An Australian in Austria: ‘What it was like learning to ski in the Alps’

Jul 19, 2019
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Wendy and her friend travelled overseas in their 20s and learned to ski in the Austrian Alps. (Photograph posed by model) Source: Getty Images

When I was in my 20s I did what all the single people at that time were doing. I went on an adventure. Actually, my two girlfriends and I got on a ship and sailed off to England. We were supposed to go via the Suez Canal, but because of a conflict we went via the Panama Canal. We didn’t care as we were leaving Australia to seek greener pastures on the other side of the world.

Two of us were going to work in the Commonwealth Bank in London for six months and be tourists for the other 12 months. The other was going to pick up work over there.

When we had completed our six months we decided to go to Austria over Christmas where we’d find some poor sucker to teach us how to ski. We also got ourselves a 30-day Eurail pass so we could get on and off trains whenever we wanted to.

The skiing was a bit of a disaster. I started off in the beginner’s group and that’s where I stayed. My friend went up to the next level. I was good at turning right, but my brain just would not send the right message through so if I wanted to turn left I had to fall over and then get up again. I was very good at that. I remember I was hurtling down a hill and this older couple got in my way. I went sailing through and all I could see were legs and arms and skis flying through the air. I think they said some words but I was gone.

At the end of my lessons there was to be a race where we had to ski down the hill going around a lot of pegs. They told me that when I was halfway down they’d yell out and I was to smile and they’d take my photo.

The day of the big race came and outside was a blizzard, but the show was to go on. I wore a yellow anarak and yellow ski pants, so they weren’t going to miss me.

When it was eventually my turn, I went skiing down the hill. I got halfway down, people were yelling at me so I turned my head and gave them my best smile and skied all the way down to the finish line still on my feet. I was so pleased.

My friend didn’t have the same luck. When she lined up with the others in the more skilled group, she got halfway down and fell over.

I was so happy because on the award night I was going to get a gold medal. I could wait.

Awards night came round, I got up to accept my gold medal and when I accepted I gave a big beaming smile that looked at it. It was bronze. I was bemused. What was going on. I soon found out. When I was skiing so brilliantly down that hill, I missed half the pegs. That was why the crowd was yelling. They weren’t telling me to smile, they were telling me to go back. But I couldn’t have gone back because to do so would have involved a left-hand turn, and we all know what that meant…

What skill have you learned while travelling? Is a trip to the snow on your bucket list?

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