Learning to Ski

Tuesday, 24 October 2006 22:21

Learning to Ski
Bavarian Olympics
Paris in Springtime


A story from a Siemens work colleague, Noel Algar:

I have many fond memories of Ian, but a trip to Munich in January 1996 probably best reflects some of Ian’s most endearing qualities.

The business trip was a 3 day conference in Garmisch starting on the Wednesday.  Both Ian and Mark (Mitchell) were keen skiers and persuaded me they could teach me to ski if we flew out on the Sunday and had two days on the slopes prior to the conference.  I duly begged, borrowed and stole enough ski gear from friends and arranged to hire the rest once we got there.  We all met up at Heathrow on the Sunday afternoon and Mark and I settled into the Sunday papers on the plane, while Ian waded through his Internal Mail and post etc (this was pre email so no laptop).

At breakfast, as we prepared for a day in the Mountain Sun I recognised my first mistake looking at Ian and Mark wearing immaculate one piece ski suits (it was fashionable then !) while I looked like the man from the jumble sale in a borrowed multi-coloured collection of hand me downs. 

My first day on the slopes was a blur of me falling over on the nursery slopes and Ian and Mark helping me to put my skis back on and have another go.  By the end of the day Ian and Mark had me doing a Robo-Cop impression that involved lurching forward pushing either left or right arm forward to turn, and I somehow managed a gentle blue, without falling, much to the delight of my mentors.  That night, Ian and Mark convinced me over some gentle après-ski that having completed the blue in only a day I was the next Franz Klammer in the making.  Suitably buoyed up I agreed to leave the gentle Hausberg slopes and venture onto the more scenic (and challenging) Alp Kreussung slopes.

The problems started the following morning when we realized the Gondola was out of service.  We found an alternative button lift, which went vertically up the mountain and Ian and Mark quickly decided my new found skills weren’t up to it, which left the only option to walk.  Despite the protests of both Mark and I, Ian was off yomping up the mountain track above us.  My legs were already aching from the previous days torture and we now found ourselves trailing behind Ian behaving like naughty children being forced to go on the family outing.  It took us over an hour with many stops/protests to get to the ski station.  What struck me at the time was Mark and I would never have embarked on the yomp in the first place, but once we were in there with Ian due to his cheerful “we’re nearly there outlook”,  we didn’t give up and looking back this was Ian’s talent personified for motivating the unwilling.

Unfortunately my legs, which were none too keen at the start of the day now turned against me following the enforced yomp and I spent the next hour performing a “Bambi on Ice” routine, which entailed Ian and Mark rescuing my skis, which were making rapid descents down the more challenging slopes without me.  I decided at this point that I could only ski back at the Hausberg and Ian and Mark plotted a route back for me.

Unfortunately, this involved skiing down a tricky, narrow mountain road with sheer drops on both sides.  Ian’s solution was to be my brake man, which must have been hilarious to any observers, but basically involved both of us snow-ploughing with me running into the back of Ian whenever I was going too fast.  On the way down Ian nearly decapitated a female skier with a ski pole, who bravely tried to go past us both on the sheer drop side and came within a whisker of disappearing over the edge.  Ian was suitably chastised as she accelerated past us shrieking what I took to be Bavarian expletives.  We got to the bottom of the road without further incident to be confronted by a piste-basher blocking our way.  The Hutte we were heading for was directly below and for a good skier three quick turns and down.  For Eddie the Eagle (who couldn’t turn that quickly) it was a different ball game so we agreed my best bet was straight down then big snow plough to stop.  Straight down worked a treat, but as the steps of the Hutte loomed large the big snow plough wasn’t coming off.  I ended up falling over the top of my skis face down making a huge impact in the snow.  My language was appalling, directed at both Ian and Mark and they sensibly decided to leave me to calm down for an hour while they finally got to ski.

By the end of the day back in my comfort zone on the Hausberg, I had perfected my Robo-Cop style and was comfortably venturing unstylishly up and down my favoured Blue.  I don’t know how many people Ian taught to ski, but his patience and refusal to give up on me despite verbal and at times near physical abuse will always remain with me.

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This page was last updated Friday, 09 June 2006 11:25 by Tony Irving