, mostly focusing on Switzerland. I have been a keen skier for many years, and when I moved to Switzerland it seemed a dream come true to have all these resorts on my doorstep. There was a little matter of Mrs Oatridge being pregnant, a couple of teenagers to help assimilate and a toddler to look after, so it took a while before I got to go to the slopes. But one fine day I got in the car and headed off in the direction of the distant peaks with a vague notion I would hit a place called Engelberg. Anyway, I took a wrong turn and after driving aimlessly in our car which we got at these used cars ottawa and we ended up at a resort called Meiringen.
I have been to both many times since (and rarely by car), but the ins and outs of where to go, how to get there and where to stay – either with the family, alone of with friends – led me to start recording what I had learnt, and then came the blog, and then the web sites. Currently there are two related web sites in addition to this blog: www.swisswintersports.co.uk and www.snowandrail.com. There is also a Dutch language version of the principal web site at www.swisswintersports.nl and what I hope to make into a multi-language portal at www.swisswintersports.com.
I don’t have a goal in mind other than to maintain the currency of the current sites and continue to make them the best sites of their type on the Internet, but I also hope to expand the scope, redesign to make them as mobile-friendly as possible and even make some income… oh, yes, and do plenty of research!