This winter we introduced a new, shorter BASI 1 & 2 Residential course in Villars, Switzerland. So did it go well? Kurt Anderson reveals all…
It was hard to know what to expect coming into the course; in the end it was one of the best experiences of my life (and I’ve got more years under my belt than most who go through the course). The steep learning curve in both teaching and technical skiing was awesome. As soon as you reached a level of proficiency the trainers would increase the level of difficulty – excellent!
The overall structure over 8 weeks and a bit of daily life was something like this.
Week 1 – Level 1 Training
Everyone met at the Geneva airport, crammed two months of gear into the van and headed up to Chalet Martin in time for dinner (great food!). Monday was the first day on snow; we started with team breakfast at 7:45, loaded the van at 8:10 (got it down to a fine art), competed for who got to control the play list, and piled out to head up the gondola to Glacier 3000.
Training focused on short turns, long carved turns, learning the teaching progression, and getting to know our trainer and group. At the end of each day we stored our gear at the chalet, got cleaned up, had our team dinner, studied the BASI manual, and made lesson plans for the next day. The first week was a steep learning curve! We got to know our trainer and each other well, it happens fast. Even if you’ve been skiing all your life you quickly find out that you have a lot to learn!
Level 1 Tip: Listen carefully to the trainers, work and study hard, make every turn count, and enjoy it!
Week 2 – BASI Level 1 Exam
The testing was structured much like the first week of training, so it was familiar – more of a training atmosphere so it didn’t feel like an exam. We took turns teaching (seeing 7 “adults” pretending to be 5-year-olds was hilarious), practicing short and long turns, and made the end of day stop at the local college classroom to study and review video. The end of the week was capped by a one-on-one debrief with our BASI trainer and finding out if you passed – we all did – whew!
Weeks 3 to 6 – BASI Level 2 Training
We had a lot of fresh snow so got a lot of variable snow practice (aka powder!). Trainers were great, if one drill or explanation didn’t click with you they would approach it in a different way until you got it; our technical skiing improved a lot in those 4 weeks. It was fun watching video from earlier in our training to compare – humbling.
Nailing long carved turns was the biggest challenge for me; just when I thought I had it down, I’d lose it again. It wasn’t until the Level 2 exam that it really came together, thanks to the different drills and perspectives of the four different trainers. It was a real high point when carving longs got to be fun!
Avalanche training was another highlight; it was a perfect day on the glacier – white out, snowing, and blowing, great conditions for using transceivers to locate a pack buried in thigh deep powder.
Mountain First Aid was on a Sunday and Monday. Accident scenarios were created (in the snow) to teach what you really do when multiple casualties are down – a real eye opener.
Level 2 Tip: If there is an element that isn’t as strong as others, push yourself to spend as much time on that element as possible (despite the lure of great powder!) – and ask the trainers questions.
Weeks 7 and 8 – Level 2 Exam
For the Level 2 exam there are additional technical elements (bumps, variables, and steeps) and higher level of performance for short turns and long carved turns. Like Level 1, the two weeks were great training; our BASI trainer was excellent and worked hard to get us all to the level. We had some skiers join the team from other courses and locations; it was fun getting to know them and to hear stories from their training experiences. Early season snow was great, so we got to ski Leysin and Villars-Gryon – nice to get some variety.
Everyone’s skiing improved another notch and those of us going for Level 2 all passed – time to celebrate!
Level 2 Tip: Absorb as much as you can while you have coaches to work with. Although you want to get to the end of the suspense and pass L2, the end of the course comes way too fast!
The 8-week gap course exceeded my expectations. The learning curve in teaching and technical skiing was steep and a great challenge; the bond you build with the group by the end is strong, and the encouragement from one another to excel and pass the course is motivating. Physically, it got me in the best skiing shape I’ve been in for a while – train hard before you get to the glacier, it will pay off! If you’re thinking about going through the program – do it – you’ll have a blast.