This is the start?

I woke up this morning for the first time to the magical sound of beeping and scraping snowploughs and the man downstairs at the Creperie, hard at work with his shovel, cleaning the snow from his terrace. This can only mean one thing, the big snow has arrived.

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Big snow?

I don’t particularly want to jinx the big snow as I know that it has snowed all the way down to Lac Leman which is never a good sign but it is forecast to stay cold, so at least the guys who look after the mountain can start making some more snow and generally get on with making a ski resort happen.

In this respect, it’s been a pretty disastrous start for some of the Portes du Soleil, with places like Morzine looking like summer up until today and my home resort of Morgins only able to open the top area for beginner lessons. Pretty much the whole of the Portes du Soleil was invading Chatel, Linderets, Mossettes and Avoriaz, resulting in Avoriaz having to impose quotas on lift ticket sales to preserve the pistes and ensure safety.

I managed to ski much of the French side this week in a desperate attempt to look like I can still actually ski for when our ski school formation weekend (skiing part anyway) finally happens. Personally, I’m skiing pretty well actually and I’m taking on board some of the lessons that I learned on my failed BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) level 4 tech exam last year.

Personally this year, I’m taking a break from BASI and ski instructor exams. I came to the realisation last year that endless focus on exams and progressing through ‘the system’ was killing my enjoyment of skiing and so I’m having a year off with specific goals of finding enjoyment and pleasure in skiing again and skiing socially with friends.

It’s not all been sitting indoors looking out of the window looking for snow though. I’ve have a few trips to Saas Fee in the Autumn which were excellent as usual and I even got to finally visit Nesti’s Ski Bar which was on my list of things to do in Saas since I first went there in the summer of 2010. It didn’t disappoint and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Loads of Appenzeller shots, no wifi and great music.  Say I sent you.

Remember I was telling you about my goal to ski with friends more? Well, for my birthday, I got a bunch of people together and went to ski in Cervina. The snow there at the start of December was amazing and everything was open, right from the top at about 3300m, down to village level at 1800m.

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Some high quality rental skis

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Beautiful Italy. Cervina.

Despite being on rental skis and very hungover (a long story for another time to do with getting a chef fired and a house party till 3am), I had an amazing day, skiing with my bosses, my friends, ex-Swiss team skiers and the coolest guy in Morgins, JD.

That day was all about social skiing and to see 8 Morginois, skiing with total freedom, tearing up the Italian pistes was a sight to remember.

Bring on winter.

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The pre-season blog

I write to you in this blog with the great news that I’ve actually been skiing!

Unless you count the day I spent in Saas Fee in October, which now seems so long ago as to not matter at all, I’ve just returned from a week in Hintertux ,Austria.  I was in Hintertux to spend some time training Giant Slalom (GS) with a view to going for the Eurotest at some point this season.

If you’ve never heard of the Eurotest (which will be loads of you because the Eurotest is very small in its relevance to anyone other than a small number of ski instructors bitching their way through the British ski system), it’s basically a European-wide test of your ability to race GS adjusted to the time of the best guy in the world at it.  If you’ve never heard of GS I don’t blame you, but it’s the stuff they show on the TV with the catsuits and the gates.

Anyway, at some point in the British system you have to suck it up and do the Eurotest if you want to go on and finish the system.  I’m in that space now so I’ve got to learn how to ski GS.  Growing up in London with no mountains, no local ski club as a yoof and no interest in skiing until age 14, it’s all new and interesting.

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Not me but Bromance in the fog. I was crying somewhere.

So there I was on the Hintertux glacier fighting with 25-meter radius skis that only work above a certain speed, bombing about the glacier.  The first couple of days were pretty hateful.  Not only was I getting used to being back on skis but also these new mental fast skis and it was all a little bit too much for me at one point, especially in the fog where I couldn’t see shit.  For me, flat light is kryptonite and that combined with an unfamiliar place and equipment was enough to make me want to quit.

Help was at hand though as I was with the Bromance, who suggested that we get involved in the après ski before our day off.  I thought I had seen après ski but clearly Austria is on another level.  We stepped into what appeared to be a nightclub at midnight before realising it was only 5pm in the afternoon on a Tuesday.  Anyway, 10 beers, a load of laughs, some bitching and some questionable DJ choices later, all the stresses were gone…

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day off.

Back on the big skis later that week, I started to work out how they worked and started to love them. For the last 3 days we were in the gates and I have to say that I LOVE gates.  I love the concept of being in a race track, with the challenge of the course making you turn where you don’t necessarily want to turn, the whack of the gates against the body and the lack of subjectiveness of the clock.  You’re either fast or you aren’t.

We will see where this goes this season but for sure, you won’t find me bitching about the Eurotest.  If I get there, I’ll be able to look the local instructors in the eye and say I’ve got it and take the respect that comes with that.   Thanks to Sean Langmuir for a great week.

On a slightly more snowploughy note, bookings are starting to arrive for the winter and I’ve already got some really nice work lined up for December with potential for much more.  I’m looking forward to skiing with some of the kids that I teach football to (and their parents!).  The good thing about this is that it reduces the time that you are unfamiliar to the kids and you can get so much more done if that student-teacher bond is already there.

Next week I’m off to Zermatt for the level 4 teaching exam.  I’m really looking forward to this one but I’m also apprehensive at the same time.  This will be the first snow based module of level 4 (highest in the BASI system) that I will have attended and I’m anxious about my level of skiing.  I’ve been with my head in the textbook for a while now and have written down a bunch of ideas, but I’m not that academic so I’ll be really challenged if the examiner is one that wants all the right ‘words’.

We will see.  See you in a week or so.

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Snow arrives

I’ve not blogged for a while as I’ve been busy moving house.  Apparently it’s up there in terms of stress levels with getting married (did that with a hangover, easy) and having kids (not done that, doesn’t look so difficult).

dog exploring the new place

dog exploring the new place

Anyway, all of our stuff is now moved and it’s just a case of getting used to the new noises that this place makes compared to the last one.  The last apartment was probably the noisiest one on the planet, including all those shacks next to railway lines etc so this one can’t be that bad.   Plus it has a full length bath (for those of you who live here you will know what a luxury that is).

I’ve also been working out how to publish an e-book of my written project on the basis that it might be interesting to ski instructors around the world or even people just interested in the subject.  If you are interested, it’s here.

Some early season snow put in an appearance yesterday and today, giving a timely reminder of what winter will look like and the joy of scraping cold wet snow from the car.  It’s stunning here in summer and autumn with the depth of colours that you see all around you but you can’t beat a good bit of fresh snow to make you really remember why most of us are here.

Lac Vonnes, Chatel.

Lac Vonnes, Chatel.

Talking of putting in an appearance, it looks like one of my best mates from way back, Nick, will be coming out to do a ski season and arriving at the start of November.  He’s staying at our new place for the season which either is going to be a disaster for our health or make for a very pleasant season.  He’s just finished (perhaps) with a career as a scuba diving instructor in the Caribbean, so not sure how he will cope when it’s -30 in December and January, especially with predictions that this winter is going to be one of the coldest for 100 years.

A couple of weeks ago myself and a couple of pals took a day trip to Saas Fee which turned out to be an excellent day with good skiing and great banter.  A 7am start was followed by a road trip of 1hr 40 to get to Saas.  40mins after that having gone up on 2 gondolas and a train, we had the skis on and were on snow under blue skies.

post glacier beers in Saas

post glacier beers in Saas

We enjoyed the 40kms of firm pistes which stayed good all the way until closing at 3pm as well as the half pipe, kickers, rails and snow-cross track.  The good thing about going to Saas at this time of the year is that the only people that are there are professionals.  We got to see a film crew from Sweden filming the latest Burn commercial with some really decent riders in the park, as well as race teams from Sweden, Switzerland, France and just about every country in between.

The ride down was spoilt somewhat by Muff taking off his stinking boots in the gondola but once we got down we enjoyed some après beers in the sunshine before heading home.  A great day and we are planning a repeat on Sunday with more of us this time as the some arriving here has given people the bug to go sliding.

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