Saturday 10th January: -10
You can tell you are a dedicated employee when, despite it being your day off, you wake up half an hour earlier than a usual work day to be first up the lift for a training session. This is what we found ourselves doing on Saturday morning. So like good little workers we there on time to be taught some more of the advanced teaching techniques. Today we covered edging, a good skill to know considering all of the ice around at the moment. It was a fairly helpful session, which was unfortunately cut short due to 100 small kids showing up for lessons at 9:45.
Christian up early to get in for the session
The sudden influx of tykes was prearranged as the snow school runs a camp over the weekend. As we watched the on-duty instructors struggle to keep order in a knee deep tide of over-excited children, we were kind of glad we had today to ourselves. However, continuing our exemplary employee behaviour we made ourselves avaliable for the 10 o'clock lesson slot as all the other instructors were busy trying to tame packs of tiny snowboarders. Luckily for us all the other customers had been scared off by the kids and we were set free to enjoy the rest of our day on the hill.
We quickly changed into out own gear and headed off up the lift to make good use of our free time. We did this by finding things to jump off. Well, we started off by checking out runs that we could potentially take students down, and then got sidetracked. Most sidetracking of all was when we found a man-made kicker on one of the more challenging runs. It was pretty hardcore and a little too scary to try more than once, in the current icy conditions. After a few runs we had lunch, and were plesantly suprised to find that in Kimberley, there IS such a thing as a free lunch. The lunch consisted of leftovers from the canteen; breakfast pizza (warmed up in the microwave) and a sandwich that was now too old for them to sell. Ok so it wasn't that great, but it was free.
After lunch we tried out a couple more runs that we hadn't got round to doing yet. They were mostly interesting with fun and challenging elements and I was proud to see that Sarah was trying more jumps and getting bigger airs. I've created a new little freestyler. We cut the afternoon fairly short as we wanted to save our energy for nightboarding that evening.
Back at 6 for night riding and we were excited to head up the main chair in the dark, with our boards for the first time this season. Riding down in the dusky glow of the scattered floodlights we soon realised that goggles are too dark for night riding and that we were better off without them. The first run down felt very hard and icy and I scared Sarah by riding too fast. So with the lack of googles and the unforgiving terrain we decided to take the next few rus a little slower and instead hunt out the kickers to hit, down the sides of the run and round the lift pillars. It was fun to explore a run we thought we already knew and find different things to entertain us.
Our last run down before a hot chocolate and home and on the very final stretch I lost Sarah on the run. Fearing that she had taken a fall further up the slope I started hiking back up the hill to find her. However, she was already down below me and watching my antics from lower on the slope. As her waving and shouting was having no effect, she eventually had to call up to some skiiers on the lift and get them to let me know to ride down.
Relieved that we were both ending the night in one piece we drunk our hot chocolate and headed home to watch the pilot of the Knight rider '08 series we have started downloading and eat our pasta dinner.
Sunday 11th January:
Sunday started at a lot slower pace. Having woken up early on Saturday we were fairly glad to get a lie-in this morning. We spent our morning, mid-day, and most of our afternoon reading books and surfing the internet in the comfort of our snuggly bed. However we were eventually forced up by the promise of free food and drinks.
The ski school having fun
RCR were holding a staff party in the resorts main bar, supposedly to celebrate Christmas despite being half a month late. This included a couple of free beverages and a free meal so delicious looking that I couldn't fit everything I wanted to eat on my plate. It was lovely to just sit around and relax with all of our friends, with full bellies and the knowledge that we didn't have to cook or clean up tonight. RCR had also gone to the trouble of booking in a live musician. He often asked for any requests and we were told by a few of the veteran staff that he supposedly knew every song ever. He certainly did manage to take any and all requests in his stride, and even threw in a couple of voice changes and trumpet noises.
Getting their dance on to the live music
Us at the party
As the night wore on we found ourselves drinking baileys and hot chocolate and getting sleepier and sleepier. And so as the last call went up and buses arrived to take the drunken workers onto a local pub we decided to call it a night. The temptation to go out was strong but we knew that at home was waiting the second episode of Knight Rider and our cosy bed we knew so well.
After Mitch knocked his beer in Jackies lap
It was lucky that we did as I ended up feeling quite poorly. Im not sure if it was the food, the alcohol or the over indulgence in them both, but as I crawled into bed, the room started spinning and I knew I was in for a rocky night.
Monday 12th January:
Christian was actually quite ill during the night and I don't think it was due to alcohol, so I was glad when he agreed to come into work for 10 and catch up on some of the sleep he missed. I mentioned his poorliness to Liana and she was happy for him to take the day off to recover. I went home before 10 to tell Chris the good news and check he wasn't feeling too bad.
During the day I had a double lesson with 2 boys who were improving riders and already both turning on the hill. Again it was a chance to use the skills we have learnt in our sessions and it was fun to take them both down their first ever black run on a snowboard.
Christian came in to have lunch with me and though he didn't pick up a lesson in the afternoon, he was feeling much better and I was glad to see him up and about.
The ski school were all heading to the public baths together after work for a swim and a relax in the hot tub, and so we drove down at 6. We brought with us just enough cash to get into the aquatic center and Chris managed to lose 50 cents between leaving the house and getting out of the truck at the pool, he just can't be trusted with money! Jackie brought her little nephew out with her who enjoyed all the new faces and hair (mine got quite a bit of attention). The boys all wanted to show off their bravery going off the diving board and we enjoyed watching them all doing crazy jumps and dives. There were long dives, high dives, bombdives and even a bottom bounce on the diving board by Phil, which resulted in a running lifeguard dashing over to show him the red card! The girls soon followed, somewhat more timidly, and tried jumps of the diving board. I was the first to do a dive and the others followed, with almost all of them being successful. With the confidence built-up I was happy to practice doing front flips with Christian, until a sharp smack on the bottom made me return to the hot tub for some less violent entertainment.
We finished our evening out with some pool volleyball and piggy in the middle, and Christian tried throwing me at the ball in order to reach the long or high passes. Unsurprisingly, it didn't quite work.
Tuesday 13th January: hot and sunny
Another early morning session, this time on alignment in our own riding. As we were walking to work it was still dark with the moon in the sky. But as we rode up on the chairlift the sun cracked over the horizon and we were treated to an "instructors-only" early morning show as the mountain lit up.
Dawn breaking as we head up the chair lift
Training session in the sunrise
The sun stayed out and the rest of the day was hot work. Teaching a double lesson down on the beginner slopes, it wasn't long before the coats and gloves were off and you could see all the instructors running up and down to pick up their various charges, in snowpants and thermal tops. My 2 lessons were with a couple of girls from Poole.
Whilst I did this, Christian and some of the others were doing a recap of the beginner progression, mainly for the benefit of the latest recruits. But having now been teaching for about a month it was useful to watch the way that someone else teaches the same lessons. He had another free period at 2pm and so went freeriding with Eric, Vaughn and Jackie. They built up a jump behind a bench but no one wanted to try it incase they hit the bench. So they moved the bench and checked if they could clear the distance, fun was had and the bench can be revisited on another day.
Christian testing out the bench jump
As we often do at the end of the day, we talked about how our lessons had gone and Christian told me of some of the new teaching hints and tips he'd picked up from the session.
Wednesday 14th January: hotter still
Today was Home School classes again. My class grew again from last weeks odd mix of 3. I picked up the big sister of the little 8yr old boy and a little girl called Leah. It was a challenge to my class management skills as the 5 students were all at 3 different levels of ability and progressing at different paces. So I would teach a couple of them an excercise, set them off and watch for feedback, helping them down a little where necessary, just to turn round and run back up the hill to teach the next ones who have reached the top their excersies and set them on their way. As I learnt at Christmas, this is a great way to lose weight!
Little Leah was a first-timer and was frightened of falling. She fell at one point and when I went over to help she said she thought she was the worst snowboarder ever and started to cry. I told her how good she was doing for her first time and how she was better than lots of grown-ups and she was soon smiling again. Later in the day, I saw her practising by herself and she kept falling over. I helped her out and went up the carpet with her. She commented that she hated the pop music playing and why couldn't they play some nice Christian music like Hosannah (her dad was a pastor) "I couldn't agree more" I said, tapping my foot to the Jason Mraz piping out of the speakers. Despite her solo efforts, Leah soon fell and was crying again and so I used my 'service with no boundaries' tickets for the first time giving her a free hot chocolate and writing on it that she had been very brave to keep trying.
Chris got a student who liked jumping and so got to practice some of the freestyle teaching he learnt last year. It was only his second lesson of the week and so it seems that after SuperJoe the tides have turned and the lessons are coming my way more.
That afternoon, as the 2 o'clock lesson bell came around again we were unsuprised to find that there were no lessons booked in. Following some of Lianas advice from earlier in the week, Dan took us all out for a freestyle session. Dan is one of the veteran snowboard instructors and the only level two other than Liana. At 24 years old he has a more freestyle orientated view of snowboarding and also holds a park instructors qualification. The session was interesting but also faily daunting. Sarah and I were the only first time instructors on the session and the others were all more advanced riders, and when Dan started off by saying "Does everyone know where the tree jib is?", our hearts sank. The tree jib involved a large dead tree branch sticking out of the snow at an angle, and the idea behind it was to ride up the tree branch and then drop off the end. By this point me and Sarah were giving each other desperate glances. But as my turn came around, and having just watched the more advanced riders fall of the tree I started my run in. It really wasn't as bad as I had expected but I have no intention of doing it again, so the glances were alot more cheery as we both rode away unharmed.
The rest of the session wore on with nothing being quite as scary as the tree jib and we were both glad to have advice on how to advance our trick riding. Sarah was also very keen to try her first 'melon' grab and despite falling, she was happy to continue trying it. By the end of the week she was landing them like she had done it a thousand times.
Thursday 15th January: warm and overcast, ("a bit nothingy.. well mostly nothingy" according to Christian)
In the morning we had no lessons and so, as Liana had suggested, I practiced my ollying to improve my jumping. Christian kindly offered to give me a freestyle lesson on ollying. It was of great value to both of us as it gave Chris a chance to teach some of the freestyle material to a real-life student and it gave me an interesting insight to being on the other side of a lesson, in addition to hugely improving my ollying technique. Very chuffed with my progress and grateful to my awesome and sexy instructor, I was happy to get back to teaching.
At 11:30am a pack of cheerful and slightly rowdy Brummies turned up for a lesson. As pretty experienced riders, Dan would probably take the lesson but he took us both up the hill with him as he got the students doing a test run. I ended up picking up the only girl in the group, she was able to turn fine but was lacking the confidence to go for it on challenging terrain. She was about my age and the 2 of us had a good time riding together, correcting her bad habits and proving that she could turn on all the greens and blues. It was nice to see at the end of the day that she was really happy with her improvement.
Christian was one of the first instructors to be subjected to the new 'buy 1 hour get 1 free' deal the snow school was offering, and as such he had a two hour private lesson with 2 more experienced adult riders. He was a bit nervous to take the lesson as it was an up-the-hill class and both students sounded quite advanced, but by using the techniques we had been learning in sessions recently, it ended up really good.
After work, Jackie, Eric and Vaughn (one of the newest snowboard instructors who started last week) came over for an impromptu "S'more-mon party" round our house. The first part of the evening was spent in the hot tub with drinks and snacks. The boys on beer and the girls on gin and tonic. We found that our crisp bowls would float in the water and could be pushed between one another.
Eric, Vaughn, Jackie and Chris in the hot-tub
Floating Crisp Bowls
I had also got the ingredients for s'mores. S'more's are marshmallows, heated over a fire and then stuck between 2 Grahams Honey Crackers with a square or two of chocolate chucked in for good measure. Between 5 of us we couldn't get the BBQ working properly and so we made them over the electric hob, not quite the same but still tasty.
Eric, the professional S'more maker, and his giant marshmallow
In preparation for tomorrow's lesson with the Mormon Hills school, Vaughn told us that there was an animated overview to the Mormon history on youtube and so we decided to watch it. It taught us a lot of things about Mormons, not least that this is not a faith that any of us are likely to turn to at any point in our lives. So, Mormon Jesus's dad lived in space and decided to create a new planet, Earth, and send a load of his many children down to populate it. Lucifer had a bad idea about the decor plans (or something else more serious) and so Mormon Jesus was allowed to manage planet earth instead.
Out of the folks sent down to earth, 1/3 were good Jesus-supporting Mormons, 1/3 were evil fans of Lucifer (who in the cartoon looked a bit like vampires) and the final third were indifferent and for this lack of faith were given dark skin (a little racially controvertial we thought, we'll be avoiding any conversations on race tomorrow). There was then some stuff not too dissimilar for standard Christianity, but then we were surprised to find out that Jesus was ressurected an additional time than in the "Good News" version of things, in order to convert the Americas. More bizarely still, the newly converted red indians had a war with what looked like the Roman Empire. We were getting kind of confused.
Then along came a chap called Joe Smith, who was "known for telling tall tales" according to the animation. However, he allegedly found the secret golden scrolls of the dead Roman empire people and told all the Mormons how they should live - and they were happy to believe him. According to Joe Smith, he is more important and should be more respected than Jesus. So, it would appear he is not hugely modest as well as a bit of a fibber.
In conclusion, if you are a Mormon and you lead a good Mormon life then you will be made gods and given a new planet of your own to populate. So I can see why they are all so keen on being good. The video gave us an eye-opening and questionably accurate overview of the Mormon faith, but not much help on what to expect tomorrow. All we do know is perhaps not to offer free beverage tokens to any of them as caffine is a big no-no so coffee, tea and coke would all be off the list.
To finish off the evening we watched a snowboarding video and then everyone went home to bed.
Friday 16th January: more of the nothingy plus a load of fog!!
In our usually mature snowboard instuctor way, we all greeted each other with a "good mormon" as we gathered at the meeting post. And some people who found the joke a little too funny continued with " there could be mormen in your class than mine this morning", "this kid has snowboarded mormon the other kids" and "looks like there's a s'morm on' the way!". You will be pleased to hear that we did get it out of our systems before any of the Mormons arrived.
I had a very nice girl to teach and who seemed a natural on a snowboard. Cautious to stay away from any no-go topics I asked if her siblings all liked skiing and snowboarding too, she just smiled at me and said yes. Thinking I was on safe ground I asked how many siblings she had, her answer was "I don't really know". It soon became apparent that the school of nearly 100 Mormon kids that had turned up was in fact the offspring of 1 single Mormon family (1 man, many wives).
Both of us had double lessons up the hill for the rest of the day. I was back with the girl from yesterday and was very happy to see her grinning as she told me that the boys had all complimented her on her improved riding that morning. We did lots more exercises together and I used up everything we've covered in the sessions and a few extras of my own. I took her slowly down a black run to prove she could do it and again she finished the lesson stoked and keen for more after the weekend. Christian, on the other hand, had picked up one of my students from last week, Zach.
Zach had been to Kimberley on holiday three times before and had also had two lessons up the hill with Sarah before being passed on to me, and as such, promptly guided me around the mountain telling me where was best to go. Unfortunately, just before the end of the lesson he fell on his knees on the hard ice and bit his lip. This was my first opportunity to use my service with no boundaries cards and when he was returned to his parents he was beaming again.
In our lunch break Liana asked to go through our self-evaluation forms with us and feedback on our performance to date. We were relieved and encouraged to hear that she is very happy with our riding and teaching abilities and finds us strong members of the team in terms of our reliability and involvement. All good news, except that we are hugging and kissing too much in uniform, oops.
After work we went for drinks in the Stemwinder with some colleagues. We only had one each and helped Phil out with a couple of pints he'd been bought but couldn't drink as he was driving. I still managed to get tipsy and on the way home was trying somersaults in the powder. I managed to convince Naomi and Jackie to give it a go too and we all had a good laugh.
Frontflips in the snow
Last night, Christian recieved a much awaited package: a voltage converter. He has been tracking it daily, using it's UPS code, for over a week now and so we were both overjoyed that the wait was now over. Now to most of you a voltage converter may not sound like a very exciting item, but when you are Christian and it is the one barrier between you and LittleBigPlanet, it is the holy grail of modern cabling. So I'll let you all guess what we spent the rest of the evening doing!!