Ski Sunday… It Skis For All of Us & Still Surprises
10th January 2021
Last modified on May 20th, 2021
It’s back on TV & for most of us it is likely to be the closest we get to skiing anytime soon. Our editor, James Cove, can’t remember the last time he saw the programme recently as he’s always out in the Alps away from TVs. He did though see its very first episode back in 1978. So, what did he make of it?
The iconic theme tune sounded so familiar and brought back so many memories.
Thoughts of David Vine, the Bell brothers, Zurbriggen, Maier, Miller, sketchy camera angles, skiers out of focus, bright colours, arms flailing, looking at the scenery to see what the snow conditions out in the Alps were like and much else besides came flooding back.
Above all Ski Sunday was, is and always should be about passion.
Passion for skiing – to reflect and inspire.
I grew up with Ski Sunday as a backdrop.
My Mum and Dad were keen skiers and it was a must on our TV.
Back in the day on the Sabbath, some watched ‘Songs of Praise’ with Harry Secombe.
The Cove household watched ‘Ski Sunday’ with David Vine.
It was our religion.
On Saturday as a 9-year old I hid behind the sofa for Dr Who as he battled with the Daleks and the Cybermen – the next day I sat on the front, on the edge, enthralled by the skiers.
I was sitting on the sofa with my Mum and Dad in 1978 as the first credits rolled.
I have no recollection of it but my Mum, now 93-years old, says I was there and I always believe my Mum.
And just in case you are wondering, the theme tune is “Pop Looks Bach” by Sam Fonteyn.
It will be with me on my desert island.
Nor for its musical attributes, but the memories it triggers.
Now I knew I was going to enjoy one bit of Ski Sunday in January 2021– the men’s slalom from the Swiss resort of Adelboden.
I’d been watching the racing earlier in the day and writing of Dave Ryding’s fabulous podium place here on PlanetSKI.
I was looking forward to the women’s racing from St Anton – to see the crowd as well as the racing.
Dave was interviewed on Ski Sunday ahead of the race by Chemmy Alcott .
They looked tense:
And then after his podium place:
“I knew I had it in me but it’s been tough. My grandmother told me to find my mojo…I hope 2021 will be a memorable year and ski fans get a lift,” Dave said.
The presenting team has changed for this season– it’s normally Graham Bell and Ed Leigh, but Graham is currently filming for ITV’s ‘Dancing on Ice’.
Step forward Chemmy Alcott.
The four-time GB Winter Olympian has been a regular on Ski Sunday since she hung up her racing skis in 2014 as a reporter, but now she was lead presenter.
“Becoming a ski racer, a mum of two and now Ski Sunday presenter, I’ve pretty much achieved all my goals – apart from winning an Olympic medal,” said Chemmy.
Ed said ahead of the show that she has “smashed it” as co-lead presenter.
Let’s just say Graham’s position might be in jeopardy, but please producers perhaps have three presenters for 2022.
Isn’t there a rather good motoring show with three presenters that appeals to people that barely have a passing interest in cars?
It has been going for a while too.
So, how was the current incarnation of Ski Sunday able to get on air in these Covid-19 times?
The coronavirus pandemic means only Chemmy, Ed and cameraman Chris Kirkham were on location in Switzerland.
They were in the Swiss resort of Laax and were not able to travel to races.
“We remained 2m apart at all times and adhered to all guidelines including mask wearing and hand washing. More than anything we will give you hope that there’s still a chance you will get your snow fix,” said the presenters.
All other production was done remotely from the UK.
“We did debate whether we presented from a studio at MediaCity in Salford but I was already out in Switzerland and coming from New Zealand, it was safer for Ed and Chris to head here rather than the UK,” said Chemmy.
There were a few facts I disagreed with.
Chemmy claimed the International Ski Federation had done well organising races and pointed out how a Swedish coach tested positive in the races in Levi in Finland and the whole team had to sit it out.
Full marks to FIS.
It has done amazingly well in my judgement, but she failed to mention that the powerhouse Nordic ski nations of Sweden, Norway and Finland boycotted Nordic World Cup events in December 2020 as they felt the Covid-19 precautions were not good enough.
It was a staggering decision by the Scandinavian countries – similar to Liverpool, Man City and the other top teams withdrawing from the Premiership and accepting the point losses.
She travelled from Finland to Switzerland and said she felt safest in Switzerland.
I don’t question her feelings for a second, or the safety of Laax, but Finland has current cases of Covid-19 of 30.1 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.
Switzerland has one of the highest numbers of any skiing nations – 261.1.
Ed said there are no resorts open in France, Germany and Italy – not quite true as resorts are open in France, but the ski lifts are closed.
People are skinning up with cross country and snowshoeing allowed.
Last time I looked some resorts in Italy were open to local ski clubs only.
Enough – I am splitting hairs, but as a news hack I try to keep across these things.
And I must confess to an error myself.
I missed most of the segment on the women’s racing from St Anton as my son facetimed me from his home in the west country just as it got underway so I was otherwise distracted.
Chemmy has, quite correctly, pointed out the error of my ways.
“Shame he is so unenthusiastic about the women racing a fantastic hill in St Anton,” said Chemmy on Twitter in reaction to this article.
And an Austrian friend of mine from Innsbruck, Elenna, also noticed and sent me an update as she guessed I must have been otherwise engaged.
Elenna knows how much I like St Anton and that slope in particular.
“It was so exciting to follow the races at the weekend, as the Swiss skier Lara Gut-Behrami celebrated her 27th World Cup success at the Kandahar races in St. Anton on Sunday,” said Elenna to give me an update.
“Behind Corinna Suter, we saw Tamara Tippler as the best Austrian skier at in fourth place.
“According to her, the gaps were extremely narrow and she thinks it was a real fight. But it’s pure action and that’s how it should be.”
Thanks Elenna, it is a shame I missed it, but my son’s call took priority.
I shall be watching it on the BBC iPlayer.
And if anyone wants to see the programme then check it out here: Ski Sunday, January 10th.
So, did Ski Sunday create the same feeling of a passion for snow and all things skiing?
Originally launched in 1978, the programme came off the back of the 1976 Winter Olympics from Innsbruck where Franz Klammer won gold with probably the best downhill run of all time.
In fact undoubtedly the best.
It coincided with a boom in winter sports as it left the hallowed world of the upper classes and skiing became popular with the masses.
It lit my fuse and I have ended up skiing all my life and even made a so-called “career” out of it.
Ski Sunday was my inspiration with Ron Pickering and David Vine fronting the show.
David Vine presented the show for nearly 20 years until he took semi-retirement in 1996.
It went on to become an integral part of Sunday Grandstand when Hazel Irvine presented.
But what about the current re-incarnation?
There was the racing, the social stuff and all the rest.
And the best bit for me?
Without a doubt Ed’s film about the New Zealand freeskier, Hank Bilous.
I had heard of the guy but knew little about him.
Hank was set to compete in the final of the Freeride World Tour, the Verbier Xtreme, when coronavirus spread last March.
It was called off and he headed home to New Zealand, unaware he had a serious dose of coronavirus.
“I started to feel unwell the moment I got back. I felt a bit funky but thought it was jet lag. By the third night I found it hard to breathe.
“I wasn’t super-suprised as I had been in a hotbed of coronavirus”.
Skiing though is not his job.
By profession Hank is a nurse.
“Skiing is a fun thing that I love to do, but everyone needs meaning. Nursing fits the bill and I can’t think of anything more meaningful,” he told Ed.
It was utterly inspirational and far and away the best segment of the programme for me.
Hank encapsulated for me what skiing is all about.
Expressing yourself, loving life and giving back.
I feel as inspired in 2021 as the credits rolled as I did back in 1978 watching that very first programme.
I may not be able to ski this winter, but I will be watching every single episode of Ski Sunday this winter and remembering my current motto and that of PlanetSKI.
Ed mentioned the view in his opening remarks.