Meet Ben Arkley

We sat down with BASI NET team members and asked them about their journey through the BASI system. We all know that going through the BASI system (or any other instructing system) can sometimes feel hard. We wondered how these BASI members were successful in their journey. What we found were stories that are universal to anyone trying to develop at something. We thought we would share these stories with the hope that they inspire snowsport instructors to continue learning and developing in the sport they love.

Ben

Ben was ski racing on dry ski slopes as a teenager when he went on his first BASI course at age 17. His interest in ski instructing was inspired by the course trainer, he said “I watched the trainer with the other BASI students and I couldn’t believe how much better everyone got at skiing during the week. I was interested in how the trainer got everyone better”.
 
When you interact with Ben what strikes you is his thoughtful consideration of everything that is going on around him. This quality has allowed him to find opportunities for development that might have passed others by. As an example, even though he was a fully qualified ski instructor in his early twenties, he still took the opportunity to learn about ski teaching from his international colleagues whilst working in New Zealand and the US. His eye for detail and his considered disposition means that he believes he can still learn from teaching every level of skier. He believes teaching beginners is just as challenging and fulfilling as coaching ski instructors.
 
He has been a BASI trainer for over 12 years and has developed a reputation for integrity within the training body. He is now one of the few trainers who has the tough job of running the quality assurance for the training body. Despite the respect he commands he was keen to clarify that, “I am more willing than ever to learn and develop. The more I do this job the more open I am to new learning. Even though I have a lot of experience I am constantly realising how much there is to learn and how little I know.”
 
Message: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know”. Aristotle.
Ben is an example of this. The qualities that have allowed him to become a well respected BASI trainer is not just his skiing talent, but also his ability to think and to learn from what is happening around him.

Ben perf 1

Meet Jaz Lamb

We sat down with BASI NET team members and asked them about their journey through the BASI system. We all know that going through the BASI system (or any other instructing system) can sometimes feel hard. We wondered how these BASI members were successful in their journey. What we found were stories that are universal to anyone trying to develop at something. We thought we would share these stories with the hope that they inspire snowsport instructors to continue learning and developing in the sport they love.

Jaz

Jaz has had a long and extensive BASI career. He has been a member since 1984 and a BASI trainer since 1995. He is currently the trainers’ director on the BASI board.

Taking into account his depth of experience it is easy to see why Jaz is viewed as a natural leader within the BASI training body. But to suggest that Jaz has become this leader through amassing experience or through a concerted effort would be wrong. He approached his career with the idea that he wanted to work “with inspiring people and in ground breaking environments”. As such he has made career choices that have challenged him to continue learning. He has a diploma in professional sports coaching, he has coached the Scottish National Freestyle squad and performed and coached competitive sailing at National, European and World Championship level.

Jaz comes across as a coach: someone who wants to help people perform to the best of their ability. He is able to put other peoples needs ahead of his own. One of his colleagues has described Jaz as “approachable, enthusiastic and humble”. Jaz’s leadership comes not only from his professionalism but also from his belief in peoples potential.

Message: Effective coaching is not about being an egoist. It requires a passion for people and development. Jaz is an example of how having qualities like humility and passion enable great leadership.

Funny how things change in skiing…

Written by Rupert Tildesley
NET Team member and BASI Demo Team demonstrator at Interski 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019

Ru T perf 1

Funny how things change.

Picture1

When I was (quite a bit) younger, I had a book called ‘Ski the French Way’, a glossy hardback published by Peter Stuyvesant Travel. A book full of suave, coiffured, Stuyvesant smoking, sun-tanned French ski instructors for whom the overriding goal was to ensure there was no way a playing card could be inserted between your knees and for whom edge angle was a futuristic concept. Pretty cool stuff if you are a 10-year-old who goes on a ski holiday once a year. This was more than just national stereotyping, this was their way and they were proud of it. At that time every nation had their ‘way’ and a fanatical allegiance to it.

Fast forward 20 years or so to the first Interski Congress I attended in 2003 in Crans Montana and, whilst the national ‘ways’ had been watered down somewhat, they were still very much in evidence – the Italians still skied with a much narrower stance than everyone else, the Argentinians had a short turn that involved a suck-up style compression during the transition that every team member performed perfectly in time and the Slovenians inclined the whole body to achieve all of their edge angles and the upper half followed the lower half wherever it went in all sizes of turn without a shred of rotary separation.

However, a softening of approaches and a willingness to take on board some of the ideas of other nations were starting to emerge. At one technical workshop given by the French, there were two skiers in the group of an extremely high level, the first was a 21-year-old French skier called Greg who had just won the ISIA championships in GS and who used huge amounts of rotary and lateral separation. The second was a Slovenian whose name I can’t remember, but he looked fast just standing still and when he moved he didn’t use any separation in any plane. At all.

Both men were inspiring skiers to watch, but whose ‘way’ was the best? They were clearly so different in their approach, there surely had to be an answer to this. I asked Nicolas Zoll, the ENSA trainer who was leading the session for his thoughts. His reply was that there were no specific inputs that the French trainers were after in performance skiing, and that differences in movements amongst very high-level skiers could often be attributed to physical differences, but what counted was efficiency and a balanced and strong outcome. This may sound fairly sensible and mainstream in today’s terms but 15 years ago this was still embryonic thinking. It was a departure from the ‘French way’ that had existed just 20 years earlier and a much more progressive approach.

So what brought this about?

My personal feeling is that the Interski Congress has a lot to do with this. As an exchange of ideas on a massive scale that doesn’t stop with that week but carries on for the years until the next one, each nation is forced to examine their approach in the light of others and taking on board the best bits of other nation’s systems is not theft of intellectual property – it is to be embraced. Which is why BASI’s contribution is as vital as its attendance, to ensure we are involved with this two-way process.

As an example of this ‘nicking the greatest hits’ from other nations after that 2003 Interski Congress, subsequent editions of the French Memento (manual) started to feature a central concept called ‘Les Elements Fondamenteaux’ (wonder where they got that from….?) and in subsequent Interski Congresses the synergy between skiers and the way they performed grew more and more similar, to the extent that if everyone at Interski wore the same suit in Pamporovo in March 2019, you would struggle to tell them apart. The chat around ‘The Austrians do this……the Americans do that….’ has largely gone.
That’s not quite true actually, the Japanese would still be unmistakable by their fondness of short turns and complex choreography, the Italians will be a teeny bit narrower in their stance than most and the French will likely not be there at all (but that’s a different story).

So we are all sorted then?

There is certainly a good case for saying that divergence and disagreements around the best technical paths to follow are considerably fewer and most national systems model their technical progressions around the principles of strength, balance and efficiency that trickles down from racing and the strong nations rather than a stylistic ‘way’, however that is only half the story.
Coaching and instructing are art forms of their own, and getting your message across so that it helps get the most from the whole spectrum of performers is the subject of a whole different blog post. But suffice it to say that there are still national ‘ways’ that exist on the best teaching route to get to technical perfection even if the end goal is similar. There are many cultural and social reasons behind what forms a teaching progression beyond just having a good understanding of the subject matter, but we can all still learn from other nations. Hence the need to keep the exchange of ideas going.

Long may it last, it would be boring if we were all the same…..

Fitness tips from the BASI National Education Team – Core

BASI Trainer and National Education Team member, Tom Waddington, gives some tips on how to train your core in preparation for the winter season.

Featuring National Education Team Members Jim Lister, Lesley Page, Paul Garner, Giles Lewis and Lynn Mill as demonstrators.

Special thanks to Kraftwerk Fitness, Zermatt for filming facilities.

Preparing for World Interski 2019 – how does this event come together?

Report on Interski International Presidium meeting in Frankfurt 14 -17 October 2018
By Dave Renouf

With members of the Interski Presidium spread around the globe, organising World Interski is a collaborative project with some unique challenges. In this piece, Dave Renouf provides an insight into how the organisers bring the event together. Dave wears two hats; he represents BASI as our International and Educational Manager, and his other hat is that of Vice President of Interski International. As a member of the presidium, he is closely involved with the preparations for the World Interski Congress in Bulgaria in 2019.

The Interski International Presidium meets every month via a Skype call and is able to review and share the workload through this medium. This requires at least a couple of meetings face-to-face per year to ensure that we can plan the strategies to cover the work required and delegate responsibilities. In Frankfurt, the Interski Presidium got together with two specific areas of work to cover:

1. The first was to ensure the workloads and tasks for the actual World Interski Congress event that is to be held in the Bulgarian resort of Pamporovo in March 2019 is all going to plan. There were many updates and adjustments to ensure as many of the “bases” are being covered by having a number of contingency plans.

Looking down the demo slope in Pamporovo

Looking down the demo slope in Pamporovo

For the first time, Interski International asked all the nation members to submit documentation well in advance of the actual event to outline what each nation is planning to present in their lectures and workshops. This will allow for better planning and also for all nations to gain a preview of what each nation is focusing on in their presentations. These “abstracts” are going to be published on the Interski 2019 website in due course. There were updates from the Organising Committee on logistical tasks so that the anticipated 1500 world-class instructors who come  from thirty nations across the world have a smoothly organised congress in the Bulgarian mountains.

2. The second task was to look at the future strategy and ideas for Interski and its structure. Feedback gained from the member nations, who adhere to at least one of the international pillar Associations (IVSI, ISIA, or IVSS) as well as Interski International itself, shows that they wish to gain more value through the planned co-ordination of all the future events that each of the Associations organises. The result of the Interski Presidium discussion is that each of the Presidents of these Associations is to confer with their respective Presidiums and feedback to the Interski Presidium. These discussions require time for each of the Presidiums to deliberate so that they themselves are answering to their specific membership audiences. As the saying goes, ‘it’s hard (if not impossible) to please everyone’! Nevertheless, we must endeavour to achieve as many of their wishes as possible.

Overall the meeting in Frankfurt consolidated a team working in a positive atmosphere for a fantastic congress in Pamporovo. So best wishes to all the nations’ teams around the globe for a great period of preparation and training. We look forward to seeing you all soon.

View of the demo slope from the base area

View of the demo slope from the base area

Skiing Bumps to develop the BASI Performance Threads (TTPPEE)

The Five Strands = the five sections which we divide the mountain into that covers most types of alpine skiing.

  • Piste Performance Long radius turns & Short radius turns  
  • Bumps
  • Steeps
  • Variable
  • Freestyle

The Performance Threads = all the factors that will influence a skiers performance.

  • Technical
  • Tactical
  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Equipment
  • Environment

Or TTPPEE for short. We use them to look at the ‘big picture’ of a performance considering areas affecting performance other than technical.

BASI has always valued bumps as a crucial strand of skiing. While modern grooming technologies allow steeper pistes to be bashed smooth, and newer ski designs allow learners to carve quickly, many skiers will find the limits of pure corduroy skiing quickly and their desire to explore more of the mountain grows. We use bumps skiing as a means to develop learners in the other strands – a practical stepping stone to learning to ski more of the mountain. 

At the 2015 Interski congress, BASI delivered a workshop on how we utilise the bumps in our pathway. Not just a strand required of the technical assessments from Level 2 onwards, but as a means to explore the performance threads with our students, and subsequently their would-be learners. No other strand so immediately pulls together tactical, physical, psychological, and technical requisites. Bumps focus the attention like little else: technique is useless without a workable line, a worthy pair of legs, and a well-built head.  

The Tactics

As with skiing generally, nothing is black and white, but the line choices to ski down a bumps field can be sculpted around: The Inside Line – which offers more opportunity than any other to control speed and presents a fine initiation into fall-line bumps; the Outside Line – where a rounder line allows the skier to avoid the deepest part of the trough making it less physically impacting; the Direct Line – which offers the fastest descent down the hill and enables a quick check on the face of the bump without affecting the overall speed of descent. Each line provides different psychological, physical, technical and equipment challenges. When first introduced at Level 2 we encourage starting with outside and inside lines and slower speeds, which gives the students a chance to learn and develop performance in each thread.

 

The Psychology

Often cited as the ultimate challenge to a recreational skier, tension is not an option as the bumps demand much more reaction than planning, which would be near impossible with both mental (and physical) tension. Psychological techniques play a crucial role in the bumps, and usually vary between individuals. Developing the right mental skills to flow down a bumps field will help skiers approach more variable terrain and steeper slopes.   

The Physical

Bumps-fields are rarely rhythmical, therefore a skier should not try to find one – agility is the key to a flowing performance. Our instructors are taught to choose tactical lines that suits physical fitness levels. A skier with a lower level of fitness shouldn’t begin with a direct line as this the most physically demanding. However, a flexible and agile skier who can ‘hang it out’ on a direct line might still benefit from the technical skills required of the slower inside line.  

We spend many hours discussing the intricate details of ski technique, so at Interski it was great to deliver a workshop where we discussed almost everything but technique. But of course, the full jigsaw requires all the pieces…

The Technical

While skiing the bumps is a great chance to work in the other performance threads, they also offer a great opportunity to benefit the technical thread. Skiers can experience sensations they wouldn’t often get on the groomed pistes, for example the edges being tilted in proportion to the berm rather than being positively engaged; pressure coming more through the bases of the skis rather than the edges; allowing the skis to skid rather than run along their edges; rotating the skis at a higher rate from lower down the body. Staying in balance in the bumps requires quick reactions and calculated but smooth movements. The technique behind the bumps challenges and uses every single fundamental element.

The Equipment & The Environment

Assuming skiers use the same pair of skis to ski all the strands, there is not much scope for adjusting equipment. However, we can initiate conversations between students to develop an understanding of how the width and length of their skis and poles can affect their performance in the bumps. While the environment might also be limited where able, the gradient of slope and size of bumps is adjusted to suit the task set and the skill level of the skier.

The bumps have proved to us as one of the best performance strands to deliver, understand and practice all the vital ingredients of ski performance at any level – the performance threads. The bumps demonstrate a fine pathway to develop skiing in variable off-piste, down steeps and around the whole mountain.

It was just one of our workshops in 2015 and we only had a short time to convey our belief in bumps, but hopefully it gave fellow nations, instructors and skiers some motivation to believe in bumps too!

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BASI announces PANDA OPTICS eyewear sponsor for National Education Team 2018 – 2022

PANDA NET 2

Panda Optics eyewear and BASI have confirmed a supply sponsor partnership for BASI’s National Education Team as they make their preparations for the World Interski Congress in Pamporovo, Bulgaria in March 2019. Panda Optics will sponsor the team sunglasses in a sponsorship package worth £1,500 (RRP).

Panda Optics is a British brand producing high performance goggles and sunglasses. From mountain to beach the Panda Optics collection combines the latest technology with innovative style and design to optimise vision and comfort.

Roy Henderson, BASI’s NET Manager said:

“The Panda Optics collection has been designed and manufactured for serious snowsports enthusiasts and we’re delighted that a born and bred UK brand is supporting BASI’s national Education Team. Having eyewear with a high visual impact that performs well and looks good gives confidence to the team’s overall performance, not to mention morale.”  

Oliver Heath, Managing Director at Panda Optics commented:

“It’s a pleasure to be sponsoring the National Education Team. Back in 2009 I did my BASI L1 and 2, and my trainers are current NET members, so it’s nice to be giving something back and getting Panda further involved in British Snowsports.”

 

BASI National Education Team 2018 – 2022

Eyewear by Panda Optics

Tel: + 44 (0)7378 164 132

Website:  www.pandaoptics.co.uk

Email:      info@pandaoptics.co.uk

The World Interski Congress and BASI’s National Education Team – why are they important?

The team 2

BASI National Education Team (NET)

By Jaz Lamb, NET coach.

The world, and the ski industry, was a very different place when I started teaching in 1984.

Cairngorm had over 20 ski schools, Glenshee had three full time ski schools and Nevis Range at Fort William hadn’t been developed.

There were literally hundreds of BASI instructors working in the four Scottish ski areas and most schools, at least the big ones, had all levels of BASI instructor working for them, including BASI trainers.

Scottish skiing was a large, vibrant industry and the vast majority of BASI instructors worked at the Scottish ski areas, or, on UK dry slopes.

The snowsports landscape in the UK has changed enormously and no longer looks anything like the one I first entered back in the 80s.  Many years of inconsistent and unreliable snow, plus other economic factors such as low cost air travel and the arrival of the winter snowsports package holiday brought new opportunities for instructors beyond UK shores and changed the Scottish resorts forever.  Although there are still many ski instructors working in the Scottish ski areas, they now have to be multi – disciplined or have other incomes, there are very few who have full time careers teaching on Scotland’s mountains.

So, what has this brief nostalgia trip got to do with the World Interski Congress and BASI’s National Education Team?

The demise of plentiful career opportunities in Scotland led to a shift from BASI instructors working in the UK to BASI instructors looking for work around the world.

As we fast forward to current times, it is noticeable that BASI is in a unique position. We have credibility and respect from all nations and have become a major player on the world snowsports education stage.  We share a platform with the Alpine Nations and our voice can be heard at the top table rather than having to shout from the back rows with other ‘lowland’ nations. This has not always been the case.

Kenny Dickson, Ali Ross, Hans Kuwall 1971

 

BASI’s current status and credibility has been gained through a combination of international diplomacy and continuously developing our teaching and technical models based on the observations and knowledge we have harvested, adapted and developed from the international arena. This process began back at Interski 1971 when BASI were first invited to send a demonstration team to the World Interski Congress 1971 in Garmisch Partenkirchen.

Over the past fifty years BASI has worked hard to demonstrably create international recognition for BASI qualifications and our teaching philosophy. This international aspect of BASI’s work has created quality snowsports career working opportunities for all levels of BASI members who now work in 38 countries around the world and many members who continue to teach part time and full time in the UK, inspiring more British participants to take up snowsports. Britain has now become the second largest exporter of snowsports participants beyond its own borders! We are second to Germany. The British snowsports customer is big business for other snowsports industry nations and worth millions to their mountain economies. The role of the BASI snowsports instructor both in the UK and abroad is key to driving this passion.  

We have moved on a long way from the days of a focus on teaching in Scotland.  There are job opportunities in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia.  I know of BASI instructors who have worked in Africa so the only continent I have not heard of BASI members working in is Antarctica – and I am happy to be corrected.

So, how did we change from being a UK centric association providing instructors for our home industry to being one of, if not the, biggest exporter of snowsports instructors around the world?

World Interski Report 1995

World Interski Report 1995

I can trace the tipping point back to 1995, and the Interski Congress in Nozawa Onsen, Japan but the foundations stones go way back to BASI’s first attendance at Interski.

The 1995 Interski Congress was when a new approach was presented by BASI’s delegation to the rest of the world. What was developed then, still forms the backbone and basis of everything that BASI do now.

BASI had set about seeking what the performance of a skier looked like and approached this from a biomechanical insight. They took a top down perspective, seeking what every skier has in common, regardless of where they were from or their performance level.  World Cup racers, recreational skiers, the similarities were identified.  They stood back, looked at skiing in its context and environment and broke skiing down into its component parts.  These component parts became what is now known in the BASI syllabus as the Fundamental Elements.

BASI recognised that skiing takes place in a very open and changeable environment and that the environmental factors impact on performance.   They recognised the significance of emotional factors and not just technique and the relationship between the inputs and the outcomes.

The Performance Threads were developed and the concept of “The Strands” was introduced.  Open environments replaced advanced techniques, skiing steeps replaced short swings, skiing bumps replaced compression turns.

BASI had created the basis of the tactical skill based driven system that we still adhere to now.

But there still needed to be a guideline for trainee instructors to take learners on their journey.   It wasn’t practical to just rely on the ‘Fundamental Elements’, there was too much variability for trainee instructors to take on board.  So, a simple progression was developed that allowed all the Fundamental Elements to be developed equally in a natural, logical and progressive manner.  The “Central Theme” was born.

As well as massive shifts in technical philosophy, the teaching side changed unrecognisably with the introduction of the teaching tools and techniques we use today.

At the World Interski Congress in 1995 the core of this new approach was presented.  It was such ground breaking stuff that the rest of the world stood up and took notice.  We were no longer an insignificant lowland nation, but a country that was punching way above its weight.  Franz Hoppichler, the Interski President at the time said “You have changed your skiing and approach significantly, and we like it.”

At subsequent World Interski Congresses we have reinforced that BASI is an Association to take note of, we produce skilled and adaptable instructors who are great at what they do.  We had a massive attendance to our workshops in St Anton (2011) and Ushuaia (2015) with representatives of most countries coming along. BASI’s evolution continues. In Ushuaia in 2015 BASI’s Dave Renouf presented one of the key note lectures for the conference on the work we were implementing aligning BASI course qualifications to the Scottish Credit Qualification Framework. The impact of this key note lecture has resulted in Dr Pete Allison (one of our collaborators at the University of Edinburgh on the alignment project) moving to the U.S and now working with the PSIA to do the same thing with their qualifications!

Attendance at the Interski Congress is a large investment for BASI, and it would be fair to acknowledge that from some perspectives, it is quite hard to see any direct, tangible benefit to attending.

The evolution of BASI’s approach to the World Interski Congress has been to manage and plan it as a four year project cycle and the recent establishment of the National Education Team (NET) is designed to provide the membership with a return on investment over a longer four year cycle and not just on a week-long event held every four years at the World Interski Congress investment.

The role of NET is not simply to do some great synchronized ski demos at the World Congress but to work with the BASI training manager and other BASI trainers over the four year project cycle to develop, improve and refine what we do around all BASI course content, delivery and assessment.  NET deliver at the trainers conference, they train the trainers, lead on the trainers quality assurance programme, develop and refine changes to our system, write and edit our training manuals and workbooks and present and test changes on the trainers and ultimately the membership.

BASI’s National Education Team for the next four year cycle was selected in Zermatt in November 2017. Selection was based on the following criteria: performer, presenter, ambassador, educator and team player.

However, without having strong representation at previous congresses, observing and learning about developments other systems are making, without sending strong messages to the rest of the world about the quality and depth of our training and philosophies and how we are evolving from congress to congress there would not be the recognition for the qualifications, nor the job opportunities that are currently available to the membership.

Even in the modern world of high tech communication there is still no substitute for physical handshakes, eye to eye contact and developing (or reinforcing) personal relationships.  Without attending and participating in the World Interski Congress BASI would not be as well recognised and respected around the world as we are currently.

Your future careers as ski instructors, depends on the nations around the world understanding BASI and our qualifications.  Sending a strong delegation and continuing to put ourselves on the world stage, is essential to maintaining the level of respect we have enjoyed, and maintaining and increasing the opportunities for BASI Members of all levels to work around the world.

The World Interski Congress is the major event where BASI get the opportunity to present who we are and what we do, gaining recognition for our qualifications and building a global network of contacts that help us provide work opportunities for members.