OK, “surviving” might be a bit strong, but keeping warm on the slopes in the middle of winter can be a challenge. As well as the main clothing like jackets and trousers, there are other things that can make a big difference for people who struggle to stay warm:
Extremities get cold first. It is what the body does to protect itself from cold. So, if your hands or feet get cold, it might not be down to the gloves or boots, but because you haven’t got enough layers on. Wear good thermals, and if your hands and feet are still cold, wear another jumper.
Helmet and Hat
Helmets can expose the neck to cold mountain air. Neck warmers, thin balaclavas or multipurpose tubes keep you toasty warm. Like scarves, but better.
Get your feet out
Particularly for skiers: if your feet have been cold and numb for more than an hour, you need to warm them up. Get inside, take off the boots and get the feet warm again. This will allow you to ski again afterwards, rather than developing serious cold injuries.
Dry your boots
Damp or wet boots are bad news. You need to dry your boots overnight, so if the hotel or apartment doesn’t have specific boot heaters, you need to make your own arrangements. Portable boot dryers work really well and are easier than balancing boots on radiators.
Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isere Tignes and the Three Valleys, France. He is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.
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.
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.
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.
If any of this takes your fancy, then speak to our office [email protected] 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
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…
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.
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.
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].
When learning anything, it’s good to keep things simple. But if we make things too simple, then we can be wrong as often as we are right. Here are a few commonly held views on ski technique which are too simple to be right all the time.
ALWAYS FACE YOUR SHOULDERS DOWN THE HILL
This can be pretty uncomfortable, but some people strive to do this all the time. I find facing the same way as my skis more comfortable, and therefore make it my default position.
When to do it (face shoulders down-hill):
To help initiate turns, especially on steep terrain, but it’s not necessary to hold the position
When skiing linked short turns
When skiing really tight and steep couloirs
If skiing a straight/direct/inside line in the bumps
When you don’t need to:
Most of the time…
GOING UP AND DOWN
When you would do it:
On Piste: We all go up and down a little bit, it can help take us from one ski to another (see point 4 – ‘spreading the weight’), but critically, it facilitates lateral body movements inside the curve and across the skis. We don’t just do it for its own sake.
Powder snow: It often looks like short turns in the powder snow involve more up and down, but this effect is really just the re-bound of the skis (pushing the attached skier upwards) as the skis work in and out of the lovely bouncy fresh pow!
BEND THE KNEES
Yes, we need to flex our knees in order to ski, and can’t ski well with stiff, locked legs.
How much to do it:
A bit. We also need to bend at the ankle joint inside our boots and at the hip too – a bit.
Remember that skiing is not a static sport, so static positions and prescribed shapes are not terribly useful except as a base position to move from.
When to do it more:
When absorbing bumps
When creating big angles – flex the inside leg whilst keeping the outside leg strong enough to resist the forces.
MODERN SKIS REQUIRE WEIGHT TO BE SPREAD OVER BOTH FEET
Well, no. For recreational skiers the outside ski is the one to put more weight on, especially at the end of the turn when it is the downhill ski. We do need to steer the inside ski, but don’t stand on it too much.
When going straight
Standing still on the flat.
In soft snow, but only a bit. The outside ski is still dominant.
We work by linking any actions we make, to the results that we desire. This allows us to be adaptable and progressive. We do try to keep things simple, but not so simple that we are trapped by unhelpful and dogmatic “technique” for its own sake. In our coaching sessions; (as part of a group, or privately) we take beginners through to advanced skiers, both on or off piste, and justify our teachings with reason. We embrace some grey areas, and steer away from doctrine; that’s what makes being a ski instructor so interesting.
Remember though, technique is only part of it. We work hard with tactical and psychological subjects to improve overall skiing performance and enjoyment.
Coach Giles, is a ski teacher, a director of The Development Centre, and assessor of British ski instructors to the highest level. High amongst his most proud moments,is Fraser Hopewell passing his L4 technical exam [ed].
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!)
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
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.
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]
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!
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!
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.
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 )
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
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.
Terry prides himself on being able to improve peoples skiing, without skiing. With on snow coaching too – a definite recipe for success!
So you thought bumps skiiing was dead? Last week a couple fo thousand people proved otherwise and TDC was there to participate and record some of the action:
The Boss des Bosses is a 21 year old grudge match between Val d’Isere (we have the best bumps skiers in europe), and Chamonix (no, we do).
The first event was just between these two resorts but then other resorts have wanted a piece of the action too. This year’s line up was Val d’Isere, Chamonix, Meribel, Zermatt, Verbier and Courchevel. This video is of the Val team in their play off for third place against Verbier.
Teams are made up of 2 telemarkers, 2 snowboarders, 2 female skiers, and seven male skiers. Head to head.
Well done to team Chamonix, who took home the trophy.
Go to the TDC facebook page to see this with music added