Matt Butler: Why Sundays should be about getting weird in the woods

View From The Sofa: Ski Sunday, BBC2

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The Independent Culture

Sport is all about escapism. No matter if you are into watching millionaires in shorts booting a ball around a field or donning a pair of smelly trainers and going running in the fog, a large motivator is to get away from grim reality.

Why does a grown man feel comfortable shouting "pass it, you f****** mug" to a football player he doesn't know personally while surrounded by 30,000 like-minded strangers? Because he can. If he used the same language on Claire from accounts at work, or to his immediate family, he'd be out on his ear sooner than you could say "man on".

Yes, there are politics, in-fighting and crises in sport, but they are almost always in the microcosm of sport. Yes, there were words like "hijack", "backlash", "threat" and "abuse" featured on yesterday's sports splashes but we all know that none of it was real.

And as an escape from the escape, so to speak, you can't beat Ski Sunday, which appeared on our screens yesterday for the first show of their 35th season.

While Manchester City were subjecting Arsenal to a beating over on Sky, Ed Leigh and Graham Bell were fronting a different slice of fantasy from St Anton in Austria, a place many of us wouldn't ever visit without a hefty lottery win or windfall from a dead relative. You could almost smell the glüwein and obscene wealth. Because to most of the population, going skiing regularly is in the same bracket as polo or hereditary monarchy; unlikely to involve us.

But with Ski Sunday we can all pretend to be on holiday in the Alps – especially given that it was brass monkey weather last night – with the affable pair of Leigh and Bell as our guides. Yes, the segment on 100-year-old skis was a bit Top Gear, but it is the start of the series. We'll give them a week to really get their teeth into the season. On the plus side, the Super G coverage, which included Chemmy Alcott, the British skier who has come back from a horrific leg break, was comprehensive. And the segment on Britain's Sochi 2014 Olympic hopefuls (yes, there are one or two) was interesting, if not riveting.

But the best part of yesterday's episode was an eight-minute slot with the American snowboarder Travis Rice (left) – a friendly-looking scruffy poster-boy for the "cool" alpine sport. Interspersed with stunning shots of Rice carving graceful S-shapes in pristine, untracked Alaskan back-country snow was an interview between Leigh – who mentions once or twice he is a snowboarder – and the rider. And apart from the odd language ("He's a beefy guy who can stomp anything," a fellow rider said of Rice), it gave a window into a kind of lifestyle that is unattainable to most of us, but one that would be pretty sweet. The guy once rode on the organised contest circuit, but chucked it all in to get paid to jump out of helicopters onto the steepest parts of remote mountain ranges and slide down, while seeing how many rocks and snowdrifts he can do flips off.

The best moment – which summed up any sport for any of us, even if we don't know it – came when Leigh asked Rice about Shaun White, the superstar Olympic snowboarder who humps his board from one sponsor-laden competition to another.

"He wants to be a rock star. I want to grow a beard and get weird in the woods," Rice said. Travis, you're not the only one, you beefy, stomping so-and-so. You're not the only one.