Once my ski season had finished at the end of March I turned my attention to summer training. For me, keeping the skiing going and getting regular coaching input over the summer was going to be hugely important if I was to maintain the standard I had got to and not slip back into old habits.
Neither of the two main BASI trainers/coaches that I had used in the winter offered summer coaching. Besides which, it was time to move on.
My search for summer training was hampered by the fact that the shift pattern at the hospital ward where I work part-time is written three months in advance. When I finished my ski season towards the end of March we were writing June’s shift pattern at work.
When I had needed a technical resit for my BASI Alpine Level 1 due to my short turns not being at the required technical level I had used Shona and Derek Tate from Parallel Dreams and BASS Megeve. Shona is a BASI trainer and examiner so her and Derek were potentially a good option but there were no UK dates on their website.
Another option was Warren Smith Ski Academy.
Warren Smith Ski Academy
I knew Warren Smith Ski Academy ran coaching sessions at Manchester ChillFactor but the dates on the website only went up to May and it was now too late for me too book the necessary day(s) off work. It would therefore be ‘pot luck’ as to whether I was able to go or not and if any places were left by the time I got my shift pattern. Despite not knowing until the last minute whether I would be able to go or not I did manage two coaching sessions with them. For me, personally, I found Warren Smith Ski Academy didn’t suit me. It was nothing to do with the coaching, more to do with the timings of when the sessions ran. The sessions run 12.00 – 18.00 which is hopeless for me. I end up leaving home at the tail-end of rush hour, either have a very early lunch or lunch when the group stops at 15.00, then leave at the tail-end of rush hour. I quickly chose not to do any further sessions with Warren Smith Ski Academy.
There was also another drawback; Warren Smith Ski Academy is with the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI). Really I needed something that was with the British system of BASI.
New Generation Ski and Snowboard School is a ski school I have used before for coaching and training. In December I had joined the team in Villars-Sur-Ollon, Switzerland for shadowing hours and had returned to join them again in January for extra coaching in the lead up to my technical resit. Based in ski resorts throughout Europe, New Generation Ski and Snowboard School also run preparation days in UK snowdomes over the summer. I chose do the sessions at Manchester ChillFactor.
Aimed at people thinking about doing a ski instructor internship you get coaching from a BASI Level 4 ISTD coach, video footage, written feedback, chance to get used to BASI terminology and the opportunity to ask questions about doing a ski internship with New Generation. The BASI Level 4 ISTD coach costs nothing; you just pay for a lift pass.
I have no plans to do a ski internship with New Generation but this didn’t seem to matter. Sarah in the office was still happy for me to book on the days.
My first of the preparation days was with Andy Hind from New Generation in Verbier. The next three were with Rob Britton; also from New Generation in Verbier. For me, getting to ski with the same coach consecutively is hugely important as I am the sort of person who needs continuity and progress much better like this.
In the first of my sessions with Rob he had us doing various skiing drills so as to focus on posture, balance and body management. One or two of the drills I was very used to from my previous time with New Generation and so Rob upped the difficulty level for me and made mine harder. I definitely need to practice my bracage more.
The second of the sessions with Rob was a little more ‘challenging’. ChillFactor was really busy and there was only half the slope available making the ‘challenge’ of the day being to avoid other slope users. It was definitely a day for skiing short turns.
Part way through the session I noticed Rob had moved from his vantage point part way down the slope and instead was tending to someone in the netting. Nurse mode then kicked in, I released myself from the ski lift and went across. Upon reaching them I discovered it was a boy who had crashed into the netting. He’d hurt his arm in the fall and was unable to move it. I think Rob wondered why I had gone over, he then remembered I’m an NHS nurse. The boy definitely wasn’t capable of getting up and putting his skis back on so I skied down to the bottom of the ski lift to a staff member, asked for a first aider and then returned to the boy and Rob. My nursing knowledge told me suspected fracture to the radius and ulna (that’s the posh word for the lower part of the arm). Once the first aider arrived we left them to it. They ended up calling the rescue wagon out from its station at the top of the slope to take the boy down. As it turned out, the boy was in fact fine.
I already knew Rob was delivering that session and had confessed to him that I’d done nothing with the feedback he had given me from the month before. He didn’t seem to mind. For me these sort of sessions are a really good way of getting some of the basics right. Every now and again you need to take your skiing back to basics, strip it down and put it all back together again. The feedback from that second session with Rob was that I ski too much like I’m twerking … I need to ski more like I’m a leaning pencil.
We finished the session with some synchro skiing. Or at least we tried to. It was great fun being synchro lead even if on one of my runs there was a significant amount of people dodging which made it look more like follow my leader or a game of chase.
My third session was of a slightly different content. Being a ski instructor isn’t about being a brilliant skier yourself, it’s about getting other people to be brilliant skiers. With only one other person in the session with me and Rob it was the perfect opportunity for me to get coaching on teaching an intermediate; what to look for and what feedback to give. This is something I rarely get to do and so was an invaluable opportunity for me.
Develop Your Skiing
I am very active on Facebook, in particular the BASI pages, and it was whilst on one of the BASI associated pages that I saw ‘Develop Your Skiing‘ had coaching sessions running at ChillFactor, Manchester on three dates in June and September. This was far enough in advance for me to book the time off work. I clicked on the information, took a better look and immediately recognised the logo. When I had been skiing with Parallel Dreams there had been another group using the slope for coaching. I couldn’t help notice the progress the group made in the two days I had seen them so took a photo of their advertising banner at the top of the slope and then forgot all about it. That group and the banner I took the photo of was ‘Develop Your Skiing’.
Develop Your Skiing is run by Austrian based coach / instructor and BASI Level 4 ISTD Toby Fishel. The courses are short turns/bumps and tactical all mountain techniques camps aimed at instructor development and individuals looking to gain some ideas to develop themselves. It is ideal for those that want to improve their skills or are working towards the technical part of their BASI Level 2 or 3 exam. Video is used to give clear constructive feedback through the day on your personal skiing.
I sent a message and got a place reserved on June’s course while I waited for work to confirm I had the time off. When my shift pattern was released I had been given all three days off. I had such a good time and improved so much I booked to go back on his September course.
Toby is dedicated to helping you achieve your personal goals. He loves to teach and meet new people whatever their level of skiing. Helping people to have fun skiing is something he sees as a real privilege. Toby not only looks at the technical part of your skiing he also looks at the tactical, physical, psychological, equipment and environment aspects (performance threads) as well. It definitely is training designed to boost your skiing and confidence to your maximum potential!
He has transformed my skiing and my confidence. Previously I would have taken my skis off when faced with a pitch of bumps and walked down the side. To me, bumps were to be avoided. Bumps were much easier and safer to negotiate if you took your skis off and walked down the side. All that bumping, jolting, having your body shaken every which way only to end up in a painful crashed heap very quickly. No thanks. Now, I look at a pitch of bumps, go ‘OK’, have a good long hard think and ski them. Skiing bumps is actually really good fun. You just need someone to give you that first bit of confidence.
If you too are looking to improve your skiing then the next Develop Your Skiing camps are in Tignes, France.
When Toby has enough people booked on his courses he brings in a second coach. On both courses I did the extra coach was Andy Jerram.
Andy not only works as an instructor for BASS Morzine he is also a long standing BASI Trainer, with responsibilities to train and assess instructors coming through the British system.
Andy is one of the most enthusiastic and genuinely lovely people you could ever hope to meet, he has a depth of knowledge and ability to communicate that allows him to condense complex issues into one simple point that solves everything making what is often complex simple. His calm, enthusiastic approach is loved by all. He really does enjoy the challenge of coaching people and enabling them to develop.
It was whilst at lunch on one of the days that I discovered Andy held an adaptive qualification. I also discovered that he ran weekly coaching sessions in Tamworth every Thursday evening. By going on the Develop Your Skiing courses I had inadvertently found my perfect coach; a BASI Trainer and Examiner with adaptive knowledge. Exactly what I was needing and looking for.
Now, I have expert coaching, on a regular monthly basis. Even if it does mean a ridiculously long journey from my Yorkshire home. I always check with Andy that he is running the coaching session before I drive down. Knowing that I am going to be there he will make sure some of the content of the coaching evening is aimed at me.
Andy also enjoys the finer things in life, in particularly fine wine and will always include ‘wine tip of the week’ in his sessions. One week, it was a ‘de-alcoholised’ wine especially for me because the medication regime I am on means I shouldn’t drink alcohol. Outside skiing, Andy spends his summers barefoot waterskiing. Why not ask him about it on a chairlift ride!
Most of my summer training has been at Manchester. When possible I try to practice at the nearer slope of Castleford but fitting in coaching / training and practice in between my NHS shifts wasn’t always easy and very little practice got done. The reason I go to Manchester so much for coaching is because there isn’t any at Xscape Castleford in Leeds. This means contending with the M62 each time I drive to Manchester.
The M62 can be a dog of a motorway. It is regularly shut at Lofthouse, Brighouse and Huddersfield. Getting from my home in Filey, North Yorkshire across to Manchester without using the M62 is difficult. The only realistic alternative route is the Woodhead Pass which can be time consuming, but so is sitting on a closed M62.
When I had my first Warren Smith coaching session I nearly gave up trying to get there. Those of you who know me will know I’m a persistent sort of person who doesn’t give up easily but on this occasion I was close to abandoning and going back home without ever having reached Manchester.
The M62 had been closed after the Huddersfield area since the early hours of the morning following two separate accidents. My plan was to use the intial bit of the motorway then turn off several junctions before the blockage and backlogged traffic. Yeh … right … as if that was going to work !
As soon as I got even remotely close to Huddersfield I was sitting in standing traffic. Not only was I sitting in standing traffic but I was still on the M62 which meant I was sitting in standing traffic on a closed motorway. Oops ! Mistake number one.
Progress was painfully slow but finally after an eternity of having not moved very far I managed to get off at the junction. I’d already put my sat nav on before leaving home and finding it difficult to keep pulling over and look at the map I now decided to follow my sat nav. Mistake number two.
Huddersfield was grid locked. I swear my sat nav sent me round in a loop as it tried to find me the best route and had me drive down the same stretch of road twice. I persevered with it. Mistake number 3.
Thinking Huddersfield had been bad, Ripponden was even worse. The whole area was at total gridlock. My sister tried to alert me ‘Don’t go through Ripponden’. Too late. I was already there. Again my sat nav tried to be helpful and find the best route … the same route all the other traffic was taking. The roads became narrower and narrower. When it directed me down a narrow farm lane I started to question if it was wise following it. That farm lane was to be mistake number 4.
I had only just turned onto the lane when I ground to a halt in stationary traffic. I sat, sat a bit more, and sat some more again. I was going nowhere. It was then that I noticed traffic reversing back up towards me. This was going to be interesting. As the driver of one of the vehicles came alongside he wound down a window and beckoned me to do the same. ‘It’s chaos down there … there’s a vehicle stuck … I’d turn around if I were you’. I thanked him and set about turning around. Now this was not going to be an easy task; turning a car around on a narrow, muddy country farm lane.
Having finally (and only just) got the car turned around via a multi-point turn I thought things might possibly get better. They didn’t. I was met by an oncoming vehicle. With not enough room for us to pass there were two choices; he went into the wall or I went into the mud. I chose the mud. Mistake number 5.
Now I was stuck in the mud. Literally. I put the car into first gear. Nope. That just span the wheels. I gave second gear a go. Nope. That too just span the wheels … further into the mud. Think. Come on brain. THINK !
The lane was on a slight incline in my direction. Gravity !! I didn’t want to use any more engine power so just took off the hand brake and let the car glide slowly and gently back while I made adjustments with the steering so as to get a rear wheel onto terra-ferma. With the rear drivers side wheel on solid ground I put the car into reverse and slowly nudged the steering wheel round until the front drivers side wheel was also on the road and out of the mud. I knew then that with two wheels back on the tarmac driving out was going to be easy. With the car now in forward gear and with a bit of gentle steering I was out of the mud and back onto the road that I had originally turned off. Of course I was also back into stationary traffic as well.
This was ridiculous. I pulled over. Turned off the sat nav and got out a road map. For those of you who don’t know what a road map is … anyway, thirty minutes later I was out of the traffic on a freely flowing road heading towards the Ripponden junction of the M62. Now the Ripponden junction has to be the strangest motorway junction ever. In order to get on the motorway you have to go over a cattle grid !
By the time I got back onto the now re-opened M62 I had missed half my coaching session.
If you are a BASI Level 4 ISTD or BASI trainer / examiner reading this can there please be some training / coaching sessions at Xscape Castleford !