Thursday, 27 June 2013

BASI Instructor Course in Verbier - Part 2

Follow this link to read from the beginning 

Mid-way through week one I found I was really struggling to make my big Dynastars turn quickly enough for the exercises we were being given. After a word with the Julian, the trainer, I decided to switch to my Rossignol Scratches - a much more forgiving pair of skis. This was great for a day or two, until one evening I came into the Bunker (the hostel - see last post) feeling like I was coming down with a cold. I left my skis outside the dormitory with everybody else's rather than locking them in the shed on the edge of the grounds as I did most nights. Then I had an early night and was in bed by about seven. I slept well and woke feeling a lot better, as though I had avoided the illness I thought I was getting. I got up and saw that my skis were missing, along with everybody else's. It seems somebody had been into the hostel in the middle of the night and helped themselves, taking advantage of the lax security. It still amazes me how many people have told me that there is no theft in Verbier - I was there less than a week before my skis were stolen. Even the police seemed surprised when I reported the theft. Luckily my Dynastars were safely locked in the ski shed, so at least I had a pair of skis to use for the rest of the course.

Continuing my run of bad luck, my jacket disappeared from an apres ski bar the following evening. As it had my skipass in the pocket this was a bit of a disaster. I bought a one day pass the following morning, and fortunately I found the jacket again that evening - it had been taken by mistake as it was next to a pile that belonged to the same group. This would not be the end of my bad luck on this trip though.

The weekend and the midpoint of the course soon arrived. This brought two days of relief as BASI courses give students the weekends off. We were given a midweek debrief with advice on what to practice and made arrangements to meet for a ski on the Saturday. As it was earlier in my BASI career and I was younger and more foolish I went for a biggish night out on the Friday. I do not remember that much of it - more because it was a long time ago than because of how much I drank. I do remember wanting something to eat at around two AM. There was nowhere open as Verbier did not allow late night takeaways, but I saw a queue had formed below a small high window in an otherwise blank wall. This was the back of a bakery - the famous 'secret bakery'  - where ham and cheese croissants could be purchased semi-clandestinely.

Over the weekend I took advantage of the opportunity to ski some of Verbier's legendary off piste, as did everybody in the group. On Monday morning, Julian asked each of us what we had been practising over the weekend.

"I worked on variables."
"Yes, variables."
"Me to."
And so on.
"You all just went off piste, didn't you?"

Well, yes. We did. Skiing is supposed to be about having fun after all.  However passing exams is about hard work as well so we were soon back to it. We had theory sessions in the evenings and skied hard in the daytime. We also had to fit in teaching sessions were we delivered mock lessons to the rest of the group. Mine went well enough, just about, so I passed that part of the course. I also passed the written exam on the Wednesday evening. That just left the skiing part to pass.

On the Friday afternoon we stopped as a group. Julian went ahead and had us ski down to him one at a time to get our result. I learnt later that this meant not all of us had passed. I skied down nervously and stopped next to Julian. He said 'Welcome to BASI', shook my hand and that was it. There was a more detailed debrief later on but that was it for on the slopes. I had passed. I was officially a ski instructor.

I would finish this post here but for a couple of incidents on the way home which completed my run of scatterbrained bad luck. After the course and the obligatory big night out in Verbier I had a few days of leave left so I had arranged to meet up with an old friend Neil, in Les Arcs, France. Buses and trains got me there without too much trouble and I had a pleasant two and a half days of stress free skiing with Neil and his brother. The problems arose when it came to leaving. I could not find my passport anywhere and eventually concluded that it had been lost in transit somewhere. I called the airline for advice and they just said to arrive extra early at Geneva airport to sort it out. I left Les Arcs late-morning on the funicular to Bourg Saint Maurice from where I planned to take the 1PM bus to Geneva. It was only when I got to the desk to buy my ticket that I discovered the small print on the timetable. The one o'clock bus only ran on Saturdays. I needed to have taken the 8AM bus. I tried the train but it would have taken seven hours to reach Geneva and my plane took off in six. My only option was a taxi. For one person. For a two to three hour drive. I'm sure the taxi driver couldn't believe his luck when I headed to the rank and asked the price for Geneva airport.

I threw my bags in the back and we headed off. Around Annecy we hit heavy traffic. I was clearly getting anxious as the driver told me not to worry, I would have plenty of time. He handed me a cigar and lit one himself. My one good memory of that day is enjoying the view across Lake Annecy, smoking a companionable cigar with the taxi driver. The traffic soon cleared and we were on our way. As we approached the Swiss border I began hoping fervently that we would not have our passports checked. Fortunately checks are rare at that border and we sailed through. What I had not expected was the meter switching to a different rate as we left France. The numbers on the display began to spin and the few short miles on Swiss soil caused my already hefty bill to jump extortionately. I was relieved when we pulled up at the airport and the numbers stopped moving.

I had a few hours to spare so I could sort out my passport issue. I presented myself at the Easyjet check-in and was directed to an office at the end of the airport. They were expecting me. I was sat down at a desk in front of a severe looking Swiss official.

"So tell me," he said threateningly. "Who did you sell your passport to?"
"Um, I didn't," I tried to say. I was not expecting an interrogation.
"Ha, ha, only joking with you." An airport official with a sense of humour. I was expecting that even less. He explained that he just needed to get clearance from UK immigration and I would be allowed to travel. It helped that I had my driving license to prove who I was. After endless calls to UK border control offices around the country who were having tea breaks he managed to find somebody at Luton who actually answered the phone and gave permission for me to travel to Liverpool. My somewhat over budget month away could finally come to and end.

Next week I begin my actual teaching career in Scotland. That coincided with getting my first camera-phone so expect to see some pictures at last.

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