THE COLD NEVER BOTHERED ME ANYWAY – Frozen (obvs!!).
There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing – or so they say! But dressing for the slopes can be tricky due to the weather and how fast it can change over the course of a day or week. Also, if you are anything like me, then keeping warm in general can be hard – and there is nothing more miserable than being frozen to the bone.
So here are my top tips for dressing for the slopes…
The key word here is LAYERING.By layering correctly you can adjust accordingly and make sure you stay warm and comfortable all day long, making your day on the slopes a lot more enjoyable!
BASE LAYERS – these should be close fitting, breathable and wick moisture away from your skin.A long sleeved, thermal top. Thermal leggings – I prefer 3/4 length ones that reach over the top of my socks but not right down to my ankles as they can wrinkle and cause discomfort inside the boots.
MID LAYERS – these should trap heat. This layer is not usually necessary on the legs as they tend to keep themselves warm. For bodies, a fleece or thin down jacket is good.
OUTER LAYERS – these should be designed to keep out the wind, rain (heaven forbid!) & snow so something waterproof. Trousers, jacket and gloves/mittens.
My must haves for my outerwear
Trousers and jackets with zippered air vents under the arms/down the legs to give even greater adjustability with changing weather & temperatures.
Jackets with elastic thumb holes to keep the jacket cuffs tucked inside my gloves and keep out drafts – personal choice as I know some people hate them.
Pockets, lots of pockets in jackets – inside and out!
Look at waterproof ratings – 20K is the top, 5K is the bottom.
Depending on your internal thermostat and the time of year you can choose between insulated outer layers or thinner shell designs.I’m a bit cold blooded and like to have a bit of insulation.
SOCKS – remember that thicker doesn’t always mean warmer.Only ever wear one pair at a time to prevent uncomfortable wrinkles.
GLOVES/MITTENS – I always choose mittens over gloves.I find they keep my fingers much warmer as the air can circulate better and the fingers are close together to help each other out – again this is personal choice.
HAT & HELMET – keep that head warm and protected.
NECK WARMER – an essential in my mind, can be adjusted depending on wind and temperatures to keep extremities toasty warm.Cheeks and noses can be very sensitive to the cold and it is important to keep them wrapped up in chilly temperatures.
GOGGLES/SUNGLASSES – whatever the weather you need to protect your eyes in the mountains or risk snow blindness.I always choose goggles (except on the very warmest of spring days) as I think they are a lot more versatile in all weathers.However, if you like lunching on a terrace then you should have a handy pair of glasses in your pocket as goggles really do hinder relaxation and look a bit silly without a helmet or hat!
Second keyword is QUALITY. It may seem like quality products cost an arm & a leg but they do last so you shouldn’t be having to invest too often if you ski just a week or two a year.
EXTRAS – as I’ve said above the weather can change fast in the mountains and can vary greatly throughout the day so it is sensible to be prepared for all eventualities.
Throw a down jacket into your rucksack for those “just in case” moments. Usually they come with their own little carry bags and can be rolled up super small, and they are light too.
A pair of thin thermal gloves to go under your waterproof ones.
Handwarmers – reusable ones are great & can be boiled up ready to use the next day.
MY TOP CHOICES
For all your clothing & layering needs PLANKS – thermals, sweatshirts & outerwear
Socks – FALKE socks and on colder days I have LENZ heated socks to take the edge off for my toes! They do a range of heated clothing including gloves and gilets – not cheap but worth it if you miss a lot of ski time because you’re inside warming up.
Gloves/Mittens – mittens from HESTRA – they aren’t cheap (I usually get an end of season deal) but they tend to last me around 3 or 4 seasons before they need replacing.That is skiing 20 weeks a year so one pair should serve the average holiday maker a lifetime.
Skiing is a wonderful family holiday, something that everyone can participate in. Sharing the love of an amazing sport with the ones you love! The smiles, enjoyment & giggles – heartwarming. However, as with all things family, there are certain elements that can cause meltdowns. Do not be put off – here is my bullet point list of “TOP TIPS” for skiing with kids to help make your family holiday the best!
Get a session or more at an indoor slope.
For beginners this will help self-confidence – they will have some insider knowledge and a certain amount of ski “know how”.
Even for children who have skied before – they grow so much year on year that a refresher session, or more, will help their co-ordination and muscle memory.
Book lessons, whatever level your child skis at.
For beginners/less experienced skiers there is no doubt that children (and adults for that matter!!) learn better with an instructor and are more likely to listen to an instructor than their parents (or is that just me!).
More experienced kids are often a little reticent to go to “ski school”, especially if they ski reasonably well. However, the model for lessons has changed a lot over recent years and I tend to find that children really enjoy being able to (perhaps) be a little more adventurous or try new things with an instructor!
It also gives everyone a little space to do their own thing and burn off some energy during the day!
Find a ski school that will have other English kids in the groups and an instructor with a good level of English, if not a native speaker.
There are plenty to choose from in Val d’Isere.It really helps children’s enjoyment levels if they can communicate properly with their instructor and even have a bit of banter and a joke so finding an instructor with a good level of English, or a native speaker, would be a good tip.
Being able to communicate with the other children in the group would be high up on my list of requirements – I remember feeling a bit lost and lonely in group lessons as a child as not a lot of other British kids skied and I didn’t really have a clue what was going on!Being able to make friends is important.
Remember if kids (or anyone) are enjoying themselves then they will learn.
The following ski schools would be my recommendations if you are looking for fluent English speaking instructors (not necessarily native) and groups that are geared for British tourists.Do note that all these schools have private lesson options.For groups other criteria apply, e.g. age & ability levels as noted.
Mountain Masters Group lessons for children aged 5+, from green run skiers to race academies. There is also a Ski Beyond programme for proficient teenagers looking to ski harder than they might with their parents, includes an element of mountain awareness skills.
Evolution 2 A wide range of group lessons for all ages and abilities. We used these guys for group lessons for our daughter when she was 3 and would highly recommend them.
Progression Group lessons for children from age 4 and from beginner level.
New Generation Group lessons for children from age 4 to teens from beginner level to beyond black runs.
Oxygene A wide range of group lessons from age 3 for all abilities.
Think about location, location, location
Of your accommodation within resort that is, to make the journey to the slope/lesson meeting point as obstacle & hassle free as possible. In Val d’Isere we have a very efficient, free bus service that runs through town/to the lifts all day every day at 5 minute intervals – this really helps getting around in ski boots and a mountain of other gear. Ski in/ski out isn’t necessarily the best option – you want to look at what run goes past the chalet/hotel and make sure it isn’t a black that you may not want to warm up on in the mornings or finish on with tired legs in the evenings! A number of hotels and chalet operators have driver services, door-to-door convenience wherever you are staying.
Dressing kids for the slopes
Happy kids, happy parents, happy holidays
– Clothing – layers that can be adjusted accordingly over the day/week. Waterproof everything on the outside.
– One pair of socks, and one pair ONLY.
– Mittens rather than gloves.
– Balaclava rather than neck warmer and definitely no scarves
– Helmet & eye protection – goggles tend to work better with helmets & are more versatile for different weather conditions, but it is personal preference.
– Do salopettes up OVER layers – makes loo trips much easier
– Snacks & hot choc money in pockets
Take regular breaks during a day on the slopes to keep energy & enthusiasm at a high.
Skiing is tiring, especially for little legs, so it is important to take breaks and refuel. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse for a hot chocolate with all the trimmings – cream, smarties, marshmallows (maybe a nip of something for Mum & Dad!)? See my favourites here.
Look at activities away from skiing.
Especially for younger children and less experienced skiers.Skiing is hard work physically and it can be better to keep enthusiasm& energy levels up by spending some time doing other activities, especially later in the day.
There are lots of activities to choose from – from ice-skating, swimming and the climbing wall to husky dog rides, parapenting and microlight flights.
Have a look at my previous post here on tried & tested family friendly activities that we enjoy doing around town (most of which are free!).
And also make sure you pick up a copy of ValScope from the tourist office, or look at the Val d’Isere website when you arrive to find the programme of events for your week – there are weekly events, such a snakegliss on the nursery slopes, market day and pedestrian nights, as well as less regular & one off events, such as torchlit descents, classicaval & the mountain film festival.I will do a more detailed post on non-skiing activities soon so watch this space.
Remember it is your holiday too!
Eek some time out of ski lessons by 1) booking with a school that does long morning sessions (Mountain Masters (3.75hrs), New Gen (4.5hrs) & Progression (4hrs))OR that has a lunch club option (Evolution 2 & Oxygene) where the kids will get taken from their lesson to lunch and you can pick them up later.
I should preface this with a disclaimer: IF you have like minded friends/family then you might want to think about trying to link up with them. You don’t have to live in each other’s pockets, the mountains are big enough and there are plenty of accommodation options in resort.
For kids having friends around can help with a sense of camaraderie and people to go to ski school with in the mornings and hang out with at any “extra curricula” activities.I find that if the kids have a friend it means more downtime for me too as I am not expected to constantly be joining in their games!
It can also help for sharing ski school drop off/pick up or the costs of lessons (if you choose privates and the kids are the same level) and childcare (if you go down that route.
So, there it is – all the ingredients of a wonderful family holiday!
Let me know if you have any questions or any tips I may have missed…
There are also plenty of things to do when you are all together en famille. Tried and tested ideas – things that we get up to and enjoy around town.
FAMILY FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
Ski – what a crazy idea! Children are always keen to how their parents what they can do and what they have learnt that day. If you feel confident enough take them out for a couple of runs. But do make sure you feel confident about keeping them safe and listen to the advice of their instructor about where to go.
Avoid sledging on a busy piste.
There is an “Espace Luge” next to the Savonettes beginner button lift.
There is also an Espace Luge at the top of the Solaise lift – last time we went there were even some sledges and donuts to use, so much fun!
Make a snowman or snow angel and have a snowball fight. There is no end of fun to be had in the snow!
Ice-skating – there is a rink in town and even little “zimmer frames” that can be used on the ice for balance. You can hire skates & helmets (I would recommend taking your child’s own helmet).
Grab a hot chocolate (or vin chaud!) with or without lashings of squirty cream. Check out my blog on our favourites in & around resort here
Leisure Centre – Centre Aquasportif. This has a swimming pool (one free entry with a 2-15 day lift pass, under 5s are free), climbing wall (from age 5) and a small soft play area with cafe.
Bus trips around town – it seems to me that all kids love a bus! And with the free ones running the length of town all day every day this can be a great way to see the sights.
Ride the ski lifts. Nearly all the lifts to/from resort level can be taken by pedestrians and taken both up & down. A great opportunity to take even the smallest members (be careful with babies as the altitude & reduced oxygen levels can cause problems) of the family up the mountain (lift passes for under 5s are free but you will still need to get one to go on the lift, proof of age required). Hot chocolate and/or lunch with a view for all the family.
Val Kids area – at the top of the Solaise Bubble there is a kids area, which is a real winner. There are model piste bashers to play on, a hut that shows how artificial snow is made, slides in the snow and swings too. All with (outdoor) picnic area and easy access to the Lounge and its (indoor) picnic area not to mention hot chocolate/cream/smarties!
And lastly make sure you check out the Val d’Isere Tourist Office website for weekly events and animations for all the family www.valdisere.com/en/events-animations/entertainment/ For example… Weekly pedestrian nights (music, ice-sculpting, vin chaud & hot chocolate) and Snake Gliss. Or one off events such as Torchlight Descent, Snow Shows, Father Christmas on the slopes and Easter Egg hunts.
So why choose Val d’Isere as your ski holiday destination?Really the question should be why not!!I know it has a reputation for being over priced and a tricky place to ski but, with a little insider knowledge, there really is something for everyone and every budget both on & off the slopes.So here is my round up of what makes Val d’Isere a great winter get away…
First off are the pretty unbeatable ski area statistics: PISTE MAP
300km of listed runs.
25,000 acres of off-piste area, a top elevation of 3456m (which is important for early & late season skiing).
a looooong season (end of November to beginning of May).This winter 2019/20 the lifts will be opening on 30th November.Have a look at this WeLove2Ski article about early season skiing which features Val d’Isere.“Val has – by Alpine standards – a reliable climate.”“Thanks to the large numbers of British ski instructors based in Val d’Isere, this is also a great resort in which to get early-season tuition.”“You’ll be impressed by the early season atmosphere.”
an average snowfall of around 5-6m per winter not to mention the hundreds of snow canons that can help out if necessary – check out this link for more on cultured snow.
The lift system is second to none.Each year a lift is replaced with a newer, speedier version.There are around 88 lifts between Val d’Isere and Tignes.Queues, when they do occur (as is inevitable at bottlenecks during peak weeks) disappear quickly.
Some say the lift pass is expensive but when you look at how much skiing you get for your buck it is pretty reasonable, particularly when you compare to other resorts.Plus, there are options for beginners and early intermediates who wouldn’t necessarily make full use of a full area pass.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE ON THE SLOPES
Although it has a reputation for not being the easiest resort for beginners (which is a valid point) there really is something for everyone, with 4 nursery slopes to 25,000 acres of off-piste.
For beginners there are
two FREE nursery slopes lifts, a button lift and a chairlift in the centre of town.
two magic carpets at the top of the Solaise Telecabine to move on to – access to these is via a reduced price lift pass (Solaise only pass which gives access to these magic carpets and a number of blue runs and a lovely green).
For intermediate skiers there are
22 green runs, 64 blue runs, 40 red runs.
you can ski between all the different areas of the resort, including Tignes, without having to head off a blue run (although be aware that blues may be trickier than in some other resorts).
Some of the runs down into town can be a little trickier, especially at the end of the day on tired legs.Don’t despair you can take the lift down – it is NOT cheating and ensures you are still smiling when you get to that apres drink!
For advanced skiers there are
26 black runs to keep you entertained!Including a number of ungroomed ones, which can make for some lovely powder or bumps depending on conditions.
almost limitless off-piste – some is very accessible from the lifts, other bits may require a walk depending how the mood takes you.Always remember to have the right safety equipment and hire a qualified instructor/guide.
I will do a more in depth post at a later date to cover favourite runs, runs that aren’t exactly what you might expect from the piste map and some insider knowledge.
Although there is not a huge amount of true ski in/ski out accommodation (most of it is along trickier runs such as the Face and Santons so watch out when booking) in the resort there are free buses that link the whole resort, which run from 7.30am to 2am every day.
NON-SKIERS ARE ALSO CATERED FOR
Lots of different activities to choose from.An amazing leisure centre & spas dotted around town, skidoos & husky dog sledding, ice-skating & snow shoeing, parapenting & microlight flights there is lots to choose from.I will be writing a proper post about this soon so watch this space – in the meantime check out Evolution 2 who offer a range of extras.
ANIMATIONS – weekly events and one-off celebrations
The events team work hard to put on an extraordinary set of events for holiday makers to enjoy.From weekly entertainments such as Snake Gliss, Pedestrian Nights, Village Tours and the Monday Market.To one-off celebrations such as Father Christmas on the slopes, Classicaval, Mountain Film Festival and Torchlit Descents.
Not only the above non-skiing activities but plenty of childcare and ski school options as well as activities for all the family.See my posts here & here for more details.
Val Kids Are at Solaise
Again there is something for everyone, if you know where to look, from picnic areas to michelin stars…
At the top of the Telecabine de Solaise you will find Le Lounge.You can bring your picnic here and eat indoors with tables, chairs and glorious views.There are also microwaves if you are bringing something to warm you up on a colder day.In addition you can buy hot drinks and pastries at the counter as well as cold drinks and snacks from the vending machines.There are also picnic benches set up at the bottom of the Olympique Cable Car, perfect if the weather is good.There is also a picnic area in Tignes at the bottom of the Toviere Bubble Lift in le Lac, this has microwaves, taps to fill up bottles and vending machines.
Restaurants in town
If you don’t want to bother with a picnic but don’t want to fork out then head into town for lunch.In the centre of town you will find Le Salon des Fous, La Source and La Casserole.You’ll find an Arctic Juice & Cafe in snow square (down from the Yule hotel) and another opposite the bus station – perfect if you re craving a health boost.Bananas on the edge of the slopes (but other places on the “Front de Neige” are priced accordingly!)In La Daille you will find Brasserie Louis at the foot of the slopes.
In Tignes head to La Cantine in Lavachet for amazing toasties or Tignes Cuisine in le Lac for fantastic noodles or The Corner in Val Claret for delicious pies.
If you just want a quick snack head to one of the two (award winning) Chevallot bakeries – one next to the bus station and one tucked in the pedestrian area opposite the tourist office.Or head to the wonderful Tartine – a little hole in the wall tucked in the corner next to the post office.
The most economical are Marmottes (at the bottom of the Snow Park) and Cascades (on the Val d’Isere glacier) – self-service, lots of choice.We also love Ouillette at the bottom of the Madeleine/Pim & Pam carpets.
If lunch is more of an event for you then don’t miss out on La Peau de Vache (at the top of the Bellevarde Express Chairlift), Le Refuge de Solaise (at the top of the Solaise Bubble), L’Etincelle (just above Cocoricos) and Le Signal (top of the Fornet Cable Car).
And there is also Atelier d’Edmond in Le Fornet, which is michelin starred!
HOT CHOCOLATE STOPS
Plenty to choose from – see here for my top picks (extensive research went into this post!!).
Check out on my post on accommodation if you can’t decide what would suit your needs the best here.
Val d’Isere is world famous for its party scene and apres ski.Home to the original Dicks Tea Bar & Folie Douce, which are so popular that other resorts have copied our formula!There is also Cocoricos, Saloon Bar & Petit Danois.Or if you prefer a quieter, cosier apres drink then head to Blue Note or Fall Line.
More than 40% of Val d’Isere visitors (in the winter season) are British, more than the number of French who come.While this might be a deal breaker for some who prefer to experience the true nature of a country they are visiting, it can be a real draw for others.Knowing that you will always find someone who speaks English can be extremely helpful.
All in all Val d’Isere has a lot to offer both on & off the slopes. Whether you are coming for a break à deux, en famille or with friends.
The alps are a world famous winter holiday destination, but what happens for the other 7 months of the year?
Summer, unfortunately, doesn’t happen for the entire 7 months! We have some interseason (generally the months of May & October which are REALLY quiet) and we have some bits between this and the main seasons where the hustle and bustle starts to pick up/slowly dies down (generally June & September) and then we have the summer season (July & August) and of course winter (November to April).
We love summertime in the mountains. The scenery is stunning and there are numerous activities available that cater for everyone. It is not, however, necessarily the first choice for a sitting around doing nothing kind of holiday – more les vacances sportives, as the french would say. And if rumours of extortionate pricing puts you off rest assured that during the summer prices for everything tend to be around 50% cheaper than in the winter!
If you haven’t had an adequate fix of sliding action over the winter then you can come and ski on the glacier in Val d’Isere from 8th June until the middle of July. The glacier is open from 7am to midday. More details here.
The glacier in Tignes will also be open from 22nd June, from 7.15am to 1pm each day until the beginning of August. More details here.
Summer skiing can be a bit hit & miss! And openings will be dependent on conditions.
But what about the real summertime & summer holidays in the mountains… At the moment we are in interseason mode but the summer season will soon be upon us, with Val d’Isere opening it’s doors and lifts on 29th June.
There really is something for everyone with stunning scenery, activities galore, one-off entertainments and sun drenched terraces. Here is a run down…
TOWN CENTRE playgrounds, trampolining, high wire course, kiddy car track, tennis, volleyball and so much more!
MANCHET VALLEY equestrian centre, archery, yoga/aerobics, playground, skate park, pump track, more tennis and a golf driving range.
LA DAILLE via ferrata.
SOLAISE fishing in the lake.
OLYMPIQUE mountain biking and also link to Tignes via the Borsat chairlift (bikes only).
EVERYWHERE walking, trail running & road biking.
Walking can be done under your own steam (watch out for mountain bike trails) or by joining an organised guided route (click here). Do some marmot spotting while you are out!
Trail running – try the Odlo High Trail courses running 5th to 7th July. 9km to 70km courses to choose from!
Road biking is extremely popular in these parts, partly due to the fact that the Col de l’Seran is the highest paved col in Europe (2770m) and so a great challenge for keener participants. If this sounds a little too much for a holiday jaunt then why not hire an E-bike to ease you on your way! Another popular col that is easily accessible is the Col du Petit St Bernard.
If walking and/or trail running and/or road biking are your thing and you don’t fancy doing anything else then you may consider coming in June or September. At this time you will find accommodation but avoid the crowds (although it doesn’t get that crowded in the summer).
SWIMMING POOLS Centre Aquasportif has a pool, gym, climbing wall, squash courts etc (as in the winter).
If you fancy an outdoor dip then head for a drink &/or lunch &/or stay at Hotel Altitude and make use of their pool.
Our favourite is the trampolining. Last year O had a season pass giving her access to an hour long lesson every day of the summer holidays. This year I am considering buying one for myself as well as it looked so much fun! I am also keen to give mountain biking (VTT) a go as well – watch this space… And who knows, I might even try road biking as EVERYONE seems to be at it – but it does look like a lot of hard work!
There are also various one off/weekly entertainments put on by the Tourist Office. Take a look here.
My highlights would be
Fete de Vieux Val 27th/28th July 2019
A weekend of entertainment with kids fete on the Saturday afternoon, adults party that night and a float parade on Sunday. The floats are something else – a different theme each year and the local businesses really throw themselves into making theirs the best!
Foire Avaline 3rd & 4th August 2019.
An entire weekend during which the centre of Val d’Isere is filled with stalls. Local producers come and sell their wares from leather & lacework, through meats & cheeses to jewellery and art. There is lots to see & do for the kids, including farm animals, the emergency services, donkey rides, old fashioned games and merry-go-rounds.
Fete de Fornet 17th July 2019.
An afternoon for the kids with old fashioned games lining the streets of Le Fornet and an entertainer. Apero time is for the grown ups with drinks and nibbles served by the inhabitants of Le Fornet.
Pedestrian nights Thursdays
Like the winter version where the main street is closed to traffic on Thursday evenings, live music and entertainment is put on for the crowds.
TOUR DE FRANCE
This year we are super excited that the Tour de France will be passing right outside our front door. They will be coming over the Col de l’Iseran on 26th July, riding through the centre of Val d’Isere and on to finish in Tignes.
Olympique Bubble is open to pedestrians and mountain bikers – free for pedestrians, €10 per day for cyclists. Wouldn’t be my first choice for a walk due to the mountain bike trails and amount of scree rather than grassy slopes.
Solaise Bubble is open for pedestrians (free) which gives access to some attractive walking as well as the Ouillette Lake and the lovely Ouillette restaurant.
The buses run around town, but much less frequently than in winter. There are buses up & down the main road, from la Daille to Le Fornet. There is also a bus that will take you out to the Manchet Valley.
Most restaurants in town are open for lunch during the summer and they do amazing value deals (especially when compared to winter prices!) – you can normally get a 3-course meal plus a drink for less than €20. Check in advance for evening bookings.
AirBnB would be a great place to start for self-catered apartments.
There are also a number of hotels that open during the summer months. I would recommend trying the lovely Hotel La Toviere in La Daille.
The Village des Enfants is open in the summer for full day or half day bookings for children aged 18 months -17 years. They are wonderful! And the daily schedule is jam packed with fun activities for the kids, to tire them out while you relax & unwind.
If possible I would advise having your own transport when coming in the summer – drive all the way or hire a car at the airport. Parking is free during the summer months. Not only will it make getting here much easier – public transport and transfers can be tricky to find – but it also means that once you are here you have a lot more options and can disappear off on day trips as the feeling takes you.
Just around the corner in Tignes (15 minute drive) another whole world of mountains and activities is open to you. In Tignes you have got the Toviere bubble lift and the Palafour chairlift open for walking and biking. There is also, of course, the lake with various watersports available including pedalos and stand up paddle boarding. Like Val d’Isere, there are also tennis courts, football pitches, trampolines and skate park. Around the lake there is also an amazing outdoor soft play-esque area full of bouncy castles and pool pits, with deckchairs from where you can supervise & relax at the same time!
Tignes is also home to the highest golf course in Europe…
There is also the Sports Centre and Lagon, with swimming pool, gym etc.
If you fancy an outdoor dip then head to The Queue de Cochon in Lavachet and grab a drink by their pool.
Around the lake you will find a number of BBQs that are available for anyone to use – you just need to provide the charcoal and meat! For restaurants my personal recommendations would be
There are also a number of things that we love to do in the surrounding area – down to Bourg St Maurice and a little beyond. I have also included Annecy here as it is just too good not to if you are in the area and have the time – it is also en-route from Geneva airport.
PLAN D’EAU We really enjoy a day trip to the Plan d’Eau de Macot, which is just the other side of Bourg St Maurice. Here you will find a cycle path, huge children’s playground, high wires course, small lake with small sandy “beach area (but completely surrounded by nice grassy areas), a restaurant and BBQs for free use (first come, first served).
WHITEWATER ACTIVITIES Just the other side of Bourg St Maurice, in Landry, you will find the H2O rafting centre for all your whitewater activity needs. Rafting, Hydrospeed, Canoeing, Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Canyoning all available.
ANNECY Just a couple of hours drive away is the picturesque town of Annecy and it’s famous lake. It is simply idyllic and we love to spend weekends there (during the inter season in particular when there is nothing open in Val d’Isere). There is a cycle path along the length of the lake, small beaches at various points, a variety of watersports available and breathtaking scenery. Parapenting is an extremely popular pastime here as well.
Accommodation in Annecy – we have stayed at a wonderful little campsite, Camping La Ferme, (various accommodation available from tents through mobile homes to condos) with playground, 2 pools and bouncy castle. Or try AirBnB. You don’t need to be in Annecy itself – St Jorioz and Sevrier are lovely places to start your search.
So that’s my rundown of “Summer in the Mountains”! The mountains are a natural playground and with all the other activities and entertainment put on they make a wonderful place to holiday. I would highly recommend you make the trip and come to see for yourself, you won’t regret it!
Follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to keep up-to-date on our summer (& winter) adventures!
Well they’re not really and they certainly don’t need to be but sometimes it can seem like this! You ski along like a dream on a beautifully groomed piste and then, suddenly out of nowhere there are bumps (ice, a steep section – whatever your nemesis may be!)… What do you do?
Ski lessons are not just the reserve of beginners and kids, they are for everyone. I know what you’re thinking – she’s a ski instructor of course she would say that! But really let’s face it, World Cup skiers, i.e. world class athletes in the trade, go out and train, they have coaches who put them through their paces and they tweak their technique and tactics to improve and are always striving to be better. We can probably all admit they are rather better down the slopes than us, and yet they still strive for improvement. So why do us mere mortals stop having lessons?
OK, not a completely fair comparison! After all it is their job and there is the element of competition to consider. I understand that you are on holiday, that you maybe only have one week a year on the slopes, that you are happy & comfortable in your skiing zone. But let’s look at the facts – ski lessons can help you, in numerous ways, to get so much more out of your day/week/season…
For beginners I would suggest that lessons are non-negotiable. Get your ski career off to the best possible start by learning the basics properly – this will stand you in very good stead for your future skiing, making things so much more enjoyable. You will certainly learn faster in proper lessons than trying to teach yourself and with a good basic grounding the progression that follows will be much easier to achieve. A good plan would also be to have a taster lesson or two at a UK indoor slope to get you started – it is also a good way to see if skiing is for your before forking out for what can be quite an expensive holiday.
I would also suggest kids get lessons, whatever their level – I do for my kids as I find that they just don’t want to listen to Mummy! And then the skiing that we do together is actually fun!
But, as I said above, lessons are not just for beginners and kids. Read on to find out why you should take lessons whatever your level…
This is generally what people think of first when considering ski lessons. When I ask what a client wants to get out of their session with me, a common response is “to look more stylish” or “to improve my technique”. This is multi-faceted. I believe that to improve your technique you need to understand the “whys” and “hows” of skiing. Only if you fully understand what you are doing and why you are doing it will you make long lasting improvements. If you just follow the instructor around and smile & nod at everything they say you might struggle to replicate your progress when skiing alone – even if you do everything you have been taught. You need to make sure you are not just following a set of instructions by rote, but actually applying them to a given situation and feeling what is happening under your skis/feet/legs. Make sure you ask questions if you need clarification – we are here to help.
Hone your technique. Better technique, and a better understanding of that technique, will result in a more efficient use of energy resources which will lessen muscle fatigue and soreness at the end of the day. Understand your equipment and how to work with, rather than against, it. If you haven’t had a lesson since the days of long, straight skis then you are seriously missing a trick as things have most certainly moved on, in a good way. Not only will you get more out of your day, you will also still have the energy for that après drink, maybe even some dancing on the tables! And still be raring to go the following morning. And let’s not forget that fatigue can contribute to injury, so if you are less tired then you will also be less likely to make avoidable errors which may result in injury.
Learn new techniques. Skiing is not a “one size fits all” sport. You need to tweak your actions/reactions and constantly adapt to the changing terrain. I’m not sure who first said that “skiing is a series of linked recoveries” but it is very true. You are on a pair of slippery planks on a slippery surface with gravity helping you on your way! And you are expected to keep your balance, and remain on your feet, the entire time! There are lots of different ways to ski, each one matching a different goal – smooth groomed pistes, deep powder bowls, bumps fields or patches of ice. You may not go out looking for these things but rest assured you will find them! Even a green run can become a mogul field if there has been a lot of snow and there are enough people around. Having the skills & knowledge to deal with all eventualities will give you the confidence to tackle things head on. Better technique, and a box of tricks you can whip out when needed, will make skiing a joy not a chore & you will feel more confident all over the slopes.
By having regular lessons you will maintain good habits, rather than developing bad ones! Skiing is counterintuitive: maintaining pressure on the outside ski (left to turn right and right to turn left), looking & leaning down the hill (when you will naturally want to turn the other way), keeping weight forward in the boot (when all you want to do is step on the heels to stop). You need to override every survival instinct in your body to do things the “right” way and for that reason it is helpful to have someone giving the correct advice and reassuring you that it is, in fact, the best way to do things (even if your brain is screaming NO!).
A good instructor will help you with your technique, for sure, but let’s not forget about the psychological side of skiing too. Looking down a steep/busy/bumpy/icy piste or dealing with bad visibility can be daunting for anyone. It may even be a piste that you are familiar with and have skied a thousand times – but with a change in the conditions it takes on a whole new dimension. This can make our heads play havoc with our descent and all sorts of crazy things will start to happen under our feet! Tactics are just as important as technique. Take those little hints & tips from your instructor on board. Looking ahead, planning, keeping to the side… Add another layer to your toolbox that can be whipped out at any time to stop the panic setting in.
If your confidence has taken a bash a good instructor can help piece it back together again. Technique & tactics are important for this. But in addition to this instructors will, generally, have a wealth of experience behind them. Take things at your own pace rather than bombing around with friends. It may seem like a good idea to ski with your group of family/friends, and if they are better skiers than you you may think that it will help you improve. However, skiing with better skiers all day can really dent your confidence as you play “keepy uppy”, worrying about holding everyone up and skiing too fast on slopes too steep for your ability. This can result in very defensive (and even dangerous) skiing – think back seat and braking snowploughs. To really improve you need to work on new ideas on gentle slopes to try things out within your comfort zone and get a feeling for the movements before moving them onto more challenging terrain. I often hear people say that they don’t 100% trust their partner, friend, etc. not to take them somewhere totally unsuitable – this puts people on the back foot from the start, always ready to throw their toys out of the pram as it were! An instructor is there for you, to help you ski the best you can not to ski where they want to go on a given day. Clients will, normally, put their trust in the instructor to take them to suitable runs and happily follow on – and it is so much easier to follow someone who is skiing at your pace and making smooth, round turns. Following like this takes one element of decision making, as well as some fear, out of the day and helps build confidence back up.
4) MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS WITH FRIENDS & FAMILY
Leave instruction to the professionals. There are many well meaning friends & relatives out there who feel they can pass on their skiing knowledge and teach their nearest & dearest, especially if they are competent skiers. However, they have not been through years of training and do not have the background experience that professional instructors have. We have been put through our paces in our own technical skiing (ensuring that clients have a good model to emulate), technical understanding of skiing and our ability to convey this knowledge to teach others. Us instructors are used to skiing with a range of people of all levels (both skiing and confidence) and are able to adapt accordingly – terrain, delivery of information, speed etc. We will instinctively know the best slopes for you (and the best routes down them), the areas of technique you most need to change, or indeed if tactical knowledge would be more useful to you in the first instance. Friends/relatives are used to skiing around the mountain without taking a huge amount of notice of how steep, icy, busy etc a piste can be. They may, totally unwittingly, take you right outside your comfort and ability zone and crush your confidence. All in good faith BUT using a professional can certainly help maintain relationships! In addition, as I mentioned above, the instructor is there for you, to take things are your pace and they will not resent being on the nursery, green, blue etc pistes on a bluebird powder day! I would guarantee that an instructor’s patience will far outweigh that of family/friends when it comes to teaching. Rather than getting frustrated at waiting for you, or if you don’t understand/recreate a move at the drop of a hat an instructor will have the knowledge and experience to rephrase things to help you. Let your family/friends blast off their energy while you have a lesson and then come together afterwards to share some ski moments together.
5) FIND YOUR WAY AROUND
Booking an instructor can also be a good way to get the lay of the land in a new resort. Find out how things link together so you don’t get lost or stuck. Find good routes around the resort on suitable runs and you could even ask the instructor to point some out some good vs not so good runs on the piste map to help you throughout your holiday. A bit of insider knowledge goes a long way, especially in a resort like Val d’Isere where there can be a few surprises on even the easiest marked runs.
6) TRY NEW THINGS
If you are an experienced skier, happy & confident on all colours of runs, why not book an instructor to introduce you to something new – take on the challenge, it will be worth it. Bumps? Carving? Off-piste? Ski touring? All these “genres” require a specific set of tools (and in the case of off-piste & touring a specific knowledge set to keep you safe), which an instructor will be able to help you build up, as well as being able to find you the perfect slopes to make the progression. If you are going off-piste then please, please hire an instructor/guide and make sure you have all the appropriate equipment/know how to use it – safety first.
WHAT TYPE OF LESSONS TO LOOK FOR?
These are definitely the best way to make progress as the instructor can tailor sessions directly to you & your aims and focus on you alone. Or even a small group of friends/family who ski at a similar level/have similar goals.
These are, obviously, a more economical way to take lessons as costs will be shared amongst the group. Do remember, however, that in group lessons people may have different aims and the instructor needs to work to keep the whole group happy. That said, a good instructor will still be able to adapt and work with people on an individual basis, depending on your needs & wants BUT there will be less individual time per person available. Look for schools that keep maximum group numbers small.
For beginners to early intermediates the classes will focus on developing techniques to help you tackle different slopes around the resort. For solid intermediates to advanced skiers you could choose classes with a more specific focus, such as bumps, carving and off piste.
For beginners I would recommend a lesson each day of your holiday – half the day in a lesson and half the day practicing.
For early intermediates ditto, maybe with a rest day in the middle of the week. For better intermediates I would suggest 3 half day sessions.
For advanced skiers I would say it is a good idea to keep things fresh – take your first day to find your “ski legs” and then have at least one “brush up” lesson each time you come on a skiing holiday. However, do remember that it is extremely difficult for an instructor to tell you EVERYTHING there is to know about skiing, ski technique, tactics etc in one single session. That would also be far too much for you to take on in one hit. Book two or three lessons, especially if you want to learn something new. It is best to try to tackle things one at a time – practice, consolidate and then come back for more. It can, at times, be tricky to disentangle all the elements of skiing as they are, in the main, inextricably linked. Make sure you do your “homework”, i.e. go away and practice the new ideas you have been introduced to. Ski technique, like so many other things, becomes habit – you get used to doing the same things through their continuous repetition – “practice makes permanent not perfect”, you need to be practicing the right thing. The only way to change old habits is to keep practicing new ones and, in time, these new habits will be stronger than the old ones. Don’t be disheartened if this doesn’t happen over night, it will take time and you need to persevere. I promise it will be worth it!
Remember ski instructors really do want to help. We really, really want you to improve, to love skiing more and have “eureka” moments as well as having some take home ideas and techniques to practice.
Book lessons early to avoid disappointment, especially in the school holiday weeks.
For beginners ski lessons really are not optional – you will learn much faster if you take lessons making your holiday more enjoyable.
Have regular “brush up” sessions to maintain good skiing habits and stop bad habits creeping in.
Leave tuition to the professionals, however competent your friends and family are on skis.
Don’t think that speeding around with family/friends all day will help you improve, you will likely discover a range of “survival” tactics rather than good skiing technique.
Have a “guiding” session to find your way around a new resort.
If you are going off-piste please book an instructor/guide. Safety first – from avalanches and from wrong turns. You will also learn what equipment you need and how to use it.
If you want to try something new then an instructor will give you the best start.