Those 3 things

The three things I won’t do

In a previous blog post I had said there were three things I won’t do that are skiing related; off-piste, bumps and ski touring.

‘Why ski off-piste when there is a perfectly groomed run you can use which will take you to the same place ? I just don’t understand what the point of it is. Bumps are much easier and safer to negotiate if you take your skis off and walk down the side. All that bumping, jolting, having your body shaken every which way only to end up in a painful crashed heap very quickly. No thanks. Ski touring is another thing I just don’t understand. Basically, ski touring is where you ski up the mountain so that you can ski down it. What !! Just buy a lift pass ! It’s so much easier !!’

Shortly after writing the blog post, four weeks later in fact, I found myself eating my own words and doing all three of those things in the space of twenty minutes. Ah.

Whilst visiting the Swiss ski resort of Crans Montana I decided to find the artwork on the mountain that is by Vision Art Festival and photograph it. My friend, Vincent, is deputy boss for Vision Art Festival so thought I would take the opportunity to find some of the urban street art pieces whilst I was there. They are all on walls located across the mountain and villages of Crans and Montana. Some are easier to get to than others. One, which I had spotted from a ski run, was off piste which would require not only getting up to it on skis but skiing off piste back to a black run which was a pitch of bumps further down. In fact, it wasn’t any old black run, it was a FIS World Cup run. Hmmm… Did I really need the photos ? I decided that I did.

In getting up to it on skis and returning off piste I had essentially ski toured but in alpine skis. The reward and satisfaction I got from achieving my goal was huge. I can quite see now why people ski tour. I’m going to have to learn.

A friend had actually suggested I tried ski touring and I did understand his thinking. I do a lot of mountain walking, have nordic skied in the past, love mountains and snow. Ski touring would enable me to get to places I otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. If I am going to learn to ski tour it has to be with that friend since I trust him implicitly not to get me trying anything that he knows I am not capable of.

First, in order to ski tour I’m going to have to learn to like off piste.

Off piste is something I really don’t like and am quite (actually very) nervous about. Areas of off piste make me a bit anxious. The depth and what’s underneath is hidden from sight by the snow. There might be hidden boulders or ditches ready to knock me off course, or I might be ‘drowned’ in deep snow unable to move. Anybody who has ever ridden a motorbike across a cold, murky Icelandic river will know exactly what I mean. The best approach for me would be to walk across first and find out giving me the opportunity to find a good route by feeling around with my feet, checking for boulders or ditches that might knock me off balance, then ski it. But that’s just the nonsense part of my brain that tries to distract me … and distract me it does ! Shut up brain !!

Prior to my improvised ski tour whilst in Crans Montana the last time I had skied off piste was in January. I had gone to Saint Gervais for some extra coaching from a BASI examiner, coach and trainer. It had dumped down with snow all night and all that day. I knew the person coaching me loved off piste skiing and I felt really guilty that in spending all day with me I was depriving him of some fresh powder skiing. Ultimately, the chances were high that he would try and take me off piste at some point in the day.

When he took me off-piste towards the end of my lesson there was nearly a rebellion. I am that nervous about off-piste. Had I known where I was I would have simply left him to it but the problem was I had never skied in Saint Gervais before and had absolutely no idea where I was.

As we stood together at the side of the pisted ski run my brain was busy doing its own thing and started suggesting stupid things to make me worry, and at the least useful of times. Which was totally unhelpful. Shut up brain!

My coach was really good and had almost certainly sensed my anxiety. As we stood there at the side of the run at the edge of the off-piste he went through it all with me; where we were going, which direction, which route and line, where it led to. He set off first, did a couple of turns, stopped and had me join him. Upon reaching him he set off again, did a couple of turns before stopping and waiting for me to join him again. As I did so he gave me gentle encouragement.

Once the feeling of anxiety had been silenced by a bit of logic I was alright. The fact that I was with someone who I knew had the resourcefulness to solve anything that could happen was an enormous help. Whether it be a problem up a mountain whilst skiing, or a flat tyre on a motorbike whilst riding back down a trail one October day there is comfort in the fact that you are with someone who has all the knowledge tools to sort out any problem that may arise. So I tried not to let the crazy part of my brain get its own way and distract me. My brain started to quieten down. I knew I was totally safe with him.

WHAT !!!

It was whilst skiing in Saint Gervais the following month that I came across where we had skied off-piste. For a brief moment, the total trust that I had in my coach vanished. What, at the time, had seemed a gentle enough, short stretch of off-piste wasn’t that all. It was horrible, far from gentle and not that short either. He’d been a right sod taking me down it. I kept going back to it throughout the day not quite believing that was where we had skied but it definitely was the right place.

I could’t quite believe what I had skied down. Not only that, but I’d not been knocked off course by hidden boulders or ‘drowned’ in deep snow unable to move. None of the things that my brain had suggested to make me worried had happened. I’d actually got a lot of confidence from it and it was that confidence that meant I was willing to give my improvised ski tour a go whilst in Crans Montana.

My definition of off piste is very different to that of my coach. He would say that what we skied down was a bimble. To him, off piste involves adventure and usually something steep, very steep.

See what I mean ? I can’t quite decide whether in that third picture he is advertising Milk Tray or auditioning as a Bond villain. I’m going with Bond villain. I don’t like chocolate. Yes ladies, that’s my coach in the picture, that’s who I get to ski with. Aren’t I a lucky girl !

If you fancy learning to ski off-piste, want to learn to ski tour, or simply want to improve your skills in these areas then Freedom Snowsports runs sessions throughout the winter. Dates can be found on their website when released.

Alternatively you can contact Freedom Snowsports by email

or phone



To Come:

4000 metres

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