I started skiing when I was 18 months old. All my family skied—one of my older brothers even represented Great Britain—so it was inevitable that I would have a go. We’d go skiing holidays every Easter and Christmas (my parents had a small chalet in France). I’m the youngest, and I think that made me very competitive. Both my parents were very sporty—my mum was a swimmer and my dad played rugby.When I was 10, I went to school in the Alps. I was there until I turned 18 but spent every summer in New Zealand. If you are British and want to be a skier, you have to be independent and not get homesick!
The main thing a beginner should remember is that skiing is an expensive sport. I tell people not to waste their time on the learner slopes—they’re better off using the facilities in the UK, which are a lot better than people realise. We have the indoor domes and there is a new product called Skiplex, which is a ski simulator—the first one has just opened in Chiswick, London.
I also tell people to have a few lessons on the artificial slopes until they get the basic skills under their belt. And they shouldn’t rush into buying equipment. They can hire it until they reach the intermediate stage. I always say confident intermediates are the most dangerous skiers on the slopes—they invariably think they are better than they are. Intermediates should always wear a helmet—people crash when they’re trying to reach the advanced levels.
Injury prevention is the other thing to focus on—be fit to ski. Work on your quads, glutes and inner thigh muscles—this will lessen the likelihood of tearing your anterior cruciate ligament. And sit as far forward as you can. Learners are never as far forward as they should be. You should feel plenty of shin pressure on your boots.Something I would recommend for the more advanced skiers is heliskiing—I’ve only done it once but will do a lot more when my competitive career is over. Sochi in 2014 will be my last Olympics. My goal is to compete there and to win a medal or, failing that, to secure a top ten finish.