Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas in the Alps

It’s a funny thing being out here in the Alps at Christmas.  Christmas isn’t generally celebrated by a day of complete shutdown like it is in the UK.  The French and Swiss normally have a big family meal on Christmas Eve and then spend their Christmas Day either working or skiing.  Both myself and Mrs Burrows were working on Christmas day so it passed as a bit of a non-event.

better than last year

I had planned to cook Mrs Burrows a nice breakfast and open presents in front of a roaring electric heater but in fact, the phone rang the night before and I found myself basking in the sunshine at the top of the ski lift in Morgins, waiting for my client to turn up for a 2 hour private lesson on Christmas day.  It was a great lesson, a parallel level skier wanting technical advice on how to improve.  This is quite a rare lesson to get (the usual is debutants) so it more than made up for not being able to rip open wrapping paper!

The mountain actually gave me my Christmas present the day before anyway, as yet another big dump of snow meant that on Christmas eve, I was up skiing deep powder along with a few mates on snowboards.  Not wanting to bust my knees right at the start of the ski season, I settled for making pretty S shapes in the snow while they jumped off things and generally fell over loads.  I took a video on my phone that you should be able to see below which shows you just how much snow there is out here in the Alps so far this winter.    

It seems as if Europe is certainly where the snow is at right now and I don’t think that since the lifts have opened, I’ve skied on the piste yet, except for instructing and even then, the temptation is to jump off the side and into the deep stuff.

I’m trying to make a point this year of going out skiing with people who are better than me and this is leading to discoveries of lots of hidden valleys and gullies that are full of snow and where to go according to what conditions.  It’s been great and I’ve never skied so much snow in my life.

I’m also learning to take the right tools for the right job and I can highly recommend the Scott Pure’s that I bought in the summer.  At 101mm underfoot, they float really well and are fast becoming my favourite for days when it’s dumping up top.
As if loads of snow before the tourists arrived couldn’t get any better, the skies have cleared for the arrival of the masses at Christmas and New Year and we are now teaching under bluebird skies.  Nice and warm for instructors who have until now been absolutely freezing in the fog, cloud and mist.  It’s suntan time!

Despite all of the roads now having been cleared of ice and snow, it seems that once the visitors to the region have managed to get the snow chains on their cars when there was a little bit of snow around, they can’t be bothered to take them off again.  We are all very amused at the moment by the sight of expensive low profile car tyres being ruined by clanking about on snow chains on clear dry tarmac.   Please people, take them off – it’s not due to snow for a week and you’ll be able to get much faster and more comfortably…
online here


Monday, 12 December 2011

La neige arrives

After a lot of people getting very nervous and some dire predictions by local farmers that the snow wouldn’t arrive until February, the snow is here and winter has started at last.
I was wondering who the arrival to the village would be that would ‘bring the snow with them’ and it turned out to be my mates from home Cheeko and Hughsey, who flew out to surprise me for my birthday at the start of December.  My wife had organised a surprise party for me at The Avalanche and I couldn’t believe it when my boys from home showed up.  (actually I cried – sad I know)

Of course, you know by now the usual carnage that follows and I was pretty glad to get rid of them a few days later, as my liver had taken a real pounding.

oh dear
This weekend was the formation weekend at the ski school where we all get together for a ski and work on things like technique and the progression of skiing from a complete beginner all the way through to parallel skiing.  Last year, this had to be done in two groups of French and English but this year was done entirely in French as there are only 3 British instructors at the ski school (which should mean more work for all of us!!!).  After a year abroad, I understood most of what was said.  This is what progress looks like.

my office
The seasonaires have started arriving in Chatel and the girl’s night out kicks off the winter season tomorrow night with 44 of Chatel’s finest ladies tearing the village up.  This also means that there will be plenty of local single chaps out checking out this season’s talent and trying out their best moves.  Judging by last weekend’s efforts, it’s pretty obvious who’s got game and who hasn’t.  Let’s just say that inviting the new chalet girls to an X-Factor final party doesn’t count as good ‘game’..

It’s snowing big outside and a few of the locals have been out riding the powder and one guy going to the effort to skin up the local highest peak, the Mont de Grange (2400m+)  Not really my style to be honest but we were all pleased for him.  I’ve just dragged my big fat skis out from the cave in anticipation of a powder day tomorrow morning :DDD

online here


Monday, 14 November 2011

Rememberance Day Trip to Saas Fee

It’s mid-November here in Chatel and there is still no sign of the long awaited snow. A lot of people here are getting quite edgy about this but as I keep pointing out to them, I arrived about this time last year and it didn’t snow meaningfully until the start of December.

my piste.  mine.

In a bid to beat the Movember blues (and the tragic-ness that is my moustache attempt), Irish Matt, French Miche and myself took a day trip to Saas-Fee on Friday as we had heard that conditions were good. Additionally, it was a day off in France for Remembrance Day but crucially, not in Switzerland as they don’t celebrate it, so we were sure of the place to ourselves.

What a day it turned out to be. A 6.30am start in Chatel as well as a few stops for coffee, fuel and breakfast, meant that we were heading up the familiar lifts to 3500m by 9am and we were greeted at the top by fresh powder lines and immaculate pistes.

As is my style, I took the wrong equipment and was struggling to get my GS skis to float in the flatter sections of pow, so I couldn’t hit the fresh snow like my snowboarding mates but we were still having an absolute ball nevertheless.

The only issue at Saas-Fee when you are up on the glacier is looking out for crevasses that have been covered up with new snow. I was feeling a real sense of foreboding the times that I was skiing off piste and I didn’t stray too far into the deep. I’ve learned to recognise and listen to my 6th sense on days like this.

I thought that we would be skiing the glacier all day but it turns out that snow had fallen all the way down to 2500m and that you could ski all the way to the middle station. The pistes were in incredible condition and at the sort of gradient that you could really get your carve on. I was now loving my skis, using them for their true purpose but by the end of the day, I was skiing back with cramp in both legs after making the most of the super grippy snow. You can really feel the difference between real snow and snow cannon snow when you’re trying to get everything out of a stiff ski.

We went for a total of about 5 hours in the end with only a short stop for coffee (CHF27 for 3 Irish coffees – wow!). The lift ticket is steep at CHF68 but with the instructor licence, it was only CHF41 for me! It takes about 1h45m to get there from Chatel and is only a 5 minute walk to the lifts from the car park.

We had a short moment at 11am to remember those who died making our way of life possible for us all and when I think back to how I used to spend the 11th day of the 11th month in the UK, a day enjoying fresh snow in Saas-Fee strikes me as a much better tribute.

online here


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Blogging season begins

I’ve been sitting here reading through the blogs of my fellow Mad Dog Ski bloggers, looking on enviously as they blog about their recent snowfalls and upload snowy images of the hills around them. Unfortunately, if was to do the same, all you would see would be the cows in the field over the road happily munching away on green grass.

this picture has nothing to do with this blog but I thought you'd want to see my new skis..

It has snowed in recent weeks though all of this snow was gone in about 3 or 4 days because it’s been a long hot summer but it’s a good sign and if I look up to the Tete du Linga, there is a white covering of snow hanging on, waiting for winter.

The sound of autumn in the Alps is hammering, sanding and heavy trucks going back and forth as all of the tradesmen are desperately trying to finish off half built chalets and public projects before the winter comes.

I’ve been up to Saas-Fee to ski quite a bit over the summer but haven’t been for the last month or so because I’m not under so much pressure with exams now. I had to cancel all of my level 3 exams because I’m needed for my other football coaching work right up until the start of the ski season. I guess I’ll now have to train in the season and then take the exams at the end of the season. I’m trying to organise for a few of the guys to take a trip to the glacier at Les Diablerets which opens this weekend.

The guys in Chatel are occupying themselves with Movember for the next month or so and I think that it’s safe to say that I won’t be in the winners circle for this given that I grow a sort of First World War ginger fighter pilot moustache. I’m looking forward to the various Tom Selleck’s and Fu Man Chu’s that some of the more accomplished facial hair growers could achieve. Last year, Webby won it with a full on Handlebar ‘tash.

Apparently it’s going to snow at the end of this week so fingers crossed for this and I’ll send over some pictures if it does (and my pathetic moustache growing attempt if you want..).

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Back into the weekly grind and self discovery.

The summer is finally over and the brain exhaustion process that are football summer camps is finally over and I can get back into some sort of normal weekly routine whilst I wait for the snow to arrive.

Looking after 20 mini footballers and 2 assistant coaches was not the most taxing work I have ever done but stressful in its own way especially when you consider that you are responsible for parents’ most precious things ie. their children for 7 hours a day. Luckily, most of the kids this summer have been great and I’ve only had to tell a couple of the kids how it is over the course of 6 weeks of summer camps.

After the summer camps, I had a very welcome week off which I spent most of in the pub in the absence of anything else meaningful to do and now I’m back into the weekly routine of autumn term after school football coaching. This means afternoon sessions on Monday through Thursdays with long weekends from Fridays to myself.

The odd thing about these after school sessions compared to the summer camps is that they are only an hour or two of actual football coaching. Obviously the travel time and set up means that it all takes much longer but in terms of the actual session, it’s a wonder that we actually get as much done as we do. It seems so short compared to the endless hours of summer camps.

You have to plan your sessions so that they are short and sharp so for example, yesterday’s session was a quick 10 minute warm up game to get everyone moving, 2 x 15 minute skill sessions and then some small matches at the end. It helps if it’s all related to so that one theme blends into the next and there is a chance of skill improvement by the end of the session.

From a personal progression point of view the football coaching, I’m sure, is going to assist enormously this winter with the ski teaching. In addition, I’ve also started to fill my autumn evenings here with visits to the local boxing club on a Tuesday night, French lessons on a Thursday night as well as playing for the Val d’Abondance Football Team on Friday nights (particularly difficult as this is entirely in French.)

The boxing is very interesting from the perspective of learning a new skill and coming at something from the perspective of a learner. Most of the year I am teaching something, be it football or skiing and to have to learn something new from scratch is a really useful insight into learning and the ways that people learn.

I have discovered that I am not very comfortable just throwing myself into something new but prefer to talk everything through and understand it mentally before I try it, through fear of looking like a muppet. This also draws a parallel with French as I will only talk French in public if I am confident that I am one of the best French speakers there amongst the English. If other, more experienced English Francophones are there then I am effectively a mute for fear of making mistakes. It’s very frustrating and also the same with skiing for me. I went out of my way in Saas in the summer to ensure no-one saw me make mistakes and this is something I need to get over really.

Anyway, enough soul searching, I have yet more new skis, this time anticipating a powder season to come. Scott Pure, 193cm and 101mm underfoot with a snazzy ‘venturi’ tunnel thing at the back which apparently makes them float better. They are seriously big and there had better be a bunch of pow this season or these bad boys aren’t going to see the light of day.

big boys

I’m not sure if 5 pairs of skis is too much really but the only pair I could realistically get rid of are my Head Supershapes but I can’t sell those as they are the skis that helped me change my life to where I am now, so they will be going on a wall or in a sentimental corner at some point.

Bring on the snow so I can change the tracksuit for a ski suit. 3-months and counting.


Friday, 26 August 2011

What do you do in summer? – an open letter to Misplaced Person

Dear Christa

Loved your last blog entry, goading the collective ski related bloggers for their inactivity.

Since I regard the 7 months of summer as little more than an extended wait until the 5 months of the year here when everything is covered in snow (except last year of course), I just couldn’t bring myself to write about the trivialities of my existence when it’s not ski season.

Also, being an capitalist at heart, I don’t usually write unless I’m getting paid for it, hence the ski related topics of my efforts this season. That said, I often trawl the other blogs that I find amusing/racy and am also disappointed by the lack of activity.

Since you asked though, here’s a rough list in no particular order of all the stuff that I’ve been up to since the snow went;

1. Coaching football

Now my main job in the months from late April until December. Somehow, I’ve become a football coach working for a company that does after school football and summer camps. Compared to ski teaching, it’s much more difficult due to the lack of ‘dead time’ that you don’t have. By dead time, I mean time on lifts, time chatting theory, time spent skiing from one place to another. With the footy coaching, it’s full on and the summer camps in particular have been pretty draining, especially in 35 degree heat. Frankly, the last thing I want to do after getting home from coaching is write and normally I detour to the pub – see point 4 below.

2. VTTing

I admit to twice having been mountain biking and I still don’t get the attraction. Perhaps it’s because like any sane and normal person, as soon as I got a car when I was 17, I sold my bike and never looked back. I actually used to race VTT’s when I was younger and I know I’ve still got all the old skillz BUT, it just looks like a money pit and potential injury minefield to me and I’d rather spend time on point 4 below. The first time I went, we went to Les Gets and did a load of downhill stuff which I admit, was rather fun. I then stupidly got all excited and signed up for something called the PassPortes du Soleil, which is essentially 70kms of uphill biking round France and Switzerland, cleverly marketed as riding round France only going downhill. Never again and if you are reading this and thinking of doing it, consider yourself warned.

this VTT for the PassPortes - knife to a gunfight mate

3. Playing Vets football

And I don’t mean playing football with M. Jacob the vet from Abondance, I mean a bunch of 35-years + French ski instructors, Butchers and Pompiers running about on a Friday night and generally thrashing the pants off other local sides like Morzine, Brevon and other obscure towns you’ve never heard of. The great bit about Friday night football is that it’s played on better facilities than I’ve ever played on in my life (for some reason Chatel has an unused UEFA B standard floodlit pitch) and the whole game is played in French. There are a couple of other English chaps that play (well, actually 2 are from Yorkshire) and we seem to be working our way into the team on merit, with myself falling back to my old favourite role of number 5, generally kicking strikers and cheating, with the others bossing midfield and creating numerous chances up front. For the team, it’s also quite social and everyone goes to eat together afterwards and sink a load of beers (see point 4 below).

4. Drinking (& BBQ’s)

Now we’re talking. Pretty much since the tourists left at the end of April, there has been a lot of drinking going on and in many ways, I’m a little bit over the remorseless drinking culture that has permeated the summer over the course of the various village fetes, happy cow competitions, birthdays and god knows whatever else we have celebrated this summer. The lack of work at this time of year leads to many of the usual suspects (of which I count myself) constantly in a state of, or topping up last nights drunkenness . This said, in many ways, there is little else to do so you’ve got to be a little disciplined and me working summer camps this year has meant that I’m out of town for 4 days of the week which leaves me the weekends to either go do something different or watch the test matches in the Avalanche and get pissed. A pleasing development though was the Chalet that some friends are renting just by the river which has a most excellent garden, river fridge and oil barrel BBQ, meaning a whole new (and cheaper) way to get wasted.

river fridge - surprisingly effective

5. Pitch and Put golf

A interesting development this one, given the presence in the village of a European Tour caddy that plays a little bit, as I did when I was young. Ever since we found out that the course record for the Golf de Loy (6 holes – par 18) is 17, old man Chris and myself have been hammering the golf looking for a new record. We are not helped by appallingly kept greens and a fiendish 5th hold which is only 30-yards long. It completely proves my point though that regular golf is at least 12 holes too long.

some big numbers on this card

6. Ibiza

The less said about this the better but I went to Ibiza with the Essex boys for 4 days and destroyed myself to the point that it took me 3 full weeks for my digestive system, sense of smell, cuts and bruises to recover fully. I’ve been on boys holidays before but this one was so far off the scale of what was normal and so hedonistic that it will be interesting to see exactly how much larger we can have it next year when it’s actually a stag do and not just practice. It was wonderful though to get back to the home of dance music and actually hear some proper stuff in its proper setting.

the only photo that made it back from IBZ

7. Cricket

They play cricket in Switzerland just so you know. There’s actually a league and everything, so much so that I had to get my cricket bag sent out here. Swiss cricket is heavily Asian influenced so there is limited room for a Chris Tavaré type player like me here. Most of the time, the Indian and Pakistani boys just tee off from ball 1 and I’m getting used to seeing some very big totals to chase. Luckily, I seem to be in the side for my wicket keeping, which for those that know me, will indicate very well the level of one of the best clubs in Switzerland….

8. Boxing

Slightly coupled with number 6 and the gradual realisation that I’m getting on a bit, last week I started at the local boxing club here in Chatel. Not quite sure what my aims are for this, other than getting slightly fitter and learning something new but if it means that I’m more confident getting my shirt off in Ibiza next year then it would have served its purpose. (we all know that ski instructing doesn’t keep you fit)

9. Summer skiing

The skiing you know about from other blog entries but this may drop off a little now that I’ve had to cancel my ISIA exams in November to accommodate football coaching work. The massive benefit of summer skiing being so close is that if you can be bothered to drive the 1h45m it takes to get there, you can have a great time and feel like you are in another world, if only for a day. I’m actually going there tonight. (see point 4 above)

So there you go Christa, that’s what I’ve been up to (unless you want to hear about how amazing my new Kindle is and my brother's wedding). Told you it wasn’t very interesting but I consider myself chastened and I will attempt to blog more, if only to keep you from slitting your wrists about your various cat related troubles..

Yours in blogging

Dave xxx

Chatel, August 2011

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

More summer skiing...

Another week off of football summer camps, means that I’ve been up in Saas-Fee again this week for another 3-days of skiing and training.

wish you were here..

The conditions have been great this week and apparently my timing is excellent as it was raining all last week. However, temperatures have dropped and the sun has come out, making for bulletproof pistes in the morning which hold up well until lunchtime. In fact yesterday, the pistes were still hard and great for carving turns all the way until the close at 1pm.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve got to practice the stuff that I’m rubbish at which means I’ve got to spend time in the moguls which here in Saas, means zip and rut lines that you have to fight to stay in, rather than picking from different lines.

Last year on my level 2 exams, this was the thing I found the hardest and although I’m better at it now, I’m still struggling. Perhaps it’s the choice of skis, as I only brought with me my super stiff GS skis which although I am learning to love them, they aren’t exactly ideal for quick short turns in the bumps. That said, I’ve had a couple of real breakthroughs in terms of technique in the last 3-days and I feel really good about my skiing today.

Of course, with the glacier only open until 1pm, there is plenty of opportunity to do other things and in the times that I’ve been here, I’ve hiked up mountains, had my butt kicked at tennis and played beach volleyball and golf (real and mini).

The curious thing about Tennis at 1800m is that the ball flies further than if you were at sea level so you have to adjust your game accordingly. This said, the fact that the village is so high up also means that you’re getting fitter without knowing it too…

online here -

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Back in Saas.

So I’m back and so is the ski season. The summer ski season that is. This summer, I’m going to be making regular trips up to Saas Fee to prepare myself for my BASI Level 3 exams in Zermatt in November.

Atomic SL's - Surprisingly good in the pow :))

The technical level of skiing for this is a lot higher than the Level 2, so I need to be ready and a one week pre-course warm up in Zermatt just won’t cut it as far as preparation is concerned.

It’s been really cool being back in Saas Fee. This time last year, I spent 9-weeks one a gap course with the Warren Smith Ski Academy in Saas Fee which lead me to my current life of teaching skiing in the winter and teaching football in the summer. Being back in the toytown village of Saas with the electric cars and familiar faces from last summer has been great.

The journey up to the summer skiing on the glacier takes about 45-minutes, 2 cable cars and a funicular train before you emerge at 3800m gasping for breath. There are about 40kms of piste to rip and a great park with masses of kickers, rails and a pipe to keep the park rats happy. The Glacier opens at 7am (!) and finishes at 1pm when it gets super slushy so it means plenty of early starts.

I’m here working on the technical elements of skiing, things like refining short turns and making them more dynamic, as well as hammering long turns and bumps. One of my coaches from last year, Scouse, had a look at my skiing and kindly mentioned that it had improved massively after a winter of skiing which is reassuring and has given me extra confidence that I’m heading in the right direction.

A happy benefit of having been here before is that I’ve been able to stay at a friend’s place here in Saas. The friend in question is Maria Ramberger, Austria’s top ranked SnowboardCross racer who is also here training for the whole summer. It’s been great catching lifts and catching up with her and generally blasting around Saas glacier at high speed. She also cooks a decent pasta.

It’s been a refreshing few days here, almost like a mini holiday and it’s been great to be on skis again. That said, I’m a complete convert to summers in Chatel, which I never expected. I was expecting summer in the Alps to be one long wait for winter but in many ways, the scenery, the sunsets and barbeques are even better than the skiing and drinking of winter. With summer skiing less than 2-hours away it seems I’ve got the best of both worlds.

Online here at Mad Dog Ski.


Sunday, 17 July 2011

Why don't tourists ski 'good' skis?

For a little while now, I’ve always wondered why tourists ski the skis that they do. The majority of them go into the hire shop and get given whatever the ski tech recommends and even the better level recreational skiers end up on something that is a compromise for the piste, which let’s face it, is where the majority of skiing is done for the average skier.

Set up and ready to go

I’ve been banging on to anyone who will listen that what some of these better skiers need to really enhance their week on the slopes is a proper performance ski like a top level slalom or GS ski. Most people I talk to about this, mainly other instructors or ski techs, all tell me the same thing – recreation skiers wouldn’t be able to handle them, which is why they don’t ski on them and why hire shops don’t stock them.

To put this to the test, we went to Snowline in Morgins and grabbed 3 sets of slalom skis from the rack, (Snowline being one of the rare hire shops that actually hold a stock of high end skis) and headed up the hill at Morgins in the Portes Du Soleil.

The testers for the day were Rich Walker, Ross Jackson and myself, all ski instructors with the Morgins Ski and Snowboard School. None of us had actually skied a full on slalom ski before because normally when we are teaching, you need a fairly soft ski and depending on if you are teaching beginners or not, perhaps a twin tip so you can go backwards more easily. Rich skis a Head Peak 78 for everyday use and Ross uses a Salomon Tornado x-Wing. I switched all season between some Head Supershape Magnums and an old pair of Salomon 1080’s.

To be honest, conditions weren’t great for testing skis, it was snowing and there was a small covering of fresh snow on top of end of season slush. It was pretty wet and cold but being the professionals we are with a rare day off and some new toys to play with, we got on with the job in hand.

The skis we tested were the Elan SL Waveflex World Cup, the Head iSL and the Atomic SL D2 – all in 165cm length. The radius on the skis varied from 11.4m to about 12, so in theory, they were all pretty similar, all we had to do was ski them to find out how they went and for me certainly, put my theory to the test and try to feel if a recreational skier could ski them.

Once we started, there were a few apprehensive turns from the testing team which then progressively became more aggressive and shorter in turn shape. After that, the whooping started as the team felt the angles and turn shapes that this collection of amazing skis could create. It’s a bit of a cliché but it really did feel like being on rails, these type of skis are not interested in skidding turns, just carving them and many times, it felt like just being along for the ride.

On the second or third run down the backside of Morgins, Ross, who was skiing the Atomics, got flipped in the same style as you see on the TV when guys get high-sided from Moto GP bikes. I was watching from below and it looked like he loaded up the tails of the skis too much and got flipped over the top. It was enough to make Rich and myself slightly apprehensive when it was our turn to ride the Atomics. Once, he’d dusted himself off, Ross compared the difference between what we normally ski and the slalom skis like the difference between driving a VW Golf and a Ferrari (when he has ever driven a Ferrari I don’t know – or a Golf for that matter.)

There was snow.  Just not in this picture.
Once we had ridden all of the skis on the same routes, we sat down with a hot chocolate to discuss our thoughts and answer a few questions from me. Here is the feedback on each of the skis;

Head iSL

In general, everyone thought that this was a ski that they could ski every day because it was the softest of the three. Everyone who skied it really liked it but it felt a little like a compromise because it was so easy to ski. Surprising, given Head’s dominance on the racing scene. Everyone rated it third for stiffness but I end up skiing it back down the hill and started to like it more the more I skied it. The iSL rated second and first amongst the team for smoothness and it was easy to vary the turn shape for short or long turns and they were good in the bumps.

All in all, a good ski but felt a little soft for what was supposed to be a full on SL ski but crucially, one that perhaps an advanced recreational skier might be able to handle and even have fun on. I expect there are degrees of Head iSL with the stiffer versions only making it to racers and sponsored pros.

Elan Waveflex SL World Cup

Personally, my least favourite of the group but I think this was the ski being too good for me than the other way round. The Elan was the only ski in the group that was (in the words of Rolf – Snowline boss) ‘a proper World Cup Ski’. It certainly felt like it when I got to use it first. For some reason, I couldn’t get it to turn into turns properly and felt like I had to force it to turn more, but I quickly understood that this was because I wasn’t physically good enough to bend the ski to make it do what I wanted it to do.

This feedback was also reflected by Rich and Ross who rated it first for stiffness and said that it only felt like it would turn in mid-turn. Where the Elan was a winner was on edge grip where everyone rated it as a winner with Rich saying it was ‘solid and grippy’. In fact, after the test, Rich continued to ski the Elan so I guess he was more comfortable on it than anyone.

In summary, probably the best ski here but so good that even relatively advanced skiers struggle to find out what it can offer.

Atomic D2 SL

Everyone’s favourite of the test and I liked it so much that the next day I bought the pair we tested here. A great ski that offered a combination of the characteristics found on the other two skis. As mentioned before, the carbon plate that runs along the top of the ski making the ‘twin deck’ seems to eliminate all of the chatter that you sometimes get back through the ski and makes for a smooth ride and amazing edge hold.

Both Ross and Rich said this was a ski that they could use every day but when you really wanted to crank things up a notch, they offered great control, grip and they were FAST. Pointing them anywhere near straight down the hill, they just took off. They rated second from the testers for stiffness and top for smoothness. I had a chance to ski them since both on a BASI Alpine coaching course and recreationally and they really are a revelation. Long turns and high speeds are handled with ease and short turns are like being in a centrifuge.


I asked the question, ‘could you recommend these to a recreational skier?’ and the answer from Rich and Ross was the same. ‘Very advanced and/or expert recreational skiers only’. We tried to look at this from the perspective of a recreational skier but a lot of the time, we were having so much fun on these amazing skis that it was difficult to remain focused.

Be warned though, these skis leave you tired. They ask for more input from you and because they are shorter and quicker to react, they demand that you are more balanced and athletic in your skiing. I wouldn’t want to ski them back down the mountain after a two hour boozy lunch in a mountain restaurant.

As a whole, the skis were much more responsive and were challenging to us and our ski ability. Rich said that he felt you had to be ‘on it’ all the time with these skis and that it would be difficult to have a hangover day or a lazy day leaning back on these that you can get away with on softer skis. We all agreed that you could you use the Head’s every day and perhaps the Atomics if you didn’t want the risk of ski school clients running over the aggressive graphics.

Incidentally, I had the chance to try out my theory of good recreational skiers skiing good skis when my ‘project’ for the season Lightning Bob and I went skiing near the end of the season. Bob is a ski tech and a fairly decent skier (especially after all of the free tuition he’s had from me) and we swapped skis on a busy Easter day in April.

Bob loved them and is now a convert to what I would call ‘proper skis’ after an hour on the Atomics. Up until then, he was taking different skis from the rack in the shop every time he went out. I could see when I was following him that he wasn’t skiing the Atomics to their full potential by any means but he was having loads of fun and the grin on his face was enough for me to know that he had seen the light.

Many thanks to the Snowline shop in Morgins for the skis for the morning and to Rich and Ross for giving up their time to test.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


So the winter season is pretty much finished here in Chatel, with the Pre-la-Joux area being forced to stay open until 24 April. Some modern day Jonny Halliday called Christophe Mae is playing in Chatel on Sunday night and they’ve sold a load of lift tickets to coincide with his arrival. Frankly, I hope M. Mae is not planning to ski much unless he likes slush and getting sunburnt. That said, if he is French then no doubt he’ll be up there in his jeans, snowblades and jester hat.

old dog. new tricks.

Morgins ski area where I work closed last weekend because there were more cows around than ski slopes and all in all it’s been a bit of a weird season but that said, one in which I worked far more than I expected to as a first year instructor. I’ve had an amazing time working with ski school this winter and all the other great instructors that they have there. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said out loud ‘I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this’.

I more or less hung up my ski boots for this winter season after doing a bit of ski teaching for Easter and completing the first proper ski module of my BASI Level 3 ISIA. The course we were doing was the Alpine Development Coach 1 which I got a lot out of. It was dealing with coaching in a completely different style, assuming that you were working with young racers or high level recreational skiers.

It boiled down to talking less and focusing more on specifics, as well as lot of standing about. The standing about is a pleasant part of coaching at a better level as you get the students to ‘lap’ more and give them tips to go off to work on. In reality for some, it meant a final chance to work up that goggle tan.

Our assessor was a guy called Peter Kuwall who runs the British Alpine Ski School in Chatel (BASS) and I really got a lot out of his teaching style which was very much along the lines of ‘do this and don’t be crap’ (mainly because it’s like mine). Hopefully, he will be running a few more of the ISIA modules next season which will be convenient for a lot of the ambitious instructors in the Portes du Soleil.

So what to do for summer? I’m trying to finalise my contract for coaching football in Switzerland at the moment and if this week’s Easter football camp in Vevey was anything to go by, then I’m going to have an amazing sun tan come next winter season. It was about 25-degrees all week and the 1-hour lunch break combined with the 45 minutes of ‘free time’ for the kids, means plenty of time to bask in the sun like a seal in shorts.

To keep my skiing eye in over the summer, I’m planning on heading up to the Saas-Fee glacier for weekends once a month and progressing from the good place that I left the ISIA module in. I’ve also picked up some amazing Atomic slalom skis in the end of season sales and I feel like I’m a much better skier than I started the season. I don’t want to lose this level, hence the proposed Saas weekends.

My first winter in the Alps has been amazing and I’m glad that I did it. I’ve learnt a lot about what it means to live out here and how to do it and I’m about to embark on a summer of discovery to see what it’s like here off season. Here’s a short list of things I learnt this season for prospective seasonaires next year;

1. If you are a ski teacher, value your time and put a price on it. Everyone wants a free lesson.

2. Snow tyres are essential. Just get them, they are amazing.

3. Everyone gets pretty partied out by March. Better to hibernate in February half term weeks to rest.

4. Bring loads of socks, 4-way English plug adaptors, hangover pills, shorts and flip flops (it gets hot in April which everyone forgets)

5. If you get to any decent level of skiing, you only need 2 pairs of skis. A proper slalom ski and a big fat off-piste ski for powder days. Anything else is a compromise.

It’s been great blogging for Mad Dog Ski this winter and hopefully, I’ll be back next winter for more of the same and perhaps a few summer skiing updates. Have a great summer.

online here

Monday, 11 April 2011

Things I found out when my mates came to visit part deux

Things I learnt when my friends from home came to visit for the second time this season;

hard at 'work'

1. ’33 Export’ is STILL the worst beer I’ve ever tasted and the fact that you can get 30 for 7 Euros is no reason to buy them at all.

2. Playing paper, scissors, stone for who gets to sleep on the floor next to the dog (who is currently shedding his winter coat) is a quick, easy and very excitable game.

3. That none of us has the drinking ability to ‘take Cheeko down’. Of course, we have already learnt this lesson on many occasions but we are still surprised when the latest drink that he is supposedly afraid of doesn’t work.

4. (Note to self – Sambuca doesn’t take Cheeko down. Perhaps it’s Ameretto?)

5. Le Sloopy’s is still a terrible discotheque however the more drunk you are the better it gets.

6. Telling people that they cannot dance is not nice. Especially when they think they can.

7. That when my mates come here they might as well not pack ski gear because we never actually make it to the slopes.

and last but by no means least;

8. Le Sloopy’s takes credit cards. This is a very bad thing to learn indeed because it means I don’t have to go home when the money runs out. Damn you clever French disco owners.

x x x

published here

Friday, 8 April 2011


It’s a scorching 24 degrees here in Chatel today and you can almost see the snow melting off the pistes. The snow is not freezing overnight so it’s more or less un-skiable by about 11am in the morning.


Unbelievably, there are still tourists arriving, although when they get here and are seeing bikers and people riding mountain bikes through town, they probably wish they’d spent their money going to the beach for Easter.

End of season means end of season parties and a few of us spent a very enjoyable afternoon yesterday getting sunburnt and drinking on a friends balcony, high up in the valley overlooking Chatel. It looks like summer here now and we’re starting to see and smell Chatel’s farming community starting work for the summer.

Summer inevitably means finding an answer to that eternal seasonaires question, ‘what do you do in the summer’ and it looks like a few more people are staying this summer, with many of the guys finding work building stuff. The missus has found a summer job in a local restaurant and I’m working on something in Switzerland that if it comes off will make me very happy indeed.

I’ve got a training course next week which will see me ticking off another module on my way to BASI level 3 ISIA, I just home the mountain doesn’t close before then because if this weather carries on, there will be nothing to ski.


published here

Friday, 25 March 2011

That end of season feeling...

The snow is melting fast in the Portes du Soleil and unless you are looking in the right direction, you might be forgiven for thinking that we are in the middle of summer. A strange winter season keeps getting stranger, with yet another couple of weeks of remorseless sun and blue skies.

No sarky comment.  Just a pretty picture.

The locals have taken to hiking up to local spots to get their fix of powder but unfortunately for them, there are only so many good spots and almost everything including all the difficult lines are now all skied out. Personally, I can sort of understand hiking for 45 minutes to find some fresh to ski for 2 minutes, but not when it’s 10 degrees and slushy, it’s too much like hard work.

With the complete absence of any new snow for weeks, the pisteurs are doing all they can to keep the various ski areas in decent nick but we now have ice in the mornings for a couple of hours and then slush, locally known as ‘soupe’ from about 11.30 onwards. Slush is fine if you know how to ride it but it’s getting so heavy at the end of the day, it’s almost impossible to use.

Teaching work at the ski school has dropped off a cliff with the last week or so. Pas de neige means pas de touristes. I’m planning to check the records of how much work there was this time last year because if this is normal for this time of year then next year I’m going to book a trip to Canada or the US to get some proper deep snow skiing done.

There is a real start of summer feeling in Chatel at the moment with ‘liquidation’ sales going on in all the ski shops (still not making them anywhere near cheap enough to consider buying anything) and people leaving for home early. All of the seasonaires starting to think about summer and whether they are going on staying, much depending on what work they can find. It seems sexist to stay but the way it seems to work is that all the girls go to work as waitresses and all the boys go and build stuff.

We’re all still praying for the usual expected but unexpected April dumps of snow but for now it feels like the winter is almost over and that’s very sad.

online here

x x x

Thursday, 17 March 2011

It feels like the end of season..

We’ve almost got Chatel back to ourselves now as the bulk of school holiday tourists are long gone.

An agent of exploitation

There are only a few French school groups left in town, inexplicably traipsing back through town from the gondola to their hotel, presumably to have lunch, before tramping all the way back to the gondola again to go skiing. I don’t understand why they do this as they must lose about 3 hours of skiing time just walking about and having lunch. They are French I suppose and being in a hurry is not a concept here.

The great tourist getaway means that takings for the local bars are starting to drop off as the French, Dutch and English who pay with actual real money are replaced by seasonaires who were hibernating for February, running up tabs that they can’t really afford on the £100 a week that a chalet girl earns.

It’s still hot here and there is some serious snow-melt going on. A lot of the businesses here are thinking that this is pretty much it for the winter season and I’m hearing of people having their contracts terminated early at the end of March instead of April.

The main topic in town now is the eternal question of ‘what are you going to do in the summer?’. I’m pleased to say that both the missus and myself have managed to line up summer work already, with the missus carrying on her glamorous work as a waitress and me taking the first steps towards a new summer career coaching football.

Many people who have seen me play before will be horrified at the thought that I’m teaching kids football, especially when most of my career was spent shirt pulling and kicking lumps out of centre forwards and then passing the ball to someone who could actually play.

There is still some ski teaching work going on in the slush though and this week we’ve got a really pleasant group of kids over from a school in Hornchurch on a ski holiday dressed up as a ‘French trip’. They are all typical cockey North London kids and considering my group hadn’t skied on snow before, they are doing really well.

I thought it was going to be a long week when all 8 of them fell at the same time like bowling pins the first time we did something difficult but as each hour passes, they are getting more confident. It’s the first all boy group I’ve had this season and they are being typical boys, crashing into each other, fighting and generally not listening. It’s nice to hear some London accents again though as everyone in Chatel seems to be a northern monkey for some reason.

As a last harrah this season before all the work dries and I teach young kids the finer arts of how to defend like an Italian number 5, I’ve booked myself onto an Alpine Development coach BASI course which will be the first of eight modules that I take on my way to my BASI level 3. I’m planning on ticking off all of the other straightforward ones before the level 3 technical skiing exam because I’m still crap in a lot of areas and need to improve before I do that one.

This blog might sound a little odd given that it’s only mid-March but there is a real end of season feeling about Chatel at the moment, perhaps because the season started so early in December. Perhaps this will change if we get more snow. The clouds have rolled in tonight so perhaps we might get lucky.

online here


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Interview with Nico Cruz

Earlier this month I was out on a rare non-teaching powder day with a few mates in Chatel and caught up with local freerider, Nico Cruz who was off to the US in search of powder to shred and cliffs to drop.

Nico has starred in a few videos and has a few magazine covers to his name so I grabbed an interview with him for Mad Dog Ski before he left.

So you’re off to the US in February. What are you up to out there?

Skiing some resorts around Salt Lake. Alta, Snowbird, Park City and also Jackson Hole.

I'm looking to be skiing some powder since Europe is so dry at the moment. I'm realizing a dream to be skiing in some of the mecca of powder skiing.

I’ve looked at your videos online and seen the magazine covers that you’ve done. It looks like you’re all about hitting the powder and jumping off cliffs. What’s your favourite thing to do when you ski for yourself?

Well it's definitely skiing powder, nothing beats skiing powder. When you feel the snow hitting your chest and you get face-shots every turn is the sole purpose of skiing for me. Also hucking stuff is quite a good feeling. Knowing that you chuck yourself off high cliff and just land in powder.

So Chatel is your winter hometown, what do you like about it so much?

First it's where my family is from and even though I wasn't raised here I still feel a strong bond with this place. Secondly, I've travelled quite a bit and to be honest it's difficult to find a resort that's got has much variety in terrain than Chatel.

Chatel is a place that a lot of UK skiers and boarders come to. Why do you think they like it here so much?

First, it's the closest resort from the airport, Geneva and then it's a real village before being a ski resort so you got the real feel of being in France. It's quite authentic. And it's part of the Portes du Soleil.

Where are your favourite spots to ski in the Portes du Soleil?

Well besides Chatel obviously, i quite enjoy the park in Avoriaz and cruising around all the resorts actually.

The kickers in Les Crosets were bigger last year...

Well they actually had snow last year (laughs)

Any secret spots that you want to share?

Not too sure I would like them to be completely canned tomorrow and also not sure I want the responsibility of pushing out of bounds but if I have to pick one of them it would be through the forest down to Les Lindarets.

And what about if you aren’t skiing the Portes du Soleil. What other places do you like to ride?

Well I absolutely loved Japan, it really lived up to my expectations regarding snow.

The Portes du Soleil is well known for having lots of lazy blue and red runs and generally easy skiing. How did you come to be known for jumping off cliffs and getting buried in powder turns?

Well when you're there on the days that it dumps you can easily get covered. Also the off-piste in the Portes du Soleil is massive, so not much link to the colours of the slopes I have to say.

Freeride skis have moved on a lot in the last few years. When we were out the other day the pair you were on had a bit of rocker and a fairly unique shape. Does this really help in the deep stuff or is it a gimmick?

Yes it helps a lot. The fatter the ski the more float you get, so you can concentrate on riding more than lifting your tips of the pow, then the rocker camber helps the ski rise form the snow even more so it's pretty amazing.

How much time do you spend in the snowpark? The standard of riding in the videos has gone up massively in the last few years so I guess you’ve got to be pretty good at everything?

Well, people kind of specialise and in my case I use the park to train then bring it to the backcountry but where I really want to get better is at skiing very steep and gnarly lines.

Where do you hope that skiing can take you? What’s next for you?

I'm not really sure. If i can keep on skiing and getting taken around resorts around the globe it'd be amazing. The travel is great and really part of my experience in skiing. The places you see, the people you meet. It just makes you want to do more and see more. It's definitely an addiction.

Ok, finally, four other mini questions;

1. Black or white?

Black, even though snow's white.

2. Person you’d most like to share a T Bar with?

Michael Jordan if he skied.

3. Plane, Train or Automobile?


4. Top Gun or Days of Thunder?

What? I'm French remember.

Top Gun never made it to France?

Yes but what's the other one?

Same movie but with cars - exactly the same.

Top Gun then. Love the F16.

Nico is sponsored by Amplid, Orage, Hestra, Electric, Discrete, Bern, Châtel, Skullcandy, Lange and Look

Photography credits to : Jahl Marshall and Niseko Photography.

Published here

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

'For those of you still on your feet, welcome to the Aspen Ski School hiring clinic'

Life in the goldfish bowl of Chatel continues at a relentless pace and I can’t believe that we are into March already. I either need to find work somewhere that has a longer winter season or start appreciating what I’ve got a little more.

An ego of ski instructors.

I say goldfish bowl because in a one horse town like Chatel (essentially it is if you take away the tourists who have no idea how the place really works) every little event or piece of news seems magnified.

For example, it seems like a really big deal if you skip going to the pub for a week (because you have the same stupid flipping cold that everyone else has got) you miss so much of what’s going on. Silly little things like who is or isn’t splitting up with each other and whether the owner of this or that business is leaving town or going out of business. If this was London, no-one would give a monkeys but because it’s here, it’s likely to affect you in some way or other, hence the goldfish bowl.

Finally today, I forgave the owner of The Avalanche Bar, Gavin, for a slalom ski stealing incident when the Rossignol Demo Tour was in town. This afternoon, Gav effectively guided me around all the best off-piste bits in the Pre la Joux area of Chatel. Although I’m a ski instructor, I’m average at best at off-piste and I also have a mortal fear of falling over and looking like a dickhead so I tend to make pretty ’S’ shapes in the pow like I’m in an 80’s ski video and some of this stuff was almost waist deep. A great 2 or 3 hours and probably the best skiing of the season so far.

Taking of old ski videos, my copy of ‘Aspen Extreme’ arrived via Amazon the other day and it is my gift to Gavin is return for his constant ribbing about how I’m not allowed to have fun when I’m skiing because I’m an instructor. For those who haven’t seen it, the funniest section for me is the scene with the Aspen ski school ski off which brings back memories of the Morgins Ski School ski off at the start of the season.

Talking of instructors, Jimmy King and Timmy Rah arrived last week for a short visit and the constant drinking (although not on the scale of my mates from home) did nothing to shift my cold but it was great to see them. We all qualified together in Saas-Fee and we are planning a re-union there this summer for some glacier action.

Timmy was still skiing well but it seems that Jimmy has more or less forgotten everything he learnt and also his choice of GS skis for the powder day we had was not a good one. Because it was half term, I could only find 45-mins to ski with them in the time they were here but for those 45-minutes, we ripped it and it was like being beamed back to the final day of Saas-Fee all those months ago when many of us achieved a lifetime dream.

Note: We were searching for the collective noun for a group of ski instructors. ‘Ego of ski instructors’ was the best we could come up with. I can offer a spare copy of ‘Aspen Extreme’ to any better suggestions..

online here

Monday, 28 February 2011

The Half-Term is over blog

So the madness of half term has passed and we now only have another week of snow-blading French school holidays to endure before the season rolls on into March and we can get back to having the mountains more or less to ourselves. (seriously though, I saw snow-bladers with matching jackets today - WTF?)

yeah, 'piste ferme' - you like 'shredding' grass and rocks?
 Half-term week was mental and it was the first time so far this season that I’ve actually looked forward to a day off from ski teaching and skiing in general.  I've been skiing about like a blue-arsed fly between a great set of clients this week, mainly because I avoided the cours collectifs and managed to get on the private lessons for the week.

This meant that I spent a great week teaching a couple of groups of English kids to ski and got to spend a very enjoyable morning skiing freshies with a husband who turned up instead of his wife on a powder day.  (He said that this was down to his wife being 'tired' but I reckon he looked out of the window and saw a powder day and hit the snooze button on her alarm :))

It’s finally snowed in Chatel and judging from some of the places I was skiing today, there has been at least half a metre fallen in the last week or so. Slopes that were green are white again and it’s great to see snow hanging in the trees once more. Everyone in the village is a lot happier and a lot of the tension in the air caused by the lack of snow has now gone.

I am becoming very adaptable in my work out here, doing other jobs when I’m not ski teaching, things as diverse as airport transfer driving, handyman stuff and even being a bouncer on the door of The Avalanche Pub. The latter job of course, being the reason I am glad that everyone is a little less tense..

With the bulk of the season out of the way, we’re looking forward to a few good weeks of school groups coming up to Morgins for March and then a short burst of Easter school holidays in early April. For now though, when this week is over and the French go home, maybe, just maybe, we can get some late dumps of snow and then it’s all ours to go play with.

online here

x x x

Monday, 14 February 2011

10 reasons why it's great being a ski instructor

10 reasons why being a Ski Instructor is the greatest job in the world (in no particular order);

1. Free lift pass for the Portes du Soleil. 650kms of pistes to rip on your day off.

2. Ski Instructor Jacket. It looks really cool and anecdotally I’m told that it’s the best pulling tool there is. I cannot verify this claim though as clearly, I am married and my pulling boots have long since been retired. But I have noticed a certain aura in bar situations that would mean it would be fairly straightforward even for a funny looking mug like me.

3. ‘Passage reservé pour les Ecoles de Ski.’

4. It’s your actual job to blast back to the village from the top of the mountain at a million miles an hour. If I blast past you going straight down the red run you think looks like the North Face of the Eiger, then I’ve kept the myth alive that we are all amazing skiers and not just alcoholics.

5. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to make people ski better to the point that they start enjoying themselves instead of being scared. I lose track of the amount of times I’m giving high fives and hugs to clients because I’m so happy they’ve progressed.

6. Making skiing with one ski only look easy.

7. There is a certain privilege that comes with people coming to you and putting their entire trust in you that you won’t let any harm (most of the time..) come to them or their kids.

8. Getting an awesome suntan going on.

9. Being part of making someone’s one week annual ski holiday great. This can be easily forgotten when you live out here but it’s something that I try to tell myself every day. These guys all have to go back somewhere after this and it’s about making their week/day/hour as good as possible.

10. Working with kids. This is something that I am surprised that I enjoy so much, given that I’d had limited contact with them before I started doing this but I’m constantly amazed at the tenacity of these little guys. They have no fear and are happy to try new things which normally makes for quick learning and a fun week.

published here

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Interview with Maria Ramberger

This interview was just published on Mad Dog Ski, you can read it here


Maria Ramberger is Austria’s top female Snowboard Cross (SBX) rider. She was at the Olympics in Vancouver 2010 competing with the Austrian National team and came 4th in the 2010 Aspen Winter X Games.

The 24-year old recently placed 5th at the World Cup event in Lech and is a fast rising star in the world of Snowboard Cross with a string of top ten results. Maria just finished 10th at the SBX World Championships in Spain.

So where are you today?

I'm at home in Klosterneuberg, Austria today. That's a question you put a lot of thought into? (laughs).

I’m starting slowly. How is your season going so far?

So so. I got 5th at my first race in Lech, Austria but I messed up Telluride, USA when I made a stupid mistake during my first qualification run and crashed. At the World Champs, I was still a bit beat because I got sick before and spend a week in bed. Finally I got 10th which might not be unbelievably awesome but certainly okay. Hopefully awesome at the next race which would be at the Winter X-Games

Highs and lows I guess. I know that you put in a lot of extra pre-season training at Saas Fee this summer. What difference has this made over last season?

It actually made a big difference. This is the first season that I can remember that I'm not scared. I just see something like a big jump or a scary turn and I WANT to try it out. I can do the big jumps in the parks and I love it. It feels like the first time I actually know what I'm doing - which is funny since I've been doing this for quite a while now but it just doesn't really show in my results yet... which makes me a tiny bit grumpy (laughs).

Your 5th place at Lech was your best result on the SBX World Cup Tour. You must be pretty pleased?

Yes and no. I was not riding particularly well that day except for the small finals (places 8 to 5 which I won) so no, I'm not pleased. With the result yes, absolutely but honestly I didn't feel like I quite earned it and at the same time I think I can actually do better than 5th. Do I sound silly? I think I do sound silly but that's how I feel about it.

No comment. What’s going through your mind in the start gate?

Too much or nothing at all. It's different every time but I try to focus on just starting. Of course I think about the course or about where I could possibly overtake or which start gate to choose but I try to mostly think about that stuff the evening before. Once you're actually in the start gate it's too late to think about tactics.

And the ‘cross courses, although they appear straightforward on TV, I assume they are just one big ice chute? I went on the one in Saas and it was pretty full on - no time to rest or think.

And you were rubbish at it! (laughs)  Yes. If it's a good course you'll be able to go full speed all the way. If you speed check then you'll lose. As for one big ice chute, during the season there is everything from fresh snow, to slush and ice. You’ve got to be able to keep up no matter what conditions.

So the glamorous life of a SBX pro. Does it get lonely travelling from place to place, hotel room to hotel room?

Mean question! I mean you're never actually alone. There are always people around you. And as I said I really like the team and I love travelling, I never get homesick and I'm not amongst those complaining about airplanes, foreign food and the absence of my own oh so awesome bed.

Of course you get lonely, of course there are moments where you wish you'd be with the people you left behind but then again, the time of the year where you're really on the road is only three months. The rest of the year you get to hang out with pretty much whoever you like.

So what do you do in the off season and what do you do to wind down when you aren’t training or racing?

Catch up with my friends, hang out and then err, go travel again on my own! But not to see countries more to do stuff whereever. It's not like 'let's go see Paris or the North Pole' it's more like ' oh let's learn surfing, go biking, hang out'

Compared to the alpine team, I guess boarder cross doesn’t have the same profile in Austria. Is it difficult attracting sponsors and finding the budget for your season?

Oh yes! Difficult doesn't quite describe it. I somehow always get the money together but I also always get to the point somewhere mid-season where I'm like, 'this is interesting, how am I going to pay the next bill'. But up till now it always worked out somehow.

Where are your favourite resorts to board in for fun, assuming you get to?

My favourite resorts (thinks). I'd say Saas Fee but I also love Colorado. Telluride is really nice. Kind of like Aspen but smaller, more comfy. Mountain Village is this really pretty little place high up and yes I get to snowboard for fun although it never really seems like work anyway.

And finally, where is your home hill and would you recommend it to boarders and skier from the UK?

I don't really have a home resort but I spent lots of years in Schladming. It's definitely very nice there and I'd recommend everyone to come and visit but today I'm more of a nomad, spending time here and there. Wherever I think the conditions are best

Actually, I have four other little questionettes for you;

Cats or dogs?

Cats or dogs? What do I want to have as a pet, or what do I identify more, or what do I like better?

Cats or Dogs?


Red or blue?


Dance or rock?


Die Hard or Back to the Future?

I haven’t seen Die Hard.

Maria currently competes on the Snowboard Cross World Cup Tour and would like to thank her sponsors PAY LIFE, Apex Snowboards, Deeluxe Boots and Toko. You can visit her website at

Photos copyright of Markus Schiller -

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


I always seem to go out in Chatel on the wrong night. 
Snowy Chatel (just to remind you all what it looked like)

In the Avalanche Bar, Tuesday night is always a pretty big night with various themes.  Last week it was neon, this week I’ve been gearing up for moustache night but given that I had a rare free day to myself today, I got smashed up last night and now I’m going to miss yet another Tuesday night.  I know I’ll get a load of hassle for this but I’m working tomorrow and ski teaching with a hangover just isn’t fun.
After the chaos of the hot weather week last week, things are back to normal here now with cold temperatures meaning that the snow cannons are in action.  Because of the limited snow that seems to be a problem with the whole of the alps, the afternoons aren’t great with most of the top snow scraped off leaving sheet ice to play on.
This might account for the massive amount of injuries and constant ambulances and helicopters flying about.  The other night there were apparently 10-people in the pub with arms in slings and various other ailments.  If this continues on it’s going to be chaos in February when all the half-termers arrive.
I went telemarking the other day and I’m hooked.  It’s actually not as difficult as I thought it would be and it only took a few hours to work it all out.  It’s an addictive feeling and quite a difficult one to describe but it does feel so much more natural than regular skiing.  There is a certain something about the turn shapes and rhythm of it that really appeals to me, so much so that I’m going for it again on Thursday. 
Of course it will eventually mean a whole load of shiny new equipment and a new pair of skis so I think I’ll be hitting the end of season sales hard.
online here and here 

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Back to normal

Chatel is now fully immersed in the January ‘hole’ as it’s known here, with limited tourism going on and all the locals taking a breather before half term kicks in and it goes February crazy.

The Arsenal boots

Something interesting did happen in Chatel last week when a helicopter crashed just outside the village. No-one died but there were some people that got fairly seriously injured but for a town with just 1200 people, this was big news.

There’s been limited snow in the Portes du Soleil and a hot wind that blew through the valley last week bringing weather warm enough to wear shorts in. This played havoc with the snow. I was skiing with a group of kids from an international school that were up from Vevey and the heavy slush conditions on top of sheet ice made the teaching session more one of getting everyone down without injury rather than any meaningful ski teaching.

The January Hole applies to ski teaching also and this combined with the crap snow means that there have been a few bored ski instructors in Morgins lately. My personal January was perked up by the arrival of a week of private work with a delightful girl called Celia who was on her GAP year and in town to ski for the week. She didn’t want to ski with her medical student mates who were mostly hungover for the week, so we skied about and generally had a good time skiing slush and ice.

I got new ski boots the other day from the Vertical Horizons ski shop in Chatel. They are Head Vectors which conveniently come in red and white Arsenal colours. I’ve gone down a half size to 28.5 and although this might sound dull and techy, the improved fit of the boot has taken my skiing to another level. If anyone has old boots and wants to improve I can recommend new boots as a quick fix to better control.

I’m teaching some Russians this week who are delightful and not at all living up to the stereotype of Russians on holiday (except for the expensive gear and impossibly glamorous girlfriend). I figure that we’ve got another week or so until February madness starts and then it’s take a deep breath time for 4 weeks of more chaos.


online here

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Fresh fish and house guests

My friend Spencer sent me a text the other day that read ‘Old adage: Fresh fish and house guests go off after three days.’

a cloud.  as opposed to a cloudy head

After having Cheeko, Hughsey and the Afghan breeze into town over New Year, I learnt the following things after spending 6 nights out of 6 on the smash with my friends from back home;

1. When playing cards for money and drinking fines, never EVER, be caught holding the two wild card jokers when the game ends. Bad stuff happens.

2. Throwing up naked off the balcony at 1am on New Year’s Eve is never good but especially when you have to go down with a shovel the next morning and clear up the mess from your neighbour’s garden.

3. Intermarché supermarket ’33 Export’ beer is filthy stuff. Any beer that makes you shudder every time you drink it is bad and it’s not big or clever to drink two crates of it.

4. When your mate says that he is a beginner snowboarder, take him at his word and assume the worst. An afternoon spent lapping him on the beginner slope while skiing with only one ski on is only fun for so long.

5. The altitude affects friends in different ways. If one looks like he is about to have a heart attack due to heavy drinking fines and the long walk into town, by all means go and check on him but not in the condition referred to in point 2 above.

6. When your mate coasts into town from the other side of the world on metaphorical fumes and is not accompanied by his wife, there is usually a reason and you should assume the worst.

7. A diet of crisps and beer is not conducive to a good day on the mountain or fragrant smells from the only toilet in the apartment. A man to can ratio of 4 to 1 is bad in any situation.

8. Sloopy’s discotheque is sensational when you are absolutely spannered but not the following day when you are searching around the back of the chairs looking for the coat that you lost the night before.

In the end, I was sad to see the boys go but in a way quite glad. When you have your mates out to visit, it’s super but they are on holiday and act accordingly.

They want to drink tourist drinks like pints, jagerbombs and shots and want to laze about and do nothing or do everything. This sounds a little harsh but the reality is that we are working out here and it’s difficult to do a professional day job when you’ve been setting fire to the bar in the discotheque until 5am.

So boys, if you are reading this, it was great to see you but long weekends are all I can handle from now on…

x x x

published here

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Christmas madness over

The madness that is Christmas and New Year has gone and all that remains are some tired seasonaires, aching livers and a nasty cold that all of the locals seem to have caught, including yours truly.

day 2...

Christmas and New Year here in Chatel was off the scale in terms of how busy everything got. A town that has 1200 people in the off-season suddenly swelled to over 20,000. To compound not being able to get a seat in my favourite bars, Cheeko, Hughsey and The Afghan turned up from around the world, intent on turning their ski break into a stag do. We drank a lot and in a way, I’m glad they are gone as I don’t think I could have done much more. The highlight for them was me naked and throwing up off the balcony of our apartment just an hour after New Year struck.

Last week saw me teaching my first cours collectif group with 6 kids of various ages and nationalities for the week. It was fun and by the end of the week, my group consisted of 5 Dutch kids and one French one. The French I am fine with but by the end of the week, I think the skiing of the Dutch kids had improved beyond my ability to speak Dutch which goes to show that kids learn a lot more by seeing and doing than by techie explanations.

A surprising development today in Chatel in that it has started to rain, destroying what remaining snow there was in the village. We could really do with a couple of days of snow to refresh the slopes around the Portes du Soleil that are patchy and icy.

A full complement of seasonaires in the village means that the various local nights in the bars of Chatel are going off in spectacular style. On Tuesday I was at the School Disco night in The Avalanche Bar which went off with plenty of cheesy music to keep us entertained. There were plenty of grown up schoolgirls in attendance whilst all I could find was my original school scarf which I proudly wore all night. When school kicked out, we continued onto Sloopy’s Disco under the Super Chatel telecabin until about 4.30am when it was time to stagger home. I have a souvenir from Sloopy’s of a panama hat which I have no idea how I got but clearly was wearing all night as it is covered in beer and Jager.

January is supposed to be a quiet month but there are a few things going on like the Grand Odyssey de Savoie which is a Husky race but I think we are all looking forward to it getting back to normal before the February half-term madness.


online here