The RSD Ski Trip this year was to Pinzolo in the Italian Dolomites. The flight from Dublin on 31st of March was uneventful, (Reece Ferguson met an Old Friend) and was followed by a three hour coach journey. The village sits in a beautiful valley at an altitude of 770m, the skiing was taught to seven groups of approximately 12 pupils. We had one group of “intermediates” who had skied before. We skied in the much larger area of Madonna Di Campiglio at the top of the valley. This meant that we had a twenty minute bus ride, every morning through some of the most stunning scenery in Europe. The base station at Madonna is 1900m and thankfully meant the snow was excellent for the time of year.
For RSD this was our second visit, with a party of 80 pupils ranging from Year 11 pupils through large groups of Years 12 and 13 to seven Year 14 pupils. Of the 80 pupils 67 were complete novices. Some of whom were not only new to skiing but also to being away from home on their first school trip. The hotel was excellent and had a large function room which we used on several evenings for in house entertainment. The food was typically Italian and was enjoyed immensely by the staff and …. most of the pupils! Although it has to be said the local pizzeria did a decent trade all week!
On the Saturday morning we had an early start to get pupils, boots, skis and poles transported via buses to the main ski station in Madonna at 1900m. The lessons were from 9 to 11am and then from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. As we have found in other Italian resorts the instructors were friendly and patient. They made adjustments to the groups during the week to allow everyone to progress at a comfortable pace.
Obviously the altitude, the physical exercise, the sunburn, the sugar rush of huge amounts of soft drinks and the refusal to eat proper food did have a negative effect on the resilience and perseverance of a small number of the pupils. However, the vast majority made rapid progress and every group had skied from the top of the Groste Slopes at 2600m down to the intermediate station at Carlo Campo Magna at 1900m by the end of the week. The intermediate (top) group covered huge mileages every day in their lessons and some of them still had the energy to request additional skiing with the staff at lunchtime!
The groups all seemed to have plenty of laughs as they realised that falling in a heap is part of the experience. In a week of strenuous physical activity, we luckily had only a few relatively minor bumps and bruises. Jayne Courtney was the most “serious” of these and that was a badly sprained ankle twenty minutes from the end of the afternoon lesson on the last day. My thanks to Miss McCombe for her work dealing with the aftermath in the local clinic.
The Dolomiti de Brenta is a National Park and popular all year round but the scenery is breathtaking in Springtime and with the daytime temperatures well above freezing it is ideal for beginners to learn at a slow and steady pace on pistes which are not rock hard as they would be in mid-winter. The smiles on faces at lunchtimes as the group munched their way through huge meals of burgers and chips were evidence that everyone was having a great time.
I would like to thank the staff for their professionalism and thoughtfulness throughout the week and the pupils for their excellent behaviour and good manners. They were a credit to themselves, their parents and RSD. The hotel staff and Topflight Rep were all very impressed in comparison to the standards of behaviour they endured from other schools from our area. Miss McCombe is in charge next year when we take 50 pupils to the historical town of Bormio, also in the Italian Dolomites. We have been there before, and it is an excellent resort and hotel.
As I have said in the past, this trip is about much more than learning to ski ….. it teaches resilience, compromise, mutual understanding and interpersonal skills that are much harder to teach in the normal school environment. It also breaks down social cliques and creates lifelong memories and friendships. Long may it continue to be an important part of what RSD offers as a school for it’s pupils.
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