Monthly Archives: July 2011

27/7/11 – My his-and-hers collection, part one

True love in Obergurgl village, circa 1996

This week I was reorganising and rationalising my office and I came across an entertaining article in my “Other Writers’ Cuttings” folder about a couple who dressed in matching outfits every day of their lives. Mrs would lovingly sew bespoke his-and-hers garments for her and her Mister – from Hawaiian holiday suits to evening dress.

This reminded me that somewhere among my photo albums is a probably unmatched collection (forgive the pun) of photographs of his-and-hers ski suits. For some reason I took to photographing examples of such co-ordinated pairs over a five-or-so-year period in the 1990s. I have located the pictures and thought I’d share some examples in case any especially happy couples require inspiration for next winter’s ski wear.

Cinched waists were all the rage - at least they cover the bum quite well

Most of the photos I’ve found are not brilliant quality, and many were taken from some distance. The richest pickings at that time were to be found in Hochgurgl, the little satellite of Obergurgl, where I worked two winters and a summer as a rep and ski host for Inghams.

Perhaps it was the high altitude of Hochgurgl (which I believe lies in Austria’s highest parish) that sent holidaymakers there a bit loopy and caused them to appear in public as clones – but I also captured a few goodies in Obergurgl and elsewhere.

Another colourful example - at Hochgurgl, I believe

The last time I spotted a his-and-hers on the slopes was in Cervinia last season. This was after a few years’ gap in sightings, and I was delighted to see that matching couples still visit the mountains.

If I were somehow to end up wearing the same suit as a boyfriend, I suspect I’d find it confusing in a similar way that my sister did as a teenager when she pointed to someone wearing a yellow top and black stretch trousers – the same as hers – and said, “Huh! For a moment I thought that was me!”

I hope you like these and I’ll drip-feed a few more over the next weeks.

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Filed under Austria, Gear, Italy

19/7/11 – Quick update on which posts you like best

Yesterday the all-time views count for Morethanskiing passed 2,500. This is since mid-April, before which there were only a tiny number of views because I kept the blog secret until I deemed it fit to be seen.

I’m able to dig out various statistics from WordPress, which hosts this blog, such as which are the most popular posts and which links are clicked on most frequently. Apart from the homepage and ‘about’, below are the three posts that have had the most views so far:

1st –

2nd –

3rd –

Jolanda and Stefanie Willi, sisters from Basel canton, during their competition performance

The biggest surprise is the third-placed post – I never thought yodelling would be among the most popular material among readers. But I’m glad it is, and I’m using it as an excuse to post another picture from June’s Jodlerfest in Interlaken.

And just in case you didn’t read right to the bottom of the third-placed post, here is another link to an excellent yodel song guaranteed to cheer you up if, like me, you’re wondering what on earth has happened to the good old British summer – Kuettel Family at Interlaken.

Anyway, thank you for reading – and remember, if you want an email to ping into your inbox to warn you when a new post has been published, just click on the link on the right that says ‘Sign me up!’

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Filed under Austria, Music, Switzerland, Transport

18/7/11 – Is it too soon to dream about powder?

Well, there are a few blue runs - picture by Nick Lowe

Last week I found out where the Ski Club of Great Britain plans to send me as a leader next season. I’ve been asked to return to Fernie in British Columbia, Canada, where I spent three weeks earlier this year. I’m delighted as I had a great time there. It means I’ll be able to re-use not only the several unattractive serious-sub-zero neoprene masks but the map that is still in my head of hundred-plus runs (most of which are ungroomed: see previous posts such as these and

Fernie has extra appeal for Brits this year because you can fly much closer than you could in past years, to Cranbrook an hour away rather than Calgary nearly four hours away, with Inghams. I hope to give this a try.

This was the weather we liked

The resort’s slogan is ‘Legendary Powder’ and last season, it certainly was. When a New Zealander friend of mine, Chris Johnson,visited me there in February, it snowed every day – and on average every other day of my entire stay. I soon loved the trees as they make for good visibility in all conditions and the snow stays better among them for longer. They are almost everywhere, as the top station is at less than 2,000m. See what it was like here

When I spoke to Matt Mosteller (read his blog at from the tourist board a month ago, he said there was still four metres mid-mountain, two months after Fernie’s lifts had closed. When I go next year I’d also like to visit nearby Red Mountain – another ‘steep and deep’ spot – and White Fish, just over the US border in Montana. I also want to buy a ‘ski skirt’ of the kind worn by locals to stop them getting a wet behind on chair-lifts.

Just to explain, Ski Club leading works as follows. Competent, confident skiers and boarders can apply to enrol on the two-week Ski Club of GB leaders’ course, which is held each December in Tignes, France. Applicants need two references who will attest to their ability  on two planks (or one), as well as to their off-piste experience, and they must attend an interview. The course cost me around £2,000 once I’d paid fees, travel and extras. It involves tuition on and off-piste, snowcraft, avalanche essentials, basic rescue, leadership, Ski Club policy and so on. Some of the teachers are respected names, such as mountain guides Nigel Shepherd and Kathy Murphy and technique guru Phil Smith.

From a skiing and social perspective it’s a highly worthwhile course, whether or not you plan to ‘lead’. See the blog posts of December 2010, starting with this one – – to find out what goes on. If you pass, you may be sent for a few weeks to one of the Ski Club’s 34 resorts that host leaders. Each leader appoints a skiing meeting time and place six days a week, plus a daily ‘social hour’, and members in those resorts can join the leader for free – at a specified level each day, from intermediate to advanced, including ‘near-piste’ off-piste some days. Non-members can sign up for a free taster day, and sometimes the leader will organise a group to go out with a mountain guide.

During my time in Fernie, between one and half a dozen members came along most days. Only on three days in the three weeks did the members want to ski on piste, which illustrates the sort of skiers who love the place – and the ‘in-bounds’ and ‘out-of-bounds’ system, plus the very clear closed signs, made it easy to choose safe powder routes. I was glad I had no days with no ski buddies at all, as I’m not a fan of skiing by myself.

The system and leaders’ course has been around since the 1960s and it works pretty well – although the club has plenty of leaders at the moment so beware, if you sign up to this year’s course I gather they may not guarantee you a ‘slot’.

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Filed under Canada, France, Link to film, Off-piste, Transport

8/7/11 – Tales from the City III

The view to the west from the slopes of Crans Montana

Last week I went to the London launch of the City Ski Championships 2012, at which plans for a bigger, more open-to-all “ski festival” were unveiled in more detail. As I reported in March (see, City Ski 2012 will take place at Crans Montana (16-18 March) – leaving behind Courmayeur, which has hosted the event for 12 years. (Read more here city ski championships 2012.)

A move to Switzerland when the franc is running rings around the pound seems rash at first glance, but the organisers (Momentum Ski) have struck deals so that prices have remained the same (from £595 for three days including flights, transfers, accommodation, breakfast, lunches, racing and parties). They’ve also arranged a flight to Sion, half an hour from Crans. (Unless you’ve booked, you’re too late – it’s full, so you’ll fly to Geneva, two hours away.) Crans – so the tourist office chiefs declared at last week’s launch – has made it a priority to increase its Brit-count, and targeting an upmarket crowd seems no bad idea. As was revealed at Crystal’s Ski Industry Report this week, the corporate and high-end markets are recovering.

Marcus Brigstocke, who will mastermind entertainment, at the 2011 event. Picture by Martin Bond

The festival element involves Marcus Brigstocke, who founded Meribel’s Altitude Festival. At the 2011 City Champs, Brigstocke’s stand-up went down well – and he completed the race, too, by snowboard. There will be live music and comedy every night: “We want to open up the weekend to those who like the idea of an alpine party,” Amin Momen, Momentum boss, said.

I skied at Crans last winter, visiting from neighbouring Anzere. On past outings I haven’t had the best impression, due to my own poor sense of direction: twice in the 1990s I mislaid my car there, as the base stations of the telecabins from Crans, Montana and Aminona – villages strung along the south-facing hill – look similar to me, and there is a car park at each.

This January, however, I went with my dad, who isn’t prone to this sort of idiocy. We went to ski with several of his farming clients, who were there on a “boys’ weekend”. It was a clear, freezing day and the view southwards across the Valaisan Alps and Italy, towards Mont Blanc in the west and to central Switzerland to the east, was at its most glorious. Even as a regular at Anzere, where the view is just as magnificent, this panorama still takes my breath away.

The raclette-masters Cabane des Taules, a pretty converted cowshed

We had cheese fondue for lunch at Chetzeron (2,112m), a restaurant and mountain hotel that re-opened in 2009/10 after refurbishment: it used to share its site with a cable car station. Now it has a glass-sided terrace, lounge bar, sunloungers and a lot of sheepskin. You could spend all day there – and I’ve no doubt some of the City Ski-ers will do so. I reckon they’ll also love the less chi-chi spots – such as the Cabane des Taules, a cowshed where we stopped for vin chaud and where raclette is the specialite de la maison.

And the skiing? My favourite run was from Chetzeron to the village, down the women’s downhill course, whose bumps, dips and bends through the pine forest make for an exhilarating ride. Catch it when it’s empty and well prepared and you’ll struggle to find a better piste to bomb down. We enjoyed the descent from the glacier, and could see plenty of off-piste potential mid-mountain. Despite no snow for weeks during our visit we found nice, accessible stretches of packed, tracked powder – I suspect most skiers here stick to the pistes and restaurants (after all, Italians are the most numerous visitors here after the Swiss).

Crans also knows how to stage races. In 1987 Peter Mueller and Maria Walliser were downhill winners at the World Championships and the mountain has held numerous world-class competitions since then. Next winter, the World Cup men’s giant slalom returns, and during our visit the Junior World Championships were in full swing.

I can’t pretend to know the village well – I do know there is good shopping (my current ski jacket comes from Crans) and I’ve been to the cinema there a few times. But I understand night-spots – a crucial ingredient for City Ski – are plentiful. And while the village can’t beat Courmayeur for traditional charm, I think other things will win over – speedy routes up the mountain, snow-sure pistes to the village, panoramic views and a well-organised competition infrastructure.

By the way, anyone can go – you don’t need to be a sharp-shooter in pinstripes. My team-mates in March were an employee of Arsenal Football Club, an indoor golf salesman and the Ski Club of GB’s PR consultant. And you don’t need to be terribly experienced: some racers were putting in extra turns between the GS gates in March – and they received only encouragement. After all, the organisers do bill this event “competition in its friendliest format”.

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Filed under Food and drink, Italy, Link to article by Yolanda Carslaw, Off-piste, Racing, Switzerland, Transport

5/7/11 – Here’s a Facebook competition I won’t enter – but you might like to

You know my feelings about chalet slaves (if not, find out here I’ve never wanted to be one, and I’m not the greatest fan of chalets either, even though I understand the appeal and realise many holidaymakers couldn’t do without this very British set-up. Anyway, in case you know a brave person who dreams of baking a daily cake, hosting a dinner party each night, making beds and cleaning loos, all for a chance to whizz up the mountain from 11 till 3.30 and collect a few quid a week, here’s a heads-up about a slightly unusual opportunity.

Strictly forbidden: a bought cake

The seasonal jobs agency has launched a Facebook competition called “Who wants to be a Seasonnaire”? The “winner” will land a job at a chalet “in one of Europe’s premier resorts such as Val d’Isere or Meribel” plus a place worth £599 on the Natives cookery course (think leek and roquefort tart and sole meuniere) and £200 of vouchers for Dare2be gear (think midlayers, baselayers, windshells and all those clever things that weren’t invented back in the day).

Applicants can bypass the usual interview process by posting applications to the Natives Facebook page – by video, if they wish – by 11 July (next Monday). Natives will draw up a shortlist, then the fun starts, as fans of the page (and there are 3,234 of them as I write) will carry out “interviews”: each finalist will have 24 hours to answer a raft of questions and challenges set by the Facebookers. Finally there will be voting, and the chalet-host-to-be will be revealed on 1 August.

The interesting thing is that the job is with Skiworld, a large and established chalet operator that you may remember rocketed to notoriety in 1998 after the BBC fly-on-the-wall “documentary” War and Piste, which focused on its chalet boys staggering around in Val d’Isere before and during monumental hangovers. Thankfully for Skiworld, as this article – – shows, it turned out to be a case of any publicity being good publicity. Another article I found online, from The Independent (, reveals how the docu-soap indirectly led to the founding of So the companies have a history together.

Good luck, then, to all aspirant chalet hosts – the competition can be found here: And for those who don’t enter but feel they can do a good Chris Tarrant, why not throw in a few questions or challenges to the finalists? (Just don’t mention War and Piste.)

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Filed under Austria, Food and drink, France, Gear