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The final run

March 3, 2007

With Dave and Aggles re-boarded, the four of us jumped onto the bus down the valley back to Bad Hofgastein. A quick trip up the Schloßalmbahn and the necessary cable-car saw us quite adequately to the top of Schloßalm. One long run—the same as Dec and I descended the previous day—and our holiday would be done.

The summit was quite different to the glorious weather of the previous day. It was snowing heavily, and the light was very flat. We quickly got down to our first regrouping point—the first restaurant. Dave took back to the board like a duck to water, and Flo like a duck to an oil slick. At the restaurant, we had a quick drink, where Dec realised that he had spent the whole week doing his boots up wrongly.

A long, trouble-free toe-side traverse followed, at which point we stopped for a bit of filming. After a few days of flawless sliding-backward-down-an-Alp-while-singing-Danny-Boy-and-saluting, Dec did of course cock up the take completely. A steep but mostly unchallenging hundred metres or so gave us the ability to get a bit of speed up for a long flat section over a bridge, after which a few km of tree-lined avenues would give us the chance to sod around a bit. A thoroughly enjoyable rest break featuring a half-arsed snowball fight encompassed the incompetent-yet-contented theme which had been running so happily through the week.

The last few km saw a bunch of slow turns, the kind of which I’d been enjoying all week. We stopped toward the bottom for lunch, and another snowball fight, followed by the last few hundred metres of boarding, and then—at the top of the Schloßalmbahn—I unbound for the final time the board which had been the catalyst of my experiences for the previous week. Part of me was sad to see it go, and other parts—my calves—were overjoyed to see the back of the bastard.

After a taxi ride back to Bad Gastein, checking the boards and boots back in, the boarding part of the trip was done. A night of hideous entertainment was all that now stood between us and the bus back to Salzburg.  More on Power Unit tomorrow.

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Litany of Injuries

March 2, 2007

In the past week I (Dec) have done myself the following injuries:

Lower lip badly blistered from a combination of sun and tiredness

Jarred my left shoulder such that it felt loose for a day.

Blistered my left wrist through having my guards on too tight.

Scrapped skin off both wrists

Wrenched right hip

Broke the top of my ass which now has a lovely bruise

Wrenched my right knee

Cut my right ankle due to putting wrong part of trousers into boot

Stubbed the living crap out of the small toe on my left foot (by hitting it off the bed)

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Chasing Lifts

March 2, 2007

The chastening of the previous day ensured that the preparations for Day 6 were a bit more thorough. If there are ibuprofen sniffer dogs at Gatwick, I may well find myself in trouble.

With Dave and Aggles still on the dark side, Dec and I boarded up, and headed for the gondola up Stubnerkogel. When we arrived at the middlestation, we soon found out that the top gondola was shut, as a consequence of >100 km/h winds at the summit. With the only run from the middle to the bottom shut, we headed back down the mountain in the gondola, with clean boards. Not the best start…

A short bus ride down the valley to Bad Hofgastein was in order, to sample the delights of their funicular and cable car. Abbreviation-wise, I can’t see the words “Bad Hof” in the same sentence. It just doesn’t ring true…

The proximity of the funicular to the snowy forest brought some unexpected sights, such as two sets of convergent animal tracks in the powder, a patch of red snow at their intersection, then only one set of tracks leading away. You don’t see that is Essex. Except if it’s snowing in Basildon on a thursday night, of course…

The gondola was a huge one; a completely different experience to the 6-man efforts up Stubnerkogel. If Dec and I were ever going to fight on the roof, today was the day. I unpacked the ice axes in readiness, but the conductor chappie refused to let us climb out of the window. Bloody EU safety laws.

The sight from the top was stunning. A blue run meandered gently away to our left, and the whole mountain seemed to be crawling with people enjoying the beautiful weather and snow. It was at this point that things started to go wrong. It soon became obvious to both of us that my yesterday was Dec’s today. He just didn’t seem to get into things. After a few hundred metres, there was a restaurant where we stopped for a late breakfast of a colossal plate of breaded mushrooms and sautéd potatoes, followed by a gigantic strudel. Full, we headed back onto the slope to burn off some energy before we died of carbohydrate poisoning.

With wide, gentle pistes, I practised some of the controlled turns I had dreamed of the previous day. Having achieved the Mother Of All Faceplants (I believe Dec will fill you in on that later), I got up to realise that Dec was in a bit of trouble. In an innocuous low-speed arsefurrowing, Dec seemed to tweak The Shoulder. This could be sticky…

After soldiering on for a bit, Dec realised that he couldn’t really trust his shoulder. It’s completely understandable – with some of my recent spine-based escapades on the rugby pitch, I knew exactly what he meant. Too far down the mountain to get back to the top and with a cry of “Currahee”, Dec slung his board under one arm, and started walking down. I kept on the board, and much as the slopes were beautiful, it’s impossible to enjoy yourself when you know that a friend is in trouble. I mostly slid down at walking pace, or went for 50 odd metres and waited, to make sure that alles was still in Ordnung.

When we arrived at the top of the funicular, a recuperative Fanta was in order, followed by a train ride down the hill, and a bus ride back up it. Back at the Schloss, the sleep in the afternoon was a well-earned one for both of us.

A quiet evening out was – for me – marred a bit by thoughts of home, but a few drinks and a couple of games of poker helped ease me into bed for the final day’s boarding.

The two Pricks With Sticks are joining us again for the day, and we have a relaxing one planned. It has, however, just started snowing again. I must be the unluckiest person in the world – I came here for some boarding in some nice weather, but instead, all I get is this incessant snow. Bah!

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Where’s all the snow?

March 1, 2007

Day one. Thank heaven for big mercies. It appears that on a snowboard Mushy has the agility of cat. Well that was my thought until a rather too close encounter saw me eating snow. One of those moments where you see your whole life open up in front of you. It started snowing today, what a shame.

Day two. Having started to get the hang of this snowbarding lark confidence was high and we hit the chair lift with renewed vigour… then the piste, very hard. I sense a theme for the rest of the day. Good thing it is still snowing cos i’m beginning to hurt.

Day 3. For some reason Ant and I have been put up a group. God knows why. For all the skill we’ve shown over the last two days Archie must have told Aaron, snowboard instructor extraordinaire, to take Big Man and Ginger. Bricking it on the gondola on the way to slopes beyond our ability was absolutely unfounded. Quite simply the best snowboarding so far.

Day 4. It took 30 minutes on skis to realise quite how bad a snowboarder I am. I’m not a good skier. Fanstastic snow, we’re the most unlucky people in the world.

Day 5. Last day of skiing. More snow last night. Life’s a bitch. Fantastically sunny day today. Will hit the boards again tomorrow. Reservations made at Salzburg A&E. Food has to be better there than the hotel.

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The Pointlessness of Fondue

March 1, 2007

At the end of day two, we were invited by our rep (Scottish and as competent as their rugby team) for a spot of ‘traditional Austrian food’, schnapps and tobogganing. After a half-hour scaling of half the mountain we arrived at a dubiously rickety one man chair lift to hoick us up to our restaurant du jour. At this point it was snowing rather heavily – good news for the next day’s activities but less so for the idea of hurtling down on a kid’s toy.

Upon arrival at the top we had a nice warm Austrian Chalet awaiting us, with cold beer and that most preposterous of meals – the cheese fondue. Along with the joy of dipping stale bread in tepid cheese, one gets to eat meat dipped, out of sight, for an indeterminate amount of time. This is not the set-up for michelin-starred goodness. This is the set-up for crap meat cooked craply and dipped in crap cheese.

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Quotes of the week

March 1, 2007

You’re a horrible boyfriend.
Dec lays it out to Bingo.

What I need is a montage.
Dec couldn’t be arsed actually learning to board.

I’m terribly sorry, I’m a gentleman.
Ant, sliding slowly downhill, apologises after grabbing two handfuls of Austrian instructor funbag.

The next time I see a 5-year old I’m going to glass the fucker.
The talented wee bairns on the slopes upset an inept Dec.

I smell like a donkey sanctuary.
Après-ski, Ant gets a whiff of his socks.

A – I’m going to be the big spoon.
D – Then I’m going to be the teaspoon.
A – Cool. Fine by me.
D – Can Teddy be the egg spoon?

Ant and Dec discussing the night’s sleeping arrangements.

I don’t care who you’re talking to – hang up. It’s bang-bang time.
Ant emerges from the shower clad only in a towel and insists that Dec curtail his conversation with The Girlfriend.

I’m so glad SHOUTY’s not here.
Declan sees the bright side in the midst of a long-winded conversation about semantics.

Dec: There hasn’t been enough homosexuality on this trip.
A: Suck this and say that again.

Ant brings Dec up on a point of order.

I’m still obsessed with Ant’s wanking spanner.
A qoute by Bingo. Genuinely, I have no idea of any context in which this is acceptable.

L – Who sings this song?
A – Aaron Neville.
Dave – Gary Neville?

Dave refuses to hide his knowledge of soul music under the bushel of silence.

So is she all about the Lego and the bacon, then?
Dec questions a complete stranger about his Danish wife.

I’m having a problem with the snow.
Dave puts his finger on the problem with snowboarding.

L – Oh Christ, we’re bad. What’s snowboard speak for “Less than rad”?
A – DEG?

Ant earns mad respect from his boarding homies by breaking out jokes about scientific calculators.

I think I’m ready to go now.
Dec’s “Captain Oates moment” before sliding backward down an Alp.

But then I forgot I had a maglev installed in my arse.
Lawrence tries to explain away another of his sliding-down-the-hill-leaving-an-arsefurrow moments.

Dec – I was contemplating a serious blog post about family, friends, and syphilis.
A – I’ve got all three of those.
L – Piss off – you’ve got no mates.
Dec – And your family did all die of syphilis.

Stark reality is gently unveiled to Mushy in the kind, caring way that his colleagues know best.

Dec – Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Parlez vous Fraincais? Do you speak English?
Girl – Nederlands.

Dec tries to engage the 6 year old girl with whom he’s sharing a chair lift in conversation. Dec failed.

He’s young, dumb and full of cum.
Ant appraises the new boarding instructor.

I’ll pop a lid in your ass.
Dec gets street on the slopes.

I think it’s because you’re old and you suck.
A precocious 16 year old Dutch girl appraises Ant’s snowboarding malaises.

Ist Kapitalismus nicht wunderbar?
(Is capitalism not wonderful?)

Dec, while walking through a crowded outdoor bar brandishing an empty bottle of Champagne.

You never vote for us in Eurovision.
Enraged, a visibly shaking Dave pulls out the campest insult of the holiday, directed toward a random Maltese bloke.

Perl strikes me as a particularly effete language.
Ant plumbs the depths of his boundless knowledge of IT, to serve up some more wisdom to the admiring masses.

I know that one of them is clubs, and the other spades.
Amarillo Dec shows his poker face during a game of Cards.

And was the holy lamb of [thud]
Ant sings hymns down the side of an Alp while faceplanting the holy living shit out of himself.

A – You’re the most middle-class looking person I’ve ever seen.
Dec – If I were any more middle class, I’d be outside gunning down migrants.

Dec puts forward his candidacy for UKIP.

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And on the 5th day, god created husky German masseuses.

March 1, 2007

Bah. Bit of a shitter. With a day of free boarding ahead of us, Dec and I headed up the mountain in the morning, in high spirits. One run took us down a blue run, mostly for the purposes of finding out what route the blue run actually took. We were pretty bad, and took ages. On the second run, it suddenly felt as if my calves had been set on fire. Perhaps the previous day’s concentration on Champagne rather than cold showers had been a bad plan.

Whatever the case, I was absolutely shot. My legs just didn’t work. Turns didn’t happen. Straight runs didn’t end up straight, or indeed vertical. Traverses ended up as a heelslide down the mountain. It was all deeply unfulfilling boarding. It was nice doing something so very out of the ordinary, with such outstanding scenery, with a good friend, but I fel that my legs had kind of ruined the day. Seeing Dec slide backward over the crest of a ridge, singing Danny Boy at the top of his voice, and giving a salute just before he popped out of sight was one of the more surreal moments of the day. We quit after a couple of runs, and headed down the mountain in the gondola.

A relaxing afternoon saw a great massage by a short, burly, German woman, whose few lines in English included “Clothes on table please,” and “This tickles, ja?” Perhaps someone should have taught her “This feels like I’m driling through your scapula with my thumb, yes?” or “Despite their recent failings, it would appear from a preliminary inspection that your calves are chisled from teak.” Oh well, small complaints from an otherwise very relaxing afternoon.

A long nap in the afternoon, and a relatively quiet night has hopefully set things up nicely for a good day today. This holiday is in equal measures relaxing and exhausting, enjoyable and infuriating, faceplant and arsefurrow. I think I’ll cope with it, though…