How to Find Spring Snow – Off Piste in Val d’Isere

After a bonkers couple of weeks of winter weather, the cold fluffy powder is restricted to the high north faces.  But don’t fret.  We have warm settled conditions now and my 2nd favourite type of snow – Spring Snow.  It can be hard to find and get it good, so here is Coach Kieran explaining:

Terry James Walker TDCski

What is it?
When the sun thoroughly heats the snow pack from the surface down to the earth, the prevalent moisture spreads uniformly across it’s depth.  Given the right temperatures, this freezes solid in the evening and over night.  The next day the sun can heat up the top inch or so, creating a ‘corn’ feel, on a firm base.  It’s great to ski and potentially quite safe.

Problems?
To early = smooth, slick, solid ice.  Both dangerous and uncomfortable.
To late = slushy to the base of snow pack.  Serious avalanche territory.
Too few cycles = bumpy, other skiers tracks, variable depths, variable thaw rates.

So what do you consider when finding Spring snow?

  • Timing:  at 09:00 most of the East faces (Belvarde, Borsat, Charvet, etc) have been in the sun for a few hours, and given time to absorb those rays and soften.  South faces late morning and lunch time.  West faces are best in the afternoon.
  • Temperatures:  The previous afternoon needs to be hot enough to melt out the other tracks and uneven nature of the slope.  This will hopefully be +5 ish with direct sunlight.  Overnight, the colder the better -5, brilliant.  Especially with a deeper snow pack.  As soon as the temperatures approach 0, or go above, combined with direct sunlight the snow will soften.  It may be a short window of 1 hour to hit the slope at the right time.
  • Cycles:  The more melt freeze cycles, the more compact the snow will be, and the fewer skiers tracks from previous days.  This makes the snow and slope as a whole more predictable, and safer as it’s glued together at the bottom.
  • Aspects:  The sun rises due East on the 21st March, and sets due West.  After that date, it rises gradually more North East, but still takes a trajectory around the south of the sky. So North faces will remain mostly in the shade for the season.  Southerly facing slopes at this time of year take a beating from the high sun.  Take for instance the Fontaine Froid; probably the first slope to run out of snow at the end of April.
  • Angles: A slope will absorb more sun if it directly faces it.  A very flat slope will be softened less than a 40 degree slope.  Especially early East faces, and late West faces.
  • Slope base (anchors, rocks, grass, smooth slabs): This is a safety point more than anything.  Rocks in the snow pack create pockets of air, and they heat up in the sun.  A slope dotted with rocks is probably more unstable at this time of year than a big open white slope.  A shrubby, or large scree based slope will have better anchors to hold the snow from avalanching than a smooth rock slope or fine grassy slope.
  • Altitude:  This will usually relate inversely with the temperature, unless there is a pressure/temperature inversion in which the valley is colder than the high mountains.  Generally the higher you go, the longer it takes for the Spring snow to transform from hard icy snow.
  • Wind: The same conditions as the day before mean very little if the wind is 5mph stronger.  Slightly more wind can slow the transformation by more than an hour, and can stop it all together.
  • Cirrus Cloud: That very hazy, high level cloud that slightly dims your shadow.  This can have a massive effect by absorbing the suns rays and stopping the transformation.

There are countless other factors to consider, especially when managing a group in this kind of terrain, but these are the main contributors to good snow.

Always carry at least a Transceiver, Shovel and Probe with you.  We hand these out for use during our Spring Clinics, where you will be guided to cool spots, educated in finding good safe snow, and improve your technique!

Be safe, and try to get out for some high altitude resort fun in Val d’Isere over the next few weeks… We have spaces on our group clinics.  The snow is amazing, the lifts will be dead quiet, and the sun is out!

 

HeliSki in Val d’Isere, France

In the Vanoise national park that incorporates Val d’Isere and Tignes, TDC coaches and clients ski to extremely cool and inaccessible places, then get a helicopter back out. Being dropped on top of a mountain is not permitted in France, but getting picked up in certain places at the bottom is fine.

photo credit Siobhãn Miller
photo credit – Siobhãn Miller

Some of our coaches have had the requisite training and been signed-off allowing them to call in the helicopter and arrange the pick up. Amongst other things, this entails stacking skis, pacing out distances, and sticking your arms up in the air facing the correct way (over simplified).

Destinations that the development centre heliski guide / instruct to include:
Lac du Chevril – big dammed reservoir below Tignes, usually via an exhilarating route down.
Bonneval – over the back of the Pissillias Val d’Isere Glacier and down the other side.

Bonneval HeliSki TDC
The Heli works out way cheaper than a taxi. Credit google maps

The heli pilot (undoubtedly the coolest looking guy I’ve ever met) can then drop back to the top of Solaise, bottom of La Daille, or in Val Claret to continue the off piste experience.

HeliSki Pilot

If any of this takes your fancy, then speak to our office valdisere@tdcski.com about arranging a half day trip (instructor and heli) from 340eu, or just bolt on a helicopter ride to your already arranged lesson, from 115eu

Bon Ski!

“Perfect day! Couloir & chopper action – tick! Thanks TDC” – Fliss

“Best day skiing of my life!” – Holly

VAK Learning styles – Very Awkward Knowledge

Visual/Audio/Kinaesthetic (VAK) gets banded around loads, even at the top levels of Ski Teaching. I’ve often kept quiet, not to rock the boat, as somebody talks ‘knowledgeably’ about it. A paper from 2008: click here illustrates the dearth of worthwhile experiments that have been carried out in this area of psychology, and references papers that have contradicted this learning theory all together.

VAK Myth in Ski Teaching

Please stay open minded reading the paper and this blog. Remember that opinions are great, but science doesn’t really care about your opinion or anecdotes, unless they involve double blind randomised testing with high numbers of trials/participants 🙂

The Pashler et al. paper states that the VAK thing has gained much influence in the world of education, and I’ve seen that it definitely exists in the realm of ski instruction. The paper finds that both children and adults do have learning preferences, but these usually don’t match up to their most effective method of learning a particular subject. Also, of the huge amount of academic literature on the subject of learning styles, very few experiments were capable of testing the VAK hypothesis with validity and those that did contradict it.

You may be thinking “a lack of evidence doesn’t disprove the hypothesis”, but disproving things is tough and sometimes impossible. For instance; we have a lack of evidence for unicorns being able to ski, as we’ve not witnessed it… it’s not disproved. But white-horned-horses carving turns, is as unlikely as Echinacea preventing bruising. Ice prevents bruising, you can test it (punch yourself in both eyes, and apply echinacea to one and ice to the other – monitor results). Why don’t all ski teachers try where possible to use evidence to improve the performance and enjoyment of their clients?

Well, we do (and not to the detriment of fun, enjoyment and happiness). Time would be wasted trying to figure out if my clients have Visual, Audio of Kinaesthetic preferences; if they do, they’re probably wrong, or I’m wrong in assessing it, and it more than likely has no relation on how they’re going to learn best anyway! Crazy eh.

Do we teach using VAK analogies, descriptions and explanations. Yes. It’s a diverse and interesting way to mix up a lesson. Those who’ve been in my coaching sessions may have heard me describe momentum/kinetic energy transferral causing snow displacement thus creating sound waves that we can hear! Everyone can understand my squiggles in the snow, followed by the sound of the turn, and the feeling of the ski under their foot. Boom, there’s VAK all in a one-er. Maybe it is more valuable to utilise a teaching method according to the clients weakest/least preffered aspect of VAK learning. Who knows?

It is definitely far more appropriate to to use a visual lesson when describing how to take a high line in the gates. By drawing lines in the snow, or getting people to watch an example. Whereas it’s more important to be auditory in explaining that someone can’t get their foot in the binding because the heel piece is in an upward position. Attempting to get one’s weight centred across the sole of one’s foot is impossible to listen for!

It may take a while for ski instructing examining bodies to get on board with not talking about this, so if you have an assessment coming up, be nice to the trainer and point them in the direction of http://scholar.google.com Because telling people that their theory is debunked doesn’t always go down well. Trust me.

Terry – these are my own words and not necessarily the views of the development centre as such… though the team whole-heartedly agree with my adoption of evidence based practise, where possible, in teaching skiing.

Sleeping in your car for a Ski Season

At the start of this season in Val d’Isere, the TDC coaches were invited to welcome drinks and canapés at various high class chalets dotted around this prestigious resort.  Oysters, cavier, mini hamburgers, mini yorkshire puds with roast beef, washed down with plenty of Champagne and vin rouge.

Things were not always like this for us… Coming through the instructor ranks and modular exams to reach Level 4 ISTD, most of us were a bit strapped for cash flow at some point, if not the whole ordeal.

Steve and Charlie, each braved a season in their cars to keep the expenses down.  Whilst I slept in my car, or pitched a tent for all of the modules that I could take back in the UK.  Here are some lessons learned, funny stories, and off putting reasons to do the same:

I remember being on my Level 1 course in at an indoor slope, and spending the 5 nights in a layby of an A-road 10 minutes from the centre. One night I heard a very very loud tap on the window by my face and awoke to a policeman shining a torch in my befuddled eyes. It was one of those wake ups where your heart can’t quite keep up with all the adrenaline and starts to thump so hard you think you’re dying. “What you up to?” said the copper… In my heightened state I replied “sleeping you idiot, what do you think I’m doing?”, somewhat surprised and affronted the copper states “oh, like that is it. Well I thought you might be paying your road tax which expired last month!”

Another cold wet night, I emptied my pockets onto my roof (slept in trousers for warmth), before starting the faff of getting in my sleeping bag having removed my shoes without banging my or getting feet wet on the gravel carpark.  Forgot all about the wallet and phone on the roof until I saw them disappear into oblivion down the motorway the next day!  -Terry

So when little Steve wanted to grow up into a good looking, skilful, tanned and inspiring ski instructor, he set his sights on working in the ‘jewel in the crown’, aka Val d’Isere.  Money was tight and his pockets not deep enough, so being an enterprising person, he hatched a plan; save money by living in his Citroen BX Estate car for the season and offering people transfers to and from the airports for pocket money.  What could go wrong…

In the middle of the night he once got locked out whilst ‘watering the plants’ (the good old days of unreliable central car locking) and had to smash a rear window to get back in, and by the morning a blizzard had buried him alive in his car.

He regularly wore 15 layers to sleep in, on top of dirty clothes, towels and spare bedding all inside his sleeping bag.  In the morning it was a surreal experience to ‘strip’ off to go skiing! This all kept the ‘drive to succeed and qualify as an instructor’ alive.

In the good old days of the 1999/2000 season you had the luxury of being able to use your season pass to access the swimming pool, so showering and shaving and finally warming up was the daily ‘luxury’ for young Steve.  Spending the millennium in the car was perhaps one of the most unique ways of spending the most ‘memorable’ of nights on record!  Make sure your drink ‘short’ drinks rather than pints so as to avoid middle of the night loo stops, but most important of all; learn some chat up lines and practice them regularly!  -Steve’s parents never/don’t know about all this…

The vehicle that stepped up to the task of an alpine residence for me (Charlie), was a trusty Peugeot 406 diesel estate.  And from my wealth of experience it’s worth noting that 8hrs sleep won’t cut it, 10-12hrs was the norm for me. 9pm-7am was quite common without so much as rolling over.  I put it down to breathing in cold air which I presume makes your body work harder.

We all have low points but living in temperatures down to -35 C, you can encounter some rather interesting ones!  After quite a skin full I somehow made it back to the Pug, although it would have been better if I hadn’t.  Sometime in the middle of the night I decided to relieve my uncomfortable sleep by opening the boot for some extra fresh air.  In my slightly compromised state I missed the fact there was a snow storm going on.  It’s not often one has to dig through snow just after waking up.  Once breached, I realised that the entire car was full of snow, to the ceiling at the drivers end, then gradually slopping down to the boot!  The whole of the next day involved removing snow and desperately trying to dry bedding before the next night, all with a raging hangover.

Aside from the air being rather chilly, any food freezing and the struggle to keep your drinking water in liquid form, one has the joy of condensation!  This is quite a problem after a time because the water vapour from breathing, coats everything in moisture which freezes, layer after layer.  This simply keeps on building up unless removed.  Opening the window does little to slow the process and that’s a rather bone chilling method (see above).  Here is where I invented possibly the greatest solution to a problem since getting a paid job.  My answer to condensation was a medical face mask with two tubes containing one-way valves.  The air I inhaled was drawn from the inside of the car and the moisture ridden stuff that was exhaled, diverted down the other tube which made its way to the outside, resulting in a dry car!  How I failed to make my millions from this I’ll never know.

It’s refreshing not to have a fixed post code but it does mean the neighbourhood can vary, at times for the worse. In some resorts I would cycle everywhere and this means having a bike locked to a wheel.  If you didn’t already know, drunken people love bikes, a lot as I found out. Every few weeks I would hear a confused, intoxicated individual tugging at my bike.  This should have sparked fear into me but instead this was a time of hilarity.  I would creep toward the driver’s seat, put the key in, set stereo to come on at max volume, the lights to come on when I start the engine and get ready to press the horn at the same time.  The reaction on making all this noise to the unsuspecting bike borrower was priceless.  Often knocked off their feet or bouncing off the car opposite they would then gallop off through the car park.  The only negative side effect to this technique was that I would struggle to sleep again through laughing to myself.

The first question asked when talking about this way of skiing is why?!  Why suffer in a car for weeks on end just to get in a few extra hours of snow time:

1. I had an obsession with skiing and was willing to do anything stay out.  I dreamt about skiing, watched countless ski films and researched much of the history of skiing especially in the off-piste arena.

2. I had almost no money and couldn’t wait at home for savings to build up while winter was in full swing.  It sounds silly that I couldn’t just have saved a stack of funds to live normally but I just couldn’t bring myself to wait, especially once I had the bonkers idea of roughing it.

In conclusion, if I was faced with the same situation, with the knowledge I have now, I wouldn’t think twice about making a reservation in the Peugeot hotel.  -Charlie

Charlie aged 36 years in one season...
Charlie aged 36 years in one season…

Ski Resort Jobs – to becoming a Ski Instructor…

The TDC team have a great deal of experience in ski resort work from before they became qualified ski instructors.  We gained valuable experience (and stories) along the way.  Offices aren’t for everyone and the daily grind of academia can get you down too – so why not pack a bag and become an instructor?  If you choose somewhere like Val d’Isere,  then it’s likely you’ll be thinking about part-time or full-time work to fund the training and exams required to achieve the highest qualification in ski teaching.

Popular Option: Take part in a GAPski course for your Level 1 & 2, this will include: accommodation, food, courses, training, free skis and lots more!

Ski Bum with ample savings: you may wish to rent a lovely apartment and do the luxury ski bum thing, getting loads of skiing done, building your skills towards becoming an instructor and maybe taking on a level 3 or 4 course such as these.

Ski Bum with limited savings: you could still do the ski bum thing.  But it could mean sharing a studio apartment with five (or more) people!  Who generally won’t be keen on washing or cleaning.  But you’ll probably be so busy skiing it won’t matter.  It’s a great option saving money to put towards those instructor exams.

Ski Bum with extremely limited savings/debts: before talking about getting a job, there is one more option and this should be seen as a last chance saloon; sleep in your car for a season!  [There will be a complete blog article on this next week]

The seasonaire predicament
The seasonaire predicament

Get a job: if funds are limited then there are a number of jobs in resort that will help keep a roof over your head and facilitate moving towards becoming an instructor.  There will be three main aspects to your season: work, ski, & party.  It will be tempting to try and do all three – though, will quickly become apparent that at least one of these has to give.  Best not to let that be work!  So really the choice is between skiing and playing.

Chalet work: this is a good choice if you want someone else to pay for your accommodation, lift pass, ski hire, food (& wine if you’re cunning)!  The hours are perfect for maximising ski time – once you’ve struggled through the initial hectic weeks, you should be out by 10AM and shredding powder (or practising your snowplough).  I worked for YSE and thoroughly enjoyed my time.

Ski rental shop:  also a good option – all the better if you can work 30 hours over just the weekend!  Get some sleep and you have 4 days off!  You’ll work with all the gear, and hopefully end up having some idea.  These hours also count towards those required for your BASI level 1/2 qualification.  Snowberry is a good bet.

Ski school office:  You’ll find out everything you need to know about the inner workings of a ski school.  You’ll have access to free lessons and advice, be able to work out the ups and downs of life on the hill and learn first-hand about the trials and tribulations of the long winding road of instructor exams.

Stagiere / Trainee Instructor:  It’s possible to work for a French ski school as a stagiere with a BASI Level 2 and test technique pass (slalom race).  This is a great job and the ski school will usually offer plenty of support in finishing your diploma.

Other options:  Bar work – if you can make sure you don’t party too hard after your shift you can still manage a good day on the hill.  Waitressing work – ditto.  Nannying – limited skiing, unless work is thin on the ground and then limited funds.  Driving – you might find yourself working a lot when the lifts are open.  Chalet maintenance – good choice, only if the chalet is falling down do you really need to curtail your ski day.  Band/Solo musician in bars (tres cool).

Whatever you decide to do, whatever route you take, the key is to maximise ski and exam time – some jobs lend themselves to this more easily than others and some companies too.  Do your homework about expectations so the job’s and yours meet somewhere in the middle.  Working for TDCski, the development centre, we are all qualified to the highest level BASI 4 ISTD, with French equivalence.  If you get the balance right – work enough to live, play a bit and ski ski ski… you could be teaching on the slopes in France too.

Coach Clare is currently teaching fulltime with tdc, after having a beautiful baby last April, managing the two is proving tiring, but probably nowhere near as tiring as her season as a chalet girl! [ed]

 

How to train your Monkey – Skiing Psychology

Have you ever heard a little monkey on your shoulder as you descend the pistes?  It may have a very insistent way of commenting on anything you do, and will not hesitate to tell you how rubbish you just skied that run or how steep the next pitch looks…

Self Talk in Skiing
Monkey on Your Shoulder

The monkey pretends to be doing you a favour as it reminds you of all your previous failures.  It never supports you in what you are doing and it will insist on the fact that you will never achieve results.  The monkey tends to speak in negative tones.  It judges, worries, comments, compares and complains.  The monkey is an outer image of how some of our minds work when they are left to their own device, untrained and untamed.

For various reasons some of us listen too much to our monkeys!  We have become so used to the internal background commenting on our lives that we mostly forget that we do have a say in the matter. We could spiral downwards as this repetitive negative self talk influences our performance; learning could therefore easily becomes full of fears.  In this instance, we are less likely to take risks, real or perceived.  This has a potential to stop our growth and learning and can leave us feeling deflated.

When out coaching our clients, friends, (and even colleagues), we come across a fair few of these shoulder monkeys, and managing the louder ones is an essential part of what we do.  We all have one and the moment we recognize our own monkey/negative self talk and learn to control it, our ability to learn improves rapidly and greatly.  This psychological factor, is for some, a far more critical focus towards improving our skiing than any technical input.

But how do we manage the monkey and turn negative self talk into positive self talk? How do we train it?

To start with, you have to make a decision.  You have to be willing to take the risk of stepping out of your comfort zone.  Let go of the control.  Be aware that doing this makes the monkey jump and scream on your shoulder!  Take no notice of it!  You want to do this because this is where we know we learn new skills.  Learning starts where your comfort zone ends.  You must accept the feeling of being vulnerable and uncomfortable.

Tell your monkey to stay calm and carry on.  Be focussed on what you want, not the monkey.

For the TDC coaches, whatever your level, this is the very core of why we love our jobs so much! Helping people make that jump and realize that they still have two feet to stand on, is très rewarding.  Monkey negotiation is amongst our favourite disciplines and a lot of our experience obviously comes from training and taming our own monkeys.

Listen to your thoughts….

Be witness to what your monkey is telling you.  Just listen though, don’t evaluate or judge.

You will soon realise the separation between the voice of the monkey and you. This will give you the insight to change your self talk.  Are you filled with self doubt?  Do you tell yourself that you can’t do it?  When your heart is racing, and you fail to commit, your monkey can beat you up for being ‘weak and useless’.  You can even visualize yourself tumbling down the piste, and you haven’t even started!  Is it the same old record playing over and over again?

Once you learn to witness your thoughts you can take charge of them, the monkey will lose its power.  You will have started the process of taming and training your monkey.

Secondly….

If your monkey is being very loud and you can hear the negative self talk, think STOP! Visualize a big red/white stop sign.  Give yourself a moment to clear your mind and replace the negative talk with positive self talk.

For example let your sentences start with I will… instead of I can’t…  Tell yourself what you want to do.  “I am learning to be a great skier”, “I will make 10 smooth relaxed rounded turns Now”.  Mime a song and ski along to the rhythm.  Really simple realistic positive affirmations like these can shut off the negative self talk.  It does take practice and perseverance but over time control of self talk can become a very powerful tool in your tool box.

Override the negative self talk, and it will help you maintain control over personal feelings and behaviours, thus gaining confidence and improving learning.

Lastly….

Laugh at yourself… A lot!  Have fun.  You are allowed to be less than perfect.  Take a leap of faith and you might fall but you might also succeed.  If we hang out in our comfort zones, we mistakenly attach ourselves to the idea that the world is a predictable safe place.  That is an illusion which can set us up for frustration and disappointment.  Learning is change.  Change implies that something is done differently, and it starts with our thoughts, with ourselves.  With a choice.

So next time you go out in the mountains, have fun, take that monkey for a ski, find the edge of your comfort zone and then leave it (take care, and maybe listen a bit when jumping off cliffs though).

We would love to hear any stories about your monkey and how you may have trained it.

Coach Lena works to eradicate and make extinct shoulder monkeys, but it should be noted that she loves all furry animals and is very almost a vegetarian [ed].

Lena and Clare
Lena, and that’s Clare over her shoulder, not a monkey

You know you’re a Ski Instructor when…

  • Your 1TB hardrive is full with box sets like Homeland, Dexter, Breaking Bad, etc.
  • You have bunions and spurs at 22 yrs old.
  • Xmas and Easter are the opposite of holidays.
  • The number of clients you teach in a day, is the same as the number of times you answer questions about ‘what you do in the Summer’.
  • Questions like “How many skis is too many?”, lose all meaning.
  • You haven’t eaten a ‘super-food’ for over 4 months.
  • You wonder if it’s possible to overdose or die of cheese.
  • You can’t feel your fingers or toes for at least 2 months of the year.
  • You’ve lost all faith in meteorological weather forecasting accuracy.
  • Genepi actually tastes ok.
  • Your Planks beanies, are as much of an everyday item as your pants.
  • 10pm is a late night.
  • All hip flexibility is long, long gone.
  • Your thumb is deeply scarred from slipping off your file guide whilst sharpening edges.SkiPrepHand
  • Your edges are blunt because you serviced your skis too much whilst training for Eurotest and lost the love.
  • When someone mentions ‘tip’ you don’t initially think of the end of your ski, or the bottom of your pole.
  • A multi socket extender plug with adapter is the most useful thing in your life.
  • A person pulling down the chairlift bar too fast, trapping your 6 yr olds leg, makes your consider waterboarding then murder.
  • You feel no humiliation in shaving your legs/shins.
    Shaved Shins Skiing
  • You don’t want a goggle-tan like other seasonaires do.
  • The living space of an organic free range chicken is greater than your 20sq/m flat, which you share with three people.
  • You spent more time and money on your badge than your university degree.
  • You would trade 15 slimline dishwashers for 1 washing machine.
  • You realise ‘No friends on a powder day’ is not actually true.  Who would dig you out, or help you search for a lost ski for an hour, or take epic photos?
Terry Powder Skiing TDC
Out with friends on a Powder day

Would you… risk learning?

What level of risk are you prepared to take when you’re skiing?  Are you a risk averse, fair weather slider or driven by the adrenaline of skiing fast and steep?  It takes all sorts and at TDC we ski with a huge range of performers and that is part of the attraction of this wonderful job. One of the great fascinations is observing, and sometimes influencing, how people approach learning and seeing how learning and risk interact.  In order to learn one has to risk attempting something new.  It may be a small step and a small risk but it needs to be there nevertheless.  Without it the dreaded plateau beckons, and at worst – decline.

Terry James Walker TDCski
Skiing hard with rocks hiding under the surface

For some the very mention of risk is enough to set knees trembling yet most people want to get better at skiing.  Fortunately it is not the level of actual risk but the level of perceived risk that is central to learning.  For a nervous intermediate who feels frightened of pointing the ski downhill on a blue run, the perceived risk of doing so is potentially greater than that experienced by an expert skier who descends a steep, rock-filled couloir.  The actual risk of failure is indeed greater in the couloir but because the performer is within their comfort zone and perceives minimal risk there is likely to be minimal learning.  By overcoming a greater likelihood of failure we access a more significant learning episode.  So who is in fact the risk taker in this example; the extreme skier or the nervous intermediate?

At TDC we frequently reflect as a group on the way we coach and upon how we build relationships with our clients.  A common point of discussion is how to manage the expert skier who books lessons with the intention of improving.  It is difficult for adult learners to relinquish old habits and accept the risk of failing at something new.  More often than not a change in performance necessitates unfamiliar sensations, and a certain vulnerability as motor programmes adjust, proprioception recalibrates and expectations are reframed. Here progress depends on two factors;

  • A willingness to embrace perceptions of risk
  • The relationship forged between coach and learner.
TDcski Coaching
TDCski Coaching Sharing their Knowledge

Most people when asked “what do you wish to achieve during this lesson” will focus on success, however, it is openness to failure that sets the really successful learners apart.

This memoir has been forged by Coach Paul, from a reflective foundation of many years teaching people ‘how to learn’.  He is a director of TDC, an inspirational ski teacher and lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire in Sports Coaching.

Professional Ski Instructors: 5 Pet (Mega) Hates!

TDC ski coaches are on the hill practically every day of the season; it’s fair to say that we see our fair share of nonsense, please enjoy these 5 of Kieran’s pet hates!

Childrens Ski Lessons
“I know you don’t want to go down in the bubble Daddy, but I think La Face is a bad idea”
      1. Parents of small children, taking them down a steep red/black run when they are clearly too small and inexperienced to cope!  Small children have big heads, add a big helmet to that, and I think that’s why most little ones ski in the ‘back seat’.  There is no rush to get a 4 or 5 year old to ski steep slopes, let alone when they still have a big pizza!  Keep them safe, make it fun, and they will learn, trust us, we know!

      2. If I have just spent the morning with a nervous skier, I will have been working hard to build confidence; confidence in themselves, and confidence in their ability to control their speed and direction.  Skiing therefore becomes enjoyable, rather than a stressful experience where they fear they will hurt themselves.  It’s a Holiday!  Having just had a hugely successful breakthrough in a morning session.  What happens after lunch?  The other half (usually the boyfriend/husband!) says “come ski with me, you will be fine!”  By 4pm the same person is now in bits, confidence ruined, and has un-learned the whole morning.  Very frustrating when you have to start again the next morning.  (Not to mention the arguments it can cause!)

      3. Skiers who ski at a speed way beyond there capability – this is probably my biggest pet hate of them all!  It never ceases to amaze me how many skiers hurtle down the hill, with no awareness, consideration for others, or just general safety common sense.  You can probably picture the type – usually male, 15-40 years old, off balance, jacket undone, goggles all squinty, in a racing snow plough with no turns, doing about 50 mph!! When these people get close to us ski instructors and our lessons (especially little ones) we get infuriated!  And boy, if we catch them on the lift, we sure let them know, politely and professionally of course, which is rather difficult!  FIS ski code/rules

        Off Piste Ski Lessons
        Off Piste with all the Gear….
      4. Skiers or snowboarders off piste with no safety equipment – Transceiver, shovel, probe is the minimum.  When I am coaching my groups in off piste private lessons or off piste clinics, I often see others near us with absolutely no safety equipment.  They are usually thrashing around all over the place, all on the same slope at the same time, charging over convexities and showing absolutely zero off piste safety knowledge or etiquette.  It infuriates instructors and mountain guides when we see these people!  The main reason for this is that they may start something (ie an avalanche) above you, and put your group in danger.  As coaches we are very aware of this, we always try to ensure we are never placed in this position.

      5. Massive ski school groups snaking across the piste!!  We have all seen it, an instructor, with about 10-15 people snaking down behind them (sometimes even more!) taking up the entire piste. There is nothing wrong with skiers following an instructor down a run, as they may be working on line, or turn shape, or speed control, but 15 people!  How can anyone in a group this size receive any individual attention or feedback, it is practically impossible for the instructor to develop peoples performance in groups this big.  At TDC, we never take more than 6 people in a group, maximum feedback, development, safety and enjoyment per person!

Kieran is normally an entirely positive guy and absolutely loves: Really big dogs, Savoyade Food, Good Whisky, Powder Snow and Working lots of hours. [ed]

Become a Better Skier…. without even skiing!

We all strive for awesomeness on the slopes, however not all success can be attributed to these on snow endeavours.  Here are 5 simple and effective ways to improve your skiing…. without even skiing!

  1. Get your skis serviced.  This means taking them to a shop where the staff will sharpen the metal edges, grind down the bases slightly to flatten them; getting rid of unwanted rock gauges, and then add some wax to keep the base healthy.  It was a pretty tough December here in Val d’Isere, and some of the TDC coaches’ skis took a hammering on rocks.  I took my skis into SnowBerry here in town and got them back good as new! Now going into mid-January, we have some icy piste conditions, and my edges are gripping and working well for me.  Making me better at skiing!

Ski Service Work Shop

  1. Get your boots fitted properly with a good footbed.  We at TDC all feel that the support of your boots is paramount to your ability to ski well.  A moulded footbed will ensure that when your brain wants to influence the skis, there is no slack between your foots command and the skis reaction.  Whatever movement your foot makes is transferred directly to the ski.  Many of the TDC team have their feet computer analysed and custom soles made by SureFoot in Val d’Isere.

Boot Fitting Service

  1. Watch a Ski Movie and be inspired. There are many incredible ski films available, and we can all argue about the best. A great one to cut your teeth on is “Claim”. With big mountain powder scenes, acrobatic freestyle segments and a huge dosage of charisma, this film is a great way to spark inspiration and motivation to get better.  Sometimes this bit of motivation is all it takes to become a better skier.  (To take on the bigger cliff drops maybe think about getting one of us to teach you…! Off Piste Adventure Courses )

Ski Instructor

  1. Drink some water, and eat more bananas.  Altitude naturally dehydrates you, and I’ve heard Bananas are good for you.  This will prevent cramp, and assist recovery.  A great short term preparation before hitting the slopes.  Simples

Water and Banana

  1. Off-Piste prep: Do some transceiver searching and watch this video.  Many of our courses and lessons at TDC revolve around the amazing off-piste in the area.  To personally improve your ability to ski with others in that terrain, you must work hard and practice.  Having confidence in your avalanche knowledge and transceiver craft will allow you to concentrate more on the tactical aspects of your skiing and be mindful of any technical improvements you could make.  You can search for transceivers around the house, in the garden, or out in bracken and bilberry fields.  All good fun learning.

TDC Ski InstructorTerry prides himself on being able to improve peoples skiing, without skiing.  With on snow coaching too – a definite recipe for success!