Monthly Archives: February 2013

Castle Mountain

This weekend we had one of our best ski days ever while on a road trip to Castle Mountain, AB. More than 20 cm of fresh powder helped to make this a really memorable road trip!  Castle Mountain is tucked away in the South West corner of Alberta, close to the BC border. It is about a 2 hours drive from Fernie.

After we’ve finished our CSIA level 1 course this week, everybody on the bus to Castle Mountain was very keen to play in the powder that had been accumulating all week.  As we were getting of the bus, a guest services representative announced that there were more than 35 cm of powder at some spots on the mountain.

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Not even the extremely slow lifts or long lines could damper our enthusiasm. We wanted to get to the top to explore one of the many black and double diamond runs on the mountain, but after riding up the blue lift, we found the red lift still closed.

We were still hearing some explosion being set off by the ski patrol to make parts of the mountain safe.  So we did a quick run down to the bottom to warm up. This time around we thought we should try the T-bar up, since the line was much shorter, which was a big mistake. The T-bar is very long and steep, and my legs were burning by the time we got to the top.

But then we had our first real taste of powder of the morning, skiing some fresh lines down to the red lift, which had since opened.  The red lift was an even slower two person’s chair with long lines all day.

But the wait was worth it, we skied fresh powder all day.  Every time we were going up the slow lifts, I would wish for a faster quad lift, but every time we skied fresh powder I realised the slow lifts keeps the really big crowds away,  which allowed us to still make fresh tracks at 1600.

Had my best ski day ever in the POWDER at Castle Mountain. Photo:

Had my best ski day ever in the POWDER at Castle Mountain. Photo:

The resort has some amazing runs, steep black and double blacks are all over the mountain. My personal favourite was one of the dense tree runs we did on the right hand side boundary of the resort, thigh deep in fluffy fresh snow!

It is unfair to really try to compare the day we had in Castle Mountain to the time we have spent in Kimberly or Whitefish. On a powder day like we had, Castle Mountain was the best place in the world to be! Castle Mountain also have ‘the best’ cat skiing in Alberta, but there was no need to get a cat to make fresh tracks on Saturday.

There are two lifts servicing the lower parts of the mountain where beginners can ski green and blue runs. There are also a few blues from the top part of the mountain, but you should be a confident intermediate before attempting them.

If there is powder around Castle Mountain it is worth the drive to go and have some fun!

CSIA level 1 Ski Instructors

This week we went through the CSIA Level 1 course.  We are both now officially qualified to be ski instructors. YEA! NonStop prepared us really well for the CSIA Level 1 course. The CSIA level 1 course span over three days and is based on continuous evaluation.  You had to show an acceptable level of competency in your own skiing as well as teaching the basic of skiing.

Although it was a little painful at times to be demonstrating a snowplow while fresh powder was calling, I am glad we persisted.  We both had great course evaluators that help us not only improve our own skiing but also master the teaching aspect.

In Fernie Alpine Resort

My CSIA level 1 Group, with Louisa our Instructor Photo: Courtesy of  Jonathon Ralfe –

As part of the course we got a copy of the Canadian Ski Teaching Manual. The manual covers all aspects of ski teaching; the way the Canadians believe it should be done, including guest services. A big part of a ski instructors job is to make sure the guests have a great time and come back in order to make the industry more viable.

Motor learning happens is 5 stages: Initiation, Acquisition, Consolidation, Refinement and Creative Variation.  In order to pass CSIA level 1, your own skiing has to be at the Acquisition stages for all 5 of the basic skills in skiing. The basic skills are:

      1. Stance and Balance
      2. Pivoting
      3. Pressure Control
      4. Edging
      5. Timing and coordination

By applying these skills appropriately to skiing it creates three basic competencies: A centred and mobile stance, turning with the lower body and balance on the edges of the skis.

We also had to learn how to teach a real beginner, somebody who has never skied before, and get them to skiing parallel. This process is called “fast track to parallel”. There are 5 steps to achieve this:

  1. Mobility.  Getting guest familiar with the equipment and conditions. Including safely carrying the equipment.
  2. Sliding.  Getting comfortable with sliding on the skis. Usually starting with one ski, then the other then on both skis.
  3. Stopping. Getting comfortable with stopping in a snowplow.
  4. Turning. Doing slow snowplow turns, first to one side and then to the other.
  5. Linking turns. Linking left and right turns together.

Once a guest can link two turns they are ready to go up one of the chair lifts and get some mileage.  They also need to be taught to get on and off the chairlift.

We also worked through the 6 steps to for a great lesson: Assess the students, consider terrain, assess basic competencies, choose development tactics, evaluate progress and guided mileage.

In Fernie Alpine Resort

Proof that I passed CSIA level 1 – YEA!

I can’t wait to teach my first class in a few weeks so I can put my newly acquired CSIA level 1 to use!

Avalanche Safety Training

There are many great things about the NonStop Programme.   One of my personal favourites is the additional activities they organize.  There is a long list you can choose from, or you can do them all.  I particularly looked forward to doing the AST (Avalanche Safety Training) course.

Being from South Africa, I had very little exposure to snow and therefore avalanches while growing up.  Since we started skiing regularly, I have always been fascinated by the amazing power that avalanches have, but have never really gone to any effort to learn more about them.

The Avalanche Safety Training gave me a great introduction about avalanches.  We learned some very basic tools to help start the learning process in order to travel safely in avalanche terrain.  Avalanche risk has three basic elements: unstable snow, suitable terrain and people or property.

We learned a bunch of tests to help test the stability of the snow including: Burp test (Shovel tilt test), Compression test (tap test) and Rutschblock test.  The interesting thing about snow stability test is that are a good indicator of instability but not really a good predictor of stability.

Our Instructor Mark prepares for some of the test on our Avalanche Safety Training field day

Our Instructor Mark prepares for some of the test on our Avalanche Safety Training field day

From 1997 to 2007 there were an average of 40 fatalities among recreationists in North America.  In Canada the average fatalities are about 14 per year. Avalanches are classed from 1 to 5, with 5 big and strong enough to destroy a town or forest of 40 hectares and would run for multiple kilometres.

The New York Times recently did an amazing multimedia production about a fatal avalanche that happened last year at Tunnel Creek next to Steven Pass ski area in Washington State.  It shows how even some of the best skiers in the world with loads of experience can make mistakes that kill them. Here is one of the videos:

In western Canada about a million destructive avalanches occur every year.  Luckily most of them happen away from property and people.  The amazing thing is that people trigger most fatal avalanches.  This is usually either the victim or somebody travelling with them.

Backcountry travel seems to have grown over the last decade, and I can see the allure it offers.  Skiing fresh powder that is thigh deep, away from the crowds, in the peace and quite of the backcountry must be amazing.  This week we are planning to go on our first backcountry trip.

There are three basic tools that you must have for a backcountry trip to do self-rescue: shovel, probe and transceiver.  Airbag backpacks that help you float on top of or near the top of the avalanche is gaining popularity and report up to 98% success rate in surviving a avalanche.

The experts say that trips like these are never 100% safe, and it is really about mitigating the risk and finding a safe way to enjoy yourself, based on your level of experience and knowledge.  A big part of the challenge is that many of the slopes that offer the best skiing are prime terrain for avalanches.

This Avalanche Safety Training Course was just a first step for me to learn much more about this fascinating subject.  There is a second level of Avalanche Safety Training that I can hopefully do soon!

Whitefish Mountain Resort

We had a great time filled with fun and adventure at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana last week.  Whitefish is about 175km from Fernie, and if all goes well with the border crossing it takes about 2 hours 15 minutes drive.  The ski resort is about 15 min drive up the mountain from the town.  A big part of the resort is located in Flathead National Forest.  Part of the resort closes on 31 March every year to make sure the Bears residing in the forest are not disturb when they start to wake up from their winter nap.

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The resort is great for intermediate skiers.  There are 15% beginners, 35% intermediate, 40% advance and 10% expert runs.  Whitefish Mountain Resort has three main parts: Front Side, North Side and Hellroaring Basin. Three of the ten lifts are very fast quad lifts that serve the front and north side of the mountain.  The Summit that offers spectacular views has an elevation of 2078m and the vertical drop to the base is 717m.

The view at Whitefish Mountain Resort are spectacular!

The view at Whitefish Mountain Resort is spectacular!

We managed to do a substantial amount of distance at Whitefish Mountain Resort, thanks to the many nice long runs and fast lifts.  After a tasty lunch from the restaurant on the summit, we went to do one of the free mountain tours with a Snow Ambassador.  But just as we were about to leave there was a huge amount of commotion at the summit.  Somebody had a heart attack, and all the staff was needed to secure an area for the helicopter to land.  Another Snow Ambassador skiing with his family on his day off, offered for us to tag along.  Everything happened really fast, and the helicopter came and went while we did one run on the North side.

More great views from the Summit of Whitefish Mountain Resort

More great views from the Summit of Whitefish Mountain Resort

Overall we found Whitefish Mountain resort excellent.  We had a great lunch, we quickly got orientated on the mountain after the help from the off duty ambassador.  The views on most part of the mountain are really spectacular! The terrain offered great intermediate and expert terrain, including a few mogul and many open ski areas among the trees.

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world it is well worth a visit. If you have ever been to Whitefish Mountain Resort, tell us your experience below:

The Founder’s Dilemmas – Review

Founders Dilemmas

A few years ago I read an article in the Harvard Business Review that asked: Do you want to be rich or king?  After reading that article I thought my answer to the question is obvious and that I would rather be rich than king of the castle.  So when Amazon recommended The Founder’s Dilemmas, I was immediately intrigued to read the book.

==>Click Here to Buy: The Founder’s Dilemmas <==

The author Noam Wasserman is a professor at Harvard Business School.  Although The Founder’s Dilemmas reads a little like an academic article, I found it fascinating.  The data used as basis for this book was gather by Wasserman over more than a decade. It included more than 10 000 founders, in the technology and life science industries.

The Founder’s Dilemmas analyzed many of the reasons that people tend to start businesses. Although there are many, the primary motivators are either wealth or control.  Wasserman the goes into great detail into many of the decisions that founders make through out the life of the business that they start.

Some of the most critical decision included: Founding on your own or as a team, taking investment or bootstrapping, when to replace a founder CEO, hiring people.  For example control motivated founder will tend to: remain solo founders, hire inexperienced people and keep control of decisions, self fund, and choose to remain CEO through all stages of the business development.

I found this central theme very insightful, and it really helped me understand my own motivation better. I have no doubt that it will help me make better and more consistent decision when I start my next business.

I also loved the real live examples of founders and the decision they made. One of the case studies were Evan Williams, through founding and selling blogger and then founding Odeo which eventually led to starting Twitter.  Interestingly another case study was Feedburner, who was founded by Dick Costolo (among others) whom later become CEO of Twitter when Evan Williams stepped down.

==>Click Here to Buy: The Founder’s Dilemmas <==

When starting a business the founders make key decision very early on that they will have to live with for the life of the business, The Founder’s Dilemmas offers great guidance to make sure you make informed decisions.  It will also force you to properly examine your own motivations.

What are your motivations and how have they effected key decisions when you started a business?