HAVING A DREAM
Monday 20th Jan and its MLK day! This is another day off for the kids so as the weather is truly unbelievably
gorgeous time to hit the slopes once more. Leave more or less on time, no crowds on the slopes, no lift
queues and another “Bluebird” day.
Brenda tries some of her other kit and reports all is well with the world. Well as Martin Luther had his dream
I am having mine over a couple of refreshing adult beverages and the mind flicks hither and thither with lots
of skiing memories…….. remembering my schoolboy exploits in Europe, and then onto RAF skiing in Cyprus,
my Instructor’s Course (I nearly didn’t go on) in the Lebanon, ….. A visit to the RAF Championships up in
deepest Scotland and winning the “Kinloss Quaich”…… a very strange trip to Austria? …… more instructing
up at Aviemore, and a couple of winter survival courses in Bad Kohlgrub, Bavaria, and then moving to the
States and sampling some first class resorts in perfect conditions.
Another “Bluebird” day
I need one of those Russian hats!
Captain Frederik Octoberisky
Just need to change the hat badge
So, a decision is made, a troll of ebay to collect personal memorabilia from the distant past. A pretty hard
task to be sure, but with a lot of trolling through lists and worthless items a collection of keepsakes comes
First port of call on the world adventure of skiing starts back in the winter of 1953/54 at the ripe old age of
7. A long bout of chicken pox very nearly killed me and after Rev Church (yes that was his name) had given
last rites and Doctors had told my mother I was unlikely to survive the night, somehow I was alive and up
and at ’em the following morning. Having been in a coma for about three weeks my lungs had collapsed
and the same doctors now advised 6 weeks in the mountain air in Switzerland and my dear old mother
diligently sets off to earn enough cash to cover this enterprise. Our destination was a tiny village called
Beatenberg somewhere above Interlaken. Well they must have had a ski shop and there was a big ski
jump but at that time NO lifts or ski school……… so it was a case of teach yourself and walk !
A few years later I’m at Kent College, Canterbury, and enjoy three years of skiing with the school party in
early January. I believe I was 13-15 and went to Seefeld in Austria, Wengen the following year and then
Andermatt in Switzerland. Very quickly the novice skier learns the rules of how to progress at this game
and if you are not skiing in either the No1 or No2 slot right behind the instructor you are not going to be able
to see or “do” what “More benzs zee neeze ” is saying and doing! By now motorcycles and trials was No1
on the agenda so no more skiing until joining the RAF and getting out to Cyprus on my first tour in 1966.
Wengen, what a fantastic resort
Cyprus has its own 6000′ mountain in the shape of Mt Olympus in the Troodos range and the RAF has a
giant radar site perched on the top with its own RAF camp and of course the Army doing all sorts of things
only the Army can do. Ski wise there are a couple of “bunny slopes” called Sun Valley 1 & 2 and then right
by the radar site the North Face which is pretty steep! None of it is great skiing but at least it is there and
only 40 miles away from our base at RAF Akrotiri down on the coast.
The bunny hill, Sun Valley I, 4 turns if you are lucky
Brandy sour or a KEO beer ?
The North Face drag lift
The radar station on the top of the North Face
Spring 1968 and “Spoofing” ( the art of fooling someone big time ….. a continuous April Fool’s Day) is all
the rage on the Squadrons and I get the phone call from the Wing Commander (or is it my best friend who
does his voice perfectly ?) to tell me I’ve been selected for No12345 Ski Instructor’s Course in the Lebanon
from 25th May until 16th June !! …….. I’m not taken in as by the end of May it will be up in the 100+F region
in the Med and the Lebanon is about the same latitude as Cyprus.
Time moves on and we creep into May and paperwork for the “said” course arrives, and needless to say
I still don’t believe it. A phone call from someone on another squadron and he says he is on the same
course…… yea, right! ……. then some airline tickets arrive, and now I’m thinking that the “boys” really have
gone to a lot of trouble with this one ? Well a quick trip to base admin and see if this is real or not….. but
who do you trust ?
Well, as I have the time off and airline tickets I’ll go. First weekend in Beirut with a cocktail party at the
British Consulate on Friday night and further activities with the US Embassy closing down a beach chalet
Sunday and off up the hill with hangover and fall asleep during the drive. Woken by the driver to be told we
are here only to find I’m in some sort of ice tunnel which is all pale blue. Scramble up the ice steps into
brilliant sunshine and temps around 70. Small wooden triangle ahead and some wheels and a cable off to
the left. Told to head for the triangle which is in fact the roof of our hotel which is under 28FEET of SNOW!
The much improved lift systems today
The “ice tunnel” collapsed
The lift is closed
More steps down the snow and onto the upper patio where après ski is already in full swing with bikini clad
ladies with ski pants round their boots sucking up the rays and the cocktails.
“Hello, you must be new here?”
Our daily schedule starts at 0830 up the buried single bucket type chair lift which clatters and bashes its
way against the towering ice walls. With 2 Brit rugby playing, beer swilling, individuals on this thing as
opposed to 2 lightweight Arabs the bucket seats act as an excavator with all the extra weight on the cable
and we are soon riding high on snow filled seats. Our 2 instructors join us, one is an Arab Lieutenant from
the Lebanese Army who speak Arabic, Farsi and pigeon French and the other is a Norwegian who refuses
to speak at all! Well this will be fun!
As it was with the “proposed” new lifts
From the top of the lift, skis off and climb the rest of the way to the ridgeline of the mountain and start from
there! An hour or so skiing bullet hard ridged ice and then about 3 hours of reasonable conditions in the
+70 temps before it became so slushy that it was pointless and we returned to the bar. Three weeks of
this with -30 every night and +70 by day and then another fun filled weekend in Beirut before flying back to
An expensive pin, but I just had to have it
Back to the UK for my next tour at Boscombe Down, our test center, I get invited to join a ski trip to
Austria at a small resort called Oberau. Seems our station dentist was going with our education officer
but has had to drop out at the last minute for personal reasons.
The trip turns out to be fun and then we discover there is a bigger resort a few miles away called
Niederau so we go over there for an evening. A much better resort with a lot more to do on the après ski
front and we are soon enjoying all it has to offer. Several bars and steins later we are sitting in a booth
quaffing more beer when two very attractive ladies arrive and ask if the extra seats are free. Well of course
they are, and we soon get into all the usual pleasantries. Having established my colleague is an educator
they move on to me and ask me what I do.
The most attractive one’s interest perks up when they discover I’m an aviator and want to know what I’m
working on. In general glib terms I say I’m working on “Martel” which is a sort of longish range air to ground
TV guided bomb. Little Miss Blue Eyes comes on very strong and starts asking some fairly deep questions
which immediately trigger warning bells!!! Admittedly the Sunday Telegraph had produced an article a few
weeks before in the color supplement but only in the most general terms ……… the interrogation continues
but of course I’m on my guard, a couple more questions are asked but the information she had must have
been given to her as some of the facts and frequencies she knew were heavily classified. It would perhaps
have been fun to have played James Bond with her all night……. if that’s where it was headed, but I claimed
the need for an urgent pee after all the steins and duly kicked colleague into joining me for same. When we
returned the ladies were nowhere to be seen ????
Very strange indeed ? Was she one of “theirs” ? or was it a test and was she one of “ours” ? Needless to
say I reported the incident on my return but never heard another word.
The MI6 pin
The rest of the trip went well with me even winning the small town’s ski school race and my educator buddy
being chased by an older Austrian lady as fasching was in full swing.
Back home to Boscombe Down and I’m invited to join the units ski team for a trip up to Aviemore for the
RAF Ski Championships. Well once more its free skiing and off I go. Now Aviemore is primitive to say the
least when it comes to skiing and the conditions are truly unbelievably awful ! Even a good day (if there is
such a thing) up here would be considered a no ski day by European standards. A couple of drag lifts, very
narrow runs, exposed rocks, lots of fences to try and retain the snow, and most of the snow airborne in a
biting cold wind.
So this is Aviemore ?
We spend most of the week in various bars talking skiing and our team leader gives us the low down of
the event. There will be over 200 competitors racing on a Giant Slalom type course and they will start
every 30 seconds. The top 15 will be “Seeded” runners, a bit like Wimbledon and the next 15 will be skiers
that are known to the organizers, …….. the rest will be balloted.
Race day dawns and by Aviemore standards its a half decent day, just windy and bloody cold! Wander
over to the “race hill” and see the first few runners who are clearly pretty good…… time to retreat to mid
mountain coffee shop as I’m no 173 so time to kill. When I get back the scene is one of complete carnage
…… there must be 30 + people on the hill in various stages, some walking back up, others trying to stand
up after falling …. skis, sticks, hats and bodies everywhere like a giant yard sale!
Fast runs from the seeded players …… but then……..
As the race has progressed the radius turns have changed from the hi-speeders to the now “beginners”
who are stemming for all they are worth and trying to make the gates no matter what! I pass about 20 in
all manner of disarray, some fallen, some walking, some without skis and one who re-entered the course
forcing me to stop ……. well no matter my time is in the mid 20’s so that will do considering all of the
“173, ready ? 5…..4….. 3….2……1 …..GO!
The results are in and our team of 4 with the best 3 to count has done pretty well finishing about 4th
overall and also winning the “Kinloss Quaich” for the best minor team which we qualify for as Boscombe
Down is mainly civilians a very few servicemen. We win the prize which is a very nice whisky drinking
bowl. Seems there is some ritual to it and once started it must never leave the “lip” and is passed on to
the next sipper until the entire contents (a very nice bottle of malt) is consumed.
Time moves on and I’m posted to another base and as usual take on my share of secondary duties which
in this case is Officer I/C Winter Sports. The Station decides it will send 12 lucky (some say) individuals up
to Scotland to compete in the RAF Championships ……. and yes, Tony, you will be running it and will of
course be teaching !
So in the winter of 74 my merry band are gathered once more in the wilds of Aviemore and on the days
that skiing is possible some teaching is done…… God, what dreadful place!!
What a ghastly place
“Ok, that was a bit better, just need to stop the arse steering and tidy up
the pole swinging”
More follow me
Two weeks of struggling with beginners and dreadful conditions race day comes and despite a few falls
they all make it down the hill without injury. We don’t win anything but there were a few smiles at the après
ski drinkies. So in memories of this God Awful place I have the Aviemore pin, my British Tri Services Ski
Instructor’s Badge and
The World’s Worst Skiing = Aviemore
The Tri Service Ski Instructor’s Badge
1976 and another posting to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and from here the Phantom force has monthly
trips back out to Cyprus which has to be my most favorite island. Coningsby always seems to get the winter
months and that means a chance to slip back up to Troodos for a few weekend ski trips. It now has a super
new Officer’s Mess so great accommodation and duty free drinkies.
On 29 Squadron I get to go on Winter Survival in Germany and then again when I change over to the F4
OCU I volunteer to do it again. Two weeks free skiing, a weekend survival in the woods to endure but after
the first week’s walking everywhere week two is much more pleasant with bus trips to high quality ski
resorts in Germany and neighboring Austria.
The first of two winter survivals at Bad Kohlgrub
The end of second week ski race
The most impressive, and therefore worth a pin, has to be the trip up the Zugspitze !
Wait till you see it and you’ll understand why !
…..and we are going up the bit on the far right
how old are those cables??
…..and the only way down Mr Bond is by the car
Coming to the USA and being based in Phoenix, Colorado skiing at Telluride and Purgatory becomes the
norm with a visit to Wolf Creek and Crested Butte. Further adventures to Heavenly with nightly retreats to
the fun side of Nevada, a trip to Snowbird and Alta in Utah and back for more Colorado trips to Beaver Creek
Demo true parallel turns for a student at Purgatory
Now we are based in Dolores, only 60 miles from Telluride which has all we need and with a pack of dogs
it looks unlikely we will be skiing elsewhere in their lifetime.
On top of “my” ski world at Telluride