PDS Snowsport

Private Ski Lessons - PDS Snowsports Zermatt

Having not skied for a while I decided to have a ski lesson at home in the UK, at an indoor slope, before the start of the winter ski season and met up with friend / BASI Trainer & Demo Team Member / PDS Snowsport Director James Bennett. This winter PDS Snowsport has launched a new ski school in Zermatt, Switzerland so it was also a chance to find out more about the venture, ask him why he chose Zermatt as well as to have a private lesson.

PDS Snowsport is a ski school, where you can guarantee your instructor will be delivering your ski lessons as a native English speaker. The first PDS ski school was set up in Morzine with a focus on delivering the highest quality ski lessons at fantastic value. I asked James why he had chosen to launch a new ski school in Zermatt.

“Zermatt is one of the only European resorts open to skiers 365 days of the year allowing us to also run summer training camps. We are spoilt with a super modern high speed lift network that is constantly getting upgraded and developed. Although Zermatt is one of the highest resorts in Europe with great natural snow coverage it also boasts that 75% of pistes are supplied by artificial snow making facilities for guaranteed snow all season long. Although not commonly documented the locals know that Zermatt has world class off piste and backcountry skiing with truly exceptional tree skiing on the lower terrain back into the village. The village itself has it all from cosy low key locals pubs and restaurants to five star hotels with Michelin stared restaurants and everything in between. The renowned mountain restaurants are also a must while you are in resort. You will not be disappointed with Zermatt it is truly a resort to immerse yourself in the ski culture and enjoy every minute of your time skiing with us at PDS”.


The ski school is a modern take on the traditional ski school. Designed around you and your individual learning requirements, they create unique lessons to cater for your every need. You can choose from  small group sizes or a bespoke private ski lesson to guarantee your skiing is taken to the next level and the ski school offers Private lessons, Children’s Group lessons and Adult Group lessons including Women only sessions. For those looking for that little bit extra they also offer Snowboard, Off-piste, Telemark and Freestyle lessons. PDS are so much more than just a ski school, whether you are an adult or child, first time skier or world class athlete, they have something that suits you.

One of the unique points with PDS is that you can book a lesson with a PDS instructor at a UK indoor slope and then have the same instructor out in resort giving you continuity in the teaching you receive.

I chose to book a private lesson with James Bennett at Hemel Snow Centre. With over 20 years’ experience under his belt James is the co-founder of PDS Academy, along with Craig Robinson. His knowledge and skill set make him a top instructor. When he’s not teaching beginners, or ageing dinosaurs such as myself with a memory like a sieve, he is an examiner for the British Association of Snowsports Instructors grading future ski instructors and is also on the BASI Demo Team. It doesn’t matter what standard or age you are James will improve your skiing quickly, simply and efficiently. 

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Booking a lesson at Hemel was easy. I simply sent an email.

I learnt to ski in Alpbach, Austria in 1980 when skiing was very much feet together with a distinct up and down movement in a stem christie turn. Modern ski technique is very different and I very quickly go back to my old comfortable style if left to my own devices. Having not skied for a while due to all the lockdowns my skiing technique had suffered. There’s a bit more to skiing than turn left, turn right, repeat and I had, seemingly, forgotten most of it after almost a year away from the slopes.

I’d already told James what I wanted to work on with my skiing in the lesson. He picked out some key points in my technique that were giving me problems but which could be easily fixed in my two hour time slot. He definitely had his work cut out ! 

My stem christie, pole plant, stance and body posture were all an issue. Skiing is essentially two things : inputs and outputs. What you input determines the output you get from your skis. My body posture was all wrong and I wasn’t flexed enough. My pole plant was too far forward. By having too narrower stance I didn’t have a stable enough platform. All of this meant I was stemming my turns and wasn’t keeping a consistent stance width.

The first thing James got me to do was widen my stance. This gave me a more stable frame. We then looked at correct body posture which would also help me maintain a constant stance width. Finally we looked at my pole plant. By having a pole plant that was so far forward meant I was changing edges too soon. 

To achieve all of this James used three exercises. Having got me to widen my stance more he focused on my posture and getting me to keep the ‘lightning bolt’ shape by skiing holding a ski pole out horizontally in front of me. In order to get me to focus more on turning both of my skis instead of lifting one in a stem turn he got me doing braquage. Finally, my pole plant was altered. By giving me shorter poles and getting me to pole plant out to the side roughly in line with the toe of my ski boot as opposed to the tip of my ski I didn’t unbalance myself as much at the start of my turns.

James taught in the clearest and simplest ways to improve my skiing, using leading teaching techniques and tactics to get the most out of me. When it was all put together at the end I looked a half decent skier once again. All I’ve got to do now is remember everything !

PDS are all about fun and adventure, a little bit unique and excellent value for money. After a bit of practice I might just have stopped stemming …. or at least do it a lot less. Pole planting to the side instead of forward has made a real difference and I am much more stable resulting in not stemming. I just have to remember the altered pole plant ! As for my stance width, that still varies but you can’t have everything.


BASI or Ski Club of Great Britain ?

The Blue Jacket

The blue jacket worn by the Ski Club Reps is synonymous with the Club. It’s one of the things the Club is known for and I have twice tried to gain one.

To be awarded the coveted ‘Blue Jacket’ you have to have successfully completed the Ski Club of Great Britain Mountain Safety and Leadership Course. The course runs once a year in Tignes and is not cheap at cost of £3199 plus an additional £480 if you are allocated single occupancy of a room. Then there are  flights and insurance to pay for. This is a quarter of my annual salary and a lot of money ! Despite this I have twice tried to get my hands on one of the jackets.  

I originally enquired about doing the Mountain Safety and Leadership Course in 2019 but my email never got a reply and the website only ever said there was more information coming. For me, doing the course in 2019 would have been perfect. I was already out in the Alps on a ski instructor internship and was not required to do the BASI Alpine Level 1 part of the internship because I already held the qualification. This freed me up to do the Ski Club of Great Britain Mountain Safety and Leadership Course but no information was ever provided.

When I returned home from the Alps in March 2o2o I again registered my interest for the Ski Club of Great Britain Mountain Safety and Leadership Course. This time, I got a place but it wouldn’t be the coveted blue rep jacket that I would find myself wearing but a different blue jacket from the Club.

A Different Blue Jacket

There had been a lull in the Covid-19 pandemic over the summer and I had even managed to get back out to Switzerland for summer skiing in Zermatt. As the autumn arrived and winter approached the Covid-19 situation started to deteriorate. It wasn’t long before the Foreign Office brought in advice against all non-essential travel. Tour operators, including the Ski Club of Great Britain, cancelled their winter programmes. This included the Mountain Safety and Leadership Course. For the second consecutive year I had missed out on the blue jacket. I had also booked off two weeks from work to do the course and another two weeks in case I needed to quarantine on return. This was a total of 4 weeks off from work that once booked couldn’t be changed. I was not happy.

I suggested the course was switched to Scotland and posted on Facebook an alternative UK version of the Mountain Safety and Leadership Course. My post did not go unnoticed. Both Angus Maciver (General Manager) and Owen Barks Chapman (Head of On-Snow Services & Membership Services) got in touch. My time with the British Association of Snowsport Instructors, involvement at the National Ski Show as an ambassador and my role at Disability Snowsport UK all mean I have built up a network of friends in the ski industry and it is very easy for me to put courses together because of this.

Whilst the Club was no longer running it’s Mountain Safety and Leadership Course nor sending reps to resort, members could act as Social Reps. I might not be able to have a coveted blue reps jacket but I could buy a different, darker blue jacket on the website and wear that instead.

The role of a Social Rep is to facilitate social meet ups and activities in resorts or regionally across the U.K. These resorts could include already “Repped” resorts or could be resorts where there is not a pre-established Ski Club presence. The “Social Rep” role is different to the “Ski Club Rep” role and the Social Rep position does not replace the dedicated Ski Club Reps ! By acting as a Social Rep members help to encourage communication within the Club community allowing for members to meet, ski and share their experiences of the mountains. For example, activities could include social evenings, meals, recreational activities around the resort or social skiing as a group of friends.

I planned on Social Repping in Saas-Fee over Christmas / New Year and put together a schedule.

As well as becoming a Social Rep I also started writing for the Club. When in the UK, I ski at both Castleford and ChillFactore on a regular basis. When ChillFactore re-opened after the first Covid-19 lockdown I went along to put a piece together about what it was like skiing at an indoor slope during the Covid-19 pandemic. The article went out to members via the Facebook page and via email.

Ultimately, ongoing travel restrictions and national lockdowns, both in the UK and in Europe, meant that a clear ‘Stay at Home and Do Not Travel’ message was put out across not just the UK but internationally. Any organisation that continued to run on-snow activities and who actively encouraged people to travel abroad to ski, against FCO advise, has to be questioned. Any such organisation clearly had financial gain in mind, completely ignored the Covid-19 pandemic and acted in a wholly irresponsible manner. Those sort of organisations are not ones I wish to be part of. Thankfully, the Ski Club of Great Britain was not one of them ! Of course, any company, reliant on snow sports for income, who was unable to operate last winter can claim Business Interruption and have their financial losses paid. By not running any courses or holidays, the Ski Club of Great Britain has a financial advantage over those companies who did operate.

BASI or Ski Club of Great Britain ??

I have been a British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI)  member since 2018 when I qualified as a Level 1 Alpine Instructor. However, there were now problems starting to develop. None of them the fault of BASI. Not only had a serious hip injury sustained in February 2020 left me with a permanent weakness to my left hip, meaning my skiing was never going to be symmetrical, I was also starting to find having a BASI qualification could be a liability.

Whenever I ski with a group I inevitably find myself leading. If a member of the group was to have an accident and be injured, even if I hadn’t been leading at the time, I could find myself deemed liable because of my ski instructor qualification. Whilst there are Ski Club Reps who hold BASI Alpine qualifications I felt, personally, the liability that I potentially exposed myself to meant I needed to choose between BASI and the Ski Club of Great Britain.

In addition, I was starting to find a lot of duplication with regards to the courses you are required to do at both BASI and the Ski Club of Great Britain. I was having to do courses twice (once for BASI and once for the Ski Club of Great Britain) giving double the expense. Some of these courses were then being done a third time because I am a member of my local mountain rescue team. Take for example, outdoor first aid and mountain safety. All three of the organisations require you to have these but they won’t accept a course done through one of the other organisations. This means I have had to pay for and do 3 outdoor first aid courses and will need to do 3 mountain safety courses. Then there is the piste development course, which ironically is run by a BASI trainer at the Ski Club of Great Britain and is part of the Ski Club of Great Britain Mountain Safety and Leadership Course but I can’t use the BASI Alpine Level 2 courses that I’ve done so once again I find myself paying for something more than once.

One final thing factored into my decision making. Half of the BASI courses I book onto don’t go ahead. Seven of the fourteen courses I have booked with BASI ended up cancelled; and this was before Covid ! Once I’ve booked time off work I can’t move it and re-book it if a course doesn’t run. Moving up through the BASI system was proving difficult because of this and the regularity of course cancellations was not encouraging me to remain with them.

Both the increased liability , the financial expense of having to duplicate courses and the number of course cancellations meant that I had to choose between BASI and the Ski Club of Great Britain. I chose the latter.

Will I be doing the Mountain Safety and Leadership Course this coming winter ? Maybe but probably not. For me, it is simply too expensive and I can’t afford it. If I can magic up £3200 plus the cost of flights, insurance and possible single room supplement then maybe but it’s a quarter of my annual salary as an NHS nurse. There is then the small matter of having a phobia of off-piste skiing.


Most of you are, presumably, members of the organisation on whose Facebook page you found the link to this article,  but how many of you are members of other ‘clubs’ ? How many of you are members of race clubs, mountaineering clubs, climbing clubs …. knitting clubs …?

As lockdown restrictions start to come to an end, it is perhaps, a good time of reflection for all of us for many reasons but in particular those of us who are members of local clubs or associations. Whilst BASI and the Ski Club of Great Britain are no different in this reflection and with pandemic matters moving into new phases I feel it worth encouraging some consideration about our sport and our clubs.

It has certainly been a challenging year for BASI and other membership organisations, such as the Ski Club of Great Britain, with some questioning their purpose, possibly even their future. Perhaps some have even wondered about the very nature of our sport and its impact or their participation in it.

I’ll start on a personal note. I have barely skied over the last 12 months. I’ve had a couple of lessons with BASI L4 ISTD James Lockerbie at ChillFactore and last wore alpine skis at Castleford during October half-term.  I could have made more effort on off-snow fitness or trying to get a physique more like Tom Waddington instead of one of a 47 year old female who spends most of her time sitting about at home. I could have gone on more walks; afterall I live on the beautiful North Yorkshire Coast.


I did however, get my Nordic skis on for some Nordic skiing along the wooded forest tracks by Fylingdales Moor. My Nordic technique leaves a lot to be desired. I can only stop by falling over or using my poles as some sort of weird braking mechanism. The only way I can stay balanced is to Telemark. If you have ever tried to Telemark on Nordic skis it’s hilarious. It’s this lack of Nordic technique, and in particular the lack of being able to stop, that I am doing the Nordic cpd with BASI next month.

Nordic skiing

Despite feeling that I should have done more during lockdown, I didn’t.  The pandemic brought home to me the essentials of why I personally ski, climb, mountaineer, hill and coastal walk. The almost ephemeral, physiological and psychological boost of fresh air, views, nature, endorphin kick, adrenalin injection that I get from being on the hill up high (the higher the better); but there was something else. People. I haven’t worked from home. I haven’t lacked for work. I’m lucky; if you can call being an NHS Nurse during the pandemic lucky. So the need to fill a gap in social interaction isn’t there, but doing walks or crag scrambling on your own just isn’t as much fun or inspiring as doing it whilst being mocked or encouraged by friends. Interaction with others is, even in our quite individual orientated sport, missed and important. The benefits of club groups, of chatting through others experiences, sharing your own, gleaning ideas from each other over a coffee and a piece of cake in the café at ChillFactore is missed.

Lift Up Cafe

It could be argued that I, you, we, don’t need a club or association for that social interaction. I have a network of friends and contacts to ski, climb and mountaineer with but when that is examined, with a couple of very important exceptions, they all really sprang from the clubs and associations I am member of, most noticeably BASI and the Ski Club of Great Britain. Not all of them have remained friends with me for various reasons, but that isn’t the point. Some are now firmly friends that I hope and expect will remain so for life. Within that, the clubs and associations  I am members of refresh these contacts and friendships, and therefore related experiences and adventures as the membership churns and alters over time. Had I left the Ski Club at the point that I felt I had an established cadre of adventure buddies I would not have met others, some who now live overseas. It’s great having friends who live in the Alps !

With friends from the clubs I am members of I have layed footpaths, discovered rhubarb cider, seen some stunning scenery and significantly increased my salt intake with all the crisps and peanuts I ate at Rock Café in Saas-Fee. I’ve seen ice climbing World Championships  in Switzerland, learnt to navigate using a map and compass in Malham and shortly will be learning to Nordic ski on roller skis / skates at Tidworth. I have also enjoyed many days and evenings simply meeting up with other like minded people.

The pandemic has obviously affected BASI, Ski Club of Great Britain and other, smaller more local clubs. Those that were affected by the pandemic and are registered as a business with business insurance can claim back their financial losses provided they have stopped over the pandemic and there have been no events organised for members to participate in. Those that were paying business rates on 1st January are entitled to a grant.  

I believe that in our sport membership of clubs and associations is a hugely important aspect of society. It brings health and well-being benefits, it supports employment and industry and builds awareness of our environment. However,  it has its challenges, the environmental impact is one, its inclusivity another. The rights and freedoms we enjoy did not arrive without appropriate representation. There are others who see us as reckless, damaging, trespassers but they are, thankfully, in the minority.

Without a National guiding body we would lack that representation, access to training and similar important matters. Without local clubs we could be a large homogenous, under-representative bureaucracy run by a small elite. That chimes with other things at the moment.

I believe that there is an important place for local clubs post pandemic. Many people have discovered or re-discovered the outdoors whilst on lockdown. Many have been isolated from others. A supportive, social, space for them will be important.

As 2021 opens up, in terms of seasons and pandemic restrictions I would urge all the membership and prospective membership to similarly reflect. I hope that, like me, you will see the important benefits of Club and Association membership and a need for local clubs to thrive. I look forward to seeing you all again soon on the snow at a crag, or hill or up a mountain.

The British Mountaineering Council has a super article about clubs and their support and strategy for them (www.thebmc.co.uk/clubs-strategy) that is worth reading for those interested in that kind of thing.

Ski Club of Great Britain


The Ski Club of Great Britain is the largest and oldest snowsports membership organisation in the UK, with over 26,000 members. Established in 1903, over dinner at a fashionable restaurant in London (Cafe Royal), the Ski Club’s purpose is to promote and protect safe, enjoyable and inspiring snowsports experiences for anyone who loves snow.

I had asked for membership of the Ski Club of Great Britain as a Christmas present but when I found their ski leading service had stopped I decided not to bother. Previously the Club had offered an in resort ski leading service but now that it had been stopped I had no use of Ski Club membership. The Ski Club still had a presence in resorts but it was a rep service they were now offering.

One of the resorts where there was a rep service was Saas-Fee. I was out in Saas-Fee for the winter season training for my BASI Alpine Level 2 and working as an instructor for the Swiss Ski School. Having the Ski Club in resort would give me chance to socialise with other people even if I couldn’t ski with them and wasn’t a member.

The Reps

The first rep to arrive was Johnny who came out to the resort in the run-up to Christmas. It was Johnny’s first visit to Saas-Fee so when he arrived I showed him around and we sat in one of the bars looking at the piste map chatting. One of the roles of a Ski Club Rep is to hold a social hour each evening. With just 30 minutes to go before the first social hour of the season kicked off Johnny discovered the venue had closed down. He found me shopping in the supermarket. Did I have any suggestions as to a new venue ? This was tricky. It was early season and most places were still shut. The Larix had yet to open its après ski bar, Pubwise wasn’t open on Mondays, Nestie’s was impossible to hold a conversation in … which left one option. The only place that was open every evening right through to the end of the season was Rock Cafe. It was the only choice. I messaged Ross the owner and Johnny set off up to it. From then on Rock Cafe became the social hour venue for the Ski Club of Great Britain.

Training and ski school commitments meant I only managed to ski once with Johnny. I did however manage to get up to Rock Cafe most evenings. The regularity of my evening visits to Rock Cafe led on one occasion to the assumption that I was Johnny’s wife. A comment that was firmly ignored by both of us. We also went and ate at ‘Rosie’s Diner’ one lunchtime. This would be the start of a trend in going out for meals with the Ski Club reps. Another trend was also started. Me cleaning the Ski Club flat after each rep left.

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Me with Johnny

The next rep to arrive was Chris. Chris already knew that I was linked with the Ski Club so messaged me before his arrival. Having been asked by Johnny if I could clean the flat and help with change-over I was well placed to help out with Chris arriving. Knowing he was arriving late at night not only did he get the bed made but I also left him cereal, a coffee sachet and some milk. There is nothing worse than arriving somewhere late at night to find the first thing you have to do is make your bed and then find in the morning there is nothing for breakfast. I even took away the laundry and did it back at mine.

Having a bag full of now clean laundry meant the first thing I needed to do after Chris had arrived was hand him back the laundry. We opted to meet at Pubwise only to find it closed. So we went across to the Dom Lounge only to find that closes at 18:00. See the problem with finding a reliable social hour venue ! Once again commitments made skiing with him difficult but I did manage to fit in a day to Saas-Grund and a day to Saas-Almagell. By this point another rep had arrived in resort; Ed the Inghams rep.

Days out skiing as a group always lead to some funny moments. On one occasion, Chris set off to the inside of a restaurant with a list of coffee orders only to be confronted with an automatic machine which had the instructions in German. When he returned back with the tray of drinks none of them were what we had ordered and it was very much a lucky dip as to what was inside the drinks receptacle.

The trend set earlier with the previous rep of having meals out continued with me having both lunch at the Weissmieshutte and dinner at La Boccalino with Chris. Since I’d cleaned the flat prior to Chris’s arrival he had me give it a look over when he left just to make sure it met my standards. As with Johnny, I joined Chris in Rock Cafe whenever possible. Some of the evenings we were joined by Ed.

At the end of the week Chris gave me a copy of his book ‘Skiing with Demons‘. ‘Skiing with Demons’ is a trilogy documenting the ascent / descent of an ageing ski bum (Chris) as he goes from city living executive to garage dwelling chalet host in Morzine by means of a rented chalet. Brilliantly written and hilariously funny it is definitely worth reading. Even if you don’t ski I would still recommend reading it.

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The theme of not being able to ski with the reps continued with Kenny. By now I had become a member. I tried meeting up at lunchtime once my ski school commitments finished but it proved impossible. I skied just once with Kenny the day before he left.

In heavy snow and not brilliant visibility we set off up the mountain. Kenny on his Telemark skis, me on my Alpine skis. I have real issues with itinerary and off-piste skiing. Kenny seemed to sense this. We focused on Spielboden. Did a pisted run first then dipped  in and out of the itineraries. We were never far from a pisted run and the majority of the time we were underneath a lift. This was perfect for managing my huge phobia and anxiety issues about itinerary and off-piste skiing. Kenny pitched the day perfectly. It was light hearted, lots of route explanation getting me to understand the reasoning for choosing where we were going. Involving me in the decision making like that made it feel like I had made the choice where we went and not him.  Kenny didn’t need to see whenever I fell, he could hear. I tend to let out a little squeak when I fall. This led to a lot of laughter. By the time I reached the bottom of the off-piste area it wasn’t just Kenny laughing, I would be laughing too.

Once again Ed joined us. Both Kenny and I had full avalanche kit with us, Ed didn’t which restricted where we went and how much skiing he could do with us. The other thing that restricted his ability to join us for long was his clothing. His Inghams jacket proved to be less than ideal in the wet heavy snowfall and ultimately the weather forced him in. His jacket was the least waterproof item of clothing I have ever seen. I too was also starting to get a little seepage through my outer layer. Kenny however was bone dry in his Arc’teryx kit. Hmmm…

Me and Kenny seemed to be the only ones mad enough to be out skiing. Surely only mad English people would go up a mountain to ski when there is water running down it. Whether it was our stoic nature, hatred of not wasting a lift pass or the desire not to lose a precious days skiing we were up the mountain all day. We only stopped and came down because they shut the lifts. At 4pm !

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The final rep I managed to get any time with was Trevor. Like Johnny, Trevor hadn’t been to Saas-Fee before either and was a last minute addition to the rep schedule. I only knew he was coming to resort as a result of a message he sent me. There had been a gap in reps for two weeks so before he arrived I went and cleaned the flat and made the bed. Again there was a large amount of laundry so once more I brought bit back to mine. Trevor’s first time meeting me was with me holding a bag of clean laundry.

Our first meeting was nearly me showing him how to get into the Ski Club flat. Just as I was getting into bed a message popped up on my phone. It was Trevor. Arriving at the flat late at night, and after a drink or two, Trevor found himself confronted with a rather complicated looking door entry system. He couldn’t work out how to get in. After a short battle of understanding and comprehension with a fandangled electronic key fob he eventually gained entry. ‘What happened to the good old fashioned keyhole’ he remarked in another message as he finally worked out how to gain entry. I really did think I was going to find myself having to walk up through the village late at night and show him how to get in. Instead it was the following evening I met him (with the bag of laundry). Late night rescue avoided.

I managed to ski twice with Trevor. On the first occasion I was still in pain from a hip contusion. Bad weather had forced most of the ski area to close leaving just the village lifts open. As I went through the turnstile of the tow it hit me on the back of my leg. The exact spot on my femur where I had injured. The pain was immense, the sort of pain that makes you want to be sick. I retreated to the Larix for warmth and a drink but as soon as I got in there another wave of nausea hit me. Temporarily I left Trevor. On my return I tried again but it was no good, so instead I sat outside in the fresh air with Trevor patiently watching on. He even gave me his handwarmer so I didn’t get too cold.

My second attempt at skiing with Trevor was very different. It was to be one of the best days skiing I have ever had. The sort of day where memories are made and they are memories that are shared.

We started the day off with another ski club member, Simon and our first lift of the day was the Alpin Express Gondola followed by the Metro Alpin funicular to Mittelallalin. I tend to find myself leading when with a group and this was no exception. After taking the two of them on some pretty steep tows we made our way to Langfluh where we promptly lost Simon. This left just me and Trevor. Bonus. We located Simon on the terrace of one the restaurants but it was to be a short reunion once again leaving just me and Trevor. We stood at the side of the groomed piste looking across to an area of itinerary skiing. A lot of discussion and thought then followed. I could tell Trevor really wasn’t very sure about skiing it. Normally standing at the edge of a groomed piste discussing itinerary or off-piste would have had me into total melt down especially as there had been no warning first meaning I’d not been able to follow my staircase plan. The fact that I was stood next to someone who clearly wasn’t very sure it was a good idea would have only added to my full blown phobia panic attack that typically resulted in the mere mention of the word itinerary. Yet somehow, this didn’t seem to be happening. We moved down the groomed piste a bit for a better look from a different perspective. Trevor was quite honest about his doubts and instead we settled on a yellow itinerary from the same run but on the opposite side. It turned out to be horrible conditions so we traversed back onto the piste. In doing so we stumbled across another much better condition stretch of itinerary.

Getting my skiing mojo back

Trevor was the sort of person who was very easy to get on with. There might even have been on occasion a little bit of, what might have been considered by some as, light hearted flirting. The problem with joining reps in Rock Cafe is that my training group live above. On my first evening in Rock Cafe with Trevor one of the group came over to say hello then proceeded to utter the words ‘ Are you on a date ‘?  No I’m not on a date. Any rumour mill was kept working when upon meeting me and the training group at the mid station of the Alpin Express Gondola Trevor greeted me with a hug. One of the group enquired ‘Rosie have you got yourself a wee man ?’. My response was similar to the one I had given Dan. No I had not got myself a wee man. Even other drinkers in Rock Cafe thought me and Trevor were an item. When the suggestion and question was raised by one of Ed’s friends one evening Trevor gave my hand a gentle squeeze in response. Not exactly quelling the rumour mill then !

I miss all the reps when they leave. This one would be no exception. Sometimes it’s not how you spend your day, it’s who you spend it with.

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Me with Trevor

Playing at Being a Rep

When Kenny left there was a gap in the rep schedule. Both Johnny and Kenny had graded my skiing and Kenny had sent my grading into the Ski Club office. He also sent in the suggestion that I might be able to help out whilst a rep was found. Unable to do any formal repping because I hadn’t done the leaders course I was allowed to be a focal point for members in resort and run the social hour. I also got to hold the ski club phone and update the Facebook page. Whenever ski school commitments allowed I would ski with members having posted on the Facebook page beforehand where I would be on a morning so that members could unofficially join me. I tended to only have part of the day free for skiing but  then on an evening I would run a social hour.

I varied the social hour in both venue and time. This meant that wherever members were staying in resort they could get to at least one of my social hours in the week. It proved very popular. A real rep is required to stick to the advertised location and time. I wasn’t a real rep. Not being a real rep meant I didn’t have a blue Ski Club of Great Britain jacket so used the club rucksack as a means of people identifying me. On one evening I was considerably easier to spot. I’d gone to the social hour straight from the children’s ski school disco. Not only was I still in ski school uniform but I’d also had black whiskers and a black nose painted on my face.

Mouse or cat ?

Back in the previous summer I had thought about becoming a Ski Club of Great Britain Rep but had not been able to find much information. Whenever I looked on the website it just said more information would be coming soon and my emails never got a response.

One last rep would arrive in Saas-Fee before the season was brought to a premature end by Coronovirus. Sue Kalderon got just a week of her two week slot completed before leaving. She was the only rep I didn’t get to ski with. BASI commitments took priority. Like with Johnny, Chris and Trevor I did manage to get to some of her social hours. Sue held her social hour in Pubwise, just round the corner from my home making it a short walk and much easier for me to get to than Rock Cafe.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the reps and being a focal point for the club. The reps are an important part of the Club so please use them. For me getting to be a ‘rep’ was a childhood dream come true. It’s always something I wanted to do.

Was there a favourite rep ?

I couldn’t possibly answer that question.

Take Two Part-Two – Over and Out

PDS Academy

Our BASI trainer and examiner for the Alpine Level 2 resit was the same trainer as the week before on the Alpine Level 2 Performance; James Bennett.

When not working for BASI, James is one of the directors at PDS Academy in Morzine. PDS Academy is a British Ski and Snowboard School founded in the Portes du Soleil and now operating in the 3 Valleys + Espace Killy including Sainte Foy.

Ever seeking gaps in the market, James and Craig started off by establishing JJC Training nearly 10 years ago, with the specific aim to create tailored programmes to help instructors pass their instructor qualifications. Using this deep-seated partnership and clever business acumen, James and Craig expanded JJC Training to the PDS Academy we see today.

The Academy is a modern take on the traditional ski school. Designed around you and your individual learning requirements, James, Craig and the team create unique lessons to cater for your every need. You can choose from small group sizes or a bespoke private ski lesson to guarantee your skiing is taken to the next level. You can even book a lesson at Hemel with one of the instructors and then carry on having teaching from them when you get to resort. For those, who like me, want a little bit more than recreational skiing, there is professional ski instructor training and race training.

Level 2 Resit – Over and Out

Certainly the level 2 performance training had been an interesting week and I was rather hoping the resit week would be less eventful.

The first day was lost due to poor weather. Hmm … not exactly getting off to a promising start then.

Tuesday was better. Gorgeous blue sky, lovely snow and all in all a good day. As I came to a stop when joining the group at the side of the piste I caught my left inside edge which whipped my ski around. Although it did release the damage was done. The instant the ski twisted around I felt the pain to my knee. I knew it wasn’t good.

“No … No … No …” as I sank to the snow holding my knee. One of the group was behind me. “Rosemary … are you ok ?” The answer to which was no. Our BASI trainer and examiner and seen what had happened and asked the same question to which he got the same answer. “No”. The person in the group behind me unclipped me from my other ski and James headed over to me. “I saw you do it” he said. I think he knew at the time that the outcome probably wasn’t going to be great.

My injury wasn’t the only problem. I’d injured myself on the last run of the day as the lifts were heading towards closing. Whilst the group had sufficient time to make the lifts back up to Klein Matterhorn anyone who stayed to help would miss the cut off time and end up stranded. Whilst John gave me his jacket to lie on, piste patrol was called and a message sent out to the group telling them to head for the lift. I apologised to the trainer. For the second time in 8 days he found himself waiting for piste rescue with me.

Trying to get comfortable in the snow proved difficult. It wasn’t the snow that was the problem, it was my knee that I couldn’t get comfortable. Lying on my left side was a no, lying on my right side or sitting up were slightly better so I alternated between the latter two shuffling between them to try and get comfortable. The jacket I was sat on was a potential toboggan. If it broke free and headed down the slope it would take me with it. James made sure he stood in front of me with his foot against me acting as a brake. The last thing he needed was me careering down the slope on somebody’s jacket !

It seemed to take forever for piste patrol to arrive. Admittedly we were beneath a roller at the side of the piste and this possibly made it difficult for me to be seen. Various ski-doo’s could be heard but none came our way. Finally one did.

Upon reaching me a quick assessment was done including which side of the border did I need to be on (Italian or Swiss) and what were my credit card details. Anyone who has ever been injured whilst out skiing will know you have to hand over money before you get anything so much as paracetamol let alone actually being taken off the mountain. I’d made sure to say that I didn’t need a helicopter, I just needed help getting back to the main lift station. Now it wasn’t just my knee hurting, my credit card was too.

Whilst I was entitled to rescue, courtesy of Barclaycard, our trainer and examiner wasn’t. He was required to make his own way down off a mountain that was now closed. I contemplated asking whether I could pay for him too. There were two options available to him. Ski down to Trockner-Steg across a melting glacier or, if that proved too difficult, ring piste patrol and they would collect him at the end of the day before they all went home but it was likely he’d have to wait some time. He opted for the descent across a melting glacier. At least he wouldn’t be on his own skis; they’d been
deliberately switched and taken in an episode of ski theft earlier on in the day.

If you’ve been on a ski-doo you will know there isn’t much to hold onto. The slope was too steep for the ski-doo to go straight up so we headed down before coming back up a gentler slope on the other side. The ski-doo struggled, my extra 45kg of weight not helping things. I wondered what would happen if I fell off and decided it was best if I didn’t (fall off that is). Once safely back up the top at Klein Matterhorn I was re-united with my group and met by more piste patrol who put my knee in a splint and transferred me to a wheelchair. It was then I discovered that as an injured skier I got priority travel. Whilst the group travelled down in a standard gondola I travelled in a crystal encrusted one with see-through floor; the Crystal Ride.

Embellished by thousands of Swarovski crystals the cabin glittered like fresh snowflakes caught in the sunlight. Three minutes into the journey, at a height of 170 metres above ground, the previously opaque glass floor turns clear giving a dramatic view down onto the glacial landscape below. I only realised it had a see through floor as it approached Trockner-Steg where I had to get off and onto the next gondola !

Sat waiting at Trockner-Steg was the trainer and examiner. He’d had an interesting ski down on glacial ice, flowing water and gravel. Occasionally a patch of snow could be found.

It’s quite a long ride down from Trockner-Steg to the valley station. As me and the piste patrol lady boarded the next gondola I decided I should probably inform my insurance company. Inevitably I found myself needing internet access. Awkward when you’re suspended mid-air in a metal bubble. There tends not to be much WiFi ! So that I wasn’t using my data the piste patrol lady created a WiFi hotspot for me and I telephoned back my insurance company.

As well as not wanting a helicopter to rescue me I didn’t want an ambulance meeting me either. When I had been given the choice by the piste patrol lady I had opted for a taxi. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t ski carrying vast amounts of money, enough for a hot drink, so I ended up borrowing some. Once at the bottom valley station my kit made its way to the Hotel Antares and I waited for the taxi that would take me to the medical centre. John came with me. It was quite funny when upon arriving at the medical centre they assumed John was my husband. Er … No … Friend. Clearly friend has a different meaning in Switzerland. The doctor who saw me was very excited when he discovered we shared the same birthday, albeit with him 10 years older than me. He told anyone and everyone that I was his birthday twin.

With the examination completed and my knee x-rayed my birthday twin gave me the news that I wasn’t to ski for the next 3 days and was to go back to the medical centre again in 2 days for a check up. In an instant my BASI Alpine Level 2 was gone. You are only allowed to miss 20% of the course which was the equivalent of one day. I was over and out on the second day.

John was still waiting for me. Issued with crutches and a knee brace another taxi was ordered and more money was borrowed. We had video feedback at the Hotel Antares. At least I could do that sitting down. Once in the hired room at the Antares the crutches were quickly ditched in the first available corner. With the video feedback over there came the small matter of how to get me home to my accommodation.

I was staying in Chalet Turbina, 20 minutes walk away, uphill and then along a riverside path. No road access. The nearest I could get by road was using the bus and getting off at the stop before the base gondola station where we were but the busses operated a one-way system so I would have to get on and do a full loop. One of the group flagged down the bus and persuaded the driver to stop and pick me up outside the Hotel Antares. Off I set down to the village in order to be able to come back up again and get off at the stop before. Once at the stop and off the bus I was faced with a steeply sloping path down to the river in order to get to the path up to Chalet Turbina. Not great with crutches ! My room mate met me.

I contemplated moving out of Chalet Turbina and closer to the village to make getting out and about easier. The only thing with this was that I could cook at Chalet Turbina. If I was in a hotel I would have to go out to eat. I opted to stay at Chalet Turbina.

The following day I occupied myself by taking the bus down into the village and going into Migros. Food shopping with a basket hanging from the handle of the crutch worked alright until the basket got heavy. Once outside I waited for the bus back up to the other end of the village.

My groups Whatsapp messages also provided a source of entertainment to stop me getting bored. There was a definite flurry of WhatsApp usage at midday. Presumably the group were in Rifigio Cervino having a coffee stop. I popped a message into the chat asking if anyone was actually skiing. When the next message came up as ‘20’ I was left perplexed. 20 … 20 what ? Surely there weren’t 20 people skiing. There were two BASI groups out on the hill plus other users. I sat looking at the message before finally it clicked what it was about. The group had gone over to a red run to ski short turns. 20 was the number of turns to aim for as you skied the pitch. Another message that had me amused was one where someone in the group had told the trainer and examiner to ‘Shhhh’. Whilst sending a message the individual had pressed the wrong emoticon and inadvertently told our trainer to shut up. The conversation that ensued between the two of them showed what a good sense of humour our trainer had.

When the group came down I joined them at a little cafe opposite the base station and then for video feedback at the Antares. I wanted to know what the plan for the group was for the following day. If they were going to have a midday stop at Rifigio Cervino I would go up, side slip down on my good leg before free running the skis along the flat to the Rifigio and then come back up the lifts to return to the village. It turned out they weren’t planning on a coffee stop.

When I got up the next morning my knee was much better. There was no swelling, not much pain and my knee seemed to work. I telephoned the clinic in the hope of getting an earlier appointment instead of the one I had for 10:00. Without medical clearance from the doctor I couldn’t ski. I was out of luck. I gambled that I would be able to sufficiently convince the doctor my knee was fine and packed a bag with my kit so that I could go straight from the clinic to the ski lift if told I could ski.

Every minute in the medical centre was a minute lost time wise on the course. I’d already missed the allowed 20% by not being able to ski the previous day. If I was to avoid a result of ‘Did not Complete’ I needed to be up on the mountain skiing with the group, not losing more time. Finally at 10:15 the doctor saw me. “Ah, my birthday twin … How is the knee ?” He pressed, flexed, extended, bent and straightened my knee checking it’s stability, looking for signs of problem. I gave him nothing. “Ok you can ski”.

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. With the bill paid and the crutches returned I headed straight for the ski lift. It was 10:15. The group had started at 09:00. As long as I missed less than half the day and got to the group before 11:30 I might just avoid getting a ‘Did not Complete’. On my way to the lift I sent both my examiner and another trainer a message saying I was on my way. The time read 10:23.

Once on the gondola my ski gear went on over my shorts and t-shirt and my sports shoes were switched for my ski boots; all to the amusement of the people on the lift with me. I willed the lift system to go faster, getting me to the top quicker.

When I reached the top station of Klein Matterhorn it was 11:25. I reckoned I had 5 minutes to get to the ski area and locate the group before I reached the mid point of that days session and got timed out from the course. When I had messaged my trainer and examiner from the village he had given me the groups location “… on the bottom little t bar”.

As I left the lift station and eased my way down the grit and gravel to the snow my knee let me know it wasn’t enjoying the change in terrain. As I pushed off on my ski there was another reminder that perhaps all was not as well as it seemed. Maybe this really wasn’t a good idea. Once I was free running things were a little better. When I came to the steeper section down to the tunnel that led to the ski area I erred on the side of caution and side slid with my weight on my good leg. Once near enough to the tunnel I straightened the skis and free ran. There wasn’t enough speed to get me all the way on to the main ski area and as I pushed myself forward there was another reminder from my knee.

I gave a quick check of the area. The group weren’t in sight, they must still be at the bottom by the little t-bar. Cautiously I side slid down the steep before letting the skis run once I reached flatter terrain. As long as I stopped on my right leg it wasn’t too bad. I decided I had better at least try and turn. Gingerly I did a couple of turns and then with the group in sight and the knee holding up I did some proper skiing. It was great to be back on the snow with the group.

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With a quick coffee stop over we headed for the bumps. Our trainer and examiner handed out the strands he wanted us to ski. For me it was short turns. I had my eye on the bumps. The trainer and examiner was about to discover I have a stubborn streak. “Shorts” he said to me. “Perhaps” came my reply. This had him really confused, “Perhaps ?”. “Perhaps I’ll ski shorts, perhaps I won’t” I continued. “I really don’t think you should ski bumps, in fact I strongly recommend you don’t ski the bumps” replied the trainer. “Halfway, I’ll go from halfway” attempting to bargain with him. He knew.
He knew I was skiing bumps and it was pointless asking me to do anything different.

I cautiously side slid down to mid-way, dipped under the rope, set myself up and skied the pitch of bumps from halfway. It would have been nice if the trainer had watched but guess he had told me not to go in the bumps. Apart from some definite snowplough at times it wasn’t too bad. I got down. More importantly I was still intact!

As the group looped up and down the tow I continued in the bumps with some of them. At one point I stopped at the trainer, optimistically hoping there might be little, tiny bit of feedback. “Do you want to see your video ? I filmed you”. What I saw in that video was some of the best bumps skiing I have ever done. As long as I stayed on the bottom section from halfway I was ok. When the trainer suggested I tried from further up it didn’t go quite so well so I went back to going from the midway point. For me those runs were about getting the rhythm and confidence.

The final day of the course was one of sunshine skiing and fun. James Bennett, our trainer and examiner is part of the BASI National Education Team and as such is on the demo team. When he got us synchro skiing it was so much fun. Having someone at the front who is a good metronome is key. Whilst we nailed our first run with conventional layout our off-set synchro with clever start was dreadful. I don’t think I’ll be taking Bennett’s place in the demo team any time soon !

My two weeks in Zermatt doing both the Alpine Level 2 Performance Training and the Alpine Level 2 resit were an amazing two weeks. Finally, my stem at the start of my short turns had gone, I had started to get the hang of pedalling and short leg/long leg. Ultimately, it was a ‘Did not Complete’ that went on my course report form.

A constant theme in my skiing over the two weeks had been a noticeable weakness on my left side in my left footed turns to the right. The hip injury I sustained in Saas-Fee during the torchlit descent with the Swiss Ski School had not only left me in pain for 5 months but it had left me with permanent weakness to the left side of my hip. The BASI Alpine Level 2 resit that I did with James Bennett would be the last BASI course that I would do.

Take Two Part-One – Shocking Experience

More Level 2 Training

I’d seen a post on Facebook from BASI Trainer / Examiner Hannah Bryans about summer training camps in Zermatt. I’d done my BASI Alpine Level 2 in the spring and Hannah had been the trainer / examiner. Struggling with a serious hip injury I’d not passed. Part of my post course discussion with her and been around doing another Alpine Level 2 Performance Training Course in Zermatt followed by a resit. I got in touch and flew out.

When I got to Zermatt I discovered my trainer and examiner for both the Alpine Level 2 Performance Training and the Resit was James Bennett. There are a couple of BASI trainers and examiners who I’ve always wanted to ski with. One of them was James Bennett !

James Bennett

Ski Instructor James Bennett

Like most BASI Trainers and Examiners James started skiing as a child. From London James (or Bennett, as he’s known) got into skiing at his local slope, Bromley Dry Ski Centre. He has been a member of two British Ski Teams, in both Alpine and Telemark racing. Since then he has become a BASI Trainer in both Telemark, Coaching and Alpine delivering courses in the UK and abroad. He holds Telemark ISIA, Coaching Level 3, BASI Trainer / Examiner qualification, Level 1 Snowboard, Level 1 Adaptive, can do a mean handstand and I suspect he is capable of a summersault or two on a trampoline. He’s been an active coach for the British children’s team and has a strong interest in the development of children’s skiing from grass routes level up.

After getting his first BASI qualification, what is now the Alpine Level 2 Instructor Qualification, James went to work in the French alps as a ski instructor for the ESF in Valmeinier before working in Morzine for BASS. In 2008 James became an official Opener for the Euro test. In 2015 and 2019 he represented BASI at Interksi as a member of the BASI National Education Team / Demo Team.

He’s also a qualified First Aid Trainer; handy given my reputation for injuring myself on BASI courses !

Skiing with James in that first week I would have a shocking experience that is one of the most surreal and bizarre moments I have ever had.

A Shocking Experience

Moments after the above photo of me and BASI trainer / examiner James Bennett was taken something quite extraordinary would happen to us both.

We had heard a couple of claps of thunder and so decided to collect our bags from the bottom of the slope and head back to the main lift station to download. What happened next would be a surreal and shocking experience.

Half way up one of the t-bar lifts me and BASI trainer / examiner James Bennett were struck by lightning. Suddenly, without warning, there was an orange flash and the sound of an explosion. We were right in the middle of it. The noise and orange blast that accompanied the lightning strike left us both, well … erm … shocked. I was still on the t-bar, James who had been beside me was now slightly ahead and to the left. He looked at me bewildered as I clutched onto myself checking I was still alive.

‘What happened’ ? he asked. ‘Did you get struck by lightning’? I acknowledged that I had. ‘I was struck as well’ he continued. ‘Are you ok ?’ he asked. ‘I think so, just very shaken and feel as if I’ve been bit in the head by something”. I had quite a pain to the side of my head and the top. It was very difficult to explain the pain. A sort of mix between stabbing and burning. James too had the same thing along with tingling in his hand.

Two T-bars ahead were two other members of the group who seemed unscathed but between us was a man who had been thrown to the ground by the hit. He wasn’t getting up either. In fact, he wasn’t even moving. Me and James looked at each other. The two group members ahead had started to approach the man before remembering to stop and wait 60 seconds before going any closer. Me and James joined them beside the man. Thankfully the man was conscious and talking but by the smell of electrical burning he had clearly taken a bigger hit. We unclipped him from skis, turned him onto his back and dragged him clear of the pylons fearing another strike.

Tending to the casualty

The lightning strike had taken out all mobile phone signal. No-one had any reception, 4G … nothing. We constantly kept trying our phones hoping signal would kick back in. I was quite visible in my bright orange jacket and bright blue helmet. A bonus when you need to be seen. I also had a whistle, a very loud whistle, attached to the chest strap of my rucksack. Up ahead I could see the lookout hut at the top of the lift. The lift had been shut down instantaneously when the lightning hit and it was known we are on it but I was more concerned about the fact that we were in a first aid situation needing piste rescue. I needn’t have worried about waving my arms and using my whistle to attract attention, the alarm had already been raised by others up ahead and help was on its way.

Battling for signal

First to arrive on the scene was a piste patrol ski-doo. The lady on it quickly got details of what happened, who was injured, how many were injured and what their injuries were. The man who had been ahead and taken the bigger hit was loaded onto the ski-doo first followed by me. We were wisked off up the slope and around the corner to the main lift station at quite some speed, there was no hanging around. James and the rest of group, with the exception of two who had made it off the lift and to safety, were picked up by a piste machine. Elsewhere on the mountain others were also being rescued. Further down the mountain were other BASI trainer/examiners with their groups. Hannah, Rob and Craig had all been out on the hill and all found themselves having to be rescued. Hannah confirmed in a message that her group was safe and awaiting rescue. The whole ski area was in shutdown. The only way to get people off the slopes was by ski-doo and piste machine in a co-ordinated response. 

With all my group safely at the top at the main lift station we re-grouped in the restaurant, bought ourselves hot drinks and waited for the lifts to re-open so that we could all download to the village. Whilst waiting one of the bergbahnen / piste patrol staff came to talk to us, made sure we were all ok and gave us advice.

Once down in the village I sought medical attention. I was given a thorough check-over. ECG, neurological function, reflexes, blood pressure, heart rate were all checked. Except for having a high heart rate I was fine. I’d been lucky, very lucky. Hannah had sent me a message asking if I was ok and as I left the medical centre I found her, James and Craig waiting outside.

That evening our BASI trainer and examiner searched the internet looking for information. Had he done the right thing in heading to the lift station to get us off the mountain ? Should he have done something different ? Would we have been better going lower down the mountain even if that point of safety lower down was further away ? If it happened again what would be the best thing to do ?

What happened was a freak incident and happened without warning. Our BASI trainer and examiner had taken the logical decision to head to the main lift station 10 minutes away and download. Not a single one of us in that group has disputed that decision and he has our full support. Certainly, being struck by lightning is an unusual way of becoming friends with someone and I hope me and James have many years of friendship ahead of us, minus any more lightning.

So what of the skier ahead of us? A few days later some of the group caught up with him on the mountain. He had suffered burns and spent four days in hospital. It was great to hear he was ok and back skiing. Thirty seconds or so later and that would have been me and James.

As if there hadn’t been enough drama for one week Zermatt had a richter 3.0 earthquake the following night !

Coming next :

Take Two Part-Two Over and Out

Educating Adventures (EA)

EA Ski & Snowboard were formed by a small group of passionate skiers and snowboarders from around the world whose main aim was to help keen riders enter the snowsports industry as successful and capable instructors.

Ski & Snowboard Training began in 2006 when two ski instructors in the USA noticed how difficult it was to break into snowsports instruction. They decided to fix this problem by setting up a course combining  instructor training, which focused on making it easy for people to become instructors, with a guaranteed job offer to teach in the same season.

The concept of the Instructor Internship was born and has changed the nature of the industry ever since. Over the years EA has built partnerships with the top resorts around the world and now offer ski instructor internship courses with 26 Ski Schools in over 5 Countries. Added to that no other company can match EA’s global resort networks spanning Canada, USA, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland. This means more open doors for interns and trainees.

I opted for the Saas-Fee program. EA is one of the most expensive course providers and Saas-Fee has one of the lowest success rates not to mention the worst accommodation. The accommodation is shared apartments, sleeping in bunk beds above a noisy bar open until 02:00am. I measured the noise level one night: 77 decibels going up to 100 + decibels when there was a live band using the drum kit. How you can be expected to sleep through that noise level I have no idea. I quickly moved out. There is the massive advantage that on the Saas-Fee program you train with the Swiss Ski School and work for them as an instructor during peak weeks. I had approached EA previously. When my BASI Alpine Level 1 was cancelled at short notice I had contacted EA about the Saas-Fee program but couldn’t get my UK life put on hold in time so had pulled out. This time, I had been planning my Saas-Fee internship since April and had everything in place to be able to join the program in November. You don’t say no twice, this would be my last chance.

The program starts with an orientation night in Geneva. Despite the fact that I was already in Saas-Fee it was made clear to me by EA that it was an important part of the program and that I would be expected to attend. Why I couldn’t have met the group in Saas-Fee I don’t understand. Instead I was expected to travel 3 ½ hours across to Geneva for a night in a hotel. They even charged me an extra £215 the privilege !

There are three main ways of skiing; the right way, the wrong way and the BASI way. I was about to encounter a fourth; the Swiss way. Whilst most internships use coaches who are either BASI Level 4 ISTD or a BASI Trainer / Examiner this isn’t the case with EA. They use someone from the Swiss Ski School. Although that person is assessed by BASI Training Manager Roy Henderson it does mean you don’t get the same standard of BASI coaching as on other internship programs leading to a lower pass rate.

I would discover several other ‘interesting’ things about the program set-up. You pay for both BASI Alpine Level 1 and BASI Alpine Level 2 exams at the start of the program and are enrolled on both courses at the time of booking. Book through BASI and you can’t book onto the Alpine Level 2 until you have fully and successfully completed all of the Alpine Level 1 plus a further 35 hours of snowsport shadowing. This doesn’t apply when you book on the EA Internship. As long as you are likely to be at a good enough standard by the BASI Alpine Level 2 you will gain a pass for Level 1 even if  you’re not at the technical criteria and the pre-requisites for BASI Alpine Level 2 don’t apply. Then there was the price difference for the Level 2. Book through BASI and you pay £670. EA charge you £785 for the Level 2. With 10 people booked on the Level 2 it was a tidy profit made by EA.

Out of the 10 booked on the Alpine Level 2, only half would pass. At one point it looked like I might be the only one eligible for the level 2; I was the only one with the pre-requisites (not that you needed them). Then, 10 days before the BASI Alpine Level 2 I sustained a serious injury whilst skiing with the ski school.

Advantages and Disadvantages

As with any internship program you do there are advantages and disadvantages to whatever you choose. EA was no exception and there were far fewer advantages than disadvantages.

For me, there were three main advantages. For a long time I have wanted to spend the winter in Switzerland and the EA program gave me this opportunity. The Saas-Fee program also comes with a guaranteed job offer with the Swiss Ski School and since the BASI Alpine Level 2 wasn’t until March I would get the on snow time I needed in order to improve. I signed up.

The disadvantages to the program became clear very quickly. EA insist you book travel and insurance through STA Travel. Despite repeated attempts to contact them via phone and email I couldn’t speak to anyone about flights and insurance. Booking a flight should have been easy but it proved impossible and with me due elsewhere in Switzerland with BASI before going to Saas-Fee I booked travel myself. Finally, weeks before I was due to fly out STA eventually got in contact.

Booking the travel insurance EA required was just as difficult. When you read the policy document it didn’t give enough cover for long enough and I met nearly every one of the exemption criteria. Again no-one got back to me and I ended up having to sort out my own insurance.

It quickly transpired that the accommodation details we had been sent made the accommodation look far better than it actually was. Pictures of spacious double rooms turned out to be rooms with bunk beds. When the group arrived there was no working washing machine or dryer and on one occasion we spent three days with blocked drains. Also the accommodation was above a ‘Café’. I knew Saas-Fee and I knew the accommodation was in fact above somewhere noisy, rowdy and open till 2am with live music several, if not, most nights a week. No way would I be staying in the group accommodation. I would use it until I found something else and then move out.

The training handbook EA send out before the program turned out to be almost as inaccurate as the description of the accommodation. In the program handbook you get given the training schedule plus a whole load of useful information such as where to get your mail sent. In reality, the program manager in resort doesn’t see this handbook and therefore you find the training schedule is actually very different. As for other information, such as where you get your mail sent to, that was also wrong.

We had been assured that we had weekends free and were encouraged to have second jobs. When you get to resort you find that no, you have training some weekends; either Ski School formation or ad-hoc sessions at short notice to make up for what has been lost due to poor weather.

Then there was communication. The program manager would only communicate with the group using Whatsapp. If you didn’t have Whatspp you didn’t get the messages for the group. If you are unable to make the start of training due to other commitments there is no attempt made to communicate with you where the groups location is and whether or not the coach looks at his phone is very much dependent up on who he thinks might be trying to contact him. On one occasion I missed training completely. I had asked the coach to inform me of where the group were heading so that I could join them. I sent the message between 11:00 and 11:30 knowing the coach would be able to pick it up at lunch time; this he did. However, there was no attempt made to tell me where the group were heading despite knowing I was joining them. The end result was that I missed that days training. I was furious. The discussion that followed highlighted everything that was wrong with the training program. Our coach certainly didn’t feel he needed to bother helping people locate the training group and I didn’t even get so much as ‘sorry you didn’t get to us’; what I got was very different.

When the resort closed early due to Covid-19 both BASI and EA sent out emails advising us to leave as soon as possible. Despite EA’s email stating STA would be in contact to discuss travel arrangements there was, once again, no contact from STA and once more I found myself having to make my own arrangements. As for assistance from the program manager, he wasn’t even in resort.

At least no-one was thrown off the program for skinny dipping.

To fracture or not to fracture ? – that is the question

Hmmmm …

Wednesday night was ski school show night and torchlit descent. The weather had been appalling all day. Strong gusting winds had shut the entire ski area down for the day. It was half-term too. The decision was made that the ski school show and torchlit descent would go ahead as planned but with a modified route. Instead of doing the descent down Spielboden we would do a descent down Staffelwald. Conditions were dreadful. As we stood at the top of the slope waiting to set off it was clear our torches were not going to stay lit; they just kept blowing out in the wind. We were told to ski with no gap between us, our skis touching those of the person in front. This close proximity to the skier in front was to prove disastrous. We set off in two lines, buffeted by the wind and weather. By halfway down most of the torches had blown out in the wind. Then, almost at the bottom, I was clipped by the person behind.

I had no chance of recovering it and slammed hard to the ground onto a patch of ice. The pain in my left hip and right knee was instant. I was in trouble, big trouble. My fellow instructors shouted to me asking if I was alright. It was clear I wasn’t. I waved them on ‘ keep going’ I shouted to them. We were right at the bottom in full view of the crowd. One broke from the line and came to my aid. I couldn’t put any weight through my right knee and my left hip was incredibly painful. I’d smacked to the ground bang on my femur. All I had to do was cross the bridge and I’d be back at the ski school meeting point on Kalbermatten. By the time I reached Kalbermatten I couldn’t put any weight through my left leg either and was in absolute agony. Had we been on Spielboden I would never have made it back without piste rescue. Once back at the ski school meeting point I was carried across to the locker room, dropped my kit off, then carried up to the road where a passing taxi was flagged down and helped into my apartment.

Trying to get comfortable in bed was almost impossible. Any contact to my left hip caused an unbelievable amount of pain. The only way I could get comfortable was to sleep on my back, knees bent up and together so there was nothing touching my femur.

In the morning I phoned the medical centre. Walking the short distance around the corner took me half an hour. Every few steps I would have to stop because of the pain. I knew one of the staff there. She took one look at me and I was straight through to xray. I had all the clinical sings of either a fractured hip or a fractured femur. Getting me comfortable enough for xray was tricky. At least I didn’t need to tell them where my injury was. There was a clear, distinct, red impact mark on my femur from when I’d hit the ice. A series of xrays were taken. I could tell there was something. A lot of discussion was taking place. More people arrived to look at my xrays. The first xray had given the suggestion that there might be an anomaly to my hip, but was it a fracture ? After much review and discussion I was told I had severe contusion to my hip, signed off work for the week and issued with crutches. I’d been the only one in the group with the level 2 pre-requisites and now there was a very real possibility I was out of the program.

Those of you who know me will know I’m stubborn. There was no way I was pulling out of the Alpine Level 2. Moving around the village on crutches was made easier by it being towards the end of February as there was no snow on the village streets. Sitting in my apartment was ok for short spells but I still couldn’t have anything touching my femur. Even when using crutches I couldn’t put any weight through my left leg.  I had asked the ski school for the injury protocol and had been passed to EA. When I asked EA for the injury protocol it became clear there wasn’t one. A huge amount of confusion ensued and no-one gave me any information on the correct procedures to follow. The whole situation quickly turned into utter mess.

Unable to train due to mis-understandings by everyone about the procedures required and when I could ski again I enlisted the help of some of my BASI trainer / examiner friends. A week after my accident and armed with notes from my ‘useful’ friends I put the skis back on. I was still needing crutches on an evening or if I went any distance in the village but at least I was back skiing.

When I returned back to the UK I had repeat imaging done of my hip. It had been 6 months since my accident and it had taken 5 months for me to be pain free. The very first image that was taken showed what looked suspiciously like a fracture to the head of my femur. However, subsequent images failed to show the anomaly. Whether or not it was a fracture that the radiographer saw, I have been left with permanent weakness to my left hip which still gives me problems to this day.

Alpine Level 2

It’s rare I complete a BASI course without injury. On my BASI Alpine Level 1, somehow, I took a chunk out of my finger courtesy of a ski boot clip and was left dripping blood everywhere. On my BASI Alpine Level 1 resit there was a double whammy when I tore open my right knee and my right hand.

If you are a BASI trainer / examiner reading this and see me down as participating on a course you are delivering, run, run the opposite way !

Our trainer / examiner for the BASI Alpine Level 2 was Hannah Bryans. When I’d skied with Hannah in Zermatt prior to going to Saas-Fee she had dropped a heavy hint that it would be her delivering the level 2, and it was.

Having sustained a massive hip injury in the lead up to the course which had left me on crutches the week before I optimistically hoped that I had thwarted my injury jinx. I hadn’t. Whilst walking across a slippery terrace at lunchtime I slipped and landed heavily on my left side. It left me unable to ski the Central Theme and Hannah couldn’t assess me on anything that afternoon as, once again, I wasn’t putting weight through my left leg. There would be more injury to come.

Anyone who has done BASI Alpine Level 2 will know at some point you do synchro skiing. I’d been grouped with three others. There are various ways of synchro skiing but to keep it simple numbers 1 & 3 were synchro together and numbers 2 & 4 were off-set together. What could possibly go wrong ? Hannah watched from behind on a snow ledge below Morenia Restaurant. We pushed off, I went to make the first turn, and that’s the last thing I remember about our synchro.

The next thing I am aware of is trying to sit up in the snow, all dazed, feeling as if I’ve just woken up and wondering why the slope, mountains and sky are all spinning. More puzzling still was that I wasn’t wearing skis. Someone had placed them neatly beside me. Hannah wasn’t wearing her skis either. Instead she was knelt in the snow on one knee looking at me. With us were two of the other synchro group. My synchro group were nowhere to be seen. I still have no idea what happened and there is a definite memory gap.

Clearly concerned for my well-being I was sent down from Morenia in the gondola escorted by one of the group and sat out the rest of the afternoon. With no-one in the tea-rooms with me where I was sat I had to check-in with our trainer / examiner every 15 minutes to stop her worrying about me. At one point I moved outside and sat watching from a distance. At least that way the group could see I was alright.

At the end of the two week course, despite my hip pain, I managed to pass the teaching criteria and variables but needed a technical resit for short turns and long turns. I wasn’t surprised. It’s quite difficult to ski when you can only put weight fully on one side. Really, I should never have done the course but I’m too stubborn.

Out of the ski instructor internship programs I have spent time with, the EA program in Saas-Fee is by far the worst. Would I recommend it to someone ? Absolutely not. Would I recommend EA ? Yes but go to Zermatt !!

To Come:

Take Two Part – One : Shocking Experience

Alpine Level 2 Performance Training

November 2019

With the Adaptive Level 1 course out of the way, and needing a re-sit, I turned my attention to my alpine skiing. Part of my feedback from Adaptive Level 1 was that I needed to improve my technical skiing. I had a quick look on the BASI website  and booked on a week long level 2 training programme that was running in Zermatt in November.


Zermatt sits at the head of a beautiful snow covered valley. In summer you can ski high up on the glacier. The resort is accessed by train. As you clunk up from the valley below you become mesmerised by the stunning scenery. No wonder the rail line is part of the route for the Glacier Express !

The village of Zermatt is car free, clean and efficient. Arrive by car and you will be required to park further down the valley in neighbouring Tasch. Once in Zermatt a plethora of electrical vehicles run about carrying people to various locations. The busses and taxi’s are all electric. Be aware, they don’t have horns and silently creep up on you.

The evening before the course a meeting was held in one of the hotels. I’d heard that the entrance could be difficult to find especially as the hotel wasn’t open. I needn’t have worried. Stood in the middle of the main street was a man in a BASI jacket directing people down a dimly lit alley to a side entrance of the Cervinia Palace Hotel.

Once inside, with the course participants seated and the BASI trainers and examiners lined up against the back wall we were given a quick speech by BASI Training Director Roy Henderson, who assured us, pass or not, the aim was to become “more awesome”.

After this we split into our training groups. Outside the room our training groups had been posted up along with who our trainer and examiner was. I had Hannah Bryans.

Hannah Bryans

Like most BASI trainers and examiners, Hannah started skiing as a child when her family moved to Zurich. Ski weekends and holidays soon gave rise to an obsession with skiing and the mountains, an obsession that continues today.

The ski school director for European Snowsports (ES) Zermatt, Hannah is Swiss Brevet Federal as well as being a BASI trainer and examiner. No matter who she is skiing with she nurtures their passion for skiing.

Hannah lives in Zermatt all year round. In the summer she runs activity camps for children through Awesome Summer Camps Zermatt. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics as well as a PGCE in Secondary Mathematics !

Alpine Level 2 Performance Training

The Alpine Level 2 Performance Training is an optional 5 days of training designed to help improve your technical standard prior to the Alpine Level 2 giving you more chance of success when it comes to the assessed criteria. If you book the Alpine Level 2 Performance Training course at the same time as the Alpine Level 2 or Alpine Level 2 re-sit you get a discount. The only pre-requisite is successful completion of the Alpine Level 1 and having an Alpine Level 1 licence.

I learnt to ski in Austria at the age of 6 when every turn was a stem and you had a very definite up and down in your skiing when turning. Getting rid of the stem at the start of my turns was proving difficult to do and was still doing it in my short turns.

In my week with Hannah I made some good, solid changes. Even though the week was just three days because of bad weather. My long turns saw some great changes being made and my final run was really good. In variable and bumps I tended to ‘go fishing’, that is, do a lot of traversing looking for the best place to make my next turn.

At the end of my course report, right at the bottom, the very last line, Hannah wrote “… I look forward to seeing you on another BASI course in the future”.

I’d signed up to do the Alpine Level 2 in Saas-Fee the following March. Hannah had hinted on a chairlift ride that she was the trainer and examiner delivering the course. That sentence confirmed it. I would be skiing with her again in March for my BASI Alpine Level 2.

To Come :

Educating Adventures

Adaptive Level 1

BASI - Become a ski or snowboard Instructor

Having been undecided as to whether or not to do Adaptive Level 1 or Alpine Level 2 next I chose Adaptive Level 1.

When I had earlier got in touch with Ash Newnes at Snowsports Coach in Arinsal he had recommended that I do the Adaptive Level 1 in the UK and as it happened I was already booked on an Adaptive Level 1 course at Manchester ChillFactor in October. I also knew who the trainer was. When I was at Manchester ChillFactor on one of my previous visits there had been an Adaptive Level 1 running and I got chatting to the trainer and examiner Greg Moffatt. He would also be the trainer and examiner delivering the October course.


Redpoint Ski Holidays Logo

Greg and his wife Nina used to run Redpoint Ski holidays for adaptive skiers. Founded in 1995, and based in the Ziller Valley, Austria their aim from the very beginning was to share a love of snow sports. The Redpoint team have strived to ensure that adaptive skiers not only enjoy their skiing but also have a fabulous holiday whether learning for the first time or a regular skier, bringing family or travelling alone. Each instructor, rep or driver always aimed to go that extra mile to make a successful holiday experience.


In June 2019 Redpoint made the decision to miss out the winter season 2019/20 whilst waiting to see what happened with the Brexit situation in the UK and in March 2020 ceased operating any further holidays due to the Coronavirus situation.

BASI Adaptive Level 1

Adaptive Level 1 was my fifth BASI course in just over a year. Going on courses can be quite expensive and I tend to go for cheapness when it comes to accommodation. Not fancying a week in a hotel I had rented a house but had failed to anticipate how bad Manchester rush hour traffic was and instead of it taking me 30 minutes on a morning to get to the slope it took me 90 minutes. I rarely arrived on time.

I had booked to do the course at Manchester as it was a slope I knew and used frequently. I had spent time there obtaining the required shadowing hours after Alpine Level 1 and had also spent time with Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK) there prior to going on an adaptive ski holiday as one of the support team.

The BASI Adaptive Level 1 may only be a week long but there’s a lot to take in and learn. Not only do you have to learn the equipment (what it does and how to use it), you have to learn what are known as ‘red flags’ (alerts for medical conditions) and also deliver on-snow teaching sessions to the group as if you were giving a real adaptive lesson.

My progress through the course was slow and by Wednesday it was clear that I wasn’t going to learn everything in time. Greg pulled me aside for a chat. It was agreed that I would drop most of the course content focusing on bucketing the Bi-Unique, stand-up tethering and teaching. These were the components in the course that I used when I volunteered with the DSUK social ski groups. For me it was better to get these right rather than doing everything and achieving nothing.

Greg didn’t make the course easy. The knowledge he has built over the decades is incredible and he puts that knowledge to good use. Red flag scenarios were daunting for some and the lessons were very real. Greg is a brilliant actor and certainly knows how to put someone under pressure. He is also hilariously funny. In one of the lessons a member of slope staff even came over and asked the group if our trainer was ok !

For me, having so much content in such a short space of time proved too difficult when it came to passing the course. For me, a modular course would be better. That way I can do the modules that I will use and build up to a full adaptive qualification.

To Come :

Alpine Level 2 Performance Training – November 2019

Free the Heel – Telemark

Having Nordic skied in the past and with me currently an alpine skier, telemark seemed an obvious choice. It’s just alpine skiing with a free heel right ? A mix between Nordic and Alpine, yes ?

Telemark skiing originated in the Telemark region of Norway (surprising that). Obvious name choice. A hybrid of Nordic skiing and downhill skiing technique it allows skiers to move from walking on their free heel equipment to making controlled turns downhill at high speed.

The first thing you will notice about telemark, and the most obvious, is that the skiers’ heels are not fixed to the skis at a rear binding enabling you to both ski uphill and downhill. Clever.

Telemark skiing uses the skis themselves to make the turn and when done properly there is a definite sinuousness and gracefulness about it; even if it does look incredibly hard. If you have ever watched a telemark skier flow past you on the mountain they are the epitome of grace. It’s not about charging at everything the mountain has to offer. Even the best alpine skiers can look like they are bullying the mountain as they slash and carve down it at will.

A good telemarker though appears at peace with the mountain, flowing down the slopes in reverent homage to the power of gravity and at one with the magnificent surroundings. Those folk you see lunge their way gracefully down the mountain looking like some kind of god even if they are dressed in wool trousers and flannel shirt. The latest craze seems to be using a single long pole to control speed and to turn downhill. Try it sometime. It’s … erm … interesting.

Even flowing over a blue run feels like a perfect fluid line. You’ll find yourself on the same blue run time and time again simply because you liked the feel of it. Those little sections that merely connect one run to another become fun again. The curves from one arc to the next, the flowing technique, it’s just so exciting. There is indeed a freedom of movement in telemark skiing that makes it feel so good. That free heel of telemark grants a freedom of movement that makes every turn feel magical.

Whilst the telemark position doesn’t look the most comfortable of positions to hold for very long the boots you wear are a very different matter. Telemark boots are comfortable.  Every alpine skier understands the ridiculous technique required when tackling stairs in alpine boots. Telemark boots on the other hand are flexible, able to bend around the toes allowing the wearer to stride, move, walk and go downstairs normally. This flexibility brings with it the added bonus of comfort. It’s worth trying telemark just for the comfortable boots !

Telemark may have dimmed in Alpine’s shadow but it has never disappeared completely. Everyone follows their own path into telemark. Mine would be through BASI. I had to give it a go even though I  very much doubted my 45 year old knees and legs would thank me for it.

Freeing the heel

John Eames

BASI run a beginners introduction to telemark. It’s aimed at those who have never telemark skied before giving them a chance to try something new and maybe consider it as a second discipline. As with anything I do with BASI it wouldn’t be straight forward and the first course was cancelled due to lack of interest. I had to wait for the course to run on a second date. This time it did go ahead.

The trainer for the day was the renowned John Eames. Anybody who has telemark skied has heard of John Eames and he is known all over the world. Somewhat unusually, BASI gave out his contact details in a pre-course email. This I really liked. It meant that not only did I know who my trainer for the day was but it also gave me his contact number so if there were any problems I could contact him directly instead of having to go through BASI or the venue. I wish other BASI trainers and examiners would do this.

When I had booked onto the course (having first failed to negotiate the booking system and resorting to phoning the BASI office) I had supplied my height and shoe size amongst other information in order for the hire equipment to be available. Everyone who gave their details for equipment should have had some equipment but this didn’t happen and one member of the group found themselves without the equipment they had reserved an unable to take part. John spent a considerable amount of time trying to sort the problem out but to no avail. He was very apologetic about the delay it caused.

Putting the telemark skis on felt a bit weird. They felt like alpine skis. I expected to feel like … well like I was on something different. I nervously made my way to the button lift and up to the top, the instruction being to ski alpine style to get used to the feel of the skis. How was I supposed to ski alpine style on telemark skis ? In actual fact it’s really easy, you just ski. I had fully anticipated spending most of the day face planting into the snow but I didn’t.

Telemark skiing is quite deceptive. You think you’ve got a really wide tele stance only to discover that in reality you are achieving no gap whatsoever below the knees. It’s what they call telelell (parallel on telemark skis) and I was very good at it. I could do a tele-wiggle though. I would love to do more telemark skiing. I could certainly do with practicing ! Frustratingly I have several friends who are telemark skiers and I look a complete beginner and fool compared to them. Hang on a minute, I am a beginner.  

Everybody enjoys that sense of pride when learning a new skill. Like everything else, once you try something and get the hang of it there is an enormous amount of satisfaction. Practice makes better. Now I just need to practice. Committing to telemark, one leg forward, knees bent, weight evenly distributed, sinking into the turn. The ultimate in being able to go up and down, all in the same unaltered free heel state.

BASI will be running another telemark course later this year. Perhaps I can book on it again. Whether you are an accomplished alpine skier who admires the elegance of telemark, or a complete newbie, my piece of advice is try telemark.

7 Reasons to try Telemark

Here are 7 reasons why you should give it a go:

1) Telemark boots are comfortable. You can actually walk in them !

2) You can wear wool pants and a flannel shirt while skiing without looking hopeless.

3) Telemark is an effective, efficient, and fun ski technique that makes even a mediocre skier look like a god.

4) For an accomplished skier tele is a new challenge that makes even the smallest hill fun again. For a newbie there is no reason not to start with telemark.

5) You can ski uphill by attaching skins to the bottom as well as skiing downhill. No need to buy a lift pass !

6) You’ll get very strong legs.

7) You don’t get cold making telemark turns.

To Come:

Adaptive 1 or Alpine 2 – The Decision