• Caitlin Kennedy

Adventures in Piste-Bashing

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

By Caitlin Kennedy

Everyone is pretty curious about piste-bashers, the mysterious creatures of the night that are such night owls, you'll be lucky to catch a glimpse of one by daylight. We managed to find one to pin down for a ride and an interview.

Joel, chief basher of pistes, was to be my chauffeur in his shiny new machine. Clearly I was to be thrown in at the deep end, because our destination was the Face, ie the steepest piste in the Espace Killy. There are 22 piste-bashers and each has their own stretch of turf, which they plow nightly until about one o'clock in the morning. Joel has been doing the job since he was 18 (he’s now 50) and still gets a kick out of it. I can completely understand why; it’s pretty thrilling driving round the mountain at dusk, when it’s completely devoid of people.

I was interested to know whether bashing pistes was ever nerve-racking or dangerous, to which Joel replied that if conditions were too bad, they didn’t go out. In a white out though, he said it took more concentration, but the new navigation systems made life a lot easier. They are pretty swanky; the control system looked like the world’s coolest play station. There are literally buttons for everything. The joystick on the right controls the height and angle of the plower (the front bit that would be a mouth if piste-bashers featured in Thomas the Tank Engine). And the arm-rest on the left controlled the speed at which we were moving.