The amateur psychology post

In skiing and in other sport down the years, I’ve always been interested in gaining a performance advantage, however marginal.  This could be in making sure that my equipment is the best it could be and well looked after, making sure I’m fit and flexible but the one I have been most interested in up to now (and had never really taken that seriously) was the mental side of sport.

In Kjitfell


In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned times where I’ve been on a ski exam and been somewhat in the wilderness mentally, not focused on the task or not generally in the right headspace to achieve anything good.  I specifically remember a Wednesday in Verbier skiing about when I was supposed to be practicing, wondering what the point of it all was.

So when it came to something that I really did want, in this case, The Swiss International Equivalence course, I decided to do some work to mentally prepare, as well as the extensive ski training leading up to it.  I’ve read a number of books on the subject specifically with regard to visualising goals either in detail or in an abstract way and formed an idea of what my process looked like.  I used to do a similar pre shot visualisation thing when I was playing golf back in the day.

I imagined a door, which had ‘Dave’s skiing’written on it.  It was a pretty low key red door, nothing special at all, when you opened it up and walked in, you walked into a corridor which had a number of doors, all open that lead down a corridor.  As you walked down the corridor as through each open door, each one had the name of an exam written on it.  The first had ‘BASI 1’ written on it and so on.  I didn’t fail anything for quite a while so there were many doors to walk through, all with some sort of achievement or exam pass.

In itself, this was a good feeling and I had a sense of achievement and just how far I had come professionally as I walked through each door.  Eventually, I came to a couple of doors which were located on the side of the corridor, these were locked and these represented various exams that I had taken and failed.  I wasn’t able to walk through these doors.

I continued down the corridor past some locked doors and there on the left was a door with a big, thick, solid oak door. This door had ‘Swiss Snow Sports’ written on it and it was just slightly open, through the ajar door, I could see a glowing light, as if from a fireplace and hear some warm chatter from inside.

Before I carry on, I should mention that this took a while to come together, to fill the images with color, to ‘see’ that some doors were locked but most open.  I would say that in the months leading up to the test, I was probably going through my visualisation every other night, most often as I was just dropping off to sleep in the evening.

After some time, I was eventually able to put my hand on the handle of the door and open it, it took some further time to be able to see my foot crossing the threshold of the room and stepping in.  Looking back now,  I can see that I was able to do this more as my personal level of skiing got better and I became more confident of what I needed to do for the Swiss Tests.

Once I was in the room, it was much like you would imagine a cozy snug room in an old school type private club in London.  Wood panels on the wall, leather couches, deep luxurious carpets and a roaring fire.  Why the Swiss Snowsports room should be like this in my mine is anyone’s guess, I’m not here to be judged, just tell you the process 🙂

After a while, I was able to stand in this room for extended periods without feeling like I shouldn’t be there.  Initially, I wasn’t able to do this and felt pressure to leave immeadiately.  Most times, just getting into the room meant that was the end of the exercise and I would already be asleep or I would just snap out of my visualisation and get on with whatever I was doing.

The most significant thing about the visualisation for me was the moment of stepping with my foot from the corridor into the cozy room.  In reality, this was the image that I used the most whilst I was on the exam.  The exam itself, as I mentioned in this blog post here, only allowed you one go at the test in question, no room for errors.  Often in skiing exams, you are waiting at the top for the examiner to wave at you letting you know that’s it’s your turn to show them what you can do.  It was during this wait that I closed my eyes and imagined that exact moment of stepping into the room.

For the very last run of the test, waiting at the top of the zip line moguls run, traditionally my nemesis, I was able to shut my eyes and walk over the threshold of that room.  I opened my eyes, everything was calm and I then put down a decent run.

The power of the mind in sport is still very underrated in my opinion.  If this helps anyone to get an advantage, however small, then I am happy to have shared my process.
-X-

Swiss Snowsports International Equivalence Course – part 1

Since I successfully converted over from the British Skiing members organisation (BASI) to the Swiss Snowsports system, a lot of people have people have asked me about the process and the content of the practical conversion course that you have to pass.  Some people have one eye on Brexit and the implications of that.

I am one of 5 people in the group of 7 that took and passed the course in November 2016 so the information that follows is up to date and a fair reflection of what to expect when going through the process of converting over your qualifications from any other national system to the Swiss Snowsports system.

For those of you non ski instructors reading this blog, this may get a little nerdy.

THE PAPERWORK

The first part of the process is to fill in the form demanding an assessment of your qualifications.  This form can be found HERE and it’s in French , German or Italian.  If you can’t speak a second language and you cheated your way through the second language module in your home instructor system, you might struggle and I have no sympathy for you.

The Swiss Snowsports system has levels as follows (the kids instructor is optional);

Kids instructor > Aspirant > Instructor > Brevet Federale

In terms of the qualifications that these equate to, I can only relate you to the British system.  BASI 1 and 2 are worth nothing to the Swiss, the level isn’t good enough.  If you have the British level 3, that equates to the ISIA stamp which is what the Swiss get when they get the Instructor qualification.  If you apply with less than ISIA stamp, you will probably be asked to do the aspirant exam.  The Swiss give the ISIA Card with the Brevet Federale, the British give it on completion of the Level 4 because of their ties to the Eurotest countries.

Once you have submitted your request, Swiss Snowsports will give you their decision and ask you to pay 270frs to see it.  If you are happy to pay, they will send you a dossier with where they consider that you stand in their system and what to do next.  Most people who are applying are ISIA qualified as a minimum and will be asked if they wish to book onto the International Equivalence course.

Depending on the qualification that you hold, you may have to attend a tourism and law course and maybe 1 day of the off-piste mountain safety course.  Both of these will be in French, German or Italian.  Normally these and the practical tests will be sufficient for the Swiss to issue you with the Instructor qualification.  Sometimes this is called the ‘Patente’ but this is a Valais thing only and has a different issuing authority.

If you wish to continue with the system and get your Brevet Federale which allows you to teach off-piste and gives you the right of establishment of your own ski school then you have to go to Bern and sit a written test in French, German or Italian as well as defending a dissertation in front of a panel of experts, that you wrote and submitted previously.

In part 2 next week, I will outline the skiing tests, passing grades and skiing level needed in the International Equivalence course.

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

Spring has sprung

So May has come and gone in the Alps and by and large, it hammered down with rain for the whole month. I’m pretty sure it’s always like this in May but because it was freezing cold as well, it snowed and there were plenty of videos being posted of people still skiing well into late May and even early June.

This has really pissed off the bikers who are itching to get out and do whatever it is they do on their incredibly expensive machines (where else do you see adverts in the supermarket for €2000 bicycles ffs). I’m often asked if I’m into biking and whilst I’m sure that it’s something that I could be interested in, I just don’t need another expensive activity in my life right now. I just dropped another load of money on skis and various other equipment that I’m going to need this coming season.

Talking of burning money, I recently had to go to Aviemore in Scotland to attend the BASI Level 3 Common Theory Course. For me, based here in the French Alps, this meant a trip to the Swiss capital, Berne to get a new passport (mine expired in January and I forgot), a flight to Amsterdam, a connecting flight to Aberdeen, a 2 hour drive across Scotland and the same in return. Immense amounts of travel and cost which is why I left this course until last.

Scotland - moody

Scotland – moody

I’m not going to bitch and moan about why the course cannot run in Europe as it was interesting to see where the BASI system all started. I met a bunch of interesting people and learnt some stuff too.

The course itself was mainly classroom based for about 2.5 days, with one day of orienteering/going for a walk in the hills around Glenmore and a day in the gym. The classroom stuff was a mixed bag, with some interesting topics like Psychology and Sociology and some stuff that was less interesting. As mentioned, I met a load of really nice people and got to spend a week chilling with old mates in a nice apartment in the Scottish hills.

back to school - BASI style

back to school – BASI style

Once the Friday of the course came and went, I had completed my ISIA Level 3! Looking back on the planning that I had done and the season that had just passed, 4 exams passed, 3 weeks of specific training, a load of teaching and finally, it’s all over.

Actually, it feels like a bit of an anti-climax because inevitably, I’m now planning to get on with the level 4 ISTD. I’ve done the work for one of the modules so far and I’ve planned which exams to take next year over a 2 year plan to get my full certification.

A large part of going through the system seems to be belief in your own ability and I still don’t really believe that I’m a good skier compared to some of the people that I see around me. I wonder sometimes how I’ve got to where I am now. Perhaps that belief will come if I pass the technical skiing modules for the level 4 this coming winter. I still hate walking up stuff so I am leaving the European Mountain Safety exam until next season..

All that for this..

All that for this..

So this starts now really with a planning process to get stronger and technically better at skiing. I’m planning to spend a bit more time in Saas Fee or on glaciers in general this summer, race training in the autumn, with the first exam in Zermatt in December. I’m not rushing as I thought the two years I spent working towards ISIA was time well spent but I can see the top of the pyramid now and it’s only natural to want to climb towards it.

Some of the people that I met on the Common Theory Course are now already in New Zealand and are skiing and teaching in the southern hemisphere winter. I have to admit to being jealous as I’m ready to ski again now. I’ll have to satisfy myself with glaciers and gates until then.

-x-

FIN

So the winter season is pretty much finished here in Chatel, with the Pre-la-Joux area being forced to stay open until 24 April. Some modern day Jonny Halliday called Christophe Mae is playing in Chatel on Sunday night and they’ve sold a load of lift tickets to coincide with his arrival. Frankly, I hope M. Mae is not planning to ski much unless he likes slush and getting sunburnt. That said, if he is French then no doubt he’ll be up there in his jeans, snowblades and jester hat.

old dog. new tricks.

Morgins ski area where I work closed last weekend because there were more cows around than ski slopes and all in all it’s been a bit of a weird season but that said, one in which I worked far more than I expected to as a first year instructor. I’ve had an amazing time working with ski school this winter and all the other great instructors that they have there. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said out loud ‘I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this’.

I more or less hung up my ski boots for this winter season after doing a bit of ski teaching for Easter and completing the first proper ski module of my BASI Level 3 ISIA. The course we were doing was the Alpine Development Coach 1 which I got a lot out of. It was dealing with coaching in a completely different style, assuming that you were working with young racers or high level recreational skiers.

It boiled down to talking less and focusing more on specifics, as well as lot of standing about. The standing about is a pleasant part of coaching at a better level as you get the students to ‘lap’ more and give them tips to go off to work on. In reality for some, it meant a final chance to work up that goggle tan.

Our assessor was a guy called Peter Kuwall who runs the British Alpine Ski School in Chatel (BASS) and I really got a lot out of his teaching style which was very much along the lines of ‘do this and don’t be crap’ (mainly because it’s like mine). Hopefully, he will be running a few more of the ISIA modules next season which will be convenient for a lot of the ambitious instructors in the Portes du Soleil.

So what to do for summer? I’m trying to finalise my contract for coaching football in Switzerland at the moment and if this week’s Easter football camp in Vevey was anything to go by, then I’m going to have an amazing sun tan come next winter season. It was about 25-degrees all week and the 1-hour lunch break combined with the 45 minutes of ‘free time’ for the kids, means plenty of time to bask in the sun like a seal in shorts.

To keep my skiing eye in over the summer, I’m planning on heading up to the Saas-Fee glacier for weekends once a month and progressing from the good place that I left the ISIA module in. I’ve also picked up some amazing Atomic slalom skis in the end of season sales and I feel like I’m a much better skier than I started the season. I don’t want to lose this level, hence the proposed Saas weekends.

My first winter in the Alps has been amazing and I’m glad that I did it. I’ve learnt a lot about what it means to live out here and how to do it and I’m about to embark on a summer of discovery to see what it’s like here off season. Here’s a short list of things I learnt this season for prospective seasonaires next year;

1. If you are a ski teacher, value your time and put a price on it. Everyone wants a free lesson.

2. Snow tyres are essential. Just get them, they are amazing.

3. Everyone gets pretty partied out by March. Better to hibernate in February half term weeks to rest.

4. Bring loads of socks, 4-way English plug adaptors, hangover pills, shorts and flip flops (it gets hot in April which everyone forgets)

5. If you get to any decent level of skiing, you only need 2 pairs of skis. A proper slalom ski and a big fat off-piste ski for powder days. Anything else is a compromise.

It’s been great blogging for Mad Dog Ski this winter and hopefully, I’ll be back next winter for more of the same and perhaps a few summer skiing updates. Have a great summer.

online here

Heatwave

It’s a scorching 24 degrees here in Chatel today and you can almost see the snow melting off the pistes. The snow is not freezing overnight so it’s more or less un-skiable by about 11am in the morning.

winter

Unbelievably, there are still tourists arriving, although when they get here and are seeing bikers and people riding mountain bikes through town, they probably wish they’d spent their money going to the beach for Easter.

End of season means end of season parties and a few of us spent a very enjoyable afternoon yesterday getting sunburnt and drinking on a friends balcony, high up in the valley overlooking Chatel. It looks like summer here now and we’re starting to see and smell Chatel’s farming community starting work for the summer.

Summer inevitably means finding an answer to that eternal seasonaires question, ‘what do you do in the summer’ and it looks like a few more people are staying this summer, with many of the guys finding work building stuff. The missus has found a summer job in a local restaurant and I’m working on something in Switzerland that if it comes off will make me very happy indeed.

I’ve got a training course next week which will see me ticking off another module on my way to BASI level 3 ISIA, I just home the mountain doesn’t close before then because if this weather carries on, there will be nothing to ski.

x

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