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.