Tag Archives: Austria

1/2/13 – Can anybody beat this loo-with-a-view?

Snowy Schladming in mid-January

Snowy Schladming in mid-January

On Monday the World Alpine Skiing Championships begin in Schladming, Austria.

I spent a long weekend at the Austrian resort a few weeks ago, and you can read how impressed I was with the place in the Daily Telegraph travel section next weekend (or online, here).

This comfort stop is clearly signed

This comfort stop is clearly signed

As well as great, tree-lined ski runs, an attractive town square, half a dozen dirndl shops, the largest apres-ski bar in Europe (they claim – and Hohenhaus Tenne is indeed huge – pictures in a future blog) and unbelievably cheap and tasty food in giant portions, Schladming has fantastic places to “go”.

A very public loo

A very public lavatory

To the loo.

On the mountain.

At the junction of two chair-lift top stations on Planai (read the Telegraph piece to see which ones), the mountain where the racing takes place, is a white, green and yellow cabin marked “Sky Toilet”.

Here are the instructions that come with the loo

Here are the instructions that come with the loo

In the ladies’ , I found one cubicle with a wall of glass, one-way viewing, of course, overlooking the  ascending chairs at close quarters and the piste.

Plastered to the other walls and ceiling is local mountain scenery, completing the picture. The second cubicle is  totally wallpapered.

This is the view from where I was sitting

This is the view from where I was sitting

Of course it was all beautifully heated, with plenty of room to put your gloves and a hook to hang your rucksack or coat.

There were similar good loos elsewhere in Schladming – easily up to the standard of Aspen, where the mountain loos are very practical.

Spot the door in the Planet Planai ladies'

Spot the door in the Planet Planai ladies’

In Planet Planai, the new base station, there’s more good wallpaper, plus a powder scene across all the doors in the ladies’.

In Hohenhaus Tenne, on the way out, there’s a sort of chalet willage of lavatories, comoplete with a rustic water fountain in the middle.

Step inside the chalet to 'go'

Step inside the chalet to ‘go’

Please advise if you know of other mountain loo stops that are as beautiful and useful as these, and I will make an effort to make use of them one day…

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13/12/12 – Riding Haflinger ponies in Obergurgl

A Haflinger from the Edelweiss & Gurgl stable

A Haflinger from the Edelweiss & Gurgl stable

These days people talk about “riding” a mountain, rather than skiing it. Well, a few years ago I went riding up a mountain, in winter. On a horse. Or rather a pony – an Austrian Haflinger, no less. It was in Obergurgl, where I’ll be skiing (and maybe also riding) next week.

Inside the riding hall in this Tyrolean resort, I watched a pricked pair of woolly, caramel-coloured ears and a shimmering flaxen mane bob along in front of me while snow swirled outside.

Instead of 'hup, hup', it was 'trit-trot'

Instead of ‘hup, hup’, it was ‘trit-trot’

My mount, Hevelyn, was trotting round Austria’s highest-altitude – and, then, spanking new – riding hall (1,930m), which was built by one of the village’s “ruling” families chiefly to help revive the resort’s summer fortunes. However, these well-bred mares are in work in winter, too.

The Scheiber family, which owns the Edelweiss & Gurgl hotel, a favourite with the British and bang in the village centre, has kept Haflingers since the 1920s, and a fabulous painting of the herd grazing on its summer pasture hangs in reception.

Hevelyn and Anita with their grooms

Hevelyn and Anita with their grooms

Lukas Scheiber, who took over the hotel from his father about 10 years ago and is a respected international Haflinger judge, told me: “My grandfather brought Haflingers over from the South Tyrol – where they originated – and he became chairman of the first official breed society. They were working ponies – we used them to transport supplies to our mountain hut, the Ramolhaus.”

In the 1960s the practical need for Haflingers petered out, but the Scheibers kept them for fun and breeding, giving them basic ride and drive training, and became one of a handful of Tyrolean breeders concentrating on top-quality animals.

“Since 1980 we’ve been buying the best or most expensive youngsters each year,” says Lukas (the family set a record at the national stud’s 2006 sale by paying £35,000 for Roque, a six-month-old filly with phenomenal bloodlines). “A good Haflinger must have a nice head, a white tail and mane and a quiet temperament. And it’s very important they’re good movers.”

Whose mane is smoother?

Whose mane is smoother?

Hevelyn, five years old and, like her 10 stablemates, in foal, certainly had plenty of movement – it took me a little practice to attain that armchair feeling.

My instructor, Simone Riml (who was brought up just down the valley), took care over warm-up and cool-down, and gave the mares plenty of breathers, especially between canters.

The horses are exercised lightly as close as a fortnight to foaling, which takes place between February and April, and they only jump in summer, in early pregnancy.

Nearly 90 per cent of riders are children and teenagers – although there is no weight limit and most of the ponies look about 14.3hh: “Haflingers can carry anything,” Simone assured me. Handling lessons are available too – and they’re gentle and adorable in the stable: it’s almost as rewarding to groom as to ride them.

Obergurgl's smart riding hall - in use winter as well as summer

Obergurgl’s smart riding hall – in use winter as well as summer

The hall – a 20x40m vision of glass and pine, with a sand and synthetic surface and a spectators’ gallery – sits on a hillock opposite the village church and virtually adjoining the Edelweiss’s livestock barn.

There live the mares; the fillies, inquisitive and nibbly; the hotel’s cattle (the Edelweiss is self-sufficient for milk and butter) and its pigs (pork is often on the menu).

The mares graze on the mountainside in May and June, while the fillies spend the entire summer there. But where are the boys? Well, some may be family ponies in Britain or America, the biggest export markets, and others may be dashing between obstacles at driving trials in Austria and elsewhere. But the ungelded ones, at least, are under strict official control.

The national stud (at Ebbs, east of Innsbruck) owns the Tyrol’s 50 registered stallions, which stand at 30 regional stallion stations. Colts undergo a rigorous procedure to gain the privilege of passing on their genes.

“Each year 1,200 foals are born in the Tyrol,” Lukas Scheiber said. “The association picks the 60 best colts and keeps them at Ebbs for a period, before selecting 20 to stay entire. It buys them from their breeders, but not for a huge amount of money – it’s the prestige that’s important.”

Please, mummy, can I get a pony?

Please, mummy, can I get a pony?

More about Haflingers

  • Haflingers are chestnut – fuchs, in German (which means fox) with a white or flaxen mane and tail
  • Fuchs varies from dark to light
  • The mane is left to grow naturally long, but the tail can be trimmed
  • Feathers may be lighter than the body but there should be no discernible socks
  • The blaze should start under the forelock and peter out before it reaches the muzzle
  • In the mountains, some Haflingers’ muzzles get much blacker in summer
  • Fillies are named with the first letter of their mothers’ names; colts with the first letter of the fathers’ names.

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5/11/12: A cheap hot wine recipe

Vin chaud. Gluhwein. Vin brule. Hot wine. It’s the time of year when I think about making some, and look forward to ordering the first of the season – preferably in a cosy ski hut while it’s blizzarding outside.

At the Nederhut in Obergurgl, where I’ll be holidaying next month, it’s thick, dark, aromatic and very sticky if spilt. It comes in an earthenware mug that takes some knocking over, even with scores of merry après-skiers stamping on the tables.

Elsewhere I’ve drunk it from polystyrene cups, hot-chocolate vessels and heat-proof glasses with an impractical metal handle that burns your fingers (I think this was in Italy, where style won over substance).

Only occasionally do I find one that’s too acidic, too sweet, too bitter or lukewarm.

My wine pan. Orange shows size

My wine pan. Orange shows size

In Anzere, Switzerland, where I’ve skied since I was little, the tourist office hands out free hot wine on Monday nights in the village square, following a descente aux flambeaux by the ski school.

It’s one of the best I have tasted anywhere – and it’s usually white, as this is what’s grown mostly in the district.

At Central Sports, in the same village, Rene Schick, the owner, can sometimes be found handing out a very similar-tasting hot white wine to customers.

As well as being lighter than hot red wine, white has the advantage of being less messy. Which is why, when I last had a winter party, I asked Rene for his recipe. This is it:

Cinnamon sticks, oranges and a few little bits of star anise

Cinnamon sticks, oranges and a few little bits of star anise

6 litres white wine
4 litres water
3 oranges, cut into chunks, peel left on
8 cinnamon sticks
8 star anise flowers
Half a kilo of honey and/or sugar
…and a good dash of dark rum, if you like

Heat the wine and water, then add the rest of the ingredients and continue to heat for a while, stirring now and then. I kept mine on the heat for about an hour, very hot but not boiling.

Wine-box wine is fine

Wine-box wine is fine

You don’t need to use fancy wine – something like Muscadet, Soave or ‘table wine’ is fine (or cheap Fendant, if you’re making it in Switzerland). I used wine-box stuff, which worked fine.

Other essentials are a large saucepan and a ladel. I ladel the wine into a jug to pass around.

Polystyrene cups are a bit nasty – once I’ve used up the proper mugs I have in the house I give people large, substantial plastic glasses – not the tiny, flippy ones – then I half-fill them, so people can hold them without burning their fingers.

I can’t remember how many people this recipe ‘feeds’, but you can add more of all the ingredients once it’s flowing. None except the oranges will go off it you don’t use them up. Just don’t forget to add the corresponding amount of water as you top it up…

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26/10/12 – Bodo’s Schloss, London’s new Austrian bar: the verdict

The logo for Bodo's Schloss is a goat wearing a bell. Not very Kensington

The logo for Bodo’s Schloss is a goat wearing a bell. Not very Kensington

Last night I went the opening night of a new bar in Kensington. Not my usual habit, but this was a place I was itching to see.

This was Bodo’s Schloss, decked out, I had read, like an Austrian ski lodge, complete with dirndl- and lederhosen-clad staff and a telecabin as a DJ booth. Now, I’m a bit of a veteran of the real thing, so I wanted to check it out.

Wood, wood, everywhere. And chamois horns and cow bells

Wood, wood, everywhere. And chamois horns and cow bells

Bodo’s Schloss (nothing to do with that king of mountain-euro-pop DJ Bobo) is in the basement of the Royal Garden Hotel, replacing a casino.

According to online reports such as this one, the people behind it – Piers Adam and Nick House – also masterminded Mahiki, Whisky Mist and the Punch Bowl, none of which I know but all of which probably sound rather cooler to most people.

Inspired! Can anyone identify this button lift?

Inspired! Can anyone identify this button lift?

At 7.15pm there was no queue at the street-level entrance to the right of the main hotel (it’s free to get in till 10pm; thereafter £15), where smiley female staff are stationed, wearing fur coats over their dirndls.

The reception area (coats £1 per item) has a knockout pine aroma, a film of a button lift in action keenitely slotted behind a window frame and a line of skis from circa 1970.

Four privileged pairs

Four privileged pairs

In we went, down a few steps (with railings made of wagon wheels), and pulled up a fur-seated stool at the bar.

Over a glass of Petra Unger Q Gruner Veltliner (£6.90 for a 175ml glass; the cheapest white is a Spanish viura/chardonnay at £4.20 a glass/£17 a bottle), we surveyed the scene.

It makes you want to yodel... but the music is more London than Lermoos

It makes you want to yodel… but the music is more London than Lermoos

A big effort has gone into decor. A waiter told us most of it comes from Austria, and I believe it.

There are sledges on the walls; light fittings made of antlers; wood, wood, everywhere; two fireplaces stacked with logs; a chamois head; giant cow bells overhanging the bar; cosy lighting; an ibex sculpture; chairs with backs in the shape of deer-heads, and rustic boards on wrought-iron wall-fittings to indicate table reservations.

Can anyone find this on a map?

Can anyone find this on a map?

The ‘Toiletten’ are marked with jaunty Austrian writing, their walls painted with names, funnily enough, of two of my favourite ski resorts, Obergurgl and Soelden.

There’s a poem on another wall that I could half-translate, and, bafflingly, another name, ‘Innsburg’. Did they mean Innsbruck?

The barmen lent us their hats

The barmen lent us their hats

Most tables were taken by couples, chattering groups of 20 to 30somethings and a few parties of older blokes trying not to stare at the blonde, plait-haired waitresses in checked dirndls or short-ish lederhosen – definitely the Austrian variety, rather than Swiss traditional dress.

Ninety per cent of the waitresses, the friendly Hungarian barman told us, are Swedish, and though he didn’t think there was anyone from the Alps front-of-house, the head chef, Franz, is Austrian.

They've even got hold of a schnapps ski

They’ve even got hold of a schnapps ski

I was impressed that, as I’ve seen in Austria, the barmen wear shirts (some with braces, some with hats, too) while the managers wear a jacket (again, decidedly Austrian, rather than Swiss).

Behind the bar are steins (litre glasses for beer), china ski boots (fill it with a rum cocktail for £100 to share between up to eight) and a decent array of schnapps.

Antler wall-lights and wrought-iron hooks. Unheimlich gut!

Antler wall-lights and wrought-iron hooks. Unheimlich gut!

‘Winter season’ cocktails (from £8.50) are named after ski runs (not all in Austria): Lauberhorn, Vallee Blanche, Hahnenkamm, Harakiri, Madloch and Corbet’s Couloir. ‘House’ cocktails include the St Bernard, which contains Mozart liqueur.

Draught beer (£2.80) is Stiegl or Schremser, Austrian brands, and Erdinger Dunkel, that tasty German ski-slope staple, comes in bottles. Plenty of Austrian wines are in the mix, towards the pricier end. And tap water, unlike in many places in Austria, is free.

Perfectly executed spinach dumplings

Perfectly executed spinach dumplings

The most extravagant drink is the ice castle (£5,000), which I gather is a limitless supply of the bar’s signature cocktail (including Ciroc vodka, passionfruit, creme de peche and Dom P), served in some sort of ice vessel – which hasn’t arrived yet, so it’s not available for the moment.

You can download a copy of the drinks menus here.

Apple strudel, no icing sugar spared

Apple strudel, no icing sugar spared

When a table became free we glanced through the food menu.

It’s so full of things you’d find up a mountain that it felt odd not to have to ‘translate’ the prices. Sauerkraut £4.50; goulasch soup £5.50; spaetzle £3; Wiener schnitzel with potato and cucumber salad £16.50 (the priciest dish). So would the proof be in the, er, dumpling?

Our empty schnapps glasses

Our empty schnapps glasses

It turned out it was. Spinach dumpling with grated cheese (£7.50), served in a very new-looking cast-iron pan, was as meltingly satisfying as the last one I had, in the Hohe Mut restaurant in Obergurgl.

Classic salad with chicken strips (£9) was good, too, and generous on the toasted pumpkin seeds. Apple strudel (£5), which I requested without custard but with ice-cream (for which they charged an extra £1), had the requisite sultanas and melt-in-the-mouth apple, though the pastry was a bit tough. Overall, nicht schlecht!

This is what happened after the schnapps

This is what happened after the schnapps

There was a bonus to come, when, at 9.30pm, everyone in the place was presented with a schnapps – a decent-sized one, and not the throat-searing, petrol-fumed variety but something quite smooth.

A bell rang, we all sipped or downed, and out of the kitchen marched a five-piece band, playing “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemuetlichkeit” – which was brilliant until it segued into YMCA.

Translations, please! Something to do with Pisa and its tower, a fisherman and a worm, and then I am lost

Translations, please! Something to do with Pisa and its tower, a fisherman and a worm, and then I am lost

By now it was standing-room only, Bodo’s Schloss was segueing from apres-ski to nightclub, and after a second free schnapps it was time to pay the bill (£57.62 for four glasses of wine, three plates of food and a 15pc service charge) and step out into the October night for a Boris bike ride to Waterloo and a train home.

I’ll be back, and now I know it’s properly Alpine, with the trappings and trimmings, I’ll dig out one of my dirndls for the occasion.

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Filed under Austria, Food and drink, Music, Switzerland

30/3/12 – Where to go for April snow?

Spring-like Ischgl slopes this time last year

Spring ski deals have been landing in my inbox thick and fast this week. Inghams has amazing April savings – Courchevel or St Christoph am Arlberg for £349, including flights and half-board – while Powder White has slashed hundreds of pounds off holidays in St Anton and Meribel and extended the season for several of its properties. I’m sure Crystal, Iglu Ski and other operators and agents have bargains as well.

Most cut-price offers are chalet-based – not my ideal set-up as I prefer b&b or self-catering to take advantage of “local life” – but when such great savings are on offer, no matter.

Do be aware, however, that even in a bumper snow year it’s still worth aiming high (a top of somewhere around 3,000m, I suggest) if you want quality conditions.

Afternoon ski-touring in the woods near Anzere

Even if – like in many places – you still have a metre of snow at village level, if it’s 20 degrees by day then that snow will be foot-deep slush by 2pm unless you’re properly high and – just as crucially – north-ish facing.

Last weekend in south-facing Anzere, which still has mountains of snow in the village (at 1,500m), by 1pm it was over, even on upper slopes (2,400m). I was happy to ski in the morning and go touring through the woods in the afternoon, or sit on the balcony or swim at the great new indoor-outdoor pool (more on this nice, affordable Swiss resort here).

The high slopes at Grimentz last weekend

By contrast an hour away in the Val d’Anniviers, the resorts of Zinal and Grimentz had wintry piste conditions from three of their top stations (each around 2,800-2,900m), and the week-old, tracked-out powder by the side wasn’t bad either. The crucial thing was that the worthwhile top slopes were north or north-east facing (the fourth top, which faces south at 2,800m, was heavy slush by lunchtime).

The other consideration is that places where you typically find lovely “firn” or “corn snow” off-piste at this time of year (caused by freeze-thaw) may not be as good as usual.

A wet-snow slide of the full snowpack that started on a slope of around 30 degrees and crept a surprisingly long way

In Anzere you can often ski almost every square inch of south-facing slope safely during freeze-thaw if you catch it at the right time of day.

However, the cracks in the snowpack that appeared in December – after 2m of snow fell on warm, bare ground – are still there. They haven’t responded well to blasting, but some readily slide off by themselves.

Sunny side up: lunch outdoors is a pleasure of a spring trip. Just don't necessarily expect to do much skiing afterwards

“Hors piste interdit”, read a sign at the top of Le Bate at Anzere, and patrollers were posted at strategic spots near the cracks, on the alert for one to turn into something like the lift-destroying, wet-snow slide of a few weeks ago near Valmorel in France (watch the footage here).

I may not ski this April, but if I was planning a trip for myself – an affordable week or long weekend with the hope of off-piste and enough late-season après-life – these are the places I’d consider:

The Guspis off-piste run at Andermatt in wintry conditions - but this is a good spring bet, too

Engelberg (Switzerland, nearest airport Zurich) – slopes to at least 3,000m, largely north-facing; open till 29 May; great guiding office (see my article about that here).

Monterosa (Italy, Milan or Turin) – Amazingly, until this resort closes on 15 April this Italian “three valleys” is offering a free lift pass to everyone who stays three or more nights (half-board) in Gressoney or Champoluc. The slopes go to about 3,200m and face in all directions, and there are legendary off-piste runs down wild valleys (with cheapish guiding) and superb, great-value food on and off the mountain.

Andermatt (Switzerland, Zurich) – Lower Naetschen will be closed, but the 3,000-ish-metre Gemsstock mountain has an amazing north-facing bowl and various back routes. Read more in my Telegraph report here.

Zermatt (Switzerland, Zurich or Geneva) – several high tops and possible guided descent of Schwarztor. Stay in the Walliserhof for a treat or the Alphubel for a bargain. My sister has found a super-cheap, central, family apartment but it’s such a steal that it has to remain top secret so she can always get in. Sorry!

...and when the slush sets in, here's what you can do instead

Ischgl (Austria, Innsbruck or Zurich) – up to 2,800-ish, but the main thing is that it has a lot of upper slopes and they face in various directions. A year ago we had a lot of fun there with Jim Costelloe, a Ski Club of GB leader who found us fabulous snow despite very scant cover. A friend and I even did an easy self-guided tour up a side-valley – although this year it would probably be less safe.

Tignes (France, Geneva or Chambery I think) – When there was virtually no snow last November, we had great conditions on the glacier. Stay on the upper slopes throughout the area for quality snow and see here for more about its group off-piste days out. Go the first weekend of May to catch the Black Shoes Telemark Festival’s 20th anniversary. The other high French resorts (Deux Alpes, Alpe d’Huez, Val Thorens) should be fine, too.

Obergurgl and/or Soelden (Austria, Innsbruck, Zurich or Salzburg) – They didn’t benefit from the big weather fronts in December and January, which approached from the north and blanketed the Arlberg again and again before arriving in the Oetz valley as wind. But now, conditions look great. Take the bus to the Aquadome at Langenfeld if it’s boiling hot in the afternoon and don’t miss the Nederhut après-ski on Mon, Wed and Fri.

I’m a great fan of St Anton, where I have been late in the season several times (most lately to do the Weisse Rausch, a mad annual race), but I recommend it less as a late-season place than my two other Austrian tips, as the number of its slopes that are really up near its tops, as well as being north-ish facing, seems to be fewer for its size, and rather scattered about, compared with other options. But if you like a busy town with plenty of après-ski, this is still a good bet well into April.

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Filed under Austria, Food and drink, Italy, Link to article by Yolanda Carslaw, Link to film, Off-piste, Racing, Ski touring, Switzerland

9/12/11 – Why this winter’s jumpers are made for the Alps

One of my jumpers is pining for the Fjords

I’m no fashion expert, but I’ve detected a ski-chic theme to high-street clothing this winter. I’m talking Fair Isle meets Norwegian meets Austro-Swiss. The patterns this look involves appear not only on predictable garments such as hats, scarves and gloves, but on dresses, cardigans, wraps and jumpers – and on men’s as well as women’s wear.

Take a look at this lot:

http://tinyurl.com/5rtl9sw

http://tinyurl.com/cwp7gh3

http://tinyurl.com/bqnok26

This one is woolly and wintry

Yesterday evening I went late-night shopping in Guildford and the window of Gap, on the high street, reminded me of Aspen lodge scene from Dumb and Dumber.

As a long-time fan of these sorts of garments, I am joining in with enthusiasm. As I write, I’m wearing a striped cardie by Esprit that looks distinctly alpine, and recently I bought a long woollen top at Monsoon that has similar neat, striped patterns.

There's snow on my headband

It doesn’t stop at woollies. There is an implausiby huge choice of ear-muffs in Accessorize, which to me are a ski accessory. I wore a pair each winter aged eight to 12, both on and off the slopes, and rediscovered them in my thirties. I have two pairs, in rabbit fur, that I chanced upon in a gift shop in Devon. I often ski in them, either on their own or over a headband, but they don’t go well with goggles.

How hot is this hat?

Accessorize’s headbands looked disappointing, being un-lined, and I thought they’d probably “sag” quite quickly, and might not be that warm.

But their scarves and their gloves – including a massive choice of designs in fingerless form, with mitten fingers attached as a flap – were spot on.

In the Dale, at a restaurant in Hochgurgl, with guests of the original More Than Skiing

What’s annoying for me is that until a couple of months ago I had this winter’s perfect staple in my wardrobe – a Dale of Norway jumper. For the first time in the ten years I’ve owned it, it might have been vaguely cool.

But in a rare attack of “let’s get rid of everything I haven’t worn for a couple of years, and everything that doesn’t feel that flattering any more”, I bundled it off to charity. The other day I saw a man on the street in a Dale that looked just like it. It could well have been mine, and I have to admit it looked much better on him.

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5/8/11 – My his-and-hers collection, part two

It's a nice touch that his teensy rucksack matches her shoes and hat

Welcome to the second instalment of pictures from my his-and-hers library. If you’ve read part one (http://tinyurl.com/3pbzz37) you will know what it’s all about. Twin-suits roaming the slopes a deux, attracting a chuckle from people like me.

I was lucky enough one day when ski hosting for Inghams in Obergurgl (perhaps in 1997) to have my very own his-and-his in my group – a father and son in identical pale blue jackets. I remember them being very nice chaps and I think they had the plausible excuse that the coats were something to do with the family firm.

Matching Inghams guests, a father and son, around 1997

I wonder if hitting the slopes clad in his-and-herses makes couples more harmonious on ski holidays. Common is the sight of a bored husband waiting impatiently at the bottom while his wife slides nervously down.

Last winter a friend and I came across a classic on St Anton’s Rendl slopes: the husband fed up, planted in the middle of an icy red run and bellowing  unhelpful instructions at his poor near-beginner wife edging her way down. She would have been happier in ski school; he would have been happier on his own (and could probably have done with ski school himself).

A shame this Bogner-style pair didn't complete the look with identical trousers

There is an entertaining thread I found a few weeks ago on the Snowheads forum about skiing with ‘other halves’ – follow this link to read it http://tinyurl.com/3cesfpc. I am very much with the school that says be patient, encourage and wait for your slower loved-one – and it will pay off because you will eventually be able to enjoy skiing together.

Follow-my-leader, a great formula for patient couples

I met two couples who are brilliant examples of this approach this February in Fernie.

One is an expert skier who was repping there for the Ski Club of GB before me, whose wife only learnt in her 20s and can now easily tackle anything he can. It seemed to me his patient, kind and positive attitude had been a big factor.

Another couple I met were a complete beginner and an out-and-out expert living in a mobile home for the winter, with the express purpose of transforming her into a ski-fanatic. By the time I got there in February, she could ski virtually all Fernie’s off-piste runs – and many of them are seriously steep. Her husband-to-be got the balance just right between taking her down new slopes and letting her get her confidence on familiar ones.

Having said that, I also met a great family in which the mother stuck happily to the green runs near the base station and the father and sons ventured off to the steeps. All seemed perfectly happy to ski separately – there was no martyred husband being deprived of his fun and no bullied wife being told to turn on a patch of ice by a husband who had sailed on instead of giving her a patient lead down the tricky bits…

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Filed under Austria, Canada, Gear, Off-piste