Abigail Jackson goes back to school to learn some important skiing lessons.

WHEN you get to a certain age, there are things in life you never expect you’ll be doing again. For me, at 27, going back to school was one of them.

So imagine my surprise when, last winter, that’s precisely what I found myself doing. “You’ll really benefit from it,” I was told.

But this was no ordinary classroom – I was off to ski school.

I was in Niederau, and my Directski.com rep had booked me in for lessons at the joyfully- named Happy Skischule.

My rebellious streak kicked in immediately. I don’t need school – school’s for kids. I’d lost my ski virginity only a year earlier. A late starter, I’d been chucked onto the mountain and, as you can imagine, I spent more time on my bum than upright.

Eventually, I’d managed something that vaguely resembled skiing. Not with much grace, and with lots of crash-finishes. I decide to keep an open mind in Niederau.

Next morning, I rose bright and early to get suited and booted. Trundling across to meet my teacher, I was already daydreaming of trading my desk job for a career as a downhill racer. There’s something about the crisp mountain air, the dazzling snow that really makes you feel you could accomplish anything.

I was suddenly surrounded by kids. Tiny ones, all whizzing around like pros. For a second I was tempted to make a run for it and skip class. But you can’t actually run far in ski boots.

“Don’t worry, we’re not putting you in kindergarten class,” a friendly-faced bloke in a Happy Skischule jacket laughed. It’s my teacher, Patrick. He’s English, but skis like an Austrian (apparently they’re the greatest). Best of all, another grown-up girl and I have him all to ourselves for the next three days.

Patrick asks us to demonstrate what level we’re at.

That doesn’t take long. “We’ll go back to basics,” he concludes, diplomatically. “We’ll start on the nursery slopes.”

There was method to Patrick’s madness. Niederau is ideal for beginners, with two large nursery slopes and 11 blue runs. The resort is busy, but far from crowded, making it perfect for learning.

PATRICK broke everything down. As well as demonstrating how it’s done, he talked us through everything and explained why and how it all works. And because we were on the nursery slopes, I felt confident and relaxed, and by noon we were gently gliding down with ease.

Niederau is popular with such families, because it suits beginners of all ages. More experienced adults leave the kids at ski school to go off for proper runs, knowing they are in safe hands.

It has 11 red runs, and four blacks too. Not top choice for expert skiers, but challenging enough to keep intermediates content.

Typical of the Tyrol, it has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

The resort is fairly small, but while you may not be spoilt for choice when it comes to bars and clubs, the handful on offer are lively and fun, and full of smiling merry faces.

My favourite was Heustadl Bar, at the base of the gondola, and the bustling O’Malley’s Irish Pub. When you’re hungry, the family-run hotels offer traditional hearty grub.

Nearby Oberau is only a short bus or taxi ride away, for those keen to explore a bit more.

At Kellerwirt, the food was a treat and the wine cellar impressive.

Our superb fivecourse meal went down with some stinging local schnapps.

On day two, we started learning how to ski more parallel.

Proper skiing. But it’s trickier than it looks. “How do people make it look so easy?”

I moaned. “It is easy,” Patrick replied, “if you do it properly.”

That’s the great thing about paying for a teacher – they show you how to do it properly.

Patrick soon had us traversing across the side of the mountain.

After three days I felt confident.

There’s a lot to be said for this school malarkey – I’d recommend it to anyone.

And, while it might not be time for me to quit the day job just yet, I certainly deserve a gold star.


Abigail Jackson was a guest of Directski, which offers seven nights’ halfboard at the three-star Harfenwirt Hotel, in Niederau, from £379, including transfers and return flights ex- Gatwick, ex-Manchester £409, ex-Belfast £439, ex- Dublin 579 euros.

UK inquiries: 0800-358- 0448 and directski.com