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Ski Blog

Craig Pickering's Cool Run on the Road to Sochi 2014

clock 24th January 2014 | comment0 Comments

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.



What's On in February - Ski + Snowboard Events in Popular Resorts

clock 22nd January 2014 | comment0 Comments
Trees

30th January – 2nd February
30th St. Moritz Polo World Cup On Snow – St. Moritz, Switzerland

Watch as polo teams representing prestigious brands, such as Cartier, BMW and Ralph Lauren, compete to win the prestigious Cartier Tropy. The polo match takes place in the snow and is the currently the world’s only winter polo tournament.

See our ski holidays in St. Moritz.
For more information on the event, visit the official website.


1st – 22nd February 2014
Made in Whistler Artisan Market - Whistler, Canada

Visit the Westin Resort & Spa in Whistler, Canada and browse local hand made goods and craft work, from jewellery to baked goods, food, fashion and more. The markets run from 1pm – 6pm every Saturday.

See our ski holidays in Whistler.


2nd February 2014
La Tzoumaz Luge Open – Verbier, Switzerland

Join this 4km toboggan race and, who knows, you could end up winning the Valais Luge Trophy at the end of it! A great event for all ages, including kids and adults alike.

See our ski holidays in Verbier.
Visit the Verbier events calender.


3rd February 2014
Ski with a Ranger – Heavenly, Lake Tahoe

Don’t miss out on this great experience – ski through the pistes of Heavenly with your own personal guide. On the tour, you’ll learn about some of the environmental partnerships who care for the forests as well as some of the local Lake Tahoe wildlife that resides there. Tours are offered on Mondays and Fridays at 10pm and 1pm, last for 1 hour and meet at the top of the gondola a few minutes in advance.


3rd – 8th February 2014
Ferrari Driving Course – Cervinia, Italy

Experience a once in a lifetime drive in one of the world’s sleekest, fastest cars. Zoom around the Breuil-Cervinia circuit in a Ferrari (yes, you get to drive it!) over the snow and ice, all the while receiving expert instruction from an experienced Ferrari driver.

See our ski holidays in Cervinia. For more information, contact the local tourist information centre.


Freestyle

4th February 2014
Freeride Attitude – Les Deux Alpes, France

Spend a day being introduced to freeriding with this great short course, which will introduce you to avalanche equipment and safety training. The day ends with an afternoon of off piste riding with a guide. This event runs every Tuesday between the hours of 9am and 7pm. You can book your place through the main Tourist Office.

See our ski holidays in Les Deux Alpes.


Sochi 2014

7th – 23rd February 2014
Sochi Winter Olympics - Sochi, Russia

Support team GB this year with a trip to Sochi, Russia to watch the Winter Olympic Games. With disciplines from snowboard slopestyle to curling, there’ll be plenty of events to keep you entertained. In between events, you can hit up Caucasus Mountain. And explore the resort of Gazprom and Rosa Khotar, where you’ll find 150km of ski runs.

Register for a spectator pass here.
Alternatively, tune into BBC Sport to see full coverage.


8th – 9th February 2014
Freeride World Qualifier – Tignes, France

This freeride contest is part of the Freeride World Tour, which has already been seen this season at Verbier and Chamonix. The event travels the world, finding talented freeriders to qualify for the final event. The competition is open for anyone to compete and spectators can watch the whole event for free.

See our ski holidays in Tignes.
Register to enter here.


9th February 2014
Full Moon Freeride Evolution 2 - Tignes, France

This freeride competition watches a host of skiers and snowboarders riding off piste, guided only by the light of the moon. If you don’t fancy entering this event yourself, then you can watch it from the frozen lake – it makes for an eventful watch, as all competitors wear luminous vests as they descend the mountain.

See our ski holidays in Tignes.


Valentines in Verbier

14th February 2014
Valentines Day Ski Dating – Verbier, Switzerland

Don’t fancy spending Valentines alone? Then why not head to Verbier, where you’ll have the chance to meet other like-minded singles on the slopes. From 9am onwards, you can pick up an armband - the day’s mission is to get talking to all the other on the slopes who are also wearing arm bands. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet the one of your dreams!

See our ski holidays in Verbier.


19th February 2014
World Record Longest Jump – Tignes, France

If you like live action then you’ll like this event! Watch Guerlain Chicherit attempt the world record longest jump as he attempts to fly 110m in a car, across the frozen lake. The event will take place between noon and 2pm and is completely free to watch.

See our holidays in Tignes.


22nd February 2014
Buttermilk Rail Jams – Aspen, Colorado, USA

Watch (or enter) this 30 minute ski only rail jam session, which results in a series 10-15 minute finals for the top 5 contestants.

See our ski holidays in Aspen.
Register here.


28th February 2014
6 Resorts Tournament – Val Thorens, France

Catch a spot of rugby on your ski trip this feb, with the 6 resorts tournament. The tournament sees 6 resorts fight it out in a game of rugby on the snow, followed by a race on skis. An entertaining watch!

See our ski holidays in Val Thorens.


Freestyle



Safety in the Mountains

clock 17th January 2014 | comment0 Comments
Mountains

Ski safety is a hot topic at the moment, with stories of various accidents popping up in the press recently – most notably, Michael Schumacher’s accident. As with any sport, there is always a risk of injury and there's never a solid guarantee that you won't have an accident. However, if you stay within your capabilities, wear the correct equipment and follow safety guidelines then you can reduce the chances of a serious injury and feel more comfortable when out in the mountains.


What Basic Equipment Do I Need For My Ski Holiday?
When riding on piste, it’s always useful to invest in some good padding to give you extra protection when you do take a tumble - bum pads, knee pads and elbow pads will help save you from unwanted aches and pains in those areas most vulnerable to impact. Wearing a helmet is also highly recommended as it reduces the severity of head injuries by up to 50%.


Another important point to remember when on your holiday is to never ski outside of your abilities. Only take the runs that you know you are capable of completing (if you’re a complete beginner, a black run is not such a good idea!). If you feel that you need to brush up on your technique before you head out, there are some excellent snow domes and dry slopes around the UK offering lessons for the very beginner through to the most advanced. Alternatively, if you want to master those black runs while out at the resort, you can always get one-to-one lessons on piste.


Off Piste

What Do I Need To Know If I Choose To Go Off-Piste?
When venturing out into the back country, it is important that you have a good sense of avalanche awareness, know which terrains to look out for and that you are properly prepared. If you are inexperienced in this type of riding then it is strongly advised that you go with a guide. Alternatively, if you are a more experienced freerider and you want to head out without a guide, then always make sure you have at least one other person with you.


Off-Piste Equipment
These pieces of equipment are available for off-piste riding:

• Helmet – There are more rocks and trees in the back country than there are on piste. A helmet is highly recommended and could greatly reduce the risk of a severe head injury.

Helmet prices start at around £15 for a basic model and can go up to and beyond £200 depending on the brand and features, such as built-in goggles.

• ABS airbag – An airbag inside of a backpack, which you inflate in the case of an avalanche. It works on the principal that air will always float to the top, meaning you are likely to be buried less deeply when the avalanche finally comes to a stop.
Airbag prices start from around £450 (bear in mind that the gas canisters used to activate them cannot be taken on the plane and must be bought at the resort). You can also hire them from most resorts for approx. £25 per day.

• Transceiver– This is a radio beacon tracking device that you wear underneath your outer layers. If you become buried, or even injured somewhere remote , then others will be able to find your location and vice versa.
Transceiver’s can be bought for around £15 from most outdoor shops.

• Collapsible Avalanche Probe – Once the location of the buried person has been found, the probe can be used to pinpoint their exact location in the snow.

• Shovel – An essential tool if you need to dig someone out.

Some resorts offer full off piste kit hire, including everything listed above. Prices for this are usually around £25 per day without an airbag or £35 per day with the airbag included.


Here’s a video from Roxy Snow, explaining a little more about the equipment needed for off-piste riding.



Weather Conditions
Once you have all of your equipment, it is now important to learn how to recognise the warning signs of an avalanche. Before leaving the piste, you should always check the resort weather conditions and make sure to look at the avalanche risk charts. You can usually find this information at the base of the ski lifts. If there has been heavy rain, heavy snow or strong winds then it is likely that the avalanche risk is higher, as these are all elements that can weaken the snowpack. A sudden rise in temperature is also something to look out for, as the melting of the snow can cause a layer of water underneath the snow base, increasing the risk of a slide.

 

If you have access to the internet whilst at the resort, you can almost always find weather conditions on their website. Some other useful websites to check are:


Snow Forecast
Weather2
Ski Club of Great Britain

 

Analysing the Terrain
Even after you’ve checked the weather conditions, it’s wise to analyse the mountain terrain. To begin with, avalanches are most likely to occur on slopes of 30-45 degrees (you can buy Slope meter’s which will test the angle of the incline). You can spot signs of previous avalanches by looking to see if there are any obvious cracks and breaks in the snow. Watch out for terrain traps, such as ditches and basins at the bottom of a slope, as in the case of an avalanche, you could end up buried quite deeply in one of these. Stay away from slopes that have cliffs or sudden drops at the bottom as you could be swept over the edge.

 

Learning to Test the Snowpack
The most unstable part of the snow is usually the cornice (the snow that collects at the very top of the mountain). This snow is heavily windblown and often overhangs mountain edges, making it at a high risk of snapping off. To look for avalanche-prone snow on other parts of the mountain, you can dig a snow pit, where it is possible to test the various layers to see if there are any weak spots.

 

If you want to know more about testing the snowpack, then this video will tell you how to asses stability by performing an extended column test.



When you have found a safe slope to ride on, descend one at a time, leaving a good distance between you. Never descend directly above another rider as this is more likely to breakages in the snow.


The Skiers Code
While on your skiing / boarding holiday, it’s important to bear in mind these ten useful points which make up The International Ski Federation (FIS) skiers code. Following these simples rules will help to reduce the chances on injury and can even carry legal implications if you are found not to be following them.
1. Respect others on the slopes and do not behave in a way that may endanger them.
2. You must be able to ski or snowboard in a controlled manner. Learn how to adapt your skiing or snowboarding to allow for changes in weather and terrain.
3. Choose your route carefully when coming from behind – do not endanger skiers or snowboarders in front of you.
4. Overtake carefully and give the other skier or snowboarder enough room to make any further movements.
5. Before entering a run, always look up and down the mountain to make sure it is safe to continue.
6. Stop on the edges of the piste or where you can easily be seen.
7. When climbing the piste always be sure to keep to the side.
8. Follow all signs you come across on the slopes.
9. If there is an accident, alert the rescue service.
10. If you are involved in or witness an accident, always swap names and addresses with the other parties.

 

Happy skiing / snowboarding all and stay safe!


Off Piste Jump



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