For many ski enthusiasts in the City of London, mid-March has, for the past 10 years or more, meant a trip to Courmayeur in Italy's Aosta Valley for the City Ski Championships.
There has been serious racing (the number of former national team skiers in the City suggests that ex-racers never die, they just fall into a bank); there has been mucking about on snow (for example the French brokers who competed one year in their pants – and won); there has been fine dining (the vitello tonnato from Maison Vieille, wow); and there have been wild parties (no elaboration required).
However, the organisers have decided it is time to move on: in 2012, the City Ski Championships will be a part of the Momentum Ski Festival in Crans Montana, Switzerland, with comedy and music adding to the on-slope fun. The idea is not simply to ring the changes, but to broaden the appeal to those skiers who might feel that a Championship sounded a bit too serious. (In fact, as anyone who saw the Brummell representative in the relay slalom would testify, it often was not.) The races will still take place: there are separate championship categories – Private Equity, Hedge Fund and Family Office – with competitions in disciplines such as the radar trap, a giant slalom and that parallel slalom.
Performing at the Momentum Ski Festival will be some of the country's best stand-up comedians (the country in question being Britain, not Switzerland, reassuringly), including TV and Radio 4 stars Marcus Brigstocke and Rufus Hound. At a recent warm-up gig for the festival, Hound speculated that Crans Montana might in fact be the name of an obscure intimate body part, before rounding on a banker who was being vague about his particular speciality – ‘That’s why we have to pay the big bonuses: to keep that kind of talent in London’ – so don't expect on-message comedy! In music, Alpine favourites The Feeling (who had hits with ‘Never Be Lonely’ and ‘Fill My Little World’) are confirmed, and for those with more of a taste for hip hop, Carpetface and Audible1 will be beatboxing and rapping. More acts are to be confirmed.
In the past the City Ski Championships has attracted big names from the world of skiing (Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell and commentator Matt Chilton; Scottish Olympic slalom hero Alain Baxter; American Olympic downhill champion Tommy Moe) and other fields (110m hurdles world champion Colin Jackson; F1 world champion Damon Hill; Michelin three–starred chef Heston Blumenthal), and many of them are likely to come to discover a new ski area.
Crans Montana is the coming resort in Switzerland. In the past couple of seasons, the lively, sunny twin towns of Crans and Montana have seen a lot of development – mainly in the construction of new 5-star hotels and luxury chalets.
The ski area is topped with a glacier, running into an open bowl and descending into interesting tree runs. It's a lot of fun – very much like the nightlife. It promises to be the ideal venue for the notoriously both-end candle-burners of the City ski fraternity and sorority.
Momentum Ski Festival, 14-18 March. Packages from £895pp for two days, £1,555pp for four days; momentumskifestival.com.