If you missed Ski Sunday yesterday, try to find time to watch it on BBC iPlayer. Not for the coverage of the men’s World Cup downhill at Les Houches, Chamonix, on Saturday – though it was exciting, with three Canadians pushing most of the Austrians and Swiss out of the top five – but for the visit made by the presenters to the Hospice du Grand St Bernard.
Graham Bell and Ed Leigh hiked up on skins to the hospice and monastery, near the Swiss-Italian border at 2,500m, with a guide, stayed the night, and skied down into the Aosta valley the other side (in great-looking powder – but this wasn’t really the story).
I was a little surprised they made the ascent in such obviously risky-looking conditions, as the place – they were explaining – is known for avalanche danger: in fact, the camera crew was narrowly missed by a ‘minor’ sluffy-looking slide and everyone had to get a move on as the wind was whipping up more potential danger.
Their excellent report includes fascinating black and white footage of the hospice and olden-days groups en route up to it. People have been crossing this pass for millennia: the hospice was originally built in 1050 and since then, its doors have been perpetually open to travellers.
Graham and Ed were in awe of its history, its magnificent interior (we glimpsed frescoes on the vaulted ceiling), and of the monks themselves. By the end of the programme, both of them looked uncharacteristically pensive and serene, and Graham went as far as saying it was the “most inspiring trip” he had ever made.
Was it touching or cheesy? In my view, the former: it was excellent to see Ski Sunday diversifying to cover facets of life in the mountains that are just as thrilling as high-speed action.
Also (in French): http://gsbernard.ch/
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