Chemmy Alcott does her BASI Training
Have you ever done something just to tick a box only to finish it having learnt so much more than you had anticipated?
I am going to be honest here – I signed up for BASI because if I ever want to work in France, due to recent drastic changes, one has to be properly qualified. I didn’t think I wanted to learn how to instruct.
I did however, promise to go into BASI with open eyes and the constitution of a sponge. I rarely have 2 weeks off so I was determined that, if I was to spend these 2 weeks up in hintertux under blue skies and with incredible spring snow conditions in a snowplough, then by word I was going to learn something!
I have never much liked skiing slow. For 99.9% of my career this wasn’t a problem.
Occasionally, yes, our coaches, told us to go back to basics – do a few slower turns and focus on the technical foundations but mostly I skied like a bat out of hell. I feel free when I ski fast, when I am pushing my limits, when I race down those steeps making huge angles at the top of the turns knowing the only reason I am not falling inside is because I have timed my force against the pull of gravity perfectly.
So doing almost 10 days of snowploughs, maybe progressing into a few skidded parallel turns filled me with dread.
And rightly so, because on the first two days it became crystal clear that I was useless at snowploughing. The rotate and pressure analogy of a child proof bottle top drummed into me by the legend that was my instructor- Les Ward, didn’t help. Every-time I went into that pizza shape I turned by shifting all my centre of mass and having a long leg/short leg – aptly known as the racers’ snow plough.
I moved my body forward like I was carrying speeds of 40, 50 mph not the meagre 2mph that I was in fact ploughing at.
In truth, I looked ridiculous. Group video sessions of our ‘Central Theme’ (the BASI name for the progression from complete novice to beginner to intermediate) were painful. I could see others in my group casually perfecting the snowplough but other than blaming my inadequacies on my stiff metal right leg I didn’t know how to make the change.
After frustrated tears one evening and hugs from Dougie (Crawford my husband who was there taking part in his Level 3 and who is the ideal demonstration of the BASI style of skiing) the penny dropped.
For me, my whole career I have tried to do more. Move more, get more angles, make more speed. Right now, right here for these two weeks I needed to do less.
And so my BASI Eureka moment was born. Finally I learnt to rotate my feet to where I wanted to go. Finally I learnt that I didn’t need to load the ski with my centre of mass to turn at low speeds. I could just stand tall and make smaller precise extension and flexion movements.
I bet poor Les felt relieved. It would have probably been rather embarrassing for BASI if they had to fail me on the technical side.
With this understanding I finally comprehended what it must feel like to be a beginner. And, in that occasionally I do have friends just starting out skiing that I want to share my passion with, it is imperative that I can communicate with them.
I will hold my hands up in admitting that before this course I was a poor friend in terms of teaching people to learn. Recently on my travels around Europe I stopped in at Chamonix and arranged to ski with a friend who I had met on Dancing On Ice. Having only skied a few days she was quite rightly nervous and Chamonix’s blue runs are not official blue runs!! We both ended the day frustrated, with me eventually having to piggy back my friend down the mountain. I was gutted that I hadn’t had the understanding to help her. So a big sorry if you are reading this and a promise that next time I will be much, much better!
If I only I had done my BASI before!
I learnt to ski 31 years ago. I don’t remember what it is like to be a beginner. That sounds arrogant and big headed but I am writing it as a weakness. How could I know the correct terminology and exercises to help anyone at that level?
By the middle weekend I understood that this was far from ticking a box. This was making me a better advocate for the sport I am so passionate about.
Someone once wrote that WITH KNOWLEDGE COMES WISDOM, WITH WISDOM COMES UNDERSTANDING.
Yes, I may have struggled with the huge BASI manual with all its terminology and at first yes, I also struggled with taking so many steps back in order to ski slow but in the end the system works – I know more about skiing than ever before.
I learnt how to teach. I learnt that I thrive on creativity in my instruction. I learnt who I am as a teacher, as a learner.
So thanks BASI for enabling me to tick a box by looking outside the box!