to a winter of skiing the Berchesgaden Alps in Austria, no matter how good (or bad)
one is, one can always grow in confidence and ability, achieving something new through setting yourself goals
to be achieved. Self-reflection can instill self-believe to push oneself and aim to achieve a personal form of perfection,
overcoming challenges and reaching and achieving aims, skiing the high mountains of
the Berchtesgaden Alps, close to Maria Alm in Austria.
in summer it is time to farm and take the cows higher up into the mountains, with their traditional Glocken
(bells) around their necks, which you will hear echoing across the valleys as they enjoy the high green pastures and you
trek the high passes. In winter as the first snows begin to fall, it is time for the barn to fill up with sounds
of shuffling, and neck stretching mooing, as the cows strain for their summer grass now spread as fodder; and your thoughts
turn to the high white peaks. Austria is very different to my home in Denmark.
There is a sub-text to the art and science of alpine
skiing and personal attainment. As you start your journey from the mountain peak to the valley, what has been engendered
in me: is the need to take complete control to know when to apply pressure or to ease off; not to look down but
to keep my eyes firmly fixed on my goal; to lean forward, always moving onwards; to know when to make that sweeping and carving
change in direction; to scan the landscape in front of me anticipating risk and danger; to be able to stop suddenly, when
the unexpected approaches; and then choose a different way. Most of all to relax with total confidence and become part of
the mountain, not trying to control it, fight it or conquer it, but becoming part of that all encompassing, enveloping nature
of the high peaks.
Suddenly as I ski, after a curving sweep
my eyes are fixed on my goal, down in the valley. I am not concentrating on how I should be moving, technically
what I should be doing, it is just happening naturally. Now is a moment of sheer exhilaration, no effort is required, I'm
skiing with and on the mountain, down and further down. Nearly there, I can see the Schihütte; journeys end. Pressure on the right ski, I sweep across the snow
and with parallel skis and a flurry of snow come to a halt.
Twisting, behind me, I use one of my ski sticks to push down on both bindings and free my boots from the skis, burying skis
and sticks upright in the snow, but also burying trepidation and anxiety, replaced by proficiency, adeptness, expertise and
accomplishment. I open the door of the SchihÜtte, there is no need to remove my boots and suddenly I am in a very different world. Laughing,
chatting, live music from the sound of an accordion accompanied by singing. Sizzling pans of Tiroler GrÖstl, are emerging from the kitchen behind the bar and being served to hungry skiers, some
with their dogs snoozing under the tables. Children and some very big children are tucking into their Kaiserschmarrn
and drowning glasses of Stiegl Weissbier; (Kaiserschmarrn; the favourite dish of the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph I,
consists of shredded pancake with local mountain berries and fruit, usually in Maria Alm blueberries and apple). Above
the fire in the corner alcove at an acute angle a wooden crucifix hangs, seeming to cast a blessing across
the animated and spirited room, affirming the positive gift of life.
As I find a small space and squeeze in between a window and the bar, hanging up my ski helmet, that most welcome
of words comes; 'Bitte'. I have my reply, already formed in my head and waiting, 'Ein groβes
Glas Weiβbier bitte'. Soon the tall slender glass of Edelweiss Weissbier is in front of me.
Outside it is now dark and silent, but then through the window, I see lights and noise pierces the air, tracked snow ploughs
like two giant laser eyed beetles are making their way up the mountain, to prepare the slopes for tomorrow.
It has been 'der perfekte tag'
(the perfect day) and the coaching has paid off, way beyond my expectations. I'm on my own now and know where I'm
going, then that line from 'Vejen til Sankt Gilgen' (The Road to Saint Gilgen)* is suddenly in my mind;
'don't follow the tracks in the snow, make your own way and reach your own destination'. The mountains
* Published 2019