Edge Magazine is asking readers to help raise funds for charity Disability Snowsport UK this winter – here’s why & how. In our lead interview, below, charity patron Pippa Middleton describes the extreme mountain challenges she’s endured to represent DSUK. If her story inspires you to get involved you can quickly and easily text a donation: Text DSUK16 £2 to 70070. (Replace the £2 with any amount). Thanks!
YOU MIGHT imagine a ski trip with a relation of the Royals would be less about serious snowsports and more about fine fondue dining, VIP après and fashionable furs. In the case of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s sister, Pippa, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Dismiss the 33-year-old as a socialite at your peril. Last winter she took on not one but two of the world’s most extreme endurance ski races. In the legendary Birkebeiner cross-country challenge, competitors tackle a gruelling 54km course over two Norwegian mountains while carrying a 3.5kg rucksack. But that was merely a warm up to the formidable PDG (Patrouille des Glaciers) from Zermatt to Verbier. When you take into account the 4,000 metres of climb, the 53 km route is actually the equivalent of 110km. The race was started in 1943 to test Swiss solders’ resilience, abandoned in 1949 after 3 skiers died, and revived in 1984. Trekking up icy slopes, roped together for safety, dodging boulders on the descent in the black of night – this is not a mission for the faint-hearted.
“It was a brutal race like nothing else I have experienced in the mountains and there were times I was at my absolute limits,” Pippa recalls. “Racing through the night on icy rock-strewn terrain, attached by rope to my two teammates required us all to be strong, physically and mentally.”
Seemingly by sheer force of personality, not only did she charm the mountains into letting her reach the finish line (the following day’s race was cancelled due to the terrible conditions), she was also able to dig deep to push her teammates on – even when at the lowest ebb herself. One teammate, Tarquin Cooper, described how she took control and with comfort and encouragement brought their third member, ex-Royal Marine Bernie Shrosbee, “back to life” when he teetered on the verge of quitting.
Pippa tells Edge: “Looking out for one another and not letting my teammates down was a driving force for me. The PDG is a long journey together and you feel highs and lows at differing moments so you need to be brave and encourage one another. It was an epic and emotional adventure with comradeship at its core, and after 14 hours and 53 minutes we had achieved what we had set out to do you; we conquered the challenge and crossed the finish line together.”
The reason she put herself through such a tough test of mettle was to raise awareness and funds for a charity close to her heart, Disability Snowsport UK. The charity trains and develops our GB Paralympic athletes including those heading for the Winter Games in 2018. Read more about snowboarding medal hopeful Cassie Cava, who lost her leg just 2 years ago, here. DSUK also helps anyone with a disability to enjoy getting out on the slopes – something ski and outdoor enthusiast Pippa feels strongly about.
She says: “Skiing lifts the spirit; the feeling of wind across your face, the speed, the excitement, but yet it requires muscle skill, determination and concentration. I love all forms of skiing and relish being in the mountains, where you can get wonderful sense of freedom being close to the elements and enjoy a unique endorphin rush.
I believe disabled people shouldn’t feel left out of this experience. I have seen first hand through the DSUK ski schools how people’s independence and confidence can grow from getting out on the slopes. I have spent time with different disabled individuals and seeing the ecstatic smiles on their faces at the bottom of a slope is a humbling, inspiring moment.”
A vocal and active charity patron, Pippa gets involved in events, meets members and helps out on the ground. She describes being inspired by the stories of the people the charity helps: “I spent a day up in the Cairngorms skiing with the wonderful Grant Douglas who has cerebral palsy. He is full of life and a bi-ski enthusiast. He loves skiing and being in the mountains and his determination and approach to life is infectious. I was not only impressed his speed and accomplishment down the mountain, but he told me at lunch afterwards that he was an inventor – he’s invented a spoon to help those with cerebral palsy be able to eat porridge, cereal and baked beans without spilling.”
Pippa is now planning to take part in some of the charity’s upcoming ski trips abroad, and hopes one day to gain the BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) qualifications so she can take individual members out on the snow herself. And if that’s what she’s set her heart on, there’s no doubting that’s exactly what she’ll do. It must be frustrating that what she’s wearing generally gets more attention in the press than her incredible achievements or the charities she sets out to support. But as she’s demonstrated time and again, this is one determined sportswoman made of stern stuff – and she’s not giving up.
If, like Pippa, you want to help DSUK, text DSUK16 £2 to 70070. (Replace the £2 with any amount)