The Ski Club of Great Britain is the largest and oldest snowsports membership organisation in the UK, with over 26,000 members. Established in 1903, over dinner at a fashionable restaurant in London (Cafe Royal), the Ski Club’s purpose is to promote and protect safe, enjoyable and inspiring snowsports experiences for anyone who loves snow.
I had asked for membership of the Ski Club of Great Britain as a Christmas present but when I found their ski leading service had stopped I decided not to bother. Previously the Club had offered an in resort ski leading service but now that it had been stopped I had no use of Ski Club membership. The Ski Club still had a presence in resorts but it was a rep service they were now offering.
One of the resorts where there was a rep service was Saas-Fee. I was out in Saas-Fee for the winter season training for my BASI Alpine Level 2 and working as an instructor for the Swiss Ski School. Having the Ski Club in resort would give me chance to socialise with other people even if I couldn’t ski with them and wasn’t a member.
The first rep to arrive was Johnny who came out to the resort in the run-up to Christmas. It was Johnny’s first visit to Saas-Fee so when he arrived I showed him around and we sat in one of the bars looking at the piste map chatting. One of the roles of a Ski Club Rep is to hold a social hour each evening. With just 30 minutes to go before the first social hour of the season kicked off Johnny discovered the venue had closed down. He found me shopping in the supermarket. Did I have any suggestions as to a new venue ? This was tricky. It was early season and most places were still shut. The Larix had yet to open its après ski bar, Pubwise wasn’t open on Mondays, Nestie’s was impossible to hold a conversation in … which left one option. The only place that was open every evening right through to the end of the season was Rock Cafe. It was the only choice. I messaged Ross the owner and Johnny set off up to it. From then on Rock Cafe became the social hour venue for the Ski Club of Great Britain.
Training and ski school commitments meant I only managed to ski once with Johnny. I did however manage to get up to Rock Cafe most evenings. The regularity of my evening visits to Rock Cafe led on one occasion to the assumption that I was Johnny’s wife. A comment that was firmly ignored by both of us. We also went and ate at ‘Rosie’s Diner’ one lunchtime. This would be the start of a trend in going out for meals with the Ski Club reps. Another trend was also started. Me cleaning the Ski Club flat after each rep left.
The next rep to arrive was Chris. Chris already knew that I was linked with the Ski Club so messaged me before his arrival. Having been asked by Johnny if I could clean the flat and help with change-over I was well placed to help out with Chris arriving. Knowing he was arriving late at night not only did he get the bed made but I also left him cereal, a coffee sachet and some milk. There is nothing worse than arriving somewhere late at night to find the first thing you have to do is make your bed and then find in the morning there is nothing for breakfast. I even took away the laundry and did it back at mine.
Having a bag full of now clean laundry meant the first thing I needed to do after Chris had arrived was hand him back the laundry. We opted to meet at Pubwise only to find it closed. So we went across to the Dom Lounge only to find that closes at 18:00. See the problem with finding a reliable social hour venue ! Once again commitments made skiing with him difficult but I did manage to fit in a day to Saas-Grund and a day to Saas-Almagell. By this point another rep had arrived in resort; Ed the Inghams rep.
Days out skiing as a group always lead to some funny moments. On one occasion, Chris set off to the inside of a restaurant with a list of coffee orders only to be confronted with an automatic machine which had the instructions in German. When he returned back with the tray of drinks none of them were what we had ordered and it was very much a lucky dip as to what was inside the drinks receptacle.
The trend set earlier with the previous rep of having meals out continued with me having both lunch at the Weissmieshutte and dinner at La Boccalino with Chris. Since I’d cleaned the flat prior to Chris’s arrival he had me give it a look over when he left just to make sure it met my standards. As with Johnny, I joined Chris in Rock Cafe whenever possible. Some of the evenings we were joined by Ed.
At the end of the week Chris gave me a copy of his book ‘Skiing with Demons‘. ‘Skiing with Demons’ is a trilogy documenting the ascent / descent of an ageing ski bum (Chris) as he goes from city living executive to garage dwelling chalet host in Morzine by means of a rented chalet. Brilliantly written and hilariously funny it is definitely worth reading. Even if you don’t ski I would still recommend reading it.
The theme of not being able to ski with the reps continued with Kenny. By now I had become a member. I tried meeting up at lunchtime once my ski school commitments finished but it proved impossible. I skied just once with Kenny the day before he left.
In heavy snow and not brilliant visibility we set off up the mountain. Kenny on his Telemark skis, me on my Alpine skis. I have real issues with itinerary and off-piste skiing. Kenny seemed to sense this. We focused on Spielboden. Did a pisted run first then dipped in and out of the itineraries. We were never far from a pisted run and the majority of the time we were underneath a lift. This was perfect for managing my huge phobia and anxiety issues about itinerary and off-piste skiing. Kenny pitched the day perfectly. It was light hearted, lots of route explanation getting me to understand the reasoning for choosing where we were going. Involving me in the decision making like that made it feel like I had made the choice where we went and not him. Kenny didn’t need to see whenever I fell, he could hear. I tend to let out a little squeak when I fall. This led to a lot of laughter. By the time I reached the bottom of the off-piste area it wasn’t just Kenny laughing, I would be laughing too.
Once again Ed joined us. Both Kenny and I had full avalanche kit with us, Ed didn’t which restricted where we went and how much skiing he could do with us. The other thing that restricted his ability to join us for long was his clothing. His Inghams jacket proved to be less than ideal in the wet heavy snowfall and ultimately the weather forced him in. His jacket was the least waterproof item of clothing I have ever seen. I too was also starting to get a little seepage through my outer layer. Kenny however was bone dry in his Arc’teryx kit. Hmmm…
Me and Kenny seemed to be the only ones mad enough to be out skiing. Surely only mad English people would go up a mountain to ski when there is water running down it. Whether it was our stoic nature, hatred of not wasting a lift pass or the desire not to lose a precious days skiing we were up the mountain all day. We only stopped and came down because they shut the lifts. At 4pm !
The final rep I managed to get any time with was Trevor. Like Johnny, Trevor hadn’t been to Saas-Fee before either and was a last minute addition to the rep schedule. I only knew he was coming to resort as a result of a message he sent me. There had been a gap in reps for two weeks so before he arrived I went and cleaned the flat and made the bed. Again there was a large amount of laundry so once more I brought bit back to mine. Trevor’s first time meeting me was with me holding a bag of clean laundry.
Our first meeting was nearly me showing him how to get into the Ski Club flat. Just as I was getting into bed a message popped up on my phone. It was Trevor. Arriving at the flat late at night, and after a drink or two, Trevor found himself confronted with a rather complicated looking door entry system. He couldn’t work out how to get in. After a short battle of understanding and comprehension with a fandangled electronic key fob he eventually gained entry. ‘What happened to the good old fashioned keyhole’ he remarked in another message as he finally worked out how to gain entry. I really did think I was going to find myself having to walk up through the village late at night and show him how to get in. Instead it was the following evening I met him (with the bag of laundry). Late night rescue avoided.
I managed to ski twice with Trevor. On the first occasion I was still in pain from a hip contusion. Bad weather had forced most of the ski area to close leaving just the village lifts open. As I went through the turnstile of the tow it hit me on the back of my leg. The exact spot on my femur where I had injured. The pain was immense, the sort of pain that makes you want to be sick. I retreated to the Larix for warmth and a drink but as soon as I got in there another wave of nausea hit me. Temporarily I left Trevor. On my return I tried again but it was no good, so instead I sat outside in the fresh air with Trevor patiently watching on. He even gave me his handwarmer so I didn’t get too cold.
My second attempt at skiing with Trevor was very different. It was to be one of the best days skiing I have ever had. The sort of day where memories are made and they are memories that are shared.
We started the day off with another ski club member, Simon and our first lift of the day was the Alpin Express Gondola followed by the Metro Alpin funicular to Mittelallalin. I tend to find myself leading when with a group and this was no exception. After taking the two of them on some pretty steep tows we made our way to Langfluh where we promptly lost Simon. This left just me and Trevor. Bonus. We located Simon on the terrace of one the restaurants but it was to be a short reunion once again leaving just me and Trevor. We stood at the side of the groomed piste looking across to an area of itinerary skiing. A lot of discussion and thought then followed. I could tell Trevor really wasn’t very sure about skiing it. Normally standing at the edge of a groomed piste discussing itinerary or off-piste would have had me into total melt down especially as there had been no warning first meaning I’d not been able to follow my staircase plan. The fact that I was stood next to someone who clearly wasn’t very sure it was a good idea would have only added to my full blown phobia panic attack that typically resulted in the mere mention of the word itinerary. Yet somehow, this didn’t seem to be happening. We moved down the groomed piste a bit for a better look from a different perspective. Trevor was quite honest about his doubts and instead we settled on a yellow itinerary from the same run but on the opposite side. It turned out to be horrible conditions so we traversed back onto the piste. In doing so we stumbled across another much better condition stretch of itinerary.
Trevor was the sort of person who was very easy to get on with. There might even have been on occasion a little bit of, what might have been considered by some as, light hearted flirting. The problem with joining reps in Rock Cafe is that my training group live above. On my first evening in Rock Cafe with Trevor one of the group came over to say hello then proceeded to utter the words ‘ Are you on a date ‘? No I’m not on a date. Any rumour mill was kept working when upon meeting me and the training group at the mid station of the Alpin Express Gondola Trevor greeted me with a hug. One of the group enquired ‘Rosie have you got yourself a wee man ?’. My response was similar to the one I had given Dan. No I had not got myself a wee man. Even other drinkers in Rock Cafe thought me and Trevor were an item. When the suggestion and question was raised by one of Ed’s friends one evening Trevor gave my hand a gentle squeeze in response. Not exactly quelling the rumour mill then !
I miss all the reps when they leave. This one would be no exception. Sometimes it’s not how you spend your day, it’s who you spend it with.
Playing at Being a Rep
When Kenny left there was a gap in the rep schedule. Both Johnny and Kenny had graded my skiing and Kenny had sent my grading into the Ski Club office. He also sent in the suggestion that I might be able to help out whilst a rep was found. Unable to do any formal repping because I hadn’t done the leaders course I was allowed to be a focal point for members in resort and run the social hour. I also got to hold the ski club phone and update the Facebook page. Whenever ski school commitments allowed I would ski with members having posted on the Facebook page beforehand where I would be on a morning so that members could unofficially join me. I tended to only have part of the day free for skiing but then on an evening I would run a social hour.
I varied the social hour in both venue and time. This meant that wherever members were staying in resort they could get to at least one of my social hours in the week. It proved very popular. A real rep is required to stick to the advertised location and time. I wasn’t a real rep. Not being a real rep meant I didn’t have a blue Ski Club of Great Britain jacket so used the club rucksack as a means of people identifying me. On one evening I was considerably easier to spot. I’d gone to the social hour straight from the children’s ski school disco. Not only was I still in ski school uniform but I’d also had black whiskers and a black nose painted on my face.
Back in the previous summer I had thought about becoming a Ski Club of Great Britain Rep but had not been able to find much information. Whenever I looked on the website it just said more information would be coming soon and my emails never got a response.
One last rep would arrive in Saas-Fee before the season was brought to a premature end by Coronovirus. Sue Kalderon got just a week of her two week slot completed before leaving. She was the only rep I didn’t get to ski with. BASI commitments took priority. Like with Johnny, Chris and Trevor I did manage to get to some of her social hours. Sue held her social hour in Pubwise, just round the corner from my home making it a short walk and much easier for me to get to than Rock Cafe.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the reps and being a focal point for the club. The reps are an important part of the Club so please use them. For me getting to be a ‘rep’ was a childhood dream come true. It’s always something I wanted to do.
Was there a favourite rep ?
I couldn’t possibly answer that question.