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Ski Sunday on slippery slope as hipsters take over

By Billy Weir

Published 21/01/2016

Careful now: Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal goes down a big mountain and not a gritter to be seen
Careful now: Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal goes down a big mountain and not a gritter to be seen

Ski Sunday is a very different beast than the one that used to stalk the slopes in the days of David Vine who would appear on a random mountain each week, invariably in a blizzard, and in anoraks of many colours.

Nowadays it's all high tech jiggery-pokery as freezing conditions have been replaced by cool dudes and a bad anorak sighting on a big mountainy thing is about as common as spotting Big Foot out on a toboggan.

Seemingly it is not enough now for what is supposed, after all, to be a show about one of the most exhilarating, exciting and quite frankly, insane, sports on the planet, for a never-ending succession of men and women in full-body condoms hurling themselves down the Alps quicker than an avalanche going for last orders.

Ski Sunday has always been something of an oddity in this part of the world. Let's face it, we could never be a nation of skiers as one drop of the white stuff and no-one would turn up, saying that the bus was late and the organisers would be inundated with people ringing up to say that they couldn't dig their way to the motor.

No such luck though on Sunday for Graham Bell - and with a name like that you would think he would have a phone - and cohort Ed Leigh, an ageing hipster who probably has turn-ups on his ski trousers and a spare beard in case it becomes fashionable again.

Both had made it to Switzerland, or Wengen to be geographically precise, as one of the many fancy new graphics told us for the benefit of the viewers with the same attention span as the average life expectancy of a snowman standing beside a Superser.

Ed - the cool one, and I don't mean he has a hole in his suit - waffles on about some daft Alpine sport that has clearly been made up to give the kids something to do while the grown-ups were in the bar after realising they couldn't ski, when we all know that snowboarding was invented when Mrs Heidi Zurbriggen's decision to do a bit of outdoor ironing went disastrously wrong. Should have listened to Swiss Interior Minister Edwin Pootz…

Sunday's downhill, we were told, was all about controlling the Lager Horn and who of us hasn't struggled with that in our time? Ah, the Lauberhorn, my mistake, but still a mighty task, not helped by the fog coming in and organisers worried that there was some snow coming.

"The Lauberhorn delivers a thrilling race. It's the longest and fastest downhill of the World Cup, it's nearly five kilometres of quad-burning, lung-busting, breath-taking action," Ed told us and now we know why David Vine chilled out at the Crucible.

The one big advantage Bell has over us is that he used to be a skier himself and each week gets a bash at the course, a bit like John Motson pulling on a pair of gutties and joining in on the kick-about before the game.

"What kind of state is the course in?" Leigh asked a puffed Bell at the end.

"It's like a bottle up there, somebody will coup if they're not careful, give the DoE a bell," Bell didn't say as Mrs Zurbriggen was spotted slipping onto the course with a packet of Saxo and a bucket of hot water.

Our commentator is Matt Chilton, the self-appointed Voice of Skiing so let's hope he isn't voted off the white, white grass of Switzerland when he least expects it, but with introductions like this he could be on a slippery slope.

"Downhill Day in Wengen is something rather special. The scenery, the speed and spectacle combine to create a unique sporting arena," he told us. That would be unique in the way that it is like every other big mountainy thing covered in snow.

And onto the action, with Bell chirping in with some snippets about the next man to come, including Peter Fill from Italy.

"The veteran racer originally trained as a car mechanic before committing full-time to Alpine Skiing. He crashed on the hill last year but he's got the bodywork back in shape and should Wengen witness a faulty axle he will hope to turbo to victory," but he didn't, there was to be no big end.

The axle of whom Bell spoke was in fact Aksel, or Mr Lund Svindal to give Norway's finest his full name, who, Chilton told us as he went under the ludicrously positioned railway bridge across the course, that he was 'going like a train'. Again, this would never happen in the UK - wrong kind of snow on the tracks and a health and safety minefield.

Despite that and disappearing for most of his run in the fog, Aksel rose to the challenge and came home miles ahead of everyone with his biggest threat coming from fellow countryman, Kjetil Jansrud.

"The football-mad Norwegian compared his 27th place in the last downhill race like LVG's stuttering performance at Manchester United," we were told. "Jansrud probably won't be sacked in the morning but he'll need to attack, attack, attack."

He did. And came 12th. You see, Louis is right, you get nowhere attacking. Surely a warning for Wenger in Wengen.

Elsewhere on the show we had Chemmy Alcott, a British woman who achieved very little on the slopes meeting Alex Tilly, who hopes to emulate her by doing very little on the slopes and did marvellously on that path with a DNF and a 45th.

Moving, not swiftly, on, and Leigh looked very excited.

"In Alpine Skiing progression boils down to going faster. In freestyle it's more about creativity, pushing technical boundaries and thinking big, so big that you leave mouths agape and minds blown," he told us.

Quite frankly my ghast was flabbered and my boozle bammed at the sight of many hipsters jumping over big jumps but it was much too cool for my school as one very annoying American dude told us: "I want people to stand up and clap and be like 'wow, this is sick, this is free-skiing, damn I want to do it'."

I would love to, man, but there's two inches of snow on the drive, I can't find my anorak and to be honest, it's a lot warmer and safer watching the snooker.

Belfast Telegraph

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