How to turn your skiing lifestyle into a living
Cookie left the UK a decade ago for a ski season in The Alps. Ten seasons later and he’s still there, living the dream. We caught up with him during our latest shoot to find out which resort you must visit, easy ways to improve your skiing and how to turn the mountain lifestyle into a living.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m known as Cookie. I’ve been skiing since I was 16, when I started learning on dry slopes at Southampton. I travelled away when I was 18 to work a winter season in France, and have been back to France every season since! Arriving to ski on snow after only skiing on dry slope was a very strange experience. Suddenly slopes had varying grades of difficulty; I had to consider the textures I was skiing on, and the routes I was taking. I fitted straight into the snow parks though – the jumps were pretty similar to what I knew, just triple the size!
Where do you feel most at home now, in the snow park or charging down the mountain?
I was taken off-piste and touring by a couple of friends over my first year but just didn’t get why people liked it. I was still on my small freestyle skis with no experience in soft snow and spent most of the time rolling on the floor instead of skiing.
At the start of my second season my friends were determined to get me off the beaten tracks, so after watching some inspirational ski movies to inspire me I borrowed a huge pair of powder skis and with a few tips from the team I begun to find my feet. I’ve been a powder junkie ever since, always looking for an excuse to climb somewhere new, find fresh snow and explore new forests or couloirs.
My park rat side will always be here and when the day is right I’m back in the park spinning my usual moves. But exploring and finding adventures is where my heart lies!
What are your favourite destinations for skiing?
I’ve spent a lot of seasons in Les Deux Alps and it will always have a special place in my heart. The off piste is amazing, with loads of hidden spots that not many people know about. It also has easy access to La Grave, one of the most incredible off piste areas in the world! On a good day we head straight over the top of L2A, grab a tow off the piste bully and drop into the unmarked area, which is free-riding and touring heaven. If you like off piste skiing you must try La Grave!
At what point did you realise you could turn your mountain lifestyle into a living?
After a few years in the Alps, I realised I wouldn’t know what I would do if was to return to the UK. Also, why would I want to return to the UK! Life in the snow and fresh air is better, and there is always something fun to be found. There are always conditions suitable somewhere, for something, you just need to be open to ideas and trying something new. On stormy days head to the trees and forest, on fresh days look for powder. When there’s not much snow, find some nice pistes or a park to play in, or even swap onto a board for a while. Adventures are always there to be had!
How about finding work?
In terms of work, I’ve done a whole bunch of jobs that give me loads of time on the mountain to play and explore. It wasn’t until my tenth season that I considered becoming an instructor. After a few years training I got through the tests required to work in France. Currently I’m working for ESF as an instructor and guide, teaching all sorts of levels, children, adults, piste and park!
What advice would you give to other people wanting to do the same?
Just do it! Quit saying ‘someday’, or ‘maybe’. Just get up and do it! No one is too old or too unfit. Get a simple job and get to the mountains! Be warned though; once you leave for the mountains, its pretty tough to get out of. I know so many people who are ‘just going to do one year to see how it goes’… that was 10 years ago and now they’re fully camped out in the Alps!
What tips would you give to skiers looking to improve their jumps?
Getting the right speed is important. Watch other riders go first to judge what they’re doing. It’s key to land on the sweet spot of the landing. Too short and you’re on the flat top part of the jump or the lip of the landing (the “knuckle”). Too big and it starts to hurt. Stay balanced throughout; a neutral position over your skis is important.
Once you’ve done it a few times and feel you have the right control and speed, you can start adding an actual jump/pop on the realise of the jump. It’s the same as if you weren’t wearing skis – bend you knees, then jump! Once airborne you can learn to grab. For this you need to get into a tucked position – bring your knees up and try and touch your shins first, then ankles as you improve, and eventually grab the ski. From there you’re ready for so many options, grabs in all different places, tweaking the move and starting to spin.
I find people over complicate teaching a lot. So keep it fun, keep it simple, work on logical progressions and you will succeed in no time!
What do you look for when buying new ski wear?
Ski gear has to be waterproof, windproof and breathable. Eye-catching, bright colours and a cool design are nice, but if you get wet and cold wearing it then it’s not use at all! Durability is also very important as I spend all day, every day on the mountains in all types of weather. I don’t mind dishing out on expensive gear if I know it’s going to the job and last. The last thing you need is to spend your dollar on new stuff that doesn’t make it through a season.
What are your favourite pieces from the MUSTO Ski Collection?
Every GORE-TEX® Jacket and Every GORE-TEX® Trousers as outer layers and the Evolution Primaloft Jacket as a mid-layer. I got to test these out last winter when the weather was really bad. Most of the mountain was actually closed due to high winds and low visibility. We headed off to the backcountry of Chamonix, to find some sheltered tree runs. Although we couldn’t see anything and were faced with 40km+ winds and -30 degrees, we weren’t cold in the slightest! The gear fitted well and allowed freedom of movement for both hiking up and skiing down.
Finally, what’s your plan for this winter season?
I’ll be returning to Alpe D’Huez to work for ESF. My job is a mixture of guiding and coaching, as Neilson Holidays’ Mountain Expert. I’m planning a couple of trips to Zermatt and Chamonix, which I’m really excited about. One of the great thing about being out in the snow all the time is all the connections and opportunities that pop up. I get to explore some great places with really cool people!