Jamie’s Guinness™ Ski World Record
Posted on 15th Jul 2016
I have always had a desire to set a Guinness world record and when I stumbled across a challenge which would take me across 25 countries in Europe, I jumped at the chance. After over a year of planning, I departed on the 1st of March 2014 with the intention of skiing 20 different countries in a calendar month.
Being an avid skier the challenge excited me for many reasons; being able to see 20 different ski resorts, stay in 20 different countries, create lasting memories! Guinness stipulated that it was to be a solo challenge, so I had to transport, ski, report and record every element of the trip on my own. For this reason I decided driving would be the easiest option; this would cut down on time spent flying, transferring from airport to resort and other such things. 7,000 miles on paper didn’t seem overly arduous, however I soon realised my mistake when my first 3 days would see me spend 48 hours in my VW Golf!
As you can see from the image below, the main areas to tick off many countries is central Europe in around the French Alps. However, to hit my target of 20, I had to ski in the areas unknown to most! Such as Otepää in Estonia and Sljeme just outside Zagreb.
Early on the 1st of March I skied in Scotland and headed south – quite far south – to the top of Spain. Apart from my final days in Scandinavia, this was the most difficult journey.
After skiing Spain and Andorra, I headed up to Chamonix to Ski France, Italy and Switzerland. After a well-earned break in Luzern in Switzerland, I travelled up into Austria, Liechtenstein (yes it counts as a country!) and Germany.
After Germany, I headed towards Slovenia, the first country I hadn’t visited before and certainly hadn’t skied before. Being wedged between Italy and Austria, I didn’t know what sort of culture to expect; I need not have worried as the Slovenian people are equally, if not more welcoming than any country I had visited before! Skiing in Bled was lovely, a very open resort with good infrastructure. After completing here, I headed to Zagreb, the first country where I was concerned about snow cover.
While I wanted to ski in 20 different countries, Guinness had quantified that I only needed to ski in 15 or more countries to set a new World Record. As I had skied 9 different countries at this stage in 9 days, I was confident of hitting my 20 target.
However, as I headed further East, the landscape changed from Mountainous to pancake flat. Croatia only has about 3 ski resorts in the entire country and the one I was banking on was Sljeme, which is just outside the capital, being open. Sitting at 730m, which isn’t drastically low, I had my fingers crossed on the journey up; however, all my hopes were shattered when arriving as there was hardly a flake of snow anywhere! The resort had been closed for a good couple of months!
Unabashed I headed north into Hungary and stayed by the Danube. My next target was a small resort North East of Budapest, however, with similar disappointment, I discovered from locals that this resort was closed due to lack of snow too.
The old adage of bad luck striking in 3’s was not completely untrue, as I was fined £100 for not having the correct road toll pass was an unneeded expense!
Nevertheless, Slovakia saved the day with the excellent Jansa resort being fully open and operational.
For operational reasons, it was actually quicker to pop into Poland on the Slovakia border and then cross into the Czech Republic. I ticked off the polish resort almost immediately and then made a bee
line towards Ostrava. Again I was fined for not having the correct road toll – we should be thankful in the UK that we contribute via tax rather than a bizarre and complicated pass situation.
I skied the Czech resort of Špindlerův Mlýn early on the 15th March and started the pilgrimage north. The resort was difficult to find, no-one spoke English and they didn’t accept credit cards, but I was not taking no for an answer and managed to spend 2 hours on the desolate mountain. A welcome bonus was the 90mph speed limit on the Polish motorways! Little did I know that these would be the last good roads I would see for the next 4 days.
My next target was actually 2 countries away in Estonia, with Lithuania and Latvia having no ski resorts. As I crossed the border into Lithuania, the roads almost immediately deteriorated; with giant potholes, unlit roads, no sign posts being par for the course. My faithful VW Golf was taking a battering! As I reached Riga in Latvia, the heavens open and it started to snow very heavily. I was thankful for this in one regard as I thought it would assist the ski resort in Estonia. However, what I didn’t account for was the difficulty of driving in a major city, on the wrong side of the road, with lunatic drivers all around me. I was very thankful to reach the hotel.
The tiny resort in Estonia was a welcome sight after 3 days of difficult driving; this was country 14 as I started my journey into Scandinavia. Logistically, I couldn’t afford to spend a night in Helsinki, so after arriving from Tallinn on a car ferry, I drove straight to the ski resort which was 1.5 hours outside of Helsinki. I quickly completed that (that was country 15, so effectively equalling the record) and drove back to the ferry port to catch an overnight ferry to Stockholm.
This was my most difficult day, purely because it was so unexpected. I had almost banked on Scandinavia having excellent roads, perfectly and regularly snowploughed and gritted. On the contrary! Some of the roads appeared not to have been ploughed for weeks. My front wheel drive car was severely struggling with lack of grip on the A class roads which limited my speed to 30mph in places. This drastically changed my ETA in Oslo from 6pm to almost 10pm. I was already quite fatigued from the 18 previous days and the stresses of driving on an ice rink started to take its toll. I arrived at the Swedish ski resort of Romme Alpin just after 2pm, much later than I had intended. I skied the resort, not fully aware that I had just set a new record and drove the 8 hours at a snail’s pace to Oslo.
The Kongsberg Ski Centre is just outside Oslo and was my final destination; this would take my total to 17 and would solidify my position in the Guinness World Records. I skied this resort early in the morning and soaked it all in. There was still a long journey back home, but I couldn’t have been happier at completing my goal. Albeit 3 countries below my aim, but lack of snow couldn’t be accounted for!
After submitting reams and reams of information to Guinness, they confirmed I had set a new world record. Here I am pictured in the Scottish Borders with my certificate!
After moving to London in April 2016, I started with Tots Too to help develop their ski programme. We decided on a select number of hotels which work for families. This will grow over time, but for this coming winter season 2016/2017, we have an excellent selection of family friendly resorts and hotels for all family groups.
Please see: http://www.totstoo.com/collections/ski/« Back to blog home