Chemmy Alcott: Crossing over to the dark side
Why is it that you can only be either a skier or a snowboarder? Is it like one of those checklists where no multiple ticks are allowed?
When we all have a passion for snow and the mountains why doesn’t this passion helps us surpass any judgement to how many edges you choose to use?
I love skiing. I have been skiing all my life – over 32 years. During the last maybe 15 years however, I would have loved to learn to snowboard. In the summertime I see myself as a (poor) surfer. Behind my in-laws speed boat I would always choose wakeboarding or wakesurfing over waterskiing.
So the “dark side” for me always existed but was something I never pursued as I was a professional skier, and the risk of injury on the road to my fourth Olympics was, quite frankly, out of the question.
So as soon as I retired I grabbed the first snowboard I could find- all singing and dancing- and straight away was falling in love with the ability to run in my soft bouncy boots straight to the Val d’Isère ski shuttle bus. Just one of the many benefits of snowboarding.
I was on a press trip at the time. The journalists were naturally quite intimidated about skiing with an Olympian on the first day, so very politely asked me to get lost so they could regain their confidence. And so the opportunity arose for me to learn to snowboard, and it took me less than one run to fall in love.
I hadn’t had that feeling of excitement for the unknown (mixed with a little nervous anxiety) for so long. Dougie, without much experience of his own, promised to help me learn.
On my first run I caught the front edge twice – once chipping my front tooth and the second time hitting my face so hard on the snow my goggle lens actually popped out. It was absolutely awesome! I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it and therein lay the reason I was addicted!
Even in retirement I spend most of my days watching racers, observing techniques, and knowing exactly what advice to give them in order to aid their technical improvement. However with snowboarding I had absolutely no clue. It was so refreshing to just feel what was happening and act accordingly.
It took just three runs before Dougie and I could explore the whole Val d’Isère mountain. I smiled all day long – except for the annoying traverses which put my hips in the most awkward position as I tried to waddle my board along.
The next day I managed to persuade the journalists that for the morning I should snowboard with them in order not to pressure them to ski out of their comfort zone.
My season’s are pretty busy with coaching for CDC performance, hosting private ski days, commentating for Eurosport and presenting BBC Ski Sunday. None of which I was confident enough to try on a board. (Even the snowboard teams have coaches on skis to set the courses etc!)
We did sneak off to Flaine to do some more self teaching. By this point we had watched a few YouTube “how to snowboard” videos and had decided to adopt the Wayne’s World SCHWING hip approach on our backside as I was (just like my surfing) always sticking my bum out. And yes, Dougie and I were forever videoing each other on our Iphones and doing serious video analysis!
This worked a treat! It definitely was not the most technically sound approach to follow, and to be honest many fellow snow goers laughed at me all the time (not sure this was to do with my aggressive hip thrust or the fact that I couldn’t do it without shouting SCHWINGGGGGGG!!!
My snowboarding got more serious at the end of the season after completing my BASI Instructor Level 2 for skiing. A good friend of mine Jenny Jones was there doing her snowboarding equivalent. My last day after the course was spent practicing my snowboarding and I sent her over a few shots of me to have a look at. I was very proud of them and how far I’d progressed, but Jenny very quickly dissected them and replied with a 4 page email of all the things I could improve on.
Jenny you are a star – to say that my first every snowboard coach is GB’s Olympic bronze medallist is awesome!
I have so far to go and so much to learn – but this is why I enjoy it so much. My intention to improve this season has been cemented in my psyche – and leaving London with a car jam-packed including all the snowboard AND ski gear is now essential.
There is no need to watch this space. I don’t have time to get really good. But that doesn’t matter. I am fine with just bloody loving it! Give it a try sometime.