Travel Extra Editor Kevin Flanagan talks about his ski adventures with his grandkids
Every year, I get ready for the ski slopes by attending The Ski Club of Ireland, in Kilternan, south County Dublin. I have been doing this for twenty years and it is like a second home! Three years ago, I started taking my grandchildren. First, it was Kuba, then aged four. This year, it was his sister Maya, who just turned five. And every year, we always go to Eddie Sythes and his wife Kathleen. They are kind, considerate and fabulous kids’ teachers. ‘Simply the best!’, as the song suggests.
This year, it was Maya’s turn to learn. She had never skied before, and after four visits to the children’s slopes in Kilternan, she arrived in Westendorf last week and went straight into the Reds School kids’ classes. The advantage of having been with the Ski Club of Ireland first was that she was familiar with all the awkward things: putting on ski boots, getting used to skis, making pizza shapes and fries (parallel skis!). So she was not fazed as some kids were on that first morning.
And as for Kuba, now on his third trip to the slopes, he was off to his ski class and making new friends before I had even turned my back. And here I should mention Aileen, the Rep of Topflight (topflight.ie), the Irish-owned company we were skiing with. Aileen not only helped me get the two kids ready for the slopes on the first morning (always a chore!). But she also helped us find their respective teachers and settled the two kids in class. A real boon on what is always a very busy (and sometimes stressful) first morning.
The Ski Club of Ireland
But back to Eddie Sythes and his wife Kathleen, and the wonderful work everyone does at the Ski Club of Ireland. The club was established in the ‘60s by a group of enthusiastic Irish skiers – quite a novelty back then. In the mid-70s, the club moved from Goatstown to its present location close to Kilternan. The ski club has four ski slopes: the main slope (180 metres long), an intermediate slope (130 metres long) and two nursery slopes.
The slopes’ surfaces are covered in Dendix, a by-product of brush manufacturing that is similar to a short-haired brush with the bristles sticking upwards. A water-misting system lubricates the main and intermediate slopes, which helps increase speed and reduce friction.
The Ski Club also has a clubhouse located beside the slopes which houses an office and equipment dispensing area. Rental equipment is included in the price of class tickets or practice passes. And recently, there has been a van selling hot coffees and cakes, which is a great extra!
The Ski Club offers ski lessons for all abilities and all ages. Instructors in the ski school include ISIA-qualified instructors (International Ski Instructors Association). Most of the instructors’ qualifications have been obtained through the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI) or the British Association of Snowsports Instructors (BASI). There are, however, a few native Austrian, German and Spanish skiers amongst the instructors. I have always found the instructors at Ski Club to be of the highest standard and very helpful – whatever your age or stage in skiing – beginners, intermediate or advanced.
As for Eddie Sythes and his wife Kathleen. They specialise in helping young skiers and both Kuba and Maya are BIG fans.
“They are really great,” says Kuba, “and it really helped when I got to Westendorf.”
Maya also found the Ski Club experience positive.
“Putting on ski boots is really hard and so was learning to make a pizza (snowplough), but Eddie and Kathleen were so nice!”
What’s more Eddie Sythes and his wife Kathleen, like all the other teachers, are volunteers. They do it simply for the love of skiing and it shows.
If you are heading for the slopes before the end of this season, do give the Ski Club of Ireland a call. It will make your trip to the snow safer and more enjoyable!
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