UK’s ski slopes are perfect preparation

Skiers on the snowy slopes of St Johann in Tirol, Austria.
Skiers on the snowy slopes of St Johann in Tirol, Austria.
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Standing at the top of an Austrian mountain, I can’t quite believe I’ve made it.

But I’ve actually done the easy bit. It’s the next stage that’s going to be the challenge.

Get the skis lined up, bend the knees, and off we go!

Gliding down the slope, talking to myself all the way, trying to remember when to shift my weight from one foot to the other to turn, which knee to bend more, which pole to hold lower, and all the other things.

It’s easy to see why the skiers return year after year, waxing lyrical about pistes and powder and all things ski.

Sailing down the relatively quiet blue run in Austria’s St Johann in Tirol, there’s the same addictive adrenaline. And I even start to feel a little bit graceful as I get used to rhythmic turns, the sounds of the skis zooming over the snow, and the peace and quiet as I focus only on me and my skiing.

Needless to say, this is a long way from the rather fetching impression of ‘Bambi on Ice’ performed on my first day at the Xscape snowdome in Milton Keynes.

But thank goodness for Go Ski Go Board, a new scheme that helps you learn to ski in the UK, so by the time you go on your well-earned holiday you can enjoy the pistes from a normal view, rather than sliding down on your behind.

After all, there’s no point investing money on a ski holiday if you’re going to end up spending the first few days on your backside, or retreating shamefully to your chalet as a group of seven-year-olds make black runs look like child’s play.

Instead, you have three two-hour lessons before you go, meaning that you’re fully prepared to make the most of the slopes.

And the price includes everything, so you don’t have splash out on kit until you’re certain skiing is for you.

With a manageable small group of five, our instructor soon had us inching sideways up the nursery slop and snowploughing our way down.

Which brings me to Austria.

There’s no messing around on green slopes here. After picking up our kit (already knowing how to put boots and skis on is a great way of reducing the inevitable feelings of inadequacy when surrounded by seasoned skiers and boarders), we have a quick test run on the nursery slope and we’re straight on a chair lift up to the top of our first blue run.

St Johann in Tirol is part of the Kitzbuheler Alpen in the Tirol region. Perfect for beginners and families, it’s a great place for us to start, full of long, wide blue runs where you can hone your skills without causing too much damage.

As we perch on the top for the first time, it’s a quick yell from Harry and we’re off. Of course, this is pretty different to an indoor slope, but before long we’re making our way down with whoops and smiles all the way.

It’s pretty magical and well worth the journey.

St Johann is great for both mid-slope and bottom-of-the-slope sessions, from the Grander Schupf Restaurant, where you can tuck into traditional Austrian dishes of Wiener Schnitzel or Tiroler Grostl – a carb-heavy mix of potatoes and bacon, or the Angerer Alm, which boasts one of the best-stocked wine cellars in the Alps.

Now I know what all the fuss is about, I too will be returning year after year, waxing lyrical about the ‘powder’ and perfect runs. I’m living proof that skiing can be child’s play for adults too.

TRAVEL INFORMATION

Crystal Ski (crystalski.co.uk; 0871 231 2256) offer a week’s half board at the 4 star Hotel Brückenwirt in St Johann from £515, including flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck or Salzburg and transfers. A ‘first-time’ ski or board package includes six-day lift pass and equipment hire as well as five days tuition (four hours daily) and costs from £254. The Go Ski Go Board (www.goskigoboard.org.uk) programme includes six hours of instruction and is on offer at over 30 places across the UK. Prices from £135.