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.

DSC02810

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

Advertisements

‘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!

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.

P1020524

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.

SkiingleMassif

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.

P1020269

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.

P1020394

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.

P1020481

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!

Have you heard the one about the….

Over the years, I have earned myself a reputation for telling jokes to the kids at the meeting area. To some the jokes may seem quite droll, however, this is to serve a few functions. To build rapport, earn trust and gain an understanding of our students. One way to Build rapport with anyone is through humour, not too much, not too little and just the right kind. It’s important to create a relaxed and comfortable environment quickly as our students will be more likely to be open to learning. Also, making sure that the delivery of content, being ‘on the same level’ as the kids, is imperative, or they’ll be lost, or worse they’ll never be there to start. Treating them too young, may seem patronising, too old, and the reaction might be ‘I have a Dog!’.

Telling jokes, and having the kids tell jokes back helps gauge where their humour is and usually gives a pretty good indication of where they’re at Cognitively and Emotionally. Some of the jokes I tell at the meeting area are funny (well, that’s what I tell myself), others not so funny, but then this would generally depend on the age of the child. I noticed that I could tell the same joke to a different age group and get a completely different response, may be better, or worse! Whether they get the joke to start with, or genuinely laugh at the jokes, roll their eyes, or vaguely giggle with a ‘knowing glance’, often indicates what ‘level’ they’re on and helps determine how the lesson is approached. And when done accurately, this helps to earn and build trust.

The younger kids (3-4yrs) usually have the most ridiculous, nonsensical jokes. This age tends to react more to visual and physical/slapstick humour. (Price 2007)  Although, sometimes they understand basic word-play and riddles.The most common joke for this age group seems to be the classic ‘Knock knock’ joke. This may be an indictment of their understanding of the world in a very defined way, having not developed language skills, understanding double meanings, amongst other things. Black is black, white is white with very few, if any, shades of grey in between (and certainly not 50!).

On a chair-lift ride with older kids, the 4-year-old might make up a joke that combines the previous 2 jokes they’ve heard, and only tell it so they feel like they are part of the group, which they are, just on a different level. This kind of mixing and matching of components, without knowing the rules, or structure, is an element of ‘Egocentrism’, where the child doesn’t know the rules or how to apply them but thinks they do.

From my experience, By the time kids get a little older, they usually have a pretty good understanding of basic (or in some cases, complex) word play, which requires understanding context, multiple word meanings, contradictions, metaphors and ambiguity. (Stern, 2010) And the older they get the more sophisticated the joke. Or, they’ll rip the joke to pieces. I once got in to an Existential discussion with a 10-year-old after I told the ‘Why did the dinosaur cross the road?’ joke. ‘Chickens are not invented,’ she said, ‘they evolve and roads are invented, but they didn’t exist because there weren’t people then.’ And so it went. Needless to say, once I had this discussion I re-thought my approach!

References

Price, M. 2007 ‘The Joke’s in you’, American Psychologist Assosciation                          Stern, V. 2010  ‘Jokes crack open brain connectivity in Autism’, SFARI (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative), viewed 10 August 2014

Here is a selection of jokes I have heard through the years, by no means is this ALL of them.

If you have any to add, please, feel free to post in the comments, send me an e-mail.

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a fish?
Swimming trunks!
Why did the cow cross the road?
He wanted to go to the moo-vies!
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the other side!
Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chickens day off!
Why did the dinosaur cross the road?
Chickens weren’t invented then!
Why did the whale cross the ocean?
To get to the other tide!
Why did the chicken cross the park?
To get to the other slide!
Why did the possum cross the road?
He wanted to visit his flat-mate!
What do you call cheese that’s not yours?
Nacho Cheese (Not your cheese)
Have you heard the joke about the pizza?
Nah, I better not. It’s too cheesy
Have you heard the joke about the Nachos?
Nah, I better not. It’s too corny.
Have you heard the joke about the wall?
Nah, better not. You won’t get over it.
Have you heard the joke about the butter?
Nah, better not. You’ll just spread it.
What kind of cheese do you use to disguise a horse?
Mascapone. (Mask-a-pony)
What kind of cheese do you use to coax a bear out of its’ cave?
Camembert. (Come-on-bear)
What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror?
Haloumi. (Hello-me)
Why did the toilet roll down the hill?
To get to the bottom!
What’s red and sits in the corner?
A very naughty strawberry!

What’s the laziest mountain in the world?                                                                      Mt Everest!

Spring is Sprung, The Snow’s still here!

Spring has definitely sprung in Queenstown, NZ. The snow on the ski fields through August held up quite well, considering the 3 and a half weeks of Sunshine and Blue skies. Everyone has almost forgotten what a cloud is, there have been so few of them. And, the air was super crisp.

P1020092

Cirrus Clouds 31 August

Now September is here, and the last 2 days have warmed up noticeably. Although the snow was quite firm this morning, by the afternoon it was soft, but not too soft. And yes, it is that time of season when there is that perfect 1-2 hour window of opportunity in the late morning, when it’s in between the firm morning and super-slushy afternoon.

At the start of the season the snow on the beginners area was negligible. Now there is at least 6 feet of snow and it’s still above the carpet. In previous years around this time, this snow has already been started to be pushed to other areas that need it more. So, there’s still plenty of snow to be skied, especially if it firms up each night. (Or re-freezes, which ever way you look at it!) The groomers in the morning are delicious and the off-piste snow is sweet corned goodness.

P1020117

Still plenty of snow. 9 September.

This is a great time to get out in the sun and enjoy the wind-down at the end of the season. Most of the multi-week, local kids programmes have finished and the mountains are open for skiing. Because there are so few people on the slopes, it’s a great time to learn how to ski & board, and if you’re good at one (or, at least like to think so!) it’s good to cross-over and try the other.

P1020119

Beginners Area. Snows great and holding well.

As you can see, there are very few people out there, meaning, for group lessons at least, it’s highly likely that you’ll get a private lesson for the price of a group and if you connect with the instructor, they’ll be available for a private, if you request them. So, you’d better get in quick, snow and weather conditions like this don’t last forever!!

 

Top 7 Tips for First Time Families going on a Ski Holiday

Going on a Ski Holiday can be a fun adventure and with the right planning can be a fabulous Life Changing Experience. Planning a ski holiday starts well before you get to the snow or even where you’ve decided to go. Here’s my Top 7 Tips to do before going on that holiday and bringing your child to Lessons for the first time. (It might even be sage advice for the seasoned veteran.)

1. Involve your child in sport. Organised or not, this has more than one benefit and may include muscle use, socialisation and independence, amongst a multitude of other things. Skiing is a sport after all and active kids get more out of it.

Sports doesn’t necessarily mean organised team sports like Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, Netball etc, although these are all good. It also includes all sorts of other physical activities like Dancing, Ballet, Jazz Ballet, Martial Arts, Gymnastics, Swimming, Running, Horse riding etc. Even the mere encouragement of your child playing on a skateboard, roller blades/skates, rip stick etc. is so much better than doing nothing, as the muscles used in these activities greatly improves your child’s ability to reappropriate these balancing skills. Skiing involves the use of muscles that don’t get used in everyday life and if your child’s muscles aren’t used at all, then the pace of the lesson is considerably slower and the perceived value of the lesson is less. (Working in Canada, it’s interesting to see how quickly kids pick up skiing if they ice skate or play ice hockey. There is a dramatic and noticeable difference between those that do and those that don’t.)

It also aids in the socialisation and independence of your child, allowing them the opportunity to meet other kids and how to behave and interact in group situations. (Private Lessons are great for children in the process of socialisation, 3-6 years old.) This allows your child to get used to the fact that you, their parents, aren’t always going to be around, but will return to pick them up afterwards. This is absolutely critical for the nurture of a positive sense of independence, especially for younger children. Your child can then focus on what’s happening in the lesson, not your absence and be comfortable in the fact you’ll return. Separation anxiety can, in my experience, be evident in children as old as 8, but not that often. And is increasingly more evident in their parents. And no, Nintendo, Wii and PS3 are not sports.

2. Allow a rest day between travelling and skiing. This is especially true if your children are young and skiing for the first time. There are a lot of new things to get accustomed to in their new environment and need time to make these adjustments. These exciting new situations, especially the first life changing experience, may include Snow (whether on the ground, falling from the sky or being blasted out of snow guns), the Mountains, the Elements, the Views. These all conspire to distract the first time Skiing child from the fact they’re in a lesson. (And if you’ve have paid for lessons, and they haven’t done this then familiarisation of the environment becomes part of the lesson. I’ve had frustrated parents assert that my job is to ‘teach them how to ski, not play in the snow.’) If you’re on the yearly ski holiday, still allow for a good nights sleep on arrival and every night of the holiday. Here is a great article on the value of sleep for children.

3. Beat the queues. Use the Rest/acclimatisation day to organise rental equipment, lift tickets and anything else which may take time and might need to queue for in the morning. Doing this the day before you start allows you time to do it and not feel rushed.

4. Feed them a Substantial Breakfast. It may sound pretty basic, but the amount of kids that turn up for lessons without having a substantial breakfast is astounding. Skiing is a high energy sport and learning in an alpine environment can be challenging. Getting things organised and/or done the day before helps the first morning of skiing to be not as hectic as it needs to be and allows time to eat. Coco Pops doesn’t count on their own as the sugar wears off very quickly and is really frustrating for all involved when kids are asking if it’s lunch time 30 minutes in to a 2.5 hour lesson.

5. Leave early as getting to the mountain and lessons could take longer than you think. Even the best laid plans can be thwarted by something minor.

6. Put snacks in your child’s pockets. Keeping warm and energised is one of the keys for learning and having fun. Putting snacks in your child’s pockets for them to eat on the lift ride up helps to maintain energy levels and aids in concentration. Maybe muesli or granola bars for the morning and then something sweet for the afternoon if they are in all day. Be aware, though, that some Children’s Facilities are Nut Free Zones.

7. Pack sunscreen, spare gloves and other equipment like goggles. If possible, have a back-up pair of gloves. Sometimes there is precipitation that resembles rain more than it resembles snow. Putting on cold, wet gloves after lunch is no fun to put back on your hands, nor your child’s.

8. I know I said Top 7 but get lessons to at least learn how to stop. The skills of skiing are counter intuitive and without knowing exactly how to stop – or teaching your children how to stop – you may be a liability on the slopes. Also, a Lesson when exploring new terrain is advisable, as the excitement of going up a new lift to steeper or more challenging terrain sometimes means that what has been learned is quickly forgotten. The last place you want to spend the rest of your new-found holiday is hospital via the Patrol Hut. (Or the psychiatric ward!)

Have fun, stay safe and see you out on the slopes!!