Ski (Snowboard) Test On A Budget

Ever fancied a crazy road trip to the Alps to test some skis and snowboards in three days, on a tight budget?

That’s exactly what Tallington Lakes Pro Shop staff did the third week in December. Leaving work at around 12:30 on the Saturday before Christmas; two very eager members of staff, along with Bernard the Blue Dog, collected their soup from the Edelweiss Mountain Café, Tallington Lakes and hit the road. Armed with two roof boxes full of kit – thanks to Atomic, Volkl, Salomon, Lib Tech skis, and DC snowboards –  they hoped to find fresh pre Christmas powder in the moutain resort of Morzine! Here’s their account of the trip:

The drive to Folkstone was smooth, and we even managed to jump on an earlier train via the Euro Tunnel.  Once on the other side we started the eight-hours, 540 mile trip across France. Having stopped for a steak dinner, and a fuel break, we arrived in Morzine to the stare of a friendly Gendarme pointing his rather large assault rifle at us and asking us to stop. Having been breathlysed, and laughed at for driving to Morzine for 3 days, we arrived at the Ardent Lift car park at around 04:30. We rolled out the sleeping bags and tried to get four hours sleep.

The morning came too quickly, with the sun beaming though the car windscreen, and the sound of other cars parking up for the day.  We were ready for a black coffee, omelette, and to go and shred the “interesting” conditions that awaited us.

The first skis out the box were the Volkl RTM and the Atomic Redster Double Decker SG. The morning conditions of packed ice proved positive with this type of ski. The afternoon’s conditions of slush and bumps proved a hit with the Volkl Kendo, Atomic Vantage 95c and the Volkl One. Having more width underfoot enabled them to be very happy to pop over the mounds but still maintain very good edge hold.

volkl kendo skis
The afternoon’s conditions of slush and bumps proved a hit with the Volkl Kendo.

Tuesday didn’t start to plan as we woke to the sound of rain and wind; but being Brits we still went up onto the non-crowded pistes. Unfortunately conditions weren’t fantastic to be able to test the skis, so it was time for the snowboards to make an appearance. The DC Mega and the DC Focus proved another success. With the afternoon proving a little softer, the Lib Tech Skate Banana made a very brief appearance.

Tuesday night it seemed fitting to head out to Chez le Pere Bill for a French meal to prepare us for everything to come on Wednesday. As always, the meal had to finish with a few large glasses of red wine and a very well received Cheese Sledge.

selection of cheeses
The cheese sledge – Chez le Pere Bill, Morzine.

Wednesday started well with sunshine but still no fresh snow. We raced up to the car park and jumped on the Salomon X-Drive 8.0 FS and the X-Drive 8.0 Ti for a couple of runs. The conditions were proving bullet proof and it seemed fitting to break out the Atomic Redster Double Decker SG again. This is certainly a ski that has to be carved.

With the afternoon getting bumpy again we headed up to the Chaux de Rosee lift and to our favourite slope. It was a blue run that was very narrow, very slushy and very bumpy. As it was the last afternoon we chose our favourite ski from the trip and proceeded to ‘bounce’! Our review of the skis, and snowboards, will follow shortly.

Finally, after packing up the car, the boxes and sinking another two black coffees we were on the road back to Calais. We arrived at the Euro Tunnel for 02:00 and even with the current situation managed to jump on an early train. With a quick three-hours sleep we strolled back into work all bright eyed and bushy tailed with Bernard the Blue Dog!

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Japow – Skiing In Japan

On the 2nd of December 2015 I left the UK heading for the northern island of Hokkaido in Japan. The region is known for having some of the biggest recorded snowfalls in the world and offering fantastic tree lined powder skiing. Skiing in Japan has been a dream for the last ten years and I cannot wait to explore the skiing and culture of Japan this winter.

powder skiing in japan
Skiing in Japan has been a dream for the last ten years!

Arriving in Grand Hirafu at the base of Mt Annupuri  you cannot help but be overwhelmed by the amount of snow that has already fallen. Tree branches and buildings appear to be frozen in time  whilst  storms just continue to roll through this remote region. The first 5 days of our trip we rarely got to see past the first 20m due to the snow and certainly didn’t get a view of the surrounding valley. The snow itself is unlike any powder I have skied, it has an incredible spring to it that projects you out of each turn.  The first few days were amazing we hadn’t started work and enjoyed fresh snow everyday.

When the storm finally passed we were able to see the dominating view of MT Yotei that towers over the valley; it is an active volcano that rises from 200m above sea level to 1800m. It is by far the biggest peak in the area and is commonly referred to as Little Fiji, in Japan. This peak will be one of the goals for my touring this season, in the right conditions you are able to climb the peak and ski down into the crater of the volcano a truly once  in a lifetime experience.

mt yotei
Land of the rising sun; Mt Yotei.

The following clear days we took some treks out to the base to explore  the National Park and started to get our legs ready for the first tour of the winter. Having seen most of the fresh snow ‘skied out’ in resort we decided to head into the backcountry. We set off at the resort of Annupuri and ventured into the valley behind the mountain with the aim of getting to the peak a solid 1000m vertical warm up. Touring is actually easier here due to not having to deal with high altitudes and we enjoyed cruising up through the bamboo and silver birch forest to the first ridge. With the peak in our sight we estimated we had maybe another two hours to go, however, another blizzard rolled in making the final 200m some of the snowiest conditions I have been in. Despite the conditions, and with some good route planning, we found the refuge on the peak and sheltered from the storm. It was impossible to go back the way we came due to the weather so dropped back over the front down to resort. It was great to get the legs back in but a shame we didn’t get to do the descent we wanted. However it certainly opened our eyes to the quality and expansiveness of the terrain in this area.

The storm that hit us on our tour stuck around for four days so we have been again enjoying fresh turns every morning.  The consistency of snow here gives you a different perspective on skiing as you can wake up everyday knowing that you will be riding powder. The potential to improve that side of your riding is  amazing and I hope this winter I will be able to do just that; skiing in Japan.

I will keep you all posted on the Japanese adventure in the coming months, Rob.

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O’Neill Psycho 3 Wetsuit Review

Surfing in Scotland.  Tallington Lakes Pro Shop kindly armed me with an O’Neill Psycho 3 wetsuit for the trip and I was keen to push it to its limits in the cold seas that surround Scotland.

On the Wednesday and Thursday there was a large swell on the east coast so we decided they would be the best days to head to the surf. We travelled towards Aberdeen and made our way south finally jumping in at Lunan Bay. This was a great reintroduction to Scottish surfing; it is a wild and rugged country and the seas around it seem to reflect that. The surf on the east coast were generally messy but it was great to get some water time before we headed to the reefs and slabs of the north.

From the Cairngorms we made our way along the coast to Inverness and then started the long drive to the northern tip of Caithness. The surfing in this area in my opinion is world class. It offers a huge variety of waves from long mellow points to thick heavy slabs. Having already done two trips to this region we also explored further west into Sutherland and again found plenty of empty line ups to keep us entertained.

surfing in scotland
To say the trip was ideal testing conditions for a winter wetsuit would be an understatement.

To say the trip was ideal testing conditions for a winter wetsuit would be an understatement. The weather is constantly changing with rain and gale force winds. The water temperature despite being relatively friendly in October compared to deepest darkest January is certainly cold enough to put this O’Neill wetsuit through its paces.

The first thing you notice about the O’Neill Psycho 3 wetsuit is how light it is. The new TechnoButter technology, which is a honeycomb neoprene, means that the suit is not dense and has a light foamy texture. The weight of the suit is actually comparable to a 3mm/2mm summer suit when dry. As I got changed I noticed that the suit is extremely flexible; however it is worth noting that with this flexibility you have to be careful when putting the suit on because it feels like you could easily over stretch it or tear it if you pulled too hard.

The seams and seals on the suit are extremely impressive and even through some pretty heavy wipe outs I didn’t find that the suit flushed. The majority of the waves we surfed were over granite slabs and plenty of times you find yourself being dragged along the bottom. Fortunately the suit never split or tore in this situation. Obviously there is a certain degree of luck in the way you fall; but plenty of people did tear their suits on the reef. So I would conclude that the TechnoButter neoprene is tough as well as light.

Actually surfing in the 5mm wetsuit was pleasurable, as surfing can be in such a thick suit. I found due to the flexibility and lightness of the wetsuit, I didn’t tire as quickly paddling as I have in previous suits, and was able to surf for the best part of 5-6 hours most days. These benefits also extend to your ‘pop up’ and surfing; and you feel incredibly nimble for being in such a thick suit.

surfing scotland
A secret reef somewhere in the North, Scotland!

Overall I would highly recommend the O’Neill Psycho 3 because it made surfing, in Autumn, in Scotland an easy task and handled the conditions better than the suits I have worn on the previous two trips. However I would advise if you purchase this suit to treat it with care, similarly to most top end suits you are paying for flexibility but with this they can easily be pulled or stretched. So always hang the suit from the waist on a hanger and always take some thing to change on, especially in gravel car parks, as it would be a shame to ruin suit before you even got in the water.

Note: O’Neill  discontinued the Psycho 3 for winter 15/16 and replaced it with the Psycho Freak ZEN and Psycho Freak FUZE wetsuits. They are the same suit just different ways to climb in! The wetsuit technology is almost 100% the same as the Psycho 3 but O’Neill have extended the ‘fire wall’ inside the suit all the way to the bottom of the legs – toasty!

You can view more men’s O’Neill wetsuits here.

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How To Become A BASI Ski Instructor

The British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) have a qualification structure for skiers who aspire to work, as a ski instructor,  in the ski industry. The Alpine Level 1 course would be the first step to enter into this type of career, and is aimed at experienced skiers who feel they are at a level where they can start to teach beginners of the sport.

Before You Start The Course

Your skiing level is the most important thing to work on before starting the course. I would recommend talking to someone you know who has passed the BASI Level 1 course, and getting them to have a look at your skiing and tell you if you are at the required level. If you don’t know anyone, book a private lesson at any of the dry ski slopes or snow domes in the UK (and make sure your instructor has at least the BASI Level 1 qualification).

You don’t need to own your own skis yet as it’s possible to hire a pair (this was the case at Milton Keynes SnoZone – it would be best to check with the slope before arriving). However, I would highly recommend buying your own boots. There is a huge difference between a hired pair and your own – your own boots can be heat moulded to the shape of your foot, and custom-made foot beds can be added, to give excellent performance and comfort.

Day One

Our group (nine of us) met our instructor in the cafe next to the ski slope at 9 am. The skiing kicked off immediately with some rider improvement exercises, which covered body positioning over the skis, different types of turns (short rotational turns and longer carved turns), and how to use the feet to push on the skis and improve turning.

After lunch, we were briefly shown the Central Theme, which is the name given to the steps BASI instructors use to teach new skiers from beginner level, up to turning using parallel turns. There are seven steps, which were explained to us, told why they were useful to the student, and shown how to demonstrate them. We also practised the demonstrations ourselves, which in my opinion also helped my own skiing.

For the last hour we continued with more rider improvement exercises, in which we focused on torso positioning in short radius turns – in which the torso must be facing downhill while our legs turn beneath us; and larger carved turns – in which we looked again at pushing down with our feet while turning.

The skiing finished at around 4:30 pm, at which time we went into a small classroom to discuss the day’s activities. We were then set a task of planning a very short lesson (around 15 minutes) to teach the next day, and given some questions to answer at home regarding class safety.

Day Two

We met again at 9 am in the classroom, where we talked through the homework questions given to us the day before, which took no more than half an hour. Straight afterwards, we went onto the slope, and each of us gave a 15 minute practice lesson to the rest of the group – the one we had planned the day before. My lesson was looking at turn sizes and how they affect speed: smaller turns make skiing slower whilst larger turns make skiing quicker.

We had some rider improvement, similar to day one, which was related to our short radius turns. For myself, the main aspects I was trying to improve were my posture and my upper body position. After going through a few drills, we each had a run of short radius turns filmed by our instructor. After lunch we watched the videos of our short radius turns, and the instructor slowed them down to give us detailed and personalised feedback.

The Central Theme was briefly run through again, with a few new possible tactics shown to us which could be used in lessons.

The rest of the day on the slope was used to practice the larger carved turns. The main parts of our turns worked on were keeping the skis the same width apart throughout the turns, and managing pressure with our legs during the turns. Again, we had some large carved turns filmed by the instructor, and the day was finished with some video analysis.

Day Three

Day three was much the same as day two: rider improvement, including video analysis, took up most of the day; running through the Central Theme aspects was also a major part of the day.

Near the end of the day we went into the classroom to plan the lessons that we were to give during day four. These lessons form the teaching portion of the assessment for our Level 1 Ski Instructor exam.

skier on indoor ski slope
Celebration! Jake passed BASI ski instructors course.

Day Four

This day was the teaching assessment day, in which we each “taught” our peers in a 20 to 30 minute session. We were given some time the day before to plan our lessons, which were to be any part of the Central Theme. I chose to teach snow-ploughing, which is the first step in learning speed control.

Most of us were quite nervous on this day as it’s quite daunting knowing you will be pretending to teach advanced skiers the basics. Even though I have been teaching snowboarding for a few months, I was still not looking forward to it. However everyone’s lesson went well enough to pass. When assessing the teaching sessions, the main criteria were that we understood the Central Theme; had an effective way in which we got the information across to the students; managed our students in a safe and efficient way; gave relevant feedback; and moved on to further exercises relevant to the feedback.

Day Five

The final day of the course! For myself this was the most important day, as it was the assessment for our skiing ability. At this point I was still ironing out some aspects of my short radius turns, however by the end of the day they were at the required level to pass – what a relief!

Other aspects of the the skiing ability we were assessed on were the longer radius, carved turns, and our demonstrations of beginner turns (for when teaching the Central Theme).

This day was the shortest of the week, and we finished at around 2 pm, once we had been given our results (all of us passed!). We went back into the classroom, where our instructor gave us a de-brief of the week. This included running through with us what we needed to do next for our BASI Level 1, possible future courses and training we could enrol on, and general information regarding life as a ski instructor.

After The Course

Once the course has been completed, there are a few other small things that are needed from BASI before you receive your Level 1 certificate:

35 hours of snowsport experience: this can include shadowing ski lessons, working in the ski hire area, or even on reception at a ski school.
First Aid Certificate: Must be a minimum of a 12 hour course
Working with Children module: an online course
Criminal Record Disclosure: available online

Jack ‘Jesus’ Thompson

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Oakley Snow Goggles

Oakley is arguably one of the most recognised sports gear and eyewear brands the world has ever seen with its history dating back to 1975. Defying all the sceptics Jim Jannard started his own company with $300 with one simple goal; make products that work better and look better than anything else. Based in his garage Jim developed a new style of motorcycle grip that increased grip with sweat, capturing the notice of many top riders.

With the company orders in decline it led Jim to create the O Frame goggle that was praised for its clarity and wide peripheral view being used in MX for the new 17 years. Drawing on his previous innovations Jim set himself the challenge of reinventing sport sunglasses creating the ‘eyeshades’, a revolution in eyewear design becoming a vital piece of equipment for world class competitors.

Decades of research and development has been focused on a single, unwavering goal; to provide snow athletes the highest level of protection and optimum visual clarity possible. This goal has allowed Oakley to find that perfect blend of art and science leading to 600 patents awarded worldwide. Today Oakley is seen as the go to brand for sophistication and performance within the sportswear industry!

Oakley Goggle Technology

HDO (High Definition Optics)

Ever wanted a truer picture of the world? Oakley’s HDO technology gives a lens virtually free of distortion and fine tuned with patented technologies that retain extremely high levels of clarity at any angle and any condition.

The American National Standards Institute put Oakley lenses through three rigorous tests:
Clarity (measures sharpness of images view through the lens)
Refractive power (measures how inferior lenses distort vision by magnifying images)
PRISM, not to be confused with Prizm, (measures how lenses bend light to make objects appear shifted from their true position)

These tests prove how inferior lenses can compromise your vision. Don’t compromise, stick with Oakley lenses!

Impact Protection

Oakley lenses don’t just meet, they exceed ANSI impact-resistance standards! These lenses have undergone high-speed and high-mass tests, giving the ability to be pushed to its limits with no risk of breaking.

Anti-Fog Technology

Plutonite lenses are an innovation in their own right, combined with Oakley’s unique F3 anti-fog coating allows the inner lens to absorb a minimum of 2ml of moisture to help preventing fogging during the most intense physical activities.

Lens Coatings


A lot of people think the composition of the lens itself is iridium, but in fact it’s a standard lens with a special metal oxide coating that gives the lens a unique set of properties.  This Iridium coating allows you to tailor your goggle to any condition you may face up in the mountain.

Oakley provides a large variety of lens compositions and colours allowing you to fine tune; glare, reflection, light absorption and light transmission. The ability to fine tune how much light reaches your eye makes this exclusive coating a favourite with riders around the world.


Ever get that uncomfortable glare in bright sunlight? Oakley polarized lenses are made from an exclusive permeate Plutonite material coated around an integrated polariser. The unique combination of coatings helps to provide clear vision, minimises deformation and helps protect the filter from everyday wear and tear.

Additionally Plutonite performs extremely well as a barrier against harmful UVA, UVC and UVB rays as well as harmful blue light protecting your eyes even on the brightest of days.

To understand the different lens tints, please read this article.

Maintenance and Care

Ever felt the urge to clean your lens with anything other than the cloth supplied? Resist the urge! Tissues, tops and sleeves are highly abrasive and if used will permanently scratch your lens. The supplied cloth is a special microfiber material that will clean but not scratch.

Your lens will no doubt get wet during its use but it is advised that you only clean your lens when dry. So even if you take a fall in the snow, allow your lens to dry first.

One last piece of advice you may not heard of is try to avoid wearing goggles on your head. Many goggles have anti fog and venting properties but the heat and moisture from the top of your head increases the chance of this still occurring.

Following these simple but important rules will ensure your Oakley goggles stay high performing and scratch free for years to come.


Due to the amount of moisture your face emits goggle ventilation is important in helping to reduce fogging. Although Oakley goggles feature an anti-fog coating more ventilation is always better when it comes to goggles. Be sure to check the compatibility with your helmet as the vents can sometimes be covered reducing the performance of your goggles.

Foam Layers

Getting a perfect seal around you face is important for reducing fogging and adding comfort. Oakley has designed their goggles with a triple layered polar fleece foam which ensures the cold and snow stay out whilst following the curvature of your face without giving uncomfortable pressure points.

Glasses Compatible

If you have prescription glasses finding the right goggle can be a challenge! Some Oakley goggles feature OTG (Over the Glasses) technology which means you can still wear your prescription glasses underneath without the expensive need for prescription goggles.

OTG goggles tend to be deeper than regular goggles and feature a channel to allow your goggles to fit perfectly with no movement or pressure points.

Helmet Compatible

It’s important to have a good fitting goggle and helmet for both aesthetics and performance. Known as the goggle gap this gap between the helmet and goggle is best avoided through a helmet compatible goggle as it can give you brain freeze.

Oakley produce goggles with varying levels of helmet compatibility with many of their designs featuring strap outriggers to give a better strap position when wearing a helmet.

To understand the different frame styles, please read this article.

To view our current stock of Oakley snow goggles please visit

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