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BASI Training - by Richard Paganuzzi

After many years as a Club Instructor and Artificial Ski Slope Instructor (ASSI), last year I was persuaded to go for the BASI Ski Instructor qualification - one step up because in theory, it allows one to teach on the real stuff as well as on plastic. Some of you may know that my first attempt in 2003 resulted in an ACL injury which returned me to the UK after a week of the two week course. One year and one ACL re-construction later, I enrolled once again, with the objective of completing the full two weeks this time. 

BASI stands for British Association of Snowsports Instructors and was formed in 1960 on the Scottish ski slopes. Today it has roughly 4000 active ski instructors working in most countries (compare this with 25,000 from the Ecole du Ski Francais). The qualification comes in three levels or grades - 3, 2 and 1 with 1 being the highest. Officially the grades were renamed this year and are no longer mentioned in any BASI literature but no-one actually uses the new names! Contrary to popular misconceptions (mainly by ESF instructors) the BASI qualifications meet European standards so BASI instructors can work anywhere within certain guidelines. 

My first impression of the BASI 3 course was that everyone else was a better skier than I was. My short turns through narrow corridors and steep terrain were fantastic (good practice on the ramp at Alsershot). My long radius carving was just about acceptable (I can get one good right hand turn in at Aldershot) but my bumps are hopeless - really hopeless. Most of my group had been on snow for at least one full season either repping, guiding or cooking - finding ample time to ski most days. Some were even on BASI arranged GAP years whereby BASI provides training and work experience in ski schools for a season followed by the examined course. I had a lot to catch up on. 

Skiing between 09:15 and 15:30 was followed by a quick shower and cuppa before theory and review sessions from 17:00 until around 19:15 - just in time to run back to the chalet for dinner followed by homework. The first week was all aimed at personal performance.  Each morning we had the Central Theme - i.e. repeated snowplough turns, plough parallels (new name for the Basic Swings) and basic parallels on the nursery slope. The afternoons were a mixture of piste performance (high speed carving and various short radius turns), steeps (i.e. skiing down slopes which I would have described as cliffs), variable (crud) and lots of bumps.

The second week contained two days of teaching practice - with one session each on both the Central Theme and a more obscure topic chosen by the trainer. Then came the crunch - with anything up to 8 BASI trainer huddled in a group analysing our every move, we had to perform and be marked on our skiing. Boy was this stressful!

Finally at lunchtime on Friday there was relief for some and disappointment for others. Not surprisingly I didn't pass -  my attempts at following a line with both skis moving in different directions didn't convince anyone that I could ski bumps but at least I know what I need to work on before return for my resit. 

The one important thing that I learnt on this course is that the life of a ski instructor is not an easy one. At times, I was questioning my sanity in subjecting myself to such scrutiny - especially for a qualification which I didn't need and would not change my life one iota. For the others on my course - mainly just out of college - a pass meant the start of a difficult career and a fail meant either a delay or even a complete rethink. And this is just the start - then comes the BASI 2 and the BASI 1 (where only 7 out of 57 candidates passed) so if you're out skiing and you see someone with a BASI badge out teaching - treat them with the respect that they deserve for having endured all the training!

P.S. It was excellent fun though and if anyone who was in my group ever reads this then please get in touch at to tell me where you are now.

Thanks to Bob (for the jokes), Jamie, Rowena, Becks, Sarah, Louis, Tristran and the two Andy's for making it so enjoyable. Thanks to Dave for the training and the quiche joke. Thanks to Steve for instruction, for letting me sleep on his sofa and cook him dinner. Thanks to and for chalet accommodation and Michelle at and the other exhausted BASI candidates in the chalet for keeping me company in the evenings when we had no energy to party. 



Early Bookings

October 2003

Monday 6 January 2003 was when we finally took over our new residence in France or at least it should have been but French builders being what they are, of course, it wasnít completed.  Still it was completed the following day and we finally moved in.

We had talked about buying a place in France for many years and the grand plan was that when we retired that would be the time to do it as we would then have the time to spend there.  Retirement for both of us came in 2002 so we had to get our act together. We  had started looking at possible resorts over the last two to three years.  Itís very difficult deciding where to buy as there are so many options.  However in the end we narrowed down our  main requirements to the following:

ß       a resort with plenty of skiing that would keep us interested for a whole season

ß       be suitable for summer holidays with access to some golf courses

ß       have a local community and not be just a ski resort.

We had looked at some of the big ski resorts, places like Val díIsere etc and they were fine for skiing but not good for the summer and were full of  Brits with no real local community.  In the end we came down to two main areas: Morzine/ Les Gets or Grand Bornand/La Clusaz.  Both areas have good access from the main auto routes down through France and from Geneva airport and met all our requirements listed above.  We spent some time in both areas both summer and winter and had a good look at the property available.  We found quite a lot of property available in the Morzine/Les Gets area but not so much in Grand Bornand, we also found that the further away you got from the skiing area, as you would expect, the price went down.  A short drive to the skiing area doesnít sound to bad but if you are there for the whole season its extra hassle that one can do with out.  We looked at both individual chalets and apartments.  A chalet did sound nice and we started out with that in mind but the thought of it being left completely empty for quite a few months of the year  did concern us.

So in the end we went for a two bedroom apartment just above Grand Bornand.  The apartment overlooks the ski slopes and we just have to cross the road to catch a ski lift.  If we go out of the back entrance we have a supermarket, a range of shops and a few restaurants to choose from.  We are only about 30 minutes away from Annecy and an hour from Geneva so the access is also good.  We spent 8 weeks skiing there last season, it was a wonderful season for  snow and sun and we had some truly memorable days.

We also had quite a few visitors and the run to Geneva airport became a familiar feature.  We usually drive down from England as it is quite useful to have a car available as there are a number of other ski resorts within easy reach. However, flying is much cheaper.

We have found that the summer also works well  with the ski slopes going back to the farmers for cultivation.  From our apartment window we can sit and watch them cultivating the slopes to the sound of cow bells ringing in the background. There is a small 9 hole golf course in Grand Bornand but for serious golf there are three other courses all within about 50 minutes.  The courses all have their own features but some of the views over Annecy lake with the mountains in the background are quite stunning.

There is also plenty of walking and mountain biking. The Aravis valley is very beautiful albeit in different ways in both summer and winter and we feel very privileged to  own a property there.

You may be wondering how difficult it is to buy property in France, well itís not to bad but there are one or two differences from buying in England. The Notaire (French Lawyer) acts for both the buyer and the vendor and ours couldnít speak any English.  The inheritance laws are also different in France so you need to take care.  We had a lawyer in England acting for us who happened to be French and was qualified as both a French lawyer and an English lawyer.  We found this very useful and well worthwhile.

The other thing you need to think about is  are you going to rent out or not.  There is probably money to be made out of renting and it can certainly off set some of the costs.  However, when we were looking at property the rented property stood out as having that lived in look so we decided not to rent out.  It is rather nice being able to leave all your  belongings accessible, particularly the drinks cabinet, and know it is there for you on your next visit

Text Box:  We are pleased with how it has turned out and are now looking forward to our second full season on snow. A seasons lift pass for the Aravis valley only costs just over £500 for the two of us so we  have found it quite a cheap way to ski.

September 2003

But first Ö I was on a beach in Turkey this summer relaxing after a windy session capsizing Lasers when the phone rang.  Not mine you understand.  It was THE mobile ring tone we all know and hate.  I was already rustling up an army to attack and savage the owner to a merciless death when the magic words came bouncing across the sun loungers: "Ah! Great.  So youíve managed to book the ski-in chalet at the bottom of the slope at Whistler.  Excellent news."  In an instant, all was forgiven.  Short pause.  Then the Homer Simpson inside took over ... doh, I wish Iíd booked that chalet.  It sounded really good!!  Anyway, we started talking and became friends and, guess what! Iím waiting for the invitation to join them!  Well, nice thought, if only it were true.

Actually, Jenny and I are in a dilemma: our Nottingham friends have just booked Tignes for the post Christmas week.  We would love to join them but that period is the usual one for visiting elderly relatives. Quite apart from the cost and the school holidays and other matters like finding a good kennel that isn't already fully booked.  Weíre also hoping to ski again with some close friends who have recently bought a chalet in a delightful spot near Annecy.  Decisions, decisions.  But the point is start planning now Ö if you want something in particular, book it early.  Now, Jen, about that helicopter package in the Bugaboos .....

Roger Neill


A long day but well worth it !!  London to Denver followed by anxious moments in immigration due to extra checks but OK.  Caught connecting flight to Montrose (could have gone to Telluride but landing % in winter is low and they divert to Montrose anyway). Shuttle to Telluride, about 90 mins and easy.


No lines (sorry queues), no people, great skiing, great scenery, great snow and more snow.


A great old fashioned town with good modern facilities.  Good choice of restaurants which vary from expensive (when I pay) to great and cheap (when Pauline pays).  Our favourite was the Smugglers Brewing Company - good food and great value and interesting company  (Pauline  learnt all  she  ever needed to know about how to ride in a rodeo from a Native American ex-marine).  

We stayed in a small B&B with a wonderful Hot Tub on the roof over-looking the mountains (great for G&Tís).

No car needed as the whole town is easily walkable and the ski village is accessible by the gondola, which runs to late in the evening.

Real Estate

Itís possible that Peter and Pauline Bishop wonít be buying their next ski home in Telluride, as even what looks like a run-down shack costs over $1m.  We were tempted by a house on the mountain that was going for Ĺ price Ė but decided that a drop from $8m to $4m just wasnít enough.

Places to Stop

The best place to shop is the charity drop-off.  Anything that you donít want, you take to this stall thatís set up in the street.  The next person that comes along, has a look, takes whatever they think is useful.  Best things that have been left Ė Toshiba laptop and a set of car keys. 
The person that picked up the car keys looked round, found the car that fitted the keys Ö and hey presto,  had a new car. 


Not Cheap. Not Close.  But great skiing with no queues!