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Aiming High The Life of Ski and Travel Pioneer Erna LowAiming High The Life of Ski and Travel Pioneer Erna Low

Mark Frary, Roger Lloyd Pack

  • Biography/Autobiography
  • The Real World
  • Travel

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Why I wrote this book

The winter of 2012/13 marks the 80th anniversary of the first group of skiers that Erna Low took to the mountains, initially as a way of covering the costs of getting home from London to her native Austria.Over the next three decades she turned this small sideline to her work as a German teacher into one of the most important travel companies in Britain, which pioneered many of the destinations and ideas that we now take for granted.

I always knew that Erna had an interesting upbringing but I my research led to some fascinating discoveries, including that she threw the javelin in the Amateur Athletics Association championships at Stamford Bridge in 1932, coming second to the British record holder. I also learned of some terrible tragedies, including a deadly avalanche in 1952, that could have spelled the end of the company.

This is the first time a biography of Erna Low has been written and I have had unprecedented access to her correspondence, scrapbooks and photo albums and interviewed many of the people who knew her well, including the actor Roger Lloyd-Pack, who treated her like a surrogate mother. Anyone interested in how a woman succeeded in the tough-drinking male dominated world of travel and in the development of the package holiday should reads this book.


Erna Low, born in Vienna in 1909, was instrumental in starting what has become a multimillion pound industry: the ski holiday business. In 1932, she placed an advert in the Morning Post saying Austria, fortnight, GBP15 only, including rail and hotel, arranged by young Viennese Graduette for young people leaving Christmas . For her, it was a way to get back home to see her family over Christmas, but the popularity of the trip soon saw it develop into a lucrative business. Erna, an Austrian javelin champion and handball player, soon branched out into parties for the young elite at country houses around Britain, becoming something of a matchmaker for the 20- and 30-somethings who flocked to her events year after year. When war came to Europe, she joined the BBC, listening in on German broadcasts to help the Allied effort. After normality had been restored, she grasped the opportunity offered by rising standards of living and grew her eponymous company into a leading travel company in the market by the 1960s, introducing many holiday destinations and concepts to the British market. A consummate networker, Erna Low introduced herself to the great and the good and became their friend and confidante. She taught royalty, actors and politicians to ski. This illustrated hardback biography examines Erna's life, including interviews with her friends and colleagues and shows how her strength of character and business nous enabled her to succeed in a male-dominated world. It will appeal to anyone interested in the history of skiing and travel in Britain, the hundreds of thousands of past and present customers of Erna Low as well as anyone interested in how an independent young Austrian woman from a challenging background became a household name and business success in Britain. A foreword has been written by Roger Lloyd Pack. 2012 is the 80th anniversary of the first Erna Low-organised ski trip. The current chief executive of her company has an amazing archive of material collected by Erna during her life and it was going through this that inspired me to write it, says author Mark about Aiming High.

About the Author

Mark Frary, Roger Lloyd Pack Mark Frary has written about skiing for The Times, the Evening Standard, Ski & Board, Teletext, the easyJet magazine and Food & Travel. He has skied in resorts all around the world and lived in Switzerland for four years.

Mark, who was a nuclear physicist before turning to writing, is also the author of Freaky Future, Freaky Science, Math in Your Pocket and Better Living Through Science as well as co-author of The Origins of the Universe for Dummies, Codebreaker: The History of Secret Communication and Future Proof.

Book info

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256 pages


Mark Frary, Roger Lloyd Pack


Matador an imprint of Troubador Publishing

Publication date

1st January 2013

Author's Website