Sunday Column: Peter Griffiths ponders over risk, and how he doesn’t prefer the easy option.

Not everyone enjoys snow. It can cause chaos on the roads in countries which are ill-prepared
and unused to prolonged coverings. However, it needn’t be as bad as the majority make it out but
that’s another story for another day. Where it does work, and is a lot of fun, is in the mountains of
the world which have been turned into playgrounds for people to descend in style and at speed,
utilising planks of wood in various shapes and sizes.

Snow sports are big business globally and there are many ways in which to scoot around on the
groomed pistes which loom above the already pretty lofty villages and towns. You already know
that there are two basic choices and I prefer snowboarding. This is my choice for which I have my
reasons, and having started as a skier I can also appreciate the carefully considered differences.

Skiing is the more convenient and efficient use of time and the land because on the flat sections
you have poles with which to push yourself along and you don’t have to un-clip a foot from a
binding to get on to a chairlift which means you can just whoosh away from the top of the chairlift
when you get there. The alternative is clear, the stop-start nature of snowboarding and sometimes
I do wish I had two planks instead of one.

When it comes to driving my choice is equally clear. I want older cars in my life. By ‘older’ I mean
both in age (at least 15 years) and anything that is free from electronic ‘fly-by-wire’ disconnection
at the pedals. There are other criterion for older cars which you may be more comfortable with
applying but those are my quick two. The best thing about older cars is certainly how immediate
they feel to drive and live with. The numb feeling of modern cars is so dull that after having spent
3 years renting brand new vehicles to the public I am bored with them. They have so few minute
differences that it’s like trying to choose which of Jed or Ward should fall into a pit of vipers first.

After the government’s scrappage scheme having been so enthusiastically received, we have a
clearer and clearer divide between brand new and older cars on the roads. Unfortunately there
have been many undeserving casualties along the way but that’s not the point either. The point is
that as there are fewer older and classic cars knocking around than there were a few years ago.
This strikes me as starkly as when I saw how few snowboarders there were on the slopes this year
in contrast to the last time I was out – four years ago.

So why is this? The facts are clear in that modern cars are much safer to crash in, use much less
fuel and sundry fluids, and break down relatively less often. The skiers have the boots which pop
out of the ski in a crash so your legs are easier to control whereby the boarder just has to slam
and hope. Modern cars will start and go when you ask them to with no doubts in the back of your
mind, where a skier can flow from slope to chairlift to slope. A boarder has a little sit down at each
end, and a flash of worry at the top of each lift as they disembark, as one who turns the key on
any aged vehicle will certainly consider that the desired outcome might not materialise or that the
journey may include some form of physical exercise.

I’m sure that you and I agree that there are attractive reasons to go for a modern car and that
there are twinges of envy to be had as they toddle about in their financed comfort and reliability but
neither of us care about that. My choice at least is made and I want to have an older, classic car
in my life until the end of time. Snowboarding is mainly about form over function. In my experience
it looks much more tidy, much more ‘cool’ and is much more satisfying to get right. Skiing is about
convenience and efficiency. How boring is that?

I’d rather look great, sound better, be more connected and get huge satisfaction from the times
when it’s all going well, while all the time knowing that painful disaster is only moments away
whether on the mountains or sloping about, happy in my old motor.


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