Archive for March, 2013

It’s Official

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Today the postman delivered a package from BASI headquarters which contained my certificate, instructor’s licence and badge.  It’s a big badge!

The licence should be carried at all times while teaching and the badge is worn to identify instructors. So of course, my badge can’t be worn in France!

But tomorrow we are off to Switzerland to do the “Tour du Porte du Soleil”, a complete circuit of the piste map and the 10 resorts covered by the lift pass. So as we cross the Swiss border, I’m going to wear my badge, and bombard my companions (William and Nev) with instruction, until we cross back in to France later in the day.  Hahaha.

It’s the last week of the season for us; we will be wending our way home next week, after the most amazing and enjoyable winter.

My thanks to all of you who took the time to read my blog, and send encouraging and entertaining comments.  I pledged to donate to Patrick’s fundraising cycle challenge for Marie Curie Cancer Care for every contribution to my blog, and as a result totted up £80.

Now over to Patrick for the next challenge – Malin Head to Mizen Head by bike – rather him than me!


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The Verdict

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The last few days have been a blur. Literally in the case of Thursday, when a thick fog descended over the valley, and we skied all day using our hearing as the primary method of steering and navigation.

Andy the examiner was delighted that we were given this new challenge, which he declared would be “very good for our development” .  It was easier than closing our eyes, I suppose, another little task that I recall from earlier in the season.

But at last it was Friday, and time for the final assessments. We set off in a group, skied some off-piste terrain and bumps on the way to the top of the Chamoissiere lift where the wind was blowing hard and the slopes were icy and steep. The challenge was to ski rhythmically downhill, while twirling our poles in front of us, and it looked quite cool!

Next the examiners set up shop at the base of a long run where they could observe us all performing short turns to a specific point then carving into long race turns.  We were all asked to loop round and do the same thing over and over again for about two hours. The examiners were looking for consistency and conformance to the specific criteria required for Level 2.  Occasionally they would call one person over and give some instruction of something that they would like to see.  In my case it was to crank over even further on the long turns.

On my final run of the morning, Andy’s arms were outstretched as he cheered me in to meet him, where he gave me a huge hug and told me I’d passed.

I skied at a million km/h high on adrenalin and endorphins, back to the Pleney restaurant where all the BASS instructors had come in for lunch and were there to congratulate us with big smiles.  They have all been through this years ago, and then gone on to make a career as instructors with much greater challenges than I could ever contemplate.

We spent the afternoon celebrating in Bar Robinson, and fader that I am, I ducked out in time to get home for a long soak and then a nice meal with Robert and Marie Christine and their friend James Herdman.  Apparently, those of the class made of sterner stuff, and decades younger!, partied all night. I was like a rabbit in the headlights, dazed and amazed.

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Marigold Gloves

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Somehow, here I am with three days to go before the final verdict on all the hard work, frustration, elation, learning, mistakes, and everything else that has formed part of my season in the snow.

At the weekend, I skied with Emma and Vanessa, two girls also taking the BASI 2 Exams, and we coached each other on our various shortcomings that had been highlighted to us at the Friday checkpoint.  I was quite pleased with my review, as I was told my teaching was up to scratch, and most of my skiing was at the required level, or close enough to get there during the following week with one or two improvements.  For those that are interested, my bumps skiing was very controlled, we had still to be tested in deep powder, my long radius (fast carved) turns needed more lateral separation  – that is, I needed to throw myself over sideways more aggressively, and my short turns needed “more work”…so I know where the focus needs to be.

Monday morning had a forecast for a wet miserable day, and the whole team dressed accordingly.  Marigolds were even produced as the perfect alternative to wet damp gloves. But once we got up the mountain, there had been a good fall of snow, and it was a fantastic day to develop our off piste skills in the deep stuff.  We headed over to Mont Chery, which is never busy and had lots of virgin powder, where we could create the first tracks in the snow.  It was a fantastic day, but totally exhausting.  Those languorous curves take a lot of physical effort! And at the end of it, the assessment was that I had performed at the required level.  Another tick in the box.

Today, we were asked to run a one hour private lesson for one of our group, and help them to improve one aspect of their skiing. The success criteria was – would they be happy to pay for the lesson they received.  I have always been quite nervous of the teaching aspects, as it is very difficult to see something that could be improved and come up with the right reason for the problem, and devise the solution. Most of the time, I have just been in awe of the instructors’ ability to do just that.

So it was with both surprise and glee that I found that I was able to help Helen to visibly improve her plough parallel turns while she in turn helped me to improve my parallel turns.  We were both quite pleased with ourselves.

In the afternoon, we were videoed showing both long and short turns and Andy told me that I’d made good progress.  My long turns are now ‘at the level’ and I’m working on taking them above the required level, and some of my short turns are now at the level but at times, are still a bit below what is required.  And of course the sequence that was recorded for all to see and analyse was not my best, and clearly showed what work is needed over the next three days ….

Tomorrow is the written exam, after another day working entirely on our performance skiing.  I’m hoping I can nail the last major hurdle, those elusive short swinging groovy turns that look so great when done well.

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Mid week checkpoint

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As expected, the BASI Level 2 course / assessment / exam is a step up from Level 1 and quite a stressful challenge. There are 10 of us on the course, ranging from an RAF jet pilot, Ellis, who trains others, and also teaches Forces skiing, to a fearless 16 year old local “park animal”, Galico, and myself and Helen, of similar age, ability and madness!

Day 1: Andy took us on tour to see what our skiing level was like in various terrain, and found much that could be improved. Perhaps more than can be fixed in ten days! We all received personal feedback on what we needed to focus on. Andy’s words were – if you want to pass, guys, none of this is optional….

Day 2: In the morning we concentrated on the minutiae of demonstrating basics to beginners. This has to be exceptionally precise, as some people learn by watching and copying, and we don’t want them copying bad habits! Andy is VERY fussy. Only one person was declared to be “at the level required” (Sean) but we have more time to practise.
In the afternoon, we practised on big snowy lumps called moguls, a very different skiing skill where most of us struggled, but improved as the day progressed. I was quite pleased in the end. I didn’t fall over, was able to navigate my way downhill and maintain reasonable rhythm, most of the time. If only some of my other skiing was progressing as well! I am fairly sure I am one of the weakest participants, and there are definitely areas where I am at the “Fail” level at this point. Hey, it’s only Tuesday.

Day 3: Today we each had to deliver a lesson to our peer group, while Andy watched like a hawk. He misses nothing. My lesson was on the stage called plough turns, when beginners start to steer their skis in different directions. It didn’t go too badly and I passed this assessment with the feedback that I should talk less and demonstrate more.
In the afternoon we were going to focus on long fast carved turns, a bit like ski racers, but the slopes were busy, so we changed theme to much slower ‘plough parallel’ turns, where my attempts were declared the benchmark!!! If only I can remember tomorrow what I did right today ….

Tomorrow we are heading to a quiet slope where we can work on perfecting those long fast turns where we are cranked over at a ridiculous angle trying to go faster, and keep those skis on their edges. So now it’s after 9pm and time for bed. I need strong legs tomorrow.
The photo is of our training group on our last session with Ricey – Tom, Ricey, Me, Chip and Sean – all back on our own skis.

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Last day of training

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That’s the end of the training and all the preparation before the start of the two week BASI Level 2 Assessment. Here we are outside the BASS office after a celebration beer (or was it to calm our nerves …)
Some of the group will be completing their final (Level 4) International Ski Teaching Diploma exams, an exceptionally high level of qualification that will allow them to teach anywhere in the world, finally including France – a long five year plus slog to get to this stage.

Ricey decided to have some fun with us on Friday, so we all swapped skis, which felt very strange. As mine are dainty little women’s skis, Ricey’s feet were the only ones that fitted the binding range, so he took mine, and declared that he was going to have the most bizarre experience of all, skiing like a ballerina – which of course he is able to do most elegantly. I had tall Tom’s stiff long ones, and was just grateful to be able to turn them at all.

We also skied with our ski tips tied together, using little plastic grips that are given to tiny tots to keep their skis in the snow plough position, and skied in time to music, provided by Sean’s iPod and some portable speakers (music by The Killers).

Homework for the weekend is lots of R&R, no skiing, finding music we can have in our heads to accompany various types of skiing – from beginner snow ploughs, through parallels, short and long radius turns, bumps, powder and steep drops…I can think of some already 🙂

At the end of the day Ricey declared us “done” and ready to be handed over to Andy on Monday……..

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