Testing testing

BASI NET team member Mark Jones gets involved in ski testing through the winter and runs through the highs and lows of testing

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I’ve been privileged enough to enjoy the role of running the annual ski tests for Ski and Board magazine for many years now. The way we run the testing has really changed over time, for the first few years it was a steep learning curve! One of the biggest changes has been the sheer number of skis available to test, with the increase of women’s specific skis and more recently the boom in ski touring it can be pretty daunting looking at the list of skis to get through. For the last couple of years, every test has had over a thousand pairs of individual skis ready to go…..

With the best will in the world, for that number you could make yourself a full-time job of testing! However, the reality is that the tests are only run for one week. This means a lot of preparation has to go into making a clear selection before going in with the team, normally we visit the manufacturers at the annual trade shows and pick out the latest technical innovations, and really get led by them on what skis they would like us to test. We also have to narrow down the categories of ski that we will test.

Once we have an example from each manufacturer for every category, the final list can be compiled and the team can be rolled into action.

THE TEAM

Getting the right testers is absolutely crucial to delivering an accurate test. In the early days, I used to try and get a wide selection of skiers, from different backgrounds that would be more closely related to the skills of the buying public. This proved to be not a great decision! It’s only when you start looking at feedback from skiers that you realize many of them can be more adversely affected by outside factors, other than the skis themselves. Deteriorating snow conditions, fatigue, bad tuning and many other factors can lead to an unfair assessment of a ski’s performance. This is when you need professional skiers who are much more adept at focusing on the ski itself and have the ability to filter out other factors out of their control. Once you get a strong, pro test team everything becomes easy and the skis will start to get consistent feedback, which allows me to write up an accurate review of how the ski performs

HOW WE TEST

It can be tempting to go mad and blast through as many pairs of skis as possible in the day. This is a balance that each test team has to get right, with the sheer numbers of skis available, there will always be a push to try and get through a lot of skis. This again can lead to inaccurate results; one quick run is just not enough time on a ski to give it an honest, realistic test. Each ski needs to be given the time and respect it deserves. The first part of the process is to have a conversation with the manufacturer about the ski that is about to be tested; Who is it designed for? What sort of qualities should you expect? What new technologies or designs are being incorporated? This can give the tester a much-needed overview of the ski before putting it through its paces. For each category, the tester will have a test card that guides them through what aspects of the ski they will need to assess. For example on a pure piste ski the tester will fully commit to making short carved turns, more progressive steered turns as well as making big carved arcs. They will look at factors like stability, edge grip, dampening,

be ease of use on groomed runs. However, with an all mountain ski it needs to be more of a broader picture, with a good test of piste performance while also taking some time to get some backside skiing and seeing how the ski performs in crud, powder and variable conditions. Each ski needs to be tested specifically for the category it is aimed at.

HOW TO GET IT RIGHT

From my experience, it works really well when you can have a pro team that can work well together as a team. I really promote those essential ‘chairlift chats’ between the testers, sometimes it’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what part of skis performance that is either a strength or weakness. An ability to bounce your thoughts off your teammates can often focus the mind and allow some great feedback to be written out on the test card.

The other strong factor in a great team is that they love skiing! This may sound obvious, but the reality is that a pro team will comprise of race coaches, instructors or full-time athletes who rarely get the opportunity to ski for themselves. Falling back in love with their sport after a long, hard season of coaching can really a great experience and can revitalize energy and passion in a test week.

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Meet Giles Lewis

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.

gilesGiles is an extremely well respected trainer who has been at the forefront of developing BASI’s professional content. 

When you speak to Giles about his impressive career he is careful to not exaggerate his talent or career choices. He speaks about how friends, who shared his values and passion, help inspire him in his career. However, if you listen carefully, you realise that his career has been full of brave choices that involved risk and challenge. For example, setting up TDC (The Development Centre) in a time when no one was teaching intermediates using a coaching approach. Or, using his critical thinking skills to be a leader in refreshing BASI’s manual and approach. All of these choices exposed him to criticism because they were outside of the normal path. However his belief in “creating something better” over rode any doubts he might have had.

These qualities and achievements are underplayed by Giles because he puts great value on being part of a team. He continually spoke about how friends and team members inspired him to keep developing his skiing. His enjoyment of being part of a team has led him to be accepted as a member of the BASI team at 3 interski congresses. This will be his 4th congress representing BASI. 

Message: Being part of a community can help you develop as a ski instructor. Sharing knowledge and passions with others can lead to exciting opportunities. It may allow you to take risks like Giles has been able to do.

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The phases of the turn…

A few seasons ago BASI introduced phases of the turn into its lexicon:

BUILD – WORK – RELEASE

Although this is a work in progress in as much as it could well be extended to bump skiing or a wider variation of turns, it is a really useful addition.

Many skiing associations split the turn up into phases and purport slightly differing but ultimately similar ideas, but having it in BASI is still a useful endeavour.

It would be a mistake to think that the phases of the turn were an attempt to ‘reinvent the wheel’. The wheel is already up and rolling and we, as an association, are in the business of trying to provide definition to skiing; to offer blueprints or ways to understand skiing that can be adopted by our instructors to help pass on their ideas with clarity and relevance.

The phases of the turn, therefore, are not necessarily anything new, but their primary purpose is to be helpful to our instructors.

The phases of the turn help identify certain jobs, tasks or purposes as we execute a turn and this helps us as skiers concentrate clearly on the important things to control at any given moment. Every movement that we do on our skis needs to have a clear and definable function but this is often lost in the maelstrom of tipping, twisting, leaning and moving that fills the toolbox- and sometimes headspace – of less accomplished skiers. I remember having many an interesting conversation with Sean Langmuir [trainer and ex Olympian] about how in different parts of the turn we are searching for particular, and sometimes different, things whether it be stability, a turning effect, strength, quickness, momentum. The moves we are making on the skis are shaped by these purposes.

As a brief and non-exhaustive guide to a generic carved turn, we tried to highlight some of the tasks that were important in the phases of the turn at the last trainers’ conference. Here is a quick summary:

BUILD:

Build often involves using the lower leg joints first [Fig:1] in order to establish a platform at the edge change and is subsequently followed by trying to increase the angle whilst keeping the body’s weight pressing through the centre of the ski. This is to set up and optimise the skis turning capacity.

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Fig 1: early part of the build phase

WORK:

The work phase is not in fact characterised by busy or overly active movement but is actually all about moving in a way which allows the ski’s design to continue to work at its best. What we don’t want to do is lose pressure through falling back or inside through this phase as it will reduce the outside ski working. In fact, the work phase should be the part of the turn where the turn radius tightens continuously as the angle and forces augment. This means it is paramount to be able to balance laterally against a ski that is increasing in angle [Fig 2] to maintain the strongest platform or footing that we can. A long strong outside leg is often typical of a great work phase.

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Fig 2: mid work phase

RELEASE:

The release phase is all about not overcooking the end of the turn in order to link turns and carry momentum smoothly from one turn to the next. This means movements that lend themselves to stopping angular momentum, reducing the turning and straightening the trajectory will help to exit the body from the current turn. Moves such as maintaining separation out of the work phase whilst reducing the pressure on the outside ski [Fig 3] will help to let the body move down the hill and out of the old turn. This will promote linked and fluid carved turns.

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Fig 3: release of turn and reduction of angle

The use of phases of the turn is not a new idea in the world of skiing but that doesn’t detract from its usefulness. We could equally exchange the three words for three others or wrestle with the intricacies of each turn phase, but that is not essentially the point. The point is to help give reason to the moves that we make and to deconstruct the turn into useful and comprehensible parts. 

If we have clear ideas on what we should be doing, then we, as instructors, can communicate that to our students and that can only be a good thing.

 

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.

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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

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Funny how things change.

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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