Sunday, 12 May 2013

I've moved


I've moved my blog to here

See you over there

Friday, 10 May 2013

The End

So last time we spoke, I was back in the teaching groove after finishing my BASI Level 3 technical and teaching exams.  The season soon wrapped up, with ski teaching work dropping off in Morgins immediately after Easter.  Annoyingly, even now, I can see there is snow up the top and the mogul field is still there, looking lonely. 

above the clouds in Tux and a rare pic of me skiing (complete with spear throwing pole plant)

Easter was quite busy this year in Morgins, probably due to Easter actually being at a reasonable time of the year when there was still snow.  The first season I was here, Easter fell at the end of April and the resort was already shut by then!

So now all of the lifties in Morgins are happy again because they can finally get their cows out of the shed and get on with their main summer profession, farming.  May has been a little disappointing so far, in that it has rained more or less constantly.  I don’t know why I am surprised because it always rains for a month in May and then we get on with a long hot summer from June.

I started my summer job in the second week of April this year, meaning no break between the ski season and the summer football season.  After a month of it now, I’m fully back in the groove and playing football for myself 3 nights a week, in a vain attempt to get fit and fight my aging body.
I suppose I did have a little break between the ski season and the football season by having to go to the Hintertux Glacier in Austria for the BASI Level 3 Mountain safety course.  For various reasons, I wasn’t looking forward to this course much but mainly because of the tales I had heard from other people about having to walk up mountains, in order to ski back down them again. For me, this is something that I just have absolutely no interest in, my preference is to use the lift that are there for your convenience.  When I see people skinning up the mountain, I am normally thinking ‘weirdo’ in my head.

However, I guess the point of the BASI system is to challenge you to become a more rounded skier and so I tried to be positive and get stuck in.  The course itself was very different to your standard BASI course in that it was run by a mountain guide from Chamonix, Dave Cummins.  Dave didn’t appear to be hung up at all on our skiing level; he was more into the walking up stuff and mountain navigation.  That said, he did ask us for ski tips during the week and he was definitely skiing better at the end of the week than the start!
The course covered a lot and I enjoyed the bits I was expecting to enjoy, namely learning more about the snow pack and avalanches, navigation, working with transceivers and skiing off-piste.  Luckily for me, because the snow conditions over the week deteriorated due to the heat, we didn’t end up doing that much walking up but I got a feel for what it was all about and getting away from the crowds.  As part of my level 4, I have to go and do 6 days of touring anyway, so I’m going to have to learn to love it I guess.

Another bonus of the week was skiing again with my good buddy George Walton, pro skier and all round good guy.  I’d seen George piste skiing in my Level 3 tech exam but it’s clear that his passion is off-piste and considering we spent most of the week ripping about hunting fresh or skiable powder and spring snow, his skills were on show and a pleasure to watch. 
Georgy rock jibber

So at the end of 6 days, another course was passed and that only leaves me now with 1 course left until I get my full BASI Level 3 ISIA stamp.  The exam I’ve got left is the Common Theory which you have to go to Scotland to do.  Everyone that I have spoken to says that this course is a dull one as it is classroom based but I’m determined to be positive about it, not least because the theory side of skiing is something I am hugely interested in.
So summer starts now, I need to get fit and have a determined think about whether I go forward to the BASI Level 4 or not.  I wrote down a pros and cons list as to whether I should, which came out 13 for and 4 against (is it wrong that a lot of the 13 pros were to stick it to people who told me I was crap at skiing??) so I suppose I had better get on with planning which modules to start training for next season.  I’m sure one of those will be to start going to Giant Slalom race camps in the summer so no doubt I’ll have a few summer blogs to add too.

See you soon.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Back at the coalface

I only just realised that the last time I blogged was 6 Feb.  Since then, I have been teaching non-stop for 4-weeks, followed up by 2-weeks of BASI level-3 exams.  Looking at my calendar, today is the first time since the start of February that I’ve been off skis.  At the moment, there isn’t a part of me that doesn’t ache. 
celebrating L4 exams

The way that the English speaking work has come in this year (all in one long period of consecutive weeks) meant that I didn’t really have that much time for ski training in preparation for my Level-3 exams.  They only way that I could practice was to snatch a few runs after work with Ben, my mate at the ski school, who was also due to take his level-4 exams.  So after work we would go for a quick hour and ski-2 runs of short turns, 2-runs of long turns and 2-runs of bumps.  I guess this made for focused and precise training as we both passed our exams!
Bens success is a bigger achievement than mine, as the technical level-4 exam is the highest one in the BASI system and not many people get to that level (there are only something like 350 full BASI level 4 skiers in the system).  Ben won’t mind me saying this but up until we started training, he was skiing shit but he is kind of mercurial and he obviously pulled enough performance out to impress the right people.  I also think that he got an examiner that appreciated the scruffy, womanising, drinking model of ski instructor that he is..
The week after, I went to my own technical skiing exam.  I got lucky with my group and there were some excellent skiers in my group who very much dragged the group onwards and upwards, especially in the moguls which you may remember I was not happy with.  We also had an excellent trainer, a guy called Andi McCann, who knew an incredible amount about how the body worked and how to get the best out of it. 
The low pass rate of 7/16 on the level-3 course reflected that the exams become tougher at this level.  Personally, I didn’t feel THAT challenged (which is going to sound horribly arrogant) and this gives me confidence to see how far I can take my skiing.
destressing during the L3 teach
Following a huge hangover on the Saturday morning, the following week was the level-3 teaching exam, which again was challenging.  We had to teach our peers during this week and I felt that a lot of people mistook doing drills as teaching and didn’t really understand enough about the subject they were teaching to teach it well.  This really showed up at times during the week.  Again, I felt confident on this exam and only had to teach 4-sessions during the week and got given Friday off.  The standard again was a fairly high bar, with 10/15 passing.  (For those of you that I know who will read this on FB or whatever, I'm not trying to be a prick, I'm just being honest.)
Following another exam success hangover, we are back into the real world of teaching, a far cry from the high speed larking about of the last two weeks. 

Today I had 17-beginners scattered around the magic carpet in the fog… 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Training days

Unless you are interested to hear me talk about the ski training that I have been doing more or less constantly since mid-January, I’m afraid you might find this blog entry a little boring.  I’ll try to jazz it up as best I can though.
GS training in the rain = dead phone

So last time we spoke, I was off to see where I stood amongst my peers on a BASI ISIA level 3 training course in Morzine.  The good news is that I seem to be in a good place, with all of my skiing in fairly decent order with the exception of my kryptonite, mogul skiing. 

For those of you that have never been on an instructor training course before, there is an awful lot of standing about discussing theory, which was tough going on the feet when the temperatures over there were down to -15 at one point.  (I discovered mid-week that if you put gaffer tape over the seams of your boots, it makes them slightly warmer.)  There is also lots of work on short and long turns, getting right down into the tiniest details of technique, things such as the precision that you load your new turning ski with etc etc.

For me, things went well for the first couple of days when we did lots of work on long turns and my personal favourite, short turns but I suppose that it was inevitable that at some point we had to head to what Jaz (our trainer) described as ‘the best bumps run in the world’.  This is The Renard, which is a black bumps run just to the left as you ride up on the Chaux des Rosees lift in the Pre La Joux area of Chatel.

So this was my weak point and I had a trainer watching who I know is likely to be one of the assessors on my actual exam.  I tried my hardest on that afternoon, not really helped by some terrible visibility but despite my worries and frustrations, I actually managed to put in a very slow looking but neat video run.  This gave me some confidence but I knew then that I needed to ski bumps for a month before my exam, a thought that was echoed by the trainer.
So, the following week, I was booked on another training course with BASS in Chatel run by a guy called Peter Kuwall (PK).  My mate and fellow ski instructor Ben really rates PK as a trainer having spent 8-weeks with him in New Zealand two summers ago, so when PK asked us what we wanted to work on, I said, ‘I need to work out how to ski bumps and fast’.  So on day 2 we arrived in the bumps and PK basically told me that my approach to bumps skiing was probably wrong tactically and set about sorting me out. 
Lo and behold, 2 hours later and another half day of bumps skiing later,  I am much more confident in what I am doing and more familiar with being in that environment.  We shot some more video and it looks visually better, if still pretty gentle!

As if that wasn’t enough, another quiet mid-season week means that I’m off for some afternoons of Giant Slalom training this week.  This is with a view to getting more familiar with racing in gates skiing which I’m going to have to do more of in order to work towards level 4 skiing.

I’ll let you know how it goes but it may be some time as we are almost into the madness of half term and all that brings.  It’s starting to get busier here in Chatel and it won’t be long before the masses arrive.


online here

Friday, 11 January 2013

Well busy mate

It’s been over a month since I blogged, what with friends and family coming to visit, teaching at Christmas and New Year and some training, I’ve not had a moment to sit down and write.  This is my first day off skis since the 22 December.

sorry for picture repetition but the stupid blogger system isn't letting me upload new photos.  get it sorted.
First up, friends coming to visit and the default thing for the last few years has been that we all get drunk and generally destroy ourselves for 5-days then everyone goes home.  Much to my surprise, things have actually changed amongst my circle of mates from back home.  Cheeko is half the size he used to be because he is training to do the London Marathon, Hughsey seems to have lost his drinking ability because he is happily in love with his new girlfriend and Stavros was one flight away from New Zealand, never to be seen again.  Sometimes, change is good.
Once we got rid of those guys, my Mother-in-law came to visit at Christmas, which was a very pleasant time for Mrs Burrows.  She misses her family at this time of year and it was good that she came here to see where and how we live.  Personally, I didn't see her much because I was too busy teaching skiing in the rain.  Teaching in the rain is one of the more miserable parts of Christmas week.  It always rains at Christmas and every year we act surprised.  There cannot be many more contradictory sights in the world than ego filled ski instructors, especially the new ones who think they are slightly above fighter pilots in the ego standings, soaked through from a day skiing in the rain.

New Year passed with the usual armageddon of people setting fire to their money through the medium of fireworks and a shivering, frightened sheepdog under the bed, followed by a smattering of lessons that brought us to this week where my year really gets going. 

This year I introduced to the ski school another instructor Al, who I met on a course about 2-years ago.  Al is almost all the way through the British BASI system, with only one exam left before he gets his Level-4 and the full ‘Carte Pro’ which allows you to work anywhere in Europe.  Al’s been quite inspirational to me and I’m now focused on seeing how far I can go in the system, including the dreaded European Speed Test.
So in contrast to last year, where I would just teach and ski straight home, I’m now looking to finish off all of my level-3 ski modules this season, and start working towards level-4 myself.  After teaching now, I’m now putting in a couple of hours a day training by myself or with people better than me (more or less everyone then..) and noting down discoveries in a little notebook.  Next week I’m off to a training week in Morzine to see where I stand in relation to the level-3 standard and see what I’m up against in terms of the other people on the course.

So far, the less drinking more skiing thing is working (apart from a couple of non-graceful falls from the wagon) so let’s see if I can keep this focus up and have a good couple of weeks.  I’ll let you know how I get on when I get back.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Winter is here at last

So it’s dumping down outside, the snowploughs can’t keep up with the volume of snow that’s falling and I haven’t seen sunshine for about a week.  Winter has arrived at last. 
Last year, I was a little apprehensive about the arrival of winter after a long hot summer and very dry autumn.  This year has been very different with much more rain but the arrival of winter came on the same week and so the cycle of the seasons, more noticeable living here in the mountains, continues.

a quick pit stop for a photo on my commute to work
One of the things bothering me last year was worrying about whether I would remember how to ski. So this year, myself and a couple of the guys went to Saas Fee as soon as they had more runs than just the glacier open and went for what is now becoming a traditional season opener.  We had a great day, getting up early in the miserable rain of Chatel and driving for 90-minutes towards a patch of blue sky that gradually opened up into a bluebird day of great skiing.
All fears of not remembering were gone within 10 seconds and whilst my personal technique on the day left something to be desired, I enjoyed myself and tried not to think of anything technical.  Just skiing for the love of it.

I was also breaking in some new kit.  I currently have a spare room full of stuff that replaces old worn out kit or shiny new stuff that is of course, essential to my very existence…  New stuff for this season includes a full NTN Telemark set up on WhiteDot One skis (they look so cool, cannot wait to try these), new race boots, new teaching skis, helmet and poles.  This is the one similarity that skiing has with cricket, a former passion of mine back home, you get to have loads of equipment that you can fuss over, discuss at length and banter about.
new telemark set up - NTN on Whitedot One's
The deluge of fresh snow means that everyone and their dog wants to go skiing on Saturday when the lifts open.  This means I’m working as of Saturday when the kids from one of the International Schools in the valley come up to bomb about in the fresh snow.  After that on Sunday, the first collective week starts and then we are into the season for real.
To add to a hectic start, I’ve got Cheeko, Hughsey and Stavros arriving, as well as Mrs Burrows’ friend Emma, all on the 15 December.  All are looking to get smashed for 4-days and each one of them is looking for an opportunity to take me down.  I have plan to combat them, the first part of which was to find them an apartment in the same block as ours but not actually in my place so they can disturb each other and not us.  This is a good place to start.

Plans for this season include a whole bunch of training for my Level 3 ski exams in March, less hangovers and more skiing.  I’ll let you know how I get on.



Monday, 1 October 2012

'So, what do you do in the summer?'

Probably the most common question that I get asked during the winter season, be it in my capacity as a ski instructor or sometime transfer driver to the airport is, ‘So, what do you do in summer?’. 

life's a beach
This is normally the second or third question after the two other guaranteed questions, being ‘What’s the snow like?’ (cold, white, attached to the mountain) and ‘How long will it take to get to Chatel?’ (as long as it takes, depends on whether you want me to drive like I am supposed to or if I can drive like I’ve got a 74 number plate, which you really won’t like).
So I thought I’d write a blog about what I’ve done since the ski season ended and for something to write about since I haven’t written anything since April. 

Non-ski season, I am a football coach and my 8 month off season started with a week of Easter football camps and progressed into various after-school coaching programs and summer camps.  We are now into the after-school coaching autumn season, with added rain, cloud, cold and general crappy weather.
This year, after meeting another particularly good coach who has joined the company that I work for, I have changed my approach to coaching.  I have realised that much of the work that I did last year, although fun, wasn’t that constructive in making kids better at football.  Trying to put myself in the shoes of a parent, I figured if they are going to pay X to come and have me coach them, then they should be a lot better at the end than when they started.  Even the ones who don’t really want to be there.

I now work on a similar basis to skiing, with a lot of questioning/discovery led approaches and a gradual build-up of skills in a particular set order, which makes for development of individual football skills.  At the age group that we coach, 5-11 normally, individual skills are hugely important.  Team play etc comes after in development but if you can’t do what you want with the ball, you’ll never get anywhere in the game itself.
Apart from this, I’ve been on holiday twice.  Once on Danny’s stag do.  18 blokes go to Ibiza – can’t really tell you anymore about that but I had two amazing nights, one at Defected at Pacha and the usual Space on Sunday.  The highlight of the Space night (apart from the eternity that we spent ensuring that everyone was ‘ready’ to go to Space on Bora Bora sodding Beach – never again Dan) was seeing one of my favourite DJ's Deetron live and the other DJ who dropped a Dr Dre track into the middle of his set at about 4am.  Dan won't remember this though as he was having his face painted as a tiger at the time.

The second holiday was a very pleasant 3 days that I grabbed with Mrs Burrows to Italy.  We went back to the place that we went on honeymoon, Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast and spent a couple of days on the beach and 3 nights eating in lovely Italian restaurants.  It was great and it was driveable from Chatel in about 7-hours.  It’s close enough that we are considering renting an apartment there next summer for a month and just chilling by the beach.  Getting out of the Chatel goldfish bowl for a while.
In an effort to offset the epic drinking that counts for the summer here, I’ve been helping a mate out who has been landscaping on an amazing Chalet up at 2000m above Les Crosets.  It’s interesting trying to do a day’s work at that altitude because if you don’t keep yourself fed and watered properly, you start making silly mistakes due to the effects of the height.

Also, it’s tough trying to put a decent shift of work in at 2000m and fatigue certainly was setting in at 8 hours + a day.  Whether this was just me being 35 years old and not used to manual labour after my previous life in suits and offices or the work being genuinely hard, I am unsure.  Anyway, we’ve got a break now until November so I can rest up.
As an aside on the subject of epic drinking, I got so drunk the other day at a wedding,  I seem to have actually scared myself into soberness.  I haven’t had a beer for about a week and a half now and the worst bit about it (apart from the rather worrying fact that this is about the longest it’s been since I started drinking at 15) is that I’m starting to feel quite good.  I am even considering seeing how long into October I can go for without.  The next thing you know I’ll be finding god.

I’m not missing the hangovers though..