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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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].
tdc coaches working on the World Cup Super G today in Val d’Isere.
The Face de Bellevarde provided an awesome spectacle as over 30 racers crashed out on one of the hardest courses on the circuit.
Flat light and snowfall all day made conditions even harder for the competitors but this didn’t deter Lena (tdc‘s new coach for 09/10), who managed to get photos with Bode Miller, Ted Ligety (2nd Place) and Andreas Walchhofer (1st place), not to mention getting on the podium and bagging a bottle of champagne in the process!
The second day of the VIP ski host training saw the groups run by tdc‘s Phil, Paul and Josh ripping up the powder all over the Espace Killy. a special mention goes to 63 year old Roger who was on fire in the off piste over in Tignes and has a few tricks to show the youngsters. For some these were their first turns in the deep stuff, so there were plenty of face plants…not a bad way to clear the head after a few beers the night before! The sky was a perfect blue and everyone made great progress. For the 3 tdc coaches it has been a pleasure to ski with such a personable group of people, we look forward to seeing some of you back again next year. Have a great season, cheers Paul, Phil and Josh.
It was the annual beach rugby tournament in Tignes last Saturday. Wall to wall blue sky and the hot alpine sun made sure there was a real beach atmosphere despite being at 2100m above sea level! Val dâ€™IsÃ¨re won the amateur competition in the morning, conceding only one try in 5 games. Giles and Paul combining nicely to score the winning try in the final.
The pro-competition was to take place in the afternoon and as amateur Champions Val dâ€™IsÃ¨re were asked to join them. Fortunately we were playing touch rugby not full tackling otherwise things could have ended very differently! The motivation to run around for another spell of matches came in the shape of Stade FranÃ§ais. 13 times French champions and Heineken Cup regulars their squad is packed with Internationals and we were to play in their group. This was a warm up for their summer training camp that happens every year in Tignes, for us we were on our last legs, but how often do you get to play against so many legends of the game? A once in a life time opportunity.
Motivation was high as we lined up against a team that were practically all international stars. If you know your rugby these names should mean something to you: Julien Dupuy (Leicester scrum-half last year), Sylvain Marconnet (French prop), Mauro Bergamsaco (Italian back row), Mathieu Basteraud (French centre), Christophe Dominici (ex-French wing), Sergio Parisse (Italian back row), Roncero Rodrigez (Aregntinian prop), Dimitri Szarzewski (French hooker). They all played and we even managed to score two tries against them! Lewis and Garner are still waiting for a call from the Stade FranÃ§ais coach such was their performance on the day.