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Toeless on Telemarks – The First Frostbite Report


Once again, it was time to join the ATSA in the small Austrian resort of Rauris for a few days Telemark Skiing.  This was my 4th year with the team and it has almost become a tradition in my calendar.

The journey over was quite an epic – 22 hours in a minibus crossing England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria.  The back was packed with dozens of skis and boots for the Army teams, but I did manage to spread out (if you can call it that) over a double seat for the trip.  It was worse than sleeping on a ledge..!

Much of the journey was in the dark, but when the dawn did rise, we didn’t see much.  Heavy rain and low cloud covered southern Germany and Austria.  What we did notice were the miles of traffic leaving the Alps as the Christmas holiday season came to en end.  I was glad that we weren’t sat in it…

Rauris itself is a beautiful little village, but the overhanging cloud masked the stunning mountains that surround it.  Rain had been falling for a couple of days and the snow looked slushy to say the least.  It was midday when we arrived and there was paperwork to do – welcome to a military run event..!  I had mine completed already and caught up with a few old faces whilst eating a well earned meal.  As ever, the Austrian food was excellent.

I had recently spent an hour session at the Snowdome in Tamworth and felt a pressure point building on my right foot from my boots.  ‘Do I leave it for a few days and see if it sorts itself out?’ I wondered.  Then my tired brain kicked in – no, get it sorted now..!  In so much of life, we put things to one side, sometimes hoping they will go away, but I find the best thing to do is get the issue sorted and move on.  I wandered down to the Sport Egger and received excellent service from Andy, the ski tech.  He worked for three days, altering my boots, until they felt like comfy slippers.  Quality, fitting and well maintained equipment is a vital part to any mountain, or indeed business venture.

For the next few days I had consistent instruction in improving my Telemark skiing.  The great thing about the ATSA championships is the about of excellent coaches here.  My skiing is difficult to say the least, as toes make a real difference, particularly in Telemark, so any help and advice is useful.  Why would I waste my own holiday time struggling and getting frustrated? (as many people on ski holidays do).  Get some instruction and keep improving.  I had instruction from the excellent Austrian Telemark coach Markus Dörfler.  We’ve skied with before and always been impressed with his skills, ability and patience (although the feel with your big toe and little toe exercise always stumps me).

I wonder how many of you in education or business employ top quality coaching and learning into your profession or business.  Perhaps you just prefer to bumble along, hoping all will come right..?

Snow conditions were up and down due to warm, almost springlike sunshine, which softened the lower slopes.  Snow was forecast, but only a little fell higher on the mountains whilst I was skiing.  This brings many problems…

Firstly the resorts winter prosperity depends on the snow quality.  Last year there was so much snow that many pistes were closed due to avalanche risk, but when opened they became a wondrous mountain playground.  Good snow brings in tourists, and money flows.

Secondly – Ski races need good snow conditions.  The British Telemark Championships bring many skiers and visitors into resort, but conditions test the best and a flexible approach to race piste, course preparation and running are a must.  The usual piste on the Kreuzboden was too icy and bare to allow competition skiing, so swift changes were needed to take the event higher up the mountain.  This brings problems in logistics and negotiations with the local authorities.  As I left, the changes were well underway, but proving time consuming for the organising team.

My visit was short – only 5 days and typically the morning I set off for home the snow began to fall.  Well, thats just the way the world goes.  I know enough about weather and its effects to last a lifetime, and I hope the pistes were refreshed enough to allow everyone safe and competitive racing.  Speed down the slope is fun, but it’s not why I’m there.  It’s the skills, friendship, laughter and mountain environment which attract me. I left with invitations to visit  a number of HM Forces occasions, ski in the Italian Dolomites and climb in the Middle East.  Can’t be bad…

My journey home was shorter than the drive out, but the UK public transport system has much to learn from continental europe.  My flight from Salzburg was delayed, therefore I missed my train out of London.  ‘You can’t use this ticket for another three hours sir, or pay over £70 for a new one’ were the words I got from the rail staff at St. Pancras, followed by ‘ I agree its ridiculous and far too expensive sir’.  Rail fares are increasing again, and although I agree that we should pay our way, will someone please explain to me how I can fly across Western Europe, cheaper than I can take a train from Derby to London..?  Nuff said…

But before I go, here’s a quote from the slope – A Snowboard Instructor was talking to his class in the middle of the piste (as usual) and said ‘never respect skiers, unless they are freeheelers’.  That says it all…

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