GS training with Graham Bell, November 2011

Just back from a week of Giant Slalom training in Cervinia, Italy. We had great weather, blue skis every day and very good snow high up. The rest of Europe seemed to have virtually no snow so we got pretty lucky. Great week of skiing but very full on with long days and very early 7:15 am starts.

Driving up to Cervinia with the Matterhorn in front of us, excitement builds.


We meet our coach, 5 time Olympian Graham Bell and make our way up to the top station at 3500 metres.


We all help out to set a course on our training piste and Graham lays out a fairly gentle course that is meant to get us skiing fast through the gates.


Empty pistes and only two courses in the training lane all week.


After setting we have a few warm up runs and then work on basic tuck position to get ourselves going a bit quicker. Graham shows us how NOT to tuck!


And then once in the course offers a bit of “encouragement” to get LOWER and to go FASTER !!


After a few runs the first day nerves go away and I start taking a better line and begin whacking the gates in anger


We finish each day with an hour of stretching which was really good for us oldies and we then have a look at the days video in the gates after dinner and then off to bed.


Day two and we have a companion on the fast open piste, Simone Origone who is the fastest man ever on a pair of skis at 156mph. He was preparing his speed skis with wax and run cycles. Even lifted off the ground my puny 185 GS skis and no match for his 238cm speed skis.


Today we work on increasing our edge angles and Graham sets a more offset course that forces us to get closer and closer to gates and drop our hips in.


Day three and we add another section to the course after the flat and Graham has us working on course inspection and visualization so that we don’t get caught out by the tougher sections of the course and the bits over the drop off we cant see.

To help us visualize the best line he foreruns the course and we have a good look at his tracks to see what we should be doing. Not bad skiing from our ex world cup skier…


He tries to encourage us to take a tight line and high into some tricky gates before the flatter section and I am starting to get the hang of it but at the cost of smacking the gates.


At lunch myself and Tim show a few bruises, next year a padded cat suit is on order!


The bruises got a lot worse at the end of the week and the team started having some big crashes, one lad wipes out and manages to snap pair of skis, so Graham kindly swaps out his skis so he can carry on. It was fun watching Graham skiing at speed on a broke pair of planks, he was a tad nervous at times and not sure if they would snap completely!


Day four and we are working on pivot entries, using a cross over move and getting very light on the skis at the start of the turn and then twisting the feet so that they point in the direction we want to go before then locking on an edge. A lot to think about but this technique is a lot faster than skidding below the gates. Graham sets a very hard to make set of gates that require a pivot entry and the ruts start to form and it was pretty demanding. The red blue gate combination is a delay or “banana” gate and it was real tough to get a high line into following blue with some deep holes above it. Scary stuff and a few good wipe outs.



Drift and lock, just like Bode (sort of ;) )


Staying high allowed me to aim at the next gate and lock on the edges in the fall line before I get to the gate, was really chuffed as on the radio coach said I nailed it on the this run. Let’s hope it is quick in timing tomorrow!


We finish the day with video plus a session on sports psychology focusing on achieving performance: motivation, goal setting and course visualization. Great to hear it from someone who walked the talk, and it really set us up for the last day.


Day five RACE DAY !! we meet up with some lads from Zermatt who are all training for the Eurotest, a very demanding timed run that is one of the last hurdles in instructor exams. The time is roughly the Olympic qualifying time so not to be underestimated. The two coaches Graham and James from Zermatt fore run and set down some times for us to aspire to.

Ever the competitor Graham dons a cat suit which will make him faster through the course. He runs the course with an overcoat on and then just with a cat suite and finds it gets him a 1.1s advantage in our 40 second’ish course.


Coach James giving it some without poles before setting up the timing gear.

As this is meant to be a proper race simulation we inspect the course, then have two goes. We get some final words of encouragement from Graham and he reminds us the first run is the only one that counts!


The fastest guys go first. Charlie and Tom from Zermatt open up and they both beat Grahams time !! Graham had tested himself against some current Eurotest guys and recons he was a second within the pass time so the guys are delighted and are feeling good after 4 hard weeks of training is paying off. Goes to show how high the bar is set on the Eurotest that some instructors are able to beat a 45 year old ex world cup skier.

Charlie showing us how it is done

I’m smiling but a bit nervous as I have never been timed before.

Game face on now and in the start gate

We all had a good couple of runs and I was real happy with my times, managed to beat a few of the Summit guys and was a bit closer to the Eurotest standard than I thought I would be going in (although miles out).

It was inspirational to see one of our lot Brian (on the left), blast it through the course. He was our top gun and recorded the best time form our group. Turns out he is 69 years old and been racing for 50 years…

We finish with a few free runs after lunch and have the Matterhorn all to ourselves. Great week all in all and I will definitely be back.


Scott Pleva, November 2011