How Arnie Wilson skied his way around the world
On 1 January 1994, 49-year-old Arnie Wilson set off with his girlfriend on an adventure. They skied at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that day. The following morning they left, with the intention of skiing every day for the whole year, at an average of 10 miles a day and in as many different resorts as possible.

Their itinerary was to take them all around the world, following the snow from Japan to Chile, from India to New Zealand. And on 1 January, 1995, they were back in Jackson Hole, the adventure completed.

By skilfully negotiating airline timetables, taking advantage of the warp that the International Date Line puts on the calendar, and skiing at four o'clock in the morning when necessary, they had achieved their target.

By New Year's Eve, in Keystone, Colorado, they had skied every day of their year, and reached the 10-miles-a-day average; their diary also recorded that they had skied in 240 resorts, travelled 109,480 miles (four times around the globe) and descended 790 vertical miles (144 times down Mount Everest) - and that Arnie had had 178 falls, to his girlfriend's 180.

The story of their experiences is told in Arnie Wilson's book, to be published next week. It is called Tears in the Snow, because the adventure had a tragic postscript. On 6 April last year, Arnie's 41-year-old girlfriend, Lucy Dicker, was killed in a skiing accident at La Grave, in France.

Arnie Wilson took up skiing seriously only at the age of 30. A dedicated tobogganist as a child, when his family lived in Switzerland, he had - as he thought - learnt to ski on a school trip in his teens. So when he took his own family to Verbier, with a commission to write an article for a skiing magazine, he had what he describes as "that dangerous combination of ego, enthusiasm and lack of ability. At the end of the first day I had to be rescued by the piste patrol and brought down the mountain."

After that trip, he spent as much time skiing as his job - as a reporter for the old Southern TV region - would allow. Something of a local celebrity, he was often asked to open fetes ("if the weatherman and the studio presenter had said no"); and company policy was to allow a day off in lieu for such appearances. "So every time I opened a fete, I got a day's skiing." In 1984 he went freelance and was asked to do some skiing articles for the Financial Times. When its regular skiing columnist died, Arnie inherited the job, which he has now held for 10 years.

It was the travel editor of Vogue who, in 1990, floated the possibility of skiing in every month of the year. Arnie wrote a fictional account of such a venture for the magazine, and then toyed with the idea of making it fact. "It was just a silly idea," he says - until he mentioned it to Lucy, a Frenchwoman who worked as general manager for a ski tour company in London, and with whom he was already having an affair. "It was almost as if it was what she had been waiting for: Lucy always dreamed of having a great adventure. When she said, `Let's do it together', it became a possibility. And then it gathered its own momentum."

They were an unlikely pair of adventurers: she was short-sighted but too vain to wear glasses; he was overweight; and both seemed to have had a limitless ability to get lost - not just driving at night in a hailstorm on New Zealand's Mount Hutt, but even in their own hotel. The book details the calamities ("It makes a better story when things don't go smoothly" says Arnie), including their truck blowing up in Argentina, Arnie carrying on skiing despite wearing a catheter to deal with a urinary problem, desperate (but always successful) attempts to find a place to ski when the light was fading and the snow melting - and, much more distressing to read, the terrible rows they had. Arnie was adamant that the book should be true to Lucy's memory, and this involved being as frank about how difficult she could be, as about his love for her.

Of course, they skied some great runs: the "outrageous" (Arnie's description) off-piste Ridge area of Bridger Bowl, Montana, a long swoop from 8,000ft; the Vallee Blanche, a 6,500ft vertical down the glacier from Mont Blanc to Chamonix; and the silky, serious powder of Mount Dobson in New Zealand, a 3,500ft vertical which Lucy thought was the greatest run of her life.

But their experiences won't convert many to summer skiing, particularly in India (where they found no working ski-lifts) and Japan (where they clocked up two hours' skiing on Tokyo's indoor snow-piste, and then pounds 100 on a cab fare into town). Chile is obviously a much better bet - except when you have to do the same run down a volcano about 40 times, on hard- packed snow, to keep up the 10-miles-a-day average. Arnie admits that it was a struggle, "but I think we thrived on that. The more it went wrong, the more - in a strange way - we enjoyed it. Lucy, particularly, seemed to relish the struggle." In retrospect, he thinks the adventure was "a 100 per cent wonderful idea. I am very proud that we did it, and very sad that Lucy only had three months in which to relish her success."

Writing about it, however, was "a nightmare". He started writing with Lucy. He made a second start after her death, during months of terrible grief - "I kept asking myself, `If people die of a broken heart, why am I still alive?'" Skiing again, he says, started him on "the long haul back to sanity"; and the help of another writer, William Hall, enabled him to complete the book.

"With each process - writing, rewriting, proof-reading - I found that at the beginning of the book I was happy, because I was with Lucy again, planning our adventure. I didn't once think that she was alive; yet I felt the warmth that I associated with being with her. But every time I worked on the last two chapters, I could hardly see the screen through my tears."

`Tears in the Snow: a True Story of Love, Courage and Danger' is published on 29 November (Blake Publishing, pounds 15.99).

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