This year, Harrow’s annual ski trip went to Fanningberg in Austria. Our group of 14 pupils and two staff stayed in the beautiful and very traditional town of Tamsweg, in a very traditional hotel owned by the town’s ex-mayor, Max. Our hotel looked onto the town square and beyond, a very spectacular view of the Alps, our “playground” for the next seven days!
We were all very buoyant as we arrived at Pudong airport on CNY eve. We looked the part in our Ski Team cardigans and excitedly posed for group photos with our parents before heading through security. Some members of the group brought suitcases bigger than themselves, but this was a very smart move as it allowed for more space within which to conceal kilos and kilos of delicious European chocolate!
Our flight was on time, but we still managed to visit Starbucks for pre-flight snacks. On board, the cabin crew continually told myself and Mr Sleep how fantastic our Harrovians were, beautifully behaved and incredibly polite. We couldn’t have been more proud.
In Vienna airport, we were picked up by our agent and we boarded our bus to Tamsweg (not before I bought hundreds of chicken nuggets and French fries from a well-known fast food establishment for the group to keep them going until dinner!) The view from the bus, despite the sun disappearing behind the mountains, was stunning as we left the hustle and bustle of Vienna.
At our hotel, we were saddened to hear there was no lift, but the calories burnt carrying our luggage to our rooms were quickly reinstated by owner (and chef) Max and his delicious food. His adorable Austrian hunting hound Wenzel also thought the food was delicious!
After a lie-in in our super-comfy beds, we explored the beautiful town and got excited for the snow to come. We visited a wood shop where onsite carpenters make beautiful trinkets and souvenirs for tourists like ourselves and they personalised them with whatever we wanted. Countless steins, necklaces and keyrings later, we trekked back to the hotel to collect our lunch and to venture up the mountain.
It was great to have a half-day as our first “day” of skiing to get our legs in. For most however, it was their first taster of skiing and soon, they were fatigued from the countless tumbles on the nursery slopes. On the way back to the hotel, we pulled over alongside an untouched, perfectly white field for, you guessed it, a snow fight! Snow angels and snow balls were aplenty, and we very soggily re-boarded the bus ready for some hot showers (or in Tony’s case, a relaxing bubble bath with his sister Coco’s pink bath bomb!) In the evening, we thoroughly enjoyed Max’s homemade pizzas and playing Uno around the table.
On day 2, we were dying to get back up the mountain and get to grips with the most beautiful of sports. The beginners were quickly skiing (as opposed to tumbling) down the slopes and the advanced group were going all the way to the top of Fanningberg. In the evening, we went swimming in the town’s pool. What was awesome was that inside, there was a huge flume (down which Rianne sounded as if she was being murdered with her blood-curdling screams.) NB In fact, these were screams of sheer delight! But from the indoor pool, one could swim into a heated outdoor pool overlooking the mountains we had dominated that day. We all loved to jump in and out, getting freezing standing wet on the side and quickly jumping back into the delightfully warm water.
On our third day, I arranged a surprise for the group. We skied all day with our beginners taking their first lift. At lunch Flora ate 49 chicken wings (!) and we ate/drank delicious hot chocolates with mountains of whipped cream. When we got back to our hotel I beckoned the group into the town square where two beautiful carts drawn by four stunning cart horses were waiting to pull us along the streets of Tamsweg. We waved at the passers-by and took in some stunning views. I stopped to photograph the group and fell down two feet of snow on the side of the road. I was stuck, nearly up to the waist! No one helped me up, but snapped the comedy moment with tears of laughter in their eyes! At the farm, we met Fabienne – a very angry horse – some cows, calves, sheep, lambs and Herman befriended the farm cat. The farmer, Elizabeth, had made homemade cookies for us which were delicious.
The next day, again we skied and tumbled and jumped and skied and laughed and took lots of selfies with our amazing instructors. Luka, the advanced group’s instructor, was the target for Airlie and Flora who wished to push him over, but instead targeted me. Subsequently, an on-piste snow fight ensued. In the evening, we had a whole-group Heads Up tournament. With the deciding round being between my group and our rep Paul’s group, all was to play for. Sadly, having eaten too much food and drink, the “food and drink” round was too mighty for myself, Tianyi, Ryan and Candy, so we conceded. I had won the Uno earlier and had subsequently been banned from future games. Just call me “Card-shark Sleep”!
The next day, the advanced and intermediate group visited the snow park and Ryan gathered so much speed he took off. We now call him “Birdman Chan”! However, what goes up must come down and Ryan’s technical term for where he fell and where he hurt begins with “B” and has three letters! In the evening, Jody (another one of our reps and an all-round legend) took us to play Ice Stock. This is like curling and bowling mixed together. Tianyi, as it was his last night, chose the teams and we all loved getting to grips with this exciting sport. In the final, José demonstrated an inner natural talent for Ice Stock, carefully navigating his stock to the jack. However, in the boys versus girls game, José’s talent wasn’t enough to cancel out Mr Sleep’s lack thereof, as in the final stock, Mr Sleep shunted José’s out of the way to leave the girls victorious. We all guzzled down hot chocolates, Twix and Milky Ways and then spelt out ‘Harrow’ in the beautiful snow. Lynn took the prize for the world’s best snow angel.
After an action-packed day of skiing, we went back to collect our personalised wood gifts and I went off to buy mountains of prizes for our last night’s presentation evening. We all visited the supermarket where kilos of chocolate and other snacks were bought ready for our journey home. We then sat around the hotel and made beautiful thank you cards for our reps and instructors.
On our last day our amazing instructors arranged a slalom for us to do. We would all give the course a go and the best time in each ski group would be the champion. For the advanced group, Flora was the winner with 27.3s, in the intermediate group it was Herman and for the beginners, the winner was Tony. I gave it a go against Ivan, the intermediate’s instructor, but the stopwatch stopped working with my immeasurable speed, so I declared myself victorious! In the evening, we were really excited as our instructors came to our hotel to eat dinner with us and present our awards.
After a rigorous game of “rock, paper, scissors” to determine where each instructor sat, we presented Luka with new poles (as a certain Ryan took out his whole group, crashing into the poles snapping them in two), and we gave each of them their cards and gifts. We then ventured downstairs to the hotel’s 400-year-old cellar and boogied the night away to Gangnam Style, 5,6,7,8, YMCA and other golden oldies. Thanks to DJ Jody for dropping the beats! “Fashion!”, “Man-tights!” and other trip sayings echoed around the cellar! My prizes for each of the group were: Ice Stock Demons – Airlie and José, Trip Assassin (for her near murder of an innocent bystander on morning 1) – Lynn, Dog Whisperers (Wenzel will really miss those belly rubs) – Jacqueline and Candy, Ladykiller – Alex, Speed Freak – Coco, “Fashion!” – Tony and Lachlan, Piste Princess – Rianne, Best Eater – Ryan and King and Queen of the Slopes – Flora and Herman.
Our journey back was long and we were all really sad to bid farewell to the beautiful Austrian mountains, deliciously clean air and wonderfully friendly people, but have sworn to Max that we’ll be back and that we’ll see Luka, Ivan and Zoran soon.
Thank you Austria, you rock!