The annual City Ski Championships in Crans Montana are touted as an opportunity “to network, entertain clients and network with colleagues, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery”. In reality, the event is a lot less about networking and more about hanging out with celebrities and testing your skiing to the extreme. It’s an action-packed, high-octane weekend that offers beefy city dudes a chance to prove to themselves – and others – what a good skier they really are.
I suggest a ski with none other than Eddie The Eagle – it’s absolutely captivating and we hop between the different shades of red, blue and black.
After all, it’s easy to brag about your prowess on the slopes when you’re setting up the pole in The Ned, but harder to back up when you’re standing on a mountainside facing 50 slalom gates and your peers’ eyes on just one and the stopwatch are. The Championships is an adrenaline-pumping weekend of skiing, long lunches, hedonistic après-ski action and the chance to hop-hop with a host of famous faces. There are also a couple of business seminars, a thoughtful touch from event sponsors Knight Frank and The Financial Times.
A fairly good recreational skier in my 50+ years, I attended the event which was held in Crans Montana, Switzerland, home of the late Sir Roger Moore and, fittingly, the finest ski bonds. How would I stack? The first tag was designed to turn city legs into ski legs. I am given a pair of brand new, race-tuned Völkl slalom skis. These things look nice but damn heavy, they are heavy. Now I’m beginning to doubt whether I can even get them to start. Don’t forget to heed the advice “lean on them as they have a bit of a whip when you lean back”. But one lesson with the legendary Warren Smith, top ski instructor, and my confidence is back. Safe in the knowledge that the gold medal was as good as in my pocket, I decided to enjoy the après-ski vibe at Zerodix Bar, where oddly enough, James Haskell of English rugby fame was DJing.
The next day I was lugging the world’s heaviest skis to the start line, even though I had a fuzzy head. The line up was extraordinary. Alongside the celebrity guests were a host of ski hopefuls clad in unforgiving racing skinsuits. These were deadly serious semi-pro athletes who could set off chronic impostor syndrome with just one look. I pushed aside and found sanctuary amidst a group of once cocky but now quiet sugar merchants, all bitterly regretting their decision to also wear skin suits.
The giant slalom is the most forgiving of the Olympic downhill races, not too fast, not too technical and ideal for wannabe racers to try in a way the 90m ski jump might not. (That’s hand sweat.) Thinking it was highly unlikely that I would be seriously injured and relying solely on my practice session, I approached the starting line with flying colors. The first couple of gates were fairly well traveled, mercifully there was a less steep section after that.
With growing confidence I walk past a gate. My mind is consumed by images of Bond being chased by bad guys, so much so that I hardly notice how steep the incline is on the way to the finish line. I get thrown around by the bumps and ruts and I’m struggling desperately to stay on track. But I can, I can get across the finish line in one piece, albeit in a time that won’t worry the Olympic Selection Committee. I had achieved a respectable midfield time. It was nerve-wracking, but as I walked, live commentary from legendary British downhill skier Konrad Bartelski gave me hope. “Well done Simon, apart from the mistakes in the last section you would have had a very good time.”
I held my ground surrounded by younger, fitter, more aerodynamic people. I was equally thrilled and frustrated, but spurred on to try again. But with my hopes of a career as a downhill skier in shambles – at least for the moment – I had no choice but to sit back and enjoy all the delights of Crans Montana, including those organized as part of the championships. No, sitting in my hotel room and licking my wounds was not an option. I went to Cabane des Violettes for a “team” fondue with my newfound friends, who taught me that the real secret to fast skiing wasn’t a pair of ridiculously heavy skis, but a shot of booze. In fact, I was so quick (or so bedazzled?) after my lunch that I felt emboldened to propose a loose ski with none other than Championship involvement Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards.
The eagle is a thoroughly engaging and laid back character and we hop between the different shades of blue, red and black. He’s also an accomplished skier, a hilarious storyteller and surprisingly boasts a number one hit in the Finnish charts with a song about a local folk singer who died. who knew To this day, more people remember who finished last on the 70 meter hill at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics than any of the gold medalists.
My encounter with Eddie The Eagle sums up what the City Ski Championship is all about. The chance to meet with snow sports kings
The recent film, starring Taron Egerton, revealed Eddie’s amazing story to a whole new generation, and I was honored to enjoy a truly absorbing few hours with the legend – who was utterly approachable and humble. Between runs I hear more stories. He liked the new film, found the situation in Finland unreal and the overwhelming impression was amused that these strange things had happened to him. He even gushed about his legendary appearance on Johnny Carson Tonight and his journey to Calgary.
I felt like Eddie could tell stories for days as he gracefully navigated the terrain – he was the ultimate chairlift companion. My encounter with The Eagle sums up what the City Ski Championship is all about. There’s a chance to rub shoulders with the snowsports kings in a totally relaxed way – it’s an unexpected and surreal skiing experience second to none. How much legitimate networking is done in such an environment is debatable, let’s face it, but the sheer fun is beyond question.
The Sugarmongers competed again this year and I’m preparing for the indoor slopes in the UK hoping they’ll ask me to participate. Eddie is rumored to be returning next year too – and I hope to hear more stories as we glide along.
Visit Crans Montana for yourself
£495pp P. includes entry to races and events throughout the weekend. Hotel packages start from £370 per person for three nights. Cityskichampionships.com; Crans-montana.ch/de for more information
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