Tuesday, 19 April 2011

My New Blog

I have just launched a second blog at http://tryingtospeakspanish.blogspot.com. As the name suggests it is all about learning Spanish, so although not really related to the content of this site, it is quite relevant to my own career as a ski instructor in a mainly Spanish speaking ski school.

There may well be a little crossover with this site, as the Spanish I have learnt tends to have a bias towards skiing related terms. However for most readers interested in the ski and outdoor focus of this blog, then unless you have an interest in learning Spanish as well then there might not be that much to interest you, so I won't take it to personally if you decide not to spend any time there.

Having said that, I thought I should mention it, just in case regular readers are interested in what else I am getting up to online, or in case you noticed a new blog appear in my profile and wondered what it was about.

The new blog will probably have more regular posts than this one, but shorter ones. I imagine it will have less photos as well, as I take plenty of photographs of mountains but far fewer of anything very typically Spanish.

If there are any other skiers out there who want to learn Spanish as well then please leave a comment and let me know what you think so far. For the rest of you, I promise to get back to some skiing in the next post.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Three Cols Tour (Les Trois Cols)

Following on from the EMS course mentioned in the last post, we have to log a number of days ski touring before taking the exam course. My first tour following the course was the 3 Cols route in the Chamonix valley. This starts from the Grand Montets cable car (or the Argentiere refuge), descends to cross the Argentiere glacier before climbing to the Col du Chardonnet, a rappel down and a ski and skin lead to the Fenetre du Saleina and Col Superior du Tour, before skiing down to Le Tour village. This was a full day out, with 1200m of ascent and some really spectacular scenery. Thanks to Sandra for a great day.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

EMS - Mountain Safety Training

In the past I have mentioned the Eurotest and how it can be a major hurdle for ski instructors wanting to work in France. The French have also imposed a second test - the Eurosecurity - which is now part of the top level qualifications for Eurogroup countries including France, Italy, Austria and the UK. Whilst less known and for most people less difficult than the Eurotest the Eurosecurity course is a lot more useful and practical for working ski instructors. The idea is to achieve a minimum standard of mountain safety awareness so that clients can be confident that a top level qualified instructor is competent to take them off piste safely.

I have just attended the training part of the Eurosecurity or EMS (European Mountain Safety) as it is named in the British system. The second part will be a three day examination next winter in La Grave. The photo above is from the first day of the course, ascending the Col des Crochues in the Chamonix Aiguilles Rouge range.

The second and third days of the course took us to the region around the Grand St. Bernard Pass which links Switzerland and Italy (above - setting off from the Super St. Bernard car park; below - arriving at the St. Bernard Monastery where we spent the night.)

Above - St Bernard Pass. Below - Day 3, ski touring in Italy and Switzerland

Overall I have to say that this was one of the best of the many ski instructor courses I have done. It was definitely one of the most enjoyable, partly because there was no exam - not until next year anyway - and partly because we got to explore a lot more of the mountains than on most courses. It was also a very useful course. I often ski off piste with clients in a fairly limited way, within the remit of my current ISIA Mountain Safety qualification i.e. within the ski area, close to marked runs, accessible from ski lifts.
   "Can we go off-piste?" is a common question from my more advanced groups whilst "Can we learn to race?" is something I almost never hear. However skiing off piste entails all the risks of the mountain environment - avalanches, navigation hazards, rocks, cliffs, trees etc. so it is important for the instructor to be aware of the risks and to work within the remit of their qualifications to minimise them. An instructor who has passed the Eurosecurity is then qualified to take clients off piste or ski-touring on non-glaciated terrain for up to one day. For trips beyond the remit of this qualification the client would have to book a UIAGM/IFAMG qualified High Mountain Guide.