Well I'm back from my first 'shift' as a ski guide. It's been a roller-coaster of emotions for me, from trepidation and nervousness to joy and contentment as a group of strangers learned to work together. Some of the guides had worked together before but we were basically newbies as a team. During the ten days that we were ensconced in the mountains we guided three groups of teenagers around the Mjølfjell valley. Along the way we introduced some complete beginners to skiing and the mountains, reinforced skills in others and hopefully left all of them indelibly marked with a sense of achievement, guardianship and fun.
From our sublime cabin in the woods we travelled each morning to the local hostel where the kids were staying. After a lot of faffing around, waxing skis and trying to get them to voluntarily pick up avalanche shovels we usually headed out just before 10am each morning. Along the way to our various destinations we would stop and play games, from more traditional head-to-head slalom races to more educational events such as building emergency stretchers with skis and poles and then racing around a course with a team-mate playing 'injured'. We even built snow forts and had snowball fights. Yup, it is a tough job...
For some kids this was the first time they had been skiing and it can be a baptism of fire. Despite the fairly flat terrain on the first few days there are plenty of spills. Learning to fall and get yourself vertical again are very important skills that accelerate the rest of the learning curve. Thankfully, apart from one black eye and a sore knee, there were no serious injuries. And no-one is impervious to a momentary lapse in concentration and a tumble. Each of the guides ate it at least once but the biggest cheers are saved for when the kid's teachers prove that they too are human.
I've never been fed so good. From the extensive breakfast buffets (that also allowed us to make decadent pack lunches) through bottomless bags of turmix, afternoon weenie roasts and endless evening buffets I'm going to have a hard time weaning myself down from 4,000 calories a day.
So what do ski guides do with their weekend off? They go skiing of course. Friends came to visit me from the city and we spent a couple of days exploring the further reaches of the Mjølfjell valley, areas beyond where we had taken the school groups. It was good to practice avalanche skills and for them to experience the scary 'whumphing' of the snow pack, a sure sign of a high avalanche risk on the steeper slopes.
As the days wore on the guides learned to co-operate and anticipate each other. By the end of our time in Mjølfjell we were working well as a group and despite the weather's best efforts we were able to adapt and implement contingency plans with minimal disruption to the kids. As the big thaw continues we will have one more week of guiding after Easter before most of us hang up our skis and dream of summer.