So unfortunately our amazing journey had come to an end and we were into our last week at Big White. The weeks of training were over and for the majority; the nerves and stress of exams were also behind us. This gave us a week to roam free and let loose across Big White playing around with all of the skills we had learnt during our time here, not to mention take lots of videos on the Go Pros and cameras.
It started perfectly Monday morning with 20cm of fresh snow on the ground and sunny skies above, after a slight snooze we headed out to make the most of it. Having experienced Big White for 10 weeks already we all agreed Gem Lake was to be the best stage to perform on, being quiet with lots of trees and untracked runs. We tore down the runs fourth ace and can can, throwing ourselves of cliffs and jumps along the way enjoying the champagne powder with not a care in the world. What a fantastic day it turned out to be, with Tim and Bobby’s brother Dan describing it as the best day they’d ever had on a ski holiday.
The freedom of not having training anymore gave the group a chance to ski with friends they had met during their time here or family they had visiting. It gave me the chance to put on a pair of skis again after months on a board. It was a great change and after a mornings lesson, courtesy of NBS Leigh, I was finding my feet again.
I opted for skis on Wednesday and once again enjoyed the opportunity to be with some of the skiers for a change. We headed to Black Forest and with some great tips from Max and Lydia we flew down the runs. After some beers in the hot tub watching the sun descend, we headed to Sam’s for an emotional final wing night of the season. Our session started with a pitcher of Canadian at seven and as per usual, ended with a large glass of water on Thursday morning.
Unfortunately the weather on Thursday morning and the feeling in our heads shared a lot in common: thick, cloudy, and quite frankly not a lot of use. Nevertheless I had my freestyle exam looming on Friday and wanted to get back on the board and get some practice in the park. They say there’s not a better way to sober up than a face full of snow, and so it proved as I hit a few boxes and kickers, with the heaviest pounding the sound of Theophilus London in my ears.
For Rob, Stephen and I it was that exam feeling again, an early morning start and an 8:30 meet at the VCM. The only difference was we were feeling quite relaxed about this one and to be honest were looking forward to it. It was another fantastic day on the mountain despite the drop in temperature. Our evaluators were Dom & Dom and it was going to be a fun two days. The first morning’s focus was rider improvement. This consisted of playing around the mountain with tricks such as tripods, butters and pretzels etc. The afternoon introduced us to freestyle lessons with the emphasis on progressive teaching and safety. They taught us about park etiquette and prepared us to teach the following morning.
We were in the middle of an exam, but we still couldn’t resist a swift brewski at Sams, it was our last Friday at Big White and Corona were hosting the night.
Saturday morning arrived and as the weather continued to impress, we hoped we would do the same as we got stuck into teaching our lessons. After a lunch down at happy valley we had an afternoon session of rider improvement and a chance for us to show the evaluators what they wanted to pass our Freestyle Level 1. We had to show board movement on boxes and smooth backside and frontside 180s. The group was confident and as the afternoon progressed, so did our rotations with a couple of the group landing their first 540s. The exam ended and for the final time we met in the village and successfully passed our Park instructor level 1. This gave Nothinbutsnow a 100% pass rate in every single exam that was taken during the 11 weeks, an incredible effort from everyone. This only led to one thing, and rightly so, party time and more celebrations!
The rest of the group was to meet for the final meal of our trip together and the Gunbarrel Grill was the chosen venue. We feasted on roast beef for main before the hugely popular peanut-butter pie for dessert. The meal ended with the NothinButSnow annual awards 2013, where we proudly collected our nominated awards for the season to many laughs and applause. The award I received was ‘Chalet Girl of the Year’ due to my culinary exploits and cooking for the house.
Sunday arrived and unfortunately meant we had one final day in Big White before heading home. We used the opportunity to get some last minute photos and video ourselves in the park ready to show friends and family back home. The last lift came around all too quickly with every run consisting of pauses to stop and take in the surroundings that we were sure to miss. After some final packing, we had some leftover beers remaining, so thought it would be rude not to put them to good use and drink up before the final Sunday Doubles of our season.
We said our goodbyes to the friends we had met, and enjoyed one last visit to Sam’s before heading home.
We loaded up the bus and deserted Forest Bear Lodge for the final time and began our long journey across BC to Vancouver Airport. Unfortunately for us, as we didn’t want to leave, we made good progress and after a couple of McDonalds stops we arrived in plenty of time. We said our goodbyes to Sam and Leigh and spent any last bits of change in the airport before boarding our 747 back to Britain.
For me the past 11 weeks have been a real life changing experience and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. We arrived as strangers but said our goodbyes as friends. We had all passed our exams and were back home as qualified Ski/Snowboard Instructors. I hope the next few months go as quickly as the last few and I get back out there next season!
The week we had all been waiting for had finally arrived and with just one final days training left of our season we met at 9:30 for the final time at Big White VCM.
Our trainers were Fraser and Dom and we had an opportunity to work on anything we wanted to, for some it was teaching but for others certain aspects of riding were top of the list. The weather was amazing with blue skies all around and with small groups of 3 or 4 it was a perfect final day to prepare for our exam.
Tuesday morning had a weird sense of Déjà vu as the early start and bus journey accompanied nerves similar to that on our level 1 exam, although that seemed like ages ago now. Unlike that exam however, we swapped groups of 8 to groups of 4, and for the next four days I was to be with Mellen. She was one of only two female level 4 CASI snowboarders, and as she proved in the week to come, a fantastic evaluator.
Everything was set as we split into our small groups; we were well prepared and after a huge dump of snow the previous night, we had 20cm of fresh powder lying in wait for us. The only problem however was that we literally could not see more than 5m in front of us. We headed up nonetheless and as best we could work on riding for the rest of the morning. The weather never really cleared up all day, but in the afternoon we focused on novice teaching on the mountain.
Thankfully the weather cleared up for us on Wednesday, and our group had probably one of the best warm up runs ever. During exams we tend to start at first lift (8:30) instead of the usual 9:30 during training weeks, and with freshly groomed runs, perfect snow conditions and the sun shining, we ripped down the mountain only to stop at the bottom and look round to each other with huge smiles on our faces. We knew it was going to be a good day, and so it proved as we each taught a novice lesson in the morning before working on groomed terrain teaching in the afternoon. Some of us couldn’t resist a few wings to end a successful first half of our exam. The only real change to the evening was instead of having the last pie left in the oven to eat on the way home we had the first one out from our trusty pie dealer outside Sam’s.
The week continued into Thursday, and while our riding stayed consistent the weather certainly didn’t. Today the conditions were foggy and misty and for the first time this season we had rain instead of snow softening the ground below us.
We taught a groomed lesson in the morning and used our lunch break to dry off and warm up our gloves before some moving on to freeride teaching in the afternoon.
It was no surprise to see that Fridays weather conditions had changed yet again, and on our final day we were faced with clear skies but very cold conditions and rock hard frozen pistes. We were keen to get the exam finished, and despite a less than comfortable warm up run through kangaroo ( a blue run with moguls that on this occasion were like rocks) we continued to ride consistently for the rest of the morning. We taught our final lesson of our exam, and for most of the group the final lesson of their time here in big white before finishing at 3:30.
The moment we had been waiting for, and what a good feeling it was. Every single person from Nothinbutsnow had passed their level 2 continuing their remarkable 100% pass rate. Our hard work and investment had paid off and we had all achieved what we came here for. It was definitely the best feeling I had since being here!
After a celebratory pitcher we headed back to Snowpines to get changed before meeting at the Bullwheel. Our 17 burgers were flipped brilliantly by our friend in the kitchen, Reece, much to the satisfaction of the new level 2 instructors. We continued to Sam’s with everyone having something to celebrate, partying into Saturday morning at one house party or another.
I cant really say what the weather was like Saturday morning, but we didn’t really care as we enjoyed our well deserved lie-ins. Gavin and I could not resist one more opportunity to head down to Kelowna for a proper night out once again. Earls, Kelly O’s, Flanagan’s, Rose’s and Sapphire all provided more than a stage to celebrate our success. NBS Sam picked us up in the morning with Max and Sam and after a trip to the mall we headed back up to Big White to continue with St Patrick’s Day.
A weekend of celebrations that was more than fitting to celebrate our success from the last 11 weeks.
Our final week of Training was upon us and we has gone. With our Level 2 exam looming we were determined to make the most of the week and polish our riding and teaching to prepare for next week. My group was to be with Cody with the other group having Fraser.
The week was designed to work on the parts of our Snowboarding and Teaching that we needed the most work on and make the small improvements that will make big differences in our exam. The first day we focused on riding and the three core competencies we would be analyzed on.
Tuesday started with one of Cody’s warm up runs, switch riding down Serwa’s, consisting of at least three Nollies, Frontside 180s, Backside 180s and Switch 1’s, a lovely way to get the muscles going in the morning. The rest of the day was teaching based, each of us practicing two lessons across the mountain.
Wednesday morning we continued our teaching practice and then after lunch we spent the afternoon tearing through Telus park. They changed the lay out again adding a few new rails and kickers for us to play around with. The half pipe remained and as each run went by, we were gradually popping out of the sides more and trying alley oops.
Thursday morning we were blessed with Blue Skies and at least 15cm of fresh snow on the ground lying in wait. We enjoyed some tree runs and headed up the T-bar to the summit enjoying the fresh snow and of course the fantastic view. With our exam looming we all agreed we wanted to practice our short radius turns more and Cody obliged. After numerous runs down Exhibition and continual feedback we were improving and felt much more confident.
Our final weeks training had come to an end and Cody let us work on whatever we wanted to for our final day, some of us choosing carving and the odd teach. We wrapped up in Sam’s over a beer and used the opportunity to ask any questions we had before next week.
The weekend for me was spent resting up, chilling in the hot tub and skyping friends and family. For some intense training had taken its toll, a number of the group were ill, tired or injured. I had damaged my shoulder on Friday morning and particularly didn’t want to make it worse. We were fortunate not to have any major concerns however unlike NBS Sam, separating his shoulder attempting a backflip in the park. Saturday evening we headed to the Thai restaurant, a big favourite amongst the group from a few weeks back which certainly gave us a boost before our big week. I ended the week in prime style, treating myself to a 16oz Okanagan steak; much needed protein to carry me through next week!
Bring it on!