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.  



Highs and lows of ski teaching

Last week it was a delightful group of Kenyans all learning how to ski and generally ski teaching was fun and happy. This week I’ve been plunged into Christmas week ‘cours collectifs’ and I’m grasping for the French, Dutch and German phrases for ‘get up yourself you lazy enfant, it’s the millionth time you’ve fallen over for no reason today’…

Jardin – 2 days ago.  Is raining now.

It’s amazing to see the differences in kids that, on the surface, are apparently the same. As soon as they click into (or spend ten minutes kicking) their skis, some kids grasp the simple skill behind skiing in a snowplough and some look like they are trying amateur breakdancing on ice. Beginner plus is apparently the worst group to teach because the parents think they can ski but actually they can’t. They really can’t.

Of course, this is now my job and it’s important that I do all I can to make sure these little skiers and ‘cours privé’ of the future have fun and learn something but for some, you can’t help but feel they don’t want to be there and are only there so their parents can go ski, especially the little German kid who has thrown up on the piste for the last 2-days.

Still, picking up the flotsam and jetson of my ski group after every other turn is good for fitness and given the diet that I’ve been eating (beer and pizza) since I got here in November, every kid I help to their feet negates a demi Becks in the Av.

To compound my worries of an expanding waistline and inept ski group, the whole of Holland, the UK and France appears to have arrived in Chatel in the last 2-days causing parking and traffic chaos. Someone recently mentioned to me that it wasn’t the French’s fault that they were rubbish drivers, it’s just not something that they do well and they are all crap. It’s just how it is. Well, you can lump the Dutch into that category as well and the majority of the English that have arrived here.

It hasn’t snowed here for a week, it’s raining at the moment but because they’ve seen a bit of snow, they drive at 2km/h everywhere and stop in random places. The main issue I suppose is that the village isn’t set up for this many people. Outside of the season, only 1200 people actually live here so parking is at a premium. Even the Sherpa supermarket has caught onto the fact that nipping in there to buy a chocolate bar doesn’t mean that you can park there all night while you get wasted in the bars of Chatel.

An exciting development this week will be that my mates from home arrive to spend New Year here with us. Tempted by the après ski, copious quantities of Jager and hot snowboard chicks (in limited supply but I haven’t told them this) Cheeko, Hughsey and Afghan Nick arrive tomorrow to smash it up in Chatel for a week.

As a prediction for the future, my guess will be the Beginner Plus group will be having to pick themselves up a little more than previously due to their instructor trying not to be sick like the German kid…

published here

Nursery slopes of skiing (and teaching)

In my last blog I was worrying that my skiing might not be good enough to impress my new ski school director but since I’m now in my shiny new ski school jacket and teaching all this week, I guess I am – either that or no-one else was available…

view from the nursery slopes

Both the Pre-la-Joux area of Chatel and the Follieuse lift in Morgins have been open for the last two weekends, providing some epic skiing on the opening day of the season, with 2 foot of fresh snow waiting to be skied out in the tree lines. This was basically our ‘training’ on the first Saturday mainly because I think everyone just wanted to go skiing and blow out the cobwebs prior to getting down to the more serious business of technique and teaching styles on subsequent days.

At the moment, I’m teaching a group of Kenyan kids and their two teachers from an international school in Nairobi, who are here to learn to ski. The kids are picking it up a lot faster than I would have expected and it was wonderful to see the look on the faces of them all as they came to the top of the lift in bright sunshine this morning and saw the Portes du Soleil, Dents du Midi and Mont Blanc in the distance.

I kind of half expected it but the rulebook for teaching kids is more or less thrown out of the window compared to the theory that we learnt as instructors. The kids are ambitious and we soon had them going higher and higher up the button lift.

I’m being shadowed this week (!) by another instructor, Ross Jackson, who I qualified with this summer in Saas-Fee. It’s been really useful to have him around to bounce ideas off of and I really appreciate having him around to ease myself into teaching. We are probably going to give him a group of his own tomorrow to make the class sizes smaller and more efficient. The only bad thing about Ross is that he makes his instructor jacket look really cool whereas I think I just look fat in mine.

It’s freezing cold here at the moment, about -7 on my drive to work (this is a real culture shock for the Kenyans) and it’s been like this for a little while now. The snow cannons are working overtime to make fresh snow in time for official openings later this week.

There has been a noticeable influx of seasonaires arriving into Chatel. I’ve been quite lucky that because I arrived in early November, myself and the missus are almost considered as locals and I can now sit in the corner of the Avalanche in Chatel with them and grumble about how the bar is too busy and the free pool table has gone. There are plenty of young and hopeful chalet girls turning up, as well as Chalet owners rushing about last minute to get everything done before the start of the season.

Winter starts here.