I’ve always disliked having skiing lessons. They seem to serve only one purpose – to destroy the self-image I manage to restore after my last lesson. That image is one of a ‘good skier’ who can ski down most things without falling over.
Having forgotten the above, I headed to Meribel with the Ski Club of GB to lead one of their popular All-Mountain Development holidays, although by my definition, they have stretched the word ‘holiday’ a little far. But if your mission is to become an all-mountain skier, then seven full days of tuition, by top BASI instructors in the famous 3 Valleys is a very attractive proposition.
My last visit to the 3 Valleys had been over two decades ago, when I was not much more than a beginner. Many of my skiing demons had been born on its famous slopes and I was interested in skiing them again as a self-certified ‘advanced skier’.
You either like mogul skiing or you don’t
Unfortunately, not even the SCGB can control the weather. It hadn’t snowed in Meribel for two weeks and the off-piste element of the course became a master class on how to ski moguls.
The various school half terms seemed to stretch well into March, this season, and the Meribel pistes were crowded and even some of the blue runs became bumpy by midday thanks to the excessive traffic.
You either like mogul skiing or you don’t. I don’t. Those who do, have issues too complex for me to adequately discuss here. However, moguls are an unavoidable consequence of busy pistes and a technique for dealing with them needs to be in every skier’s armoury.
My inner chimp controls my legs
Our instructors avoided the black runs in the mornings, leaving them to soften in the baking conditions. However, after lunch I think a génépi or two would have been a better ‘digestif’ rather than bouncing down their monster moguls - no matter how soft they had become.
Like most instructors our BASI boys were patient and relentless. If you failed to implement a suggested change to your skiing stance they would reiterate, rephrase and re-explain the reasons why you should, until you got tired of listening to their voices. I felt like saying, “I know exactly what you want me to do – I just can’t do it”. My inner chimp controls my legs and he already knows how to stay upright and is not open to any new suggestions.
I had once aspired to be a BASI instructor, but somewhere between my Level-1 and Level-2 I realised my impossible quest was ruining my enjoyment of skiing. I would never ski the BASI way and I was better off with my self-image. I told myself, ‘There are many ways to successfully slide down a mountain. I don’t have to do it looking like them – I’ll just ski like no one is watching’.
The pistes were still full of kamikaze youth treating slower skiers like slalom poles
The 3 Valleys were as I remembered them. The Russians in Courchevel were still beautiful, the buildings in Val Thorens were still ugly and everywhere was still eye-wateringly expensive. The pistes were still full of kamikaze youth treating slower skiers like slalom poles, with scant regard for their safety. Despite feeling like I had a target pinned to my back, I found the slopes less intimidating and this time they were mercifully free from ski demons.
By the end of the week, I did manage to silence my inner chimp and some of the instructors’ advice seeped in. I believe my mogul skiing did improve and my indigestion abated. So with swollen knees, I retreated back to Morzine for an actual skiing holiday. Despite being forced to attend ski school for an entire week, I enjoyed my return to the 3 Valleys. It is an incredible skiing area - just don’t go there in early March, remember to take an oligarch to pay for lunch and always wear full body armour.
Sample chapters from Chris Tomlinson’s books (the Skiing With Demons series) can be read online here.
Search the Site
MOUNTAIN VIEWS: Weather Reports & Webcam
Views from the mountain WebCam along with weather reports and conditions...more
Another day, another great ski tour in Japan. It's so easy to fall into a rhythm every day of skinning up, skiing down, soaking in an onsen, having a beer, eating traditional Japanese food. And, then, waking up to repeat it all over again...more
THE CORONAVIRUS EFFECT ON SKI RESORTS 2020/21. Should you book your ski holiday now? Or wait and face rising prices? The ski industry is holding its breath praying there is no further fall out for skiing and ski resorts next winter...more
THE TOURING 20s. Those whopping lift queue images from Vail that went viral in February as well as the coronavirus pandemic have been a wake up call for American ski resorts, realising it's time to dial down the crowds, reduce car travel and even create a resort without lifts, for more chilled and environmentally-conscious skiing experiences in the future...more
SKIERS KNEES: FROM ACL REPAIR TO KNEE REPLACEMENT. 'Bend zee knees'. Oh you can't? Either through injury or pain do you feel your days are numbered for skiing or snowboarding? But with great leaps in knee treatments and surgery you could be riding into your twilight - make that midnight - years. Check out the latest knee treatments and surgery plus the price of a new knee...more
The cycling season for me would normally start in late March but 8 weeks of confinement meant I could only cycle within a one km radius of home, so other strategies were required to get cycling fit...more
Social distancing on chairlifts? Is this the future for ski resorts plus higher costs? We look into the murky crystal ball - and run up the hill to see if there's enough snow for a last ski tour...more