Season Review part 2

Hello from sunny Geneva.  I promised you more frequent blogging and the second part of the season so here we go.

Early January continued with teaching our lessons in Chatel.  There was sufficient snow to get the cold north facing Follieuse piste open in Morgins but for some reason, they didn’t get going until the middle of January which was a real pain in the arse for all those that work and teach skiing in the village.    When the big snow finally came in mid January, everyone was happy to finish skiing around dodging rocks and get into the swing of the ski season.

I had a really good day in mid January skiing around the Portes Du Soleil with my friend Scott Pleva of Inside Out Skiing.  I’ve done a few courses with Scott over the years and he’s a really great guy.  If you are looking to improve your skiing in the UK, you should definitely check out what he does at the indoor snowdomes.  We talked and skied a lot and plotted a few things in connection with bringing a group of his skiers out here to sample the delights of the Swiss side of the Portes Du Soleil.  You can check out the trip that we have planned here.

The ski season was a little disjointed for me this season because of the birth of my daughter Zoë.  For those of you that don’t know, she was born on 18 January and has been a delight every since she came into the world.  

I’ve noticed about this whole baby thing is that the pre-natal classes that you have to attend, which seem mainly to be spend waiting for them to end and listening to a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t really seem that complicated (and indeed could just be condensed down to a one hour YouTube video that is obligatory to watch).  Compare this to the actual reality once the baby has arrived and you more or less are just left to get on with it without that much guidance at all.  I’ll never forget the time when I was left all alone with Zoe, just 10 mins after she was born, where I was on my own with her for an hour or so with no clue what to do.  It’s really very strange that you get all this chat before the event but very little after.

On another note, am I too premature in having bought her skis already?

Zoe’s pair already next to mine


After 10 days playing new Father, I was back on skis and into the guts of the International Schools Ski Race season.  These are great days, looking after groups of good young skiers racing for the glory of their schools against other schools in the region.  The fun bit from our perspective is not only skiing with these guys but also getting to visit other resorts and getting out of the Portes Du Soleil for a while.  This year, we visited Les Diablerets, Villars, Saanen and we would have gone to Gstaad too but it was cancelled due to bad weather.  The level of skiing was generally good and it was great to see so many kids that I knew through skiing or football at the races.

Once high season holidays were out of the way and the weeks of teaching in French and some basic Dutch (google translate is your friend here) were clear, the season evolved into teaching our own groups that we bring out to Morgins with Ski Morgins Schools, our company that runs Ski and Educational Trips to Morgins.  This year we had groups from The Middle East, Africa and the U.K.

Because these groups are often completely new to skiing, they are a big contrast to the groups on race days and it is sometimes exhausting having to think for 8 kids and yourself and everyone else on the slopes around you.  Sometimes it’s a question of limiting the amount of stupid decisions that kids make whilst remembering that they don’t see those decisions as stupid because they don’t realise or see the dangers that we see.

I had a couple of good groups over the course of these weeks and a couple of beginners groups.  The beginners are great fun and I’ve now become so comfortable with teaching groups like this that I’m now experimenting with different teaching styles, command, guided discovery, questioning approaches etc.  I have concluded that they reach the same level at the end of the week irrespective of what style I use..

The last group of the season from Africa were exceptional.  Because Morgins closed early this season (again, a lack of snow did for them) I got to ski my group around the Chatel Pre La Joux sector.  The group was comprised of the kids that had all skied before and frequently took skiing holidays with their parents.  I had the most amazing week with them, skiing on and off piste, moguls, jumps, ice and slush.  They took it all in their stride and skied in in the African style, which is fun, lots of laughing and supporting each other.

my african team elite

For the last 5 days of the season, I had my old business partner Steve and his excellent family out here to visit.  I was being Dave the tour operator this week as I had organised an apartment for them and showing them all the best restaurants and teaching their kids George and Rosie how to ski.   The kids took to skiing like ducks to water and I can see a ski holiday being a fixture of their family year for years to come.  The only question left is how long will it be before the parents need lessons to keep up with the kids.  About two years I reckon…

My next blog will be the Swiss Snowsports conversion equivalence course one.  

-X-

Season review post part 1

Once again, it’s been a while since I posted but I’m determined to get back on the horse of this. Writing about skiing is quite a cathartic process and helps me get my thoughts in order and focus my energies in the right direction.

In addition, my blog was something of an advert for me but I’ve been so busy with a couple of projects the last couple of years and a whole bunch of personal stuff that I won’t necessarily bore you with (suffice to say I am now a divorce statistic), that I simply haven’t haven’t had time to blog. This is a nice problem to have.

So here we go again, you’ll be hearing from me a lot more often now.

This is something of a review post from July until December. The second one will follow next month. I started my season, like normal, on the galcier of Saas Fee. I missed opening day by a couple of weeks but I was there around the start of August, which for a non-natural skier like me, means I’ve got plenty of time to feel the skis and get my technique in order before the winter starts.

I love this place. Saas Fee Glacier in summer.

This season however, I had a purpose and that was the looming spectre of the Swiss Equivalence conversion exam in November. For those that don’t know, if you have a bunch of qualifications from another ski instructor system, in my case BASI, the British system, you can write to another national body and ask them how the qualifications that you have got stack up against theirs and what level they will give you.

I’ve known for a long time that my future and ambitions do not reside in France, I’m now married to a Swiss, I have a Swiss kid and I just prefer it in Switzerland, you could call it my adopted home if you like. It’s been my ambition for a while to get to where I needed to be to work independently in Switzerland.

The only real reason that many people tend to follow the British system all the way to the end is that it gives you working rights in France. I’m not interested in that and my interest in the British system died a while ago.

Anyway, as is my usual summer, I was in Saas about twice a month training some very, very specific things that you have to do in the Swiss system that you don’t really find anywhere else. I’m planning to detail a lot of this in a separate post but I basically spent the whole of Autumn on slalom skis trying to learn how to carve backwards at speeds much beyond my comfort envelope.

I did some specific training with Tom Waddington of New Generation Ski School in Verbier who should definitely get a mention for running the course and making himself available to be there.

My second plug goes to Ben Shubrook at Optimum Snowsports in Saas Fee who was a great training partner. I spent many days on the Saas Glacier with Ben and his unique sense of humour and you should definitely check out Ben’s Ski School in Saas Fee if you are ever there.

The conditions on the Saas Fee Glacier itself were awesome all the way through the Autumn. They even got the pistes down to Morenia at 2500m open by mid October which was a real bonus to get the ski legs ready for the test itself. I thought this was a sign of a decent winter to come down at our end of the Valais but I was wrong.

The Equivalence test itself came and went, two days in Zermatt with some of the best skiers I had ever seen with my own eyes. I don’t want to reveal too much as I’m saving it for another post but the level of skiing from the demonstrators was out of this world and I learnt a lot on those two days.

The Swiss send the results of this test to you in the post. There is no waiting until the Friday and a nervous chat with a trainer like the British system makes you do.

The results arrived in the post after a two week wait and I was delighted to have passed. I now hold the Federal Brevet in Switzerland and the right to establish my own ski school.

After the course, I had a bunch of work to do relating to coaching football and I was expecting the usual early season big dump of snow to fall in Morgins so we could get going. The big dump came and most of the main piste in Morgins was ready but for some reason, the resort didn’t get going until mid January. An absolute disaster for the ski schools and the businesses in the village.

Everyone was forced to go and deliver their lessons in the French sector and that meant working in Chatel Pre La Joux over the Christmas and New Year period. Whilst it was great that we got some work done, being in Chatel was chaos. So many people skiing on icy, rocky pistes, the conditions were pretty difficult and ‘teaching’ in this setting is more often a case of just keeping clients safe as opposed to getting constructive work done.

I had the pleasure of skiing with the head of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club’s head of academy so I was able to pump him for some decent answers to my questions relating to football.  The answers I got relating to ‘is Pep actually any good?’ And ‘is there any place in the game for a classic number 10 like Totti anymore?’ were very enlightening.

More about the season in part 2 in a month or so.
DB

Well busy mate

It’s been over a month since I blogged, what with friends and family coming to visit, teaching at Christmas and New Year and some training, I’ve not had a moment to sit down and write.  This is my first day off skis since the 22 December.



sorry for picture repetition but the stupid blogger system isn’t letting me upload new photos.  get it sorted.

First up, friends coming to visit and the default thing for the last few years has been that we all get drunk and generally destroy ourselves for 5-days then everyone goes home.  Much to my surprise, things have actually changed amongst my circle of mates from back home.  Cheeko is half the size he used to be because he is training to do the London Marathon, Hughsey seems to have lost his drinking ability because he is happily in love with his new girlfriend and Stavros was one flight away from New Zealand, never to be seen again.  Sometimes, change is good.

Once we got rid of those guys, my Mother-in-law came to visit at Christmas, which was a very pleasant time for Mrs Burrows.  She misses her family at this time of year and it was good that she came here to see where and how we live.  Personally, I didn’t see her much because I was too busy teaching skiing in the rain.  Teaching in the rain is one of the more miserable parts of Christmas week.  It always rains at Christmas and every year we act surprised.  There cannot be many more contradictory sights in the world than ego filled ski instructors, especially the new ones who think they are slightly above fighter pilots in the ego standings, soaked through from a day skiing in the rain.

New Year passed with the usual armageddon of people setting fire to their money through the medium of fireworks and a shivering, frightened sheepdog under the bed, followed by a smattering of lessons that brought us to this week where my year really gets going. 

This year I introduced to the ski school another instructor Al, who I met on a course about 2-years ago.  Al is almost all the way through the British BASI system, with only one exam left before he gets his Level-4 and the full ‘Carte Pro’ which allows you to work anywhere in Europe.  Al’s been quite inspirational to me and I’m now focused on seeing how far I can go in the system, including the dreaded European Speed Test.

So in contrast to last year, where I would just teach and ski straight home, I’m now looking to finish off all of my level-3 ski modules this season, and start working towards level-4 myself.  After teaching now, I’m now putting in a couple of hours a day training by myself or with people better than me (more or less everyone then..) and noting down discoveries in a little notebook.  Next week I’m off to a training week in Morzine to see where I stand in relation to the level-3 standard and see what I’m up against in terms of the other people on the course.

So far, the less drinking more skiing thing is working (apart from a couple of non-graceful falls from the wagon) so let’s see if I can keep this focus up and have a good couple of weeks.  I’ll let you know how I get on when I get back.

-x-

‘So, what do you do in the summer?’

Probably the most common question that I get asked during the winter season, be it in my capacity as a ski instructor or sometime transfer driver to the airport is, ‘So, what do you do in summer?’. 

life’s a beach
This is normally the second or third question after the two other guaranteed questions, being ‘What’s the snow like?’ (cold, white, attached to the mountain) and ‘How long will it take to get to Chatel?’ (as long as it takes, depends on whether you want me to drive like I am supposed to or if I can drive like I’ve got a 74 number plate, which you really won’t like).

So I thought I’d write a blog about what I’ve done since the ski season ended and for something to write about since I haven’t written anything since April. 

Non-ski season, I am a football coach and my 8 month off season started with a week of Easter football camps and progressed into various after-school coaching programs and summer camps.  We are now into the after-school coaching autumn season, with added rain, cloud, cold and general crappy weather.

This year, after meeting another particularly good coach who has joined the company that I work for, I have changed my approach to coaching.  I have realised that much of the work that I did last year, although fun, wasn’t that constructive in making kids better at football.  Trying to put myself in the shoes of a parent, I figured if they are going to pay X to come and have me coach them, then they should be a lot better at the end than when they started.  Even the ones who don’t really want to be there.

I now work on a similar basis to skiing, with a lot of questioning/discovery led approaches and a gradual build-up of skills in a particular set order, which makes for development of individual football skills.  At the age group that we coach, 5-11 normally, individual skills are hugely important.  Team play etc comes after in development but if you can’t do what you want with the ball, you’ll never get anywhere in the game itself.

Apart from this, I’ve been on holiday twice.  Once on Danny’s stag do.  18 blokes go to Ibiza – can’t really tell you anymore about that but I had two amazing nights, one at Defected at Pacha and the usual Space on Sunday.  The highlight of the Space night (apart from the eternity that we spent ensuring that everyone was ‘ready’ to go to Space on Bora Bora sodding Beach – never again Dan) was seeing one of my favourite DJ’s Deetron live and the other DJ who dropped a Dr Dre track into the middle of his set at about 4am.  Dan won’t remember this though as he was having his face painted as a tiger at the time.

The second holiday was a very pleasant 3 days that I grabbed with Mrs Burrows to Italy.  We went back to the place that we went on honeymoon, Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast and spent a couple of days on the beach and 3 nights eating in lovely Italian restaurants.  It was great and it was driveable from Chatel in about 7-hours.  It’s close enough that we are considering renting an apartment there next summer for a month and just chilling by the beach.  Getting out of the Chatel goldfish bowl for a while.

In an effort to offset the epic drinking that counts for the summer here, I’ve been helping a mate out who has been landscaping on an amazing Chalet up at 2000m above Les Crosets.  It’s interesting trying to do a day’s work at that altitude because if you don’t keep yourself fed and watered properly, you start making silly mistakes due to the effects of the height.

Also, it’s tough trying to put a decent shift of work in at 2000m and fatigue certainly was setting in at 8 hours + a day.  Whether this was just me being 35 years old and not used to manual labour after my previous life in suits and offices or the work being genuinely hard, I am unsure.  Anyway, we’ve got a break now until November so I can rest up.

As an aside on the subject of epic drinking, I got so drunk the other day at a wedding,  I seem to have actually scared myself into soberness.  I haven’t had a beer for about a week and a half now and the worst bit about it (apart from the rather worrying fact that this is about the longest it’s been since I started drinking at 15) is that I’m starting to feel quite good.  I am even considering seeing how long into October I can go for without.  The next thing you know I’ll be finding god.

I’m not missing the hangovers though..

 

Teletastic

Last season I ended the winter on a high note, passing the first module of my BASI Level 3 ISIA qualification.  A year on and I’m 4 modules in, having just ended this winter passing my Second Discipline module.

The Second Discipline is to make you a more rounded ski instructor I guess, showing that you are adaptable and that you don’t only just teach skiing.  The problem that now have is that for my second discipline, I chose Telemark skiing and I think I’m in love with it.  I genuinely think I may have found something that I can work on for years to come and I know what I’ll be doing on my days off next season.

For those of you who don’t know what Telemark skiing is, have a look at the above picture.  Where a regular ski boot attaches to the ski at the front and rear of the boot, the Telemark ski is only attached at the front.  This leads to a way of skiing that is completely different to regular Alpine skiing.

It’s difficult to describe the sensation but the balance points, the way in which you use the skis, the possible different ways of skiing – in fact everything – is different.  It’s also as cool as it looks – the rhythm  of the turns are completely different to Alpine skiing and it feels really free.  Those that saw us in Les Gets on Friday last week would have had a real visual treat as 11 Telemarkers of varying ability and style were tearing around the pistes.

The end of the season is fast approaching with Morgins shutting on the 15 April and end of season parties in full effect.  We’ve had all of the live music on the pistes parties in the Portes du Soleil, Retro ski day in Chatel and the annual beer race in the Lior D’Or dutch bar.  I didn’t go to the beer race as I had to work the next day and I didn’t want to get roped in but I heard it was messy.  They usually have a hose on hand to wash the vomit down the street….

The end of the ski season means also it’s time to replace or retire a load of equipment.  The season is hard on skis that are constantly being skied over by kids, boots that are flexed into submission by bend the knees demos and poles bent through too much leaning on.  Sadly, I’m retiring my Head teaching skis this year which have served me well for two and a half seasons and looking to replace them with new teaching skis, race boots, telemark boots and bindings and googles.

We’ve got a school group here this week for what looks to be the final weeks serious work of the season and it’s supposed to rain all this week.  Teaching skiing in the rain is the ultimate misery but we are all a bit demob happy after a bumper season so everyone is making the best of it.

and so it begins..

They’ve arrived. 

I walked out of the apartment this morning and scene of French chaos greets me.  Three cars with their bonnets open and their owners slipping about on the ice, juggling with jump leads.  Another car owner faffing about with bits of cardboard, trying to drive directly up a sheet ice slope without snow tyres.  Another guy taking relentless run ups trying to drive out of said iced up driveway, making it even more slippery in the process.  Torville and Dean could skate on our driveway at the moment.

Add this all to the herd of elephants that have apparently moved in above me and the Dutch drinking songs being sung at 1am this morning.  Half term is here.

Chatel sunset captured from Le Sherpa.

To be fair to the tourists that are abandoning cars all over Chatel at the moment, it was -18 degrees this morning and La Smart car only just started, which is an improvement on last week when the temperatures dipped into the minus twenties.  At -25 degrees, it was completely not interested and had to be jump started every day. 

Winters here are brutal on cars.  Reliability and function are paramount in choosing a car to live with all year round.  It’s due to snow next week too which will be very interesting because the village is salting the roads much less than in previous years which will mean epic amounts of faffing about which snowchains.

The extreme cold is getting to the humans too.  I skied to work the other day because the car refused to start.  Normally, skiing to work is a nice thing and gets you nicely prepared for the day.  However, -28 degrees at the top of the Morclan lift in Super Chatel was something else.  It took an hour for my hands to start feeling normal again after that.

I nipped down to Monthey yesterday and picked myself up a thin down jacket which hopefully is going to keep me warmer and not make me look too fat, as well as investing in two oversized wooly snoods at H&M for going to the pub use. 

Work starts in earnest tomorrow and the ski school is stacked out with work for the next 3 weeks.  We’ve had to draft in extra instructors to cope with the demand which is a change from last year when we were all scrapping for work.

I thought I’d get this blog in early because the chances are that I won’t be able to for the next few weeks.  See you in March. x

Missed powder days and domestic crap.

Is missing a powder day a crime?  Some would say yes but I guess on some days, it’s a question of priorities. 
The Dents du Midi from the top of Super Chatel
When your estate agent from the UK rings you up while you’re riding a chairlift and tells you that he’s sold your house, I guess it’s inevitable that you spend the next day doing paperwork concerned with getting rid of the millstone around your neck that is your remaining link to the UK.
So I’m sitting here looking at all the pretty pictures on Facebook of people ‘shredding’ the pow in the Portes du Soleil, with comments like ‘kerpow’, ‘faceshots’, ‘epic’ and various other words that are code for people falling on their face in the deep stuff.  I console myself that I’m getting something productive done while I filling in boring forms and questionnaires concerning where the water meter is on a house 700 miles away.  Grrr.

It’s a funny time of the season at the moment, with not much teaching work around and the village seems to be taking a breather before next week when the true winter madness of half term in Europe gets under way.  I’m personally taking this time to rest up and fix my aching back and knees which are taking a bit of a hammering this year, through better ski levels of clients and endless powder days.

I had probably one of my best ever days as an instructor yesterday when I was looking after one of the race groups for St George’s International School who had come to Morgins to participate in an International Schools race.  The group I had were the Category C girls and I knew many of them from coaching football at the school in the summer. 

We did all of the racing in the morning and our inspection runs of the GS course were mainly exercises in clearing a foot of fresh powder off of the course.  My group came third in the team event but the real fun started in the afternoon when we had time to free ski in powder so deep it was over my knees.  We skied everywhere and did a bit of everything from open powder fields to trees and bumps and I can genuinely say it was one of the best days I’ve had on the mountain ever.

Right, I’m off to soak myself in a hot bath and try not to feel guilty at wasting yet another powder day in the Portes du Soleil. 

Online here – http://maddogski.com/news-and-blogs/when-real-life-gets-way

-x-