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.  



Winter is here at last

So it’s dumping down outside, the snowploughs can’t keep up with the volume of snow that’s falling and I haven’t seen sunshine for about a week.  Winter has arrived at last. 

Last year, I was a little apprehensive about the arrival of winter after a long hot summer and very dry autumn.  This year has been very different with much more rain but the arrival of winter came on the same week and so the cycle of the seasons, more noticeable living here in the mountains, continues.

a quick pit stop for a photo on my commute to work

One of the things bothering me last year was worrying about whether I would remember how to ski. So this year, myself and a couple of the guys went to Saas Fee as soon as they had more runs than just the glacier open and went for what is now becoming a traditional season opener.  We had a great day, getting up early in the miserable rain of Chatel and driving for 90-minutes towards a patch of blue sky that gradually opened up into a bluebird day of great skiing.
All fears of not remembering were gone within 10 seconds and whilst my personal technique on the day left something to be desired, I enjoyed myself and tried not to think of anything technical.  Just skiing for the love of it.

I was also breaking in some new kit.  I currently have a spare room full of stuff that replaces old worn out kit or shiny new stuff that is of course, essential to my very existence…  New stuff for this season includes a full NTN Telemark set up on WhiteDot One skis (they look so cool, cannot wait to try these), new race boots, new teaching skis, helmet and poles.  This is the one similarity that skiing has with cricket, a former passion of mine back home, you get to have loads of equipment that you can fuss over, discuss at length and banter about.
new telemark set up – NTN on Whitedot One’s
The deluge of fresh snow means that everyone and their dog wants to go skiing on Saturday when the lifts open.  This means I’m working as of Saturday when the kids from one of the International Schools in the valley come up to bomb about in the fresh snow.  After that on Sunday, the first collective week starts and then we are into the season for real.

To add to a hectic start, I’ve got Cheeko, Hughsey and Stavros arriving, as well as Mrs Burrows’ friend Emma, all on the 15 December.  All are looking to get smashed for 4-days and each one of them is looking for an opportunity to take me down.  I have plan to combat them, the first part of which was to find them an apartment in the same block as ours but not actually in my place so they can disturb each other and not us.  This is a good place to start.

Plans for this season include a whole bunch of training for my Level 3 ski exams in March, less hangovers and more skiing.  I’ll let you know how I get on.



Things they don’t tell you about winter in the alps and learning how to ski Swiss style.

It’s been a grey couple of weeks here in Chatel – not in terms of the atmosphere, it’s getting more lively by the day as more seasonaires arrive and locals return – but the weather has been snowing or about to snow for about 10-days straight now.

world’s smallest pillow line

This isn’t a bad thing and is great news for getting the ski areas open early and for the season to come but the one sunny day that we did have was a real treat and myself and the missus made sure that we made the most of it by taking the dog on an epic walk, wading through snow up to our knees.

The snow normally comes overnight and I don’t mean the 3-inches of snow that has just ground the UK to a standstill but rather the sort of snow that takes a whacking great shovel just to dig to the car, in order to dig the car out so that you can start it. I keep forgetting to park the car on the road and not in the little parking area in front of our apartment and so when I wake up to go somewhere in the morning, I have to factor in an extra half an hour of snow-shovelling just to get the car to the road.

The thing that no one tells you about driving in winter conditions out here is that because the snowploughs plough all the snow to the side of the road, this snow mounts up and forms little walls so that if you want to stop or turn round, there is nowhere to do so – it’s like being in a giant scalextric track. I forgot my wallet the other day when I left home and ended up driving up and down the Route de Thonon just because there was a roundabout at each end and they were the only places I could turn round…

It’s especially difficult because I haven’t yet sorted winter tyres. I’ve seen in the various snow online forums the debates that rage on about whether you do or don’t need winter tyres. Having now been in cars with and without winter tyres and experienced proper winter conditions out here when the snow has caught out the local gritters and snow ploughs, I can say with confidence that if you are coming out here to do a season and are bringing your car, clear the moths out of your wallet and get them. They make the world of difference and potentially can get you out of some very nasty situations.

Yesterday, one of my bosses at the Morgins Ski and Snowboard School invited me for a day of skiing in Verbier. Of course, I jumped at the chance and it was a good chance to see some of the guys from the Warren Smith Ski Academy who trained me for my instructor exams, who have already started teaching there.

I hadn’t seen Rolf (my boss) ski before but I did notice the ‘Swiss Snowsports Pro’ Patente pin in his jacket and his skiing certainly lived up to this. It was about all I could do to keep up and by the end of the day my confidence in my own ability was more or less gone and my body was aching. The Swiss style of skiing is very distinct and different from the BASI style that I was hammering over the summer and it’s going to take me a little while to adapt to how these guys would like me to ski.

Verbier was lovely, although after the relative solitude of Chatel and Morgins, seemed like an urban sprawl. The conditions up high (only the top lifts and runs were open) were good with a solid base and fresh snow on top. Perfect for the fast carving that Rolf seems to like so much. It was a bluebird day and I’m glad that I had the sense to put on the SPF50 in the gloom of Chatel before we left.

Training with my ski school starts on Saturday with the ski director passing judgement on my abilities (or lack of after Verbier) and there is a private school coming up for group lessons on Sunday. The winter tyres are bring fitted to the smart car on Thursday so at least I’ll be able to get there to find out exactly how rubbish I am compared to the other instructors 🙂