Back on skis – sore shins and recollections

To a non-skier or snowboarder there must be a level of bewilderment in purchasing what can be a fairly expensive holiday with the guarantee of cold and short days.

To have days of frustration, intermittent discomfort, to stand in queues for part of the day and to have your abilities exposed by local 5 year olds. Well after squeezing into ‘performance fit’ ski boots for the first time since June and remembering enough after 4 months to get on and off the gondola I took a few cautious metres of getting used to 2 the planks before letting them run a little. The acceleration of skis always surprises me after not being on them for a few months. On the Rettenbach glacier where I was to cover the FIS opening race weekend the wide slopes are perfect for getting some pace. I got to the media zone on the course and all I could think about was the speed and thrill I just had. Didier Cuche was metres away and his experience of speed that day would be very different to mine. Just as I watched a few years ago my ski group mimicking the schuss positions whist maintaining the snow plough, their thrill was no different to ours – their engines were revving, they were at their max. But for all the quick bursts of speed (on very forgiving terrain and snow) there was one highlight of the weekend that pulled it all together, that reminded me why millions of people make a winter sports holiday an irreplaceable part of their year. It wasn’t the immaculate accommodation I was staying in, the superb hospitality that we were shown by Solden tourism or the staggering spectacle of men and women throwing themselves down steep and icy terrain. It was on one of the gondola rides to get back to the media centre. When carrying my skis out off the lift station, I looked toward the horizon and saw the most staggering view but crucially no different than any other that I had seen over the thousands of times I had been on top of a mountain. I walked a few metres away from the lift station, not far but enough to isolate myself from the activity behind me and I just stared for several minutes at the beauty all across the horizon. The day was no different than any other with decent visibility at 3200m in the Austrian Alps and yet it still stopped me in my tracks. The minutes I spent there were the highlight of the weekend and there was some fierce competition – Didier Cuche, fantastic food, superb Otztal hospitality and a great place to rest my aching legs. The economy is hardly great and the euro worse, but stand on an Austrian glacier in the coming months and you will know exactly why you are there.

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