'Allo, 'allo, 'allo and welcome to the penultimate Banff newsletter! Yes, it’s hard to believe but we’ve only got one week left out here before the group flight home next Saturday. But what a week it has been: the Level 2 exams were finally upon us and with them came plenty of nerves, plenty of powder and plenty to celebrate! Without further ado, here’s how the last 7 days panned out.  And what better place to start than with the photos below ...  

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The boarders had Monday off to get some final practice in before their exams started but the skiers had no such luck as their Level 2s ran from Monday until Friday. The set-up for this year’s CSIA exam was a little different with a new module added – the first day of the five was focused on a specific aspect of teaching, be it All-Mountain, Teaching Children or Bumps. This time, all the skiers signed up for Teaching Children as it was seen as the most beneficial come job application time. The remainder of the week was broken down into two days of instruction (Tuesday / Wednesday), followed by two days of assessment (Thursday / Friday) with the examiners swapping around for each two-day section. There were some nervous faces among the skiers on the bus come Monday morning and after signing in, they were divided into their groups for the day and set off around the upper mountain but NOTbefore Casey invoked his “no pee, no ski” rule that he upholds with everyone he teaches, from little kids to other Sunshine instructors!
Those of a nervous disposition needn’t have worried as by the time they all arrived at the day lodge for lunch, everyone’s nerves had settled thanks to the laid back attitude of the examiners and a fun morning spent learning and playing children’s games. These ranged from ‘aeroplanes’ (no poles, stick your arms out straight and pretend you’re flying) to ‘lava field’ (pretend the snow is lava and try spend as little time in contact with it as possible).  While the skiers were pretending to be 5 years old again, the boarders were getting some last minute. Olly and Darren started the morning lapping the Divide chair with Olly using an iPhone app that tracks movement around the mountain via GPS to work out the top speed, which he then spent a couple of runs trying to beat. They spent the rest of the day practising their teaching with one another and ironing out any creases. Elsewhere on the mountain, Kyle, Tom M and Ben H were focusing on their riding, breaking in their new snowboards to get a good feel for how they behaved ahead of the exam. 
With Tuesday came the snowboarders’ Level 2s. Their plan for the week was similar to that of the skiers with two days of instruction on riding and teaching, followed by two days of assessment. Just before they broke for lunch, Carlo, one of the examiners, eased his group’s nerves by telling them that he was initially really impressed by their riding. Over in the skiers’ camp, they were also getting stuck into their first day of instruction. Crushes had started developing towards examiner Dave, who usually works out of Lake Louise. Eugenie, Oscar and Parr all admitted that over the course of the morning they’d developed a soft spot for him (man crush ahoy!) and his excellent teaching style.  They claimed to have progressed loads over the course of the morning thanks to his expert instruction. Come the end of the day, the boarders left the mountain in good spirits after receiving lots of positive feedback. Things took a turn for the worse however, as Ross had a tumble on his last run down when he caught and edge upon landing a jump and slammed his shoulder into the ground. After a trip to the on-mountain infirmary and then Mineral Springs hospital in town, it was diagnosed as a torn acromio-clavicular (AC) joint where ligaments connect the shoulder blade with the collarbone. Sadly, it’s not a quick heal injury and the accident puts Ross out of the Level 2 and he'll sadly be heading home next Monday. We’re really sorry to see Ross go, especially under such circumstances, and we can safely say that he’s brought the life and soul of the party to Banff.  He’ll be sorely missed and we wish him as speedy a recovery as possible.
Everyone awoke on Wednesday morning to the 7cm of fresh snow that had fallen at Sunshine overnight. The storm responsible for it was a persistent one and the snow kept falling – pretty much non-stop – for the rest of the day. Prefect conditions for a powder day, not so good for starting teaching practice. Come the end of the day, everyone headed indoors to receive individual feedback from their respective examiners. On the whole, the news was positive and everyone came away with a clearer idea of what was required of them over the next two days. For the boarders, the main point was to be a little more creative in their teaching, particularly when pretending to teach children as keeping their attention and making snowboarding fun is half the job. On the ski out to catch the bus back to Banff, Bready Ben was practising his switch skiing and ended up careering into Ben H who was carving his way down on his board. By all accounts it was an heroic tumble and left Bens all over the piste but luckily, both came away unscathed. 
The weather never quite does what you’d like it too during exams. Just as blue skies and sunshine are an unwelcome but regular distraction while stuck in a school hall writing an essay, one of the deepest powder days of the season isn’t what you want while being assessed on your carving! Unfortunately for the Skoolers, these were the exact conditions they faced on Thursday. 17cm of snow had fallen since the mountain closed the previous day and the powder was inescapable. Despite the unhelpful and taunting conditions, the day was a good one. Almost every group mixed things up between teaching and riding and most people came away feeling positive. Back at the hostel, it was a quiet evening of R’n’R – rest and revision that is – ahead of the final day of exams.
For Nadine, Alex S, Big Ben and Jordan, Friday not only marked their final day of Level 2 exams, but also their 13th consecutive day of skiing and their 8th consecutive day of exams! Last Friday they sat their Level 1 over at Norquay and then went straight into their Level 2’s on Monday morning. Regardless of the results that would be announced later in the afternoon, that’s quite an achievement in itself! Top work guys! The day was again a mix of teaching and riding as the examiners solidified their opinions about their students. Both the skiers and boarders were all finished by about 2.30pm which gave them a chance to get a few laps or nerve-soothing pints in before the results! 
Both the skiing and snowboarding exams consist of two separate sections – teaching and riding. To obtain a pass in either after such a short period is a fantastic achievement. Most instructors take at least a decade or more to work their way up to obtaining both parts of their Level 4 qualification, so to meet the standard for either section of Level 2 after just 11 weeks is fantastic. 
By 3.30, the boarders headed to the top floor of the day lodge to face their demons and hear their results. Amazingly, every single one of the boarders passed at least one section of the exam with 13 of the guys coming away with full passes! Not only that, but a few of the gang received above standard in at least one section, with Olly and Coldtoes Tom achieving above standard in both their riding and teaching sections!
About an hour later, it was the skiers’ turn. Casey, the technical director of the ski school (and the man who can honestly claim to be not only the best skier on the mountain, but arguably the best instructor in Western Canada) took to the floor to say a few words before the results were read out. Joey, who used to be in the military, was sitting right in front of him, and seeing the nervous look on his face, Casey said, What are you nervous about? You’ve been to war! Joey replied, War’s not as nerve-racking as this! Casey then split everyone into their respective groups for the results and a few minutes later, the room was filled with hugs and cheers as 24 skiers were handed their Level 2 CSIA badges! 
After words of congratulations for most and commiserations for some, about half headed down the mountain to catch the bus back to Banff. The other half hung around with the aim of catching a later bus, kicking off the celebrations with a couple of pitchers. After a burrito dinner, most people made their way to the Storm Cellar where Andrew, Dom, Sophie, Ron and Matt were ready to celebrate. The plan was initially to start in the hostel and  move onto Mel’s before ending the night at Dancing Sasquatch. However, as the line goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and the pull of the Storm Cellar (and Karaoke Tom’s intoxicating voice) was too strong, and many ended up spending the whole night there!  
For the most part, the weekend was spent catching up on sleep and getting some well-deserved rest. A few made it up the mountain on Saturday to watch the Salomon Rail Jam that was going down in the terrain park. Mike P had been hoping to enter, but he’d hurt his leg on Friday afternoon once the exams had finished – while getting some practice in before the next day’s competition, he slipped on a rail and hit his shin. Aussie James didn’t have much luck either, as on the same run he tried a back flip and got both his ski tips caught on the way round. Thankfully, he came away from it with only a bruised ego.
Having missed out on Thursday’s powder, Sunday threw up another opportunity for the gang to slash some fresh lines with a healthy 6cm falling on Saturday night. For some however, Sunday was a chance to brush up on their knowledge ahead of yet another exam next week: the CSIA race coach qualification. Rich, Joey, Jordan and Aussie James will spend Tuesday through Thursday learning how to ride and teach ski racing, hopefully adding another string to their qualification bow in the process. For most however, it’ll be an opportunity to let their hair down and just ski whatever they want!
It’s been amazing to watch the progress the guys have delivered since they arrived back here in January and regardless of qualifications they’ve accrued, they should all be very proud of how far they’ve come and all they have achieved. We sure are! 
Back next week with the last round of news from beautiful Banff.
SnowSkool David and SnowSkool Tom
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