I blame my mate, Arnie Wilson, ski writer for the Financial Times and editor of Ski + Board. He’s always trying to find ways to get revenge on me ever since I beat him in a mad off-piste race at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, some years back, in a duel to settle a dispute over carver skis versus traditional ones. (I was on trad ones…) So, when I told him I was going to Meribel, partly on research for a future Roy Grace novel about a death in a ski resort he said, “I’ll get my friend Julia Pomagalsky, who is the Press Officer, to show you around…” He omitted to add that (a) she was going to show me around on skiis, and (b) she was two times world snowboarding champion and double Olympiad! Also, as her name might suggest, she is a member of the Poma ski lift family – it was her grandfather who started building ski lifts in 1936 when he decided walking up mountains was too much like hard work. I’m with him on that!
So basically, I spent the entire day chasing a distant red speck on the horizon as we covered what seemed like every run in the famous Three Valleys – I couldn’t be sure as conversation was impossible – trying to speak French whilst trying to get your breath back on a chairlift is not easy. The high point of my humiliation was trying to keep her in sight down a steep, mogul-filled black run through a gulley, which she nonchalantly took at twice my speed, ski poles tucked under one arm, deep in conversations on her mobile phone…..
She was, I have to say, in spite of all this, a truly delightful companion for the day, who bought enthusiastically into the idea of a murder in Meribel. I was worried by the gleam in her eye at the end of one run when she started talking enthusiastically about all the different ways to die on skis…. But at the end of a truly shattering day at least I had one compensation for my labours – I got the title for the book…. “Dead Beat.”