Looking forward to a winter
of coaching, self-reflection and awareness, no matter how good (or bad) one is, you can always grow
in confidence and ability, achieving something new, if you have a brilliant coach. I'm lucky my coach is a
perfectionist, ultra-strict, exact and instills in me self-believe to push myself and aim to achieve my own form
of perfection, overcoming challenges and reaching and achieving goals, as we ski the high mountains of HochkÖnig, part of the Berchtesgaden Alps, just north
of Maria Alm in Austria.
While 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 coaching. 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.
When skiing of course there comes a
time when you must strike out on your own, without your coach, perhaps a good coach will sense when you're ready
to 'let-go' and you will also know when it's time to make your own way, applying what has been nurtured and has
grown inside of you.
Suddenly as I ski, after a curving sweep I am on my own, eyes
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