Passion, lust & egos

The PlanetSKI content editor has been writing a book for the past two years and has just handed it in to the publishers; with mixed emotions of relief and sadness. It is of course about skiing.


Writing a book has a passing resemblance to bringing up a child. It is a long-term commitment and responsibility with plenty of tears and tantrums along the way, but ultimately it is deeply satisfying and a bond is formed that is sometimes difficult to describe. Sometimes you have no idea what direction it is going or where it will lead to, but you just hang on in and do the best you can.

It is far too crass to say I have created something from nothing, but you get the idea and as a journalist I have a certain pride in words. All 85,000 of them.

Handing it over today was a small taste of what I imagine it will be like when the kids finally leave home, you know the time has come but it doesn’t make it a pleasant experience.

You see when you start writing a book you get kind of attached to it.

There was always going to be a moment when I would print it out and put a hard copy in the post by registered mail and then deliver another copy by the more modern method with a simple click of the send button. I thought I would I feel pleased and relieved not only to have written the required number of words but also to have hit the date we set a long time ago for when the final draft would be ready – as a news journalist the cardinal sin for me is missing a deadline!

I didn’t really enjoy it though and I miss it already.

As the book developed from an idea, into many weeks and then months of research and lately into intense writing periods it began somewhat to take over my life. I started writing it for the imagined reader but slowly I ended up writing it for myself. I simply wanted to write a book that I would have found interesting if I had been the reader rather than the author.

I was lucky in that I was approached to write the book and I didn’t have to hawk a manuscript around or even have chapters approved at each stage of the process.  I was trusted to do the correct research and write it well and so to a certain extent it has become even more “mine”. No one else has really been involved in the project up to this point except the dozens and dozens of people I have interviewed.

Along the way I have met some fascinating characters involved in the history of skiing from the early pioneers in Scotland to people that have devoted their lives to sliding down the mountain on a couple of planks. I have met several Olympic racers, the pioneers of snowboarding in the early 1980’s and people still working as ski instructors well past their 70th birthday. I have meet people caught in avalanches thinking they were going to die, others disabled by accidents and the relatives and friends of those that have sadly not come back from their day out on the slopes. I have meet people stabbed in the back by the politics of skiing organisations and those that have been stabbed in the front.

I have heard stories of hedonistic parties and sexual conquests. The pylon high club seems to have quite a few members. I have heard tales of deep power days and skiing on the remotest corners of the planet.

I have been told about the history of skis and the development of ski teaching.  And I have been told some things about the ski industry and those who run it that the lawyers have indicated I had probably better keep to myself.

I have criss-crossed The Alps for my research and spent much time in the Highlands of Scotland. I wrote some of it at home in London and other parts in Spain, Austria and Switzerland. I am pleased to say that everyone I wanted to speak to found the time and no one slammed the door in my face. Several beat a path to my door to be interviewed and others asked for a draft of what I had written about them. I welcomed the former and ignored the latter.

So what is the book about?  Simple – Passion, Lust and Egos.

I have written about the 50-year history of the British Association of Snowsports Instructors, BASI.  From its formation in Scotland in the early 1960’s through the golden time of Scottish skiing in the 1970’s to its demise as the snow stopped falling and the alpine package holiday took off. 

In the last couple of decades British ski instructors have been working across the Alps and around the world and they have some interesting tales to tell.

Ski instructors are not exactly the shy and retiring type and many are simple pursuers of pleasure. Their stories as they live on the ski slopes across the world are the stuff of dreams. It is a story of people passionate about life and living in the mountains.

It covers the development of mass-market alpine tourism, the revolution in ski equipment and the onset of climate change as the glaciers disappear and snow levels fall.

I hope anyone with an interest in skiing and life will find it interesting, but ultimately all I can do is write the book and it is up to others to decide if it is any good.

For those readers familiar with the days of skiing in Scotland I am writing this article in The Winking Owl in Aviemore, as it seemed far and away the most appropriate place to come to have a beer and hit the send button once the final draft was completed and checked.

The skis and snowboards are still on the ceiling with skiing mementos dotted about. There are only a dozen or so people in here. Everyone else probably thinks the bar is empty but to me it is full, very full.

With ghosts.

Passion, lust and egos by James Cove

The official history of the British Association of Snowsports Instructors and the history of modern skiing

The book will be published in September 2012

For the spirit of the mountains