Posted by Danielle Brooke on

Bringing Interski to the Australian ski slopes in 2019

In March 2019, I attended Interski in Pamporovo Bulgaria as an official APSI delegate. It was my first opportunity to attend this international congress of Snowsports Instructors which occurs every 4 years in a different world location. I felt it was the right timing to attend Interski, in terms of the knowledge and skills I possess enabling me to understand, critically analyse and maximise the ability to take away valuable new skills and concepts to use in my own coaching and teaching. I also knew every member of the Australian Demonstration Team, including most of the supporters attending and wanted to support the Australian Team show case their skills to the International Snowsport Industry.

After a busy season teaching in Hokkaido Japan, a colleague and I organised our flights to connect with the Australian team in Doha, even after a long flight there was already a buzz of excitement in the air as we said g’day to friends we hadn’t seen since October the previous year. None of us had been to Bulgaria before, so had no idea what to expect when we arrived. The four-hour bus transfer from Sofia airport to Pamporovo gave us our first networking opportunity, we shared the bus with Demo Team San Marino, it was so much fun, practicing Italian with them and by the end of the journey the entire bus was Karoke singing Italian and Aussie songs. After an almost forty-hour journey we arrived at our hotel poised and ready to take on whatever Interski had to offer us. Our first impressions were of the hotel dining room where a buffet laden with cucumbers was served in a room draped in wedding style satin over tables, chairs and windows…. we knew then it was going to be an interesting week ahead.

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The bus ride Demo Team San Marino and APSI Demo Team and Supporters

The first day consisted of a relaxing ski with some of the other supporters, participating in the opening march of the 36 countries who attended, watching the opening teams synchronised skiing and going to the official opening party that evening. Being one of the few APSI trainer/examiner team supporters without any official duties, I was able to relax and absorb Interski differently to the Demo team members or family supporters. I chose which on-snow workshops or off-snow lectures which interested me the most and was able to participate in all the social functions.

It was a hectic schedule of two, 2.5 hour on-snow workshops a day, two off-snow lectures, dinner back at the hotel with the team every evening and then a social function every night. On-snow I attended the British, Austrian, Swiss, Norwegian, Canadian, New Zealand, Danish, USA and Australian workshops. The lectures I attended were the British, Norwegian, Czech, Canadian, Danish and Australian. Every workshop and lecture delivered valuable information to my role as a coach and teacher of skiing, however two very interesting themes stood out for me. Switzerland and Austria, stood out in the technical demonstration, though the countries who excelled at delivering technical knowledge had something extra which I hope to utilise in my own teaching in future.
Brooke 2 - Bringing Interski to the Australian ski slopes in 2019

Canada impressed me, in the on-snow workshop I had the privilege to ski with JF Beaulieu, his presentation method and explanations were so clear that there was an immediate improvement in everyone’s skiing and considering most of the attendees were already at an elite level this was outstanding. The technical concepts JF delivered were inspiring, encompassing biomechanical body movements in relation to physical forces in skiing and how the interaction between the two result in different performance of when in the turn the skier accelerates affecting the turn shape and flow. I will endeavour to encompass JF’s ideas into my own teaching this up-coming winter. The Canadian off-snow lecture was based around how they create lifelong Snowsport enthusiasts through utilising a decision-making model and by building learning contracts with guests. Both the New Zealand and the British discussed their models which they use as frameworks to structure and deliver high quality lessons, these models had similarities to our Australian system.

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JF Beaulieu CSIA, Mara Meluzin APUL, Danielle Brooke APSI

Two other countries workshops and lectures stood out for different reasons. Both Denmark and Norway had included the use of professional neuroscience research into their teaching philosophies. Denmark named their concept “Passion breeds Passion” where they believe joyful learning reduces anxiety leading to accelerated learning environments. In the workshop this was facilitated by encompassing group engagement at the beginning in a team bonding exercise to help the individuals within the group to work together with the instructor on tasks. It was an interesting and receptive environment to experience and gave me valuable insights into creating comfortable learning environments.

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Danish on-snow workshop

Norway also developed part of their presentation and teaching concepts in Snowsports from a background of how they teach academic medical science. The Norwegians analysed how students have gone through an evolution in the last two decades with the access to modern technologies which has created very different learners and how this affects the ways in which learners gather, analyse and utilise information in order to learn new skills. To adapt to this the teacher needs to become more of a facilitator and they have developed a practical model to use to create this learning experience called Team Based Learning (TBL). On snow we had a very real experience of TBL where they grouped us randomly into groups of 7 people; with different skills, experience and international backgrounds. Several tasks were given to us and we were sent away for two hours to work together to come up with two mutually agreed answers. It was challenging to work in such and environment, but at the same time a new and exhilarating experience. I will be including small amounts of TBL into my teaching in future since I think it is a valuable way for everyone to learn from each other, enriching and maximising learning beyond the traditional teacher-learner two-way approach.

Overall Interski was a valuable experience and a huge highlight professionally of my year, I met many wonderful people in the Snowsports Industry including being reunited with my old race coach from childhood. The next Interski is in Levi Finland in four years and I hope I will be able to attend it to reunite with some of the people I met in Bulgaria and to learn more as a coach and instructor.

Danielle Brooke

Posted by Emma Christiansen on

Cat skiing at Weiss, Hokkaido, Japan

E11 - Cat skiing at Weiss, Hokkaido, Japan

So many of us travel overseas to ski, many choose Japan and often the famous powder capital of Niseko, to find their fix of that amazing soft, light, fluffy powder snow that it has to offer. Inside the resort fresh tracks have become increasingly more difficult to find after around midday. But you can usually guarantee yourself fresh tracks all day if you choose to venture outside the resort into the back country. As a rule of thumb usually the further you go, the less tracks and the more powder. But getting out there can sometimes be a challenge and having the right group of friends or guide is essential. An alternative option is to go Cat Skiing. I went Cat Skiing at a mountain called Weiss situated slightly north of the famous Hanazono Resort in Niseko. This is what I made of it.

To start with Cat Skiing is travelling in a grooming machine with a cabin on the back, up a mountain. This I thought was cool in itself. I had never been in a groomer before and I thought it was quite a novelty. Instead of using a lift, or ski touring (ascending/skinning with skis on), Cat Skiing gives you access to the backcountry without you having to do the hard work! It might not be quite as extreme as Heli skiing but if you aren’t keen on skinning then it is a great option. This Cat Skiing operation has only 1 Cat operating per day, usually with a max of 15 people (including your guides) on the mountain at one time.

E22 - Cat skiing at Weiss, Hokkaido, Japan

Many Cat Skiing Operations in Japan are located at unused ski resorts and this is the case for Weiss. A resort which closed decades ago. The Cat Ski operation ascends the old runs that would’ve been on the old trail map. We passed old lift towers, loading stations and a day lodge, all of which had seen better days. The rest of the mountain is used to find the best powder runs on any particular day. Like most of the Niseko- Annupuri area, Weiss is not particularly steep, but the amount and insane quality of the snow (often top ups of 15-30cms overnight) definitely make up for it. In saying this there was an assortment of fun terrain features from tree skiing, wide open bowls, half pipe like gullies to wide-open faces.

Riding in these areas does however involve a higher risk, as you are skiing or snowboarding out of a resort boundary, on ungroomed and unmaintained slopes, so there is avalanche danger (like in all out of bound areas) and special equipment is required. As long as you are aware of this, Cat Skiing is a great first step into the backcountry environment, with the tour having both lead and tail guides and an introduction to avalanche safety. The guides looking after you are professionals and have extensive knowledge of the area, snow pack, avalanche safety and conditions on any given day.

E33 - Cat skiing at Weiss, Hokkaido, Japan

From the top we gained amazing views of the mountain ranges all around us. The closest being Mt Niseko-Annupuri where you could see tiny little people moving around the resort. Aside from the views, looking downhill you could see so much untouched snow and you could start to imagine those fresh turns you were about to encounter! It truly feels like you and your group have a private mountain all to yourselves! In an environment that is extremely peaceful and serene. I think this feeling and of course the skiing were my favourite parts of the adventure!

Emma Christiansen

Posted by Jarrah O'brien on

Yotei Dreams

Recollections of my ascent of Mt Yotei, Japan

By Jarrah O’Brien

For three winters I have lived and worked in Niseko, Japan, and ever since I arrived and laid my eyes on the majestic conical beauty of Mt Yotei, I have dreamed of climbing and skiing it.
The snow in Niseko is like nowhere else I’ve skied. Regular top-ups of 20-50cm of light dry powder makes for dreamy silky turns and frequent tastes of the white stuff when it goes over your head.

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A good friend neck deep in typical Niseko sidecountry powder, February 2018.

The further you go outside the resort, the less traffic is received and the deeper and better it gets, so I could only imagine what a powder day on Mt Yotei would be like, when you add another 500m of altitude to the top of Mt Niseko-Annupuri!

I have always loved the thrill of reaching the top of a mountain, and the stratovolcano’s 1898m peak had been calling me for years.
Last year I had to come back to Australia mid February as I was participating in a clinical trial for a new Cystic Fibrosis drug, so I wasn’t even in Japan for the Spring, when the weather is a bit more stable and clear days for climbing are more frequent.

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A stunning view of Yotei from an early season tour on nearby Mt Shiribetsu, December 2017

This year however, a window of opportunity presented itself in late March. I observed a forecast gap between weather systems about 10 days in advance, with clear skies and no wind predicted. I monitored it for the next 5 days and then organized a crew. Months earlier, my friend Adam had promised he would guide me if we had the opportunity, so I called him and he had a day off between clients. A couple of good friends were also keen to join me for their first time on Yotei, so we had a crew of 5. Dozens more colleagues were also planning to climb on the same day, so we definitely wouldn’t have the mountain to ourselves.

I had already bought a set of crampons to fit my ski boots as I had heard this was often required near the top, and it was looking like we would need them on this trip as the snow had been through a few melt-freeze cycles. This was likely going to be more of a mountaineering objective than a ski tour, and we were all prepared that the ski descent may not be that great. There are a couple of route options when climbing Yotei, mostly based on your goals at the top. It is possible, and apparently rather wonderful, to ski the 150m of vertical into the crater when the snow is good, followed by a short skin out. This is typically approached from the south or west. Another option though is to climb to the true summit on the East side of the crater. Climbing to the true peak was my goal, my companions were all happy with that objective, and it was a route that our guide and friend Adam was very familiar with.

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The dawn light reveals a cloudless sky, viewed from my bedroom window, morning of the climb.

The day arrived just as beautifully as it had been forecast – not a cloud in the sky, nor a breath of wind. I peered out my Hirafu bedroom window which faced Yotei just before sunrise and marveled at her silhouette. Adam arrived at 6am to pick us up, boots on ready to go, followed by a mandatory visit to Lawson’s to collect lunch, and snack food and we were on our way – a 30 minute drive around the opposite side of the mountain to our roadside carpark. Finishing our coffees, we geared up, distributed ice axes, fitted skins and clicked into our touring skis or snowshoes and started off up the summer farm road toward Yotei around 7am.

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Warming up at a gentle pace up the summer road.

Initially, the climb is very gentle, which makes for a nice warm up. Most of our route ahead was visible from down here, and it was pretty simple to choose a path through the forest, plus we had a guide who knew each little gully and ridge fairly well. Starting at around 350m above sea level, the initial skin to 800m was pretty easy going, with each of us getting into our own rhythm, some choosing a steeper line than others, and our token snowboarder who was climbing on snowshoes just decided to go straight up rather than the typical zig-zag that we skiers made.

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Ascending through the birch forests on the lower slopes, around 800m altitude.

It was still early in the day and the snow was very firm after an overnight freeze. Our skins had been getting enough grip up to this point but as the terrain ahead was getting steeper, those of us who had them decided to add our ski crampons to the touring bindings. Ski crampons have metal blades either side of the binding toward the front that engage as you transfer weight to a ski, giving you grip on ice that wouldn’t be possible with skins alone. This was the first time I had used ski crampons and they proved very effective.

After our ‘first lunch’ we pushed on up the ever increasing gradient with the goal of stopping again for a decent break at around 1100m. The trees began to thin out and we met two groups of local Japanese backcountry enthusiasts, the only other people we encountered on this Eastern route. The slope gradually increased, requiring systematic use of the variable-height heel lifters on our bindings. It is possible to deal with steeper terrain though, by choosing a diagonal route at a manageable incline, usually 20-25 degrees, depending on the cohesiveness of the snow surface.

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Second lunch

We made our ‘second lunch’ stop around 1150m which was about the treeline at 10am, consuming rice triangles, sandwiches and nuts and marveling at the great progress we had made in just three hours! Little did we realize just how steep and slow it was about to get! We pushed ahead using just skis and crampons for another hour before reaching a steep and icy face where we all started finding it much more difficult to get grip. I had a nervous moment when I slipped midway through a kick turn, sliding a few meters down the slope clawing myself to a stop with my gloved fingers into the icy snow! I needed no further coercion to make the transition to boot crampons. It was a difficult change-over though with nowhere to safely rest equipment on the steep slope, so I resorted to using my ice axe as an anchor for my pack as I nervously swapped skis for crampons one at a time.

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At around 1300m, we swapped skis for crampons.

This was the first time I had used crampons and an ice axe for anything more than a practice walk, but found them pretty easy to use, preferring the ‘French Step’ technique to climb diagonally up the slope rather than straight up which I found was very hard on my calves. I developed a technique I was comfortable with, generally keeping two points of contact at any one time, using the axe to stabilize me during steps.

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Great views of Lake Toya and the Pacific Ocean to the South.

The snow varied from 10cm soft wind-drifts to hard ice that even the crampon and axe spikes struggled to penetrate. My progress slowed significantly and the steeper terrain meant the performance of my legs was restricted by the limited oxygen availability from my 50% capacity lungs. I was very grateful that my companions were all aware of my need to go slow, and just waited patiently at periodic rest stops, giving me a little time before suggesting we push on. There were even some encouraging comments delivered   over my two way radio to help spur me on. Despite the encouragement, the final hour certainly became a mental battle to keep placing one foot in front of the other when my body wanted to stop. I had a hydration bladder in my pack with mouthpiece accessible for frequent sips of water to keep me hydrated, and I would grab a couple of mouthfuls of trail mix about every 30 mins to keep the energy levels up to give my body the best chance of performing the task I was demanding of it.

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My final few steps to the peak, spurred on by my friends already there.

The rest of the group made it to the peak about half an hour before me, but determined to stand on top of a bloody big volcano and take in the 360 degree views, I plodded up the final couple of hundred meters. I arrived to cheers and tongue-in-cheek comments like “about bloody time!” and enthusiastically dumped my pack and skis in an alcove in the icy rhime that adorned the ridge and clambered the final few meters to the true peak, a traditional Japanese carved wood totem marking the 1898m summit.

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The summit was beautifully adorned with rhime ice.

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We made it – Exhausted celebrations!

It had taken 7 hours to reach the top of this beast, and I had used up almost every last ounce of energy doing so. There was a little time to take in the view, snap a few photos, wave at the other climbers on a sub-peak to the south, and admire the tracks people had carved into the spring snow in the crater. But well before my legs had regained any sense of strength, it was time to transition to ski mode and head down. Some more chocolate, nuts and electrolyte drink were consumed, crampons and axe packed away, and we clicked into our bindings for the descent.

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Looking across at the tracks going into the crater it was easy to see why people enjoy that!

By this time is was after 2.30 and the sun was rapidly disappearing from our easterly aspect. The face we were about to ski was quickly turning from spring corn back to an icy breakable crust. It was difficult skiing conditions, accentuated by my very tired legs, but it was over in about 30 minutes and we cruised down the access road we had ascended hours earlier.

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Leaving the shadows of Yotei behind us as we slide across a meadow near the road.

Discarding ski boots and slipping my sweaty aching feet into my crocs was the best feeling ever, trumped only by the sense of accomplishment from conquering this bucket-list mountain. A big thank you to my patient companions for their encouragement and support. I have learnt that adventures like this need not be restricted to times when we are given an opportunity, but instead take ownership of the life you want to experience and create the opportunities to achieve it.

Posted by Mark (Macca) McDonald on

Mera Peak

As mentioned by Jarrah there are adventures to be had in the season and in between winters.

Here are some brief facts about Mera Peak.

The group of 8 travellers Alicia Macolino, Natasha Langedyk, Nick Rankin, Lisa Weldon, Kat Keane, Charles Allworth, Jack Percy and myself secured the services of Chola Adventures to assist with guides and porters to carry our skis and equipment to through the trails of Nepal. Six of us managed to ski off the peak and it is one of the most amazing concepts in the world to have your first run of the 2018 season to be looking across at Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu, Kachanjanga Ama Dablam and Cho Oyu.

There are crevasses, altitude and changing snow conditions that make such a trip one of the most rewarding expeditions in life to do. Strangely enough in short although we all went for the mountains, it is the people of Nepal that stay in your heart and make the journey complete.

Enjoy the photo essay of the trip and hope to be able to answer any questions later in the year upon joining the Hotham Academy.



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Posted by Hotham Academy on

Ski Instructor Course Kicks Off…….

It’s been a great 1st day for our Hotham Academy Jump Start Participants with a light dusting of new snow and some fine improvements already.  Our June course participants took to the Summit chair to work on the 4 skiing skills and their own freeskiing throughout the day.  Stance, Rotary, Edging and Pressure Control was our guide to the day.  Understanding these concepts and how our body’s move to create them is the backbone to the Australian Ski Instructor system.  Our 4 ski instructor course candidates grasped the skills concept quickly and were making changes to their own skiing and analyzing others from the chairlift with ease.   6 more training days to the APSI Level 1 exam.  Good luck to all!

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Posted by Hotham Academy on

Heavenly Season 2017

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Hotham Academy Trainers Heidi Ettlinger and Richard Jameson live and reside in Lake Tahoe during the USA winter, which is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in Northern California. Being a ski instructor is a dream job most of the time, but ski instructing this year was a little different in Lake Tahoe. This season broke all records with a snowfall of 660 inches recorded so far at Heavenly Ski resort where Heidi and Richard live and play. That’s over 16 metres of snow in 1 winter! Check out some of these incredible photos taken from the slopes at Heavenly this season……

Heavenly Tower Pad
Heavenly Tables
Heavenly Chairlift
Heavenly Boyahs

The Heavenly staff had tons of powder skiing but also plenty of practice at snow shovelling this season!! Most day lodges that you normally walk upstairs to get in, had snow tunnels leading you down into them instead…..

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There certainly was a lot of snow…… This graph was created in mid-March. And it’s still snowing outside at the end of April!! I guess mountain biking will not be happening this spring…..

Where there’s an epic season being recorded, it wasn’t surprising to see some of the Hotham Academy Crew drop in for some fresh tracks. It was great to put into practice all the technical training over the years and adapt them to some classic powder turns.

MP Pow
NP Pow


It’s all about the float!

Hopefully, we will see some deep snow in Hotham this winter. Here’s 5 quick tips to help you in the fluffy powder if we do.

  • Get out those Fat Skis
  • A closer stance
  • An even weighted platform
  • Going up and down
  • Skiing arc to arc


1. Get out those fat skis. 

A ski that’s at least 100mm in waist width is a good start to making the powder easier. A wider ski will help you float more on top of the powder, making the skis easier to turn. The Nordica enforcer was a ski of choice this season in the states and was voted one of ski magazines “ski of the year”.

Nordica 1024x294 - Heavenly Season 20172. A closer stance 

Especially if you find yourself on a narrower ski in the powder, try to keep your skis together as close as possible. One platform is better than 2 separate ones for floating in the deep snow. Try to make the 2 skis act as one and you will be able to turn them where ever you want to go. A good thought is to imagine there’s a tennis ball between your boots and you need to squeeze it so that you don’t drop the ball as you go down the run. This constant muscle tension or squeezing sensation will hold the platform together and stop the powder snow pulling your feet apart.


3. An even weighted platform 

Usually we teach people to stand 100% on their outside ski to maintain balance and get the edges to bite into the snow. However, in the powder this will make your outside ski sink and diverge away from your other ski (this is when bad things happen!). Try to weight your skis more 50/50 or even on both feet. Once again this more even weight distribution will help the skis act as one platform and keep you floating better on top of the soft snow.

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4. Going up and down 

Aggressively extending through the transition of your turns by popping up will help your skis seek the surface (or even get out of the snow), making them easier to turn. You will look like your bouncing through the snow rather than bogging down in it! Once your speed increases and your skill level grows you can calm this motion down to a smoother transition from turn to turn


5. Skiing arc to arc

Making sure you are not on a run too steep, try to finish your turns less and ski more down the fall- line. The added speed and consistent pull down the mountain will again keep you more on top making the skis easier to direct where you want them to go.

Turn Shape Powder - Heavenly Season 2017