Cairngorm snow sets 35-month skiing record
ON A SEVEN-metre stretch of thin snow, high up on the coldest part of the Cairngorms, skier Helen Rennie has broken a long-standing record by clocking up 35 consecutive months of skiing in Scotland.
Ms Rennie, 58, has not only trekked hundreds of miles in an attempt to find suitable patches of snow on which to ski, she successfully battled cancer to achieve her goal.
The milestone was completed at the weekend when Ms Rennie, with fellow Invernessian Alan Mackay, managed to lay some turns on a tiny patch of snow in Ciste Mhearad on the north-east side of Cairn Gorm.
Ms Rennie attempted to ski 12 months in a row in 2007 but faced a setback after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.
Despite having two courses of chemotherapy in the winter of 2007, she continued to ski when she was out of hospital.
In early 2008 she had surgery to have part of her oesophagus removed. But she was back on the snow two months later, and in 2009 set about breaking the world record for skiing continuously each month.
During her quest, a film clip taken last year was selected from more than 800 hours of recordings for inclusion in the BBC’s Britain in a Day documentary.
Ms Rennie, who has been a ski ambassador for CairnGorm Mountain Ltd for more than a decade, practises off-piste skiing. When the ski lifts are not operating, she hikes to areas with snow with her equipment on her back.
She said that retired army major Richard Eccles, from Nethy Bridge, clocked up 34 months in the 1990s, “although his criteria were rather more stringent than ours”.
Ms Rennie added: “For him, the patch had to be at least 100 metres from top to bottom and allow him to do a minimum of 20 consecutive turns. It even involved him being attached to a rope, played out by local mountain guide Eric Pirie, as he went down a steep remaining snow patch at the head of Loch Avon.”
In contrast, Saturday’s patch was only seven metres long and so narrow at the top that Ms Rennie’s skis could barely fit on it. But she still managed to squeeze in two turns.
She said: “I’ve also become very interested in the location of remaining snow patches and the rate at which they thaw. Last September’s turns on the remaining snow in Ciste Mhearad were in an area that has been bare of snow since mid-August this year.”
She added: “There were days in the winter where I was skiing on fresh powdered snow, which in Scotland is not that common and is just superb.
“But then again, at times like that it’s also very cold and windy and you have lots of layers on, whereas standing in a pair of light trousers and a light top in the basking sun, skiing on a snow patch, has its own merits. It’s a different kind of pleasure.”
CairnGorm Mountain marketing manager Colin Kirkwood said: “Helen is a true ambassador for this special place. If there are other skiers out there who have managed to clock up more that 35 consecutive months of linked turns on Cairn Gorm we would love to hear from them.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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Wind direction: North east
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