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I WILL NOT FAIL! - Philippa Young, Obergurgl
Friday January 5, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

She could have been put off skiing for life, but nervous novice Philippa Young is back on skis for more punishment. Part 2 - Austria.

It's December 2017 and I'm sitting in a rental shop, in a sea of happy, excited faces.

All the chatter is about the fabulous fresh snow. And I'm feeling that wave of dread wash over me again. What am I doing?

"The boots fit, yes?"

Um, well they're actually stupidly heavy and it's totally freaking me out that I can't walk normally, thanks for asking ...

"Over there for skis. NEXT!"

My first attempt in the French Alps in April didn't go well. At all:

But I took a deep breath, (or "leave of my senses"?) and decided before I just give up, I'll try one more time.

And this time, I would plan things much better. I got searching.

"Best beginner ski resorts." And high up on every single list was the same little Austrian village.

ObergurglObergurgl, Austrian Tirol
















Next: "Last minute ski deals" Gulp. It's on that list too!

OK. "Patient ski instructor, nervous adult beginner."

Just a week later, and you join me in Obergurgl!

Let me introduce you to Harald Frischmann ...

Philippa & HarryWith Harald
















The closer the clock ticked towards the start of the lesson, the more my stomach churned. My legs were shaking, and not because it was minus 11.

But I hadn't cried yet. Big improvement!

From the nursery slope (oh come on, where else) I took another deep breath.

I looked over at Harald's warm, easy smile.

I looked up at the wide sweeping blue run back to the village. And I said to myself ... right. I'll do that by the end of the week. If I can't, well done for trying, but skiing isn't for me.

"Aaaaand let's go!" breezed Harald ... "Super, Philippa!"

Stop! What's that noise?

It's ... snow! It's my actual skis shisshing on actual snow!

Skiing in ObergurglShisshing!













A few rides on the button lift, one tumble. Time for a full lift pass.

Me! A proper lift pass! On day one!

Philippa Young in ObergurglIt's a lift...
















Up we went ... and there were mountains! Glistening, sweeping, snowy mountains.

Oh. And drills. Lots of drills.

Ski lessonsDrills















You want me to lean DOWN the slope? Are you kidding me? DOWN? I can't do this. I don't like it. It's TOO STEEP.

But for this to have any chance of working, I knew I just had to ignore what my head was screaming at me, and put my trust in Harry.

Far easier said than done. I knew he'd been dealing with people like me for years. But I had skis on. On a snowy slope. And I was scared.

"I would not bring you here if I didn't think you could do this."

Ski lessonReassurance time
















"Jawohl, Philippa! You can do this!"

And somehow, I believed him.

Ski lessonFollow me ....














"Super! Follow me!"

Next thing, we were back in the village. And I had skied there. On that blue run I'd been aiming to try on Friday! Wowzers!

Blue run, ObergurglThe blue run
















Day 2. Feeling sick again.

I kept telling myself Obergurgl is the perfect place for this adventure. Harry is fantastic. But feeling totally out of my comfort zone pretty much every waking minute isn't the most fun I've ever had ...

That afternoon, I did that blue run again, with my husband, Colin. He's a proper skier!

Colin KielyColin - a proper skier















After all the tears and rows in Val d'Isere in April, he couldn't believe the transformation. A smile! No massive row.

He wanted to finish off the day with a proper run, all the way from the top. So I got off at the mid station again.

I would do this by myself. No Harald. No Colin.

And I did! I raced off to get the last ride back up, and did it again.

SkiingI WILL do this














What's happening?

After just a few hours of Harry's encouragement, I feel I'm on top of the world!

Philippa skiingTop of the world!
















Wednesday. Something isn't quite right.

The. Boot. Room. The Room Of Doom. It means skiing is real and is about to happen ... and I realise for the first time, I'm not shaking.

It was forecast to be the best day of the week and Harald had planned that we'd take the short bus ride to Hochgurgl for a change of scene for our last session together.

After that whole week in April, feeling so frightened, getting nowhere, being bellowed at by a bored instructor on that stupid icy nursery slope ... how has Harry made this so much fun?

Ski instructorHarald and his trademark smile
















Too soon, it was time to say goodbye. Big hug. His trademark huge smile.

"Jawohl Philippa, well done!"

And I cried! I don't know how he'd done it, but in just a few short sessions he'd worked miracles! I would really miss him. (Thank you Harry!!)

The next day, Michael Zwischenbrugger was picking up where Harry left off.

The same calm, easy manner, endless patience ... but just slightly different ways of explaining things, a different set of drills, and it all started to click together.

Ski instructor & pupilWith Michael, instructor number two
















"Follow me please, Philippa."

You'd never know, but I really was trying to. I did my best to draw the same elegant swishes as Michael weaved his way across another wide, empty slope.

It just wasn't quite as elegant. Or swishy.

The wind had suddenly whipped right up again and even if I could get the hang of steering, as it got worse, I could barely pick out Michael's blue jacket just a few metres ahead.

Poor visibilityPoor visibility
















It was blustering up to 160 kilometres an hour! The lifts were stopped. And the only way down was a run that would have been much too difficult for me, even in perfect conditions.

But luckily for me, Michael knows people. Including Max. Who has a ski-doo!

SkidooMy lift down
















Um, so if I can't see where we're going, how can Max?

Easy. He can't either!

"But I know the mountain!" he said reassuringly.

Right in front of us we could just make out the charcoal-sketched figures of one of his colleagues picking up a family out of the mist, and with a few more sharp twists and turns we can see!

And back with Michael, it was one last time down that blue run down to the village. Gentle reminders about what to do, where to turn.

"Jawohl Philippa! Super! Well done!"

And all too soon it's time to say goodbye. I can't cope with all this crying!

What a week!

So, what have I learned?

Well, there are places far better suited to beginners than others. And instructors far better suited to us too!

Obergurgl was fantastic. Harry and Michael from Skischule Exclusiv were brilliant.

Infinitely patient, calm, encouraging and such good fun. I couldn't have wished for anyone better.

It sounds really silly, but who cares:  one of my goals this time was to have a hot chocolate, at the top of a mountain, and just for those few minutes, I would feel a little bit like a skier.

Hot chocolateHot chocolate up on the mountain
















Yes, I had to get the gondola back down the steep bit and back to the gentler slopes. But with Harry and Michael's help, I'd done it.

And genuinely, I can't thank them enough.

How was my week in Obergurgl?

Amazing! Absolutely brilliant. I loved it.

Would I go back?

Jawohl! Can't wait!

Coming soon.... Harry's Tip Top Beginner tips.

For more information on lessons offered by Skischule Exclusive, visit the website.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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