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Posted on
February 3, 2024

Hi everyone and welcome to a bumper edition, from your favourite blogging Méribel ski instructor. Gosh, quite a lot has happened since the last SkiHemsley post. Different weather fronts have passed through with quite a variation in temperatures; this has meant a mixture of fantastic snow conditions with some educational days thrown in as well!?! But don't worry, the snow conditions remain quite good, even with the milder weather. As ever, all photos featuring in these blog posts have been taken by me the last couple of weeks or so.

Sea of cloud with Mont Blanc in the distance, with Courchevel's Vizelle bubble in the foreground.

Leading up to this winter, I had the intention of writing several posts about improving skiing performance, including various technical theories and the four different 'Performance Threads' that can help or hinder our skiing. So far I haven't managed to do this, and instead have shared experiences of the wonderful people I've skied with the last few weeks. I still want to write about the technical stuff but, how about for now I continue with everyday SkiHemsley life here in Méribel?

Back in August last year, I received an email from Sparkie. I probably last skied with her over ten years ago, so it was lovely to hear from Sparkie again. In short, she explained that over the last five years or so for various reasons, her confidence levels had taken a plummet. Injuries, being skied into to, etc etc. Her email quoted...."Hence between the fear of skiing in fog and then the accident my confidence has been a bit eroded!  I was thinking maybe it is time to just stop...but that also really annoys me to give up without at least trying again....which is where you come in!" Gulp, Sparkie booked me for three days, make or break time!

Sparkie on the Suisse black piste above Courchevel.

So, we took it easy the first few runs, whilst starting to gradually build the confidence. Not easy bearing in mind the weather wasn't always on our side. And step by gentle step we chipped away at the tactical, physical, psychological and technical aspects of the sport. And guess what, progress was soon made and we were enjoying our skiing on increasingly more challenging pistes. To the point that it soon felt as though we were playing Top Trumps (remember that card game back in the day) with bagging black pistes!?! Great fun, and very rewarding. I didn't take a photo of every black piste we skied, because It could've started to look a bit nerdy.

Sparkie starting to show off her black piste conquests!

Needless to say, those three days we skied together were a great success. Sparkie kindly emailed after her return to the UK with a form of a testimonial. Here's a copy of the text she wrote......

Just had fantastic 3 days with Martin!  A classic middle aged wobbly intermediate, I have had some big confidence issues over the last few years and was going to give up skiing.  But in a bid to give it one last go I asked Martin (who I last had a lesson with about 12 years ago!) if he would be willing to "drag me round the mountain" on a make or break mission to see if I could get my mojo back. Happily he bravely accepted the mission and I am over the moon to report that several Black runs later(!) I am back in love with skiing...even in thick fog and heavy snow!!

Martin is a phenomenal confidence inspiring teacher...calm and methodical, he spots immediately what the issues are and then just makes a few very simple tweaks to your technique and explains why those changes will work and why it will all feel completely different...which then sorts out the rubbish going on in your head and you will have the confidence to try to change things and to trust in it.  I cannot recommend him more highly...he will transform how you ski and how you feel about it too...and you won't have those burning exhausted legs ever again 😍!! Thanks Sparkie, it was lovely skiing with you again.

The next subject I've thought long and hard about whether to mention. But in the end I reckon that many of you reading this blog know me in person, whether a little or quite well. I feel as though our relationship is more about just skiing, it's other life stuff as well. For those that don't know me then perhaps skip through some of this personal information. The evening before my last day with Sparkie, I received some news from my Mum's care home. Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer's around ten years ago, and had been brilliantly cared for by the staff in Cheshire since August 2019. This news wasn't the normal feedback, it suggested that Mum was declining and was probably approaching 'End Of Life' care imminently. Not a complete surprise, but not the nicest you wanted to hear. Sure enough, within a few days later I was informed that her 'Anticipatory End Of Life Medicine' had started to be administered.

The very next day I had an all day booking with Judy and Chris, who I have skied with many many times over the years, and even photographed their wedding. I really didn't want to let them down on their last day of their holiday, so decided to toughen up and go ahead. Just before the lesson started in the morning I was informed that Mum was unlikely to survive the day. Harriet my wife was already racing up to Cheshire to be with Mum, whilst I continued here in Méribel. I'll be honest, it wasn't an easy start to the day, but I tell you what, a helmet and googles are really good at hiding tears especially in flat light and lovely fresh snow.

Judy enjoying the Geai blue piste in fresh powder.

We made the most of the fresh snow, even though it was hard to see where we were going. Judy was doing really well with building confidence and becoming disciplined with patient steering. Chris as ever was in his element enjoying the fluffy stuff. However it soon became time to stop for a hot chocolate, and a quick recovery.

Chris enjoying the fresh snow in limiting visibility. A rollercoaster ride.

Unfortunately I clearly didn't do a very good job of hiding my emotions, and they spotted I wasn't at my best. As soon as I opened up and explained the situation, it was a relief to get it off my chest. And in typical Judy and Chris fashion, they were an amazing support. Sure enough about an hour later, whilst we were on the Plantrey chairlift, news came through that Mum had peacefully passed away. I couldn't have asked to have been with lovelier people during this experience. But also, rather strangely in some ways we all had a fantastic day on skis. I can't explain this, but am also very grateful at the same time. Thanks Judy and Chris, you are absolute legends. Sorry for rushing off early (to my physio session) from our traditional end of day Vin Chaud celebration. Talk about a rollercoaster ride that day.

The following day I didn't have any of my own work/bookings, so I contacted the school and booked the day off. I decided to go for a ski for myself and clear my head, put a few good turns in for my Mum, and enjoy for the first time since early December a pain-free back and sciatic nerve!?! I popped over to Val Thorens and had a cruise around.

The impressive Cime de Caron ski lift.
The new covered/protected walk way of the top of the Cime de Caron cable car.

It was lovely having a ski for myself at such a tricky time. The power of the mountains is so strong, as is the sport of sliding around on slippery skis!

The new futuristic viewing platform.

As much as I wanted to shove my head in the snow and ignore everything going on in Cheshire with my Mum, I had to make a plan for the following few days...........

I had a few lesson commitments immediately after Mum passed, before rushing back to the UK and starting the end-of-life admin process. My directors at the ESF have been lovely and supportive to me during this period. Yes ski seasons are crazy, busy and mad, but normal life stuff still goes on. The contrast between leaving the sunny Alps to go back to the UK, was interesting. I flew to Birmingham on the Wednesday. Drove to Cheshire the next day to register Mum's death, then had an hour or so with the funeral director, found a location for the wake and visited the solicitor's office. On the Friday more legal things took place, and lots of phone calls here there and everywhere to family and friends. The following day on Saturday I was on a plane to Geneva, then driving back to Méribel. The next day I started work with a new client.

Meet Faisal. He contacted me three months ago via WhatsApp looking for an instructor for five full days. He explained that he had started skiing last winter in Cortina in Italy, for six days, and could ski blue and red pistes and was looking to move his skiing on.

Faisal, from Kuwait, on a French (not Italian) red piste.

If you think about it, that's really quite impressive. A complete beginner to skiing a red piste in a week is incredible, almost unbelievable. However, from experience of teaching in Italy over twenty years ago, I knew that piste grading there is somewhat softer than here in France. Having said that, as soon as Faisal and I skied away from his hotel on the first day, I could see that he had talent. This lad could ski well, and was also very motivated.

Our 'Piste du Jour' that day, Blaireau.

Faisal had found me online, that's why he contacted me directly, after reading reviews. Meanwhile his Uncle, also called Faisal, hadn't booked an instructor before arriving in resort. They were different standards hence wanted two instructors. Nephew Faisal booked me directly, whilst Uncle Faisal asked his hotel to find an instructor, who turned out to be one of my colleagues at the ESF called Julien. Julien and I worked together for five days last week for the first time.

Faisal, Faisal, and my colleague Julien!

Personally, I really enjoyed meeting the two lads from Kuwait, to hear about their life experiences. They were both university students, one studying architecture in London, the other accountancy in Kuwait City. Plus it was fantastic to meet one of my ESF ski school colleagues and to get to know him much better. We shared our experiences from over the years, and discussed ideas and knowledge within this incredible ski area. I can't wait to see, ski, and hopefully work with Julien again in the future.

You know how some ski instructors are cool without even trying? Julien is one of them!?!
Late afternoon light at Col de la Loze with Faisal, Faisal and Julien.

Faisal and Faisal, you are both wonderful young men, and I hope that doesn't sound patronising. However, I still can't quite get my head around how Uncle Faisal is younger than Nephew Faisal. That family tree is fairly complicated.

That's the end of this bumper blog post. I hope it was interesting despite some of my family stuff. I leave Méribel again soon to travel to the UK in a couple of days to attend my Mum's funeral. Then I'll be back just in time for the busy school holiday period next weekend. Fingers crossed this spring like weather moves on soon, and we return to normal winter. I'll probably be quiet for a bit on The Socials and blogging, but will return soon. But as ever, please do Live With Passion. Martin.

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