Chris Walker Memorial Trust the Skiers Perspective

11th Jul 2018

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The Chris Walker Memorial Trust has now awarded seven grants year for keen skiers to attend the 'Ski Performance for Mountaineers' course run by Off Piste Performance. The recipients are chosen directly by Chris Walker's parents, and last year Josh Butler was funded to attend. This is always one of the highlights of the season for Off Piste Performance, and this year Josh gives his perspective.

"The course was set at Les Grands Montets in the awesome Chamonix valley. The resort provided us with copious lift accessed runs, both off piste and on. Other adjacent resorts are usually utilised for the course, but due to the poor conditions whilst on the course we spent our time around the Les Grands Montets. This area contains more than enough varying terrain to learn new skills and put them to the test. 

The course was delivered over four half days, consisting of a three, hour session each day. A rest day in the middle of the course is given on the Wednesday. This can be spent resting or used to consolidate skills at Les Grand Montets or in one of the other skiing areas around the valley (of which there is plenty!).

Our sessions were spent on a mix of terrain. Using exercises on the piste to improve efficiency and general technique. These techniques were then utilised when venturing away from the marked runs. The course was predominantly run off the sides of the groomed slopes on the selection of different features and gradients, but still using the lifts, which doubled as a convenient point for a breather and a recap on technical points to look out for when on the next run.

Catering to a variety of experience levels. From competent red run skiers to those with pre-existing off piste skiing experience, who attended to develop their skills further through the expert instruction.

Although we all arrived on the course with different levels of experience, the exercises we went through were beneficial to all of us. The drills, coupled with individual feedback meant that we were all able to get maximum benefit from the sessions. 

Skills covered over the duration of the course included efficient parallel turning, correct weighting of skis, body positioning, pole planting, line choice, jump turning and general off piste skiing tactics to name a few. Individual feedback was given regularly, with points to work on given as was needed our progress was then monitored for further improvement throughout the rest of the course.

Being highly experienced in the skiing of the local area Dee O'Neill, our instructor, was always able to select the safest and most appropriate terrain for us to further our skills on and for us to put into practise what we had already learned.

The ratio of instructor to students was perfect for allowing myself and the rest of the group enough face time with Dee to help develop the necessary features of our technique. As well as myself, the group was made up of paying clients who had booked the course through the organisers. As the recipient of the grant, I was added to this group and was able to utilise the same high quality instruction.

The Chris Walker Grant differs from other, similar schemes. The main difference being the number of recipients. Only one person per year is given the chance to attend. This in itself makes being selected as the year’s only recipient very humbling. 

The application process was very straightforward. Inputting the form with your reasons for applying, your future skiing ambitions and other ways the course may benefit you (future career development etc.). Once submitted the form is then read through by Geoff and Jill Walker (parents of Chris), and a recipient for the year is selected.   

I feel my skiing has come on significantly since the course. The knowledge, skills and confidence gained will go far to improve all aspects of my skiing. 

I would like to say a massive thank you to Dee O’Neill, for her patient and professional manner whilst instructing us over the four days. In addition, huge thanks goes to the organisers Alison Thacker, the Off Piste Performance team, and the team at BASS Chamonix. 

Finally, the biggest thanks goes to Jill and Geoff Walker. Creating this Grant in the memory of their son. They have created a fitting legacy for Chris, which has allowed myself, among others, to experience the sport that he loved so much and giving people an opportunity, they might otherwise not have been granted. Thank you. 

If you are eligible for this grant, I urge you to fill out the application. The instruction is second to none and the skills gained will go a long way to building up your future skiing carrier." Josh Butler, Chris Walker Grant Recipient 2017/18.

You can find out more details about the Chris Walker grant by visiting our Chris Walker Grant information page.


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