Thursday 22 March 2018

Sofa to Slopes: Andrea Smith tackles skiing - 'I was as graceful and skilful as a Tellytubby'

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

Ready, set... go! Andrea Smith's ski-ing adventure is taking off.
Ready, set... go! Andrea Smith's ski-ing adventure is taking off.
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

After all the shenanigans of yesterday, it was time to get down to the proper business today.

My first ski lesson….. well apart from the time I went skiing with my school to Bulgaria as a teenager back in 1985. I wasn’t exactly brilliant at it back in the good old days when I was a mere young wan and had a thigh gap, so I wasn’t holding out much hopes that I would suddenly morph into Eddie the Eagle this week now that I’m less, er, flexible.

It was an early star again up the mountain to Angertal, and after watching Ian Dempsey get his hair cut live on air during the show by Stephen, a hairdresser who is one of the 600 listeners who have come with us, I was assigned to Kurt Fuchs, who is head of the ski school.

I suspect I was assigned to the actual top man in charge due to my acute special needs when it comes to fitness.

Andrea Smith gets ready to tackle the slopes
Andrea Smith gets ready to tackle the slopes

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

I was fitted for ski boots and a helmet and was given poles and skis, and there began the fun. I could actually hardly walk in the boots because they were so heavy, although everyone assures me that this feeling soon passes.

Even so, it felt like two small children were sitting on my feet as I walked, nay staggered, out into the snow. I was pathetically grateful for the LIDL insoles I bought for a euro, which radiate heat for 6-8 hours once you put them in.

Kurt was a very skilled, kind and experienced man, and he had infinite patience with me, although I was absolutely brutal.

A ski bunny I was not, because I was as graceful and skilful as a Tellytubby on skis.

Read more: Couch to Camino: My next challenge will be 'Camino to Couch' to put back on the two stone I lost - Andrea Smith

We did a few snowploughs and turns and I was astonished to find myself gliding along for a few metres every now and again. For Fuch’s sake, I did my best, like, but I wouldn’t say I was one of life’s natural skiers.

Have to say, it’s all a bit energetic, because there is so much you have to take in when you’re ski-ing.

The great news is that there is so much else you can do if It isn’t for you, and I met loads of people who love coming here to Austria but don’t ski. There’s snow-shoeing, which is basically a nice walk in the woods with special shoes on that I’m going to try tomorrow, and a whole range of winter sports, like snowboarding and tobogganing.

This place is devastatingly beautiful and the views from Angertal and Bad Hofgastein are breathtaking, and there is so much to see and do.

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

Obviously the aprés-ski stuff is amazing, and even when you have lunch, it’s like party time.

And she's off... Andrea Smith prepares to hit the slopes
And she's off... Andrea Smith prepares to hit the slopes

We stopped for lunch at the Hirschen Hutte, which was gorgeous as they had some traditional Austrian music playing, and the food was amazing too. Glühwein is a popular mulled wine here, and I found it perfect for warming up my cold, dead heart.

In truth I didn’t end up much better after my lessons, so much so that Kurt took pity on me and gave me a lift back in the Ski-Doo, a little snow wagon normally used for transporting children.

I was thrilled skinny to take the boots off and my feet felt as light as feathers afterwards. It is totally me and my general klutziness though, because everyone else seemed to be practically expert at it within an hour and the instructors are all fantastic.

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

Then it was back to bad Hofgastein for dinner  - update: the flirting levels are still worse than Coppers at 2am on a Saturday morning -  and then it was time to tart myself up for the evening’s entertainment.

Ian and his team, Mairead, Shauna, Charlie, Helen, Paul and Shane had organised a Strictly Come Dance-sing event at the Festalm, where the listeners were encouraged to belt out a karaoke tune or dance up a storm to win a €1,000 cheque from Renault.

Andrea poses with Kurt Fuchs, head of ski school at Angertal.
Andrea poses with Kurt Fuchs, head of ski school at Angertal.

To add to the fun, every table had a dance number assigned to it, so when your song was played randomly through the night, you had to stand up and do the dance.

My table was Gangnam Style and I’d like to think we threw ourselves into it with great gusto. It was such a laugh watching people rocking the boat, congoing and whipping and nae naeing all over the place.

Have to say the people on the trip are amazing. They’re all totally up for fun and get completely involved, and everyone chats and is so friendly.

PR guru Aileen Eglington who has been organising the trips since the beginning on behalf of Topflight explained in advance that there’s a certain amount of magic that just happens on this trip and I could really see what she meant

Everyone lets their hair down and there’s so much banter going on, and even though I mentioned all the flirting and intermingling that’s going on, it’s all good, clean, good-natured fun.

Tune in tomorrow to see how I get on with day two of ski-ing, although I feel in my waters that I was built for comfort not for speed. Tune in the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show live from Austria on Today FM daily from 7-9am for live updates.

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