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!