To boldly go…

…and other split infinitives (so I was told by my English teacher at school).

Today’s meme, for 6 days to go till the Winter Olympics, is: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail“.


I said yesterday that I’d had some sublime moments when skiing, and that one of them was at Glenshee.

It was the winter after I’d passed my BASI Instructor exam, the old ‘Grade 3’, and I was working for one of the ski schools in Glenshee. The Chief Instructor had been on his Grade One course at the same time as I’d been on my course (in Tignes) and one day after lunch I’d been amazed to see his group jump off the side of the path and ski down this incredibly steep pitch onto the next path about 20m below. “You’ll never catch me doing that!” I thought. And then, predictably, the next week our Trainer got us to do the exact same thing ¬†and of course, I managed, much to my surprise (there’s a lot to be said for intensive training and peer pressure!).

Anyway, the next year the chief instructor – let’s call him Mike, like in my books – took us skiing at the end of the day and off to the Glas Maol, one of the better runs at Glenshee that isn’t always open as it’s at the furthest extent of the ski area. Anyway, there’s a long ‘traverse’ along the flat top of the hill until you get to the main red run. Except that ‘Mike’ didn’t go to the main run. He ducked under the rope fence about half-way along the traverse and headed “off-piste” to the left. We all followed like ducks in a row.

Next thing we knew we were standing at the top of a precipice (or so it felt) – the ‘head wall’ I was told later – and ‘Mike’ was effortlessly short-swinging down this cliff-face just like I’d seen them do on the BASI course. So, of course, as I’d done the same thing and survived, off I went…

At the bottom of the steep pitch the hill opened out and the snow cover was great so we were able to open up and let rip until we had to screech to a halt for the tow queue.

The second time, since I knew what was coming, I didn’t stop on the top of the head wall, but kept my rhythm and managed to ski nice short turns down the steep. Then on the wider section I really let the skis go, got them on their edges and carving and was absolutely screaming along doing huge wide GS turns, so fast that I remember thinking, “If I fall over at this speed I’ll probably kill myself!” (this was in the days before helmets).

Anyway, I stayed on my feet and was absolutely exhilarated at the performance I’d got out of my skis – and myself!

It’s not every day that you get the chance to go where there isn’t a trail, but, if it’s safe to do so, then it can be a great way to increase your confidence and your ability, or try something you’ve never done before. Go for it!

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