I started skiing with a rented pair of skis as a 16-year-old in 1991. Getting down the hill and onto the board really helped me develop my skills and seemed exciting. With proper skis it seemed easier and more natural to glide across the snow and snowboard.
As I got older and started to get serious about skiing I became disillusioned with the big family ski holidays offered by tour operators who sold the idea of a fun day on the slopes. Skiers are the opposite of it. Ski trips create the same feeling that teenagers had in the early 90s when going to your local chalet was a mark of status.
I always viewed ski holidays from a discerning perspective. I didn’t have the audacity to invite friends to join me in a week’s self-catering at a top end B&B, just up the hill, as a way of drumming up business. I preferred to go to Cresta Cresta, the slightly antiquated pioneer ski resort in New York state, where there is no one to do your hair or chase you about the slopes. On my December holiday in 1995 I spent my days on sun loungers in the sauna and lunching in the fireplace café while I trained for a race. The rest of the week I skied at either Warren West in Vermont or Sagamore Hills at nearby Bolton Valley, both of which offered superb chairlifts and good skiing.
I returned to Maine a little further up the mountain each week to see where my training was going – with their central ski area once again making up the bulk of the resort. If I felt like you would during our riding day, great. If not, I was happy to head to places like the lesser visited Mill Pond Cabin, a mixture of 16th-century architecture and kitsch, or the series of cosy cabins perched on a hilltop.
On our last day I headed to a dinner at the Pine Tree Motel, famous for its baked clams, which translates as New England macaroni pie in French.
My first trip to Maine had been paid for by friends and colleagues who’d supported my attempt to win two bronze medals in the Freestyle Festival in Montreal. They’d let me stay with them after one day’s skiing.
After 21 years of skiing I found skiing in the wilderness to be an even more intimate experience and the feedback I received for the night off and a few days of non-events seemed to outweigh the five or six people I was expected to ski down a hill, recreating my days at Cresta Cresta.