Surprise number 1, on entering Earl’s Court: it was so quiet, the old skiing fart didn’t even need to turn off his hearing aid. Nor was there much evidence of that ugly phenomenon, the general public. At 6pm on Friday of half term, staff outnumbered customers in the wide open shopping spaces, and people were chatting without having to shout – unprecedented. In the absence of nerdy skiers collecting piste maps from unknown resorts in the Abruzzi and Estremadura, tourist office delegates and ski instructors abandoned their posts and fraternised with the opposition. This may further the cause of harmony in the hills but is perhaps not what the organisers had in mind. It had the slightly strange but not uninteresting effect that if you approached the Andorra desk, as you might, to check the current price of Tequila Slammers in Pas de la Casa, you’d be quite likely to find yourself talking to someone from Val d’Isère. Quite a few big resorts were there, rumoured to have been offered a stand for nothing, in order for the Ski Show not to lose face and look like a typical market square in England: shop windows mostly boarded up.
Low demand for space explained the welcome return of gadget peddlars, though most of the small-timers seemed to be peddling nothing more interesting than XXL T-shirts and flat-peaked baseball caps, with more imagination applied to pricing than design. I did spot a magic goggle demist spray and another old friend, the ski-tote – an expensive piece of string that enables you to carry your skis without having to load them on your shoulder in the approved manner. Ingenious. But the must-have gadget of the moment is undoubtedly the energy bracelet, a rubber band with a shiny little disc, sold for exorbitant sums at several stands, with rampant competition driving down the price from ‘think of a number and treble it’ to a lower number that is still ludicrously high but will enable gullible visitors to think they have negotiated a bargain. ₤15 for example. Amazingly, people were buying these things. I know, because I was one of them.
My son and I were disappointed not to be able to try out the Oakley Airwave goggle, which includes a visual display of your speed, altitude, exact location and height above the ground in mid-jump, and enables you to read emails and text messages as they come in. Inexplicably, Oakley timed the launch of this breakthrough technology days too late to benefit from the rush of sales that supplying the London Ski Show would surely have brought. Or is the Airwave one of those products – like Crystal ski holidays to Russia– designed merely to be written about and not sold?
My son and I were out of the ski show in under an hour. There was something rather depressing about it, we thought. Perhaps some loud music might have cheered it up. Have we seen the last of the London Ski Show?