The Angry Corrie 41: Apr-May 1999

TAC 41 Index

Glensheeing

If you thought Sarah Ferguson was an ex-royal and Paul Parker a batsman who scored 215 in his third first-class match, think again. Val Hamilton met both at the Braemar Telemark Festival, where she seems to have had a good time:

Last August the idea of planning a major new skiing event at Glenshee, after one of the area's worst seasons for years, looked courageous, even foolhardy. But fortune did favour the brave in this case and the first Braemar Telemark Festival, 5th-7th March, was an amazing event. 250 telemark skiers swooped down on to Braemar for lessons, gear tests, a ceilidh and much more, freeing their heels and their minds. The whole place was buzzing, burning, turning.

OK, the snow conditions could have been better. The graceful, genuflecting telemark turn comes into its own in soft snow, and the predominant ice demanded precise technique, especially in the mornings. The weather too was on the fierce side with a choice of Saturday's low cloud, flat light and wind, or Sunday's high skies, ice-crystal visibility and gales, but telemarkers are hardy souls.

They must also be an clever bunch, given that everyone seemed to pass the registration intelligence test. 250 people had to perm four classes - from Steep and Scary, through Improving Fluency to Avalanche Awareness and Turns for Tourers - out of the 104 being offered by thirteen instructors over two days. You were allowed one Joker - a session by one of the three stars: Eric Assum, a leading extreme skier; Sarah Ferguson, (no, the talented one), author of Inner Skiing; or the American telemark guru Paul Parker, author of the ground-breaking (or maybe piste-breaking) Free-heel Skiing. Once equipped with your exam certificate in the form of a laminated pass with your class times on it, the hard part was over and you could just get out there and ski.

Instruction standards were high with the emphasis on thought-provoking tips applicable whatever your level. Some of Parker's classes were filmed by Channel Four for the Board Stupid series, which was exciting enough, but there was the added thrill of being allowed to queue-jump to increase on-camera time. Those by-passed were not impressed: "Is this continental queuing then?" - "Jawohl, mein Herr". A bold venture and an astonishing feat of organisation that really succeeded. Many Scottish-based skiers, no doubt waiting to gauge the conditions before committing their money, found the event already booked up in February. Next year - there just has to be a repeat - it will be sold out by Christmas.

TAC 41 Index