Pete Silver Gillespie has been teaching people how to ski for 28 years and is currently Head of Snowsports at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead. It is the closest indoor skiing facility to London.
Pete is qualified to the highest international level and is a member of the International Ski Instructors Association. We asked Pete to share his knowledge with us.
Interview with Head of Snowsports at the Snow Centre
What are your recommendations to get someone from beginner level, or from confident beginner level, to intermediate level?
Take some lessons. Whether in the UK or out in the mountains a ski instructor will assess your skills and take you at the right pace through the learning journey.
I’ve heard good intermediate skiers say that they get nervous before the first run of the season. Does everyone get this?
Yes, this is very normal and lots of people have this angst on day one. A few sessions at your local UK slope will re-orientate you with the environment and the equipment. Take day one easy and don’t over-stretch yourself. Set realistic and achievable daily goals.
What skill should someone be at before they can call themselves an intermediate-level skier or snowboarder? Technically what should they be able to do?
Skiing/riding – consistent parallel skiing, linking turns, and the ability to vary turn shape. Skiing and riding up to easier red terrain.
What are your top tips for intermediates?
Sound posture and efficient flowing movements will aid balance. Ski and ride terrain that will promote posture development rather than defensive skiing or riding.
What do you mean by defensive skiing? And while we’re on the subject, what are bad habits that people develop that might prevent them from being better skiers?
Defensive skiing – Big snowplough to control speed rather than steering, which is often caused by being on a slope too steep and fear kicking in. Leaning in to the slope and balancing against the inner ski. Leaning back in the equipment rather than being centered and balanced. Basically rather than flowing with the mountain fighting and laboring through every turn.
Do you have any tricks for building confidence?
Scope out nice and easy progressive terrain. Work on building up steering skills so confidence is developed in controlling speed and line. Hire a professional who will guide you through the process safely.
How important is having a strong core? There are gym and pilates classes that try to prepare you for the slopes by mimicking ski actions. Do you think that these are worthwhile?
A strong core will protect the back and will also mean that the skiing and riding movements are more efficient as there is a balanced shape (posture) to move from. Gym and pilates are very positive in developing a strong core. Although a week before you go away will have little effect (it needs to be about 3 months before to develop the strength).
Can you recommend any good intermediate resorts?
How much time should a skier spend at an indoor centre like the Snow Centre, in between trips, to up their game?
Very high levels of performance can be developed in the indoor environment. The best (non-professional) skiers/riders usually ski or ride all year round to maintain their skills and develop further. As the runs are shorter than a typical Alpine run there is a great opportunity to make each run count (a focus). As a minimum, if you want to improve a once a month visit is ideal.
What can somebody expect from a trip to the Snow Centre?
A mini ski resort. Come in early and you will find a groomed slope perfect for practicing and developing your skills. Just like in the mountains throughout the day the slope and snow change character and becomes variable (exciting bumps and snow conditions to challenge you). Pick your visit time to match your needs. The Centre is full of talented snow-sports teachers who are ready to develop your performance.
After the snow activity, you can relax and enjoy the traditional Alpine-style restaurant with European beers and Alpine dishes. A piece of the Alps in Hertfordshire!