Stay off the booze

It was a good piece of advice as I am now sitting down to write a book about skiing. 75,000 words are required by October 1st. This article is in the blog section of the site and has recieved hundreds and hundreds of hits so we thought we would put it on the main pages.


I have had much advice from fellow journalists, writers, friends, family, authors and people that have probably never written a word to inform and entertain others let alone get paid for it; but that single warning seemed about the best.

“Stay off the booze”

It came from my good friend, the highly-respected ski writer, Arnie Wilson.

He is a bit of a legend in the ski world as he was the first man to ski every day for a year as he travelled the world in 1994; 365 days without stoping.

365 consecutive days of skiing in 240 resorts in 13 countries; 3,680 miles on skis; more than 4 million vertical feet.

He completed it with Lucy Dicker who tragically died in a ski accident in the French off pise resort of La Grave.

Arnie currently edits the magazine Ski+Board and was the skiing correspondent for the Financial Times for more years than he probably cares to remember, (it was 15 if you are reading this Arnie) and he has written for pretty much every publication that counts. And many more that don’t.

He is also the author of several books on skiing so he knows a thing or two about writing books.

What to do and, more importantly, what not to do.

We were seated together at a recent press lunch and he was interested in one of my latest projects; the official history of the British Association of Snowsports Instructors, BASI.

The Association is 50 years old in November 2012 and I have been asked to write its story.

“Look it sounds about one of the dullest books imaginable, the official history of a small organisation full of committees, rules and egos, but actually it is the story of British skiing and will be about some of the most fascinating characters involved in the sport we love,” I said to him. “It is about life, death, sex and power. Oh, and some massive rows with the French.”

I needed to say no more.

Arnie got it immediately.

“Wow, you never cease to amaze me with what you get up to James. I know you will produce a great book because you are a pro and I can’t wait to read it. You have more passion about skiing than pretty much anyone I know and that will come through in the pages I do not doubt. So tell me about the gossip that you can’t print……”

With that we talked about old times, lamented the appreciation of the written word, the errors in grammar that are all too prevalent in much current writing and had a glass of wine. Or three.

I told him a few stories that sadly won’t be making it into the pages on grounds of legality, taste and decency!

His comments reminded me of another friend who wrote a best-selling novel set in the ski world but ended up drinking far too much in the process.

“I just couldn’t write unless it was late at night and I had a bottle of whiskey open. The more I drank then the faster it flowed. The booze just sort of helped it come out,” he told me.

This is probably not the best place to name him or another friend who writes for a national paper.

He is one of the most respected ski journalists writing today, whose phrases and observations I would pay to be able to come up with, but he has needed several stints in The Priory.

My meeting with Arnie was several weeks ago now and I am holed up in a secluded retreat churning out the words.

I am a stickler for starting on time each morning. I don’t write at night.

Rather than the so-called writers block I have writer’s dioreah. I can’t stop the words coming out.

But, have I followed his advice?

Let’s just say I have taken it on board and Arnie is, as always, spot on. 

25,000 words done in under a week.

And last Monday I was especially glad that I hadn’t  followed the road of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I had the Secretary General of the International Ski Federation (FIS) coming to my house to be interviewed.

Sarah Lewis is an ex-British team racer, former Olympian and one of the most powerful and influential women in International snowsports. Not good if I had been bleary eyes from wriiting on the sauce the night before.

She is also a BASI qualified instructor and has been involved with the organisation down the decades. Hence the interview.

I had never met her before and she turned out to be one of the most charming, interesting and open people I have had the pleasure of interviewing for the book.

Afterwards we swapped a bit of gossip as I drove her to Heathrow airport and she laughed at this story concerning FIS we have recently put up on PlanetSKI.

Perhaps a drink would have helped the writer.


For the spirit of the mountains