Poles: When and why we use them.

Quite often I’m asked, ‘When is my child ready for poles?’

As a general rule, they are ready for poles once they can ski Parallel on Blue terrain. In ski school Level 4. The four conditions of getting poles are in a developmental, technical and safety sense, as well as sanity for you!

Developmentally, if we give them poles too soon, we short circuit the messages to their feet (cephalocaudal development, from the head down) and their skiing may regress. Once they have autonomy of movement being parallel on blue terrain, they won’t regress as much in the learning process.

In a technical sense, poles are used when the skis are flat to the snow as they are simultaneously changing corresponding edges (the skis change from one set of edges to the other at the same time). It is easier to stand on the edges of the skis, so when we have a moment of instability (when they are flat to the snow), we touch the pole to the ground to help stabilise us, or balance, as we start the new turn. If your child still has a wedge (or opposing edges) at the start of the turn, there is no moment of instability, thus not necessary to have poles.

As a safety rule, once they can get on and off the chair lift by themselves will help prevent a wayward pole in the crotch, eye or anywhere else it shouldn’t be! It can be a lot easier

Then, think about the gear you will need to be remembering and then carrying if you give them poles. Once they can be responsible for their own equipment, ie carry it all from your accommodation and the car park, poles may be a consideration.

So when you’re asked, ‘Can I have poles yet?’ These are the conditions.

Let’s go Skiing!

Winter has arrived, again!

The first post of the season is a little overdue, but it’s here now. It’s been an interesting start to the season. When we flew in on the 22nd, May, we flew through a blizzard. The Remarkables and the Southern Alps were covered in snow, Coronet Peak opened on time and it looked to be a very promising start to the season. However, rain and constant warm temperatures slowly but surely reduced the snow pack, leaving the lower mountain and beginner areas bare.

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Coronet Peak remained closed for two and a half weeks, from the 22nd June through to 9th July, re-opening just in time for the NZ School Holidays. During this time I was on the Trainers Cert workshop at Cardrona for the first few days, then worked across the valley at the Remarkables, which was nice for a change of view. I have worked there before on an ad hoc basis at the end of the season a couple of years ago.

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The Coronet Express started spinning at 8:00 am on Saturday morning, 9th July for First Tracks pass holders, with the other lifts operating into the evening, including the beginner conveyors and the Meadows chair, providing access to the Big Easy.

The Greengates chair continued to run for sightseeing and tubing from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, giving the chance to soak up stunning views from the Ice Bar.

Night Ski also kicked off for the season on Saturday from 4:00 pm and from all accounts it was an awesome night with the airbag on the deck, a DJ spinning tunes and warm braziers burning.

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Unfortunately, we have no control over the weather, but, this should be the start of a Colder Low pressure weather system that has a few cold fronts and southerly winds later in the week. Hopefully, winter is here to stay!

The Benefits of Playing Sport for Children

Sport has long been considered part of a country’s psyche, with its respective national sport, state, province, region or county with respective teams and each town with it’s club. Professional or amateur, there is something about sport that brings people, and the community, together.

Sport has a broad meaning that includes all sorts of physical activities. It can be outdoor or indoor and organised/competitive or casual sports. Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, Netball are examples of competitive sports. Other pursuits such as Dancing, Ballet, Jazz Ballet, Martial Arts, Gymnastics, Swimming, Running, Horse riding can be competitive, social or a mixture of both. Outdoor adventure pursuits such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, canyoning, abseiling, surfing, kite surfing, wind surfing also count as sport, as long as there is frequent participation. Although not necessarily sport, as such, Physical Play is not to be under estimated for it’s benefits, either. Skateboarding, roller blading/skating, rip sticking, though not in a team/organised setting have their benefits, as opposed to video games and chess which are sedentary. They mainly exercise the mind or hand eye coordination and reflexes.

We engage in the most play, or sport, during the times of our lives when the educational demands are the highest. Play has been defined as ‘voluntary, has no obvious survival value or is apparently purposeless, is pleasurable or fun, creates a diminished sense of time and self consciousness and is improvisational.’ (Hargrove, T 2011). Being voluntary and fun are important for children to maintain motivation for participation in sport, as a distinction from participating to win. And ‘a diminished sense of time’ basically means that ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, which has been known to distress some children because they don’t want the fun, or game, to stop!

For Humans, being a sociable animal, this is a benefit on a large scale, but what are the benefits of children playing sport? While this is not an exhaustive list I have managed to narrow it down to four major areas where sports benefit children’s development: Physical Coordination, Socialisation, Academic Improvement and Personal Development. (Oh, and may also benefit their skiing & riding, too!)

Sport and physical play are important for creating and developing body awareness. Most children in lessons will know, generally, what the different parts of their body are called. However, this doesn’t mean that they know how to tell that part what to do. The classic example is when a student is learning how to stop for the first time. They have been taught that making a wedge (aka slice of pizza or slice of anything circular or any thing that resembles a triangle) will make them stop. Then once sliding, they put their hands together and nothing happens with their feet and skis. This demonstrates a good cognitive understanding of what it is they need to do, however, their arms and hands have been used with more dexterous activities and receive the message first. The development of physical and motor systems start from the head and work their way down and is referred to as ‘Cephalocaudal development’. (McInerney & McInerney, 1998) Since it is a new neural pathway being forged to their legs it takes a little more effort to make it happen. From experience, this happens in both adults and, more so in children.

When teaching skiing, there is a noticeable difference between athletic, or physical, and sedentary kids. Children who are active in a lot of sports, or highly active in one, generally pick up snow sports quicker as they have more active neural pathways, resulting in improved coordination. ‘A child whose brain has more neural pathways will be able to learn more easily.’ (Johnston & Ramon, 2011) The best time for these pathways to be developed is between 3-6yrs.

Skiing involves the use of muscles that don’t get used in everyday life. And being a sliding/balancing sport, requires the use of the smaller stabiliser muscles in both the lower and upper body to maintain balance. The muscles used in a variety of activities such as skateboarding, roller blading/skating, rip sticking greatly improve a child’s (and adults) ability to develop balancing skills and then reappropriate these skills to skiing. Working in Canada, it’s interesting to see how quickly kids pick up skiing if they play ice hockey, or at least ice skate. There is a dramatic and noticeable difference between those that do, and those that don’t.

Developing these muscles, along with on mountain skiing experience, allows us to apply and adapt what is known as Perceptual Motor Skills. Perceptual motor skills could be described as the difference between learning to read and learning to write.(Johnston & Ramon, 2011) It’s one thing to know how a letter looks, what a letter or word is. It is another to be able to write the letter, or word, and coordinate what it looks like, or sounds like, to the movement pattern of the muscles in the hand and fore-arm.

Perceptual-motor skills also apply in other sports that involve the timing of catching, hitting, kicking or throwing a ball. These help to create and develop spatial awareness which is important when skiing in a variety of situations. When skiing in a class line, younger children have a tendency of crashing into each other, either while skiing or when stopping. Sometimes it is amusing to watch, although with older kids can be quite scary. The timing and coordinating of a pole plant or the gauging of jumps, ie. where the take off and landing are in relation to each other, which then determines what speed is needed.

Perceptual-motor skills means that we are able to see the terrain or conditions and adapt, and anticipate our movements accordingly. How we ski in the bumps is going to be different to how we ski on the groomed. And like wise, how we ski in powder is going to be different to how we ski on firm, almost impenetrable snow. Perceptual-motor skills are closely related to Proprioception.

While being physically aware of others around them is important, so is knowing how to socially interact with those around them. Playing team sport has the benefit of allowing the interaction and development of positive and valuable relationships with others their age, as well as other adults, coaches, trainers and parents of other team members.

As a child gets older a sense of ‘us’ is developed, being able to share and take turns. Seeing where a child is in its’ social development is demonstrated in many ways. The two more distinct ways are separation from their parents and the importance of where they are in the ski school snake. The former is evident in the younger ages (3-6), while the latter is more evident in the 6-8 yr old age range.

Playing team sports exposes children to the highs and lows of life through winning and losing. Being humble in the win and gracious in defeat, a sense of sportsmanship and egalitarianism can be instilled by being part of a team. Interacting and communicating with other team members can result in a successful team. Once children have seen that positive interaction can lead to positive results, the desire to cooperate with each other is heightened. The sense of belonging to a group and being able to contribute to the team’s success can improve their self-esteem and self-worth. In this process leadership skills can also be developed.

The relationships and teamwork involved with playing sports has other benefits. Solving problems and either defending or attacking on the field develops the mind through strategic thinking. Practising plays to get past or through the opponents defences, and then to be able to create variations to counter what’s in front of them allows them to learn how to think on their feet under perceived pressure. Instances of thinking strategically in skiing include navigating through the trees, race gates, or congested runs. Determining one’s own speed, the speed of others, the spacing between trees, gates and people all contribute to the child’s ability to think on their feet. Trying to think how the opposition, or others, thinks also helps develop empathy.

Studies have shown that those that participate in sport are less likely to suffer from depression. Physical stimulation of the brain increases endorphins released in the brain, maintaining an equilibrium of neural chemistry, which in turn helps to have an increased attention span. (Bilich)

Playing sport, and skiing/snowboarding, assist with a young persons Personal Development. Helping to develop an intrinsic sense of self-awareness. For example, they may be disappointed in their personal performance, even though the team won. This intrinsic sense of self-awareness can then transpose between sport and academia. Setting goals, practice and perseverance are relevant in more than one facet of life. Achieving set goals contributes to a more positive self-image and builds confidence. This is particularly true for young women, as playing sport increases their chances of graduating college by a staggering 41 percent. (Hadfeild, 2007)

In a ski lesson, an instructor was heard to say to his student, ‘Do you know why we fall over?’ ‘It’s so we can learn to pick ourselves up, again.’ A lot of the time a child only needs moral support to get up…..after you’ve walked half-way back up the run to help them. The skill of emotional self-regulation is developed and honed in the theatre of sport. This is one of the reasons that parents put their children in to ski lessons, as they either don’t have the patience or they find themselves always physically helping their child, rather than emotionally encouraging them.

Some of life’s little lessons are learnt through sport and play. And not necessarily high consequence lessons, either, but rather lessons that aid the personal development of the child. Exploring and learning things for themselves, through trial and error. The more experience they have of cause and effect, the more likely it is that they are developing an awareness of themselves and their surroundings.

Skiing is a versatile sport that you can compete in various disciplines, train to improve technique, go on week-ends by yourself or on holidays with family or friends. Skiing is a sport that can represent so much, to so many. There are not many, if there are, sports like it. For those that live near a ski resort, skiing can be structured weekly training/lessons or recreational fun, for those that go skiing on holiday it would more likely be recreational fun and exploration.

The benefits of sport improved Physical Coordination, Socialisation, Academic Improvement and Personal Development are enhanced significantly through the Theatre of Sport and can afford a more holistic development of the child. Skiing also lends itself to the positive development of children and the participation of other sports lend itself to the development of their skiing.

References & Further Reading

Devenish, C. 2016. ‘The Benefits of Playing Sport for Children’ nzsia.org Viewed on 11/07/16 https://www.nzsia.org/2016/07/the-benefits-of-playing-sport-for-children/

Hargrove, T, 2011. ‘The Importance of Play for Motor Learning’ Bettermovement.org Viewed 22/11/14 http://www.bettermovement.org/2011/the-importance-of-play-for-motor-learning/ 

McInerney, D.M & V. 1998. ‘Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning’ Prentice Hall.

Johnstone, J.A. and Ramon, M. 2011, ‘Helping children develop to their full potential through perceptual-motor experiences’, Humankinetics.com. Viewed 22/11/14 http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/helping-children-develop-to-their-full-potential-through-perceptual-motor-experiences

Hadfeild, J. 2007. ‘BYU study: Girls + high school sports = college graduation’ news.byu.edu Viewed 15/03/2015 http://news.byu.edu/archive07-Jul-GirlsSports.aspx

Bilich, K.A. ’10 Benefits of Physical Activity’, Parents.com. Viewed 22/11/14 http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/10-benefits-of-physical-activity/

 

Intermediate Telemark Video

Here’s a little video that was made at Big White about balancing on both feet simultaneously through the turn.

Balancing on both feet enables us to steer the inside ski more effectively.

The big difference between Telemark skiing and Alpine skiing is that in Alpine skiing you need to have your weight balanced on the outside ski all the way through the turn. In Telemark skiing we like to have our weight equally distributed between both of our feet, giving ourselves the ability to steer that inside ski all the time.

One way we can determine if we’re equally balanced on both our feet is to give ourselves a little hop. We can take off and land on both feet at the same time, giving one sound with the ski’s.

Telemark skiing with our weight on the outside ski, results in the inside ski doing things we really don’t want it to do. It becomes ‘squirrelly’ and acts as if it has a mind of it’s own. Being balanced on both feet means we can take charge of the inside ski and actively steer it where we want it to go.

While the hop is a really good static exercise (it’s quite challenging when moving), an easier way to equally distribute our weight while we’re moving is to shuffle our feet underneath us, back and forth, while we’re going across the hill. It is really hard to favour one foot over the other during this exercise.

I hope this helps you out with your Telemarking and let’s go out and enjoy the snow!

 

 

Ski to Sea Change

A huge life-change has led to my first taste of summer since 2008. For someone who thrives on winter, has worked back-to-back ski seasons for eight years, and has largely been responsible for only myself, this change has taken some adjusting. Rest assured though, it’s been fulfilling: the catalyst bringing me to home territory, south of Sydney in the Illawarra region of Australia, was the arrival of my daughter.

Emira* was born last August, in the middle of the New Zealand ski season. Like many newborns, she had a few minor issues at the start, but after a couple of weeks managed to settle into a routine of sorts. Since then, Emira has had swim lessons (the youngest in the swim school!), participated in local library reading groups, been cruising the area in our bike-trailer, as well as pretty much melting the heart of everyone who meets her. The last 6 months have been an adventure that has changed my perspective and priorities! I am sure many of you can relate.

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Bulli Beach Cafe

Currently I am working in a beach-side cafe as a chef and continuing training for the ski season in New Zealand. Having worked in kitchens before embarking on my career in the ski industry, this was a relatively easy change to make. It has been good to have skills to fall back on to provide a consistent and relatively stable income. The big advantage? A beach café is dependent on season and weather, allowing me to return to Coronet Peak for the southern winter!

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Looking North from Sandon Point on the commute home.

Cycling along the coastal bike path between Thirroul and Bulli, provides a scenic ride to and from work. And the Northern Illawarra in general lends itself well to training and maintaining a respectable fitness level. As well as the undulating bike paths there are bush tracks that ascend the escarpment – great for high intensity running – and ocean-side rock pools to provide more variety for swimming. Rather than staring at a black line in a chlorinated pool, it can be more interesting to swim in salt water with fish and other marine creatures!

Coledale looking North

Coledale looking North

It is strange to have a summer after 15 winters, however, it has been fun and rewarding. My partner and I are embracing the changes, and this year are planning to introduce Emira to her first proper snowy winter – in Queenstown for the 2016 season!

*For Privacy reasons, I have used a pseudonym

The Scenic Route from CHC to ZQN

It’s curious when travelling in inclement weather how people blame a service provider for not providing the service as it should have been provided. I’ve travelled predominantly between Australia, New Zealand and Canada, arriving in the latter two at the start of winter. This is a time that is notorious for volatile weather and is prone to delays, cancellations and alternative means of transport.

I have fallen asleep on a plane in Vancouver, starting the last leg of my journey to Kelowna (this was after a flight from Sydney) and woke up thinking that we had landed. After all, it is a 45 minute flight from Vancouver to Kelowna and could be excused for making the assumption I had missed the whole flight. Alas, we hadn’t moved. There was a blizzard of sorts (yes, in Vancouver) that had dropped approximately a foot of snow on the tarmac and the airport staff were hard pressed to clear it to get flights moving.

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A rare sight, snow at Vancouver Airport

Vancouver can be a busy airport and I was astounded at the blame a portioned to the airline for this. No flights were moving, from any airline, however, there were some that seemed to think it was all Air Canada’s fault. I wondered if they had looked outside and saw that ALL the planes at the airport were grounded. ‘I’ll never fly Air Canada again’, some harped on. ‘Worst airline in the world’, this line lost credibility, though, when they admitted they hadn’t flown with any other airline. Sure, I must admit that it was a less than desirable experience, but it wouldn’t have mattered which airline you flew, whether it be West Jet or United, even Yukon Air was grounded. And maybe it wouldn’t have mattered which airline they were on, they still would’ve said ‘I’ll never fly with this airline, again’. We did start to taxi though after 4 hours of stagnancy. Just starting to move seemed like we were on the final descent, the home straight. It was only a 45 minute flight, after all.

Christchurch Airport before take off.

Christchurch Airport before take off.

And if the weather prevails, however, either at the commencement of the journey or at the destination, an airline may use alternatives to air travel. Buses, or Coaches, are used if it isn’t too far, however, a 45min-1hr flight could turn in to a 5-6 hour bus ride. Again, not ideal, but better than sitting around waiting for the weather to pass. Most people, when travelling for whatever reason Need To Be Somewhere and sometimes it’s best to keep moving, regardless of how slowly.

And when the road closes due to snow and ice, you may be put up for the night in the nearest accommodation. And some times the closest accommodation is further than anyone would like. Driving by bus two thirds of the way to your destination, to then be told the closest accommodation is back where you started, leaves the driver of said bus the unenviable task of bravely dispelling potential mutiny by some, which is made easier by the good humour from others. The driver then keeps his professional cool, focusing on the humour and drives his passengers safely through the torrential rain. And it was Rather Good to have a hot buffet dinner and a couple of drinks at the bar of the hotel that put us up at the last minute for the night.

These inconveniences are compounded, though, by tight travel schedules. Missing Thanksgiving with the family or missing two to three days of that once in a life time trip to Queenstown at the opposite end of the planet are important enough to be frustrated about. So is the potential of missing out on signing up for employment. I did miss out on a dentist appointment, though, but that won’t get me much sympathy, more a shared sense of relief than anything. It’s merely delaying the inevitable. Which is my point I suppose, the destination will still be there when you get there, it’s just the experience of the journey that changes. And the views from the plane the day after were worth the redundant bus ride!

Lake Pukaki and Ka Tiritiri o Te Moana beyond

Lake Pukaki and Ka Tiritiri o Te Moana beyond

‘Nice Turns’

Q. How many Ski Instructors does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. Ten. One to screw it in, and the other nine to smile, nod, and say “Nice turns!”

Jokes aside, exactly what does your Ski Instructor mean when they smile, nod and say “Nice turns!” after watching you ski down to them. Alongside lovely, it’s a vague adjective, with neither describing specifically what makes said turns nice or lovely. Sure, the compliment feels good, however, here I am going to give these adjectives some meaning.

There are a few factors which make turns nice, and this is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • There is fluidity of movement;
  • The turns are round;
  • The turns are symmetrical.

Fluidity of movement refers to the blend of physical movements needed to produce round and symmetrical turns: constant and consistent movements in one direction to a point, anticipating the next turn, then moving in the direction of the new turn. Like a pendulum maintaining tempo or rhythm, which moves consistently in one direction as far as it will go to a point, before moving consistently in the opposite direction as far as it will go to the other point. The movements of skiing are smooth. There is no discernible start nor finish, and no sudden explosion of movement, followed by crouching – static – in a ‘skiing’ position to ride it through. This may be when a ‘burn’ is felt, which is largely due to the muscles being locked, static and rigid, when they should be moving and dynamic.

Round turns are a result of consistently steering the skis through the arc and then maintaining this effort to then steer the skis back up the hill a little, or ‘completing’ the turn. This is to help re-balance before ‘starting’ the next turn. However, sudden explosions of movement may result in the turns being a sharp zig-zag shape, and may also involve long straight traverses across the hill. One of the causes of this is the lack of confidence drawn from the skis increasing speed as they are turned down the hill, a micro-panic happens with the natural instinct to want to regain control and the skis are then turned – suddenly – across the hill.

Symmetrical means both left turn and right turns are close to a mirror image of each other. This symmetry also relates to the top and bottom of the turn, where the skis are starting to turn down the fall-line, and then continuing to steer across the fall-line. Being on appropriate terrain and feeling confident in one’s ability can assist with maintaining the same arc all the way through the turn, from top to bottom and left to right. Although, the more challenging the terrain and the more symmetrical the round shape, implies greater adaptability of skill set.

Now…you can be the judge of whether a series of turns is officially nice or not. Does the skier move smoothly, producing round and symmetrical tracks in the snow? If so, they could be considered nice turns and they will not only feel good doing them, they look good to watch! Don’t forget to nod and smile when you say it!

Let’s go ski!

The Social Cycle of the Winter Ski Season

In a conversation on the bus with a new hire down from the mountain, the line came out, ‘The cast may be different, the characters remain the same.’

I have done 20 winter seasons, 15 of which back to back. Every season, every year there is a distinct social order and cycle of events which, given the nature of the industry, always remains the same. When back to back winters are involved there is the ebb and flow of seasonal workers, summer staff leave and there is an eerie calm before the storm that is Winter.

The first snow may fall in May and this sets the tone for the preseason. A buzz usually emanates through town in anticipation of pow days, face shots and some great all mountain skiing.

Snow in May, never stays (although it does some years!)

Winter staff will start to trickle in. Those that have been coming for a couple of years will get here early, hoping to secure themselves a decent or affordable place to live. Rarely do they get both. Or an evening job to either supplement their seasonal income, or tie them through to the start of the season. Both are beholden to the laws of time and place and rarely do they coincide.

Middle management are usually the first to arrive as their contracts generally start first. This sets the scene for subsequent staff to have their welcoming parties, catching up and telling stories of the season just had or the summer they’ve grown accustomed to not having.

Snow in June, still too soon.

The weather at this point plays a major role in the tone for those flying in. If the mountains are white with a lot of snow, then this gets subconsciously noted and people are excited to have finished their between season travels and start work. Or, if there is minimal, if any snow, then the mood is subdued as getting on snow not only means having fun, but also the first pay check to back date rent or put a decent meal on the table. So much rides on the weather and snow conditions.

Welcoming parties/drinks continue, ‘So and so is in town. Let’s go and catch up!’ This continues for as long as there are visas approved and contracts starting.

Social hierarchical order is discerned early. Returners and how many seasons, new everyone has their pecking order. In previous seasons you may have had buddy in the tech shop that tuned your skis for a 6 pack, or your barista buddy for a cheeky coffee, or on the bus you may have forgotten your pass and the driver might let you on under the radar. All this for a few tips on how to ski or where the stashes are on a pow day. Unless they all return the reset button is hit and the new staff eager to please, play it strictly by the rules. At least until it gets busy…

The next excuse for socialising is school holidays. Again, how much snow usually dictates how busy the holidays are. The more snow that stays early on, the busier the school holidays tend to be. When the masses arrive, chaos increases and so to does the desire to have a post work beverage, or two. There becomes a mini cycle of work, drink, eat (maybe), sleep and repeat. There doesn’t seem to be too much else that fits in. We use this time to try to maximise our income as the level of patronage will eventually diminish. Make hay while the snow falls, or so the saying goes!

Relationships can be made or broken in the course of the season, there is a saying in some ski towns that ‘you don’t lose your girlfriend, you just lose your place in line.’ Maybe it just shows the strength of relationship or where they are in life. Sometimes after the melee of the season, things get patched up and then they continue on life as normal. The doing a ski season urge sated, ‘what happens in the season, stays in the season.’

Then it’s birthdays and since everyone (mostly) survived the holidays there is a new sense of comradery, ‘They’re a legend, and it’s their birthday, we’ve got to go out!’ This occurs concurrently as school holiday contracts finish. ‘And so and so is going back to uni/school/ where they came from, and it’s their leaving drinks!’ No one seems to have any money, until they’re at the bar.

When the school holiday dust has settled, and a routine has kicked in, the beginning of the end is made evident by the trickle of ever increasing leaving parties. ‘Back to uni or school or travelling , my visa runs out in 3 weeks’ are the usual citations. These are the people on their once in a lifetime trip (or so they think) without the intent to return. They understandably want to capitalise on the opportunity while they can. Usually they’re back for at least one more season.

Leaving parties are attended by the saisonaires that are training for their next exam. Making sure that their com is traveling with their bos. Although since their money has been spent on the exam, they’ll only go out once they’ve completed the exam, hopefully, passed it. Then celebrate once they have their pay rise!

The snow storms subsided, the longer days disguised by inclement weather, are now noticeably getting longer. Sometimes, the dark starts to the day are a cold comfort of the season ahead. When the days get longer the time for making money to travel on, or save, gets shorter and the anxiety kicks in. ‘How can I make more money when we’ve been dropped to 4 day weeks??’ More time to ski or ride, go on road trips or play frisbee golf.

Conversations of post season travels are starting. Booking flights, accommodation and anything else starts happening. Decisions are made and locked in as the money becomes apparent. Another conversation is next season, this sometimes helps to determine between season travels. The winter staff tropical caravan making their way through various cost effective destinations that lend themselves to travel photographers and a disturbing amount of hash tags. It should also be noted for the first week the only tan they have is a goggle tan on an otherwise luminescent (Lumi-dermi-escence) and pasty lustre.

The winter population subsides, and the end of season staff parties are in full swing. The single twenty-somethings making a last ditch effort to hook up with their crush for the season (if they haven’t already) in the haze of the school holidays. ‘Serial monogamy’ is the condition of getting in to a relationship at the start off the season, remaining faithful for the duration of the season, and only the season. Sometimes stretching to post season travels, and rarely past that. Then the next season in to a new relationship again, remaining faithful for the season.

Departure parties have slowed and the final day has been done. Now all that is left is to finalise the packing. Deciding what gets left in storage, if it can be found, what comes with you and what gets discarded, either at the charity shop or landfill. Nothing compares to the friends you’ve made, experiences enjoyed or endured and the anticipation of the next season. Ready to start the cycle again.

Remember, the cast may be different, but the characters remain the same!

Let’s go ski!

6 Tips for the Start of your Ski Holiday….or Season.

I remember, as a child going on ski holidays, the anticipation of exploring the mountain, thinking that I could just pick up where I left off the year before. I had memories of hurtling down the hill as fast as a could, trying to keep up with my older siblings, or racing them to the bottom. But when we actually got to the skiing bit, my legs seemed like they hadn’t remembered anything from the year before and my coordination was lacking. What was going on?

It was highly frustrating. Of a 5 day holiday, the first 2 days were spent trying to get my legs back. By the middle of the holiday I was back to where I was on the last day of the previous holiday. And then it was the last couple of days that it felt like I actually made any progress. Even though this was the case when I was a recreational skier, these days I’ll have approximately 6-8 weeks off snow between seasons, instead of 358 days between ski holidays and I still take it easy at the start of the season, about 2 weeks, to get my legs back and warm into it.

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Keen on Green to get your legs back

Here are some tips for preventing injuries at the start of your holiday (or season).

1. Start Mellow. If you were skiing Blue runs last year, go to the Green runs. If you were skiing Blacks, go back to Blue. Keeping the terrain easy will help you to focus on what you are doing, rather than where you are going. Skiing with-in your comfort zone also boosts confidence.

2. Start Slow. Yes, you remember beating buddy down the hill last year and you were bought a drink because of it, however that was last year. Going too fast, too soon gives you less response time to avoid objects or people. Also, the faster you go and the more sudden the movement in a way you didn’t intend, poses the risk of tearing a muscle or ligament, amongst other injuries. Slow down, take it easy you have all week (or however long you’re on holiday for). It’s not a race to the Patrol Hut!

3. Keep hydrated. Your muscles will need it. Firstly, they haven’t been used in the same way since last year and you are, more than likely, going to be at a higher altitude than you normally are (unless you are skiing at le Massif, Quebec, at relative sea-level). The combination of lower air pressure and lower humidity means that moisture evaporates from the skin and lungs faster than at lower altitudes. And, it’s been reported that, for some reason, many people do not feel as thirsty in higher altitudes as they should. All great reasons to drink water frequently.

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Skiing at le Massif, Quebec

4. Keep your energy levels up by eating a substantial meal the night before and breakfast each day. Again, the combination of being at altitude, which may slightly increase your metabolism, and physical exercise, in the form of skiing are 2 great reasons to eat without guilt. You need energy to make good judgements and decisions, and to stay alert.

5. Dynamic stretching before, during and after your days skiing. This is really good for keeping warm as well as stretching the main muscles used for skiing. Swinging your legs back and forth, diagonally, and with the arch forward, like kicking a soccer ball, helps to stretch the hip flexor, gluteus, adductor’s & abductors.

6. And remember to call it a day. A lot of injuries are caused by fatigue at the end of the day. And try to avoid the ‘One last run’ syndrome. Your last run should be the one you just did.

If you are thinking of a lesson, I recommend going in the afternoon of your first day. This will ensure that you have enough of your legs back to get the most value. Then for the rest of the time having a lesson in the morning so that you have the afternoon to spend as you wish. Although having said this, a lot of resorts have priced the afternoon cheaper than the morning for this reason. Check the pricing and see what works best for you.

These tips are not a guarantee that you definitely won’t get injured, however, it will be more likely that you will go the distance. Taking it easy at the start of each season has paid dividends for me later on, and I hope it does for you.

What are some of your early holiday warm-up rituals?

Fall brings the Winter…

It’s Amazing how much snow makes a difference. And not necessarily just snow, but how much snow. Till 9am Wednesday morning, we had 35cms. Not the biggest of dumps, but considering 2 weeks ago weather and conditions reminded me more of a drizzley Vancouver Island in spring, a notable dump. Transforming the mountain, from idyllic mountain hiking, to the pre-season snow, cat-packing and preparing the pistes for skiing and riding.

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5th November, Needs Snow.

Although there was no snow on the bottom half of the mountain and it felt like an alternate
reality (this was the first time in 10 years I’ve returned there was absolutely no snow at the village), getting an idea of what we ski over was enlightening. The size of the rocks and the sheer amount of snow needed to open the resort was quite a lot more than I had anticipated. I had heard stories, however, it was good to see it with my own eyes. And the transformation has been comforting.

Hiking around the mountain without the amount of snow that I’m accustomed to was, as I said, enlightening. Amongst the rocks, were streams and creeks that were starting to freeze over. When they started to freeze, the water level was higher, leaving an ice-shelf resembling the consistency of molten glass that had set, leaving layers as the water level dropped. Some were thicker than others and the patterns that were left were reminiscent of psychedelic, monochromatic blown glass.

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Water frozen at different levels as the water subsides

Having such a large dump from relatively minimal coverage means that there is a lot of snow to plough from roads, car parks, drive ways and paths. However, it also means that there’s a back log of piste packing as well. All the creeks, drainage, dips, gullies and any thing else that needs snow packed in it, gets’ snow pushed in to it and smoothed off, like masses of frigid plaster, eventually creating a delicious, consistent, groomed surface we’ve grown so accustomed to skiing on. Some resorts do ‘Summer Grooming’, which removes large rocks, logs and other materials which would poke through a shallow snow accumulation so that we can either ski earlier in the season, or on less snow, or both.

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28th November. Have snow, needs to be groomer packed.

Before the snow fall (when it was relatively green), there seemed to be a lack of confidence as to whether we would open on the week-end, however, the snow during the last week has, hopefully, set the base for the season. The groomers have pushed snow and filled in the creeks, dips, gullies and the pistes will be prepared for the Opening Day tomorrow. And there has been a certain buzz in the Village, as new and returning staff prepare for the up-coming season. As it seems that we are back to the seasonal average of snow, things are looking up! Now that we are open, let’s go for a ski!