With the admin sorted, we could then start our ISIA training in earnest, and owing to a late initial snowfall the first two weeks were spent on the glacier near Diablerets, about a 30 minute drive over the Col de la Croix or closer to 50 minutes if going via Aigle.
It was mid-December when we were able to ski in Villars, and we quickly realised how suited the resort was to our needs, both teaching and training. The Stade in Villars is a perfect length and steepness for BASI Level 3 short turns with access via chairlift, t-bar and poma, perfect for quick training laps. On the other side of the Col de Bretaye is a great long turns pitch, at the top of the Grand Chamossaire chairlift. Over in Gryon there are various pitches for bumps, shorts, and variables. For training purposes, the Villars-Gryon terrain has a lot to offer.
You don’t have to stay in Villars either – there is plenty of suitable terrain over towards the Diablerets area as well, and even further is the Isenau area, accessed by an antique gondola. It is possible to ski from Villars to the glacier, great for Pro-Xplore days or a bit of fun. Not only is the area great for training, Villars also offers perfect beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain. At the Col de Bretaye there is a series of beginner slopes, which are perfect for beginner progression. Further afield are more challenging intermediate slopes plus a number of difficult slopes. For teaching, Villars has something for every level.
As the format is a work/train environment, there are various weeks set aside for work. These are usually the busiest periods like New Year, half-term or Easter, but there are always bookings during the low-season periods. For this reason the training team is split during this period, one group training and the other working, swapping each week. Work is allocated fairly, although requested lessons take priority.
Training itself is conducted by the resort manager, Alessandro Cambon (Ale for short, pronounced Al-eh, not like the beer). As well as being an ISTD instructor, Ale holds a Carte Pro, a Swiss Patente, Maestro di Sci Italiano, and most recently became a BASI Trainer. Safe to say that Ale knows what he’s talking about. A typical day begins at the meeting point outside (or inside) Cookie Café at the Col de Bretaye at 9:20. Depending on conditions, the morning will be spent working on the various strands (if it’s a powder day then don’t worry – Ale likes powder). The afternoons will be spent focusing on specific things from the morning session, or there will be teaching sessions delivered by the trainees, all in preparation for the BASI Level 3 ISIA examinations, which were taken at various points during the season.
I had my BASI Level 3 Teach and Tech booked for mid-March in Verbier and Val D’Isère respectively, and two more members of the team took exams in Verbier and Morzine at the same time. All the exams that were taken were passed during this time, with two more passing the Teach in Hintertux at the end of the season. Of the 14 exams that were taken by the team as a whole, only 3 were unsuccessful.
Not only were we prepared for our exams on the snow, we also had off snow training twice a week in the sports hall at the very well equipped sports centre. This would normally be one high-intensity session and one team sport session, including handball, badminton, indoor hockey, football, dodgeball, and one particularly memorable Eric Prydz inspired aerobics session. This proved invaluable, not only because it vastly improved our abilities on the mountain but also because it was a good chance to meet during the week and discuss what was going on.
It soon became clear to the whole team that Villars was a very special place indeed. It’s known as the best-kept secret in the Alps and having lived and worked there for five months I can see why. I would urge anyone thinking of making the step from Level 2 to Level 3, while having the opportunity to work at the same time would be mad not to apply.
Written by Tom Green – Tom has trained with us over the course of a few years. During that time he has made massive changes and we are over the moon that he has achieved his BASI Level 3 ISIA Tech and Teach.