A former geography teacher from Inverness made history yesterday, when she became the first person to ski on Scottish snow for 120 consecutive months.
With the remaining snow patches from last winter all-but gone by late September, it was starting to seem as if Helen Rennie might fall just short of her goal of skiing every month for ten years in the Scottish hills, but a dusting of early October snow in the Cairngorms allowed the 65 year-old to complete her epic challenge.
On Wednesday, she hiked up to the top of Cairn Gorm with her skis and found just enough snow lying below the summit to make some turns.
Reflecting on her ten years of chasing the white stuff, Rennie, who is better known as “Hilly” in the skiing community, said: “Way back in November 2009 I headed up Cairngorm to enjoy the first day of the snowsports season, never for a moment imagining that day would be the start of a record breaking achievement. It was an epic ski season and snow lay in the mountains throughout the summer, so I decided to try to ski for 12 consecutive months by hiking up to the remaining snow patches - and then it just kind of snowballed.”
Rennie made an initial attempt to ski on Scottish snow for 12 consecutive months back in 2006 - she managed 11 months, but then in October 2007 she was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, so didn’t manage the full year.
“The real heroes of this achievement are my GPs and the staff at Raigmore hospital,” she said, “because without them I wouldn’t have been here to attempt this challenge.”
Rennie says that skiing through the summer and early autumn has been more difficult in the past three seasons, as there has been less snow accumulating over the winter. In order to get her turns in for September this year, she had to hike six miles to a snow patch on Aonach Beag near the Nevis Range ski centre. In spite of the disappointing snowfalls in recent years, however, Rennie is hopeful that the 2019/20 ski season will be better. “It would be good if this winter was like 2009 /2010,” she said, “the epic one that started it all.”
In an interview with The Scotsman in 2010, after she had completed the first 12 months of her challenge, Rennie summed up her philosophy as follows: “You’ve got to be a bit nuts to hoof up there in the summertime carrying your skis to look for a little bit of snow that you’re probably only going to get four or five turns on. But for me, it’s like hillwalking, but hillwalking with a motive – it just makes it a bit more interesting.”