Long-suffering readers of this space will know that I’m nuts about an essentially pointless sport – much like golf – where the object of the game is to survive with a smile the pain of strapping a pair of heavy, plastic bricks around your ankles, attaching them to planks and pointing yourself downhill. And, like golf, there’s the renting equipment, paying for your right to be on the course, dressing for the day, and following certain modes of etiquette.
In Canada, I used to satisfy it in small doses. How’s the weather look tomorrow? Looks great for skiing – let’s go!
Living in Britannia Beach less than an hour from a former Olympic venue, you can do that. In Hamburg, you have to plan your trip ahead of time because unless you fly, it takes the whole day to get down to the Alps. We started planning for our recent week in St. Anton, Austria more than six months ago by booking a place in Pettneu, a small village 5 minutes from the main village of St Anton but quieter, friendlier, and much cheaper for overnight stays.
Then after a very dry Autumn, the snows hit the Alps this winter with a sudden force that knocked out roads and forced many people to prolong their vacations. Such massive dumps I’d not seen in 15 years of living here, so I thought hmmmm… Six metres at the top? Why go for only one week when there’s so much snow? So I booked another week at Ischgl, a resort we’d never been to though it’s in a valley very close to St Anton.
Ischgl turned out to be a great discovery for us. With its huge variety of runs laid out in such a way that you’re never far from another part of the area even though it’s spread out quite far – even taking in a tiny portion of Switzerland – it beats St Anton in a lot of ways.
Another discovery was the best part of Arlberg – the region where you’ll find St Anton – is Zürs, a smaller area with some amazing terrain and great scenery only 20km or so from St. Anton. You can ski there on the same ticket, but for some reason we’d always only gone to nearby Lech if we ever ventured out of St. Anton. It turned out to have the best skiing of any place we went to this time.
Another new experience was skiing with my daughter all day, every day. We’d made a deal before leaving that, for the first time, she wouldn’t have to take lessons. Three years ago – the last time we went as a family – she was in lessons and she’d been on a school ski trip last year, but it had been so long since I’d seen her on the boards, I was unsure whether she’d be able to keep up to me.
First run down I knew that I’d have to give her a few tips to work on, but as for whether she could keep up – hah! That was often my problem. On several runs she never stopped from top to bottom. How could I have forgotten what I heard one woman say on the slopes five years ago: See that girl down there? She’s like a madwoman!
Along the way over the two weeks this year, her skiing improved. Compare the video here with the one below it.
In this first clip – she’s the one in white in the background at the start – you can see how by swinging her arms and rotating her shoulders in the direction of her turn so much, she’s not only got a lot of unnecessary movement, she’s making the preparation for her turn much more difficult for herself. So I had her think about getting her upper body as quiet as possible throughout the turn, keeping the shoulders square to the hill and the hands still out in front, with just a touch when planting the pole before the turn.
In this clip, taken on the second-to-last day, you can see she wasn’t doing any of those things nearly as much:
We froze our butts off a couple of days, skied by Braille in fog and flat light on another, but were rewarded on most days with a perfect combination of fresh snow and brilliant sunshine. For all the snow and the luck we had with the weather, this trip is going to be the one we compare all the others to for a long time to come.