'On a cold winters morning in Gutersloh, school started a little early for a group of intrepid school teachers and students, 26 hours early in fact! The reason these bleary-eyed, early-risers were gathered around the school gates at 0530 on a Sunday morning was because it signalled the beginning of the annual Haig School ski residential to Austria. In a mere 10 hours this group of young and not so young thrill seekers would be putting their skills to the test in one of Europe’s best ski resorts, deep within the majestic Austrian Alps.
While children from MOD schools may have been travelling to this area of Austria for over 30 years, it was the first time many of these children had skied and with the final months of drawdown looming, it would be the last for Haig school children. Mr Turner, Haig’s headmaster explained, “We often talk about challenge and new experiences – so the opportunity to offer this to school children in such a tremendous setting is one which cannot be missed. To see the rapid progress of a new skill and incredible self-belief which grows as a result, pays dividends back in the classroom.”
After an evening spent acquiring various items of ski equipment, settling in to the hotel and a much needed full night of restful sleep, the group was ready for a full week of skiing. An early start and a substantial breakfast prepared the Haig School skiing group to be unleashed upon the mountain via a 15-minute gondola ride straight up the side of an imposing peak. During the following five days, the children began to master many of the skills required to transport themselves from the top of the mountain to the bottom with control and style. The children were separated into ability groups with some of the children, who had been on skiing trips previously, tackling black runs before the week was out. Our bold beginners mastered the basics lower down the mountain, before exploring further afield with their instructor.
In addition to the great tuition from a team of well qualified ski instructors, Siegi Tours who have been supporting MOD schools in there alpine pursuits for many years, also provided the après ski entertainment, including the slightly bizarre cow milking competition, outdoor curling as well as an opportunity for the children to showcase their performing talents in some lively karaoke numbers.
After an icy start on Monday the area had a significant snow fall, thankfully mostly in the evening, so that by Friday all the children could enjoy a fresh ‘powder’ skiing experience. Though by the final afternoon, the conditions did become quite lively with heavy snowfall and chilling winds. At this point everyone really appreciated their ski goggles and ‘neckers’ to keep them warm and dry.
By the time it was time to board the bus for the mammoth return journey on Saturday morning , everyone concerned agreed that a fabulous time was had by all, some of whom may have had had ignited a passion for skiing that could well last a life time. Bronte, from Year 5, said of the trip, “I loved it in the evening when we could relax after the skiing. The food in the hotel was amazing and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity.” High praise indeed!'
Words by Stephen Coyne, Year 5 Teacher, Haig School.