Wednesday, 30 March 2016

As steep as it gets

The cricket season has not yet got underway.  But even as Fantasy Bob anticipates the series of 50s and 5-fers that will mark his season, he is confident that his main sporting achievement of 2016 is already in the bag.  (And before his handful of long suffering readers suggest as much, he should mention that he has not taken part in any empire biscuit eating marathons in the close season).

Not that an empire biscuit would have been unwelcome on that sun lit morning during his recent visit to the Austrian Alps.

As the sun rose into the azure above the mountains, FB's ski group ascended in the cable car.  A gentle ski down to a button lift was a nice warm up, but as his group came off that lift they were unprepared for where the instructor was leading them.  A couple of turns later they stopped with a collective gulp. 

What they were looking down is reputedly the steepest secured slope in Europe.  The Langer Zug run at Lech.   There are several ways of measuring steepness - it is 142%, it is 55 degrees on one method, 78 degrees on another.  Whatever.  This was steep - looking over it was like standing on a diving board.

For cricketers who find it hard to envisage such topography, any of these measures mean is considerably steeper than the world famous outfield hill at the Grange Loan home of FB's beloved Carlton CC, a treacherous black run on which FB has come to grief on many occasions.

But before FB could draw this telling comparison to the attention of his colleagues, they were off.  FB told himself to rely on his technique.  Now, those who have seen FB rely on what he imagines is technique when facing leg spin bowling - or indeed any other kind of bowling - might fear that this was an unwise tactic.
Skier (definitely not FB) on the Langer Zug
But as FB leaned forward and down, forcing his weight onto his downhill ski, the edge gripped.  After 2 turns the thrill kicked in.  This was something.  Speed skier Harry Egger clocked 248 km/hour (154 miles/hour) down the Langer Zug, at the time the world record.   It would be an exaggeration to say that FB flowed down the slope in that fashion.  FB acknowledges that his own speed was slightly less brisk, barely above military medium in fact, but for several splendid minutes he felt master of the mountain.

This was the thrill of the hat trick ball clattering into middle; or the joy of the six into the upper tier at long off.  Better even.  Better even than an empire biscuit.

Most ski slopes look much less steep from the bottom.  Not the Langer Zug.  Not to FB.  Looking back as the adrenalin rush faded, FB was sure that even from the bottom it was still considerably steeper than the hill at Grange Loan.

Here is a video of a slightly better skier than FB going down.


  1. FB is to be commended for his bravery in the face of adversity but he should not have fretted. Experience shows that sportsmen rarely come to grief performing such difficult manoeuvres - they are much more likely to be injured, or worse, tripping over their feet while walking home afterwards. Dougal Haston, having climbed some of the world's most dangerous mountains, was killed by an avalanche while ski-ing near his house in Switzerland and we all know what happened to Michael Schumacher. Best advice - make sure your laces are properly tied.

    1. Sound advice but for the fact that ski boots have no laces.