If I ever go skiing again, this is how I’d do it.

Just in case I ever go skiing again, here is a public note-to-self on what I learned last time – the stuff that clicked on the last day…

Skiing is an odd sport in that for the most part there’s only one manoeuvre you need to learn: the parallel turn. Then it’s just a case of repeating this one move until you reach the bottom of the slope.

But there’s lots to remember when you’re travelling at speed on a 45-degree icy slope at 4pm when you’re knackered from a whole day of falling over. The books try to cover this stuff but each lesson I’ve seen leaves something out. It’s about trying to find the right balance between too much information and not enough. Tricky. Like skiing.

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1. Lean forward in your boots ALWAYS. Feel your downhill shin on your boot’s tongue as you turn and traverse the slope. Not enough to bruise your shins but enough to feel it.

Also lean from the hips not the shoulders. That way, you’ll avoid hunching over. Thrust and stay thrusted!

2. Put ALL your weight on your downhill ski. Think about it like you’re giving your uphill ski a rest. Then swap. Really push that inside edge into the snow so it bites into the slope. Carve!

3. The steeper the slope, the more you need to overcome your aversion to leaning forward. Attack the mountain. Commit to the turn. If your uphill ski won’t turn or catches the downhill ski it’s because you’re not leaning forwards. It would be nice for video replays to confirm this but it’s true.

4. Stand tall. Pop up into your turn and as soon as you’ve swung round, stand up, leaving enough flex in your knees to absorb the bumps. Stay down too long and you’ll turn back uphill and lose control. I stayed crouched (wrong anyway) for too long. Any bend should just come from your legs.

5. Keep your shoulders facing downhill. Resist the urge to swing your body round the turn. Overcome this by making a conscious effort to swing your hips instead of your body. Twist it in the opposite direction to your legs.

The slope at L'Olympique - my nemesis...

The slope at L’Olympique – my nemesis…

6. Get that uphill ski off the snow. The steeper the slope the higher up your uphill ski will need to be to avoid catching an edge. If you make an effort to lift it off the snow, your weight will automatically transfer to your downhill ski 100%.

Not doing this caused nearly all my spills.

7. Keep your arms out on front of you at chest height. It looks amateur but keep doing it until you get used to leaning forward ALL the time. Some tutors suggest you try to push open an imaginary door in front of you. I didn’t try this but you get the point. Keep your weight forward – on your balls, not your heels.

8. Leave the snowplough back at the chalet. Learning the snowplough is a mixed blessing. Yes, it will help you in the short term, but you have to unlearn it to perform perfect parallels. Someone in my group was learning for the first time and the instructor deliberately skipped the snowplough entirely.

It’s easy to mix a snowplough into your parallel turns. This is fine for the downhill ski because it’s essentially doing the same thing in both instances.

However, when a snowplough gatecrashes your parallel turn, your uphill ski will end up pointing downhill at best or crossing your other ski, causing you to fall. Focus on keeping your ankles close to one another, nice and parallel.

If you ‘pop’ into your turn with enough gusto, it’s easy to take all the weight off your inside ski and carry it next to your outside ski.

9. Use the moguls to help you pop into your turn. Bend your knees into the bump, extend as you crest the bump and hopefully land the turn against the next bump. Surprisingly effective and good for making strong, committed turns.

10. Lastly, an observation. This might be completely wrong but in my experience, you’re most stable on one ski than two. That’s counter-intuitive (much about skiing is) but think about it. If your weight is on both skis and one catches an edge, there’s a conflict of direction between the two skis. One ski could easily bang into the other and send you sprawling.

With all your weight on one ski, there’s no conflict. If your standing ski catches an edge you can use your second ski to steady yourself. If your weightless ski catches an edge, there won’t be enough weight on it to cause a problem.

Hey everyone, did I mention I’d been skiing!?

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Dan Francis: an apology (of sorts).

I helped create the Halfords idents that accompany this Year’s Tour de France coverage on ITV4.

Having put 3 months of hard work into them – and the attendant documentary – I’m keen to see how they’re received. The web is of course the first place to look.

Not everyone likes everything and Twitter is an ideal platform for naysayers to vent their spleen. A handful of viewers don’t like the idents at all. To be fair, much of this was down to repetition – if you’re watching 3 hours of cycling, you’re going to see the same one more than once. Unless it’s supremely bland – and many other idents are – repetition will grate specially for an event that gets 5 hours coverage a day for 3 weeks.

Some people just don’t like Dan Francis – in the idents at least. It’s interesting that people are won over when they see the full documentary here:

It’s a strange one. At no point during the production did we think, “God, he’s so annoying, what are we gonna do?” It just didn’t occur to us. He was the perfect casting. He’s not an actor. We had the Tour de Francis idea first and cast specifically for someone with Frank or Francis in their name.

We wanted to represent the everyman – the chap holding down a day job, with a family and a genuine love of cycling. We wanted to show what happens when we challenge someone to take their cycling up a level, out of their comfort zone and emulate their heroes to some extent.

Dan, ambushed by a Frenchman talking French, of all things.

And we wanted to prove that a sub-£1000 Carrera Virago wouldn’t fall apart the minute you took it out on the road.

If you want to torture test a bike and the client is sponsoring the Tour de France, tackling some of its key stages makes perfect sense.

The truth is, we had one puncture on the flat (by the big wind turbines on Stage 6). Other than that, nothing snapped, sheered or failed.

Now, you can buy much better bikes if you can afford it and for many, many people, £1000 for any bike is just out if the question, so clearly we can’t please everyone.

But if you want to give non-cyclists an insight into why you ride or just enjoy a fellow enthusiast being given the chance to live the TdF dream, you could do worse than watch the documentary.

I promise you, he’s not as irritating as the idents might portray him.

As for the apology, it’s really directed at Dan. If we made you look annoying and prompt people to put their TV screen through, I am sorry. It wasn’t our intention or indeed our impression having watched them back – many more times than any viewers will ever see!

Tour de Francis

Once I tried to sell on the idea of the Stevenage Grand Prix using the Vodafone / Lewis Hamilton connection.

It got costed up and everything (£500,000 including policing) but in the end it didn’t happen.

So here’s something I DID manage to get off the ground – this time for Halfords.

They’re sponsoring ITV’s coverage of the 2012 Tour de France and wanted to hero their £1000 carbon fibre bike, the Carrera Virago.

We proposed the Tour de Francis. Get a bloke with Francis in his name and get him to ride some of the key stages of Le Tour on the Virago.

So that’s what we did. Across 6 days, Dan Francis rode through Liege in Belgium, the Champagne region, the French Alps and crossed the finish line in Paris.

We cut a 15-minute film documenting his journey and took short clips from it to create the idents that accompany the TV coverage going in and out of the ad breaks – 24 in total to cover 3 weeks of racing.

Take a look. It’s quite unlike anything Halfords has ever done before. Hopefully it shows the Tour through the lens of an amateur overcoming his own challenges and getting an insight into what it must be like for the pros.

If you don’t have 15 minutes, here’s the trailer:

And how did the bike cope? Total repairs: one puncture. We had 2 spare bikes with us on tour, both redundant in the end.

If you’re curious enough about the behind the scenes stuff, you can take a look here: http://tourdefrancis.tumblr.com/

And I can heartily recommend the Halfords Cycling Facebook page for coverage of Le Tour and all things cycling.

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