Expat stories: How we met on the ski slopes
Posted: Dec 22 2015
Canadian Wendy Williams and Australian Googie Gundolf met in Lech am Arlberg six years ago whilst skiing. Wendy’s daughter was taking a course at one of Googie’s ski schools, and it turned out to be the start of a beautiful friendship - and more recently a business partnership.
They spoke to The Local about what they have in common and why they decided to start working together on Ski Suit Rental.
How did you become such good friends?
Wendy: For the first few years, we only knew each other through skiing. We were always wearing our ski suits. Then we went to London together and started pulling out all of these girly, pinky things from our suitcases. We both love skiing and we both love pink. It was like we were best friends before we even knew about it!
Googie: We’re both married to Austrians who work as financial advisers, we both have children, and we’ve both lived in Austria for most of our adult lives. We share the same slightly alienated feeling of being neither a native of our adopted country and yet somehow a little bit foreign in our birth countries.
Who first broached the idea of working together on your new ski suit rental business?
Wendy: It was pretty much a spontaneous idea that we started discussing because Googie knew a couple who wanted to rent ski outfits for their children. Good quality ski clothing is expensive and children usually grow a full size every season so it can be quite a burden on parents.
Googie is an experienced business woman (as well as ski schools for kids, she also runs a babysitting service for hotel guests in her area) and I knew she would make a great business partner. I teach sustainable development at the university and the idea of renting rather than owning ski apparel really taps into the concept of the shared economy - if you only ski once a year and don’t want to travel with a lot of luggage, there is no need to buy your own kit.
Googie: The company is based in Vienna, where Wendy lives. Our customers order their ski suits online and then we ship the full order directly to hotels across Europe. I cover the Vorarlberg and Tyrol area, and Wendy is able to cover the rest of Austria so one of us is just a three hour drive away if any problems arise.
What do you think will give your company the edge?
Wendy: We’re the first to offer ski suit rentals using a centralised e-commerce platform. We have top quality brands that are designed specifically for alpine conditions. It is actually cheaper to rent an outfit than to buy a new one every four or five years. It is also a wonderful convenience to arrive at your hotel to find a ski suit waiting in your room.
Googie: It’s all about enjoying a hassle free ski holiday, with the best quality gear. We’ve both had friends and family visit and beg to borrow ski suits so we know that there’s a need for this service. People rent skis and boots - so why not ski suits as well?
Where are your favourite places to ski?
Googie: I’d have to say Lech am Arlberg because that’s where I live! I could ski every day if I wanted to, but I am lucky that I can choose the sunny days. I love to be the first one out on the slopes in the morning. As a warm weather Australian, I discovered early that when you wear a really good quality ski suit, you enjoy skiing a lot more too.
Wendy: Anywhere there is snow! From Stuhleck in Semmering for a day trip, right across Austria to Schladming and Voralberg and all resorts in between. My family is slightly obsessed. My husband and I fell in love on a ski trip. It’s been almost 20 years now and I can almost keep up with him on the slopes! My favourite run in the world
is probably the Muggengrat in Arlberg. The panorama is spectacular, it’s a challenging slope and I get to see Googie!