Herwig Kolzer is Regional Manager of Holland, Denmark, Belgium and the UK for the the Austrian National Tourist Office, based in Amsterdam. He’s well-versed when it comes to the challenges facing anyone who wants to get back into skiing after a lapse – he started skiing when he was 7 years old, but after an accident aged 19, didn’t rediscover his love for the sport until he was 30.
Are you wondering whether to take the plunge and go back to skiing, or do you have a long list of reasons why you just won’t be able to? How long has it been since you last skied? Five years? Ten years or more? You might have found it too expensive – what with paying the mortgage and/or bringing up your children, and maybe your other half wasn’t that keen anyway.
Whatever your opinion, here are ten reasons why some people might think it’s too late to have another go:
1. I’m Not Fit Enough
Then get fit before you go. The internet is groaning with ski fitness guides: but if you want something a little more sociable or outdoorsy you could try cycling, going on long walks, or joining a fitness class. Yoga and pilates can help with core strength and flexibility, too.
I’m not saying you have to become a fitness fanatic – just get yourself into basic shape. If you spend 48 weeks behind a desk and sitting on your sofa at weekends, your body is going to seriously complain when you take six hours of exercise a day during your holiday. If you can run up an Underground escalator or two flights of stairs and not be knackered, you’re moving in the right direction.
One more thing: you should book at least one session on an indoor real-snow slope. They’re a great introduction to sliding on snow for beginners: even better for those who haven’t touched a ski boot in years and need to remind themselves what it feels like.
2. I’m Too Old
You’re never too old to learn – or to improve! Yes, it’s ideal to start when you’re a small child, but not everyone has the opportunity or money to do so. But it’s certainly possible for reasonably fit people of any age to go back to skiing again, even after a long time away from the sport.
I would strongly advise you to take some refresher lessons at ski school, but there’s no need to ski all day every day. Skiing is just as much about the experience of being in the mountains, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and having a fantastic lunch in a mountain restaurant.
3. It’s Too Expensive
It needn’t be. Go during low season, choose a less well-known resort, drive out and self-cater, wait for a last-minute bargain or book an all-inclusive package, such as this Inghams one to Kuhtai. Chalets can work out cheaper too, like this Ski Total one in Ischgl, as they include half board, afternoon tea, and wine with dinner.
Bear in mind that not all ski resorts cost the same when it comes to the incidentals, either. Take lunch for example. I know lots of restaurants where you can buy a filling Wurstl mit Senf und Brot (two frankfurters with mustard and bread) for about €4.20, or a mighty, meaty bowl of Gulaschsuppe mit Brot (goulasch soup with bread), for around €6.
4. It’s So Long Since I Last Skied That Equipment Has Changed
Yes, but it’s made skiing a lot easier! Instead of the long narrow planks of old, skis are now shorter and wider, giving you a lot more stability and ease of turning. It’s easy to read all about the latest equipment on the internet and you’ll be able to try out lots of different skis at your resort’s local rental shop.
5. My Ski Clothing Is Out of Date
Clothing has changed a lot in recent years. But you don’t want to buy everything new, so see what you can hire or borrow from friends. Alternatively, retro clothing is now in – so you can dig out your dayglo one-piece and actually wear it on the slopes!
Remember though that fabrics have improved a lot over the years, so modern clothing is a lot warmer and more weatherproof.
6. My Ski Technique Will Be Too Old Fashioned
If you really haven’t skied for a long time and are still in the old school of legs-locked-together style, then watch lots of videos online to get the idea before leaving home. The very first day back at ski school will show you how to change your technique and after a week you’ll be every bit the 21st-century skier!
7. I’ve Had an Injury and I Might Hurt Myself Again
Equipment and accessories may have come a long way since last time you went skiing, and you can now buy off-the-shelf knee braces, spine supports, wrist splints and all kinds of other aids to give you more confidence and to strengthen the weaker parts of your body.
Never say never – for most people it should be perfectly possible to get back to skiing, as long as they get themselves reasonably fit beforehand. If you’ve had an injury in the past, it would be a good idea to get checked out by a physio before you go.
8. The Slopes Are Very Crowded These Days
They can be in some of the larger resorts in the peak weeks of Christmas/New Year, February half term and Easter, but but you could avoid them by going out of season in January or March. The slopes will be a lot emptier. If that’s not possible because you have school-aged children, then book into a smaller resort at the end of a valley – such as Obergurgl, or Bad Kleinkirchheim which is a long way from anywhere.
It’s unlikely that either of them will attract the weekend crowds. Alternatively try one with an ultra modern and fast lift system, like Ischgl.
9. The Resorts Are All Concrete Monsters
No they’re not! Have you ever seen the pretty little huddle of hotels and guesthouses around the church in Alpbach? Or tried your hand at curling on an open-air ice-rink in Seefeld? In fact there are pretty villages and towns scattered right across the Alps, and many of them have managed to keep their character despite their success as mountain resorts. St Anton is an obvious example. So too are Kitzbuhel and Zell am See.
10. There Might Not Be Enough Snow
Yes, global warming is certainly here. If you’re planning on going early or late in the season then it’s a good idea to stay high, and choose a resort such as Obergurgl or Obertauern where you will be sure of getting decent snow.
Glacial resorts like Kaprun, Hintertux and Solden even have skiing in summer, which is an ideal way to combine skiing in the morning with other activities such as cycling, hiking, tennis, golf, sailing or going to a high-altitude activity park.
What Do You Think?
Hopefully this gives you a starting point if you plan on getting back to the mountains this season or next. I’d love to hear your thoughts though – if you have your own story about getting back to skiing, please leave it in the comments box below.
Also see our feature on The Best Skiing in Austria.