Why ski and snowboard lessons are worth every penny
Learning to ski or snowboard opens up a whole new world of possibilities and means that you can enjoy one of the most exciting sports in some of the most beautiful locations. Powder, pipe, park or piste whatever you aim towards the quickest way to get there is to learn from a professional ski or snowboard school.Thankfully there are plenty to choose from in Val d’Isere and Tignes, from the well-known franchises like ESF to small, independent specialists like The Development Centre and Pro Snowboarding.
The first thing to decide is what you want to learn and what your current level is. The first decision is very much up to you but it is best to let the instructors work out what sort of lesson you require. You may well be able to score the highest points on your Wii snowboarding in your living room but this does not necessarily mean you will be able to pull a switch double cork on your first day.
Not only will an instructor be able to assess your current level but they will be ablebe to help you set realistic goals for your time on the hill and they will also make sure you are always safe which is essential when learning something in a new enviroment.
“Ski lessons can do so much for different people, but like any service, it really depends on the quality of the professional.” Says Giles Lewis; Coach at The Development Centre in Val d’Isere and Tignes. A good instructor will ask the goals of the client and try to meet those goals if possible, or suggest a more realistic goal if necessary. It should really be about fun, but imagine how much more fun you could have if your legs didn't ache so much, you didn't get scared like you used to and you could ski the same run just slightly faster. All this is possible with a good instructor.”
These day’s instructors are very highly trained, especially in France and have spent at least four years learning their trade part of which involves a language course. Gone are the days of French ski instructors knowing only three words; “Bend zee neeez!” and booking with a ski school you will almost always be guaranteed an instructor who is fluent in your native language. In recent years the British ski and snowboard association (BASI) has been recognised by the French authorities meaning more and more Brits are now working on the hill in France.
“At TDC we see ourselves as having the strongest team on the mountain. All our coaches are fully qualified and love skiing and teaching. We are the only ski school in town which has a training program for their coaches. And all of our coaches are native English speakers.” Says Giles.
Once you have decided to take lessons and found your understanding, patient and English speaking instructor you need to decide if you want group or private lessons and how many.
“Group lessons give you the benefits of an instructor but without the intensity of a one to one session. You can learn as part of a group and feel the support of your peers, the delivery can be more varied and you will likely meet similar level skiers and maybe even make some long term friends.
In a private session the benefits are that you are able to specify exactly what it is you wish to learn. The whole session can be centred around your needs. There is no chance of either waiting for others who ski too slowly, or feeling like the one who holds the others up. A more intense experience,
maybe, but one that puts you at the centre of things.”
Being able to ski or snowboard is not the same as being able to teach skiing or snowboarding. A qualified instructor will have spent years learning about the best ways to make the most of your time on the hill whilst making sure that you are safe and having fun. You will learn quicker with an instructor and you will progress faster without picking up bad habits and these days you can do it all in English.
So often when it comes to booking ski and snowboarding lessons in a new resort, you are faced with a long list of providers and it can seem a bit of a lucky dip as to whether you pluck the right one out of the hat. Our guide will make your decision-making process easier and help you find the right team to progress your skiing and snowboarding in Tignes.
Group lessons Group lessons in Tignes are the most cost effective way of learning to ski or snowboard, particularly for beginners and children. Tignes has a few large ski schools which means there is plenty of choice of group ski lessons. Class sizes are always below eight outside school holidays and often have no more than six. Lessons tend be to half days, usually in the morning, and are a great sociable way of learning to ski.
Private lessons If you've a bit more money to spend, private lessons are a great way of receiving focussed instruction to help you improve your skiing and snowboarding quickly. They're perfect for a beginner wanting to rapidly grasp the basics and for intermediates wanting to focus on specific elements of their technique. As most private ski lessons take up to four people, they can actually work out good value for money if you're a small group who are all at a similar level. If you're in Tignes during school holidays, most ski schools receive priority at the ski lifts, meaning you can avoid the hefty queues.
Snowboarding lessons Perhaps it might seem a bit uncool to be seen following the iconic bright colours of a snowboard instructor in a single line down the blue runs. However, learning to snowboard can be a painful process in the first few days but with some good instruction it shouldn't take long before it ‘clicks' and you are cruising down the slopes comfortably. Lessons are also a good idea because it's quite important not to pick up bad habits at the beginning as these will hamper your boarding as you try to progress. Both group and private lessons are offered by expert instructors at the ski schools in Tignes. Alliance Snowboarding is a dedicated cool school which will have you riding in no time.
Ski clinics and ski guiding There are lots of specialist courses and clinics offered by the ski schools of Tignes which will build your technical ability and improve your overall skiing performance. It has excellent off piste skiing as its location benefits from a Mediterranean low pressure weather front from Italy meaning it often gets fresh powder for a longer season than other places in the French Alps. So if you're looking to hone your powder skills then Tignes is a great place to take an off piste clinic. There are also clinics specifically designed for tackling the bumps, improving your freestyle and working in race technique!
Kids clubs Ecole du Ski Français Le Lac has a range of children's clubs which include the Piou Piou club for those aged three to five and a number of courses for teenagers who are already able to ski. Ecole du Ski Français Val Claret also offer similar children's ski clubs. The British Alpine Ski School (BASS) and Ultimate Snowsports also offer children's lessons.
Who There are two Ecole du Ski Français (ESF) in Tignes, one in Le Lac and the other in Val Claret. ESF Le Lac also has an offshoot in Les Brévières. ESF Val Claret offers some good workshops in addition to group and private lessons.
Ultimate Snowsports have British instructors and small groups sizes. New for this winter are their advanced coaching clinics covering off piste, bumps, freestyle and carving.
The British Alpine Ski School (BASS) has had a ski school on Espace Killy for over 10 years and offers a broad range of group and private lessons as well as a few clinics.
Further details of smaller ski schools and individual teachers can be found on our Ski Schools and Private Instructors listings pages.