Hello to you all and welcome to the weekly newsletter for SnowSkool Banff 2010.  The plan is to send through an update of what’s been happening over here in Canada’s beautiful Rocky Mountains as this year’s group goes through its paces of instructor training.  It’s not meant to replace personal communication from your SnowSkooler but rather, supplement it.  We will try and put some photos up online each week as well.

This first newsletter is the longest of the season as it’s the busiest time.  First thing to do is to introduce the hosting team here in Banff, with two from the UK plus a Kiwi.  Course leader is Adrian “Dunk” Gourlay, who has been working with SnowSkool since he successfully completed his Level 2 snowboarding qualification with us here in Banff some five years ago.  That makes this Dunk’s sixth season in Canada straight, so he knows his onions.  He is joined by Sarah Vujcich from Auckland, New Zealand, who successfully completed her Level 2 snowboarding qualification with us in Big White last year.   Jordi Bartlett from Southampton joined the SnowSkool skier course here in Banff in 2007 only to be unable to complete it due to injury.  This core team is joined temporarily by Phil Purdie, SnowSkool’s founder and tear-away Scotsman, who is with us for the first few days before he heads over to Big White to welcome the 74 SnowSkoolers training over there in British Columbia this season.  And with 16 Aussies on the course here in Banff, our rep in Australia, Marion Fagan, arrived late December for a month, to help get things rolling or those arriving early from Australia and the UK.  Together, we are responsible for the group of 74 who hale from Great Britain, Australia, Belgium and The Netherlands with 37 skiers and 37 boarders, 62 males and 12 females.

Most importantly, everyone arrived safely and hit the ground running.  First man in to the hostel was Alex Chapman from London (although now, by popular vote, declared honorary Aussie) in mid December, followed by Chris Taylor from Melbourne.  The rest of the Aussies arrived before the main group, between the 2nd and the 7th. With severe snow storms hitting the UK earlier this week, it was a miracle the main group’s flight got away at all let alone only 45 minutes late. It landed at Calgary at about 7.30pm and the bus reached the hostel in Banff at 10.45pm.  Some 45 new guests descended, dumped their 100+ pieces of luggage and hit the café for a burger before heading to the Storm Cellar, the on-site pub.  By this time¸ those who had arrived earlier were more than ready to play! 

After Friday’s breakfast, the group received a briefing from hostel management before heading into Banff to get their season passes and sort out equipment.  With Tommy’s Pub as our base, the first group (who had brought their equipment with them) moved through their paces quite quickly before the second group (who needed to shop) arrived after their walk down from the hostel with Phil.  Even as late as 7.00pm that night, cabs were still pulling up at the hostel with SnowSkoolers spilling out with their newly purchased kit. The local economy certainly received a welcome injection of British pounds that particular Friday!  The hallways here full of all sorts of gear as everyone came home and showed off their new stuff.  There was genuine excitement and generous complements all round – “Oohhh – awesome colour”, “Wow – I so love that board” etc.  Certainly a novel conversation starter that got everyone meeting their new neighbours!

Friday night saw the first mass dinner (chicken pie) which went pleasingly smoothly.  The group is mixing well with plenty of opportunities to meet others - rooming arrangements, out in the hallways, at mealtimes, on the bus, on the slopes, in training groups etc.  It is truly surprising how quickly and well such a big group has already integrated.  After dinner, virtually everyone went to the Storm Cellar for some completely undignified karaoke.  Ollie from south of Sydney set a high bar with “Like a Virgin” while Steve’s interpretation of “Push It” was highly regarded.  Nick and Will took on “Man I Feel Like a Woman” with some degree of success.  Whatever you think of karaoke, it certainly is a great ice-breaker!

Come Saturday, it was time for the newcomers to take to the slopes.  While most relished their new equipment – for many it was the first time they’ve owned instead of rented – we are sad to report that we have already had a snowboarder fracture his collar bone that very first day.  He had planned to be in Canada for some six months so he’s deciding whether to stay or go.

Five new arrivals came in on Saturday as back-logged flights from Europe finally cleared.  Poor Maxim had been on his way from Belgium via EuroStar to join the main group flight when the train broke down mid-Chunnel, leaving him stranded.  One of Julie’s two bags has been located while the other is officially still lost somewhere between here and Amsterdam.  The temperature has kindly risen since the start of the year when it was as low as -21C.  The snow gently, but steadily fell for the first week of January and since then the sun has started to shine and temperatures are just below zero up the mountain and a little above zero down in town. 

But despite this largely smooth and fun start, the work proper commenced yesterday when training started up at Sunshine.  Two additional buses will be provided to take SnowSkoolers up to the resort, but it will be an early start each week day and quite a demanding regimen.  We are also very aware that for several, the whole experience can be a little overwhelming this first week – the jetlag, the cold climate, sharing a room, the many new faces, and the initial soreness from hitting the slopes.  Our experience tells us this settles dramatically during the first week so if your SnowSkooler is feeling a little disorientated, hanging in there, going with the flow and giving it a chance to settle is the best approach in these early days.  That said, the staff is here to help should things not settle as quickly as they should. 

Until next weekend,

Best regards from Dunk, Sarah and Jordi


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