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Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors

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Where's the Passion?

Posted on
April 30, 2014
Where's the Passion?

Just over two weeks ago, the numbers of skiers on the mountain were dropping, sunny days ruled and people were attending end of season parties. In other words, the ski season was starting to fizzle out. There was one very serious meeting about to take place however, the end of winter ESF Assemblée Générale, or General Meeting to you and me. Picture the scene.... The build up was one of much discussion well before the event, and without going into the details, fireworks were fully expected, and on steroids too! Speeches and rants had been practised in front of the mirror, finger pointing perfected, and to say the local physiotherapists had done a roaring trade in loosening up people's shoulder muscles ready for the Gallic Shrug would be an understatement.

I arrived outside the Méribel Auditorium a few minutes before the meeting was due to start. Pockets of people had developed, discussions were already being had, with plenty of looks over each other's shoulders taking place. Not sure why, but I was feeling rather uncomfortable with it all, and decided to wait until my friends and fellow ski instructors Ian and Suzy Saunders had arrived. As soon as they did, one of them said "Right, time to knuckle down and head inside, this should be very interesting!" Gulp. So in we walked, the auditorium was dark, hot and buzzing, right up my street !?! But then I heard my name shouted out "MARTIN". That's funny I thought, that's not a French voice because they normally pronounce my name Martine, ie the girls name. "Martin, over here, it's Pat. Can we go out before the end of the season and take some photos?"........(More about the meeting later!)

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Fast forward nine days to the penultimate day of the winter before the lifts closed, April 24th. Pat Graham, a Kiwi who is fully Frenched up, and I met up in Mottaret. He explained to me that he was keen to to have some photographs taken for his website that he is going to get designed over the summer. I've known Pat for a number of years, but have never actually skied with him before. So it was great being able to spend some more time with him. Likewise, he is also a very keen photographer himself which added to the fun as well.

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Whilst we were going up together on the first lift, he gave me an idea of the different types of images he was after; several styles of mug shots, some 'backcountry' styled shots, pretend lessons with some models (ie his friends Tanya, Jaki and Tony) and the odd celebration idea.

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With that list in mind I had a quick think, dusted off my decent camera kit, fiddled with some knobs, and off we went to have a play. My goodness to be skiing again with my camera kit was great fun, and a fab way of combining my two passions of skiing and photography. And Pat seemed to enjoy the process as well. Plus it was refreshing to meet more new people in Méribel, including Tony, Jaki and Tanya. Mum's the word on this, and please don't tell anyone, but I have met Tanya many many times before over the last few years. She works in the lift pass office, and moves around the different lifts doing lift pass control. I kept forgetting her name, and it had got to the point where it was too embarrasing to ask her name again.......

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So here are a few photos taken from that day. Don't forget you can click on each image for an enlarged version.

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Rewind nine days, back to the Assemblée Générale in the hot auditorium. Sure enough it was a fiery event. Many people made it clear that they had grumbles; with reports and speeches being delivered to much heckling. It was also noticeable how passionate people were in a positive way about the future of the school, and the professionalism of the industry. There was one moment during the meeting that had quite an effect on me however. Several key positions were being voted for this winter, and during one of the vote counting sessions, the Director projected a letter onto the large screen that had been sent to the school along with some photographs of one of the oldest ski instructors in the school, Roland.

Let me give you some background. When I joined the ESF many years ago, Roland was one of the first instructors that I got to work with. He had big bushy eyebrows, and a youthful face that hid his number of years. He was also very chatty to me, he had next to no English language, but that didn't stop us from trying to have a conversation. The last time that I saw him this winter, was the very day we picked up our brand new instructors uniform. The usual handshake took place, and chat about our previous summer. But then sadly, a couple of days later when he was free skiing, he took a bad fall. He was whisked off to Grenoble hospital, the same as Michael Schumacher, and started his long rehab. His injury...... he is now paralysed.

The point of Roland's letter was to thank us for our support, but also to report that he had been skiing again and how much it meant to him to be back in the mountains. We were shown a few photos of him strapped into a 'sitski' which is the skiing equivalent to a wheel chair. There he was proudly wearing his brand new instructors uniform, big bushy eyebrows, youthful face and one of the biggest smiles ever. The auditorium fell silent when we were shown these photos; Roland still had the passion for the mountains. Was it a poignant moment, or one of happiness for him? I've got to be honest with you, I can't decide for myself, and it has left a lump in my throat. There was the odd moment during the ski with Pat and the others, that I reminded myself of Roland's situation.

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Without getting all philosphical, it has helped me appreciate life - and in particular, health - even more, no bad thing. A big thanks to Pat for organising the day, and also for meeting Tanya (don't forget her name, Martin!), Jaki and Tony. It was a fun way of having the last ski of the winter.

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For the record, it was also a very productive meeting to attend. Many new ideas were put forward, and some very motivated people were voted into position including a new Technical Director and members of the committee.

I arrived back in the UK a couple of days ago after another great ski season, and can't wait for the summer. Having said that, in the back of my mind, the countdown to next winter has begun already. If you enjoyed this article, you might like another I wrote earlier this winter about having 'One of Those Days' on skis, click here for the link. Blog posts will continue through the summer months, I've got loads lined up already, so please do visit again soon. Feel free to share away on Facebook, Twitter and Goggle+ by using the social media buttons. Or leave a comment below, it's dead simple to do. In the meantime, Live With Passion. Martin.

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