Sorry I haven't posted for a bit, I've been learning to Cross Country Ski in Seefeld, Austria; the land of Lederhosen. If you have no interest in skiing then look away now.
Like most Brits, I'd never even tried Cross Country; (or 'langlauf' as they call it) always believing the rumours that it was just 'plodding about for old people'.
Now I know differently. It's like your first week of skiing all over again; with all the bruises, falls and sheer fun that this involved. It's like skiing on a clothes prop in a pair of wellington boots.
There's two styles- classic which we tried first, where you shuffle along ready made tracks and skating, which is what you see in the Olympics, where you glide gracefully along outside the tracks, like an ice skater. (Or in my case, you glide along in a stuttering fashion, frantically jabbing both poles into the snow, completely out of sync with your legs until spots start to appear before your eyes). Being British, we obviously didn't even consider taking lessons; with the result that by the first afternoon those who had gone to the Schischule were still walking up and down the beginners field, whereas we were miles away, covered in bruises, upside down with our heads sticking out of a snowdrift.
The two mistakes I made where to assume that the tracks were flat and that controlling the skis would be easy. The reality is very different. The tracks lead you up and up, puffing and panting, before the inevitable descent where you step out of the tracks and try to turn just as if you were on normal skis, before discovering that langlauf skis have no metal edges. As your speed increases, you start frantically snowploughing, which doesn't slow you down that much; then go into full scale panic, stepping about trying to do a Stem Christie turn before accepting the inevitable and desperately hoping to land in a bank of soft snow.
Whilst I admit that it is possible Johann the instructor tells you the secret of how to control the skis in his lessons; as far as I am concerned, you might as well go skiing on two giant sticks of chewing gum.
After a while you do start to get the hang of it though and trekking through the beautiful Alpine scenery on a sunny morning to your planned lunchtime destination is an experience which is hard to beat (You get a map and follow the signs- it's like going out for a walk but with a lot more screaming)
Despite currently walking with a limp as well as being black and blue, I'd heartily recommend it. Oh and try Bratwurst and Germknodel in the Gasthof (but not together)