Alex, Tariq – Sam, Max, Ed (Off Piste)

Alex, Tariq

On the way up the chairs on the Face de Bellevarde I reinforced Alex’s the understanding and awareness of his inner dialogue – and the need to use his imagination to his advantage. We had a good discussion on the subject on the way up and Alex could understand the ideas. Consequently, despite some very challenging circumstances that he would face – there was absolutely no complaining or negative signs at all from him all morning. We discussed things openly during the morning and Alex was able to prepare himself well for anything that came his way and use it to make himself stronger, more confident and more self-assured.

We started off with a run down the mini half pipe during our warm up run then went straight over to the slalom training area. The aim here was to introduce Alex to steep terrain in a highly controlled environment and to give both Alex and Tariq some more technique to use.

Feet Forward
Removing the skis I showed the boys how to pivot on the heel of the inside boot while pushing the outside one forwards along its inside edge and leaving an arc inscribed on the snow. The “forward pushing” is an extremely important aspect of ski technique and essential for coping with steep terrain in a controlled manner. Both boys got it quickly and so we then tried it with the skis on. Asking the boys what difference they felt it made they both answered correctly that it tightened up their turns – something I hadn’t told them in advance. This feedback confirmed to me that they had managed to do it successfully. The second time down the steep slope Alex was able to stay right behind me even though I deliberately closed the turns tightly. 
Black Run
After the second descent I told Alex that he had just skied a black run for the first time – so he could see that there really was nothing to fear and that he was very capable because he had skied it well. We then watched Tariq go through the slalom a few times and get within 4 hundredths of a second of his previous best time but in much harder conditions. The “feet forward” changes to his technique were helping. From there we had a long ski down to La Daille, through the big “half pipe” and then down a red run with Alex behind me working on dynamics, the use of the feet and pushing forwards.

From the top of the Bellevarde we went properly off-piste on steep terrain and there I filmed both Tariq and Alex making good controlled turns. Both were focusing on dynamics and had no problems dealing with the variable snow conditions and terrain – even though the steepness and wildness could have been very intimidating. Alex agreed to apply his positive approach to dealing with descending in the Santons (where he had previously been the victim of a bad collision with a careless skier from above) and by now this was in fact a technically easy descent for him to cope with. We took a controlled line calculated to stay clear of any poorly controlled skiers funneling down the gully, with Alex close to the tails of my skis all the way. Alex showed that he not only could ski well but that he could rise above his fears and not be controlled by them – by preparing well in advance both physically and mentally. I don’t think that any of this was easy to achieve – in fact it is a big achievement. Alex grew in confidence – as a person as well as a skier.

Sam, Max, Ed

Today was off-piste guiding. Due to a big change of temperature during the day our afternoon off-piste would have to be on north facing slopes for avalanche safety. We started by skiing down Danaides (off the top of the Solaise) where there was some powder and into the Le Lavachet couloir.

From Le Lavachet we went up the chairlift and skied down towards the road beneath the Signal cable car – once again finding power just below the avalanche barriers. We then took the lift system up to the top of the Signal and went into Le Grand Vallon – traversing across and skiing a smooth face down to the traverse over the shoulder and the exposed face all the way down to the river Isère. The snow was only good at the very top – and then again down at the river. In between the snow was crusty and variable – but interesting to ski. We went right down to the avalanche filled river and then climbed out over it onto the road to ski back down to Le Fornet.

After refreshments we went back up to the top of the signal and then traversed right around to Les Vallonnets – climbing over the exposed rock on the ridge. The only technical advice I gave included using a more seated position when the snow was bad, finding the maximum pressure or apex of the turn more to the side instead of down below (instead of dumping off all your speed at the same point as where gravity is at a maximum) and pulling back the hip on your support leg with a twist of the spine (hips and shoulder counter rotating against each other) to align the leg and remove the strain from the quadriceps.

Local inhabitants… “bouquetin” – a wild mountain goat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *