Posted by: sunshack | April 29, 2016


I have just finished a six week stay in the Austrian mountains. During my stay I skied with a group of amazing people from all over the world, and it has been unique and life enhancing. My stay was organised by It consisted of a four week training course and a 10 day exam period, leading to a ski teaching qualification called the Anwärter. I had begun studying German in May 2015 in preparation. The four week training course passed quite quickly, the SIA Coaches worked quite hard with my group, and put in long days. My German skills were tested in exercises and I was pleased to hear that my vocabulary was ok and my accent declared not too bad!

I have relearned the snowplough, and up unweighting at the start of a turn!

At the end of four weeks, my group were passed to the selected examining body, who are an Academy from Vienna. We had now entered the Exam phase. For the first two days, we were with an Examiner who engaged us, and motivated the group and individuals to achieve a higher standard of skiing. Unforseen circumstances meant that we were then passed to another Examiner for the remainder of the ten days.

The new Examiner spoke almost entirely in German.  I could not follow what he said. A couple of group members were fluent German speakers, so I took to regularly asking them what this man wanted, once he’d delivered his mumbled monotone instructions and walked off. He never once made it to the meeting point on time. We were left standing around waiting.  Power Play? New Watch needed?

By now, you are probably wondering why this entry is called Granny. Well, we were each required to run a warm up session. One of these was themed to Pulp Fiction,  which was released in 1994. After the warm up session was completed, the Examiner criticised my fellow student on his choice of theme. This critique was based on the premise that “someone my age” (points at me) “might not have seen Pulp Fiction”. The Examiner then went on to call me Granny in front of the group. There was no evidence of humour.


Here I am in another ski year, doing my best Granny impersonation.

I was not impressed, but I really did not care that this man thought I was old. His job was to conduct Exams in skiing, and I was skiing before he was born.

Each evening this Examiner ran mandatory Lectures which we all attended. They took place predominantly in German, and were delivered mostly in monologue with no audience engagement. We needed willpower to stay awake! One of my fellow students observed that the Examiner seemed to suck the life energy from the group.

One of the underpinning principles for Austrian Ski Teachers when working with pupils, is the concept of Lob-Kritik-Lob (praise-criticism-praise). It’s in the “Ski Lehrer Buch” . My Examiner had apparently dispensed with the Lob elements. I did observe him curling his lip after I completed a run I was not happy with. His comment to me:  “Expectations for your age group are lower”


Another of the group commented to me that they had no idea if what they were doing was correct, since the Examiner said nothing at all to them.

When wishing to speak with a group member, the Examiner would extend one arm and summon the person by curling a finger at them. I also observed him wagging a finger up close to a face, intruding into personal space.

He criticised one group member for not using “complicated enough German” when they ran a session.

Could it be that they ran their session based on the needs of the learner group?

It’s been a fact for many years, that I learn in an unconventional way. I get by. I don’t feel the need to tell folks that I have a brain injury, unless it becomes apparent. I am not an impaired learner, and last year passed two Sailing Exams without difficulty. On the ninth day of the Examination period, the Examiner removed from my possession the means by which I would have triggered my memories. He thought he was taking my notes from me, the memory triggers were not notes, and I spent quite a while preparing them. This left me unable to run the Session he had set. My peers attempted to help me out, but I did not have enough of the information in primary memory. The Examiner stopped the session, calling it “Not the Austrian Progression”.

No Shit Sherlock

He did the finger curling summons to me. I went over. I told him I had a brain injury, he shrugged.

That was the final straw for me. So I told him I quit, he shrugged again, and I skied off. His power over me ceased at that point in time. It was quite a relief.

I contacted the original Examiner and advised him of the situation. He told me, that it’s the style of the Academy. Everyone else in my group hung in there, most, not all passed their Exams.

Age is just a number. What we do with our lives is far more important.

I spent many years empowering learners to achieve their goals, for which I was well paid. Human potential is awesome. I don’t appreciate abuse of power, bullies and blatant ageism, it limits potential. It’s not my style.

Megeve Powder

This is more my style. Off piste Megeve. Avvy Level 5. Photo Tinderbox Ski

Posted by: sunshack | February 20, 2016

Road Trippin

Each January, I drive to the Alps. I’ve been doing this for quite a few years now, and it provides me with a feeling of having properly visited the country where I’m skiing. This trip took in Switzerland, France and Italy.

The weather was mostly cold and windy, well it was January after all.  The weather affected the running of the lifts, and I failed to make it to the top of the Klein Matterhorn lift, with skis. I almost made it, but the liftie bounced me!

Onwards to Chamonix, and I made the best of some fabulous powder in Les Houches.P1020316



I also made the best of the powder in Le Tour, seemed rude not to.


I took some time out to visit the Step Into The Void attraction at the top of the Aiguille du Midi . It was fun to stand on a sheet of glass over a 1000 metre drop. You can just see Chamonix below my left hand!


Skiers setting off the ski the Vallee Blanche


Off the slopes, my mission was to eat my way through the display counter in my favourite cake shop.


Headed over to Italy for a day with Chris Fecher of Tinderbox Ski. Rode the tiny Cresta d’Arp cable car to the top of the resort and skied quite a steep run back down to Zerotta, in time for a late lunch.


This was the easy bit. Then it got a lot steeper!


A lot further down the same run, the gradient was easier. Chris measured it at 32 degrees.


I met up with my friend Sara and her husband Ian, for a spin around Grand Montets. This was fun. We found some Crevasses quite close to the marked pistes.


Posted by: sunshack | January 8, 2016

Quick Fix

It’s December and there is a snow drought. Many low lying resorts in Europe did not open. So, the safest bet was to head for somewhere a little higher, like Cervinia. I was very impressed that the resort had managed to open a piste all the way back into the village.P1020244

Up on the Glacier, shared with Zermatt, things looked much the same as normal. P1020235

I was quite pleased with my set of short turns!

Zermatt had also worked some magic with their snowmaking, and opened a piste down as far as Furi.P1020242.JPG

A little fresh snow fell, and I think this group are having a lesson off piste above Trockener Steg P1020185.JPG

I caught the train up to Gornergrat, which is always a little surreal.P1020195.JPG


I spent most of my time on the Zermatt side, because the snow was in better condition.

I also got to ride a shiny new chairlift!P1020238.JPGP1020206.JPGUp above Trockener Steg

Chris from Tinderbox came over for a day, to work on some skills with me. We made the best of the conditions! P1020175.JPG

Posted by: sunshack | September 6, 2015

Down Days

The weather in the mountains can be fickle. You wake up and look out of the window, and see that the weather forecast was correct, the cloud base is just above the village and it’s raining hard. Zermatt has quite a few options for making the most of the time you have in resort. On the rainy morning in question I went for a Spa session at the Mont Cervin Hotel. It was wonderful, I felt lighter and fitter, after a morning of drinking copious amounts of Herbal Tea and Fruit Juice. A variety of Pools, and Sauna, Steam Rooms and Ice Showers! Compare and contrast, a Pedestrian Lift Ticket for Klein Matterhorn costs CHF 100, and a Spa session costs CHF 50. The Hotel provided me with a lovely Dressing Gown, Slippers and endless fresh Towels!

Suitably restored, I walked up to the Gorner Gorge after lunch. It’s only around 10 mins from the village and well signposted. Entry was CHF 4.25 and the pathways had mostly dried out from the rain.

Gorner Gorge Zermatt

Gorner Gorge Zermatt

Gorner Gorge Zermatt

Gorner Gorge Zermatt


Of course, if you have already paid for a Lift Ticket, then the best option is to visit the Ice Pavilion at the top of the Klein Matterhorn lift. I had a valid ticket for my visit, but the turnstiles would not open, so I was obliged to climb over. It was worth the effort.


Ice Sculpture Zermatt

Ice Sculpture Zermatt



P1010653A walkway leads you underneath a natural crevasse.

It’s very cold in the Ice Pavilion, so take a coat and a hat, if you feel the cold.  Walking underneath a crevasse was quite spectacular, and with the exception of the sculptures, it’s quite a hands-on visitor experience. There is even a slide!

Ice Tunnel Slide

Ice Tunnel Slide

Posted by: sunshack | September 4, 2015


After I’d taken a day off in Zermatt, because of bad weather, I set off to visit the Hörnlihütte at 3260m. It’s at the base of the Matterhorn. It’s a mountain hike, but as it’s a busy route, well marked and has quite a few safety features.

How convenient

How convenient, some stairs.

The Matterhorn comes into view.

The Matterhorn comes into view.

Some of the route has ropes, where there is a drop

Some of the route has ropes or cables, where there is a drop.

Hornlihutte path

Hornlihutte path, you can see it zig zags down the hillside

Where the ropes and cables are present, take care, as the rope can be frozen, or the wire cable frayed. I received several puncture wounds to my hands. The Hut has recently been modernised and has a whole new wing. It’s where Mountaineers stay to prepare for their ascent on the Matterhorn, but is also a busy lunch destination in good weather.



I walked beyond the Hut to the base of the climb. There are many memorial plaques fastened to the rock at the base.

P1010733 P1010734

This is where the they start. If you are going to climb the Matterhorn from the Swiss side, this is your start point.

This is where the climbing starts

This is where the climbing starts

Coming back was all downhill and faster of course, though I think it’s worth taking as much care on the downhill part of a hike, as slippery surfaces can prove risky. A pleasant and varied hike surrounded by spectacular scenery.

Posted by: sunshack | August 30, 2015


I had returned to Zermatt to hike to the summit of the Breithorn. It’s been something I’d had in the planning stage for a while. On my first visit for this route, there was too much snow. I booked into a Guided Group with a Mountain Guide organised by the Alpin Centre in Zermatt. The price was 160 CHF.  I was not given the name of the Guide when booking, just told to meet at the Cable Car Station at a specific time. Despite having a big mountaineering history, Hoteliers in Zermatt seem unwilling to offer an early Breakfast to anyone meeting a Guide. I managed to get a sandwich the night before from my hotel, but it was no substitute for a proper breakfast.

The group was put together by the Mountain Guide and consisted of me, 2 young Dutch lads, and a married couple from Switzerland who bragged to me they had done lots of 4000’s. The Dutch lads, were dressed quite lightly for the altitude, one was wearing Jeans. The Guide made no comment on this, so I kept quiet.

We set off from the top of the Klein Matterhorn lift. I was slow as I could not seem to get my breathing quite right, so asked for a break to get my breath back. I was directly behind the Guide. His response was “Oh, so you are not in good condition” I ask for a slower pace, the response “I am already going at the slowest pace possible” “You are not fit”

We carried on a little further, and were still not wearing our Crampons, it was quite hard to avoid slipping over, and having to sidestep. It was cold and windy, with low visibility. The snow was about 30cm deep. The Guide finally stops and tells us to put on our Crampons. One of the Dutch lads says “How”, the Guide responds loudly “Thats YOUR job”. The Dutch lads are very cold by now, and starting to shiver.

We continue upwards, I ask for another break as the pace is too fast for my breathing. The Guide responds “We are going up the Breithorn” He sounds sarcastic to me, but that may be just the language differences. From the back, beyond the Dutch lads, the Swiss tell me loudly, that I’m spoiling their wedding anniversary. Each time I tell the Guide that I need a breather, I get more whining from the back. The Guide does nothing to manage morale in the group. Perhaps group management skills are not covered at Swiss Mountain Guide School.

I had not realised that this was to be a time trial, and I reach a point where I say to the Guide that I have had enough. From the back, I hear the whiners say”it’s all in your head”. They must believe they are Psychics. I was not tired, and had I not been tied to the Guide, would have loved to go to the back and give the wannabee mind readers a good slap.

I request a pause, the Guide reaches around and takes hold of the Safety Rope, jerking it, “Come On” he says loudly. I recall thinking that he must own a Dog.

The two Dutch lads then announce that they are too cold to continue. They got no Breakfast from their Hotel either. They are visibly shivering, and are unable to use their hands. I give a Seed Bar to one, and offer Coffee from my Flask (not a Hotel’s of course).

Another Group comes up behind us, and we do some swapping, the Whiners go over there, and we take in exchange, one of their guys, who keeps falling over, and can’t understand why. We set off back to the top of the KM lift with stops for the guy who keeps falling over, and as we arrive, there are lots of folk setting off on the same route. I notice that they are all starting out with their Crampons fitted. The Guide unties us. He suggests I come back for another try, tells me I reached 4000m and leaves. I then help one of the Dutch lads get his Crampons off, as they are jammed, and he still can’t use his hands. I suggest they both get inside straight away to get warm.

As for my breathing rate, it puzzled me, so I did some digging on the internet, and found quite a few folks had reported breathlessness when taking a prescription drug that I’m currently using. It’s not listed in the known side effects on the Patient Information Leaflet.

Additionally, the amount of smoking still present in Switzerland causes me problems, as I get an Asthma type reaction to primary and secondary Tobacco smoke. Valais Canton has banned smoking inside buildings, that just leaves getting through the cloud as the smokers gather outside restaurant doors, and swerving around the smokers in the street. There were quite a few smokers in the area aound the Gondola where I waited for the Guide. I did move several times, but still copped a few breaths of the bad stuff.

I feel pretty certain that I would have reached the summit, if I had been given the support and space to do so. I was not tired. I was told I quit 20 mins from the top. That the Guide suggested I “come back and try again” shows a real lack of understanding about the climate he created within the group, which gave license for others in the group to make verbal attacks on me. Those attacks contributed to my decision to quit. I have decided that I am not prepared to spend the time and money on trying again. The weather is often unfavourable, and I have a finite amount of money.  I would not book onto a public group managed by a Swiss Mountain Guide again.

To put my  alleged”lack of fitness” into context, 2 days later I hiked to the Hornlihutte at the base of the Matterhorn, and reached the Cabane at 3260m, just 5 mins down on the time suggested in my Guidebook. I found it quite a straightforward hike, albeit on a busy route. It’s much easier when you are not being undermined from in front and behind. Blog entry and photos to follow.

Went there, did that

The Breithorn. If you look closely there is a line of hikers close to the edge up high. Been there done that.

Posted by: sunshack | August 13, 2015


While staying in Nice, I caught the train for a day to visit Monaco, and of course Monte-Carlo. Armed with a map, I soon put it away and navigated by looking, since Monaco is pretty compact. A map makes the state look spread out, where I found it was more up and down.

P1010270 Monaco has a network of public lifts and pedestrian tunnels serving the various levels of the state. Some are well hidden, and quite smart.

Pedestrian Subway, Nice

Pedestrian Subway, Monaco

I made my way to the Monte-Carlo district to see the Casino, have a Coffee at the Cafe du Paris and enjoy the spectacular Infinity Mirror outside the Casino.

Infinity Mirror, Monte-Carlo

Infinity Mirror, Monte-Carlo

Monaco has an Oceanographic Centre, and outside is an early Mini-sub. It’s the Anorep 1 and dates from 1966. The people who descended into the depths in this, must have been extremely brave.

2 man sub Anorep 1 built 1966

2 man sub Anorep 1 built 1966

As it’s quite a small place, pretty well everything seems scaled down, except the prices. The Police ride around on these.

The Police ride these

The Police ride these

I watched the Changing of The Guard at the Palace. A flag was flying, someone was home! No room for being overweight Palace Guards in those trousers.

Changing of The Guard

Changing of The Guard

The harbour was full of very large yachts, lots of English being spoken. I headed into the side streets and saw some lovely decorative murals on old buildings.

Pretty, traditional building murals in Monaco

Pretty, traditional building murals in Monaco

Well worth a half day visit, spend the day if you want to visit the Oceanographic Centre as well. I was left feeling as if I was in Toytown. Avoid Sunday, if you want to do any shopping!

Posted by: sunshack | August 13, 2015


I visited Nice in southern France for the first time recently. I wish I had visited the town sooner, it’s big, busy and the views are quite splendid. I reckon the town has something for everyone, from bargain Hostels to luxury Hotels, a beach and an Opera House.

Stylish Nice

Stylish Nice

Beach restaurant art

Beach restaurant art

Place Massena

Place Massena, old and new

 As this is the Med , and it’s been quite warm, the Town runs a Jellyfish catching service around the Bay.


Nice is famous for the Promenade des Anglais, and rows of blue chairs along the front.

Blue chairs on Promenade des Anglais

Blue chairs on Promenade des Anglais

There was a series of sailing races taking place, which on occasion, ran quite close to the beaches. Competition looked intense.

Sailboats in Nice Bay

Sailboats in Nice Bay

I took a Segway Tour of the front, and old Town. What you call a pile of Segways?

A pile of resting Segway's

A pile of resting Segway’s

If you have not tried this form of transport, be advised that there are no brakes, and it’s quite difficult to fall off.

Nice has a waterfall, which is quite pretty, and from on high, there is a wonderful view of the whole Bay.


Bay of Nice

Bay of Nice

 Nice also has fountains for play, situated off Place Massena.


Playing in the water here is encouraged

As the whole world seems to be in recession, you may be wondering where the money went. Some of it is here…

Mega Yacht in Nice harbour

Mega Yacht in Nice harbour


Posted by: sunshack | August 7, 2015

Let The Train Take The Strain

My first ever holiday break by rail. This is my experience of Eurostar and TGV. I had decided that it was time to experience the ease of modern European train travel.

My costs were well in excess of twice the flight price including petrol and parking, to my chosen destination in France.

Travelled by train to a Eurostar served station without any problems. Boarded my Eurostar service, which was late, observed that luggage was piled up by the carriage doors and opened the inner door to the compartment where I had a seat. Warm wet air hit me.The Compartment was very full.

I went straight to the Buffet car to queue for a Metro Ticket as I would have to get across Paris from Gare du Nord, to Gare du Lyon quickly. I queued through Kent, the Channel Tunnel and well into France, before I managed to buy the last 2 single Metro Tickets they had. Arrived into Paris late.

My Metro service was also late, adding to my stress, but I made my TGV train with several minutes to spare. Luggage again piled up by the doors, some passengers spent their journey hanging around in the corridor by the luggage racks. The Toilets had run out of water. Arrived at my destination late.

During my stay, I used the train service to visit another region. On the outbound leg my train was dirty, with windows covered in Graffiti. On the return trip, I boarded a duplex TGV which was very overcrowded and had passengers sitting up the staircase in the carriage I was in. At an intermediate stop, some tourists failed to board due to overcrowding, and a group was split up, causing distress.

My return journey. A very early start. Same copious piles of luggage onboard, with not enough storage Left on time, but then parked for an hour in 35c temperatures, with the air-conditioning turned off, all due to power line problems. Compartment mostly silent, everyone suffering in the heat with no ventilation. No time was made up. I arrived back in Paris, and joined in the communal run through Gare du Lyon.

The Paris Metro is a scrum, fortunately I have a small bag with wheels. Made the sprint through the stations and across to Gare du Nord where a member of Eurostar staff is holding up a card with my train listed on it. No-one else in the line. I rush through, thinking I’ve made the connection only to be greeted by awful scenes of overcrowding in the Eurostar waiting area. Hundreds of people sitting on the dirty floor. Not only was I in time for my train, I could have made two trains earlier. I ask for help from a uniformed member of staff, I’m told “I can’t answer your question” Everyone already there looks miserable and tired. The scenes in front of me make a Ryanair standing line look like business class. I found a space on the floor.

Some trains begin departing, the ticket checking appears ineffective, and there are many people who do not know if they are supposed to be boarding or waiting. I watch people walk past the staff and head for the waiting train without having their ticket checked.

My Eurostar service was 62 minutes late, and together with the 60 minute delay to the TGV, made me late arriving back to catch my connection in the UK. It turned out to be no problem at all, as all trains on the line I needed to use had been cancelled. I caught a replacement bus for a while, then gave up and got a Taxi.

Arrived home, feeling like I needed a holiday.

Apparently I’m due some sort of delay compensation, but the TGV  website won’t work. I phoned Eurostar, and they offer me a half price ticket (so, more of the same). I’ve returned all the tickets to the Agent I used to see if they can achieve anything on my behalf.

Posted by: sunshack | July 21, 2015


A week on a Greek island to refresh my Dinghy Sailing Skills. All very straightforward, and for me, lacking an RYA “Logbook” quite useful to get it all down on paper. Greece was on the verge of running out of money, so I made sure that I took enough for me!

It’s been many years since I’ve travelled to Greece, but from what I saw, things have not really changed once out of a town, which is good. The transfer was quite entertaining, a modern coach, totally full of tourists, with well worn air suspension, travel forward and roll from side to side, just like being at sea. About 1 hour in, and those who suffer from travel sickness began to be affected.  There was no food available on arrival, those who had been travel sick, probably happy. I walked into the nearby town to get a snack.

I’d opted for a holiday centre, and the registration procedure for activities, was quite a bunfight. My Sailing group was too large with 9 and there was another group of 11. Not good. Way too many boats in a small patch of water. My Sailing week came to a swift end, when I capsized and caught one foot in a toestrap, this sprained an ankle. This was quite a big sprain, so no Mountain Biking, Hiking or Stand Up Paddle Boarding either. Oh well, the food was quite good, so I ate all of it!   No-one round the Pool mentioned “Butlins” until mid week.

It would have been good to get up into the hills surrounding the resort, but the best I could manage was the short bumpy walk into the town. As usual Greek Cats rule, and I was owned!

Just give us the food

Just give us the food

The little local town was quite pretty, and the local river is full of Sea Turtles.

Hurtles just love to hang out

Turtles just love to hang out

Greek Island Turtle

Greek Island Turtle

Village Centre Lesvos

Village Centre Lesvos

Village Cafe, Lesvos

Village Cafe, Lesvos

Greek Shopkeepers have a secret weapon

Greek Shopkeepers have a secret weapon

There was quite a substantial storm one night, which exposed the weakness of my Patio doors, when they blew in. Someone else had broken in before I arrived, and the doors no longer fitted. That took lots of Hotel Towels to fix!

Perhaps I was distracted by having a foot and ankle that was very discoloured, but I failed to check in my Hiking Boots before heading into the village. Always check your Boots.

Bug in Hiking Boot

Bug in Hiking Boot

I have reason to believe that this Bug did not enjoy it’s time in my company, or the free ride into the village and back.

I have rescheduled my Dinghy Sailing Courses for later this year, and my ankle is recovering. My Physio tells me it’s torn Ligaments, and that I’m doing well, no reason for concern.

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