Saturday, 29 December 2007

First Week Over

My first week's work for this season has finished. I had a group of 10 - 12 year olds in the mornings and private lessons in the afternoons. It has been really good to be teaching again, and it has been an easier than expected week with less people in resort. The downside is getting less money from what should be one of the busiest weeks of the season. I find private lessons give a really interesting mix of people to teach - you never know who will walk into the ski school office to book a lesson. On the other hand, teaching a group can be a real buzz as you get to know ev erybody over the week and watch them progress. The kids group were complete beginners on Monday and were flying around the mountain by Friday. Kids tend to be easier to teach than adults, as they just need a simple explanation or demonstration and will pick it up straight away. On the other hand, the children can take more class management skills, as they don't always do what they are told. An instructor's worst nightmare is losing a child on the mountain. When skiing with kids I am constantly counting heads and keeping an eye out for the one who spots a parent and disappears to say hello.

Friday, 28 December 2007

First 70s night of the winter

I seem to have been a bit slack with the blog this week - apologies to regular readers. This week the season has begun in earnest, although it is still quieter than usual, and there has been a series of Christmas parties and meals. I think I need to take a couple of days to recover and sober up, however tonight is the first El Cau 70s Night of the season, so I guess that won't happen. The 70s Night here is kind of the finale of the week - incredibly cheesy, and not normally my thing but always a lot of fun. Fridays are always busy, there are ski school presentations to do, where we meet our group to give out certificates and medals, often there is a meal out, then the walk up the road to the 70s Night usually turns into a pub crawl taking in various venus in town. The rest of the weekend should provide a chance to take it easy, as Saturdays here tend to be a lot quieter. Here are a couple of photos of the 70s Night. Normal service (more posts, more skiing) should resume next week.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

To Open a Piste or Not?

Back in Arinsal, nearly everything is open - all the major lifts and major runs are open as is the cable car over to Pal. The approach this year seems to have been very conservative - runs have been kept closed long after they have been ready to open. Snow has been made and pistes have been groomed, tended and prepared but only a limited area has been open until this week.

This is a marked contrast to the the Granvalira resorts on the other side of Andorra. I took a trip over there last weekend and all the links between resorts were open, and on paper at least a large proportion of the runs were open. However on most of the runs the grass was showing through the snow and my skis took a fair bit of damage from exposed rocks. On the other hand it was quite a pleasant change to be able to cover some ground and feel like we were travelling somewhere rather than just doing laps. I am not sure which is the better approach - I am sure both ski areas have their reasons but I would have thought the middle ground would be
more appropriate; opening all the runs that are ready whilst keeping the grassy, rocky ones shut.

5.5 Seconds

Well, I'm back from the Eurotest now and have a lot of time to make up. As the headline says, I was 5.5 seconds off the pass time, which might not sound a lot but will take a lot of work to knock off. My lack of race experience really became evident on the day.

All in all it was quite a mission for the sake of two runs. Eight hours across France on Tuesday, and the same on Wednesday to get back. Skiing wise I got two race runs, course inspections and a couple of warm ups. Still, I did get to ski in the Alps for a morning, which does not happen often considering I live in the Pyrenees.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Off to the Eurotest

Just a quick note today, as I am off to Alp D'Huez early in the moring for the Eurotest. I have spent the afternoon servicing and tuning my skis, so am as ready as I can be for my first attempt.

For those who are wondering what the test entails, it is a Giant Slalom (GS) race run to F.I.S. rules. The pass time is equivalent to a zero F.I.S. points time (i.e. World Cup winning time) plus 15 percent. In practice the actual time is arrived at by taking the times of a series of openers, and adjusting them downwards to arrive at the theoretical zero F.I.S. time. The fasted adjusted time of all the openers is the one used.

I'll be back Thursday, so I will report how I got on.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Parking Ticket in Tignes

I thought I would post this warning notice I recieved whilst in Tignes. I was struck by how politlely it was written, albeit with the picture of a car being towed away, just in case anyone didn't get the message. I was also quite impressed that I was given a warning, rather than just being towed and fined (as happened to me last year in Andorra, despite being parked legally at the time but that's another story).

The text reads:

You are committing an offence

We are most pleased that you have decided to visit Tignes ond we hope that you will enjoy your stay in our resort. However, we draw your attention on the fact that you are committing an offence. Your car is going to be towed away as stipulated in the municipal by-law of 20/11/2000 and article 417-10 of the highway code. For your comfort and pleasure, we ask you to go back to one of the 2700 indoor parking places or one of the 750 outdoor parking places that the resort puts at your disposal. Thank you for your co-operation.

It amused me somwhat to be thanked for my visit in a parking ticket - I cannot see that happening back in England somehow.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Don't let your water bottle freeze

Here are a couple of photos of my water bottle that I took to Tignes. I have posted them to demonstrate what happens when you leave a full bottle of water in the car overnight and the temperature drops to -20 degrees centigrade. In the close up, you can just see the ice coming out through the crack. This is a metal Sigg bottle by the way - the sort I thought was virtually indestructible.

Back in Arinsal, conditions on the mountain are already better than most of last season. We have been skiing powder all day, and despite a bit of wind last night, most of the snow has stuck and we seem to have a pretty good base for the time of year.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Snow, snow, snow!

Just a quick post as it is chucking it down with snow so I am heading out to the pub to plan tomorrow's skiing and then getting an early night. We had six inches of fresh snow in the village last night and it has carried on all day. I was itching to get out there, but I had my second immigration medical down in Andorra La Vella, which ate up the middle of the day. So I'm really looking forward to getting up there manana.

For the last week I have endured gloating messages from friends in France and Switzerland, so now finally it is our turn. Not that I'm at all excited about the first big snow of the season.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Stolen Ski Gear

As I mentioned in my post yesterday I am back in Arinsal and following the paper chase of getting a work permit. There is not a lot of interest to be written about that, so I will use the next few posts to write a bit more about my fortnight in Tignes race training. I keep hearing reports about how much snow there is there now, and how they have had to cancel the training and go skiing powder. How my heart bleeds for them...

Anyway, I thought I would share my thoughts on security in the mountains. Not in the European sense of mountain safety, but in the sense of avoiding having your gear stolen. This is prompted by the fact that I had a rucksack stolen last week, containing my trainers, sunglasses, spare clothes and lunch. The same day, I know of at least one person who had his skis stolen. Unfortunately the setup of most ski resorts makes things far too easy for the dishonest amongst us (this is where I'm ready to type a string of expletives, but I'm trying to keep the blog clean so I'll grit my teeth and continue). Everybody who goes up the mountain has at least one valuable item with them - a pair of skis - and most people will stop to eat or drink in a mountain restaurant at some point. Since mountain restaurants do not generally allow skis inside, large numbers of skis are left leaning against the wallsoutside, just waiting for some nasty so-and-so to walk off with them.

So, what can we do - the simplest way to make life a little more difficult for the thieves is simply to split pairs of skis. This takes a second to do but hardly anybody does it. Just swap one ski with a friend and put the two odd pairs in different racks. The would be thief then has to hunt for two pairs before they can steal one, and will most likely not bother. If everybody split their skis it would be a lot harder for the bad people (running out of polite synonyms now) to get away with anything. This doesn't help the snowboarders much - probably the best thing there is to invest in a cable lock and run it through the bindings. And if you are on a training course or camp and have to leave a bag somewhere (like me), the top of the lane or the bottom of the park might be a better place than the restaurant as more people from your group will be passing it.

So, back to Arinsal where tonight El Cau, a bar in the village, are having their second opening party for the season. The reason I mention this is that they have been advertising it on RTVA, the Andorran TV channel, all yesterday and today. It is not often that I get to go to a party advertised on national TV - never in England, but this is Andorra. I will leave you with a photo of the bar in question one (beach) party night last year.

Friday, 7 December 2007

I'm Back

Well, after three weeks of wi-fi hotspots I now have a steady internet connection again. In a remarkable example of Andorran efficiency, I ordered a phone and ADSL connection on Wednesday morning and had it switched on by Thursday afternoon. I even had a phone call from the phone company today, just to ask if everything was working. If only BT could match that when I'm back in England.

I am about half way through the immigration process here now - I have visited EFPEM (the governing body for all sports and mountain instructors here) twice, the ski school, the Vallnord office, immigration (twice) and the hospital for a blood test and chest X-ray. I just have two more trips to imigration now, once to see a doctor and once to hopefully pick up my green card. So it is all pretty straightforward really. The non-EU residents working here have even more hoops to jump through.

I am still lacking a USB lead for my phone, so no new photos until I can get one sent over. In the meantime here is an picture of the bar where I have been spending most of my evenings recently, since it is about 30 seconds' walk from my front door. There is not much to see here today anyway - it is grey and rainy, but hopefully snowing higher up. The slopes are crowded as only a few runs have opened so far and it is a bank holiday weekend in Spain. However things are better than this time last year, and snow is forecast so things should be looking good by the Christmas holidays.