Friday 20 January 2017

Sofa to Slopes: Andrea Smith tries to grasp skiing- 'The baby skiers eyed up this clumsy grown woman in their midst'

Published 27/01/2016 | 15:08

Andrea Smith makes some new friends on her skiing lesson
Andrea Smith makes some new friends on her skiing lesson
Andrea Smith makes some new friends on her skiing lesson
Andrea Smith tries snow-shoeing in Austria

It was another early start and I was reluctant to leave my cosy bed in Bad Hofgastein and go up to Angertal mountain to continue ski-ing and see Ian’s radio show being broadcast live. After a hot chocolate to fortify myself at the ski centre’s restaurant (they do amazing pizza there too), it was back on with the dreaded boots and onto the piste.

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I was amazed/disgusted to see that the other beginners were zooming down the baby slopes with panache, while I was still wobbly and hesitant. Possibly because they committed to hours of lessons in classes though, in fairness, which I didn’t do as a journalist who is exploring the area and trying everything out. So I was determined to nab Kurt Fuchs for a bit more one-on-one tuition and try to somehow master the art of ski-ing.

Kurt gave me lots of invaluable tips and advice, and I’m sure I tried his patience with my utter incompetence, and then I went off to put them into practice. I began feeling bitterly resentful as the other beginners were swirling effortlessly around me on the baby slopes, and couldn’t understand how even small children could be zipping along the piste without a bother on them.

Seeing them gave me an idea and I decided to check out the kiddie area, which wasn’t as busy as it can be at other times as the kids are in school. They have the cutest little runs with lollipop and teddybear markers in the kindergarten, and if people were staring at me as I wobbled in and out of them, I didn’t care. I ‘joined’ in a class with three young beginners as I felt they were at my level, and picked up a few tips from the budding baby skiers who eyed up this clumsy grown woman in their midst rather suspiciously.

Andrea Smith makes some new friends on her skiing lesson
Andrea Smith makes some new friends on her skiing lesson

After the ski-ing, I decided to go snowshoeing, which is basically where contraptions that look like tennis rackets are strapped to your feet and you can walk along in deep snow.  Snowshoes work by distributing your weight over a larger area so that your foot doesn’t sink completely into the snow, to make it easier to walk. It has become a popular sport among those (like me) who prefer low-impact exercise, and is a wonderful way to experience Austria’s winter wonderland. Our guide for the afternoon was Hans Naglmayr, head ranger of Nationalpark Hohe Tauern, and he brought us on a lovely walk through the forest, explaining all about the fauna and wildlife there, which I loved.

Afterwards, I got the free shuttle bus down from the mountain to the Festalm, where Today FM’s Poc Fada in the snow competition was happening. Hosted by the station’s popular sports reporter Paul Collins, and supervised by Killian Kiely and Aaron Murphy, Official GAA regional Poc Fada winners 2015, big-hitting Paddy O'Connell bagged the men’s 2016 title for Galway, while the women's crown was taken by Denise Cronin, former captain of the All-Ireland Camogie championship winning team of 1995, and sister of Cork hurler Patrick Cronin. Paul hosted proceedings with terrific aplomb and a never-ending stream of witty, and generally insulting, banter, and we all drank warming gluhwein and enjoyed the craic.

That evening, word got out that Declan O’Rourke was playing a secret warm-up gig in the Glocknerkeller, ahead of the headline show tonight with Mundy, Paddy Casey and Wallis Bird at the Town Hall. I nipped along and it was a brilliant, intimate evening, and Declan played a blinder. Then Mundy, Paddy and Wallis arrived, having just flown in. Needless to say they all took to the stage and the place was rocking until all hours of the morning.

Put it this way, I left at 3am and the party was still raging. It was one of those nights where the magic happened, with Declan’s Galileo and Paddy’s Saints and Sinners being particular highlights. The gang of uber-talented musicians also did some really great covers, including a great tribute to the late David Bowie. Bad Hofgastein was rocking to Bohemian Rhapsody at 2am, with everyone singing and dancing along and it was just one of those nights where you had to be there. Paddy’s 19-year-old daughter Saoirse took to the stage and is definitely one to watch and an amazing emerging talent.

I imagine there will be some exhausted and possibly hungover heads on the piste tomorrow, so tune in again to see how I get on with the ski-ing, and if I have graduated out of kindergarten.

Tune in to the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show live from Austria on Today FM daily from 7-9am.

Andrea Smith tries snow-shoeing in Austria
Andrea Smith tries snow-shoeing in Austria

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