Blog Archive

Ski School

By admin | Filed in Blog

My schedule this week is to join some of the instructors in their classes. Who would have guessed that shadowing a ski instructor as he took a ski lesson would be so intensive!

The first group were a mixed children’s class, all good little skiers, aged between six and thirteen.  The youngest was a feisty little girl, keen to ski black bumps, like she did with her dad.  This terrified the oldest girl, who said if that was what they were doing, she wanted to move down a class. The boys just wanted to go fast.

James the instructor took command of them all, and got them to focus on skiing better, with little tasks and games to keep their interest.  I just found it hard to ski nicely behind them, and concentrate on what and how James was teaching them.  In one exercise, they skied with their hands on their heads, and I carried all the poles for the entire class.  I only dropped them all once, much to the class amusement.

My next class was adult skiers with good style looking to perfect their parallel skiing and to have more control and confidence.  This was more like having a lesson myself, but I did feel under pressure not to show up as the worst skier of the group, and to pick up what techniques were being used to develop their skill.

Today I joined a class of 5-7 year olds, who fell over a lot and needed picked up and sent on their way.  At least they don’t weigh much and bounce up quite easily.  It’s interesting to see how fun and games are used to get them to ski better without them really noticing that this is what’s happening.  A real skill!

The instructors are really helpful and take the time to explain to me why they are using the techniques they choose. My task is to learn from this, and to write up a summary of each lesson in the evening to support my log of  shadowing hours.  After 35 hours have been approved by BASI, I will have completed all the requirements for my Level 1 qualification, and another 35 hours is needed before taking Level 2 exam.

I really can see why shadowing time is so important; but I can’t imagine being good enough to actually take a class out in the mountains! Nobody said this would be easy …….

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My first pupil

By admin | Filed in Blog

Here is my lovely niece Sonia, who allowed me to practise with her at the weekend, to remind her of the basics of skiing that she hadn’t had to use for many years, since she was about twelve.  Despite my lack of experience with a real live student, she survived the experience, and we both learnt something!

We had a hilarious moment when Sonia’s skis somehow sat on top of mine, whereupon I held onto her to stop us both going downhill, and I thought  – hmmm, we didn’t cover this on the course, what do I do now!!

Sonia is in Europe, teaching English to French children in a school west of Paris, and is here with us in Morzine with the rest of the family from Philadelphia for Christmas.

Happy Christmas everyone, I hope Santa is generous.


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By admin | Filed in Blog

The gremlin stayed in its box today, and I skied well enough to pass the technical assessment and so I have passed the BASI Level 1 Alpine Instructor Course! Double yippee!!

Now it’s time to spend the weekend with all our Christmas visitors, and have a great time. My Ski School shadowing starts on Monday with a full week in the snow all day alongside BASS instructor James Bennett in Les Gets. 

Hope and Howard, Scott and Sonia from USA arrived today, and Paula, George, Joel and Rowan arrive tomorrow as does Patrick. Marie Christine and Robert join us on Wednesday.

A happy Christmas one and all!!

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A Day of Two Parts

By admin | Filed in Blog

The pressure was on this morning as each trainee had to deliver a short 15 minute ski lesson, to a class of their peers, watched by an eagle eyed Andy who doesn’t miss a thing.  Mine was to ‘a class of PE teachers’, ready to learn to plough slide down a shallow hill.  It seemed to go well enough, and I passed the teaching element of the course.  Yippee!

Later we had a further role-play session, where we each had to guide a skier with a particuar problem down a hill.  I think I got off easy, as my skier “Trevor” only had dodgy knees and was a bit nervous about bending them too much – good news there, the old call of “Bend ze Knees” is now not the best way to ski. Others had to deal with nervous Doris, who had a breakdown halfway down and refused to move, and Barbara, a male cross dresser on his holidays, who needed to be treated respectfully as the woman he preferred to be.  Andy assures us he has met all of them.

The afternoon was a disaster.  Andy set up an exercise on one part of the mountain where we had to ski short turns behind each other, with the person at the back sking quickly to the front to take up the lead, and carry on the turns, so we all peeled off the back in turn. I immediately forgot all the good technique I have been practising all week, hacking my way down the hill, all over the place, and when it was my turn to dash to the front, I got caught up with a group of snowboarders and the train of my fellow students vanished round the mountain without me. I finally caught them up as they slowed down for the next chair.  Not my finest moment.

To add insult to injury, we repeated the exercise, and although I managed to keep up, my skiing was dreadful, and I had Andy calling out to me ‘Stop thinking and just ski – fast!’ In the group feedback session in the evening, he agreed with my comments that my skiing had been terrible, but told me to forget about it, it was two bad runs, remember the good parts, and do better tomorrow. 

So that’s my challenge for the last day of the BASI Level 1 Course.  Wish me luck!


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The Boys from the White Stuff

By admin | Filed in Blog




Well, I’m just whacked at the end of the day. But here is a photo of Andy Jerram, our absolutely fantastic trainer, and the boys on the course – young, fit, great skiers, and totally fearless. Also, polite, sociable, fun to spend time with, and a credit to their parents.

Here is a short list of our activities today so you get a picture of the regime:

  • (Attempting to) carve on one leg all the way along the 2km trail between the two chairs at Super Morzine
  • Ski downhill backwards very fast, at least it seemed very fast
  • Same but dragging pole for friend to ski fast 10cm behind, turning fast  – not sure if it was more scary to draw the line or to ski towards the pole!
  • Practise long carving turns without skidding
  • Short fast turns downhill behind each other, turning on the same line in time (We looked great!)
  • Jump into deep powder and ski down it, for relaxation (?)
  • Ski without poles and with boots undone
  • Ski down either side of a piste shouting at each other in exaggerated “Toff” accents  – to get the shy kids to speak up, hilarious
  • Travel up on the lift pretending we are from Yooorkshire – some dodgy recipes for pudding, and trooble at t’ pits
  • Video review of our carving session
  • How to plan a lesson (15 minutes each tomorrow)
  • Lecture on biomechanics of skiing posture
  • Walk home, eat, make that marzipan for the Christmas Cake (at last)
  • Homework on Lesson Plan for tomorrow and reading about skis, bindings and boots, with set questions to answer.
  • Blog and bed

Good night!


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A Line in the Snow

By admin | Filed in Blog

After a very pleasant weekend, practising my novice instruction tips on my “volunteer” William (at least until he refused to play anymore), the BASI Level One Instructor Course started for real on Monday morning. There are ten of us, ranging from the sixteen year old children of local ski instructors, through students of sports courses, career change adults, and me, here for unknown reasons, not necessarily completely rational.

Andy, our instructor, is driving the pace at a mighty rate, with skiing from 9am to 4pm, then down the mountain to the ice rink, where we have a room for some theory sessions and video feedback, then home for sustenance, homework, and up again in the morning to start all over again. 

The course is a mix of teaching skills, learning to execute demonstrations of basic technique absolutely perfectly, and some higher level performance skills for our own development. The feedback on our own skiing is tough, both from the others on the course and from Andy, but it’s all fantastic fun, and I am improving.

And of course we have now learnt to ski backwards drawing a line in the snow with our poles. Now that’s like a real instructor!!



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Au Secour

By admin | Filed in Blog

For our second day of first aid training, we wrapped up warmly and headed out into the deep snow at the bottom of the Morzine Pleney lifts, where the piste-bashers were hard at work preparing the runs for the opening of the season on Saturday.

All the training we had received previously was now put to the test as we acted out and provided assistance for some common scenarios in the snow. 

It was MUCH more difficult. Just tramping through the snow, checking out an unconscious person wrapped in five layers of clothing, and attempting to move them to the correct postition, or tieing a makeshift scarf into a bandage, was all much trickier when falling about in deep snow. Meanwhile, my injured person was helpfully telling me that he was finding it difficult to breathe face down in the snow while I was unwrapping my bivvy bag to keep him warm. And when I rolled him over onto my carefully prepared polythene, he fell into the holes I had made with my boots.

But despite my obvious lack of talent for a new career as a paramedic, I have now passed my first aid certificate, the second requirement for my course.

Thank goodness that on the pistes, the real experts arrive in minutes!!!

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Today was the first day of our two day Outdoors First Aid course, a qualification in what to do and what not to do when faced with an accident or illness mainly in an outdoor environment, possibly remote from available help.

We were taught how to manage an incident, check on the victim’s condition, and provide appropriate emergency care until the professionals arrive.

We practised and practised using various scenarios, and I only let my victim die on two occasions, until I learnt to do the right thing (although there may have been further consequences  after  they were rescued from me).

Actually, the course is great, and applies not only to ski incidents, but also sailing, hill walking, swimming, or even slicing onions or making toast. As a result, I will be reviewing the contents of the first aid kits in the apartment, at home and on the boat.  Paracetamol and seasickness tablets are great, but they won’t stop blood pouring from an open wound!

And I hope no-one chokes on their Christmas Pudding…

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Slip Sliding Away

By admin | Filed in Blog

Our second day on the hill was spent in Pre la Joux and Plaine Dranse (for those that know the resort) where we practised skiing in the various styles that are taught to beginners as they learn to move and steer on shallow slopes.  Most of this was using sliding movements – as our instructor said, your students haven’t learnt to use edges yet.  But whereas they would only slide down a very gentle incline, he thought we should be able descend a steep red run without using edges, and that was a very interesting challenge! It’s a fabulous, if slightly unnerving way to reassess how we ski and go back to basics.

For those of you who are a bit longer in the tooth, like me, the modern way to learn does not include the wide and uncomfortable snow plough position.  Instead we teach a narrower V shape in combination with a controlled turn and traverse, and save on those sore thighs and hips!


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Days of Heaven

By admin | Filed in Blog

Our first day on the snow started with a pick up at 8am to drive to Morgins, a resort in Switzerland over the mountain pass, that had a few chairs and runs open during the week. It took about an hour to get there, and we had coffee while we put on our  gear and headed out into the snow.  The conditions were superb, a few inches of fresh powder on the pistes, and deep powder to the sides, and hardly a soul about except our groups of trainees.

We spent the morning working on changing the way we skied completely, and using the new sweet spot we had found yesterday, while we bent deeper and used more curvy rotation than relying on edges, as I would have favoured before.

By lunch time we had used our new skills in powder and on piste, and were feeling elated at the new sensations we were experiencing and the control we were getting.  But we were being treated to the most fabulous snow, and whether we will be as proficient on a more normal day, I guess we will find out.  I am using ‘we’ a lot, as today had shown that the four of us are all at a very similar level, and we seem to be working well as a group. Here we are from left – Ricey, Chip, Sean and Tom.

Ricey’s wife Helena joined us over lunch.  She is training for the infamous Euro Speed Test next week, yet another hurdle in the quest to qualify to teach skiing in France – a timed run down a grand slalom race course! She was with Ed Drake, Britain’s Olympic downhill racer, who is building up from an injury.  They were both laughing that the powder conditions were hardly conducive to practising for a speed test.

In the afternoon, we concentrated on what is called the Central Theme, the skills taught to beginners.  We worked on skiing slowly downhill in a straight line, or with a slight snowplough V shape, all the time being corrected on our position. Our objective is to be able to demonstrate skills like these very precisely.  It’s amazing how strenuous it was.

We all bundled back in the 4x4s at the end of a fabulous day, exhausted, exhiliarated and keen for more tomorrow.

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The Sweet Spot

By admin | Filed in Blog

On Monday, since the resort was not open for skiing, we met at the BASS office for a theory session to prepare us for the mountain on Tuesday.

We started with a communication exercise, where we picked a topic to talk about while the other person listened, then discussed how closely we had paid attention.  That was revealing, and got us to focus on trying a bit harder!!!

We were all given a copy of the BASI training manual, a superb and heavy! publication, but one that is so chock full of essential technical information, that it will take the season to digest its contents.

We spent some time discussing the fundamental elements of posture, movement, balance, edge, rotation and pressure, leading to control of line and speed, and flow.

Then we put on our ski boots, and fitted a device called the ‘sweet spot trainer’ to the soles, and spent time trying to balance on the correct spot. I can recommend it, and found that the spot was a little further back than I normally aim to position on my skis. We had some fun when we introduced some of the aforementioned rotation and movement, while maintaining our balance. Or not, as the case may be.

For those interested, the web-site for the SKIA is http

It was a good session, and we got to know the BASS team as they popped in and out. Our instructor Ricey is really great, serious but with a sense of fun, and very inspiring.

Roll on tomorrow!


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The importance of warm dry hands

By admin | Filed in Blog

Tonight we met in the BASS office for a meet and greet and goal setting session and to hear what is in store over the next few weeks.  After a fabulous day skiing in Avoriaz in perfect conditions, our adrenaline and endorphins filled the room.

Our course director Jaz brought us down to earth.  It’s going to be tough, and we are all going to have to work really hard to make progress and have any chance of success.  We should expect days when we just want to go home.

But he focussed on the practical.  How many pairs of dry gloves we should have in a ruck sack each day – four! How to layer our clothes to make sure we are dry and warm on even the most inhospitable days.  One of the instructors, Andy Jerram, said that the best outer layer on a bad day is a warm restaurant 🙂  but that’s not an option for a poor instructor.. (or his clients, come to think of it!)

There are four of us on my course.  Sean, early thirties, Tom, early twenties, and Chip, an Australian in his late forties, whose French girlfriend works in the Office du Tourisme. He was a professional triathlon athlete, and super fit, but as he says, skills for skiing are different.  Cycling, swimming and running are all linear sports,and skiing is not.  An interesting observation. So he has found it a challenge, but one he wants to surmount.  I think we will get on.  They all seem really nice and easy company. And not at all what I expected. There are also six people who have passed Level 2 and come back to qualify for Level 3.  They are all hoping to become alpine ski instructors as a career when they achieve Level 4, the top qualification world-wide.

Our chief instructor will be Ambroglio McClintock (Ricey) a Scot, who seems very nice, and an old hand at this course. He will be assisted by Kevin Turner, whom we haven’t met yet, but who apparently is also a sailor. Other instructors will be contributing from time to time.

Tomorrow we are having a theory session in the office, and then on Tuesday we are driving over to Les Crosets in Switzerland, where the resort is open during the week, for two days of practical skiing. Or teaching us from scratch again, I suspect.

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Look at the snow on that post!

By admin | Filed in Blog

Les Gets, 6km away, opened its pistes for the first day of the season, and after the phenomenal snowfall this week, we were determined to click on our skis and enjoy the downhill experience.

But first we had to dig our way out onto the road with a big shovel ….. William did the digging, and I took the photographs 🙂

We were rewarded with a lovely first skiing  day of the season, perfect powdery snow like icing sugar.  Sorry friends, not trying to make you too jealous.


I discovered that my skiing was absolutely fine, even falling was fine! but getting up without taking my skis off first was impossible, much to Willam’s amusement.

So here is a very happy me, looking forward to the start of the course tomorrow evening when we all meet to get to know each other and find out what’s in store ….

Full report tomorrow!


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Tantalising, tantalising

By admin | Filed in Blog

There is a real air of excitement in Morzine today, as everyone is getting prepared for the new season, and the skies are just tumbling with snow. There is even sunshine! Just look at the amazing views from our balcony this morning, complete with busy snowplough. But the resort is not open yet, so we must be patient while the pisteures compress the snow base and leave it safe for the skiing public at the weekend.  The avalanche threat is very high, as so much snow has fallen, so it will be sensible to be sensible!

We were in the supermarket yesterday when we arrived, and saw so many fresh-faced little seasonnaires, shopping for their chalets and being advised on what to buy and to avoid when catering ‘haute cuisine’ for 12 or more guests – tortilla wraps are out, apparently, too fiddly. I thought of Trish and Barbara who are subjecting themselves to rookie chalet chefs next week: Give them strong feedback, girls – there were a lot of tins going into those trolleys!

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Bon Voyage

By admin | Filed in Blog

We are all packed up and ready to go!

And thankfully, everything  fitted inside the car. That includes a selection of chutney and home made marmalade, a home made christmas cake, somewhat sozzled by now, two garden tables and four chairs (they were an end of season bargain at HomeBase!), three hairdriers, six framed pictures, a slow cooker, a food processor, and my new skis!

I confess, the line was drawn over an artificial christmas tree, and we did have to leave the kitchen sink behind, but now that the tyres are pumped up, we are good to go.

It’s snowing all over France next week, so the snow chains may see some action …..

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My kind of ski goddess!

By admin | Filed in Blog

I came across this article today which just made my jaw drop in awe.

Virginia Reed, aged 82, still takes part in senior ski races and skis every day of the season in her home resort in California.

I used to think it would be great to still be able to ski in my fifties.  That was when I was in my thirties, of course….

Then I thought I might last until my sixties …..

Now – I can only beam with delight at the possibilities ahead.

Click here to read more about Ginny Reed

Norwegian Olympic Skating Champion 1928-1936PS – she even used to skate with Sonya Henje (who won every world and olympics figure skating competition from 1928 – 1936)

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Ahhh, the relief!

By admin | Filed in Blog

Oh, how nice it is to soak in a bath!

Good news from the fracture clinic, once they got over my confession that I was planning to go skiing in mid-December.

My arm is out of plaster, and I have an exercise sheet to restore it to full mobility. I arm-wrestled the nice registrar, and he seemed to think it was doing OK, though it’s still black and blue under the plaster. Officially, he said he couldn’t recommend any sporting activity for another month, but unofficially he told me I’d be fine, and just to be careful as another fall on the elbow might dislocate it again and damage the bone chips that were knocked about the first time. He shook my hand, and it moved up and down, and he confessed he was very jealous of my plans.

So it’s still very stiff, and my fingers don’t reach my mouth yet, but I’m on my way!!!

 And I’ve bought this cool elbow protector with a Kevlar corner. As the nice doctor said, at least it will remind you that you have been injured ….




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Please release me, let me go

By admin | Filed in Blog

I’m off to see the orthopods in the Fracture Clinic today, wish me luck!

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Flashmob burns out

By admin | Filed in Blog

There is an interesting row brewing in the French Alps between the official ESF ski school (practically a closed shop) and UK tour operators who offer ski hosting services to their clients.

A ski host offers a guided tour of the resort, staying on the marked pistes, a useful free service for new skiers to an area. We have been taken round the mountains by ski hosts and its always great fun.  But they are not trained instructors.

After decades of hosting, ESF is now asserting that it is dangerous for anyone who is not a fully qualified instructor to offer this service, even though hosts are absolutely not allowed to teach, only take experienced skiers, and stay in the safe marked area.

And they have taken a small ski company Le Ski to court in France as a test case. The UK ski industry is up in arms!

Of course this would be nothing to do with the fact that 95% of ski instructors in France work for ESF, and it’s exceptionally difficult to qualify, especially as a foreigner.

Meanwhile, timing being everything, 250 ESF instructors planned a Flash Mob type event in London on Thursday, demonstrating their skills as they marched round London in their red ski suits with their skis. Various quips on Twitter and other social media sites have been very funny, asking if this ESF mob have a fully qualified tour guide to show them round, and if they have taken dancing qualifications for their synchronised dance performances.

UK tour operators, ski schools and ski clubs planned a demonstration, and the Flash Mob event has now been cancelled. Quelle dommage. C’est la vie. Gallic Shrug…

Read more on  http

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Fifty Shades of Duct Tape

By Karen | Filed in Blog

 I read an article in the Guardian this week about a woman who had divorced her husband due to irreconcilable differences, since he refused to act out any of the kinky scenes from the infamous novel du jour, Fifty Shades of Grey.

I have no such problems; my husband is taping my arm up with duct tape and a plastic bag every morning for my shower.

I bet Christian Grey never did that with his duct tape.

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