Ski Holidays 2004 - Dot and Tony's Story

By your roving reporter, Shaun the Sheep

We did very well this year, managing 3 weeks actual skiing, in France, Austria and Italy. It all started off very well, but things took a turn for the worse later on. More about that later.

We started the year by going with the Ski Club to Val d'Isère. This was an excellent holiday, despite the somewhat miserable weather, and the meals at the Club Hotel Ducs de Savoie were by far the best we have had on a Ski Club holiday. Even the house wine was of good quality! The hotel was well situated in the centre of Val d'Isère, very handy for the shuttle bus stops or access on foot to the Bellevarde area.

Despite the less than ideal weather, cloudy, cold and windy, we managed to ski everyday. On the last day the sun finally came out, with blue sky and loads of good snow, and as a result, the World and his family decided to make the trip to Les Brevieres This caused some problems with crowding on the black run down from the Aiguille Percee and serious problems with getting a meal in Les Brevieres. Fortunately we had gone prepared with sandwiches, snacks and drinks. All in all a very good holiday - well done Paul! - it was a shame you were not able to come with us.

We followed this up with three weeks in our motorhome. Tony's daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Danny, were going to Obergurgl in Austria, so we decided we would meet them for a week and then move on to Italy to meet up with Ernie and Marjorie Di Rollo and their motorhome to ski in northern Italy.

Everything started well - we crossed from Dover to Calais and drove through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, en route to Austria. On the second day, on the autobahn just outside Stuttgart, our holiday came to a sudden stop, or rather our motorhome did. We pulled off, put out the red triangle and tried to contact the breakdown service - no phone in the emergency phone box! In the meantime, while Tony was away trying to phone, a breakdown patrolman had spotted our triangle and came to our aid. He was excellent! He diagnosed that the timing belt had broken and smashed the engine - we were going nowhere! His English was pretty good but he called up a friend on his mobile phone who spoke excellent English and she relayed his instructions to us. Unfortunately it was Sunday and everywhere was shut - all he could do was arrange for a breakdown truck to take us to a Volkswagen repair garage in Stuttgart and leave us on the forecourt until the workshops opened on Monday morning. So we spent the night there and spent the afternoon walking round Stuttgart.

At 7am next morning, the workshops opened and our vehicle was taken in. A check revealed that the patrolman had been right in his diagnosis and that the repair work would take all day and possibly the next morning. So we booked into a hotel for the night and spent another day walking round Stuttgart! We eventually got our vehicle back at about 10am on the Tuesday morning and set off again for Obergurgl.

The service we received from Volkswagen in Stuttgart was exceptional - they worked hard all day, putting off some of their scheduled service work, to get us back on the road. They even sent an email in German to the campsite we had booked in Solden, explaining the situation and asking them to hold our booking. If only we got the same quality of service in England!

So, two days late, we eventually arrived in Solden. The campsite, Camping Solden, was excellent, with superb facilities, including an incredible sauna and steamroom complex, a climbing wall and a fitness suite. The only complaint we had was that the vans were very close together, which made getting our van in and out, to travel to and from Obergurgl, very awkward.

We met up with Sarah and Danny in Obergurgl and had three days of excellent skiing, with superb sunny weather and great snow. Since we last went to Obergurgl some years ago, several new lifts have been installed and others modernised, making the whole area much easier to get around. Tony decided that he would ski over a small building that was half-buried. However on getting on to the roof he discovered that he had not got enough speed to clear it and promptly took a headplant into the snow. Unfortunately I was on his back and took the full impact - so much for friendship!

After Sarah and Danny had gone home, we decided to do a ski route in Solden called "The Big Three". This was a 50km ski route, taking in three mountains over 3000 metres high, with 10000 metres of vertical descent. It was superb! The views were incredible and we even skied through a tunnel though the rock beneath the glacier. The skiing was nowhere difficult and the signing excellent. We strongly recommend it to any competent skier going to Solden. We did it in four hours, which amazed us - we thought it would take us all day. The next day, our last in Solden, we spent on our cross-country skis, walking up the piste with skins and skiing through the forest, before making our somewhat slow return down the piste, using kick turns and snowploughs - we still have not mastered the Telemark Turn!

From Solden, we travelled over the border to the village of St Vigilio in Italy, which is situated in the north of the Dolomiti Superski area, to meet up with Ernie and Marjorie. The campsite again was excellent - it had its own restaurant and a small supermarket, but no sauna. For the first time on a campsite we came across gas on tap - as well as connecting up for electricity, you could connect up to a gas line, your use being metered and paid for at the end of your stay.

Although the ski area was fairly limited, there was enough to keep us occupied for 4 days or so. The main area was Kronplatz - a domed hill, with lifts arranged all round it, which met up on the summit - the views of the Dolomites were superb. The only real drawback was that nearly all the lifts were gondolas, although there were several chairlifts, which meant that we spent a lot of time taking our skis on and off. However they were all very new - impressive for a small Italian village. On our final night we had an excellent meal in one of the local restaurants.

Leaving St Vigilio, having said goodbye to Ernie and Marjorie, we set off back to Austria. Having lost two days in Stuttgart, we decided to have a few days in St Anton, a resort we like very much and one which we have visited several times. En route, we missed a turnoff and found ourselves on the old Brenner Pass road, rather than the new autobahn. Ironically, while driving this road, we saw Ernie and Marjorie on the autobahn where we should have been!

We found an excellent little campsite in the village of Pettneu, a few miles from St Anton, from where a daily shuttle bus took us to and from the main resort. Pettneu is a fascinating old Tyrolean village with very narrow streets, barely wide enough for the bus to get through - it was a very pleasant contrast to the bustle of St Anton. The campsite had a small bar, which was very cosy and friendly, and the young couple running it spoke excellent English. We were able to purchase our lift passes from the bar, rather than having to queue at the main kiosks in St Anton.

As usual in St Anton, the skiing was excellent, although by the time we left, the snow on the lower slopes was beginning to get soft by late afternoon. However this was not a problem as we just finished a bit earlier and spent some time in the Krazy Kangaroo, an on-piste bar, enjoying the après-ski. The only drawback was that from the bar, we had to ski about another mile back to the village centre, on a run which started off as a red run - not good after too many pints of wheat beer! Tony had several runs down a timed course, which gave a reading of maximum speed over the run - the best he managed was 78.6 km per hour, which is just under 50mph - not bad for an old un!

The journey home was uneventful, except that having lost two days we had missed our booked return ferry crossing. To make up time, we left St Anton in the late afternoon and drove until it was dark, spending a noisy night in a parking area on an autobahn in Germany. The next day we drove all the way to Calais, about 500 miles, passing through Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and France. On arriving at the ferry port we managed to get on the very next ferry with 30 minutes to spare before sailing. We spent another noisy night in a layby just outside Dover, crammed in between very large lorries, before heading home the next day.

Despite the problems with the motorhome we enjoyed the holiday. However, our motorhome is now up for sale, so if you are interested, please get in touch!