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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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It's Just The Basics Performed Really Well

Posted on
November 2, 2018

Hi everybody, and welcome back to your favourite blogging Méribel ski instructor. This time, I'm somehow going to be talking about apres-ski live music, the Robert Cray Band live in Warwick, and effortless skiing! How on earth will all of this combine? Let's go on the journey together and see where it takes us. A few months ago Harriet my wife booked a couple of tickets to see The Robert Cray Band at Warwick University. I had a vague memory of them back in the day (1980s), and was surprised to hear that they were still touring. To be honest, we hadn't been to a live gig in years, and the most recent live music experiences have been at La Folie Douce mountain restaurant and bars down in Méribel during apres-ski.

Now, don't get me wrong, and I really hope that I'm not coming across as knocking the quality of the bands that tour the Alps in winter - however to me it's not surprising that they haven't been signed up by Sony, Warner Bros and other major record labels with multi-million pound deals. They provide a great atmosphere, and people love this type of apres. Fun times yes, mind blowing music.......? Going back to the Robert Cray concert last week, it was incredible. A guy well into his sixties, he genuinely hit every single note whilst singing, and his guitar playing was beyond inspirational. Plus his drummer was out of this world - his versatility and flow whilst smashing out the beats was incredible. How he produced this in what appeared to be an effortless manner was beyond me. So then I got thinking during the concert, whilst tapping my feet and nodding my head in probably not a cool way - why the difference in quality between Robert Cray, and the apres-ski bands?

Granted, I'm sure talent does play a part. That's why there will always be a slight difference between the Olympic gold medallists, and those that finish in a ski race 'down' in 30th place. (You may see how I'm gently linking this post to skiing, by the way) I'm guessing that Robert C and his band mates have had considerable training and coaching from an early age. I don't know this for certain, but I suspect that the coaching they received provided them with the basics in order to build a successful career in music - and then they built on this, and practised, practised even more - and then repeated these basics until their technique eventually became autonomous.

With the skiers I mentioned a second ago finishing in 30th position at the Olympics or World Cup races, are they rubbish skiers because they didn't win? Not a chance, they are mind-blowing skiers, I've skied with several of them over the years and they make me look like a clumsy Gumby on skis!

These elite skiers are very very good at the basics of ski technique, in particular balance. They can stay balanced on very steep, icy, bumpy, challenging terrain. I remember skiing with one of my Swiss race coaches over fifteen years ago in New Zealand, called Kobi. He was ex-Swiss national team on the World Cup. Sorry for the name dropping, it's really not my style, however I want to get across that not only did he talk the talk, or could really walk the walk (on skis if you see what I mean). He trained me for a few months, and kept his feedback nice and straightforward for me. Whatever free run or race course I had skied and had filmed, his feedback to help me improve was always patient and simple - breaking down my balance. I'm not saying that balance is the be all and end all of great skiing, there are of course many other elements that help with this outcome, however it plays a major part.

Gilly keeping her balance on a very steep section off to the side of a black piste in Val Thorens

Whenever a recreational skier's performance begins to break down, and affects their control and enjoyment, it's normally balance that is the culprit. Granted, a change of steepness, quality of snow, or reduction of visibility will definitely alter our enjoyment. However lack of general basic skills with balance will inhibit our performance. A beginner skier who starts picking up speed and heads out of control will either have turn shape issues, or noticeable balance weaknesses. An intermediate skier struggling on a steep red piste or bumpy black piste may again have turn shape issues, but also balance weaknesses. Oh and an advanced skier feeling great when on a nice cruising piste, but starts to struggle off-piste or when the powder snow falls, guess what? Yep, basic turning (or steering) and basic balance can help or inhibit depending on skill level.

Free skiing a couple of winters ago with some colleagues.

A couple of winters ago, the ESF ski school asked me to go for a ski with some selected instructors and photograph the day for marketing purposes. It was an amazing experience, skiing with some of my colleagues in lovely conditions, and shooting at the same time. The skill level of these skiers was sublime; I'm guessing a few of them came from the valley and began skiing soon after learning to walk. The local ski club would've instilled very good and stable technique from such a young age - hence my colleagues looked as though they skied with no effort whatsoever.

One of my best mates is called Slippers (he answers to the name of Tim as well). He is also a ski instructor, based over in Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz for the majority of the winter, and has featured on this blog page several times over the years. We often get to ski together in November and December each year. And a few winters ago we were skiing in Tignes, on the Grande Motte glacier. There is a steep black piste up there called Leisse, which is a real beauty. We were both positioned a few metres off to the side of the piste - Slippers wanted some photos for 'Torico Performance Skiing', his skiing company. Me being a sucker for skiing and taking a few pics at the same time went along for the ride, and I captured this shot below. It was steep, and Slippers skied it with high-rhythm short turns, and looked great - flawless in fact. "How was it?" I asked with a smile. He wasn't happy when he replied, "I got caught out on the tails of my skis with a couple of turns." In other words, the basics weren't quite right, albeit on such challenging terrain!

Here is Slippers skiing to the side of a black piste

There's good news everybody - and I really hope this post doesn't sound like all recreational skiers are clumsy Gumbys on skis - you are not. Steering the skis and fine-tuning our balance doesn't have to be complicated. If your skiing performance has been observed by a trained eye, you are halfway there. The secret then is for your coach or instructor to choose appropriate terrain to practise, and for them to suggest achievable goals, giving feedback and recommendations on how you can develop. The basics of skiing can really be simple and straight-forward, or another way of putting it is....... basic. I hope that doesn't sound patronising, because I really don't mean it to be. Technique can be simple; putting it into practise is the challenging part - or an opportunity, depending on your mindset.

Am I really making it sound as though skiing is basic and simple? No, not a chance, it's not. The theory of technique can be and should be, however there are so many variables that can affect the outcome. Fine-tuning technique can make a massive difference to our performance and enjoyment. Do you think Robert Cray and his band would've succeeded in their career with poor basic music technique, along the lines of some of the alpine ski resort touring bands that we see every winter? Nope, I don't think so. However, I'll happily share a pint with you during apres-ski whilst listening to music, and tapping my ski boot in rhythm but still nodding away in an un-cool fashion. Rock on. As long as my balance isn't affected the next morning !?!

I hope you enjoyed my first ski technique blog of the winter. If so you might like to see my previous post if you missed it, click here for the link, about a recent skiing experience. Hands up who is getting excited about this coming winter, me too. Only a few weeks now until the ski lifts open. Live With Passion. Martin.

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With our skills- based system of learning, we give you the tools to safely negotiate any demands the mountains make on you, helping you to increase your comfort zone and ski in a wider range of conditions. Whether you are a nervous novice, a blue piste cruiser or an all mountain adventurer, we tailor your ski lessons to create a perfect fit. The question is, which one are you?

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