Having a bit of cash in my bank is pretty nice these days, but with all the gear I really need there’s only one thing I want to spend it on: trips. So another year, another pilgrimage to the promised land of BC Canada.
Mostly good weather meant that trails were in great condition, not too dry or too wet. Just a few days in Whistler Bike Park this year, and truck problems meant no roadtrip plans came to fruition, so I ended up doing lots of pedalling on trails old and new in Whistler and Squamish with my favourite trails just a quick pedal from Rob’s back door. Highlights of the trip were definitely big solo pedal days, 7-8 hours on the bike linking up some of the best trails I’ve ever ridden, coming home more stoked than any day in the park. In particular, riding some of Squamish’s classic slab lines at the end of my biggest day (Entrails to Chossy’s to Dirk’s) tired, hungry and water long gone, riding into features blind but somehow picking good lines and staying on the bike; scary good but absolutely buzzing as I cruised home.
Big thanks to everyone I rode with, Rob and Kathleen for their hospitality as always and especially to the local trailbuilders (donation to SORCA coming shortly).
Meanwhile back home my first ride ended with me clipping my pinky finger on a tree at full speed; thankfully it was neither broken nor dislocated but stitches were required for the split skin. A week of work later (ie. “monitoring” football matches) it’s good enough to be back out on the local Chamonix trails in nice autumnal conditions and plenty time for some more roadtrips before the snow arrives.
Last winter was a mixed one for me. December brought some of the best early-season conditions I’ve ever seen, allowing us to ski some areas that don’t usually fill in until midwinter, but a lot of work in November & December left me tired and demotivated for skiing despite the conditions. With the previous amazing summer a fading memory I was missing riding my bike already and by January my ski motivation hit an all-time low despite the lack of holiday crowds and perfect snow, and the less I skied the less motivated I felt. Skiing has been such a big part of my life for the past 15+ years and it was sad to see my love for it slip like this, and looking back I’m pretty sure that I was suffering some mild depression from a lack of physical activity.
Thankfully my old pal Scotty was in town in late January and dragged me out for a really fun and relaxed day in Les Contamines, only my second day on snow in 6 weeks, which reminded me what it is that I love about skiing so much. My motivation slowly returned through the rest of winter, even if I was getting out for fewer days than in the past. Keeping summer biking in my head was some real motivation for me, planning some big routes already but knowing that I would need to have a serious think about making some changes to my lifestyle in the near future.
After some good days on the bike through April and a trip back to Scotland for my wee sister’s wedding with the whole family I was ready for the summer ahead when I picked up a weird rotator cuff injury and wasn’t able to lift my right arm at all. Initial scans came back healthy and my physio seemed confused; pretty worrying. During my second physio session we got some movement back but the road to recovery still wasn’t certain and the thought of possibly not biking for a while really scared me. Around the same time I landed an interview for a new job in Geneva and by the time I had received a job offer from the shoulder recovery had accelerated to the point where I could ride close to 100% and things had come together nicely for the summer and beyond.
So what’s the job? I’m now working at the European Broadcast Union in Geneva, AKA Eurovision (yes, the Eurovision who started the Song Contest back in the 50s as an event for their member nations). Our office of 300 staff plan and deliver almost 100,000 hours of TV, radio and online content annually and my desk handles livestreaming and video-on-demand to various online platforms, mostly covering large international sports events. I never thought I’d end up with a desk job but I’m really enjoying it especially as a change from what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years, the great team that I work with and the fact that I can still wear shorts in the office every day. There’s been a lot of learning on the job but it’s nice to be using my brain and when things are running smoothly I can watch the events while keeping an eye on other things. I started right at the end of FIFA World Cup coverage, we were the official broadcasters for the recent European Championships in Glasgow/Berlin and we are streaming every UEFA football game this from now on as well as pretty much any mainstream sport you can think of including FIS skiing and UCI mountain biking. I’m meant to be on 100 hours per month, so commuting to Geneva 3-4 days per week, but the schedule will vary with the events so still plenty time to play in the mountains and the Swiss paycheque ain’t bad either.
Meanwhile in Chamonix the weather has been a little drier than ideal but no real complaints there. The classic trails are riding nicely and I’ve been exploring a little more from our vast lift network as well as taking some roadtrips with a few new riding buddies. Last week saw one of the biggest and best rides of my life: every bike-accessible lift covered by the annual Mont Blanc Unlimited pass in a day (that’s Le Tour x2, Vallorcine, Les Houches x2, Les Contamines x2, Saint Gervais/Megeve x6 and the Tramway du Mont Blanc) for 123km distance, 9996m descending and 2070m climbing on the bike (167km including lifts) over 13.5 hours. Really good to share this ride with Graham too who I haven’t been riding much with this summer as he’s now working his dream job as a bike guide in Verbier for the summer and to whom I owe a lot for introducing me to mountain biking. See his write-up of the day here.
Another biking trip to BC is booked for September/October thanks to my new job and my supervisor allowing me the time off, and New Zealand in late 2019 is now totally doable. Through winter I’m looking forward to getting out with some friends with whom I haven’t been skiing much with lately because of varying work schedules, and maybe even taking my first real ski holiday since 2009. I have realised that I have been quite resistant to change over the past few years but times change and adapting to them is important, as well as making some conscious effort to keep my body healthy so that I can enjoy my favourite activities as long as possible. Looking forward to whatever the future brings.
That’s my skiing finished for another winter. With the remaining snow depth above 2500m there might be some decent turns to be had off the top of Grands Montets when it reopens for summer on 23rd June but I’m not sure if it’ll be tempting enough for me to head out with the ski gear instead of the bike. We’ll see.
With more work on this winter, fewer ski partners and a bit of a lack of ski motivation in early winter I didn’t get as many days on the mountain as in previous winters but did still get some great days and no injuries which is always important.
The Chamonix Valley’s bike trails below 1500m have been dry enough for some excellent riding already over the past few weeks including a good day lapping the Les Arcs funicular. Shaded trails above 2000m might take a while to melt out completely this year but there will still be plenty ride elsewhere until then. Check Graham’s recent blog post for summer lift opening dates; hope it’s another good one.
Thanks as always to everyone I skied with this winter!