3 Questions answered on Modern skiing (and fur bobble hats!)

Kidsetc’s SEN professional has spent years developing new techniques to make her sport as inclusive as possible. Here she answers 3 questions on the state of the sport as it is today:

women-skiingThere are more women on the slopes than ever, does skiing match up other sports in today’s growing climate of equality?

I believe so! I guess its just a matter of perspective. Look back 100 years ago and women in many countries would’ve been straight up discouraged from even touching the slopes. We forget how far we’ve come sometimes, its easy to take the liberties we have today for granted.

When it comes to how skiing stands as a modern sport, in terms of equality, I think we do pretty well! There’s not so much worldwide attention on skiers as there is other sportsmen and women. Look at the footballers, the men in the Premier League get paid thousands (don’t get me wrong, they do a great job but do they really need all that money?), but the women aren’t equally compensated. Its just one of many gaps that need to be closed in the next twenty years, the world of skiing is doing a good job of leading the way though!

Is the ‘apres-ski’ culture something that parents should be worried, when sending their teenagers off on holiday for the first time?

apres skiThat’s a hard one! Yes and no. I’d question your parenting if you weren’t a little worried when sending off your kids on their first grown-up holiday. It all comes down to education, I think. Having a nice refreshing drink after a long day on the slopes can be super relaxing, but kids need to remember to party safe.

The same rules apply to going out anywhere: drink safely, never drink then ski, keep in touch with your friends and wrap up warm once you get on your way (I take my fur bobble hat with me on every season; you can get them from ameliajanelondon.com)! As long as they remember to stay close to their friends – they’ll be fine. You parents might need a drink or two to stop worrying though!

sen skiHas the modern skiing tuition world caught up with SEN best practices yet?

We’re getting there! That’s a field that I’ve been specialising in for some time now, so its almost hard for me to step back from it and assess it completely objectively. Considering that the Paralympic Winter Games started nearly thirty years after the original games and new discoveries are being made all the time; I’d say its early days for us still.

Real implementation of SEN coaching techniques are still slowly worming their way into UK ski centres. Worldwide, the amount of centres that embrace these new ideas depends on their country’s approach to the inclusion of those with special needs. There’s lots of progress to be made, but I’ve got plenty of time to make a difference – the more kids on the slopes the better!

Zara is one of the most highly qualified trainers at Kidsetc. Her experience in the field of SEN Coaching makes her an invaluable asset to the coaching team. When she’s not coaching you can find her honing her skills on the slope, or off around the world leading seminars. 

An extreme street-skier’s very first lesson

Our resident street-ski ex-pro and instructor, Jedd McAstralcabe, took 10 minutes out of teaching, the other day, to talk to us about his very first skiing lesson. 

first ski lessonThe other day I took my kids skiing for the very first time. Its a weird thing to do, introduce your children to a concept and activity that is so central to your existence. A part of me wanted to see them rocket off the slopes at break neck speeds, pulling off flawless Iron Crosses and Backflips – then another part of me wanted to smother them in bubble wrap and gently roll them down the hill. I’ve been a ski instructor for the best part of 6 years now, and I’ve only seen two serious injuries during beginners classes. The speeds that they travel are usually at a snail’s pace, and the slopes tend to be far away from the main action – so there’s little chance of a collision. Although I knew this was true, it didn’t stop my heart from leaping into my mouth, when I watched Liza and Jacob wobble down the beginner’s slope for the first time.

They were fine. They were always going to be fine. As they clambered back up the hill, racing to get to the top, I allowed myself to laugh and breathe a sigh of relief. Watching them learn from Zara, I could see the little cogs whirring in their brains, as they processed the theoretical knowledge and slowly translated it into physical behaviour. Their eyes shone in admiration and wonder as she calmly explained to them the dynamics of gravity and momentum. Seeing this focus and attention reminded me of my very first skiing lesson.

ski jumpMy family were not awfully well off. We didn’t have the kind of money that could take us all on a big holiday. No, there was just enough for one of us to go on a school residential a year. We all took it in turns. In the year 2000, it was my turn and my school was going on a skiing trip. The slopes of the Alps were the destination and my first skiing lesson was to be taken by a dashing Italian instructor named Sergio. Living in a rather secluded part of England, the opportunity of learning from and talking to a person from another country was a big deal. As our small group stepped out on to the snow for the first time, I remember him laughing softly as we all slipped over one by one, struggling to even walk in the snow. The laughter didn’t come from a place of cruelty. He was simply enjoying the spectacle of a six or eight kids stumbling around and pulling each other back up again.

When it came to the lesson itself, he had a stern seriousness when it came to ski safety and he made sure to enunciate every vowel meticulously, so there was nothing lost in translation. Still, as I’ve come to learn in my years of instructing, no amount of theoretical training can fully prepare you for your first ride down a slope. I remember wobbling considerable, just like my children. For half an hour, after racing up the slope, I could not keep upright. The other kids took their failures in their stride and just enjoyed the experience of being there, but I could not. Noticing this, Sergio pulled me aside and told me to relax. He said that to learn to ski, is like learning to read. First you learn the shape and names of the letters, then you can tackle the words and the books. He told me that in skiing I would need to learn how to keep my legs straight, and position my body, before I could stay upright.

street ski yoHis pep talk worked, and soon I was flying down the slope with ease. The rest of the residential trip was an ecstatic blur. I found as much time to get on to the slopes as possible, even forgoing other outings so I could spend more time revelling in my newfound skills. When the time came to leave France, I couldn’t bear the thought of being without the slopes. I bumped into Sergio just before we were about to leave, he knelt down and told me that I had a great future ahead of me, if I chose to follow it. I believed him implicitly.

When I arrived home, all I could about was  skiing again. My parents, so short on money most of the time, were thrilled. They always believed money should be spent on funding experiences rather than things, so they were more than happy to find a new skiing coach for me back in England. They were even happier when that training led to me winning Gold in the Extreme Street-Ski 2014 Championships. Watching my kids wobbling their way down the slopes I thought back to that time and smiled wistfully, if only Sergio could see me now.

Jedd McAstralcabe is a fully qualified ski coach with experience in extreme street-ski at an international level. Having spent the last six years teaching at Kidsetc, he’s now retired from international competition to focus on coaching and raising his young family. 

Ski Trainer Profiles

This month we’re giving you the chance to get to know our qualified, personable trainers. Through in- depth interviews and qualification run downs, we hope to give you the confidence to say ‘Yes!’ to Kidsetc and entrust us with your child’s ski training. It can be a worry for many parents to leave their children in the hands of unknown individuals; especially when they’re engaging in relatively risky physical activity. Our trainers have taken the time to provide us with some personal details, as well as a couple of statements about themselves. We hope you enjoy getting to know them, as much we enjoy working with them!

Jedd McAstralcabe, 28 (UK)

Having represented Great Britain at youth level at four major international tournaments, Jedd is one of our most decorated ski trainers here at Kidsetc, previously working for The Treatment Table in Liverpool. Although his main expertise lies in freestyle and extreme street ski, after retiring from the international scene, he has quickly picked up the requisite training certificates. For Jedd, working with children has become a real passion, especially since he recently became a father:

“Having kids of my own, and settling down after my international career, has really got me excited to coach children. It wasn’t that long ago since I was getting taught myself, and its always so rewarding to take a kid from absolute beginner to confident amateur.”

‘For Jedd, working with children has become a real passion, especially since he recently became a father…’

Zara Leterrier, 32 (FR)

Zara’s skills as a coach, especially with SEN children, have made her an expert in her field. In the last 10 years, she has made a career out of developing and implementing innovative coaching techniques, tailored towards those with both physical and mental disabilities. Struggling with her own problems with dyspraxia as well as some minor learning difficulties, Zara is all too aware of the stigma attached to SEN children when it comes toextra-curricular activities. As a result, she has made it her aim to create practical solutions to make her sport as accessible as possible to those of all skill ranges and abilities.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to get on the slopes, at some point in their lives. Whether they have learning or physical based issues, every kid should be given the chance to ski. My parents always believed, regardless of my needs, that I could achieve just as much as the next kid. I’ve tried to honour their attitudes in regards to skiing and have ended up making a career out of it!”

french ski

‘Whether they have learning or physical based issues, every kid should be given the chance to ski.’

Paulo Macchiato, 58 (ES)

Leaving his native Madrid at the tender age of 20, Paulo’s heart was initially set on becoming a physiotherapist. Gaining his Sports Therapy Masters at Manchester University in the late 80s, he worked at several league football clubs around England and Scotland, before moving back to mainland Europe to take up residence at a ski resort in Andorra. Finding the range of injuries and issues surrounding the slopes fascinating, he eventually made it onto a set of skis for the first time at the mature age of 36. From there it was a straight shoot through the relevant training courses and then back to England to work here for us. Luckily for the team, Paulo still keeps up with his sports massage and acupuncture, so any aches and pains can always be solved by our resident physio!

old man ki

‘It is an absolute pleasure to be living here, and coaching what could be the skiing stars of tomorrow!’

“Skiing, for me, is a great passion. It is an absolute pleasure to be living here, and coaching what could be the skiing stars of tomorrow! I learnt that it is never too late to ski, sometimes when proud parents see their sons and daughter skiing for the first time, they’re tempted to get lessons themselves! And when they eventually sprain muscles or pull ligaments, I’m always there to provide the massage and therapy they require in our dedicated treatment room.”

Europe’s next big destination for Skiing: Scotland?

There are five major resorts in Scotland which are open for skiing during weather months – let’s have a look at them all, shall we?

Glenshee

One of the biggest of Scotland’s ski resorts, Glenshee boasts 21 lifts and 36 runs with plenty of space to ski. One of the runs is a massive 1.25 miles long! It isn’t always the most reliable place to go, but it’s also seen some amazing snow on occasion, and a chairlift from the car park makes it easy to access.

You can also hire and buy skiing and snowboarding equipment in the shop, and it has some of the best variation of any British ski slope.

Edinburgh Airport is less than two hours’ drive away. Click here for Edinburgh airport parking options.

Glencoe

Some of the steepest skiing in the whole country, there are 11km of marked pistes but some excellent opportunities for skiing off-piste when the snow is particularly good. It’s also incredibly easy to get to, being only an hour and a half drive from Glasgow Airport.

ski-scotland-black_1779012bThe Glencoe Ski Centre was established in 1956, and caters for all levels of ability set among spectacular landscapes.

It can be unpredictable, so this resort is usually best for spur-of-the-moment adventures.

Nevis Range

Only a couple of hours from Glasgow Airport, the Nevis Range is a little larger than Glencoe and features around 20km of marked skiing area – like Glencoe, there are other opportunities when the snow has had a good run. Check out the breathtaking scenery around the area – you can see as far as the Cairngorm mountains, and Ben Nevis is practically looming over you!

It should take around two and three-quarter hours to reach Nevis Range from Edinburgh Airport.

Cairngorm Mountain

This might be the best-known resort for skiing in Scotland, with its very own tram system running from the car park up to the upper mountain, where the good skiing is. As the mountain faces north it get s some of the best snow around, and it’s sometimes even deeper than on the Alps!

Glenshee piste map

This is your best bet for good snow in Scotland’s skiing resorts, but tends to be best in March and April. It also takes less than three hours from Edinburgh Airport.

Why Get Someone Else to Teach Your Children to Ski?

Unless you happen to be a professional ski instructor, you probably don’t do everything like you should.

It’s understandable, and not a bad thing, but you don’t want to be passing any bad habits onto your children; they need to learn exactly the right way to do it, and ski instructors can help them with this.

Child-learning-to-ski-007

This doesn’t mean you can’t take them out on the slopes when they’ve had a few lessons, but give some instructors the chance to go over all the basics and the safety information. Make the most of it by signing your kids up to a ski school in Europe that has slopes you can go on too – that way you can meet up afterwards and hear all about their experiences.

It’s a popular misconception that skiing is a dangerous sport but the figures show otherwise. For every 1.4 million people who go on the slopes, one death can be expected – and that includes unrelated causes such as heart attacks.