Sit-Skiing Chamonix Jan 2015
I thought I would add my thoughts on our four days in Chamonix accompanying Russell on his latest sit-ski adventure, and in the relaxed company of his extended family of friends, Dan, Larry, Neal, Kevin and Jean-Jacques (+ his Fanny) the ever reliable but hard task-master instructor.
The last time I was on holiday with Russ was skiing in Champoluc in 2013, two months before his accident. As such I believe I was the last person to ski with him. For those that have skied with Russell, you will know what an exceptional skier he was. For those that never got a chance to ski with him you have missed out on a real treat. He’s also well known for his impulsive pranks, so my wife was a little anxious during that holiday when I disappeared off-piste with Russell in some of the best powder ski conditions I have known. She should not have worried. Russ was the epitome of safety, guiding me round areas of the mountain that I had never seen in 4 previous visits to the resort, navigating dangers with the utmost care, and giving me hints and tips on powder skiing which have made me a much better skier.
I’m sharing this previous experience because it underlines how important being a competent sit-skier is to Russ. Russ was a great skier standing up and now wants to be a great skier sitting down. I have seen previous video footage of Russ sit-skiing in the US, and last year in France, and had anticipated, like he had, that the third time out would be the proverbial ‘like riding a bike’. It wasn’t. It seems sit-skiing requires two steps forward and one step back (and sometimes three steps back). Its certainly doesn’t help when each holiday is separated by many months.
After a tentative start on day 1, it went rapidly downhill on day 2. Each turn was invariably accompanied by a fall, and often not just a gentle slide onto his side, but a full-force flip and thump. It was like watching a boxer hit the canvass over and over again, and still get up to take more punishment. I’m not a sit-skier and hope never to be in that situation, but not for the first time I have tried to imagine what life must be like for Russ. Falling off a moving dinning room chair with only my shoulder or head to take the impact seems to come close. Long before the last run I was wincing at the impact that Russ was taking, and just hoped, liked the beaten boxer, he would stay down and call it quits for the day. But that is not Russ. ‘Defeatist’ is not part of his vocabulary, which is why he skied until it was time to head back. I’m sure in years to come when Russ is dancing down powder runs on his sit ski, he will remember Chamonix 2015 Day 2 (Kevin has already promised to put together an edited film of the all falls so the memory will live long!) as just a minor speed-bump on the road to sit-skiing greatness, but for that day it was most definitely a horribly painful experience.
One of the thing’s that impresses me most with Russ is his positive nature. If that experience had happened to me I would have been a miserable bastard that evening. By contrast Russ was his usual great company, upbeat and humorous, apparently parking the misery of the day to a ‘one step’ back. That said he was honest enough when we got back to say how sore he was, and willing accepted some Ibruprofen!
Day 3 proved to be somewhat more positive, although typical of the weeks sit-skiing experience, good was followed by bad. The morning started out with some better turns and stability, but the afternoon seem to be Day 2 revisited. So much so that Russ even considered, depending on the snow conditions over-night, giving it a rest on the final day. I blame the glass of wine at lunch. Fortunately a combination of some new snow and an enthusiastic and determined support crew led by JJ’s insistence that the fluent skiing would come, we headed back out to Les Contamines, scene of Day 2’s misadventure.
From the start of Day 4 Russ was style and grace personified. 3 or 4 slips during the whole day but in the main great control. The best bit was catching Russ’ huge smile as he glided down the slope, and then getting to the end of the run to hear the relief and joy in his voice. Typical of his humour and competitive spirit, he claimed that he was now faster than Dani! I videoed two of the long runs which Russ will find a way to post on You-tube.
As a side note to a great 4 days, I just wanted to congratulate the crew of Dan (our generous host), Larry and Neal for the efficient nature of the well-oiled machine that managed to get Russ in and out of the chalet; up and down and stairs; in and out of cars; in and out of gondolas; in and out of restaurants. A classy bunch of mates who know how to eat and drink well, and now have a shared passion for the Lingerie Football League.