Joe's Big White Christmas - Blast from the past

24th March 2011

Starting work as a ski instructor at Big White Kids Centre on 23rd December was not exactly easy. Whenever you try something new it's always nice to have a few days to get used to your surroundings before anything major occurs, but with the Christmas holidays already in full swing us new recruits weren't awarded any such luxury. There were children absolutely everywhere, and teach them we must.

After shaking two of them out of my jacket and removing another one from my left ski boot, I headed out to Happy Valley for my first class of incredibly Eager Elephants - a group just one level above absolute beginners for those less than 7yrs old. Despite a previous fear of small children somewhat akin to my fear of snakes (both are usually found around your ankles and can be hazardous to your health) I soon found myself enjoying life immensely. There's worse ways to earn a wage than playing 'Red Light Green Light' with six-year-olds for sure. I could get used to this.

By the end of day 2, Christmas Eve, the hectic working environment and plethora of rugrats seemingly glued to the ankles of my ski pants had become almost second nature. More of a pressing concern was how I'd get away without exposing my complete lack of usable vocal chords, as singing in the evening's carol service is compulsory for all new Skischool recruits here. Fortunately we were provided with bandanas and sunglasses to cover our faces, and therefore embarrassment was kept to a minimum whilst we murdered a selection box of seasonal favourites.

The next part of the evening was, however, much more enjoyable. Bailing out of the Village Centre building, EVERY pro donned their skis or board and, fuelled to varying degrees by a variety of 'festive cheer', gunned it down to the bottom of the Ridge Rocket lift in the dark. We rode up, singing raucously, before descending half of the main run above town. There we waited, flares were distributed and lit, and then we were off. Synchro torchlight processions: better than sex (or at least comparable!).

Reaching the base of the lift once more we extinguished our flaming torches in the snow and rode the chair back to the village centre. Whilst we had been away a parade had formed, and we were swiftly lined up to take part. Walking through the middle of the village past a good couple of thousand cheering people is quite an experience, and coming so soon after the end of our level 1 exams it definitely felt like a victory lap. I'll never win the FA Cup, but open top buses are overrated and this'll do nicely for sure.

No time to rest though: Skis back on, and more raucous singing as we ride up the Bullet chair and slide through the darkness to the top of the terrain park. More flares? Why ambassador, with these flaming torches you are really spoiling us! Feeling confident and having skied a few of these over previous years I positioned myself near the front of the group. This time our descent would take us right into the village and up to the assembled crowds, breaking off left and right to form a guard of honour for the arrival of Santa Claus himself - on skis of course!

Every great evening has a great finale, and this one was no different. On cue, and as soon as Santa was at a safe distance, we held our torches aloft. As one, and with arms fully extended, we lowered them and touched them to the snow... cue a barrage of fireworks right from the middle of the run down which we'd just descended. Happy Christmas indeed, and definitely a high point to look back upon. Now all I have to do is survive twelve pre-skiing Marquis of Queensbury rules rounds of boxing with 6yr old 'Punchy Peter' and I might make New Years...