Are you thinking about going on a ski holiday but can’t quite make up your mind? Then read on.
For as long as I can remember my friends have tried to coax me onto the slopes.
“You’ll never catch me on a ski holiday. I’d rather be on the paddleboard in the middle of the ocean,” I used to quip.
But my attitude did an about-turn last February when, as part of the day job, I ended up on the pistes of Patscherkofel in Austria on a travel commission for Top Sante magazine.
Despite my aversion to cold climes – one day the mercury actually dropped to -20 degrees Celsius thanks to freak weather caused by the Beast from the East – I had an absolute blast on the four-day ‘taster’ ski holiday hosted by Inghams.
The package, as the title suggests, is a clever introduction for those hoping to learn how to ski for the first time, or perhaps for novices wanting to build up their confidence and rediscover the joy of skiing following a fall.
I don’t have a phobia of skiing (just the cold weather), but was attracted by the prospect of lesson-filled mornings (2.5 hour bite-sized chunks to stop information overload), followed by lunch and afternoons spent sightseeing and trying out the other winter activities the resort of Igls (pronounced Eagles) had to offer.
There was just one problem. Having never experienced a cold weather holiday before I had no idea what to pack for skiing plus the airline luggage allowance brought me out in a cold sweat – I always manage to exceed the limit when bikinis and flip-flops make up my staples let alone a pair of heavy snow boots and thick waterproof ski jacket!
What’s more, the thought of spending money on ski attire that might only be worn once held little appeal. The good news is I managed to find ways around the above and more so I thought it might be helpful to round up some of my discoveries below.
TOP TIPS FOR FIRST TIME SKIERS
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON SKI GEAR
Beg and borrow from your friends. One of my mates kindly lent me her Trespass ski jacket, waterproof trousers, thermal vests and leggings (I took three pairs) and a snood. Do invest in some decent ski socks (essential for keeping your feet warm and to prevent friction in your boots), Goggles (to protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays and to stop the snow getting in) or sunglasses, oh, and waterproof footwear. I managed to nab a pair of snow boots in the January sales, again from Trespass, reduced to half price. I chose a design that could be worn in the UK too, to really get my money’s worth. I also used packaging cubes – rather genius inventions for separating your garments. So I had underwear in one, thermals in another, tops in a third – you get the picture. They were so handy and made everything so easy to find.
HOW TO AVOID EXCESS BAGGAGE FEES
Initially, I tried to pack my ski jacket inside my case but it took up so much room and the snow boots were heavy too. (I know, I’m an idiot). Any idea that I’d look remotely fashionable on my travels (I never am at the best of times) went out the window when I boarded the plane wearing the full get-up but this freed up much-needed weight and space in the case. Thank goodness I did. It was freezing on disembarkation at Innsbruck Airport!
WALK WITH A BACKPACK OR BUMBAG
As well as certain ingredients, a rise in body temperature can set off my tongue swelling reactions so emergency medication and a bottle of water are always close at hand. I bought a tiny rucksack to store these, together with SPF 30 sunscreen to protect my face from the ultraviolet rays and snacks as I’m so limited in what I can eat. Whether you have allergies or not it’s also good to walk with a little something to eat to help keep your energy levels up. Skiing really does take it out of you, especially if you’re prone to the odd tumble. *Top tip: make sure the rucksack straps fit over your ski jacket.
LAYER UP WHILE SKIING
We had unusually freezing weather but layering up really helped me stay warm. I wore thermal leggings, a thermal vest, a thermal tee-shirt, a Blaze Wear Heated Base Layer top, a fleece and then my ski jacket and ski trousers. I preferred gloves over mittens as I could grip the poles better. With my MCAS, I have to try and regulate my body temperature so it was good to know I could whip something off if the need arose. I always take a strong antihistamine before any form of exercise as a precautionary measure.
ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME
Head to the slopes at least an hour before your first lesson. We were in the hands of our trusty instructor Stefan at the Ski and Snowboard Schule Innsbruck in Patscherkofel but before we could get up close and personal with the snow we needed to fill in forms, undergo ski and helmet fittings, and find our lockers. There are plenty of staff on hand to help but it can get busy so allow enough time so that you’re not rushed and feel comfortable, especially if you’re a panicky person like me.
CHOOSE A RESORT THAT HAS EVERYTHING ON YOUR DOORSTEP
The resort of Igls is just 12km drive from Innsbruck Airport which means you’ll be checked into your hotel before you know it. We stayed at the enchanting Sporthotel Igls, which dates back to 1889. It has a spa area and pool – so don’t forget your cossie or trunks – and a grand roaring fireplace. The great thing about this location is that Innsbruck is just a ten-minute ride on the free J bus, which can be caught outside the hotel. It also takes you to Nordkette.
OTHER THINGS TO DO ON A SKI TRIP TO AUSTRIA
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the ski slopes try a winter wonderland hike through the forest wearing snowshoes – footwear that resembles giant tennis rackets. We took a cable car to the summit of Patscherkofel and disembarked through Narnia-esque forest littered with fresh deer and rabbit tracks. Astonishingly, the magic continued to unfold when sparkling glitter appeared to swirl all around us. Our guide explained this was something known as ‘diamond dust’, a natural phenomenon that happens when it’s too cold for ice crystals to form snowflakes.
HEAD TO NORDKETTE
On the day we took the cable car up to Nordkette it was -22 degrees Celsius which made it all the more exciting for me as I’d been to Austria the previous summer and taken the exact ride up to the Seegrube restaurant at the top. Back then the view was of the lush green forest; this time around my breath was taken away by the fairy-tale snowy scene below. At the top, my group tucked into Tyrolean treats – like dumplings – and whipped-cream-topped hot chocolates, while I stuck to my boring but essential low histamine diet. We also ventured inside a ‘real’ igloo, which operates as a nightclub during the winter months.
GIVE CURLING A GO
A notable highlight was trying curling for the first time. The location was an outdoor ice rink, a 15-minute walk up the hill from our hotel; the soundtrack was 90s Eurotrance which brought back many a teenage holiday memory. It was tremendous fun and the sunset views of the mountains were simply stunning. Mindfulness at its best!
Try out the Olympic Bobsleigh Run in Innsbruck, Igls
Um, yes. We found ourselves on the Olympic Bobsleigh run hurtling down the track at 100km/h speeds. Most of us screamed the entire way down and it was over in around 60 seconds. I wish I hadn’t kept my eyes shut the entire time now but you live and learn. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted – if you’re an adrenaline-junkie you’ll love it.
Are you novice skier or a seasoned pro? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. If you enjoyed this piece you might like to read our other travel posts on Barbados, South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Austria (in the summer) and what happened when I tried cruising for the first time on the world’s largest cruise ship Symphony of The Seas.
**Inghams offers a four-night ski holiday from £639, including flights, transfers and half-board accommodation at the Sporthotel Igls. Lift passes, equipment hire and tuition can be pre-booked through Inghams. For further details and departure dates call 01483 791 114 or visit www.inghams.co.uk. For more information on Igls visit www.innsbruck.info/en and for information on the region visit www.tyrol.com.