Cambridge Companion to: Varsity Ski Trip

Want to make sure you know your way around next week? Get started by getting to grips with The Varsity Trip – the Oxford and Cambridge ski trip and shag fest.

1922 Oxford ski snowboard telegraph the tab Varsity varsity ski trip

Varsity Trip: The Lowdown

Everyone’s heard of it. It sneaks into the Fresher experience like the gradual acceptance of wearing gowns as normal. It saunters by on T shirts, yells at you from the ad space in The Tab and casually turns up in conversation now and again. But exactly how and why has Varsity Trip come to be so omnipresent a part of the Oxbridge experience?

The Story So Far

Picture the scene. It’s 1922, two years before the first Winter Olympics. The Oxford and Cambridge ski teams are sitting around, as usual, unable to race, because they’re in very flat, very temperate England.

They are locked into a deeply competitive stagnancy. There are no race results to gloat about, there is no injured pride, and let’s face it, everyone’s growing a bit rotund.

Cue the first Varsity Trip. It’s a small affair, just the ski teams and their families, and Calvin Harris certainly doesn’t attend. He’s not even born yet. I like to imagine that shouts of “Tally-ho!” dominate the slopes, but I’m probably being ridiculous.

The Trip Now

Varsity Trip has snowballed in size since those early days of good old-fashioned, puttee-clad competition. Last year there were 2500 and Varsity Trip 2011 will boast a record-breaking 3000.

In other words, things heated up. With such massive crowds of students taking over resort, the Trip is no longer simply a holiday for the ski-keen, but also a week of insane partying with a reputation for big name acts.

Even those who don’t know their ‘snow-plough’ from their slalom are ready to buy those sought-after tickets. Getting a place on the trip is the serious competition these days, with Varsity Trip twentyten selling out in 30 hours, faster than Bestival.

Frozen Frolics

Safe to say, any holiday that transports thousands of Oxbridgers fresh out of Michaelmas into the mountains and replaces the threat of essays with the glorious promise of guilt-free gaiety is bound to be somewhat spirited.

It’s difficult to imagine the original 1920s crew getting into such scrapes as were seen on Varsity Trip twentyten, but there was probably a more prudent equivalent. The Mountain Meal held last year proved a little too romantic for one amorous couple, who opted to consummate the passionate feelings of their first meeting directly outside the venue.

I’d also love to mention the antics that drove a certain upmarket travel company to withdraw their sponsorship from the Valley Rally, but it’s all still a little awkward.

A Matter Of Oxbridge Pride

Varsity Trip appears to have become quite a lot more than the original opportunity for Cambridge to “accidentally” stab Oxford with a tactically sharpened ski pole. Here at these venerated institutions, we like to break records, and the Trip will forever be the oldest, and probably the biggest student ski trip in the world.

Not only that, the hackneyed “work hard, play hard” mantra definitely applies here. If we want to emerge blinking from 8 weeks of intellectual torture and screw in the snow, we’ll bloody well do it. And we’ll wear the free T-shirt to prove it.


This year’s trip will go on sale on Monday 10th October. See for more details.