Menioned in Emily Sarsfield interview in the Mail Online
Let's race! The lowdown on ski cross with Emily Sarsfield, the sport's British No.1
It might not currently be on many people’s radars - having only debuted as an Olympic event in 2010 - but Britain's No.1 ski crosser Emily Sarsfield is hoping the nation will be gripped by her sport when it bursts on to our screens during next year's Winter Games in Sochi.
The five-times British champion - who missed the event in Vancouver due to injury - finds out in January whether she has been selected for the 2014 event in Russia. She gives MailOnline Travel the lowdown on the risky, adrenaline-fuelled sport and her favourite places to ski...
Sochi hopeful: Ski crosser Emily Sarsfield is looking to compete in the Winter Olympics in Russia in 2014
Can you explain a bit about ski cross for those who’ve never seen it?
It’s the ultimate downhill sport. Four people race head-to-head on a downhill track, which is full of obstacles. There are always lots of crashes - it’s not for the faint-hearted. You just know that you’re going to go down at some point and you’re going to go down hard.
It sounds a bit hairy - is there a big risk of injury?
We have a running joke that you’re not a ski cross skier if you haven’t ‘done an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament)’ or ‘done a knee’. It takes a certain attitude to do the sport but with every sport you’re going to have risks.
A couple of years ago [Canadian skier] Nik Zoricic passed away during a competition in Switzerland. That was difficult for all of us because we’re like a small family and tour around together. I saw it happen and it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. A lot of safety measures have come into the sport since then.
High adrenaline: Ski cross debuted in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010
Do you have a favourite ski resort?
I prefer the European ski resorts. When you go to America or Canada it’s like Disneyland has been put on a mountain. All the restaurants are owned by the same company and they all look the same inside. They try to make them look ‘alpine-esque’ by putting in some fake wood and fake stone but it doesn’t have the traditional feel that you get in Europe.
I like Méribel - it has just got so much variation and everything is so well-linked – you can get all the way from Courchevel on one side of the Three Valleys to Val Thorens on blue runs. Pre-season training is mainly on the glaciers in Switzerland and Austria - I’m training in Stubai at the moment.
Would you ever go on a skiing holiday or would that feel too much like work?
Most of my family are keen skiers and they come out [to Méribel] at Christmas - my parents have got a little apartment out there. But I can’t go skiing if I don’t have a plan. At the end of the season I do like to get my touring skis or my snowboard out and challenge myself.
Meribel is Emily's favourite ski resort: 'It's just got so much variation and everything is so well-linked'
How would a complete novice get into the sport?
It’s going to test your skiing ability so it’s all about getting a very good broad range of skiing - a little bit of alpine skiing, mogul, off piste - so that you’re adaptable to everything that goes on under your foot.
There are ski cross courses in some of the resorts now where you can race against your mates and there are some indoor races in the UK. Me and some teammates will be running some ‘have-a-go’ ski cross events at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead next summer. Or people can join my little masterclass in Courchevel in March.
Ski cross takes no prisoners: Emily on the slopes
And do you ever indulge in a bit of après ski?
During the racing season I take myself away from that whole après ski scene but it’s quite nice at Easter to let your hair down. The new La Folie Douce that opened last year in Méribel is fun. Everyone is on the tables dancing in their ski boots and there are cabaret acts, singers and stilt artists. It’s a real show.
And then afterwards you’ve got to try and get your skis on and make your way down the mountain. I find that difficult as a professional skier so goodness knows how people feel when it’s their first week!
You must be looking forward to the Winter Olympics. Have you ever skied in Russia?
I went in February last year for the test event for the Olympics. When you were at the top of the mountain you just saw a skyline of cranes. We were staying at Rosa Kutor where all the events will be taking place in 2014. The event was amazing and the track was huge.
Do you get any funding?
No, I’m fully self-funded and I don’t even have a coach so I work as a ski instructor in [the French ski resort] Méribel out of competition season. I’m doing some masterclasses at the end of March in Méribel and Courchevel
The skiers stay in a chalet that has been named after me - it’s quite cool! I show them my favourite runs and favourite places to eat around the Three Valleys.
Emily uses the SkiA Sweetspot Ski Trainer for her dry land preparation and to help improve her centred balance, crucial for all levels of skier. For more information, visit www.skia.com