Since the mid-90s when a US comedian claimed his hobby was “Ice Climbing”, the British comedy circuit has turned into a posse of adrenaline junkies. Running marathons, swimming long rivers, extreme peak-walking and even climbing Mount Blanc suggest that the thrill of entertaining a roomful of strangers is not as testing as it used to be. And the proof of the pudding is the winter pilgrimage to many of the world’s snowy slopes to slide down them. There are now gigs across the Alps in Switzerland and France, and also in the Rocky regions of Canada, just so comedians can entertain during the evening, and board or ski during the day. Though the big question is do comedians and snow mix?
The performer’s ego says yes (they have to be arrogant otherwise they wouldn't get up on stage and do what they do) but seeing it in action is another thing completely. Many comedians have drunk their fill the night before and climbed out of bed in the early hours to go skiing - only to be seen slowly snow-ploughing downward followed by a trail of…well, purge. Others of the privileged classes have claimed to be great skiers from their time at public school, but having lashed on their boots and skis, realize they’d forgotten everything they were taught, fly down the mountain and land head first into the tundra. You might have boarded at school but boarding a piste is another matter.
Yet these jesters have one thing in common: no fear. The years of climbing on to stages to face rowdy audiences have instilled in them a formidable courage. They all share the audacity to try and stand on waxed plastic, ski-lift to a summit and speed downhill faster then Russell Brand’s marriage. So to enjoy this cacophony of collisions, the Altitude festival is the place to be. The organisers claim that the comedy is only at night when the performers are on stage, but the truth is, there’s also hilarity in the daylight hours when these bravado-filled numbnuts slip and slide until they will literally have “numb nuts”. Come for the comedy but ski for the laughs.