Pupils get a piste of the action!

On Friday 14th February 2020, 56 pupils and seven members of staff departed on Antrim Grammar School’s ski trip to Andalo in Italy’s Dolomites.

An evening arrival into Marco-Polo airport, Venice, was followed by a three-hour coach journey to Andalo and our base for the week, the superbly run Hotel Costaverde. After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we went to get fitted for our ski boots and to collect our skis, poles, lift pass and helmet. We then made our way to the slopes to meet our ski instructors. Based upon the pupils’ previous ski experience, they were divided into five groups. The first day consisted of the instructors running through basic skills, culminating with a test on a nursery slope to see if pupils could stop safely using the ‘snowplough’ technique. All the pupils (and some of the staff!) were delighted, not to say relieved, to be told that they had acquired the appropriate skills to progress to the main ski slopes. This seemed like quite a goal, for some were still pirouetting like a Frankenstein monster on roller-skates!

Each day thereafter consisted of a morning lesson from 9.00am - 11.00am (with a break for lunch) and an afternoon lesson from 1.00pm - 3.00pm. Everyone, no matter their skill level, worked hard with their instructors through the week and we all improved. The mountain air was fresh, our heads were clear, and the views were sublime. The pupils displayed great enthusiasm and, of course, we all had our fair share of tumbles, but surely isn’t that part of the fun of skiing? With the sound of Ski Sunday ringing in their ears, the pupils progressed from the basic snowplough manoeuvre to completing snowplough turns on the nursery slopes before moving on to some green runs. These necessitated the use of ski lifts, which we soon found required a good degree of balance to get on and a healthy dose of courage to get off!

By Wednesday, most groups were ready to tackle a more challenging red run, which only three days earlier had looked all but impossible to many of us. A gondola ascent of over 1000m took us towards the highest parts of the ski area. Emerging in beautiful conditions, with views of Lake Garda to the south, we had the opportunity here to learn how to turn our skis parallel across the slope and use the edges to allow us to safely side-step up or down. Towards the end of the week, our instructors gave us tests appropriate to what they had taught us and it was great to see that all the pupils were classed as Bronze level skiers, with a healthy number graded as Silver.

Thanks must go to our five instructors for the unending patience and good rapport with their young charges. Of course, any ski trip must also have some Après Ski and the pupils enjoyed a lively programme which included a quiz night, having a go at ice go-karting (which was as much fun to spectate as it was to take part) and, of course, a disco.

Antrim Grammar School promotes currency, character and culture and it was clear that the pupils had gained tremendous life skills from the trip and developed their resilience. What, though, have we learned about skiing? First, no matter how confident you feel, there will always be a four or five-year-old who will proceed to ski nonchalantly down an impossibly steep part of the run without falling. Second, it is always sheer folly to try to attach your skis to your boots if both skis are pointing downhill! Third, those heard asking amongst a school group: ‘Are we going to do a red or a black run today?’ are most likely pupils. Those overheard wondering: ‘Will my knees survive today?’ are most likely teachers…!