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.
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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.  

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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.

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More summer skiing…

Another week off of football summer camps, means that I’ve been up in Saas-Fee again this week for another 3-days of skiing and training.

wish you were here..

The conditions have been great this week and apparently my timing is excellent as it was raining all last week. However, temperatures have dropped and the sun has come out, making for bulletproof pistes in the morning which hold up well until lunchtime. In fact yesterday, the pistes were still hard and great for carving turns all the way until the close at 1pm.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve got to practice the stuff that I’m rubbish at which means I’ve got to spend time in the moguls which here in Saas, means zip and rut lines that you have to fight to stay in, rather than picking from different lines.

Last year on my level 2 exams, this was the thing I found the hardest and although I’m better at it now, I’m still struggling. Perhaps it’s the choice of skis, as I only brought with me my super stiff GS skis which although I am learning to love them, they aren’t exactly ideal for quick short turns in the bumps. That said, I’ve had a couple of real breakthroughs in terms of technique in the last 3-days and I feel really good about my skiing today.

Of course, with the glacier only open until 1pm, there is plenty of opportunity to do other things and in the times that I’ve been here, I’ve hiked up mountains, had my butt kicked at tennis and played beach volleyball and golf (real and mini).

The curious thing about Tennis at 1800m is that the ball flies further than if you were at sea level so you have to adjust your game accordingly. This said, the fact that the village is so high up also means that you’re getting fitter without knowing it too…

online here – http://maddogski.com/eatsleepski/saas-fee-summer-skiing-0