Sunday 25 September 2016

Sofa to Slopes: Andrea Smith tackles skiing - 'I hope there isn’t a big bang when I go on my ear down the piste'

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

Published 25/01/2016 | 15:57

I’m not a fan of the cold, nor am I made about getting up off the sofa, and I don’t favour exerting myself much.

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However, I love a bit of fun, so when an opportunity arose to tag along with the Topflight Today FM annual ski trip, I jumped at it. The Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show has broadcast from Austria for a week every year for the past 17 years, and as a fan of the show, I’ve always envied those who go on it as it sounds like they’re having a ball.

Mairead Ronan and Andrea Smith are in Austria with Ian Dempsey's Topflight Today FM annual ski trip
Mairead Ronan and Andrea Smith are in Austria with Ian Dempsey's Topflight Today FM annual ski trip

Once I had signed up, the catch was that I’d have to take part in the actual ski-ing and other snow-related activities, rather than just partaking of the aprés-ski shenanigans. So once I reluctantly agreed to that pesky clause, I gathered at Dublin airport with Ian and the crew and the 600 listeners of the show who were coming with us.

Read more: Couch to Camino: Andrea Smith is 25km down... but it's not the 'gorgeous walk in lovely weather' she was sold

Packing was a mare as I tend to come under-dressed for any occasion. Catch me in the depths of winter, and my flimsy cardigan will be billowing behind me as I walk along. As a teenager, I once rocked up to do a leg of the Wicklow Way in pink canvas dolly shoes, which is still mentioned decades later by those who were with me. I don’t own a coat, only a scruffy, flimsy jacket that I use to walk the dogs.

I ordered a few bits online like gloves and boots, and some concerned family members rowed in to help. My lovely sister-in-law Marie bought me several cute hats and scarves, and my mother Eileen bought me thermal underwear, afraid I’d freeze to death. As I’m a fatso, she went for men’s size, so I was a bit disconcerted when I realised that the men’s long johns had a pouch for my willy!

Read more: Couch to Camino: 'The weather is like Doomsday... and the temptation of a taxi is strong' - Andrea Smith  

Imagine I broke my leg on the piste (which is not outside the bounds of possibility as I’m as graceful as a baby elephant) and the paramedics had to cut off my trousers? They’d certainly get a surprise when my pouch popped out.

Aileen Eglington, Declan O'Rourke and Andrea Smith are in Austria with Ian Dempsey's Topflight Today FM annual ski trip
Aileen Eglington, Declan O'Rourke and Andrea Smith are in Austria with Ian Dempsey's Topflight Today FM annual ski trip

If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all, so when my case trundled its way around the carousel in Salzburg airport, one of the wheels had been torn off in transit. There was a gaping hole in the bottom of the case, out of which poked, well I’m sure you can guess which item of clothing out of ALL the items in the case?

We arrived at Bad Hofgastein, which is the most picture-perfect, snow-covered little town you can imagine. Imagine twinkling lights and chocolate-box houses and you’ll get an idea. I’m staying at the lovely Hotel Palace, along with 90 other Irish people, and the amount of flirting that is going on over our meals is astounding. Maybe it was all the fresh air and exercise, but over dinner on the first day, I was highly entertained watching all the groups of guys and girls shamelessly chatting each other up. I even got chatted up, and that’s a miracle in itself, and I picked up a few tips, so all I can say is that the Ian Dempsey crew should be charging dating agency fees for people coming on the trip! As a side note, several couples have met and got married through past trips but that’s another story.

The Today FM studio is painstakingly put together on Angertal mountain, where the ski-ing and winter sports takes place. The surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful, and as I watched three-year-olds zipping along expertly on their skis, I was feeling a little bit inadequate. My lessons start later today so I had a reprieve for the first day anyway, which was a relief. It’s all I can do to manage staying upright in the snow as it is.

Read more: Couch to Camino: 'Maybe the peace got to my head a little, but I began to feel really grateful for my life' - Andrea Smith  

On the first night, Ian held a welcome party at the Festalm, which is our fabulous social gathering place for the week. He welcomed everyone to the trip as did Tony Collins, owner of Topflight and Mayor Fritz, the mayor of the town, and we grooved away for the night to fantastic Irish band, Marvin and the Grooves, who are the trip’s official aprés-ski band. Not to be outdone, Austrian dancers Brauchtumsgruppe Dorfgastein did a bit of dancing and played music, which the Irish gaily, and less gracefully, joined in on.

With a 5am start, the Today FM crew didn’t party through the night, but word has it that many of the listeners did. I’m saying nothing. What goes on tour, etc. I was in bed before midnight, of course, like the Cinderella that I am. As pure as the snow I’m going to be expertly zipping down by the end of the week.

Andrea Smith is in Austria with Ian Dempsey's Topflight Today FM annual ski trip
Andrea Smith is in Austria with Ian Dempsey's Topflight Today FM annual ski trip

The next morning, singer Declan O’Rourke and I were up early - separately of course - to take a taxi to the Angertal. There were loads of early risers there to watch the show broadcasting, and the crowd were thrilled when Declan sang his hit, No Brakes, with the lyrics changed to encompass aspects of the ski trip. The show went off with a bang, launching the week in great style. Let’s hope there isn’t another big bang when I go on my ear down the piste during my lessons later on.

Tune in every day this week for my blog on Independent.ie to see how I fared (and if I scored!) and listen to the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show live from Austria on Today FM daily from 7-9am.

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