Thursday 8 December 2016

Sofa to Slopes: Andrea Smith tackles skiing - 'I just mess around down the bottom side-eyeing everyone'

After successfully completing her Couch to Camino challenge earlier this year, self-confessed 'fatty' Andrea Smith tries to conquer skiing. This is Day Four of her mission

Published 29/01/2016 | 15:47

Andrea Smith pictured in Austria
Andrea Smith pictured in Austria
Paddy Casey, his daughter Saoirse, Andrea Smith and Declan O'Rourke
Andrea Smith with Mario, Ian and Mairead

I have decided that some people are not built for speed, cold or exertion, and I’m definitely one of them.

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Having persevered (in spots) this week with my attempts to ski. I haven’t exactly been successful. I’m not even good enough to go up on the nursery slopes yet, so I just mess around down the bottom, side-eyeing everyone else zipping along so effortlessly.  Am I jealous of them? You betcha.

The problem is that I didn’t enrol myself in a proper class this week, which would have been the sensible thing to do. 150 of the 600 listeners who came along on the Topflight Today FM trip were beginners, and by today, all were wittering on about blue and black slopes while I still hadn’t even come down the baby slope. Well, all apart from my new friend Rodney Dolan, who owns the Centra in Nobber. His mates Des and Fergal told me that he has been the king of the baby slopes for eight years in a row!

Aside from the fact that I’m awful at it, ski-ing is great fun. You meet lovely people, and it’s all very good-natured and genial. Angertal, where we were based, is stunning, and the views from the top of the mountains are actually breath-taking. I took the cable car up (and back down again obviously, I hadn’t lost my mind) and decided to ski down. There was a fantastic lunch-time concert organised yesterday in the café at the the top of the Stubnerkogel mountain, and it was just the thing to cheer me up when I was deva over my ski-failure.

It was performed by Dublin singer-songwriter Shane O’Fearghail, who has made his home in Austria, which may have something to do with his beautiful Austrian girlfriend Sabine. He and his singing partner Claudia Heidegger wowed the crowd with a fantastic mix of original material and covers, and everyone sang along with them merrily over lunch. I was even persuaded to get up and sing Jimmy McCarthy’s Katie but Mary Black can rest easy as I absolutely murdered it. My excuse was that the air was thin up there and I found it hard to breathe, never mind sing.

On the way back, we walked across the very dramatic suspension bridge, which gave the most stunning - if heart-stopping - views around. I found it much easier than ski-ing though. Putting one foot in front of the other on terra firma, even if it’s swaying, is something I can actually do.

Paddy Casey, his daughter Saoirse, Andrea Smith and Declan O'Rourke
Paddy Casey, his daughter Saoirse, Andrea Smith and Declan O'Rourke
Andrea Smith with Mario, Ian and Mairead

Later that evening, I wangled my way in on the very hard-working Today FM/Topflight crew night in the AnnenCafé on Gamskarkogl mountain. There were about 30 of us for dinner, and it was great fun. Paddy Casey, Mundy, Marvin and the Grooves and Shane O’Fearghail provided the entertainment, but a few surprise artists did a turn too. Put it this way, Topflight’s Tony Collins brought a touch of old-fashioned class to the proceedings with his rendition of the Red Rose Café, while Ian Dempsey paid homage to his hero David Bowie with an enthusiastic rendition of Starman. There were speeches too - and popular sports reporter Paul Collins regaled us with a quite frankly nonsensical anecdote that baffled us all.

Then it was up bright and early for the live breakfast show broadcast at Angertal. The radio station was set up in the restaurant and the whole 600 listeners came along and joined Ian for breakfast on air. They were not the only ones as Joan Burton, Wee Daniel and Ray D’Arcy were among the special guests who popped in, courtesy of Mario Rosenstock who arrived in town last night. Declan O’Rourke and Paddy Casey provided the music, while Paddy’s daughter Saoirse sang her way into everyone’s hearts. Watch this space on that teenager!

The atmosphere was electric, and the mountain was literally rocking with laughter to Mario’s madness . One of the listeners, Therese Byrne won the cost of her holiday back from Topflight, which was a nice start to anyone's day. Everyone danced and sang along and completely rocked out to the final song, Paddy’s Saints and Sinners. Incidentally, from what I can see there were plenty of sinners along on this trip, but what goes on in Bad Gas, stays in Bad Gas, as they say, and I'm saying nothing.

Tomorrow is our final day, and I plan to munch on Ian Dempsey burger for lunch, which is not as dirty as it sounds.  It is a dirty burger though! Tune in to read the final instalment of the Topflight Today FM ski trip 2016 with the Ian Dempsey Show, and see if I ever conquer the baby slope or even manage to stop complaining about it.

Watch Mario Rosenstock break out his best impressions for Andrea Smith:

Andrea Smith with Mario, Ian and Mairead
Andrea Smith with Mario, Ian and Mairead
Paddy Casey, his daughter Saoirse, Andrea Smith and Declan O'Rourke

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