October 10, 2006

PeakLeaders Argentina BASI course - review

Having just successfully completed my BASI training with PeakLeaders in Bariloche, Argentina (and having blogged daily about the experience) I figure that it's worth doing a slightly more structured review of the course as this may be of interest to people wishing to take this course in years to come...

If you want to read the full day by day reports then they are spread over several categories:

The first posting about the trip is here and the last one is here.

And now for the review...

Firstly I'd like to say that I consider the course a great success, after all, I passed! It felt very full on, we were always busy and there were lots of things organised, this was good for me as part of the reason I was doing the trip was to run away from real life and forget about stuff; it was also one of the reasons that I'd chosen the course from all of the others that I'd looked at. There was plenty of time and scope for lots of partying but there was also a lot of work to.

Our time in Argentina can be split into two main sections, before the BASI trainers arrived and after they arrived. The four weeks after the trainers arrived were taken up by the Trainee Instructor program (5 days) some free ski/practice days and the Ski Instructor program (10 days). The time before the trainers arrived involved us skiing with some really great Argentinean instructors whose aim was to push us, get us skiing harder and better and generally working on improving our skiing. This worked well as the Argentinean instructor training is similar to the BASI training and so they understood what we were aiming for. I certainly had lots of fun skiing with Ivan and Tano and my skiing improved a lot but one thing that I think was missing was a slightly more accurate evaluation of our abilities at the start of the course... Many Gap programs in Europe run the Trainee Instructor program at the start of the course (I expect that it's easier to get BASI trainers in for 5 days in Europe...) which means that you're very aware of exactly where you stand with regards to your ability as judged by BASI right from the start. We didn't have this and although Ivan and the guys were very good at fixing our problems and getting us to ski better I think they could have been even better had they known exactly what the BASI guys would be looking for... The easiest example of where this may have helped a little was in carving. Some of the guys on the course simply couldn't carve at all and they didn't really find this out until the Trainee Instructor program as we didn't really do a great deal of 'instructed' carving with Ivan and the guys and so some people had never been told that they were skidding too much... Had the "can't carve" people found out earlier then they'd have had longer to work on carving and Ivan and the guys could have adjusted their training to suit... This is really only a very small issue though, but, perhaps, something to bear in mind; it's worth reading the BASI workbooks early in the course and seeing what you're expected to do so that you can make sure you're practicing it!

The first four weeks were some of the best skiing that I've ever done. Our initial blasts around the mountain were excellent and the conditions were awesome; so much powder and "the best snow in the area for at least 10 years". This set us and the mountain up for the later part of the course. We were pushed hard, we skied everything the mountain had to offer and I actually started to feel sorry for some of the normal holiday makers on the piste as we screamed around the mountain at high speed following Ivan or Tano.

Initially we'd all been a bit upset to hear that we would be off the mountain by 15.30 each day and that we were not allowed to ski both rest days at the weekend... After the first couple of days most of us were happy to stop at 15.30 and the thought of a day without skiing was wonderful.

At the start of the trip there was a lot of enthusiasm for early morning runs followed by stretching sessions before breakfast, by the end of the trip there were only a few die-hards left... Personally I found the lake very useful in controlling the slight swelling that I was experiencing in my left knee but I probably should have done a bit more stretching. On the days in Esquel the stretching was a little more 'compulsory' as the bus stopped half way back from the mountain and most of us got out and did some stretching; it might be a good idea for the bus back from Catedral to do the same...

The race training and freestyle clinic in Esquel was good fun though only really a taster of racing and freestyle it was useful to push people out of their comfort zones. It's a pity that the snow in Esquel wasn't as good as it was back at Catedral as it would have been nice to do some off-piste freeride stuff too.

Overall the quality of skiing and instruction before the BASI trainers arrived was excellent.

Once the BASI trainers arrived things got a little busier, if that's possible! With 2hr lectures each evening and everyone a little nervous and stressed the days were hard work but fun. Everyone was looking forward to getting the first 5 days done with so that we would get an idea of how much work we needed to do to pass. Once again the quality of instruction was amazing and we all improved massively during the time that we spent with our trainers. We then had a few days of practice to work on the issues that had been raised at the end of our Trainee Instructor course and then the Instructor training program started. Once again we were pushed hard and there was lots of improvement; I was impressed at the way all of the trainers were very keen to help everyone to improve and worked as hard with those who were already at the required level as they did with those who still had improvements required before they'd pass. In the end we had very good results; 20 out of 24 passes.

Could anything have been better? Yes, of course, but not that much... The food at El Retorno was OK but it was a bit limited and this was obviously a budget issue rather than a kitchen issue as the food was great if you ate from the normal menu. The hotel in Esquel was, well, pretty poor, but that was possibly just in comparison with El Retorno (apparantly the hotel that they used last year was worse...). Communication between Ed and Alvar and the the group could have been clearer at some points; and I realise that sometimes it was just that we weren't paying enough attention, but some people did get a little stressed unnecessarily due to communication issues. Sometimes timing was a little too "Argentinean" and we'd all end up waiting around for longer than expected - mainly this was when we were supposed to be heading off on a trip on a bus... As stated above some of the initial training could have been very slightly more BASI focused.

However, I'm being pretty picky here. The trip was great, the price was good, the accommodation at El Retorno was excellent as were all of the many support staff. We were very well looked after and all had a great time! Highly recommended!

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Posted by Len at October 10, 2006 02:07 PM | Categories: Argentina 06
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