Saturday, 23 February 2013

AMPing it up!!

So after 4 days of well earned rest it was time to hit the slopes and have some fun!! After all the hard work for our Level 1 we spent last week doing the All Mountain Pro programme. The aim is to ski all sorts of terrain (the crazier the better) and learn to do drops, some huge moguls and just generally have an awesome time!

I was with Audrey again this week and we kicked off the 4 days at Sunshine. We were blessed with a lovely sunny day and as always the snow conditions were pretty nice. After warming up we spent the majority of the day exploring new terrain (well new to me), including drops, tree runs, some of the hugest moguls you ever laid eyes on and the back bowls. The only disadvantage was the amount of rocks! By the end of the day it wasn't uncommon to hear anguished cries of "rock,rock, rock!" followed by a loud scraping sound and groans as scratches are ripped out of a pair of freshly tuned skis!! We finished the day with my first Double-Black Diamond run. This is the hardest level of run in the Canadaian classification system. I'm not going to lie, I was tired and not scared exactly, but let's just say certain words from a rather select vocabulary passed through my mind! I simply had to grit my teeth, mentally cross my fingers (really doing so would be a bit of a hazard while holding ski poles) and hope for the best! I got down in one piece, with very little technique and pretty inelegant skiing, but I did it!! We finished the days with the ski-out back to the lodge then heading back to Banff.

Wednesday, as usual, was at Norquay. Lots of people had been out the night before so numbers were pretty low, not that that's necessarily a bad thing, smaller groups mean a quicker pace and less waiting. My group spent the morning doing our Level 1 PDP (Personal Development Programme) with a Level 4 Instructor called Heather. We spent the morning skiing around focusing on a particular skill each and then working on these as a group. Despite rotating instructors each week, it was great to have a fresh pair of eyes and a new way of explaining things. After Lunch our group headed out with Charlie and another afternoon of pushing myself to the limit. Norquay hasn't had snow for a while so the pistes were rock hard, and the moguls too! But we did so this one amazing run, cutting down from the top of one of the chairlifts, following the lift-line and cutting through the trees and away from the pistes, into a crazy powder-field littered with trees, bumps and moguls. Another inelegant but amazing run, and my confidence was starting to grow!

Thursday we heads out to Lake Louise, and it was another day of free skiing. In the morning we concentrated on carving (something I can actually do!!). The afternoon we spent free-skiing, doing some crazy runs, including lots more double-black diamonds. I've got to the point where I stand st the top of a slope, I dont' think s**t I'm going to die, now I think "Cool let's do this!" and as long as I get down, in one piece at my own pace, it's amazing!! I've skied stuff this week that had someone said to me at the start of the course "week five, you'll ski down there" I would have laughed at them! Finally back to Banff and dinner before we headed out to Cascade Ponds for a bonfire!! Beforehand a quick trip to Safeway to stock up on marshmallows. It was pretty cold but the fire grew in capacity. Pretty much everyone turned up, including all the instructors, and everyone stood chatting, drinking eating marshmallows toasted on the fire. I started off a tend by sacrificing my old worn-out mittens on the fire to the Snow-Gods in the hope of a Pow day, others followed with more glove, snowboard boots someone even burnt their old ski, battered ski Jacket. We headed back, some people then went out, but I headed back to bed for some much needed sleep in preparation for the AMP ride-off!!

Another day at the Lake and it was time to AMP it up!! Audrey (my) group and Charlie's group joined forces for the morning. We were assessed on long carving turns, short fast turns (including a jump which most of us bailed on). It took a while with group of 12 of us, but it was great as I got to ski with loads of people I hadn't skied with before. We finished off the morning, with the Ski-Cross, a specially built course which you can race up to 4 people on! Such Fun!! Then in the afternoon we all skied in one big group. We were assessed doing a drop then a free run. I went somewhere in the middle, my first go I got some air and landed the drop fine (the bit I was worried about!!) but the light was so flat that I couldn't judge the run, all bumpy and choppy and so I had a massive wipe-out, ate snow but managed to keep my skis. Back up the chairlift then another go and this time was much better! Got more air, landed fine and cruised ( well fine, made a few rather wobbly turns) down to join the others and was immediately bombarded with snowballs!! As a group we headed back up the mountain before splitting up again into our smaller groups, some more runs before heading back to Banff. Safe to say I wan't the only one who napped on the way back to town! Straight to dinner and our awards ceremony, I didn't win but did get a specialy mention (smug!) then a lazy evening.

A weekend off then it's back to the grindstone!        

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Been a long time Coming

It's been a while and a lot has happened! We have definitely set into a weekly routine which now feels incredibly normal to me but to a lot of others, must seem incredibly exciting! Every week has the same structure, we ski for 4 days, have 3 days off and then the cycle starts again.

My ski groups since you last heard from me have consisted of numerous old faces plus a couple of new ones. After skiing for a second week with Charlie the next was spent with Audrey, A Level 3 Instructor from  Quebec. It's got to the point now though that whichever instructor I have, each has slightly different definitions or analogies for the same explanation. Result: confusion, I've come to the conclusion that if you do something and the instructors say nothing you're doing fine, if they give praise you're doing really well!

One of the highlights of the past couple of weeks was Dog-Sledding!! So much fun, if you ever get the chance to do it go for it!! I was in sled with my roomie Emily and Issy. Each is pulled by a team of 7-8 dogs in pairs and each pair has a specific role within the team. We got to drive the sled and all the time you have to talk to the dogs and encourage them, the more you shout the happier they are, the faster they run! Nothing can compare to sledding over a frozen lake surrounded by mountains. After sledding for the afternoon, everyone met up around a bonfire beside the lake for Hot chocolate and cookies and for cuddles with Tika, the cutest Husky Puppy in the world!! I wanted to smuggle her back to the hotel and then back to England, unfortunately so did everyone else and so after lots of cuddles and photos it was time to say goodbye and head back to Banff.

I provided one epic fall when skiing at Norquay. It was towards the end of the day and we'd spent ages working on our snowploughs, so just to relax and have a bit of fun, we went to one of the quieter slopes which is wide and not too steep, with some bumps and jumps at the edges. I decided to do a bit of backwards skiing, just to practice. The run was pretty flat, it was wide, there was no danger of me falling over a cliff. To be honest I was trying to show off, in the end I went too fast and ended up crashing into a tree-well, laughing hysterically! 

This last week has been the most important week so far. We had our Level 1 CSIA course. £ days of continuous assessment of our skiing and teaching. I had unfortunately been struck down (sounds dramatic I know) with some horrible sinus-flu thing and had spent the last 3 days before in bed and to be honest wasn't feeling all that great. But anyway I was determined to at least try and do the course. We were split randomly into groups of 6-8, most of the people were Nonstoppers but our group had one guy from Canmore. We were assigned a course leader for the 3 days, ours was a guy called Patrick who was originally from Bordeaux but has lived and instructed in Canada for over 10 years. To be honest I don't actually remember all that much from the course apart from a lot of the time leaning on my poles thinking 'Don't throw up, don't throw up'. The vague memories I do have were pretty fun, but I'm not sure I'd make a good teacher. On Thursday the final day of the course, we finished pretty early about 2.30 then faced a nervous wait for the results. Most people headed to the bar while I curled up in an arm-chair and napped. Finally we were all given the good news and I am now officially a CSIA Certified Level 1 Ski Instructor!!

So now after a few days of rest, recovery and recuperation. Next week brings the start of the All Mountain Pro programme. Basically we're just going to have a lot of fun doing all terrain and all sorts of freestyle stuff!!

Here is a video of me skiing from a couple of weeks ago at Mount Norquay, not my best but better than nothing!