Cypriot school talk on skiing and mountain safety

Like most Ski Club Leaders, I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for skiing, even when the temperature is up at 25C.

When a teacher friend of mine, Joyce Oxley, was looking for a practical ‘skiing and mountain safety kit talk’ for her class of 10 and 11 year- olds, at Necat British College near Kyrenia in Cyprus, I was only too keen to accept.

cypriot classroom ski gear

So, in October I joined Joyce’s enthusiastic class of Cypriot, Turkish, Russian, British, Iranian and Bulgarian children for an informal discussion, and plenty of play with my skiing kit. Some students were pretty familiar with a snowy environment, and a few had visited the Troodos Mountains here in Cyprus, but not many had actually been skiing.

school child trying on ski goggles

Furry hat, helmet, ski gloves, ski jacket, ski boots, and goggles were tested out by my enthusiastic students. “I’m walking like a robot!” was the verdict on trying to walk in my ski boots. Fair comment.

two school girls trying on ski boots

Next up, we had a look at my map of the Dolomites, for an appreciation of some schematic mountain terrain and how we might use the map and compass to navigate the area. Looking at all those ski-lifts, restaurants and mountain huts we should not really get lost here.

“Did you ever have to stay in a cave when you got lost in the mountains?”, was the rather damning verdict on my navigation skills. Naturally this led us to have a look at some other gear that you might need in an emergency. First aid kit, torch and whistle, and a survival bag were of great interest to the students.

school children being taught how to map read

Miss Joyce had been teaching the students about mountain weather and hazards such as avalanches, so they had seen a couple of videos of off-piste skiing and avalanche protection.

“Have you ever been caught in an avalanche, Mr John?” Fortunately the answer is no, and we all agreed that it is much better to avoid being in an avalanche in the first place, but very important to have the right training and rescue kit before venturing off-piste, just in case.

At my recent Leader Training Day at the Ski Club, Katy Ellis had kindly loaned me a Flare avalanche rescue signal (a simple transmitter for children to wear), so we buried one of the class, wearing the Flare, under an avalanche – of duvets. We quickly assembled our probe and shovel, so after a very fast search with my Ortovox digital transceiver, we had located our class-mate, and we were able to dig out our rather over-heated avalanche victim.

avalanche safety training with children in school

Finally it was question time:
“Have you met wild animals while skiing, Mr John?”. Certainly a few chamois, and a few elk and moose wandering through the cold evening air in Banff.

“Did you ever fall down a hole while skiing?” Well, I couldn’t admit to that, but there are tree-wells to contend with, and Flaine has plenty of sink-holes in its limestone terrain, which are best avoided.
With the distribution of some Ski Club lanyards (very popular), that was the end of my little talk.

A big thanks to Joyce (who also took the photos) and headmistress Idil Akcal at Necat British College, for the invitation.

My apologies to some Cyprus parents who now report that their children are now very keen to go skiing.

Words by John Bennett, Ski Club Leader



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