4624 Squadron Skiing Exped – a novice’s perspective

On the Hintertux Warrant Officer Russ Howarth front left

I had always dreamed of going skiing and it took until I was 52 to turn that into a reality.  Growing up as a child in a tower block in London, the closest I got to skiing was watching “Ski Sunday” on our black and white TV.  So, when the Squadron organized a skiing expedition to Austria, I jumped at the chance to go.

Landing in Innsbruck we were taken by coach to Lanersbach which was our base for the week.  The accommodation was a pension-style double apartment – females in one side and males in the other – it was a very pleasant home-from-home and only a short walk to the buses and lifts.  Kitting out took rather longer; for those who have never skied before, a lot of kit is required, and it is all bulky!

The instructors split the group into two – novices and those with previous experience – before heading to the Hintertux Glacier.  We stayed on the lower nursery slopes while the skiers went to sharpen their skills on more challenging blues runs.  Starting on gentle inclines to learn the basics, the hardest part was staying upright as it seemed unnatural to lean forward into your ski boots to keep your balance.  As the day progressed we moved to different slopes, each varying in length and incline, and learned how to use the travellator and drag lift – not as easy as it looks!

Hintertuxer Gletscher – cable car only access to the top of the glacier (3250m).
Hintertuxer Gletscher – cable car only access to the top of the glacier (3250m).

Day two presented different challenges.  After thinking you’ve got the technique and feeling confident to stay upright, a change in location and a new slope was enough to make me feel like I’d forgotten everything.  It took until lunchtime, a hot chocolate and a few shaky turns to nail this new slope (which was steeper and longer than day one).  But by the end of the day we’d learnt to parallel turn and stop and a huge sense of achievement was felt by all.

The better at skiing you become, the longer the ski lifts get.  By day three we had tackled another steeper, lengthier slope – this one at Mayrhofen – with its various lifts.  You were already tired by the time you got to the top from all the holding on.  Thankfully we moved onto the more scenic chair lift after that and the views as you swooped over the trees to the top of the mountain were breathtaking.  From the top we set off on a lovely blue run and all was going well until I took a wrong turn and ended up on a red run.  I’m not sure who lost their sense of humour first – me, or the instructor who had to come and get me!

Group Two (advanced skiers).
Group Two (advanced skiers).

After a well-earned day off to rest our muscles and recuperate we hit the slopes for one final day of exhilarating fun.  The group was full of confidence and we had a great day zipping through the trees (although I was glad to return my incredibly uncomfortable ski boots to the hire shop). To celebrate a fabulous week, and being freed from the boots, everyone enjoyed a lovey evening meal.  It was also an opportunity to thank the instructors for their help and patience and to show our gratitude to Warrant Officer Russ Howarth who had organized every aspect of the trip.

Boys Night In (SAC Steve Johnson front left).
Boys Night In (SAC Steve Johnson front left).

Be under no illusion, this is adventure training.  With 8 hours on the slopes every day, it’s exhausting!  You will be sore and you will be pushed out of your comfort zone by the instructors; however as a complete beginner you will walk away with a wonderful sense of achievement and the ability to ski.  I came away on a high, have learned a new skill, and will do it again.  It just goes to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

SAC Steve Johnson

Top image: On the Hintertux (Warrant Officer Russ Howarth front left).

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