Winter 13/14 has been a truly epic season, we are still buzzing from the amazing snow and fun we have had over the past 6 months, both in the UK and abroad. Here are our Top 5 highlights from this ski season
By 16th November 2013 Tignes had already been blessed with a 2m snow base up top and the Pyrenees had just received 40cm of fresh snow. Thanks to the fantastic snowfall and icy temperatures, resorts in Europe started opening their slopes early in a domino fashion. Alpe d’Huez opened 3 weeks early and continued to open every weekend until the resort’s official opening on 6th December. Kitzbühel and Obergugl began opening their slopes to the public in Austria, as did Verbier in Switzerland while Courchevel had a special free taster opening on Saturday 23rd November. With huge storms in Switzerland and France in late November, keen skiers and snowboarders were able to get their snow fixes earlier than ever thought as more and more resorts opened early – was this the best start to the season ever?
Beautiful conditions in Tignes on 8th Nov 2013
To get us more and more excited as winter approaches, the UK presented a range of exciting ski events to attend as the months became colder. Londoners were lucky enough to take advantage of O’Neil’s Shoreditch Showdown, Ski and Snowboard Film Premieres and Iglu Ski favourite, Freeze Festival. Manchester and London played host to the Ski and Snowboard Shows which are the perfect way to find everything you need for the season. While the Snow Dome’s up and down the country gave us that snow fix before getting out to the Alps. To give our ski holiday’s added fun, an increasing amount of events are popping up across the mountains. Christmas markets and firework displays give the festive weeks an added joyous feeling while music and sports events give unique experiences to your holiday. Ibiza Rocks headed to the mountains for the first time with a series of 3 weeks of parties in Meribel bringing the hottest breakthrough live acts and daily après ski events for ‘Ibiza Rocks the Snow.’
O'Neil Shoreditch Showdown, London
With the early snow dumps then warm conditions there was an increase in avalanches in the Alps and terrible news of accidents dominated the snow news. This has increased our awareness of off piste safety, using safety equipment and taking guided tours for off piste adventures. With the media domination of safety in snowsports, the rise in wearing helmets on the slopes is positive and Snow and Rock have seen a huge increase in helmet sales over the last 5 years. If you’re still not convinced, you must watch Kevin Pearce’s inspiring story ‘The Crash Reel’ and take a look at the Love Your Brain campaign. It is extremely important to stay safe on the mountains and minimise our risk of danger means we can carry on doing what we love for years to come.
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Even when resorts are starting to close for the season it is still dumping like its January! The heaviest snowfall has been reported in Switzerland with up to 50cm of knee deep freshies in Andermatt and Zermatt while the 3 Valleys in France and Cervina in Italy also enjoyed the best of the new snowfall. Our friends across the pond are on powder alert as they expect over 50cm this weekend in Lake Louise. Winter 2013-14 has been the season that keep on giving with some epic skiing this spring - We love spring skiing!
Sochi showcased huge exposure for the British ski industry and the world recognised the elite status of Team GB’s athletes. For a country lacking in mountains, Team GB proved we are a country to take seriously when it comes to winter sports. With an Olympic Bronze medal, five top 10 finishes, a further five top 20 and 3 in the top 30, it was the most successful Winter Games to date for British skiers and snowboarders. Both Jamie Nicholls and Billy Morgan made history by representing Great Britain in the first ever Snowboard Slopestyle Olympic Final. After stomping a huge 90.75 in the semi-finals, Billy couldn’t repeat that incredible run and placed 10th in the final while Jamie scored an amazing 85.50 finishing in 6th. Jenny Jones blew the nation away with her Bronze Medal winning run in the Ladies Snowboard Slopestyle Final and confirmed her place as the Queen of British snowboarding. Jenny won Great Britain’s first ever Olympic Snowboard Medal and became the first ever British female to win an Olympic medal on snow. Aimee Fuller was a crowd favourite after throwing a double backflip and landing 9th place in the semi-finals, and then took 17th overall. The Top 10 places continued in the Freestyle Skiing where Katie Summerhayes finished in 7th in the Ladies Ski Slopestyle Final with a solid 70.60 score. Despite James Wood’s injuries, Woodsy qualified in 3rd place with an outstanding first run scoring 87.50 which made him the first ever British athlete to go through to a Men’s Ski Slopestyle Olympic Final. In the face of the hard conditions, the skiers threw down tough competition; Woodsy scored an incredible 86.60 that gave him 5th position in the finals. The list doesn’t stop there; Team GB had a fantastic team of skiers and snowboarders participating in many specialities from Snowboard Cross to Cross Country to the Ski Halfpipe. We cannot forget the other disciplines, particularly the Team GB Curling team and Gold medal winner Elizabeth Yarnold in the Skeleton. Team GB surpassed the 3 medal target and created an unforgettable 2 weeks of winter sports and global recognition of Great Britain’s place on the Olympic mountain. Huge congratulations to all the Team GB athletes, you were all amazing and made us so proud! #backthebrits By Krystelle
Excitement for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics reached fever pitch this week with the long awaited announcement of Team GB.
We caught up with former Olympic sprinter, Craig Pickering, who has been selected for the Team GB bobsled team, to hear his thoughts on this huge achievement.
Craig, Congratulations on qualifying for Team GB for Sochi 2014. What did you do when you heard you made the Olympic Team?
I was just relieved to have made it! I knew that once our second 4-man sled had qualified for the Games that I was almost certainly going to be selected, and so that was the major hurdle to overcome. We qualified in the last possible race, so it was quite a stressful few weeks, but in the end it all turned out fine.
It's not your typical British Saturday morning sporting activity, how did you get into bobsledding?
I used to be a sprinter, and I needed a back operation in March 2012 which ruled me out of the 2012 Olympic Games. Due to this, I lost my lottery funding, and so I needed to either get a job or find a sport that would provide me with some funding. I wasn't at all keen on getting a job, so the best option seemed to be finding another sport. My athletics coach and one of my training partners were already involved in the bobsleigh set up, so they put me in contact with the Performance Director, who was keen to give me a try out. I went to a few testing days and did very well, so the next step was to do some racing, and I haven't looked back since.
How have you found the transition from summer to winter Olympics?
Physically it hasn't been too difficult, as I was already a high performance athlete. The hardest thing physically has been putting on weight - I'm currently 16kg heavier than when I ran my best 100m time. This requires eating a lot of food and spending time in the gym. It can be really hard to eat enough food, as you are always full and it becomes hard work. The most difficult aspect has been the technical transition. It’s quite difficult to learn a new skill quickly, especially when there are three different positions in bobsleigh that I could possibly race at, but I have tried my best to become proficient at all of these positions.
Tell us about the fundraising efforts made for the team?
I'm fortunate enough to be supported by UK Sport and Lottery funding, so I haven't had to do any fund-raising efforts this year.
Have you always had an interest in winter sports?
I've never really been into winter sports before. As a professional sports person it’s probably not a good idea to ski or snowboard as there is a pretty high risk of injury. My girlfriend likes to snowboard, so once I retire I expect I’ll do some of that with her.
Do you have a favourite ski resort?
St Moritz is excellent as it’s the only natural bobsleigh track in the world, so it’s quite a different experience.
What other Olympic events are you looking forward to seeing?
I enjoy watching ice hockey, so will try and watch a few of those games. I also know a few of the bob-skeleton athletes so will be following their progress closely too.
How many times a day are you faced with references to Cool Runnings?
It happens quite a lot! I guess as it’s the only thing Joe Public knows about bobsleigh it’s going to happen quite a bit.I just smile and nod.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Craig as he prepares for the first Winter Olympic experience. The Sochi 2014 kicks off 7 February 2014 with Craig and the rest of the bobsled team hitting the track 16 February. We wish the team the very best of luck and look forward to a month of gripping winter entertainment.
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