Heliskiing In Georgia With Minty Clinch - 5th November
by Alan Brown
Minty is a professional skiing journalist who is clearly totally involved in all things skiing and very enthusiastic. Her speaking style was very relaxed, but you could sense the experience and dedication in her delivery : she paints a very clear picture!
She went to Georgia a couple of years ago as a guest of Crystal when they were experimenting, briefly, with new avenues. Two journalists and two paying punters joined a group of 40 other Europeans for this weeks adventure. The "developed" ski area sounded rather tame - three chairs and one drag - but in heli terms it made sense - 3,000 square miles of skiable terrain with 200 drop-off points!
The hotel sounded typically 5* with all the extras a skier could dream of, but Georgia added its local character too. Minty couldn't initially understand why there were so many "cleaners" on each corridor until they started selling a particularly prickly hand-knitted type of local knee-length sock. Selling seemed too weak a word for the methods employed - backed into your (own!) room to discuss how many pairs you wanted. I can imagine no-one resisting long considering these people had master keys for access to all your possessions!
Then there was the warning from the guides, "Go for a warm-up run this afternoon, but take care, a guest last week didn't survive" ... It wasn't the snow that got him. Apparently in an effort to boost family incomes, enterprising farmers would set up trestle tables at the foot of all lifts and offer home-brew. Not beer, but vodka of course. And how was the poor hapless Brit to know how strong this might be? Minty told of many generous Georgians only too pleased to offer (offload?) their bootleg alcohol to unsuspecting foreigners.
And for three days she had excellent powder skiing. Massive Russian-built helicopters took 20 at a time. Very powerful and straight up apparently, though she was a little nervous that they were veteran helicopters from the last Afghanistan campaign! They were lifted to different drops from early - 9.00 - 'til late - 20.00 - with only a brief lunch stop. The nights were short when she went, and the group she was with were tough, fit and ready to get value for money!
Pity the weather closed in, and the second half of her trip was a white-out, although the helicopter pilots were happy as they managed to cram in extra vodka drinking - there's a silver lining to every cloud !
After a break, Minty gave us a surprise insight into the secret skiing side of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who
stayed briefly in Davos in the 1890's in a successful attempt to save his wife from TB. A fascinating little bonus !
A good time was had by all as Minty rounded off the evening with a wide-ranging discussion on any aspect of skiing we wanted to ask her about. Thanks, Jane, for suggesting Minty again and for providing accommodation.