Thursday, 10 January 2013

Day 1: Getting to know You and You and You.....

I didn't sleep well. Well I didn't sleep badly but it wasn't great. It was an early start, breakfast between 7-8 am before a Ski-boot fitting lecture at 9 am. Despite meeting most of the other course-members at the airport I swear the numbers have multiplied!! There are only about 12 girls on the whole course so the boys number about 45 and the all look the same and all seem to be called Adam which when you're jet-lagged isn't very conducive to learning names!! Breakfast (a continental buffet) was somewhat subdued, lots of people were hungover as well as tired and let's be honest the coffee wasn't up to much (though this is coming from a self-declared coffee snob) so trying to talk to everyone was impossible!!

The boot-fitting lecture was given by a guy called Junior who owns one of the best boot-fitters in Banff. He told us every minute detail about a pair of ski boots which just goes to show you how rubbish rental ones are and told us a couple of horror stories about the consequences of buying naff gear.

It was then time to meet our instructors for the next week of lessons and have a tour of the town. Throughout the course, the instructors will rotate so each group will get the chance to have tuition from every instructor for at least one week during the 11 week course. I'm starting this week with Anna who is a Level 4 CSIA Instructor from Calgary who commutes to Banff every day. She is also in charge of all the other course Ski Instructors collectively so my group is pretty lucky in that we're starting with the best! Anna gave us a tour of the town if it can be called that! Banff is a bit like a Tardis: it's small but with a hell of a lot in it! Unlike a lot of ski resorts Banff was an established town before the skiing scene got going whereas a lot of other resorts, particularly those in the Alps, have grown up around the skiing meaning that come summertime they are ghost-towns empty of people. Banff Avenue is the main street and then a grid of side streets spread out perpendicularly to form a town like a very regimented spiders-web, all the street names are named after animals, Wolf, Rabbit, Elk, Caribou and so on each lined with mainly restaurants, hotels and ski and snowboard shops, with the occasional Clothes shop or chemist along the way. Anna took us to the Ski-hub to collect Ski-Passes and Bus-Passes requiring a lot of waiting around for bleary-eyed mugshots taken at such awful angles that make even the most photogenic people look horrendous so that us normal-folk haven't got a hope in hell!! Then it was off for shopping and equipment advice. I only had boots to buy having purchased skis, poles and a helmet last summer at heavily reduced prices back in England. With a boot-fitting booked at Soul (Junior's Shop) for 4 pm I tailed along with the rest of the group feeling rather smug at my savvy purchases while they were looking at skis costing about $800 (£550) upwards plus poles, helmets and bindings! After the tour everyone went their own way, some of us for lunch then to stock up on supplies from Safeways before chilling out unpacking and getting over jet-lag.

Boot-fitting is not like shoe shopping. A ski-boot is made up of 3 main parts: the foot-bed which is basically an insole, the liner which provides padding and comfort as well as warmth and the plastic shell. To be honest I couldn't tell you much at all about how all these components fit together to create a boot that fits well but they do and that's that! First I had to fill out a form with all my details, height, weight, ski experience and so on, then my feet were specially measured, length width. toe length, arch height and length and every other conceivable measurements were taken to try and determine the best boot to go for. Now with boots what they look like doesn't really matter it's all about the fit so you just keep your fingers crossed that the ones that do are in your price range and look nice! I, having stupidly wide feet, was pretty limited as to which boots I could get and the ones the fitter, Rob, advised were pretty beyond my budget. The rigmarole of trying on included trying on the shell without the liner, trying on the liner, trying out different foot-beds then trying the shell and liner together and so on until Rob was satisfied. He might have been but I wasn't, well at least the fit was good but the costs were pretty hefty so because my haggling skills are poor at best I did the whole apologetic and innocent routine and eventually another potential model of boots to fit my freakish-feet were found and luckily for me were $150 cheaper, more attractive and a better fit so it was win-win all around!! My happiness didn't last too long however when I realised I faced the walk back to the hotel alone with both skis and boots to carry in rapidly dropping temperatures and darkening skies.

It took longer than I anticipated to trek back and I arrived 10 minutes before the start of dinner our first one of many at the hotel. Our group took up most of the tables in the restaurant and deafened most of the other guests with loud talking and laughter punctuated with speeches made by the course staff and all the instructors followed by rounds of clapping. By this time my energy was flagging and fatigue was descending. In general group conversation was not quite as exuberant as before. Emily (my roommate) and I headed into town again to pick up her boots from being fitted with boot warmers before heading back to Irwin's to warm up from temperatures which had become even more bitingly cold. And since then we've just been chilling in our room watching TV and trying not to go to bed too early. Tomorrow will be an even earlier start. It's our first day on the mountain and we have to catch the ski bus from outside the hotel at 8 am! So now I'll sign off for the night, bed is calling and eyelids are drooping!! Night all, tomorrow beckons!

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