Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Skier Boarding

Wednesday 4th February and I was sat on a coach on the way to Chill Factore, with all good intentions of getting a solid 2 hours of skiing in. Then it dawned on me, although I love skiing it really wasn’t the challenge I was looking for, the slope isn’t that steep and it is quite flat and powdery, so I couldn’t work on improving my technique; I would just develop sloppy habits. These factors resulted in my decision to learn how to snowboard. I didn’t want to be going up and down the same slope for 2 hours; I wanted a new challenge, I love learning new skills so this was the perfect opportunity.  

12 months previous I had 3 x 1 hour lessons on my local dry slope. I picked it up relatively quick however, when it came to going parallel down the slope in the process of learning how to link turns I just couldn’t do it so I stopped having lessons. It just felt wrong leaning down the slope going sideways. Whether this was my skiing instincts coming through or because I didn’t have enough confidence in my back foot to bring it round to slow down, I still don’t know to this day. There was something different about this trip; I knew that I could do it. I sat on the coach going through what I needed to do, the memory of falling in Tignes still fresh in my head. I asked myself what is the worst that could happen; the answer being a bruised soggy bum and/or knees. Resulting in a new found sense of confidence. I probably wasn’t up to the level of what I should have been for recreational boarding, but I knew the only way of me doing it was throwing myself in the deep end and learning it in my own time.

Queuing up for boots and a board I had butterflies in my stomach and also a sense of worry and doubt. The first thing I noticed was that snowboarding boots are heaven to walk in compared to ski boots, making it so much easier to get to the bottom of the slope next to the lift. I had good intentions of going to the top of the lift and doing the ‘falling leaf’ all the way down and then cracking on with learning to link turns. Half way up my first ascent I fell off the lift, not because I tripped over, but because the lift slipped out from between my legs and I didn’t want to get pulled along hanging on for dear life with my arms. A lot of people stared at me, but I didn’t care, I slid along on my bum strapped my bindings up and got on with my original plan, but from half way up the slope. I was rusty at first then getting straight back into the swing of things. From then on every ascent was successful, and by the end of the session I’d progressed onto the ‘fast lift’. I then worked on making my dismount as graceful as possible, rather than getting my legs tangled at the top and faffing.

For the first few runs trying to link turns proved impossible as I had found before, but then the boarding lads from Tignes noticed where I was going wrong and taking it upon themselves to help me for the rest of the session. In the end I successfully managed to link turns, finding it easier turning out from going backwards to forwards (strange I know, you’d think this would be harder as you can’t see where you are turning to). And on the last run I managed to do 3 consecutive 360’s. So overall I’d like to think the trip to Chill Factore was a success.

5 top tips for skiers wanting to learn how to board:
  1. ·         Hook button lifts under your front leg, squeeze this between both legs and hold on for dear life
  2. ·         Wear waterproof trousers and also bum and knee protection if you own it
  3. ·         Be confident in your legs ability
  4. ·         Put your weight over the first foot into the turn and point your body to where you want to go, the board will follow
  5. ·         Enjoy yourself but push yourself, you will learn more and go further, you understand how snow works so already have a step up on beginners

I’d like to say a massive thanks to Jake who helped me for the whole 2 hours, I get to teach him how to ski in return later, so I’ll let you know how that goes. Luke and Kai who helped me with tips on leaning and balance. Also Justine WE DID IT!!! #ProudFriend

If any of you are skiers who have tried to board, or who would like to try boarding I’d love to know your thoughts/experiences too, so please get in touch :)

Monday, 2 February 2015

Tignes (January 2015)

So as far as skiing goes, I learnt how to ski on my local dry ski slope prior to going on a school trip to Zell am see in 2007. Since then I had done nothing until early 2014, when I realised skiing is like riding a bike, you may be a bit rusty but you never forget how to do it. My second time back on skis I decided to try going over a box, first time over went fine, second time over resulted in a broken hand. A few months later and I jumped at the opportunity of getting back on skis and this time in the form of a trip to Tignes.

The culmination of months of excitement, worry and preparation had finally arrived and it was the quickest week that has ever passed me by. It was a week of experiences that will stick with me for the rest of my life to say the least. Upon arrival we had the usual slog of carrying our cases to the hotel from the coach, and before we knew it we were up for the first lift the next morning.

(The view down into Le Lac)

I have to say now, that first day of skiing was nothing like I’d ever experienced before. From the offset we were skiing in a complete whiteout, which is challenging enough on its own, on top of that we experienced blizzard like conditions all day. I’d never seen a whiteout before, so I guess this is what being thrown in the deep end feels like. I’m not going to lie, for the first hour or two I was questioning why I was there, thinking to myself I wish I was at home. Until my first fall.

I got caught going too fast and was struggling to slow down due to the icy conditions, and within seconds I felt myself flying through the air, I must have been falling for a good 10 meters if not more. There was a few times where I caught a glimpse of my skis with the sky as the background; I knew it must have looked as horrific as it felt. When I finally ground to a halt I suddenly had a group of French people around me asking me questions in a language I didn't understand. First thing I did though was a check from toes to head that nothing was hurt, it was to my complete surprise that I came across no injuries at all other than a sore knee, which later developed into the biggest sorest bruise I've ever had. Luckily I was wearing my osprey day sack to carry water in, this has got a back support in, but it is no means back protection at all, however I still swear that if I wasn't wearing this on that day I would have come a lot worse off. I then proceeded to get up, collect my skis laugh it off and carry on, as I didn't know how else to take it.

(One of us wasn't so lucky and got taken down the mountain by mountain rescue)

That fall made me a stronger person, it was my healthy dose of ‘man up’ and after this I enjoyed the rest of my week. After this I wanted to try everything, and have my fingers in all the pies so to speak. I spent most of my week on blue and red runs; I couldn't bring myself to try a black run on rental skis with blunt edges. My three favourite experiences were moguls, my first ever kickers and then completing 3 boxes consecutively (as you can see in my video, I'll get around to uploading the full video as soon as I've finished editing it). These may only seem like small achievements to some but it took a lot of effort on my part as breaking my hand had really knocked my confidence.

We’d all downloaded an app to our phones on the way there called ‘Ski Tracks’. I’ll discuss this greater at a later date, but in short it lets you track your runs, high speed, distance etc. I aren't much for speed, but I was quite pleased with my personal best of 39.9 mph. However, what started out as a bit of light hearted competition, was raised to a whole new level by the boys on the last day, with the winner (if you can call him that) clocked a terrifying 78mph!

The final thing I’d like to mention, a bit of advice if you’re planning a trip to Tignes – upgrade to the Espace Killy lift pass. It’s completely worth the money with the new options it opens. Pop over to Folie Deux, for a mental Apres ski experience, It’s basically an open air night club at the top of a mountain, with live dancers and saxophone players! Be careful you don’t have a few too many and miss the last chairlift back though, otherwise you’ll be walking back for a few hours in the dark and with a severe drop in temperature; a few of the others in our group found out the hard way. Also I’d take a trip to the swimming pool in Le Lac, and lie on your belly in the baby pool. You may look like an idiot and the water may only come half way up your sides, but the view you will see through the window is awe inspiring, mixed with the warmth of the sun dancing on your skin, it is pure bliss (I’d do anything to be back there as we speak). Every evening we went to the hotel pool and sauna, which did help with muscle aches the next day but nothing compared to that feeling at all. The fact there was husky sledges on the frozen lake on the way to the pool sold it to me but this was the cherry on top of the cake for me. 

 "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"