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FOUR SEASONS: THE GORM ON THE BOX

Published: The Scotsman (TSMag) 28 January 2012

GREAT to see Cairn Gorm featured on Ski Sunday the other week, plastered in fresh snow right down to valley level and looking almost good enough to eat. Presenter Graham Bell was on a trip down memory lane (well, up the A9 in a big black Land Rover, actually), returning to the place where he learned to ski when he was five and his brother Martin was six. “This is the caravan site where we used to park our caravan for the whole winter,” he told us, driving past the Glenmore Camp Site. “We’d get up there on a Friday night and it’d be really, really cold. We’d be scraping the ice off the inside of the windows.”

The brothers Bell both went on to become world-class downhill skiers, but before they started wearing Spandex in earnest they cut their teeth on the ’Gorm, under the instruction of the great Austrian-born coach Hans Kuwall. Graham caught up with Hans on the hill, on a rare windless day with beautiful pastel-pink skies, only to have his mentor tell him – and the viewers watching at home – that his brother had always had the better technique.

“But he didn’t quite have ze same ‘I-vant-to-vin’ as you did,” added Hans, by way of consolation, which presumably accounts for the younger Bell’s numerous top-ten placings in World Cup downhill events. Success in skiing, it seems, has a lot to do with vanting it.

It really warmed the cockles to watch the Bell-Kuwall reunion – Bell was still evidently a little in awe of the man who once used to punish him for acting up by making him do 100 short swings (exhausting tight turns) in a row – but it was sometimes hard to concentrate on what teacher and student were saying to one another because the snow conditions in the background looked s’darn tasty.

The Ski Sunday team filmed some of the Scottish Ski Club’s current crop of young racers whipping through the gates on the White Lady, and very professional they looked too, but it would’ve been nice to see a bit more action from elsewhere on the mountain. Bell finished up his piece by heading off down the White Lady himself, apparently in an attempt to straight-line it all the way to the bottom. For some reason, though, we didn’t get to see him ski it. Never mind – the Ski Sunday fellas will just have to find another excuse to come back up north. Perhaps for the Vans Dawn of the Shred event in the spring?

Enjoyable as it was to see Cairn Gorm looking its best on the box, it was also a source of some frustration. The Ski Sunday programme was filmed last December, when snow fell by the skipload and another Arctic winter seemed to be on the cards, but by the time it aired, in mid-January, conditions at the Scottish resorts were a lot less favourable. “A thin covering of boilerplate with some icy patches” would probably have been a fair assessment for most places. As I write this there’s been nothing worth skiing up north for a couple of weeks, so I’ve been fiddling about with kit by way of displacement activity, patching up the holes in my snowboard boots, changing transceiver batteries that don’t really need changing, putting my goggles into the new hard case I got free with a magazine subscription, then taking them out again having decided the case is too bulky. (My goggles are knackered anyway so it’s a bit late to start protecting them). I’ve even taken my splitboard to Snow Sports Services in Edinburgh to get the dings from last season’s off-piste adventures sorted out. They did a miraculous job, considering how trashed the board was, and it’s now got edges that could take your finger off.

All I need now to keep me from crocheting myself a new bobble hat is some snow, and with a bit of luck there might be some on the horizon: the long-range forecasts are looking promising. Just as well really, as I’m supposed to be going to Nevis Range soon to have a go at one of their Back Corries off piste workshops. In fact, by the time this magazine hits the newsstands I should already be there. So if you’re reading this in the middle of the biggest dump of snow Scotland’s seen for a generation, feel free to hate me; and if you’re reading it in the middle of another gale, well, at least you won’t be able to hear my howls of frustration over the sound of the wind.

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