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A Season of Powder in Whistler
From the moment I returned to London from Pro Ride in February of last year doing the freeride and freestyle courses, I knew I wanted more, a lot more! So within 2 weeks of getting home I had already paid the deposit for this season's Level 1 and 2 instructor training, in the hope that I could eventually make Whistler my home. The ten months wait between then and arriving back in early January seemed the longest of my life but boarding that plane at London Heathrow airport I could barely contain my excitement. I had seen that the snow fall in December was next level and I couldn’t get on that bus fast enough and return to Whistler to see my extended Pro Ride family. A lot of us had been in touch over the Summer and some were returning to Pro Ride for the second year in a row.
Immediately as soon as I got to the house I was met by some familiar faces and some new and was filled in on snow conditions so far, features in the park, best back country mission from December and I could feel my excitement levels shooting through the roof!
Jet lag from the UK is pretty savage so I was awake at 4am fighting the urge to head on up and strap in, even though the gondolas didn’t open for another 4 and a half hours, there was no use in trying to get back to sleep again, I was raring to go.
The first day back on snow and in familiar territory was, as you can imagine, epic! We all went out as one big crew which was the best way to get to know everyone and we had a sick time tearing up Whistler and then Blackcomb after a large portion of the traditional famous Poutine at lunch.
Friday night was the weekly get together at Cinnamon Bear bar in the village where everyone hangs out with the coaches and all the other campers and have a great time catching up over beer and pizza and of course there is the lucky dip prize give away. I did pretty well this year coming away with a beanie (or touque as they call them over here), a jacket and some socks.
Training started on the Monday for Level 1 instructor. There were five of us taking it and after a few weeks of expert coaching we all passed with flying colours maintaining Pro Ride’s 100% pass rate. We learned some great techniques for teaching beginner snowboarders up to novice and personal rider improvement too. We had so much fun along the way.
Of course it wasn’t all just training. Weekends we headed out generally as a whole crew and then those that wanted to go through the park would head there while some headed for the peak of whistler and headed down to Creekside (a 7km leg burner) to visit Dusty’s the famous aprés for their infamous Ceasers and or beers. We had onesie day which consisted of, a cheetah, a unicorn, and skeleton, a dragon, a kangaroo and a 6’3” shark!
Every Saturday night we had “family dinner” where someone would pick a traditional dish from their country and cook for the rest of us. I did a roast dinner and yorkshire pudding, you can’t get much more traditionally British than that!
I celebrated my Birthday out in Whistler also which was a great experience. Rather than cook we all headed out to Sachi Sushi, probably my favourite restaurants in the whole village. They serve you sushi in wooden boats and we ate our body weight!
Level 2 training was a real step up from Level 1. It was so exciting learning new concepts and ways of teaching intermediate riders. I learnt so much from all the coaches and saw a vast improvement in my riding skills on piste, off piste and in the park also. Whistler Blackcomb has some of the best off piste I have ever known and that includes many of the European resorts. It was fascinating learning how to construct lessons for ungroomed terrain as well as groomed runs and learning to teach flat land tricks also was great fun. I felt fully equipped to face my Level 2 evaluation and a great part of that was from feed back whilst watching our own riding that is videoed every Tuesday and the coaches come to the house and highlight the good in your riding and then areas for improvement. You can watch and see how your riding is developing as the course continues through the season. An invaluable tool. I am happy to say that I passed my Level 2 after a successful 4 days of evaluation and now am qualified to teach almost anywhere in the world, but of course no prizes for guessing where I have chosen to follow that dream, of course Whistler Blackcomb, one of the best regarded snow schools in North America.
I leave tomorrow after a highly successful and hugely enjoyable season chasing my dream. With the help of Pro Ride’s excellently put together programs, expert teaching from the best coaches in Whistler Blackcomb and buckets of fun and laughter along the way, I leave Whistler knowing I am coming back in a matter of months to see friends I have made, both old and new and start the exciting new chapter of my life.
Thank you Pro Ride, Karen and all the coaches Duncan, Terra, Tim, Kelsey, Lance, Simon, Charlie and Alan, none of this would have been possible without you all. See you all in the Autumn for my third year in a row, this time instructing myself and sharing my love of snowboarding with many more people of all ages from all corners of the globe. I can’t wait!
Ellie Shepherd - London UK