Renelle Mortimer: Snow Queen
Nat Fox has swapped her longboard for a snowboard and is sampling the seasonaire lifestyle in the French Alps this winter. She’s talks to Renelle Mortimer about being the only female BASI trainer, how mindset is so important when it comes to learning to snowboard.
Hi Renelle, how’s your winter been so far?
Very rewarding but a bit different to normal. I decided to take 2 days off per week this season to ride for myself. Having commenced the season early this year (13th November), I’ve already completed 14 weeks on snow; examining Instructors in Zermatt, Meribel & Val d’isere, running full Camps in Tignes, and teaching till now. I felt I needed to balance work & play a little more. Now, with 11 weeks to go, those extra days off have completely changed my life, I’m loving it!
You’ve completed 21 winter seasons! What’s kept you coming back for more?
I’m passionate about passing on the pleasure of snowboarding, the majestic beauty of our mountains, discovering new innovative coaching methods, and their combined ability to transform people.
You’re based in Tignes, in the French Alps, what do you love about it?
Tignes provides all you’d expect from a world-class resort, right on your doorstep. Being a high altitude resort, Tignes is snow sure, providing consistent quality snow. We have a huge choice of terrain, quick and easy to access often by taking only 1 lift, from easy blues to gnarly off piste. For teaching it’s essential to have accessible variety to cater for all rider levels; beginner, intermediate & advanced, without wasting too much time on lifts. It’s rare to find all of the above in one resort.
You’re the only female BASI trainer of instructors… What’s been the highs and lows of your career progression?
The biggest HIGH for me is in the teaching itself. I adore witnessing people shine, not only in their riding but also in themselves, their confidence builds as they progress. I love using my knowledge & experience to be able to rapidly transform their riding during my one week courses, whether that be clients with special needs, instructors, beginners, or mentoring high end athletes.
A huge high in my career was the honor of being selected as a Trainer. It’s a rigorous 3 week selection process. After spending 6 years to achieve level 4 (a feat in itself) and teaching with that qualification for several years, I attended a BASI Trainer Selection course, which tested each individual to their absolute limit in technical riding ability, teaching/presentation/people skills, psychological competence and their ability to perform under pressure. It was definitely one of the most difficult weeks of my life. After successful selection, I was allocated a mentor to shadow to learn the required skills for the position. After this I rookied my first course with my mentor; et voila, I became a BASI trainer. one of 12 & and the only woman in history to be selected via this process. That was 11 years ago now.
Learning to adapt to peers who didn’t want me to succeed. Unfortunately, the very nature of our sport attracts some characters with strong egos, which can be a bit of a challenge at times.
I found snowboarding such a difficult sport to grasp despite having a surf and yoga background, what advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
Take lessons from an experienced professional under the BASI system. If you want to fast track learning, arrive at a safe level to be able to negotiate the entire mountain at speed, and snowboard efficiently with style. Then lessons are a must. Be selective with your choice of instructor though!
Having completed approximately 12,000 hours teaching experience, and having trained/examined Snowboard Instructors for 12 years, I’ve gained a unique insight into the Snowboard Instructor scene.
You may think that a European instructor would be best choice on their home territory. Amazingly, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Most European instructors teaching snowboarding are Ski instructors who teach snowboarding on the side as their second discipline.
Brits really are best… In terms of qualification credibility within the industry, BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) Snowboard Specific qualifications hold the highest credibility & recogintion worldwide. BASI have great depth with 4 levels to their Snowboard qualification, Level 1 being the lowest and Level 4 the highest.
I’ve learned that the level of Instructor qualification isn’t always the best indication or guarantee of the best Instructor. Experience never gets old! There are instructors and there are master teachers. Look for an instructor with many hours of teaching experience. Most explain their time & experience by using the term ‘seasons’, ask how many ‘hours’ teaching experience your Instructor has! A respectable, sought after instructor will complete between 600-800 hours per season. An average Instructor will complete between 100-250 hours per season. A level 2 Instructor with 4000 hours teaching experience would improve a students riding much faster than a level 4 Instructor with 400 hours teaching experience. Therefore, you’d get more value for your dollar with the level 2 Instructor in that case.
Aside from finding a great teacher, I’d recommend attuning to the mountain in a calm resourceful state, which is something I teach in my mind.body.board program.
Would you like to see more women taking up snowboarding?
Absolutely! Its so empowering for anyone to learn new skills, over come fear, judgment, and expectations of others whilst having fun. Snowboarding is a powerful gift for any human. Male or female!
I love snowboarding, and I’m happy to ride with men or women. But snowboarding has predominantly been a male dominated sport, up till now some women have felt a little outnumbered. Women are wired differently to men, they are naturally more graceful, have a different psychological approach, are biomechanically different and are often more interested in riding technically correct. So, its naturally easy for me to teach other women because I understand this.
Tell us more about your mind.body.board approach..
I use innovative and very intuitive coaching techniques to help individuals excel at technical snowboarding, by looking at, and enhancing a person’s performance as a whole.
My holistic BODY.MIND.BOARD approach is unique with unrivalled courses, and pre-holiday off snow preparation guides to support on snow sessions in resort. I believe all coaching should encourage and guide individuals to eventually self teach. My goal is to educate, empower and transform riders by creating long term, lasting changes, not just quick fixes. Students experience a profound and rapid transformation, increased knowledge, and accelerated learning. By addressing psychological, physical and equipment components of snowboarding with precise consistent feedback and detailed solutions, a rider’s technical performance on snow undergoes a dramatic overhaul. I call it conscious coaching. Every single person who has completed one of these courses has re-booked.
What’s next for you?
Well, big question! Perfecting my teaching skills never stops and is always ongoing. But after the success of my BODY.MIND.BOARD approach, I’ve realized my next step is to broaden my horizons!
I’ll be providing more camp dates, options & programs throughout next winter in France with prospective international adventures in the pipeline for Argentina this summer and Japan next winter. Also coming up next season is my new package BODY.MIND.BOARD.MOUNTAIN camps covering off piste riding technique, mountain awareness, avalanche safety & transceiver training.
Check out more about Renelle and her Mind.Body.Board camps at Fresh Snowboarding: www.freshsnowboarding.com