Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ski Goddess trains for Level 2

It was an incredibly long 2 months. Two months in which I had 2 free weeks to ski with friends, but otherwise was training 4 days a week at Treble Cone.

Each week I would have a different Rookie trainer, all excellent skiers who have an incredible passion for the sport and getting you skiing better. Each brought a different perspective to skills acquisition, and all gave really helpful feedback. They treated us like colleagues, a completely different relationship between student and teacher than occurs within the traditional snow school environment. We learnt in detail the biomechanics of skiing and the progressional steps to improve one's skiing performance. We also learnt how to teach it.

It's hard once you've done this level of training to not critically analyse the technique of every skier you see. You realise that the vast majority of skiers, even on a technically difficult mountain like TC, are barely in control due to poor turn shape or lack of adequate lateral balance. You realise that you're one of those poor skiers too.

The good news is you learn to not be that poor skier any more. You have moments when everything works brilliantly, but many more moments when bad habits override new skills. Only practice can lead to more consistently good skiing and that is your goal as the exam date gets closer and closer.

A week before the exam things began to go pear shaped. Short turns that seemed better last week just weren't working out. You get it occasionally but feel that you are too inconsistent and your confidence goes south. And we all know what happens to the ski goddess when that happens.....

The Level 2 exam is held at Cardrona over 8 days, with one rest day. The weather is superb: blue skies and good snow conditions due to a fresh dump 2 days before the exam. We are split into groups of 6 - 8, a mixture of students who had been training at TC or Cardrona, and a few others who had done no training at all. My examiner was from Coronet Peak, a Scot named Colin, who seemed friendly and helpful, but remained tightlipped the entire week as to how we were progressing.

I thought I was skiing OK, though was apprehensive about my short turns. Over the week we worked on our skiing as well as going through the teaching progressions. Level 2 instructors teach from wedge turns through to advanced parallel turns.

My short turns didn't improve. They got worse. But I felt OK about the rest of my skiing...

Then on Day 5, on a chairlift ride at the end of the day, the smiling assassin Colin gave me some feedback that I could only conclude meant he had failed me. And I still had my ski demos to do....

So on Day 7, with my confidence pretty well shot, I did my ski demos. Wedge turns (4.6/10), wedge parallel turns (6/10), basic parallel turns (6/10), medium radius dynamic (5/10), short turns (5/10).

The pass mark is 6/10, so I comprehensively screwed them up, but the absolute kick in the gut was to receive a 4/10 for the ski component of the five day session. That was just plain mean!!

The good news is I aced the teaching and ski analysis with marks 8/10 and above for that. It appears I'm a better teacher than a skier.....

I can resit the exam, only having to resit the ski component if I do it within the next 12 months, but in truth I'm not at all apprehensive about the teaching side of things. I've been teaching students for almost 30 years (though not skiing) so it's not a new skill, nor is diagnosing problems. So I feel no pressure to resit within the limited time frame.

I've learnt a huge amount through this process. I've learnt that my confidence severely affects my ski performance, particularly when I haven't practised the newly acquired skills long enough for them to be more automatic. I now know how to ski better, know when I'm skiing better, and have the skills to self improve. I know that with more practice I will get there.

Failing the exam isn't a personal disaster for me. Having discovered that getting a ski instructor job in the Northern Hemisphere for anyone over 30 years old is a much longer road than just getting an entry level instructor qualification (you need years of experience and a higher qualification to get a sponsored visa, those under 30 get working holiday visas) the impetus is no longer there. But I'd still like to get the certificate given I've come so far....

Some of the others who failed will be resitting at Mt Hutt next week. I won't. Instead I'll be flying home in Business Class, and packing my bag for the Bibbulman Track.

First October I set out.

That's next.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ski Goddess becomes Ski Instructor!

It snowed!

So much that they didn't let us up the mountain to train so we had to do our lessons indoors. Then on Saturday the 16th July Treble Cone opened the mountain and everyone turned up. Not only was it a weekend, it was the middle weekend of the school holidays, plus it was opening day with a promise of freshies for everyone. The queues were horrendous!

For those of us training with the Rookie Academy it was our final day of training before the Level One exam, and most of the trainees' first time to see the mountain covered in snow and ride a few trails. Everyone was pumped to be experiencing skiing the mountain at last, not to mention that glorious view...


Sunday was an early start, as it was Day One of the exam. Our examiner, Sem, was a dynamic lady from Cardrona, who took us through our paces, teaching us about the teaching model we'll be using to teach skiers, and working on those wedge turns again. Not to mention our athletic stance. I am beginning to hate those two words....

Day Two was a chance for us to earn some marks, teaching a (non skiing) movement to the group using the teaching model we'd learnt the day before. I chose to teach my group how to uphaul a windsurfing sail, others taught fencing, golf swings, tennis serves, and even Bollywood dancing! It was a fun day and most of us got good positive feedback. One of our group, however, was struggling.

Our group of eight consisted of 7 Rookies and one 17 year old from Auckland. Although some of the Rookies are as young as 15 and struggle with remaining focused, this young man in our group showed no focus and very little application throughout the entire five days. All of our guys tried hard, despite nerves and wandering concentration, whereas this young chap just cruised along with little insight into the fact that his behaviour was so immature that his ability to be responsible for young children was highly questionable.

Sem was brilliant, always providing us with constructive feedback and really putting in 200% to help our struggling lad get over the line. As the teaching sessions involved us teaching each other, we all tried to be as helpful and attentive as possible when it was his turn to teach, but really, the lad had no idea what he was doing. When I asked him on the final day why he was doing the exam he scoffed that he was doing it to be an instructor, why else would one do it? Others in the group stifled their laughter as he'd actually shown no inclination throughout the week to actually learn the material required to pass the exam.

Day Three we taught a section of ski progression to each other. Level One instructors can only teach from first time to wedge turns, so we again spent time working on those, as well as improving our parallel skiing technique.

Day Four we pretended to teach a bunch of kids, using games and play to introduce the various movements of skiing. Back at the hostel I'd asked our resident 9 year old girl what kids her age were into, so Miranda and I based our lesson on teaching kids how to ski in a straight line with an athletic stance using the theme of zoo animals. Thanks Elsa!

Day Five we had to prove we had enough ski form to demonstrate the skills we were teaching. We had to demonstrate good form at rounded wedge turns - you should have seen the steam coming out of my helmet with all the concentration required to do this - and parallel turns with a pole touch. By lunch time we were done. A massive snow ball fight followed....

Only our young Auckland lad had to redo one of his teaching sessions, and Sem chose four of our group to be his students. Miranda, Kit and I weren't chosen, so we got to free ski for the first time this season. I took the gang down Cloud Nine and Superpipe, both nicely loaded with windblown dry snow, and the first time I'd skied them in piste skis rather than my fatter twin tips. Happily, that wasn't a problem. Then I took Kit over to the viewpoint over Matukituki Valley, then back down to the plaza where our marks and presentations were happening at 3pm.

We all passed, except for our Auckland lad, but that wasn't a surprise. He didn't deserve to pass and I only have praise for the way Sem, Stephanie and the NZSIA really tried to help him get through. But the lad needs to grow up a bit, and learn that without application, there's no reward.

So I'm now a Level One Ski Instructor. Who would have thunk I could have gone this far? But then again, I really had no choice. My usual ski coach and mentor for the last few years, Heidi, has become an instructor trainer and examiner herself, and is getting employment outside the normal ski school. I'd either have to find a new ski coach, or become an instructor....

So here I am with Sem and my certificate.