Friday, 13 January 2012

How to ski like James Bond

In an earlier post, I speculated on the link between Ian Fleming (and in particularly From Russia, With Love) and Peter Lunn, the late Old Etonian, war-hero and cold-war spy chief. We can connect Fleming, Bond and Lunn in another way – through their shared interest in skiing.

Snowy settings have become an essential Bondian landscape (a Bondscape, if you like), thanks to Fleming's Swiss-set On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) and its film adaptation (1969). The book sees Bond put on a pair of skis for the first time since the war as he escapes Blofeld's henchmen in pursuit. Fleming's descriptions of Bond's skiing accord well with the techniques being taught in the 1930s when Bond learned to ski, as a read-through of Peter Lunn's skiing manual, A Ski-ing Primer (published by Methuen in 1948), reveals.

In Chapter 12 of OHMSS, we find out that Bond learnt to ski before the war as a teenager at the Hannes Schneider School at St Anton in the Arlberg, Austria. There Bond used steel-edged hickory skis, which by the time of his mission in the Swiss alps, were out of date, having been replaced by metal skis. Interestingly, Peter Lunn states that there had been earlier experiments with metal skis, but none had been successful, and when his book was published there was still no substitute for hickory, ash or birch.

Seeing the skiers on the Gloria run, Bond admires the art of Wedeln, with its use of the hips to effect turns. In his youth, there was much more shoulder work. Bond is referring to the style of turn called the downhill Christiana, which allows the skier to turn while keeping the skis parallel. Lunn explains exactly how to do it. As you face downslope in the travserse position, straighten up and start to rotate your intended inside shoulder. At the moment you feel like you are about to topple over, rotate both shoulders forcibly into the slope, while at the same time bending the knees. Bring your outside hand round with the knees and bring the inside ski forwards slightly. Press your knees into the slope, and resume the traverse position as you come out of the turn.

In terms of equipment, Lunn recommends the skis with the Marius Ericksen steel edges. In Blofeld's ski room, Bond chooses Master's with the Attenhofer Flex forward release. But then again, skis had moved on since 1948.

If you want to ski like James Bond, then, Peter Lunn's primer is an excellent place to start. And if you ever wondered what Bond's mysterious 'golden K' refers to (Bond won it while at the Schneider school), the primer may have the answer.

Arnold Lunn, Peter's father, founded the Kandahar Ski Club in 1924. In 1928, Arnold Lunn visited Hannes Schneider and the two of them set up the Arlberg-Kandahar Challenge Cup, which was awarded to the best skier in a combined slalom and downhill contest. The cup was held alternately at St Anton and Mürren (where the Kandahar club was based). Did Bond win the cup one year during the 1930s? And was he admitted to the Kandahar Ski Club? After all, the club's badge is a simple golden K.

Click here for more on Bond's golden K.


  1. I tried finding out about the golden Ks a few years ago but came up with nothing, so great to finally read about it. Skiing is something that I strongly associate with 007 but it only in OHMSS that he does ski, although the films have used skiing a few times now so perhaps that has reinforced it. Great article as always.

  2. Thanks, much appreciated. The golden K has always puzzled me (and even Kingsley Amis, it seems, who, after mentioning the golden K in his JB Dossier, added in brackets, 'whatever that is'). Anyway, finally found the answer. Yes, you're right, Fleming only takes Bond skiing in OHMSS, but skiing is now very Bondian thanks to the films.

  3. There's a little bit more about the golden K here:

  4. Kandahar ski club members refer to one another simply as Ks, and they are graded according to skiing and specifically ski racing capability. Gold Ks are quite good skiers, but there are hundreds of them in the membership. Diamond Ks and Racing Ks and alphaKs are the higher grades.

    1. Hi Adam, thanks for the clarification. Really appreciate it. Yes, the reference to the golden K puzzled me for ages - and others too, including Kingsley Amis!


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