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With bright sunshine and plentiful snow, the omens were good as the annual Momentum City Ski Championships celebrated its move to a new location – the internationally acclaimed Swiss resort of Verbier.
Some 150 or so skiers, a good natured mix of young Turks and city veterans of both sexes from London’s financial and business community battled it out for a glittering array of medals and prizes in two days of racing. Starting with a “radar trap” speed-skiing schuss to acknowledge the fastest male and female skier, this was followed by a fiercely competitive head-to-head dual parallel team slalom.
The big event, on Day Two, was the Giant Slalom, in which skiers had to negotiate 41 gates in the (usually vain) hope of breaking the one-minute time barrier. Inevitably there were one or two spectacular crashes, one of which qualified for the “wipe-out of the weekend” – much to the glee of the hard-working race commentator, Matt Chilton of Ski Sunday fame. But fortunately there were no serious injuries. Reassuringly for the racers, two physiotherapists from Physio Remedies, Sarah Lawson and Caroline Ephgrave, were on hand to deal with tired or strained muscles.
The event, the brainchild of Amin Momen, a London tour operator specialising in skiing, has evolved into something of a glorified ski festival-cum-networking weekend since it started seventeen years ago in the Italian resort of Courmayeur, its home for a decade before moving to Crans-Montana for four years.
Lloyd’s and Accenture have been sending racers to the event since the very beginning. The main sponsor, the Financial Times, holds a packed evening Alpine Forum. This year’s panel, chaired by the FT’s Ravi Mattu, included Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, Damon Hill, the former world champion Formula 1 racing driver, Accenture’s Peter Beardshaw and the comedian Marcus Brigstocke, who went on to entertain the assembled skiers at a Comedy Club night with fellow comedian Sean Meo.
Other celebrities taking part in the races included the Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson and Konrad Bartelski, Britain’s most successful World Cup downhill racer, who was the fore-runner in the Giant Slalom event. Konrad got down so fast that when Matt Chilton saw him suddenly pop out of the snow from nowhere, he said: “Konrad! I didn’t know you were coming!”
When Chilton saw Accenture’s Peter Beardshaw battling down the GS course he said: “He’s bought his missus along but she can hardly bear to watch – she’s hiding behind the sofa”
Chilton encouraged racers to get some “Dutch courage” in the form of some excellent Bloody Marys served up by Knight Frank, Alex Koch de Gooreynd commented “I feel like a witch with my special brew!”
The City Ski Championships closed with a gala awards dinner at the Mouton Noir mountain restaurant, where Amin Momen cheerfully shrugged off being narrowly beaten in both his GS descents by his friend and rival Damon Hill. It was a punishing weekend for Damon after some energetic skiing with Konrad Bartelski and a challenging off-piste session before the head-to-head relay race performance on Day One. On the plane home he admitted his thighs were still aching. “My legs are shot” he grinned. “But then I’m not getting any younger!”
But you don’t have to be an Olympic champion or even an expert to take part in the championships – there was even a special award for one Giant Slalom racer, Niall Crowley, who had only put skis on for the first time a couple of days earlier. He was serenaded with tinkling cowbells throughout his gentle six-minute journey. And Rob Machon, an unofficial racer from the Warren Smith Ski Academy, who were coaching some of the racers, even skied the course backwards! His time of approximately 1.08 minutes was faster than many of the racers skiing normally!
To enquire about the 2017 City Ski Championships, please contact Jessica on 020 7183 6096 or by email.
Words by Arnie Wilson, former FT ski correspondent.