It’s precisely 9.04am when I come to the realisation that there’s no backing out. Having been whisked skywards by the Kriegerhorn chairlift in Lech, the piste ahead of me is the only route down. What’s more, such is the anticipation of my three children (aged 15, 12 and nine), that I risk losing serious parent kudos if I reveal any inner weakness now. My eldest Louis turns, gives me a nod and says, “Come on mum, we’ve got this,” as he leads the charge.
Poised with poles in hand, I take a mere second to admire the superlative Arlberg scenery before realising that the kids are already weaving their way down the piste like old pros. “‘It’s all right for them,” I mutter to myself, “they’ve all been to ski school.” It’s close to 20 years since I last had a pair of skis strapped to my feet.
I follow dutifully on. Tentatively at first, I start to feel the folds of fresh snow beneath my skis and by the time I’m making my sixth or seventh turn, it’s all coming back to me. Sort of. I can certainly feel the rush of adrenalin flooding through my body and I can hear Jude, my plucky nine-year-old, whooping with joy as he carves his way down the mountain ahead of me. It’s 9.27am when I arrive — quite a bit later than the kids — at the bottom.
It’s not long before we call it a day, distracted by the need for carbohydrates and the refined pleasures of the satellite resort Oberlech — popular with off-duty European royals and parents seeking perfect Alpine panoramas — not to mention somewhere to sit. However, the following morning we’re straight back out there, amid the mountain peaks and white silence. This time we’ve ascended the Rüfikopf via cable-car. Our fellow skiers are heading onwards to make the most of the new Flexenbahn gondola, which links Lech with all the other resorts in the region. With about 190 downhill skiing miles to explore, and 88 lifts and cableways, Arlberg holds the title of Austria’s largest lift-linked ski region.
But we’re sticking to what we know, planning to make the most of Lech’s long sweeping blue runs back to base. Fresh snow glistening underfoot, a sliver of moon still hangs in a cobalt sky as we set off down the mountain. The kids are discussing a return trip, even as they ski. I’m more preoccupied with ensuring we avoid some of the more challenging red runs, which I somehow hadn’t noticed when studying the piste map over breakfast. The kids are fine, of course, but I’m decidedly achy after yesterday and I definitely seem to be gathering speed, regardless of intention. Just as I’m struggling to regain some degree of control, my skis start vibrating and every muscle I thought I had turns to jelly. I hit the deck in what feels like slow motion, and just as I’m dusting myself off (and swallowing some dented pride), a local zips elegantly to my side and pulls me swiftly to my feet like I’m a fallen toddler. The actual kids, meanwhile, are mere dots in the distance.
Later that evening — insult, injury and offspring accounted for — the question, “What term describes an out-of-control skier?” is posed in the hotel quiz. I let out an indiscreet laugh. My kids still seem to be none the wiser. From now on, I decide, it’s always best to let the kids go first. (The answer, by the way, is ‘a bomber’).
How to do it:
A seven-night stay at VIP SKI’s Hotel Theodul in Lech, half-board, is priced from £1,029pp and includes return flights from Gatwick to Friedrichshafen, transfers, ski hosting, welcome champagne and canapes, and complimentary toiletries.
Lift passes can be booked with VIP SKI. A six-day adult lift pass for Ski Arlberg is priced from £257.