Don’t blog for ages and then all of a sudden it’s the end of the season blog

It’s been an incredibly long time since I last blogged, if you don’t count a week of exams, I’ve had about 5 days off from ski teaching this season and those days were spent catching up with paperwork, resting or being hungover.

I suppose the biggest news of the last month or so is that aside from remorseless ski teaching, in mid-March I went to take my BASI level 4 technical skiing exam in Verbier. Unfortunately, it didn’t go nearly as well as I had planned for it to.

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the lonely lift ride back down to Le Chable after i threw in the towel on the L4 tech exam.

This season, I seem to have gone up in the world a little bit at the ski school and I’m now getting to teach some really interesting work. The downside to all of this (and believe me, I’m NOT complaining) is that I arrived at the exam already tired and unprepared. The first run on the first morning of the exam was a casual ski down the Tortin bumps field in Verbier, as a warm up. By the end of that, my legs were already shot and if I am honest, I knew at that point that I wasn’t anywhere near the standard of the rest of my group or the level of the exam.

I ploughed on for 3 more days though, trying to get to grips with what the examiners were looking for. What I tend to bring in terms of my own skiing is neat and tidy skiing and the level 4 is not really about that, it’s about ski performance, agility and speed. So I struggled in the bumps, I struggled with my short and long turns (not in terms of doing them, just doing them the way they wanted them),in the variable snow off piste and my own personal speed threshold. In short, a complete disaster.

Disillusioned and tired, I had a chat with my trainer at the end of the third day, thanked him for his time and checked out of the course. I didn’t see the value in attending the last two days as they were assessment based and not skiing development. As soon as I had made that decision, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I hadn’t quite realised that I had been building up in my mind to this exam week all season and perhaps I was more stressed about it than I realised. I know where the level is now and I plan to take a season off of the exams next year and get back in touch with skiing for pleasure. Instructor exams are interesting but they grind you down in the end.

What I found most interesting about the week was that for the first time in the BASI system, I was by far and away bottom of the group that I was in. This was a new experience for me and it was interesting to see how certain members of my group behaved towards the one that they regarded as weak. When you are in this position, you tend to catch a lot of lifts alone, people don’t talk to you and you are playing catch up a lot where the group skis off just as you arrive.

Back in the real world of ski teaching, I’ve done some absolutely lovely work this ski season. I’ve been running race coaching for an international school we look after, weeks of collective lessons in French, some really interesting adult beginner lessons, women who have had their (ski) confidence destroyed and some collective kids groups from Africa. All very diverse and very testing mentally.

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perhaps my favourite image of this season, Victoria using my 130cm poles for the afternoon 🙂

The Portes du Soleil has a very end of season feeling about it right now. High temperatures and melting snow are making for slushy conditions and snow free villages. In a new innovation however, myself and my colleague Ben have started going skiing for fun instead of sitting in bars drinking. It’s amazing! Today we headed out into the Portes du Soleil, skied some of our favourite runs and even messed about in the stash in Les Linderets, jumping off stuff and generally messing about. Skiing is fun, not just work! Who knew?

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Happy new year etc blog

A belated happy Christmas and New Year to you all.  The festive season here tends to descend into a cycle of teaching, partying and alcoholism and the massive attack of cramp a couple of days ago I took as a sign from my body that it was time to calm down a bit.  I didn’t actually realise that it’s late January so 2 months of the season have flown by already.

So today is probably the second day off that I’ve had since Christmas eve which, whilst I am certainly not complaining in a year where the snow has been awkward at best, is a very welcome pause to catch up with a few things.

Highlights of the Christmas season for me were;

1.  Teaching the President of the Parliament of a Mediterranean country , who was in Morgins on a short break with some friends, no doubt de-stressing from the strain of getting her country’s economic situation sorted.  Anyway, we got her up and skiing and for her, the fresh clean air of the mountains and learning a new skill were a really good way to unwind from her day to day life.  She was a super interesting person too.

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Doesn’t matter who you are, the mountains dwarf you.

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the Prez et moi

2.  Another guy new to skiing, a Dutchman called Florian.  He turned out to be one of the fastest learners I’ve ever seen.  He would take one look at anything you showed him and replicated and understood it perfectly.  After just two hours, he was skiing perfect parallel turns and when I saw him yesterday, he said he had been to Avoriaz twice that week (a good 2 hours skiing away) and was loving life.  Good times.

In amongst all of this, this season the ski school seems to be using me in a different way and I’ve ended up coaching and helping out the race team for one of the International Schools that we look after.  This is certainly really interesting work and I get a real buzz out of improving young skiers.

Also on the weekends, the boarding school kids from another International school aka ‘The Russians’ are back this year for super Sundays and we spent a really pleasant day yesterday bombing about the Portes du Soleil, skiing powder and hanging out in the snowpark.  The highlight of the day for me was when they told me that they didn’t know what a ‘snowtrain’ was.  It’s not every day you get to teach the snowtrain. 🙂

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I’ve been waiting a long time to teach this..

From a personal perspective, the last blog I wrote was a bit of a rant about the Eurotest but last week I was back in the catsuit to ski some more Giant Slalom with BASS Chatel.  I had a good day and thought I made some really good changes but it reiterated the conclusion that I have come to about where I’m going this season with what I am focusing on.

I was so far away from where I wanted to be with the Eurotest that I’ve decided to shelve any further Eurotests for this season and defer it to next year.  I’m now focusing only on my Level 4 technical exam in March.  This means I really have to look at my all round skiing and make sure that I can take my skiing to the next level in terms of precision.  I also need to spend the next 2 months of my life skiing as many moguls as I possibly can.  Moguls are trying to form here in the Portes du Soleil but everytime they get to a decent size, it snows again!  Annoying.

Anyway, if you need me, I’ll be in the Renard bumps field in Chatel, the Swiss Wall in Les Crosets or under the Bochasse lift line in Morgins.  If you see someone looking really confused, that’ll be me.

Till next time.

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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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BASI Written Project

So I was a little taken aback at the volume of people who asked to have a look at the copy of my written project.  Having said that, I wasn’t THAT surprised that people wanted to see what a project looked like, because in my opinion, the criteria on the BASI site and the details they give are pretty vague elusive, much like trying to nail down jelly.

Picture of Andre Santos for no reason at all.

Picture of Andre Santos for no reason at all.

Anyway, since there was massive demand to have a look at it, i have decided to publish it as an ebook on Amazon.  I won’t charge much for it but since it’s pretty much the only published copy out there clearly it has value.

I’m not quite sure how BASI will feel about this but I feel that actually this will work in their favour as they will be able to check for future instances of plagiarism given the date stamp on this blog.

I also hope that this will give people an idea of what a ‘pass’ looks like at the time of writing.  Just so you know, this had to be re-written once to more fully incorporate the ideas of children’s emotional development.  I then tried to link this to the phases of skiing development assuming a child that regularly skis each winter from 4 upwards. (I realise now I didn’t mention this in the report).  From a BASI perspective, hopefully this will mean a better quality of report coming in on the first attempt.

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Make a plan and stick to it.

Not sure if I mentioned this last year but at New Year two years ago, Mrs Burrows’ cousin in Australia put something up on Facebook detailing the amazing year he had just had and how he went about it.

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No funny photo this blog, just a pic of the contents of my cave. Hmmn, must get rid of some of these…

The gist of it was to write down what you want to achieve, write down how you are going to go about it.  The act of writing it down and committing it to paper has the effect of crystallizing it in the mind and by writing it down, makes it seem more achievable.

So I’ve done my planning already for this coming winter (93 days till the lifts open :)) and I’ve lined up all of the courses that I need to do to get to where I want to be.

So for example, here is a small extract from my list for the coming year;

GOALS

1.  Level 4 teach – BOOKED
2.  Eurotest
3.  Level 4 technical – BOOKED
4.  3 days logged touring
5.  Written Project – DONE
6.  UKCP Coach level 2 – BOOKED

With each of these goals, there is a separate ‘goal planning’ breakdown about how I am going to get to the level required and what I need to do to make that happen.  It’s a really useful process and it’s already helped me in connection with my written project which I have already done and passed.  1/6th of the way there already!

I have heard of the full ISTD Instructor qualification described as having the equivalence of a degree in skiing, so I suppose it makes sense to have some sort of written project or dissertation in there.  I’m not particularly academic having left school at 18 and gone straight to the City (ahh, good times) so for me it was quite difficult to understand what was needed.  It seems I can write a bit though and for me the biggest challenge was keeping the project at the required size.

I decided to do my project on the following – ‘What children want from their snowsports lessons vs the perception of what snowsports instructors think they want’.  A bit of a wordy title but the data that came out from the children’s survey that I did surprised me a little in terms of the desire for kids to learn freestyle and how important being sociable was to them.

Anyway, I submitted it and after a rewrite to include some things that the examiner wanted to me explore further, I’m pleased to say that I passed it.  I can see the value in doing the project and as long as you are doing it on something that is interesting to you, it can be rewarding.  I’ll certainly be using a number of the findings from my report in my ski and football coaching over the coming year.

If anyone reading this blog would be interested to have a copy, I’ll happily send it to them.

Have a nice autumn, I’m planning on skiing a bit through September, October and November so I’ll update you on what I’m up to.