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This week has been a mixed bag for British skiers and snowboarders. Resorts are enjoying incredible December conditions and holiday prices over the Christmas period are being slashed, which is the good news. The bad news for our professional athletes is UK Sport has cut all funding for skiing and snowboarding. This means the likes of Chemmy Alcott and Jamie Nicholls will have to find another way of funding the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The last few weeks have been a real disappointment for Chemmy, she started the season well with her new sponsors Atomic on board and some decent results. Hoping to build on a positive 2009/10 season Chemmy looked in good shape. Then it all went wrong... she broke her leg training with the Canadian ski team in Lake Louise and her funding took a hit.
Jamie Nicholls has made a superb start to the winter. So far he has enjoyed top ten finishes in two TTR events, the Burton NZ Open and the Freeze Festival. His sponsors, Nike, look to be pushing him after a good showing at the D-Pad sessions. If Sochi 2014 are to add slopestyle to the program surely Jamie Nicholls has the potential to win medals.
Last night a few of our top winter sports athletes were interviewed by Chappers on 5 Live including Chemmy, Amy Williams, Jenny Jones and Dan Wakeham. Graham Bell was also on the show to add his two pennies worth, and to remind us he apparently skied back in 85. The show, for those who missed it, was very interesting and hearing how the sports rely on the funding from UK Sport was an eye opener.
As you would expect from Ski Sunday presenter and former British number one skier, Graham Bell definitely wanted to voice his opinion. As he put it the way the funding cuts have been made and how the money has been pushed into other sports (namely curling, skeleton and London 2012) UK Sports have decided to take the easy option. To be a successful World Cup, TTR and Olympic skier or snowboarder takes a huge amount of talent and an incredible level of dedication. What Graham argues is that UK Sport has decided to support sports that would be easier to win medals in, opposed to prestigious sports where the talent is there, it just needs support and nurturing.
No one can disagree that after her Olympic Gold Amy Williams deserves support and she has definitely raised the profile of Skeleton. As Amy pointed out last night, there is no commercial sponsorship in her specialty and neither her or the team benefit from financial backing from commercial backing the way other athletes do - though she did thank BMW for kindly giving her a car. Where I support helping our proven winners develop the rise in funding of £1.3 million seems steep, especially when skiing and snowboarding only previously received £620,000 between them. How can we ignore the talent we have on the slopes then up Women's Bob sleigh from £500,000 to £2.4m?
Okay so I have to admit I am a little biased, but as Chemmy put it skiing is 'an exciting sport, it's a blue ribbon event' and according to NBC Shaun White was the most watched individual in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Ski Sunday has been around for 32 years because skiing and snowboarding are entertaining, the boarder-cross and skier-cross in last years games were a hug hit, yet Zoe Gillings (who finished 8th) now has to rely on her one finance and sponsors to compete. Britain has always loved an underdog but how can we expect athletes who have the talent (Zoe, Jamie and Chemmy) to win the medals we crave without support and how can we expect other younger skiers and snowboarders to come through the ranks.
Thanks to the success of riders like Jenny Jones and Tyler Chorlton there is money from sponsors to help these kids make a living, but in the end sponsors are paying them to do a job for them, and will only support select riders that suit there image. Chemmy, our number one skier has to train with Canada's ski team and is barley surviving after her crash, when Snowsports GB went under last year it cost her £20,000.
Yes support the winners we have but also support our elite athletes and those with the potential to rival the Lindsay Vonns and Shaun Whites of this world and don't expect someone else to do it. There is more chance of Jenny Jones winning a medal than the England football team at the moment!
Last night we had another epic battle between the Snow-Knights of sales and Dark-Siders of non-sales in a no-holds barred 5-a-side skirmish. The team sheets are at the bottom of this factually accurate report.
I'll admit the Knights were nervous before this match. The Dark ones had finally gotten their full strength team together and were talking the 'Big Game'. After the last encounter where they chased us down in the last minutes to gain an extremely unlikely Draw in Fergie time, we were thinking this was going to be a tough ask. We were down on numbers, trialling new blood, and I was suffering from the next worse level of flu after Ebola.
It started in ominous style. The Dark ones asked the match official, The Oracle, if it was start time and The Oracle replied it was 7.30. They took this a signal to kick off and while the Knights were still wandering on, Goal Hanger took a long range snap from the kick off which rebounded off the legs of Two Guns while he was pulling up his socks and ricocheted straight into the goal as our Keeper, Big Cat, walked on the pitch. To our surprise they claimed the goal and because of who did the scoring, it was begrudgingly accepted by our mystified shoulder shrugging team. 1-0
The Knights were in disarray, scrambling and bemused after experiencing the shock tactics of the Dark ones blitzkrieg. Within 2 minutes they were through on goal again and snapped in the second goal. 2-0
It was time for the big players to step forward and stop the rot. Big Cat threw the ball out to Calway who did the best thing he could and passed it to me. After ghosting past Ricky Ibiza down the right wing it was an easy inside swerve to beat Emile Box and slot the sweetest goal off the far post past Chopper on the line. 2-1
This was the kick start the Knights had waited for and Two Guns struck again straight away from a route one move that caught out the now reeling Dark Siders. 2-2
Then came the heart breaker. Gator came off the bench and bumbled around down the right wing. Through a miracle of strange rebounds, ricochets and airswings, Gator nutmegged himself and the defence, did a double flounder reverse miss kick and fortuitously scored the most improbable goal in the history of these challenges. 2-3
For the next 20 minutes we exchanged goals back and forward but the Knights kept the advantage and when the Oracle said it was 8 minutes to go we were comfortable at 5-8.
And then the bubble burst. The lungs on the Knights gave up and the Dark ones got stronger. Up until now the Big Cat had been magnificent and stopped about a million shots on goal and Greedy was only shooting from 25m and was more likely to hit the side walls than the goal. This changed when Goal Hanger pulled off a fluke almost as improbable as Gator's that bobbled, floated and looped over the Cat. They went on a run, surely thinking that it was their turn to finish strong just like last time. They quickly scored 2 more corkers. 7-8
6 minutes to go. Panic time – no way – it was hammer time! The muscle of the Knights started to show. El Toro and the Butcher used their silky Rugby skills and put the softer Dark ones to the figurative sword. In quick succession, Leki (in Jeans) went flying with a Klinsmannesque 'triple salto', Chopper took a nasty tumble after Calway chopped him down from behind, Boxy had his shins raked by my new blades, Goal Hanger was given an up close and personal introduction to the wall, Greedy got hip and shouldered into obscurity and returned to long range shooting, Shane MacGowan got barged unceremoniously to the ground in the process of striking for goal causing him to leave the pitch, and the Man of Steel was elbowed in the throat in a vicious fend that the match officials unfortunately missed J.
In the last 2 minutes the Knights turned it right up past red poker hot into über-white-star scorching hot, laying on 4 more goals for the strong finishing Two Guns. 8-12
At full-time the Dark Siders went into a frenzy of rage claiming that we had denied them their Fergie time for the expected come back and possible draw. As we walked off the pitch to tumultuous appreciation from the watching crowd they were still shooting for Goals and the inevitable Drogba-like sulk ensued when we refused to be drawn into the 'classic' last goal wins scenario that Silver medallists always trot out in vain hope.
Congratulations Snow-Knights, you and thank you for a good and fair game Dark-Siders.
A big thank you to the Match official, Thomas 'The Oracle' Moulton
By Adam Johnson
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