ISIA Speed Test in Myrkdalen Voss, Norway

In 2012, ISIA (Internation Ski Instructors Association) awarded the DNS (Norwegian Ski Schools) the Speed Test, otherwise known as the Euro Test, the only country in Scandinavia to achieve this status. Norway has the longest, or one of the longest histories in skiing and many feel it was about time recognition for this was awarded. The inaugural event was held on the 8th April 2013 in the small resort of Myrkdalen (Dark Valley) just thirty minutes up from the picturesque town of Voss and two hours inland from the west coast city of Bergen, famous for its fjords and rain.

The name of Myrkdalen and its nearby vicinity to one of the wettest cities in the world may put you off coming here in the first place! But when the valley does get dark, that means it is raining in Bergen and when it is raining in Bergen, it snows in Myrkdalen like nothing you have ever seen. Myrkdalen is a snow hole, with just five main lifts that accesses a superb free ride and piste skiing area; it is a fantastic area to ski. With more lifts, slopes and hotels set to be built in the near future, and its planned connection via six new lifts to the nearby resort of Voss, this area will be the largest ski area in Scandinavia and arguably the best.

The 2012/ 13 ski seasons below average snow count (as of now April) has over three meters of compact snow at the top elevation and one meter ten centimeters at the base. With winter like temperatures and blue bird skies, this was the perfect location for the first DNS – ISIA Speed test and what an event it was.

Skiers who pass the Speed Test are awarded a full ISIA card which then allows instructors to work for ski schools or independently, in certain countries that require this level of qualification (sadly, this does not qualify to work in France, this still requires the Euro Speed test).

This particular speed test could be combined with the DNS Level 4 – ISIA exam, with three participants taking part in the combined exam and the Speed Test. Then there were fifteen of us ‘Old Boys’ with speed suits on, all hoping to look like Aksel Lund Svindal or Lynsey Vonn (depending on gender!) There were two days of training arranged before the test itself and the ISIA Inspectors were on-hand to ensure everything ran smoothly.

The two training days started with some “stubbies” (shorter rubber gates) work and general GS gate skiing just to get some feeling for the skis, the snow and the turns, all with a Norwegian Race Coach giving us constructive feedback. Then onto a course set on the same slope in a similar fashion that extended over the whole day to help get the feel for the slope and full length of the course. All went well until I “Bertranded” myself on a gate! This term is something I crowned on the back of Mr Yannick Bertrands´s unfortunate “Gate to the Groin” incident in Kvitfjell back in 2008. I knew I was due for one myself some day due to my constant amusement by it. (Google that, I promise, it is worth it!) I am now black, blue and yellow from the knees, both thighs and up to the, well you know where.

Norwegian ISIA Speed test

The Speed Test requirements are quite simple. Ski through a FIS regulated GS course within 12.5% for men, or 17.5% for women of two ‘Fifty Point FIS Skiers’ time (opening and closing of the course is needed to get an average time) and it is yours! If you do not do this on the first attempt, you are able to give it another go. Two runs is the maximum on the day and there is no limit to the amount of attempts you can have in the future.

With skiers from 4 nations that included Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the UK, all dressed in our cat suits, we were ready to go. Ex racers, long standing ski instructors and teachers, some new to the top level, those who just teach part time and some who had given up all together. There we stood with start numbers on, waiting for two 19yrs old rockets who did not want to get beaten by a bunch of “ski instructors”. Hoping they would be kind to us, we were not at all surprised when they went out the start gate like… two 19 yrs old rockets who did not want to get beaten by a bunch of “ski instructors”!

The time was now set by rocket number one and two and we would not know what it was until we got down and finished our run. We cheered on as one by one a bunch of mainly older, fatter guys piled out of the start gate like seasoned professionals and the race was on. The cheers went up, but as the participants dwindled down to the last, I was left alone at the top with start number 18 and with no one to cheer me on.

As I went out of the starting gate, the ‘Start Guy’ made a sympathetic “whoop” as I set off into the first severn gates and the roll-over in front of me. To be fair, I skied what I felt to be ‘not the smoothest’ run of my life. On arrival at the finish, I was quite pleased and surprised to know that I was in the top ten, but had just barely missed out on the 12.5% required margin.

There was still a chance and it was at the top for the second run. Approximately 50% passed the first run and to my surprise when the second run was announced, all participants went back up for another go to beat their original time which just goes to show how good conditions and the general atmosphere in the finish area actually was.

Being the last skier in the first run meant that I got first out of the second run, but opted to let the two girls go first (as an English Gentleman abroad should do of course). One was a Danish girl who had already passed in the first run and kicked a bunch of, ‘not very happy Norwegian male backsides’ by a few 100´s, but a few 100´s losing to a Danish girl is a few 100´s too much in their book.

I geared up, got ready and left the gate to cheers from my fellow friends in tight suits. I skied this one better, much better. I skied this one faster, cleaner and more direct. Thank god for the protection I was wearing as I hit 90% of the gates on the way down. I came out of the steep onto the flat and was going for gold. But if it was only that easy, just four gates out I got a little wide and threw myself into the third gate hitting it hard. I cleared it but it was not enough and rounded the second to last gate only to then catch an inside edge of my ski.

There came a “POP” sound from within my right knee and I fell flat on my face with a nice splits action, sliding to within a few meters from the line. Fortunately the MRI scan came up clean and there was no damage to the ligaments in my right knee. I knew my run was good and I felt that I was within the 12.5%, but will never actually know for sure. I never made it! Yet you can bet I will be back next year to try again

The ISIA inspectors said they had never seen such a relaxed event, as the norm in Europe is to ski down to the lift, hotel or wherever it might be to get away and wait for the results. Gone was the stress of skiing in the required time and gone was the stress of what we all looked like in our speed suits. It was a great event, on a great day, skiing with old and new friends, just very, very fast indeed!

About the author

Scott Hammond is a British Ski Instructor who took his full education though the DNS system. All of the courses were held in English until he was fluent enough to start taking them in Norwegian.

Scott is an ISIA Alpine and Telemark Teacher and Trainer. (DNS)
DNS Team Telemark demo team and workshop holder at Interski 2011 in St Anton.

For further info about the DNS 2014 Speed test, please contact Scott Hammond at scott@we-freeski.com

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Robert Stewart

Ski Editor at Snow.Guide

Rob has extensive knowledge and experience of winter sports and has been qualified to instruct and teach Alpine Skiing for over 25 years. He is also an experienced off-piste and backcountry skier and has competed in freestyle and freeride events around the world. Now a full-time ski writer and Director of Ski Press, Rob is Snow.Guide’s Ski Editor and contributes to many other snowsports, national and lifestyle publications.

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2 thoughts on “ISIA Speed Test in Myrkdalen Voss, Norway”

  1. I wouldn’t mind a trip to Myrkdalen. Don’t kow many of my friends that have gone skiing there.. Sounds fun!

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