In September 2018 I started my training as a ski instructor. At the end of the week long course I found that my short turns were not at the standard required and that I would need another exam.
My examiner advised me not to book onto the re-assessment until the problems with my short turns were corrected. I continued with the practice driving to the indoor slopes at either Castleford or Manchester when I could. I even did a two day ski performance course with someone who was a BASI trainer. Nothing helped. My short turns were still a problem. I was getting nowhere and running out of ideas.
With my off duty already written 3 months in advance and the examiner advising me not to book my technical resit until I was at the required standard I had struggled to get booked onto a technical resit.
Failing to make progress alone, I had tracked down my BASI examiner from September and flew out to him and his ski school in Chamonix, Freedom Snowsports, for coaching. When I had done my 35 hours Snowsports School Shadowing I had met another BASI examiner who I also flew out to for coaching. Between Will Roberts in Chamonix and Alessandro Cambon at New Generation ski school in Villars-Sur-Ollon my skiing was brought to the standard required for me to take my technical resit and I booked onto the resit in March in Cairngorm, Scotland.
As with anything I do with BASI, it wouldn’t go to plan.
72 hours before my technical resit at Cairngorm I received an email from BASI informing me the course was no longer running at Cairngorm; instead it would run at Kincraig. I was already in Aviemore having driven up earlier in the week. A quick look at a map told me that Kincraig was close enough to Aviemore for me to avoid having to find alternative accommodation.
A second thing had also changed. Kincraig is a dry slope; a surface I had never skied on before. I quickly emailed one of the coaches I had been using asking how different skiing on a dry slope was and if they had any tips. Keen to get some experience on the surface prior to the resit I contacted two nearby dry ski slopes, Glenmore Lodge and Kincraig itself. Even BASI somehow got involved in trying to get me somewhere to practice.
Glenmore Lodge were willing to hire me their dry ski slope provided it was for a full day and I had a ski instructor with me. Unfortunately, they were unable to find me a ski instructor so I couldn’t use the slope. Kincraig was full and it was they who had passed my enquiry to BASI.
There was also yet another problem. I’d been planning on hiring skis at Cairngorm. Although the Kincraig website said ski hire was available there when I telephoned to check I was told the opposite; ski hire wouldn’t be possible. I hurried to the reception of the Youth Hostel where I was staying and was provided with the details of a Facebook page (Snowbadgers Rentals). Off I set in the car to find them. When I pulled up outside I nearly didn’t bother getting out of the car. It didn’t exactly look open. It was only when I pulled in fully to turn the car around that I noticed sledges for sale outside. I parked up and got out. When I got down the steps to find it all closed up and a hand written note on the door I wasn’t entirely surprised. Instead of the note saying ‘closed’, as I was expecting, it directed me back up the steps to ‘Pine Marten Bar’. My request to hire skis was met with surprise.
‘You want to hire skis ?’
To be honest, I was asking to hire skis in a place with its ski area closed because there wasn’t any snow. They must have thought I was mad.
A quick explanation later and I was led back outside, down the steps and into the ski hire shop. Looks can be deceptive. It was an Aladdin’s cave of every type of ski hire equipment. I was kitted out with skis and poles for the bargain price of £20.
Eight of us were on the course and our BASI examiner was Elaine. As with all the BASI examiners I have ever met she was easy to get on with and an amazing skier. One of her runs down the slope left the group stood at the top saying to one another ‘What ? … How does she ski like that ?!!’
Having been told a dry ski slope was a slower surface than snow I actually found I was too fast. Elaine had to ask me to ski slower ! There is someone I can blame for my fast skiing. He works in France, wears a blue ski jacket with a white logo on the back and was the last person to give me ski instruction.
I wasn’t the only person in the group who had not skied on a dry ski slope before. Whilst the others whispered this amongst themselves I was a bit more ‘open’ and ‘honest’. I tend to speak my mind … speak before I think rather than thinking before I speak. It gets me into all sorts of bother.
Elaine set the day up perfectly. We started with the very basics of how to slide on skis. Having climbed up the slope slightly she then went through plough and plough turning. I tend to have a very parallel plough and plough turn (my BASI examiner from September knows what I mean). Over the day Elaine built us up to the all important and more technical short turns and long turns leaving those latter two things to the end of the afternoon. In doing so she had made sure everyone in the group had opportunity to get used to the surface. A brilliant bit of coaching.
At the end of the day Elaine was quick to announce I had passed. The first people I told were Alessandro and Will. Without the help, support and coaching of Alessandro and Will I would not have made it to the standard and level required. Both of them have put a lot of time and effort into helping me improve. My skiing would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for the two of them. Will, in particular, has been an important part of my life since September. I think he’ll be glad to see the back of me. Thank you so much Alessandro and Will.
When I returned my hire skis back to Snowbadgers Rentals they had suggested I go back down to them that evening for some live music in Pine Marten Bar. I was staying in Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel opposite so it was only a couple of minutes walk down the road leading to the Youth Hostel. I’m not a fan of the dark … and certainly don’t like unlit roads in wooded areas so I didn’t walk back down … I ran. Some live music, a drink and with a long drive back to my Yorkshire home the following day I left after that one drink. Again, I ran up the road and when I reached the car park I reduced down to walking pace. It was as I went from the Youth Hostel car park to the patio terrace at the font door that disaster struck. I completely failed to see the step between the two and slammed to the ground.
The pain to my right knee and my right hand was instant. I lay for a brief moment ascertaining if any other part of me was damaged. I tried to get up but couldn’t. The front door was tantalisingly close. Rolling on to my left side I crawled into the doorway and summoned help. Battered, bleeding, my room key broken and my clothes torn (I’d even ripped my ski jacket) the Youth Hostel staff helped sort me out.
When I went to bed I used one of the spare pillows to support and elevate my knee in order to keep it comfortable and help reduce the swelling. Walking or any kind of weight bearing was impossible. I had to hop on my left leg everywhere. My right hand seemed ok. A simple clean with TCP and a plaster. By now my right shoulder was also starting to hurt and the only way I could keep it comfortable was to hold my arm across my body with my right hand on my left shoulder as if the arm was in a sling.
In the morning the damage to my right hand was more obvious. I had completely taken the skin off from the base of my thumb round to the centre of my wrist. Off I went back to reception and asked for the first aid box again. When my hand wasn’t bleeding it weeped a serous fluid. The first aid box consisted of plasters, some TCP, gloves, disinfectant wipes, antiseptic cream and some bandages. Not really what I was needing. I really wanted a gauze dressing pad.
A twenty year nursing career has taught me to improvise on occasion. If you haven’t got what you need, make it out of something else. One of the bandages had a padded centre running along it so I cut that out, made it smaller, cleaned my hand, put my improvised dressing pad on top and bandaged it all up. Bandaging your hand with the other is a little tricky.
Upon returning to work on the Duke of Kent Children’s Ward at Scarborough Hospital I sought out my manager and had permission to avail myself of the contents of the dressings cupboard. Over my 6 hour shift I had to change my dressing three times because nothing would stick. When I got home my hand was looking really nasty.
My own first aid box at home is quite extensive. You always need something when the shops are closed and consequently my first aid box is quite large. I cleaned my hand with TCP, put some manuka honey onto the wound followed by some gauze and a dressing. The following morning my hand looked significantly better. Manuka honey is amazing stuff.
As for my knee, a night of rest and pain killers that also help reduce swelling and I was able to weight bear. (Yes, that is the correct spelling … I checked). Although I did rather resemble Herr Flick of the Gestapo from ‘Allo Allo’ when I walked. My knee is a lovely shade of purple now. There is still some pain, especially when my cat jumps onto my lap. She quickly gets off again as a result of my yelping.
This is not the first time I have needed the attention of a first aider whilst away on a BASI course. When I was in Manchester doing my Alpine Level 1, somehow, I managed to get one of my fingers caught in one of my ski boot clips, took a chunk out of my finger and was left dripping blood everywhere. The Manchester ChillFactor team had to patch me up.
Jubilee Sailing Trust – Disability Ski Trip