Tag Archives: skiing

Want to improve your skiing? Get a board.

If you’re planning a ski holiday this winter, then it’s time to start including some ski specific training in your workouts. Not only will it reduce the risk of injury and ensure you get the most out of your slope time but, when you spring out of bed on day three of your holiday, your body will thank you too.

One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to improve your skiing is to enhance your sense of balance and the best way to do this is to get a board. A wobble board.

Wobble board

In the weeks before your holiday stand on your board (in your ski position) every day until you can comfortably maintain your balance for a full minute.

And that’s it.

Of course, you’ll need to work a little harder if you want to dominate the steeps or boss the moguls but one of the the best ways to own your skis is to get  a board.

Spin Zhira/skiing

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For a longer life: Go Skiing.

Good balance is an essential component of skiing and should form part of your pre-season training routine.

In the month before your ski trip try brushing your teeth standing on one leg. It’s a great exercise that will not only improve your ski performance but may even help you live a little longer.

According to the UK’s Medical Research Council, 53-year-olds who could stand on one leg for ten seconds with their eyes closed were the most likely to be fit and well in 13 years’ time. However, those who could manage only two seconds were three times as likely to die before the age of 66.

In addition, Dr Yasuharu Tabara, associate professor of genomic medicine at Kyoto University in Japan found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health.”

So there you have it, skiing (and/or standing on one leg) is not only good for the brain but will also help you live forever.

Spin Zhira/skiing

I’M THE FIRST RESPONDER

CAUTION: This post contains self-indulgent content.

For the last decade and more, aside from a few minor scrapes and bruises, I’ve skied injury free but, through the misfortune of my skiing companions, I’ve given the Trois Vallees Medical Centres lots of business. A couple of ACL tears, a broken collar bone, snapped achilles, concussion and, most notably in 2012, a heart attack. I’m even on first name terms with some of the Doctors.

Consequently, I’m alive to the risks and rigours of backcountry skiing and I train hard in the off-season to prepare myself but, in my mind at least, the role for which I have been caste in the drama of a mountain accident is always that of First Responder. The lead role of Casualty is always another actor, sometimes known to me, sometimes not.

Skiing the pow last week I sustained a knee injury when I double ejected from my bindings after my skis connected with an unseen, immovable object under the snow. Right up until that moment I was having a blast but in the instant that I parted company with my skis I knew I was in big trouble.

It turns out that, despite all my training and experience, I’m ill prepared for playing the Casualty and I’m not enjoying the experience at all.

In a sport that eats knees for breakfast, lunch and dinner I have to acknowledge that I’m lucky this is the first such injury I’ve sustained. I’m also trying to remain optimistic that my season isn’t over in the hope that I can return to my previous role as First Responder as soon as possible.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand. A true story of love, service and incompetence.
Over-matched, over-ruled and over-weight, Spin Zhira is a tale of one man’s personal battle against the trials of middle age set on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan. Guaranteed to make you laugh and cry or your money back.¹

Ten reasons to read SPIN ZHIRA.

‘Brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick HennesseyThe Junior Officers’ Reading Club

‘A must read.’
Richard DorneyThe Killing Zone 

‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read.’
Frank Ledwidge, Losing Small Wars 

‘First Class.’
Doug Beattie MC, An Ordinary Soldier

 ‘Absolutely fantastic’
Dr Mike MartinAn Intimate war

What others are saying about SPIN ZHIRA.

¹Check the small print first

 

I’m dreading the next snowfall

There has been no fresh snowfall in the Trois Vallees for over six weeks. Christmas and New Year passed by with not even a single, solitary flake.

Like everyone else I’ve been silently praying for snow and finally, it seems our prayers are to be answered. Snow is already falling in Verbier, Switzerland and Meteo France predicts significant snowfalls for the Trois Vallees in the coming days.

But now the snow is finally coming there’s a part of me that dreads its arrival – because I know it will be deadly. In the excitement of fresh powder caution will be thrown to the winds. Skiers will duck under the rope and venture  onto virgin snowfields without the correct equipment and without understanding or analysing the risks involved. I know this because, sadly,  it happens on every powder day. Last season I was in close proximity to two fatal avalanches triggered by the skiers who lost their lives. The year before I assisted in an unsuccessful avalanche rescue.

After such a long barren patch it seems horribly  inevitable that, in the next few days when the long awaited fresh snowfall finally arrives, tragedy will strike.

I will, of course, still be out on the mountain carving fresh tracks of my own, but this year my own elation will be tinged with a sadness that comes from the knowledge and experience of previous seasons.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is a unique account of the Afghan war as seen through the eyes of a middle-aged man thrust onto the frontline by a failed marriage, financial ruin and the words of John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). A true story of love, service and adventure, it is a compelling examination of choice that explores the landscape of war and commitment to cause and honour, juxtaposed against heartbreaking love for family and the persistent call of the untracked snowfield and its descent into the unknown.

‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read’
Frank Ledwidge, bestselling author of Losing Small Wars and Investment in Blood

‘SPIN ZHIRA vividly conveys the disjointed essence of modern warfare and the impossibility of balancing the adrenaline of combat with ‘normal’ life. This book brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick Hennessey, bestselling author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club and Kandak

‘If you want to read about political and military success in Afghanistan, this book isn’t for you. If you want a fresh perspective from someone who is not a career officer and who is brave enough to bare his soul, then SPIN ZHIRA is a must read.’
Lt Col Richard Dorney, bestselling author of The Killing Zone and An Active Service

‘Five stars’
SOLDIER The official magazine of the British Army

‘A journey of love, service and adventure. Excellent.’
Amazon Customer

Ten reasons why you should read SPIN ZHIRA.

WORKING THE ODDS ON EVEREST

Everest

Am I the only person who struggles to feel sympathy when someone dies on Everest?

Alex Proud writes from the other side of the argument. He dreads disaster and fears the Reaper. We both like to work the odds but when they drop below one in a 100 he tends to think ‘you’re f—king mad to do whatever it is you’re doing’ while I think things are just beginning to get interesting.

But I don’t have a death wish, far from it. I love life and try to live it to the full. I think our society has got things badly wrong when it comes to death. When a Palace flunky offered Prince Philip his condolences at the loss of a friend he retorted by saying ‘he’s not lost, he’s dead’. It’s an anecdote that illustrates our denial. We cloak death in the language of ‘loss’ or ‘passing’. We dare not speak its name and imagine we will live forever. In the pursuit of this impossible outcome we have sacrificed quality in the pursuit of quantity. We wrap ourselves in health and safety legislation and cling on to life long after there is any joy left in living.

This is not a life I look forward to. I have no desire to be a burden to my children or the State. I do not plan to spend my final years eating mashed potato and watching endless repeats of Eastenders.

I accept that in the pursuit of life I will most likely die ‘before my time’, but what does that mean? In Helmand Province life expectancy is 44 and despite being one of the most violent places on the planet, pregnancy rather than insurgency is the biggest killer. So by Helmandi standards I’ve lived a very good life and I’m already on borrowed time.

When my father died at the age of 79 I didn’t mourn his death, I bought champagne and celebrated his life. I hope my own sons will feel able to do the same. When the Reaper calls, as he inevitably will, I hope he finds me on a snow-covered mountain doing something frowned upon by the health and safety executive.

Alex Proud will not be sympathetic.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is available as an Amazon Kindle e-book

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.

 

 

More time in the office?

Author in Fresh Pow

When I first set out to write my book during the 2012/13 ski season, a season which coincidentally saw the heaviest accumulated snowfall in the French Alps for over 70 years  I naively imagined it would take me three months.

In the end it has taken a little over three years, during which time I have discovered a statistically significant inverse correlation between fresh snowfall and writing productivity.

Snowfall v Productivity

I’ve lost count of the number of writing hours sacrificed in the search for fresh powder but I don’t regret a single one of them. No-one looks back from their death-bed and wishes they’d spent more time in the office. Do they?

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is available as an Amazon Kindle e-book

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.

Call me, maybe

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins caused quite a stir in Afghanistan when their cheerleaders appeared in music video ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae. In a predominantly male, heterosexual community sex, or the lack of it, was a constant preoccupation and the bikini clad cheerleaders did nothing to improve the situation.

“DURING THE FEW days I’d been away at Clifton, I discovered that in my absence someone had ‘cocked’ the notepad I’d been foolish enough to leave in plain sight on my desk.

Cocking was an obsession in the Headquarters, a symptom of the sexual repression under which we all laboured. Both British and Danish commands imposed a strict no-sex rule in MOB Price, which for the most part was observed. This sexual abstinence was not the result of a commendable adherence to military discipline. Had an opportunity to engage in sexual congress presented itself I’m pretty certain that most of my colleagues, like me, would have set aside all considerations of military discipline and good order – but opportunity did not present. Price was a predominantly male, heterosexual community most of whom had wives or girlfriends waiting for them back home.

Sex, or the lack of it, was a constant preoccupation. So much so that at one of our decompression briefings in Cyprus at the end of our tour a female officer from the Royal Army Chaplains Department felt it necessary to remind us that sex involves two (or possibly more) people. By then I could hardly wait.

For the dozen or so women in Price, mostly medics and dog handlers, life in this sexually charged, testosterone fuelled environment must have been a minefield. On one occasion a female reserve officer was admonished for running wearing running shorts. This came to the attention of the chain of command who deemed it dangerously erotic. She was ordered to cease and desist immediately. In her case I had to admit they had a reasonable point, but the officer in question was incensed. When she came to seek my counsel it seemed inappropriate to compliment her on the comeliness of her gluteus maximus, so instead I offered a sympathetic ear, and tried to impress upon her the uncertain benefits of voluminous army issue shorts.

For men at their sexual peak – and even for those of us who had already passed that particular milestone – this enforced abstinence inevitably had its frustrations which were expressed in a number of ways. Cocking was one of them.

As far as I am aware this is an exclusively male obsession and involves the covert drawing of phallic imagery. This is nothing new of course. Such representations have been found dating back to the Ice Age around 28,000 years ago, and appear in many ancient cultures and religions. But the art reached new heights in MOB Price. Penis imagery would mysteriously appear on notebooks, notice boards, signage, PowerPoint presentations and operational staff work. An unusual geographical feature to the north east of PB Clifton was even referred to on our maps as ‘cock and balls’.

On one occasion I attended a packed briefing session in which a senior officer scribbled a note intended for Colonel James, who was sitting across the room, and handed it to the man next to him to pass down the table. By the time it reached its destination it had passed through the hands of a dozen or so officers and warrant officers, many of whom had surreptitiously cocked it. Although it was impossible to overlook the images with which it was now adorned, Colonel James accepted the note without so much as a raised eyebrow.

The towering penis that had been drawn on the front cover of my notebook was magnificent. It was a detailed and anatomically precise representation depicting an erection I’d have been justifiably proud of in my twenties and could only dream about in my forties. Phallic imagery varied considerably according to the imagination of the artist. I noticed, for example that Tom’s notebook had been illustrated with a lovingly drawn image of Winnie the Pooh being improbably penetrated by his diminutive sidekick, Piglet.

Judging from their absurdly oversized erections, which more closely resembled ancient Greek and Roman depictions of the deity Priapus than the sketches of AA Milne, they were both clearly enjoying the experience in a way that their creator had never intended.

Oh, D-D-Dear! said Piglet.

Back in civvy street, probably even back in barracks in the UK, Victorian prudishness and political correctness would not have tolerated phallic observance of this nature. HR departments would be called in, enquiries held, perpetrators reprimanded or even sacked. But in MOB Price phallophoric celebration of the Lingam, and to a lesser extent the Yoni, went unchecked.

The sexual health nurse who briefed us on RSOI had been right. None of our mucky lot was getting any and it was clearly preying on our minds.”

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the true story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. All infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.

Now available on Amazon Kindle for the special pre-order price of £1.99.

Pathetic and worthless

Fellhorn Off Piste

The 15/16 ski season is almost over. I’ve spent it working as a ski instructor. My ex-wife’s divorce lawyer would not be impressed.

“On leaving the army in 1996, I’d worked hard to climb the corporate ladder, achieving a degree of success which had brought wealth but not happiness. I felt trapped on a treadmill. My employers kept paying me ever larger salaries but demanded more and more of my time in return. My beautiful wife, Jane also enjoyed the trappings of success and required a seemingly inexhaustible supply of designer clothes, beauty treatments and visits to the hair salon, all of which required funding. Not to mention the trophy house with it’s prestigious SE21 post-code in Dulwich Village. This we filled with expensive designer furnishings so that we might employ a housekeeper to keep it all clean. Then there were the exotic but tediously sanitised holidays which we bragged about to our friends and neighbours.

I yearned for something more meaningful than this life of comfortable consumerism. Ironically, as a marketing specialist it was my job to encourage others to buy more and more goods and services for which I personally cared less and less. Skiing had become my escape valve. But it was also a source of constant friction between Jane and me as I sought to spend more and more time in the mountains.

When we finally divorced in 2013 she cited my excessive skiing as ‘a cause of upset and unreasonable behaviour’. Her advocate, whom it would have given me great pleasure to meet in a dark alley, sneered in court sessions at my ambition to become a ski instructor, as if this was somehow a pathetic and worthless aspiration.”

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the true story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979 on the basis that all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart. Now available on Amazon Kindle for the special pre-order price of £1.99.