Hello one and all, and welcome to the final SnowSkool newsletter from Banff for 2014! Crazy to think it's been almost 3 months since everyone stepped off the plane at Calgary as fresh-faced strangers. Fast-forward 12 weeks and everyone leaves here as qualified instructors with a mountain of good memories behind them. Before we get all sentimental though, let’s take a look at what antics have been going down in the last seven days!  With lessons (and for the most part, exams) done and dusted, the final week was an opportunity for the Skoolers to let their hair down and use their time to ski/ ride wherever they wanted, however they wanted. For some, this meant taking road trips to other resorts in the area including Lake Louise, Kicking Horse and Revelstoke, while for others it was an opportunity to really get stuck into some big mountain riding and explore all that Sunshine has to offer.  Check out our final batch of photos for the season ...


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The week kicked off with a bang, as come Monday morning, Sunshine had accumulated 13cm of the white stuff overnight! Chrissy, Hayden, Yogi and Gregg strapped on their transceivers and got stuck into it, cutting lines down Delirium Dive and The Wild West, Sunshine’s two ‘free-ride zones’ that require avalanche safety gear to be worn. While Delirium Dive is a large bowl that features various drop-ins and wide open steeps, The Wild West is situated lower down the mountain, off Goat’s Eye chair, and is made up of numerous narrow chutes and cliffs. One of the chutes in which the gang found themselves featured a mandatory drop about 6ft long and 5ft high. Yogi cleared the distance but in so doing, caught an edge on landing and tumbled to a stop at the feet of a Ski Patroller. Not his least embarrassing moment!  Elsewhere on the mountain, Oscar was initiating himself into the Backflip Club. After successfully landing the trick for the first time on Sunday, he spent Monday pulling a few more flips before they got the better of him – he dug his ski tips in on one landing and hurt his back a bit but nothing he wasn’t able to ski away from. About 30 miles down the road, Richard was getting a day’s riding in over at Lake Louise.  Although they hadn’t received as much snow overnight, they’d had 16cm the previous day and their pistes were still in good nick.
Tuesday marked the first day of the three-day long CSIA entry-level race coach course that Richard, Joey, Aussie James and Jordan were taking. While mainly focusing on race teaching and technique, the course also covered first aid procedures and techniques for teaching children, skills vital to any would-be ski instructor.  Course instructor Dave set a fun, relaxed environment for the guys from the off. Maybe a little too relaxed in fact, as before lunch, he managed to not only crash into a wooden piste marker, but snap it in half! Apparently he was swerving to avoid another skier, so I think we can let him off on this occasion!  While the racers were learning mountain first aid (and trying to avoid piste hazards), a big crew including among others Danny, Clayton, Joe P, Hayden, Chrissy and Grant, were taking on the Virgin Chutes that drop down off Standish chair. There were still patches of untouched snow to be found after Sunday’s heavy fall, and the bumps that the chutes lead into were in good shape. Chrissy headed back to town after lunch to rest her knee, which she’d injured previously. For the guys who remained, the afternoon consisted mainly of park laps and dropping the cliff that led off the Angel Chair cat track, down into the Boundary Bowl. Hayden was first to hit the drop at its largest point and went huge off it, sailing through the air for what seemed like an age! He skidded out on the landing, but, after a few more attempts, rode away from it smoothly.
Tuesday evening marked the final game of the SnowSkoool football season. The usual suspects of Mike P, Big Ben, Grant, Mike H, Danny, Rich, Jack, Aussie James, Sam and Snowskool Tom and David turned out and split themselves into the usual teams of red and blue. A hectic first half ended with Jack slotting away a screamer for the reds from near the halfway line, putting them two ahead with the score at 3 -1. Goals came thick and fast in the second half, at first from the reds, who seemed to be having no trouble extending their lead. Before long they were comfortably ahead at 7 – 4 but the blues weren’t going to give up easily and thanks to some pacey runs from Mike P and fancy footwork from Grant, they clawed back another two goals. Unfortunately for the blues it was too little too late, and the final whistle blew minutes later, ending things at 8 – 6 to the reds.
The next morning, after an hour or so of classroom theory, the racers were given their first opportunity to put their speed skills to the test. Instructor Dave took them up Goat’s eye where he had them put in a couple of laps going as fast as they could. He was much more concerned with speed than technique and came out with several welcome and winning lines including, “If it makes you go faster, do it!” He wanted the racers to push their skills to – if possible – over the limit. His philosophy can be summarised in the one liner, “If you’ve fallen over, you’ve won”. Safe to say, Jordan, Joey, Rich and James had a great time flying down Goats Eye’s blues and blacks as fast as they could. The afternoon was a much calmer affair mostly spent back in the classroom, answering theoretical questions about how they as coaches would deal with children and their parents in certain race and training situations. The qualification would certify them not only as race coaches but for any sports taught to children in Canada, from ice hockey to athletics. 
While the majority of the crew spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Sunshine, an intrepid group of Skoolers made up of AJ, Darren, Katie, Olly, Helena and Zef hired a car and took a road trip.  They headed to the British Columbian resorts of Kicking Horse and Revelstoke, famed for their incredible terrain of big mountain bowls and endless tree runs where the gang was treated to great conditions over two days. One of the draws of Kicking Horse is its Stairway to Heaven, a set of metal steps that lead from the top of a chairlift that bears the same name to a ridge overlooking the Fuez Bowl. There are various entrances into the bowl – some straightforward, and some altogether more extreme. The guys of the group were stood atop one particularly hairy entrance, debating its feasibility when Katie and Helena stepped up, and dropped in. Not to be outdone by the girls, the guys quickly followed them in, along with their bruised egos!  
Thursday marked not only the last day of the racing course, but also the last official night out of the SnowSkool season. The racers rounded things off by working on their turns, both GS and downhill, and come 2.00pm when Dave brought things to a close, the guys left the mountain with yet another badge to add to their ever-growing collection! Jake S, Nadine and Bekki spent the day taking things a little less seriously, getting into the spirit of the evening ahead by donning some fancy dress outfits and taking to the slopes. Jake wore a white sailor’s outfit while the other two opted for more comfortable onsies – Bekki’s in a black and white animal print and Nadine’s in camouflage green and brown. The effectiveness of the latter as a means of remaining undetected on a bright white ski slope however, was debatable.  To celebrate the last week of the course, we forwent our usual Thursday evening hostel dinner and instead took over Athena’s Pizza restaurant, which sits at the top end of Banff Avenue. There was a fancy dress theme for the night of Hip-Hop and Gangster, which was loosely adopted by a few of the gang. Jake, Nadine and Bekki kept in the spirit of things and came appropriately attired in bandanas and flat caps but props must be given to Rich, who went all out with his 1920’s-style pin stripe suit and inflatable Tommy gun to match! Always one to get stuck into fancy dress, his costumes rarely disappoint. As an added bonus to the meal, all the instructors were able to make it along for a final catch up before the group flight back to the UK on Saturday. Dom, Chris and Andrew will all be sitting (or “skiing”) their Level 4 exam next week and it was nice for us to be able to wish them luck ahead of it. After the gigantic pizzas had been devoured and digested, it was over to the Magpie and Stump for a few lime margaritas before heading next door to Hoodoo’s nightclub. In keeping with the night’s theme, the DJ was conveniently spinning a healthy amount of Hip-Hop! 
For the majority of the Skoolers, Friday marked their last possible ski day of the season. Hayden, Chrissie, Danny, Aussie James, Harry, Steely T and Kyle put it to good use, following in previous footsteps by getting up early and catching the chartered bus to Kicking Horse. Not only was it their last day of the season, but for some of them, it was the best day’s skiing they’d ever had!  Of the four large alpine bowls at Kicking Horse, the group spent part of the afternoon hiking to the furthest one and were rewarded with some deep, steep, fresh lines!  Those who stayed in Banff divided their time between fitting in some final runs and fitting in some final bag packing. Most were leaving with a lot more stuff than they arrived with and the art of dividing the weight between bags so that none of them go over the airline’s limit is indeed a fine one.  However, for some of the boarders, the day had an extra level of importance as they were doing a one-day re-sit their Level 2 exam. Some of the boarders came away from the original exam having passed either their teaching or riding section, but were hoping to use their last day in Banff to land the other half that had just eluded them. We’re happy to announce that both Darren and Simone were able to do just that! Massive congratulations to them both!
Friday evening saw the course come full circle as everyone made their way down to the Storm Cellar for beers, burgers and drink tokens, just like we did that first night in Banff all those months ago. A photo slideshow of some of the best moments of the season was playing as everyone assembled their meals ahead of the end-of-season awards! Snowskool Tom and David took to the stage to hand out the certificates that each bore a picture of the winner, along with the title of their specific award. With tongues firmly in cheeks, the awards ranged form the predictable and incontestable (Karaoke Tom winning the Frank Sinatra award for unrelenting commitment to karaoke) to the endearing (Mike Parr and Grant picking up one of several Bromance awards) and not forgetting the plain joyous – Big Ben’s Torvil and Dean award for taking an unprecedented amount of pleasure in ice skating! Some awards probably aren’t suitable for these pages but needless to say, it was fun to re-cap on some memories from the course.  Fast forward a few hours and the Storm Cellar was once again the grip of some SnowSkool love, this time delivered through the artful medium of karaoke. Highlights included a mass SnowSkool rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and a heartfelt and surprisingly touching rendition of Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me, which Karaoke Tom dedicated to all his “SnowSkool friends”. 
Saturday morning marked THE last day in Canada for most of the Skoolers as about 30 of them were set to fly out of Calgary, either back home to the UK, or onto other adventures elsewhere in the world. The coaches pulled up to the hostel a little after 9.00am and everyone congregated outside with their bags, beginning their goodbyes to those who were staying behind in Banff for a little longer. Everyone seemed hesitant to actually board the coaches, trying to delay the inevitable as long as possible. Richard found a very effective method when he couldn’t find his passport!  After some frantic rummaging and repacking, it became clear it wasn’t in either of his bags or anywhere in his room. The coaches had to leave and it was decided that Rich would follow with SnowSkool David in the car, just in case it turned up on the way to the airport. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and after saying his goodbyes, Rich headed back to Banff with SnowSkool Tom and David. 
A few hours after getting back to the hostel, the passport was found! It had somehow mistakenly ended up in roommate Will’s suitcase.  Oops.  Panic over, Rich booked himself onto another flight departing the next day and we can happily report he made it back home, and we can only presume that his passport is now somewhere VERY safe. 
It’s been a fantastic three months out here in Banff but like all good things, it must come to an end. Big thanks are due to all the instructors and hostel staff who made the last 12 weeks so productive and enjoyable. Good luck to everyone currently applying for instructor positions around the world and congratulations to those who have already secured jobs! It’s been a fantastic season that has seen some incredible improvements from a huge number of people over quite a short space of time. You should all be very proud! We certainly are.
Take care, and we’ll see you on the slopes soon!
SnowSkool David and SnowSkool Tom
Course Hosts - SnowSkool Banff 2014
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