On March 14th, 11 students from Harrogate College’s Uniformed Public Services and Sports course departed for Folgarida Ski resort in Italy, for a week of learning how to ski!
The trip was advertised to the students in September, so they had enough time to save up the all-inclusive fee of £699. We went with a company called Max Ski, who were absolutely fantastic – they looked after us so well. The cost included all transfers, return flights from Manchester, 3 star hotel accommodation, all meals (including a hot lunch on the mountain!), ski hire, ski pass and 4 hours of ski lessons every day. If you are a regular skier, you will know what fantastic value this is.
We arrived in Folgarida, just two hours’ drive from Verona airport, mid-afternoon. We were on the same trip as Kirklees College, but who were staying in the hotel next door; it was clear from the outset that all of the students were going to get on really well! The resort was small (ideal for containing teenagers!) but lovely, and the students soon found the best pizza restaurant to relieve them of their Euros!
Everything was right on our doorstop, with spectacular views of the Dolomite mountain range. We were incredibly lucky with the weather; there had been a big dump of snow the day we arrived, and then it was just bright blue sky and sunshine the whole of the rest of the week, so conditions were absolutely perfect.
Ski lessons had been organised for all students, most of whom had never skied before, and we were combined with Kirklees College, so two ability groups were formed. The lessons ran from 10-12 every morning, with an hour’s break to enjoy mounds of predictably delicious Italian pasta, and then again from 1-3pm. The instructors were amazing and soon had everybody skiing competently and confidently; Fabio and Simon did a great job, and the students took to them instantly.
It soon became clear that the students wanted as much time on the mountain as possible, so started to go up to practise their skills before their lessons in the morning, and then carry on at the end of the afternoon. (Normal lessons don’t tend to attract as much enthusiasm, so I think there’s a case for me to do this sort of thing full time?!). The Max Ski representative Tom Bedford, was really impressed by their enthusiasm and commitment, as were the instructors, and said that other colleges tended just to stick to the lesson times! This made me even more proud of our students, who not only proved to be great ambassadors for Harrogate College, but who proved they could be entirely trusted and relied upon at all times.
In order to keep the students ‘busy’ in the evening, Max Ski had organised some kind of activity each evening. We had a couple of quiz nights, a trip to the local ice rink and an evening of bowling. The highlight for the students was the Max Factor night, which was a Karaoke style competition based on the X Factor (obviously!) at the biggest bar in town, the Eta Beta Bar. It was fun for the tutors, and for Simon (one of the ski instructors), as we all got to be judges, and we were all definitely in the Simon Cowell camp of criticism!
The students really enjoyed themselves and took it all in good faith; in fact our judgements seemed to only encourage some of them to sing more, which was painful on the ears and did require surgery…
Skiing is my passion, which is what spurred me to organise this trip in the first place, as I would love for some of the students to find the same joy, excitement and adrenaline that has sustained me over the years. The Public Services, especially the Armed Forces, encourage adventurous training as a way of developing confidence through conquering fear and gaining the skills to handle these types of emotion.
Although I have taken Harrogate College students away skiing before, this trip was really something special. Max Ski were so professional and well organised, that I really felt at times as if I was on holiday (being away with multiple teenagers on a dangerous activity is not always relaxing mind you!). What was hugely gratifying was seeing how much all of the students enjoyed it, and how much they progressed in a week; they absolutely loved it! They still talk about it even now, and one student’s comments really sum up why I take the time to go the ‘extra’ mile; Jonathan Matyear said to me that this trip had been ‘the best experience of my life’, and has now found a new passion that will stay with him, I hope, forever.