2018 will go down as one of the best Irish summers ever — certainly the best one that I can recall in almost 60 years. Eight weeks of almost unbroken sunshine, warm temperatures and blue skies created feelings of ambivalence in travel people such as myself because the selfish hedonist in me wanted it to last for ever whereas my pragmatic side new that it wasn’t good for business — after all, our job is to get people to leave the country, not remain in it!
Those who had already booked their summer holidays were obligated to travel anyway whereas those who had left things on the long finger were able to make the big decision to stay at home and hope that the good weather lasted. It got me thinking though about the purpose of travel in general and holidays in particular (because there is a difference) and it occurred to me that people who live in regions where the weather is practically guaranteed such as California, Florida, the Mediterranean, Australia etc., still obviously travel even though weather is not necessarily what they’re after.
We’re obsessed with weather in Ireland — largely because ours is so insipid most of the time — so I suppose it’s only natural that it should be high on our list of priorities when it comes to our traditional one or two weeks abroad. We unnecessarily limit our options by insisting that our target destination must be able to guarantee the proverbial blue skies and hot weather, thereby discounting loads of destinations that have so much else to offer.
A perfect example of this phenomenon in action is the whole ski/snowboarding market which starts to come in to its own at this time of year. It is one of the best holidays that you can possibly have and yet it is still a minority activity in the Irish market. True, it’s not the cheapest type of holiday to undertake but like all things in life, there are degrees of expensive and if you’re on a budget, a good place to start is in Andorra — the principality that nestles in the Pyrenees between France and Spain. Andorra is skiing on a budget and indeed the shopping itself is duty-free. The only downside is that transfers typically take up to four hours in each direction.
If you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket and redolent of all those picture postcard scenes of snow-covered alpine lodges and idyllic little villages, then Austria is probably your best bet. Your local ski instructor is most likely a farmer in his day (summer job) and you’ll find that the Tyroleans (never call them Austrian) are very like the Irish in temperament and humour so you’ll feel very much at home. Shopping outlets like TK Maxx now ensure that anyone can own a pair of sallopettes and a ski jacket without breaking the bank and the rest (ski boots, ski hire, ski pass and ski school) can all be fired or paid for in advance, so you can budget accordingly.
Skiing is not easy but learning to ski is one of the funniest (if humbling) experiences you’ll ever have in your life! There is a word/expression in German which is ‘schadenfreude’ which literally means ‘deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others’. It clearly belongs as part of the skiing vocabulary. The hours spent each morning in ski school learning how gravity works whilst enjoying the crisp, clean mountain air give you an appetite that would shame a trencherman and every night, I guarantee you that you’ll have the best sleep you’ve ever had!
It’s time you moved out of your comfort zone; gave topping up your tan a miss and get to realise why skiing really is the best fun you can have standing up!