January this year I return to Bad Kleinkirchheim (BKK) for my second skiing trip. This holiday presents a turning point in my passion for skiing. I stay with friends for a few days at their home which nestles in the mountain side, moments from the piste.
My friends, Pauline and Kai are experienced skiers and take great care to ensure my fledgling development of this exhilarating sport is built upon. My last visit, like this time, they push me enough to help me overcome any anxieties I might have.
BKK is tucked away on the edge of the Nock Mountain National Park in Carinthia, in the far south-east of Austria, near the Italian and Slovenian borders. The nearest airports are Klagenfurt (around 50 minutes away) and Ljubljana (90 minutes). Salzburg is less than two hours away.
I few from Gatwick to Klagenfurt with easyJet. They fly Wednesdays and Saturdays scheduled return flights. Within minutes of me landing I was collecting a hire car from AVIS at the airport. Before long I was driving through the awe inspiring landscape of the Austrian countryside. My car journey to the beautiful resort of Bad Kleinkirchheim is less than an hour, stopping off at ‘Oscars’ ski hire shop to collect my gear.
The town of Bad Kleinkirchheim is at an average elevation of 1,087 m (3,566 ft) in a 5 km (3 mi) stretch of a glacial trough valley in the ‘Gurktal Alps’ (Nock Mountains), between the ‘Millstätter See’ and the upper ‘Gurk River’.
Franz Klammer, (born Dec. 3, 1953, Mooswald, Austria), is the Austrian Alpine skier who specialised in the downhill event, winning 25 World Cup downhill races in his career.
Austrian sportsman of the year in 1981, Klammer’s long career brought him fame for being one of the most flamboyant and exciting Alpine skiers of his generation.
At 60, Franz Klammer remains a charismatic and ruggedly dishy figure. He hosts an annual ski day in his boyhood resort for a group of lucky punters chosen in a lottery, it sends a frisson of macho glamour into the crisp Carinthian air.
His still-unsurpassed achievements in Austria’s national sport – 26 World Cup wins plus a legendary hell-for-leather Olympic victory in Innsbruck in 1976 –make him something akin to Pelé in his country, but he arrives with no surly manager, no controlling PR and no security. An unforgettable day.
I began with familiar Blue runs during the first morning to find my feet once more and practice my body technique. This technique resembles ice dance counter-body position where the skater’s body faces the end of the rink as they perform their dance steps. With skiing the body position faces downhill. This position anchors your control solidly over your skis, freeing you up to perform easily down the slopes. Before I knew it, it was coffee time where I met up with friends.
Encouraged by Kai it wasn’t long before I’d conquered a familiar Red run which had previously seemed too daunting to ski. I trusted my body position, leant into the speed I am generating and attempted deep edges. This is the best feeling; reading the terrain ahead, freely turning and attempting to slide a little more on each turn. Progress is good.
Unforgettable moments of pleasure await you in Bad Kleinkirchheim. Amidst idyllic nature and the surrounding Carinthian Nockberge Mountains, you will find your inner peace.