A few busy weeks

So it’s been a few weeks since I last submitted a blog, really sorry about the delay. Anyway, enough of my shortcomings, I’m sure you want to know exactly what the guys have been up to so I’ll give it to you straight.

Since I last submitted a blog there isn’t much that the trainees haven’t been up to, over the past four weeks the trainees have completed; their BASI level 1, close to 80 hours of training, they’ve spent time shadowing other qualified instructors, had an introduction to freestyle skiing and a day of off-piste with a brief education on avalanche awareness and how to use a transceiver. Since the last blog the training has taken the trainees from confident recreational skiers/snowboarders to technically proficient instructors. A special mention must go to Tim and Annie who have come-on leaps and bounds since their first few days, where it was clear that they hadn’t spent as much time on skis as some of the others…….I’ve reliably been informed that they’re now up there with the best.

(Being introduced to using and avalanche transceiver)

Verbier has had so many different weather systems over the last month that the trainees have sunbathing one minute then waste-deep in powder the next. I’m not complaining though, just as we thought the season was over we’ve had a number of resort-saving snowfalls.

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to hear that the vast majority of trainees passed their level 1 exam and although there were a couple trainees that didn’t quite make the grade they were very close. Due to new BASI legislation the aforementioned trainees are sitting their level 1 re-sit today, which is a simple one day reassessment, so I’ll let you know how they’ve done this evening. As mentioned in previous blogs the level 1 is an introduction to BASI, the syllabus is concerned with educating wannabe instructors how to teach the basics of skiing and snowboarding; from introducing the equipment, though the basics of balance and stance, to starting and stopping and finally on to controlling direction and turning. Nevertheless, trainees must be able to demonstrate to the BASI trainer that they can carve proficiently and do short controlled turns down steep slopes. With a BASI level 1 qualification you can teach in some European countries in a mountain environment and you are insured by BASI to teach on indoor slopes and dryslopes across the UK.

After the level 1 examination all of the trainees returned to full training; the focus of the training therefore shifted from being focused on understanding, demonstrating and teaching the basics to being able to show an understanding, demo and teach higher-level skiing and snowboarding. Bumps, variable snow conditions, freestyle and high-level piste performance are all bought into the syllabus at this point in the course. If you’re thinking of taking the course then you shouldn’t worry too much because you’re not expected to ski or snowboard like Candide Thovex or Shaun White. On every course we give the trainee skiers a day with ES Freeski’s head freestyle coach Oli Corkhill who puts the trainees through their paces. For those brave-enough the course normally consists of teaching the trainees; how to jump, how to ski backwards, how to do a 180 and other flatland tricks. As usual there were a few minor casualties but nothing too serious; a few trainees, namely George and Gustav even managed throw a couple of 360’s into the mix.

Later that week the trainees were also introduced to mountain safety and off-piste touring by Martin Burrows-Smith a well-known guide in Chamonix and a BASI Mountain Safety examiner. Aided by his very dry sense of humour, Verbier’s magnificent terrain and a day of beautiful sunshine Martin introduced the trainees to using a transceiver, he gave them a quick education on snow conditions and avalanche awareness and then took the trainees to a couple of well-known off-piste spots, including the legendary ‘Stairway to Heaven’. All of the trainees really enjoyed the day and all agreed that even a days worth of knowledge would prove invaluable. Unfortunately the snow wasn’t great but you can’t have a week of sunshine without the snow suffering a bit!

(Digging a pit and looking at snow profiles)

Back in resort there have been a few notable developments; J-Bomb and Dom’s weekly quiz has become a fiercely fought contest between the great minds of the course. Alex, Adriano and Chris have all made notable contributions…….and Kieran and Gustav think they’ve made valuable contributions to the winning teams but clearly haven’t! In other news; after charming the women of Les Elfes Jezz still hasn’t kissed a girl, despite giving himself a nickname that would falsely encourage anybody to believe he’s a legend with the opposite sex.

Anyway, back to skiing and snowboarding. Following the freestyle training and the brief introduction to mountain safety the training resumed training, followed by 10 days of shadowing where the trainees followed instructors from Les Elfes and European Snowsport around. Shadowing is a mandatory requirement from BASI and is really helpful in building the trainees confidence, getting them comfortable at dealing with beginners in a lesson environment, dealing with difficult kids, and learning the tricks of the trade…….which for most instructors involves carrying a bag of sweets as a bribe! With 70 hours of shadowing signed-off it was back to training for the final week. During this time the trainers (Rob, Sandy and Matt) made a final push to get all the trainees to the level needed to pass their level 2 examination. During this week some Sandy’s group entered European Snowsport’s annual slalom competition. Out of Sandy’s group Jake was the fastest trainee through the course and Jezz was the slowest, which he won’t thank me for mentioning. Needless to say they were all beaten by a 12 year-old local girl who managed to beat half of the experienced instructors that entered!

To end the week we had a picnic and a kicker session up on the mountain, overlooking the Bagnes valley. The trainees, who were all wearing fancy dress, turned-up to the secret location after their final morning of training and the shenanigans began. After being pelted with snowballs for twenty minutes I eventually managed to finish sculpting the two kickers and after throwing a couple of backflips off the bigger of the two kickers the trainees decided the jump was safe and plucked up the courage to give the jumps a go. With the help of the one-legged wonder, Mr Jimbo Brockbanks, I went about taking photos of the trainees as they threw themselves into the abyss. Special mentions must go to George, jake and Chris who all threw backflips off the bigger kicker……Jake, who had been wearing a bra all day had a serious bikini tan, much to the amusement of the other trainees. Other mentions must go to Tricky Dicky, who in the process of doing a very stylish bs180 melon gave himself a bloody nose, and Nick ‘Stiff Leg’ Renton who stacked it more than everybody-else collectively…….in his defence Nick was adamant that he had landed his 180’s but had fallen-over immediately after because his ski’s weren’t twin-tips…….keep telling yourself that mate! Following a sun-kissed afternoon of jumps, beers and backflips we all hit the town for a final night of fun before the BASI trainers arrived. Photo’s of the afternoon will be posted in a couple of days time.



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