BASI level 2 starts

Our BASI level 2 exam has started and after much anticipation, we are finally into the last two weeks of the summer gap course in Saas-Fee.

a lonely scouse waits for his lost sheep

The main question that I am asking myself is have I done enough work so that my skiing up to the level required to become a qualified instructor.

I feel like I’ve certainly been putting the work in – I think I’ve skied almost every weekend and day off that we have had here and I normally skip the food break on the mountain in order to get a couple of extra runs in. I’m hoping that all of this extra ski time is going to pay off and judging by the feedback that I’m getting from Al, the BASI trainer who is with our group this week, I think (hope!) this extra work has paid off.

There are two groups and two trainers sent out by BASI. Our one is Al Okrafo-Smart, who is based in Val D’Isere and the other group has Andy Freshwater, an ex-GB racer who was at the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998 (apparently he went through the same gate that Herman Maier went over in that famous crash). They have very different styles, with Andy’s group doing all sorts of weird stuff everywhere and our group focusing on the fundamentals of skiing and how this relates to performance stuff. It’s very interesting to have another different style of working after the two previous weeks of boot camp from the Warren Smith Academy coaches.

The BASI coaches are using video feedback in the same way that the Academy guys do except that there is a difference with the video runs that we are doing this time because they count. I get a very different feeling of pressure, thinking that this run has to be spot on because this is what I’ll be judged on. It’s pretty intense and you can feel the tension running through the gappies.

Al has been good enough to give us an idea of whether we are skiing at the required level to pass BASI 2 and there are different levels of work to do within our group. Some are skiing very close to the level and we know that one of the more talented skiers is beyond it. From a personal perspective, I know that my carving is at the right level and I’ve just got to show a little bit more agility in my short turns – no more Mr Smooth next week, I’m going to be chucking myself everywhere.

The mountain has been closed for a day or two here and there while yet more fresh snow dumps on the glacier. This is adding a bit more pressure on to those people with a lot to work on as they will only have a limited time to work on their weak areas. A bonus to this is that we have got all of the theory and some of the demo lesson work out of the way so we can mostly concentrate on performance skiing for the rest of the course.

I’m starting to feel sentimental about Saas, knowing that I’m going to be leaving it in just over a week. It feels a little bit like home to me after 8-weeks and anywhere else is going to seem really busy and brash compared to a village where you walk everywhere and have to dodge electric cars. Everyone here has made me feel really welcome and I’m not sure if that is just a Swiss thing or a Saas thing but I’ll certainly be sad to leave all of the new mates that I have made here.

For now though, it’s a big focus on the final week of the exam and then the final Friday night end of gap celebration.

published here


The central dream and start of bootcamp

I sit writing this with an epic hangover because the gappies had a party last to let off some steam. I’m in desperate need of pizza, sky tv and my sofa at home.

some crap skiing not doing justice to an epic background

We were hammering the Jaeger because we are one week away from our BASI 2 exam which is a 2-week course and we only have five days of coaching left to get up to the level needed, and we still have to fit in the avalanche course which keeps getting put back because of bad weather.

Last week was mostly about the central theme, which means loads of snowploughing and fairly basic stuff – most of which is really difficult. Because at some point some of us are going to be teaching this to real people, our demos have to be spot on. I find it harder to ski at this sort of speed than the usual warp speed that I used to blast blues and reds on ski holidays.

This week brought a change of coaches and our group (imaginatively named ‘Group 1’) had Jordan Revah for 3 days. I’m not sure if he meant to boot camp us so much or whether that was the point of this week but I don’t think that I’ve hurt so much after skiing as I did this week.

The highlight for me of the week was the one-ski skiing. I don’t think that I’ve ever laughed so much on a piste before in my life – or fallen over so much. It’s a favourite exercise of a lot of the race camps here and some of the top racers make it look very easy. For me though, I discovered that my left leg is completely useless for anything but standing at the bar – it was an absolute revelation getting back on two skis afterwards; I felt so balanced and so totally in control of what I was doing. Jords looked surprised when I bear-hugged him in the lift queue as a thank you.

A few of us also gate-crashed a photo shoot that Warren Smith was doing for one of the magazines and got some amazing shots, one of which is this week’s picture. The location was just above one of the regular pistes with an amazing glacier backdrop in about 5cms of fresh snow. I’ve put them all up on my Facebook page and I’m now attaching the link to my applications that are going off to various ski schools around Switzerland to show them that I can actually ski.

It’s been a little tricky to actually write this as I’ve got a big burn on my finger from a P-Tex candle that decided to attach itself to me while I was doing a base repair on my Head Supershapes (which I have totally fallen in love with). I’m starting to get a bit weird about my skis and most nights I’m in the basement of the Dom Hotel with the other ski obsessive gappy Tim (he is an ex-racer though so it’s understandable for him). Tim has been quite entrepreneurial and is making a few quid servicing the skis of other gappies and academy clients on the Warren Smith courses.

We’ve got five more days of boot camp before our BASI 2 starts so it’s time to work hard and polish everything before the assessors get here.

The glacier has been closed for a day or two while the weather gods have dumped about a metre of fresh snow. I got up early on the first day that the lift was open and treated myself to an hour of fresh powder skiing. The Supershapes are not the best tool for shredding pow but now that the piste conditions have settled they are performing better than ever. The snow is amazing for August and should remain so now for the rest of the summer and into Autumn/Winter

Work experience

From a personal perspective, it’s been a really interesting week on the summer gap course with the gappies shadowing the instructors from the Warren Smith Ski Academy as they taught their clients on the academy courses.

Scouse teaching in his own ‘unique’ style.

I was shadowing the semi-famous ‘Scouse’ aka Tom Lewis and it was amazing to see the change in the skiing levels of the academy clients over a week, just by changing some very simple things.

The academy week started with the usual ski-off to group the clients into different ability levels, various gappies were then assigned to the groups according to their strengths. The week then followed a set pattern which involved analysing the faults in the client’s skiing and improving their skills step-by-step to help them improve.

The first day we mainly worked on slow speed turns and projecting the hip down the fall line to initiate turns, which then progressed to work on stance width to provide a better base to ski from.

The following days were spent working on other areas such as how the clients held their arms as they skied, the importance of a good pole plant, control of speed by finishing off turns, some work with no ski poles and carving. This was all backed up by 2-video analysis sessions and it was really good to see how all of the work that we had done improved the client’s skiing from the first day compared to the last.

There was also an emphasis on us to look at the teaching style that was used by the various instructors and Scouse’s style was mainly of self discovery for the clients and lots of individual feedback. There was also a boot camp style feel to the way that he taught clients which obviously worked very well because the level of improvement across the group was massive.

The arrival of August has brought another change in the weather and we are starting to get regular snowfalls on the glacier. The freezing level has also dropped to about 3000 meters so the snow is bulletproof first thing in the morning and like winter in quality as the day goes on.

The pieces of my own skiing are now starting to come together and using my days off to work on various things up the mountain, I’ve now managed to get rid of my camp left hand pole plant. I feel like I’m fairly symmetrical now turning in either direction and I just need to get rid of the slightly split stance on short radius turns by carving the skis round together. I’m also completely inept at bumps and moguls and I need to fix that before BASI level 2 arrives.

The gappies are gearing up to be boot camped ourselves for the next 3-weeks as our levels need to be much better before the BASI trainers get here. This week we are revisiting the central theme of ski progression and doing some more personal performance.

(this blog never made it onto Fall Line as the web ed was away on hols and missed it)

First aid and learning how to jump

Last week was frustrating as far as skiing is concerned…

We only managed three days on the mountain. We’ve been attending a 2-day first aid course run by the British Association of Ski Patrollers (BASP) which accounted for Tuesday and Wednesday and the glacier ski area was closed on Friday and Saturday due to rain and high temperatures.

The first aid course was very interesting and in terms of content and covered a huge amount of situations and technical detail. The course was split 50/50 between theory and practical scenarios outside. Passers by in Saas were highly amused by the gappies working out which casualties in a fake Tour de France crash to attend to first or giving CPR to a plastic dummy.
We’ve also had our detailed results through from the BASI 1 exam which gives a breakdown of the areas where we are strong and weak. My feedback largely reflects the areas that I know I need to work on such as bending and stretching to absorb pressure and also to only try and think of one thing at a time when I’m training so I don’t jam my brain up with technical thoughts.
The Friday that the glacier was closed meant that for the first time this summer we did dry land training in the basement sports hall of a local hotel. This involved lots of dynamic jumping from side to side to simulate a ski turn. The idea was to isolate the ankle and use it more to generate power and spring. I guess it was also a discovery exercise and I found that I was landing on my heels initially which points towards skiing too much in the back seat.
We videoed our first attempts and we found that many of the faults in our skiing could be traced back to something as simple as the way that we jumped. Our final efforts after two hours worth of work on balance, leg and core control were astounding to see on video. I’ve now taken to jumping in this style down the stairs of the hotel to keep my focus on this as I found it really useful.
My beautiful wife arrived on Thursday for a long weekend and she was certainly a sight for sore eyes. A month is the longest we’ve been apart since we met eight years ago! She seems to have brought with her a change in the weather because a cold wind is now coming up from the valley and it is raining more. There has been a dusting of fresh snow most days since the weekend, which is great as the glacier desperately needs it.
published here