|MT on skis in the 1960s|
MT hated foreign travel and especially holidays (she famously came back from a 10-day trip to Corsica after 4 days saying she had 'done' the island and was missing work), but she was prepared to overcome her dislike of 'abroad' to enjoy skiing holidays, and to enable her twins Carol and Mark to develop a passion for the sport. Lenzerheide, in the Graubunden area of Switzerland, was a favourite destination.
|Carol and Marco in 1996|
MTs enthusiasm for skiing appears to have been at its height in the early 1960s, before the pressures of opposition, government and eventually the premiership were to dominate her existence. She attended the opening of Britain's first dry ski slope, at Battersea Park in London in December 1962. The occasion was presided over by her friend the hotelier and restauranteur Charles Forte. Despite being a good skier himself he didn't actually ski down the bakelite slope on that opening day: instead he persuaded Mrs Thatcher to share a toboggan for the 60ft descent.
|MT with Charles Forte on Britain's first dry ski slope|
She told the Evening News reporter:
“Last year the children were eight and we decided it was time they learned. Now we are all tremendous enthusiasts, in fact we are spending Christmas in
"It will be my first Christmas away from doing the turkey and all that sort of thing. It's a really wonderful sport.”
Mrs. Thatcher's period as British prime-minister coincided with rapid growth in the winter sports industry, notably with the emergence of the independent chalet operator (largely in response the widespread customer dissatisfaction with the winter sports packages offered by mass tour operators like Clarksons and Swan Holidays, who were only really concerned about getting extra profit out of their aeroplane fleets). Crystal Holidays was started in 1980, and went on to be the largest 'chalet holiday' operator, largely defining the chalet industry that we know today.
MT seems to have lost interest in skiing as her political career accelerated, and the savage spending cuts of the 1980s saw an end to funding for professional competitive ski training that has never been redressed.
There's a wonderful Pathé newsreel video of the opening of the Battersea Slope, including a few jumps and tricks. Didn't they dress well in those days!
Many thanks to my friend Robert Balchin (the man who introduced me to skiing!) for digging out MTs words about skiing.