Murmuration of Starlings

I posted this video on fb yesterday of these amazing birds and what they are up to.  According to the RSPB website, they are actually just having fun, just hanging out with their mates and flying about before settling down for the evening.  All along the riviera here, this video was taken in Aubonne, you see this spectacular show in the autumn.

From the RSPB website;

“What’s going on?

It’s basically a mass aerial stunt – thousands of birds all swooping and diving in unison. It’s completely breathtaking to witness.

We think that starlings do it for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands.

They also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas. 

They gather over their roosting site, and perform their wheeling stunts before they roost for the night. 

When and where?

  • Autumn roosts usually begin to form in November, though this varies from site to site and some can begin as early as September. 
  • More and more birds will flock together as the weeks go on, and the number of starlings in a roost can swell to around 100,000 in some places. 
  • Early evening, just before dusk, is the best time to see them across the UK. You don’t need any special equipment as it’s all visible by just looking to the skies.
  • They roost in places that are sheltered from harsh weather and predators, such as woodlands, but reedbeds, cliffs, buildings and industrial structures are also used. During the day, however, they form daytime roosts at exposed places such as treetops, where the birds have good all-round visibility.”

Summer skills

No doubt that this post will be lost in the general angst of Brexi but I recently had a great experience that I wanted to share with you.

In the ski season I’m often asked what I do in the summer and  apart from some other things that I’m working on and generally planning my diary for the ski season, my main work is coaching football for kids.
For the last 5 or so years I’ve worked for a company called Intersoccer who run after school football all over Switzerland but principally in the French speaking area along the Lake Geneva riviera.  This has lead to me developing loads of great young footballers and it’s fantastic to see them grow up and improve their skills.

I normally first come into contact with them when they are about 5 years of age and I normally keep them within the Intersoccer system until the point at which they need much more competitive football can start to go and play club football with local teams.

Something that I have put in place over the last two seasons with Intersoccer is matches against other Intersoccers to measure our progress.  For example, Intersoccer in Montreux played Intersoccer Lausanne recently in a return match of ones that we held last autumn.

The tournament was originally designed as a fun morning for the kids to show off their skills but after our narrow defeat to Lausanne (by some much bigger boys I might add) my team from Montreux were determined for revenge.
My approach to coaching football is very sequential, much like learning to ski.  I worked on this for a number of years with my colleague and now famous on Indian TV, Stevie Grieve.  It follows that you need to have the basics down before you can move onto the next level.  For example, a very basic model might look like this;

Ball manipulation > moving with ball > turning with ball > passing ball > shooting with ball

Obviously there is much more to it than this but as the weeks go on, I start to build some very competent young footballers who can more than old their own against older boys and are often playing for their school teams.  When they pop out of my system, they often go to play for local clubs and fit in very well due to their skills foundation.

Back to the tournament, we ended up drawing two matches against older boys with my senior group, a result that they were very proud of and my more junior guys smashed their equivalents in Lausanne playing with less players and still winning 8 or 9 -0.

montreux seniors – hard fought draws

Montreux juniors – no mercy

It was amazing to see the lack of fear in these young guys, trying their skills and playing with freedom, trusting their instincts.  When I coach from the sidelines, I try to stay quiet as much as possible and let the kids work out solutions to their own problems.  If I absolutely have to say something, I try to be positive and encouraging.

When setting up the teams, I try to keep it as simple as possible,  My main instructions for this tournament was to hustle the opposition man on the ball and counter attack with speed.  The team set up and decided their own formation based on the weeks of practice before.

Anyway, well done to all of you that might be reading this.  I’m very proud of what you achieved.

Aside from football coaching, we had another group in the hotel last week, not skiing this time but a group from the UK who were here to learn French and do activities in the afternoon.  They had a great week and enjoyed excellent food from our new chef.  I had the beginners group of French learners and they made great progress by the end of the week, going out into the village and interacting with real French speakers.

Summer has started properly here now.  I sit currently in Geneva and it’s 31 degrees.  I really struggle in the heat, especially in the city, so much so that I’m planning a trip back to the UK this weekend in the hope that it is colder. (Assuming that is, they let me back in :))


Back from the brink.

So it’s been a while.  The last written blog entry date was in December 2014.  That’s a bit too long but to be fair, I’ve been caught up in a lot of things.

Moody weather over Morgins

The short list of what I’ve been up to basically runs as follows.

  • Take a year off from BASI ski instructor exams to rediscover my love for skiing and partying
  • Get divorced
  • Start a business
  • Become sober
  • Get back on the ski instructor exam trail

There is a lot more too it than that but those five small items have taken up a lot of time and I want to strike a balance in this blog between content and privacy.

In all this time that I haven’t been blogging there have been two major ski related experiences that have changed my perspective on skiing.
The first was a day in the season off of BASI where I got up early and went to see my good friend Ali McGrain in Courchevel. Ali has been working in the US for years but was in Europe also doing his own exploration of the BASI system with a view to becoming full cert over here.  Ali is a full on ski geek like me (and won’t mind me calling him that) and we had a fantastic day bombing about the 3 valleys, talking shop.

I’ve read in a few books here and there that when you let go of skiing in your head and stop thinking technically, that’s when you start to make the real discoveries.  This was a day like that.  Because of the nature of the ski runs in the 3 valleys, long cruisy reds with seriously big distance in between lifts, you can really get into a groove and experiment with different things.  It was here that I found a freedom of movement in my hip joint, a proper discovery that has transformed my skiing.

The second experience was actually on the BASI level 4 technical exam that I only managed 3 days of last time.  To be fair, at the time this was a in full marriage breakdown time so it was difficult to concentrate.  However, this time, I had trained well and was in a much better place mentally for my trip to Val D’Isere.
I had a great trainer in Giles Lewis who was inspirational as a person and also a skier, especially in moguls.  I was skiing really well on the first two days and was feeling super confident I until the last run of the second day when I ripped a massive hole in the bottom and edge of my favourite pair of skis.

It turned out that were beyond help and the only other pair of skis that I had taken with me as a spare were a set of 185cm GS skis which I despised.  A measure of how confident I felt at this point though, after a very strong two days on the exam, I said to myself,

‘do you know what, I feel confident, I’ll take these shitty skis I don’t like and ski the bolllocks off them.  I’ll show you all.’

I didn’t quite work that way and quite who I was going to ‘show’ was unclear.  Often, I wasn’t going fast enough to get the ski bending properly and it was just way too long to be that effective in quite short ruts in the moguls we were skiing.  Over the course of he week I gradually felt the exam slip away from me until on Friday afternoon, I was told that I wasn’t good enough.  By that point, I just wanted to go home anyway and headed back north to a warm bed and some good food.

Although on the face of it, this was a negative experience, it many ways it was positive, and also meant I got to buy a new  pair of skis which I absolutely love.  If I had been on the exam on these skis, I know I would have passed.  I spent many lift rides with trainers on that exam, chatting about life in general and the journey to full cert and I know it’s not a rush.  I’ll be back, better than ever but for now I’m looking at alternative instructor systems more aligned with where I want to be in the future.

Plans for the summer I hear you ask?  My summers are mainly spent  plotting for the winter.  Saas Fee opens mid-July and I’ll be up there training for my next project.  I’ll also be running a ski camp for some kids that I work with, also in Saas Fee.

Other projects include nutrition and health coaching certification which means lots of study and a language camp that starts next week.

Skiing dates are already starting to come in and my diary for 2016/7 season is starting to look busy already.  Get your bookings in soon to avoid the rush🙂

Chat soon



This is the start?

I woke up this morning for the first time to the magical sound of beeping and scraping snowploughs and the man downstairs at the Creperie, hard at work with his shovel, cleaning the snow from his terrace. This can only mean one thing, the big snow has arrived.


Big snow?

I don’t particularly want to jinx the big snow as I know that it has snowed all the way down to Lac Leman which is never a good sign but it is forecast to stay cold, so at least the guys who look after the mountain can start making some more snow and generally get on with making a ski resort happen.

In this respect, it’s been a pretty disastrous start for some of the Portes du Soleil, with places like Morzine looking like summer up until today and my home resort of Morgins only able to open the top area for beginner lessons. Pretty much the whole of the Portes du Soleil was invading Chatel, Linderets, Mossettes and Avoriaz, resulting in Avoriaz having to impose quotas on lift ticket sales to preserve the pistes and ensure safety.

I managed to ski much of the French side this week in a desperate attempt to look like I can still actually ski for when our ski school formation weekend (skiing part anyway) finally happens. Personally, I’m skiing pretty well actually and I’m taking on board some of the lessons that I learned on my failed BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) level 4 tech exam last year.

Personally this year, I’m taking a break from BASI and ski instructor exams. I came to the realisation last year that endless focus on exams and progressing through ‘the system’ was killing my enjoyment of skiing and so I’m having a year off with specific goals of finding enjoyment and pleasure in skiing again and skiing socially with friends.

It’s not all been sitting indoors looking out of the window looking for snow though. I’ve have a few trips to Saas Fee in the Autumn which were excellent as usual and I even got to finally visit Nesti’s Ski Bar which was on my list of things to do in Saas since I first went there in the summer of 2010. It didn’t disappoint and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Loads of Appenzeller shots, no wifi and great music.  Say I sent you.

Remember I was telling you about my goal to ski with friends more? Well, for my birthday, I got a bunch of people together and went to ski in Cervina. The snow there at the start of December was amazing and everything was open, right from the top at about 3300m, down to village level at 1800m.


Some high quality rental skis


Beautiful Italy. Cervina.

Despite being on rental skis and very hungover (a long story for another time to do with getting a chef fired and a house party till 3am), I had an amazing day, skiing with my bosses, my friends, ex-Swiss team skiers and the coolest guy in Morgins, JD.

That day was all about social skiing and to see 8 Morginois, skiing with total freedom, tearing up the Italian pistes was a sight to remember.

Bring on winter.