A captivating spy story… very well written and constructed, with well-drawn characters.
- Courier Mail

A fast-paced and thrilling read
- West Australian

A provocative book in which every sort of dogma is turned on its head
- Sunday Mail

As several long-suffering instructors will attest, I am not a gun skier.  But having taken this sport up later in life, I am living proof that it doesn’t matter how old you are – you are never too old to learn to ski.   That said, like most sports, skiing is complex which is part of the magic.  If it were dead easy, there would be no challenge, but it does highlight the need for professional instruction.  I have been very blessed to have been taught by some of the best, and I’m still being taught. I don’t think there are many, if any, skiers who would say “there’s nothing more for me to learn”. For those heading anywhere near the Austrian Alps, there is no better man to contact than Johann Schneider.  He somehow managed to get me over the line for the Austrian ski instructors qualification, Schilehrer Anwärter, and the details of his school are here:                              http://www.skischulejohannschneider.at

 

 

 

 

d'Hagé (above) in 2018 on the Giant Slalom practice course at 6,000 feet in the Austrian Alps near Alpbach - under the watchful eye of Johann Schneider (right), one of the finest instructors in the world today, both for skiing and snowboarding.  Johann has an uncanny ability to analyse and identify errors and then correct them.  

 

 

 

 

 

Alpbach is nestled in the Alps, to the east of Innsbruck, and to the north of the Italian border.  The charming church has a distinguished occupant in the small graveyard - the Nobel Laureat, Irwin Schrödinger, who in addition to his work on quantum theory, was perhaps better remembered for his "cat thought" experiment. 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

    Johann Schneider is pictured below, equally comfortable on skis or a board.

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johann and I at 6,000 feet on top of Mount Schatzberg above Alpbach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first put on a pair of skis in 1965 (left), when I was a cadet at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, where the ski club was equipped with wooden skis and poles with leather baskets – although it was over 30 years later before I would take up skiing again.  Back then, no-one showed me how to stop (no-one showed me anything!) and I got to the bottom of the hill at Mount Ginini and – as the army shell dressing around my head attests – collided with a gum tree.  Check out the the ski gear - impecunious staff cadets were paid 10 shillings a fortnight back then - not quite enough to invest in the latest spider man outfits of today! 

 

 

2269 Staff Cadet d'Hagé                                         

 

 

 

 

The camaraderie of serving in the military (in my case 37 years), is clearly evident in the photo (at right) of the members of the skiing expedition to Mount Ginini in the Brindabellas outside Canberra – I’m the good looking bloke on the right with a fraction more hair than I possess now (Professor David Horner is centre).  In those days, you were not allowed to drink at Duntroon, and of course we adhered to that direction absolutely scrupulously. 😀 And the International truck – normally used to practice ambush drills – is being put to far better use.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I did finally take it up, I started at Thredbo, one of Australia's most delightful Alpine vilages.  In true military fashion (we can do anything – which invariably gets us into a lot of trouble!) I went out and thought High Noon looked good. Not a challenge today, but …   Having come down most of it on my arse, I elected for Plan B: get an instructor. 

 

 

Con Poulos, who with his charming wife Donna now runs Jindabyne's well regarded Mexican restaurant, Cocina Grill and Cantina (at http://cocina.net.au), just happened to be available.  We immediately clicked and the conversation went something like this:

 

   Con:    'So what level are you?'

   Me:     'I'm still a beginner.'

   Con:   'So where have you been skiing?'

   Me:    'I've just come down High Noon' (neglecting to mention the arse bit).

   Con:   'No way you're a beginner – but let's go up to Merritts and we'll have a look'.

   Having observed me from the top, he came to a hockey stop with: 'Holy shit!  You're bloody right  mate - you           should have never been anywhere near High Noon'!

   Later conversations included:

   ‘You can edge anytime soon, Darj!'

  

 

I will be forever grateful to Con and Donna, pictured above in their Jindabyne restaurant,  for their professionalism and their friendship. I was very privileged to have someone of the skills (not to mention patience) of Con, who got me to a point where I could join a remarkable program pioneered by another great instructor, Brad Spalding. 

 

When I met him, Brad was the Chief Instructor at the Thredbo Ski School.  A man of many talents (amongst other things, he's an artist and he has been hung in the Archibald), Brad was instrumental for setting very high standards amongst the instructors at the Thredbo Ski School.

Brad Spalding showing his style - photos by Steve Cuff

 

 

Brad and Monika put a lot of work into the Thredbo Ski School, including the kids arena, as this video shows.

 

 

Together with Monika, Brad had a close link with Austria.  He and Johann Schneider – now my instructor in Austria – had undertaken the very demanding Österreichische staatlich Skilehrer Ausbildung course which in those days went for 12 months.  Each year, Brad, along with Monika, arranged for a small group of Australians to train in Austria and sit the Austrian Government exams for Schilehrer Anwärter.  When I arrived in Austria with some 20 young Australians (who undoubtedly were asking ‘who is this old fart?’) to do the course, I discovered the Austrians had a “Skiing University” and a “Dean of Skiing” based out of Obergurgl in the Alps, near the Austrian Italian border.  Well - skiing is to the Austrians as cricket is to Australians, and they not surprisingly take it very seriously.  It was a wonderful experience, albeit I snapped my cruciate on the first attempt. I passed on the second – although I suspect not by much and I am now superbly qualified to teach beginners!

 

Although they are still very much involved in Thredbo and the skiing community, Brad and Monika now operate one of Australia's best schnapps distilleries which is located on the Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo, and the details can be found here: http://www.wildbrumby.com

 

 

Brad Spalding in his Wild Brumby Distilery

 

Well worth dropping in!

 

 

 

 

 

I have had to think about this next post, because I'm going to disclose a secret - one of the best kept secrets in the Australian Alps.  Loyalties in the skiing fraternity sometimes run deep.  Some will only ever ski Thredbo, or Hotham, or ...  And on some occasions, when I've disclosed that I ski Guthega, there has been a decided turn up of the nose.  Guthega??    What on earth for.  There's nothing there!  Precisely.  Although, as we shall see below, that's not quite true.  Guthega had its genesis as part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme, with road works and the construction of the dam beginning in the early 1950s, shown below in winter. 

 

 

 

Guthega Dam in Winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skiing in the area had a very modest beginning with the construction of a 200-metre rope tow on Mount Tate in 1957.  And it’s still relatively small, but that’s part of the charm!  For those of us who know it well, the slopes are virtually free for the first two hours of the day, until those over at Blue Cow wonder “what’s over there?” The pioneers of early skiing in Australia included Walter and Hannelore Spanring and they built what was then, the Guthega Hotel – now the Guthega Inn, which is one of the most delightful Alpine establishments one could ever wish to visit or stay at, shown below in the middle of winter. The website is here:  https://guthega.com

 

 

 

                                       

                                             Lunch in a magnificent spot                                                                                       in the Alps

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Ski In Ski Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick and Jenny Kennedy, are not only charming hosts, but they themselves are very accomplished skiers.  One of their daughters, Sami Kennedy-Sim, is a member of the Australian Winter Olympic Team, most recently doing Australia proud at both the Sochi and PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.  So the Kennedy’s take skiing seriously.  Nick, Jenny and Sami are seen here at the Sochi Winter Olympics.  When I got to know Nick, we discovered we were “Old Falconians” - a few years apart at North Sydney Boys High, and when I took up Alpine racing in 2017 at a perhaps 😂 mature age (I overhead one of the instructors: “He’s how old??”) Nick remarked: “Adrian – don’t worry, you will podium.  You’ll be the only bugger left in your age group.”  Hurtful and unnecessary!  But Nick has been more than generous with his time, advice, observations and assistance.  The skiing fraternity is often like that.  Nick appears in my novels as Chief Petty Officer Kennedy – along with Thredbo’s ex-Marine Corps Major Spalding – authors are allowed a bit of fun now and then!

 

 

 

 

 

Sami Kennedy-Sim is one of Australia's outstanding skiers, and at left, Sami (centre) is competing with the world's best winter olympians in her favourite discipline, the ski cross.  Her website is at www.samikennedysim.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not blessed with the Kennedy's wonderful skills and ability, one is perhaps a little thoughtful when in the Austrian Alps.  "You want me to go up where??"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more training with Herr Schneider!