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Five Qualities To Look For In A Ski Instructor
August 19, 2014
Whether you are taking your first tentative steps onto the slopes, looking to refresh a few rusty skills, or hoping to take your ability to the next level, you'll need the experience and knowledge that come from qualified instruction. Finding a good ski instructor is not only paramount to ensuring you can successfully develop you aptitude for the sport but can help you have the most enjoyable skiing experience possible.
It doesn't matter if you're a first timer, want to learn freestyle or high speed race training, the desirable qualities from a teacher are much the same. So, what should you look for in a ski instructor?
What good are all the qualifications if they cannot impart that knowledge to others in an engaging way? A ski instructor should be pleasant and likeable with a passionate 'can-do' attitude towards teaching. They need to be equally at ease instructing a class of varying talents, in an enthusiastic way that encourages a love of the sport in others. If, as a student, you feel your personalities do not mesh and you are not enjoying the learning experience then it could be time to look elsewhere.
As there different levels of qualifications for different countries, it can be quite tricky to establish how certified your instructor is. For countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Canada and America there are three or four levels of qualification. As a general rule, a basic or level 1 qualification allows an instructor to teach the fundamentals to beginner adult and child skiers. Level 2 allows the tuition of more experienced skiers. For levels 3 and above, they are likely to be ISIA (International Ski Instructors Association) qualified – considered a high achievement across the world. In France and Italy there are no levels as such; instead there are more intensive instructor training programs, with entrance exams and internships. Again, generally, level 3 and above instructors are more likely to be adept at teaching and diagnosing students if you wish to take your own skills to the next stage.
3. Communication skills
Although the ability to communicate verbally is important, a great instructor will be able to acknowledge whether their students are actually understanding what is being taught and will be able to try multiple approaches or definitions if it seems like the message did not get through. A good communicator will also engage with their students, asking them to reflect on what they have been taught to see if they have understood.
4. Teaches students, not lessons
An instructor should not use a lesson as an opportunity to show off their own skiing talents or simply ask students to "do what I am doing". Every student in a lesson is likely to have a different level or skill or aptitude, so simply dictating a lesson is unlikely to benefit every individual. Instructors need to be flexible and adapt what they teach for each student depending on how well they respond.
5. Can evaluate and diagnose
A good instructor will give their students a series of achievable goals for each lesson. They should be able to evaluate a student's progression and give them a sequence of steps to reach, one at a time. Like the previous point, this sequence is not like a series of army drills and will be a flexible plan that can be adjusted to each individual. Similarly, a good instructor will be able to diagnose areas that can be improved. Remember, an instructor is much more likely to be able to offer this level of attention in a smaller group so don't assume that an instructor with a big class is always going to be better!
Skiing Vs Snowboarding - Which Is Better For A Beginner?
August 6, 2014
Taking to the slopes for the first time can be an exciting prospect, but it is also one that requires fair amount of preparation. While you might need little more than a bottle of suntan lotion and a towel for a holiday on the beach, there is much more to be considered for your first skiing holiday. However, long before you get to the snow there is a decision that every beginner has to make – do I want to learn to ski, or snowboard? Is one more suitable for a newbie than the other? Take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages between the two to help make an informed decision about what might be best for you:
Although this could well change, snowboarding is generally considered to have the edge over skiing when it comes to the cool factor. Whether this is down to the differences in fashion, the stronger association with extreme sports or the nonchalant 'snow surfer' attitudes, many younger holidaymakers consider snowboarding to be their first choice. However, while a snowboarder might feel quite pleased about their chosen winter sport in their causal gear and comfy footwear as they stroll past skiers, clumping along with heavy boots and armfuls of kit, they might not be feeling quite so smug once their ankles are locked together and they have to manoeuvre their way around the flats. If you think snowboarding is for you, here are some other things to take into consideration:
Transferable skills – if you are competent surfer, skateboarder or wakeboarder, you might find that the similar movement means snowboarding comes a lot quicker to you as a beginner.
Comfier clothes – while the cliché of skin-tight ski outfits might not necessarily be true these days, snowboarding gear is generally a lot baggier and scruffier-looking. You also do not have to wear hard boots like skiers, meaning moving about when off the board is much easier.
Learn at your own pace – without any poles to contend with, you're using gravity to propel yourself down the mountain. While getting used to balance will make it rough for the first few days, many think that that snowboarding is easier to get the hang of and enjoy once you have mastered the basics.
Injuries – beginners will spend a lot of time falling over and getting back up again. Much more so than skiers will. If you lose your balance, there are no poles to help you correct a fall. Consequently, snowboarders can often injure their wrists without a proper wrist guard. It's a good idea to invest in some padded shorts too.
Moving about on the flat – One of the biggest drawbacks of a snowboard it your ability to move when you don't have gravity to help. You'll have to struggle getting your feet in and out of the foot bindings when getting into lifts and any flat sections will require an awkward combination of scooting, hopping or dragging yourself along.
Many skiers will claim that their decision is a much more sophisticated sport. While harder to master, the rewards from developing your skill can be much more satisfying. Not only that, but a competent skier is more likely to be much more manoeuvrable, faster and feel perfectly at home on the mountains - whether sliding across the flats or climbing into lifts.
Transferable skills – if, away from the slopes, you like rollerblading or ice skating, you could find that you take more naturally to skis and make the transition much quicker.
Learning curve – as mentioned previously, skiing has a longer learning curve than snowboarding but you are likely to spend far less time falling over in the earlier stages. Those ski poles will work hard to keep you upright.
The need to be in shape – while both snowboarding and skiing can be physically demanding, many suggest that building up leg strength and your cardiovascular limits is a good idea if you want to avoid some of the pains that learner skiers experience.
Injuries – Beginners might be wary of skiing and fear of crossing skis or falling awkwardly. While skiers are more likely to pick up a knee injury, skiing within your limits should keep you from harm.
Snow will be your natural environment – having to negotiate your way to and from the snow with hard boots, armfuls of skis, poles, goggles and gloves might not be ideal but once you are on the snow, there will be nothing stopping you. Apart from snowboarders asking if you can tow them along!
Top Tips For Heli-Skiing
July 27, 2014
If you are looking for the ultimate ski or snowboarding experience, there isn't much that can top heli-skiing. Say goodbye to the queues and long, cold chairlift rides and welcome the opportunity for endless powder and acres of exhilarating terrain. Not forgetting, the ability to reach the top of a mountain in a matter of minutes, soaking up some unforgettable views on the way up.
Even the largest ski resort would seem tiny compared to the typical heli-ski area, yet the powder will only be enjoyed by a fraction of the number of skiers.
Heli-ski may not be permitted in France, but there are still plenty of opportunities in countries such Italy, Canada or Alaska and, if you have yet to try it for yourself, you may want to know more. Here are some tips to prepare you for an unforgettable ski holiday.
1. Choose your season
When you choose to go heli-skiing can make a difference to what you experience. Early in the year the days will be shorter and colder, but preserve the snow much better. However, skiing in the spring will be warmer and allow you to fit in more runs. When you choose to go will also affect the cost, so it makes sense to ask the operators what time of year offers the best weather at the best price.
2. Increase your fitness in preparation
Heli-skiing is only really recommended for those with at least an advanced intermediate degree of skill and skiing or boarding on powder can be much more strenuous that resort skiing. You could be taking part in several runs a day, travelling tens of thousands of vertical miles in the space of a week – so it pays to boost your fitness levels beforehand.
Even modest amounts of exercise six to eight weeks in advance can make a difference to your performance. Aim to strengthen the muscle groups in your lower back, hips and stomach; a strong core will help your posture and alignment, which, along with diligent stretching, can help keep you free from injury.
3. Get some powder ski practise
Your first time skiing on powder can be intimidating, so if at all possible, try to get some practise before you go. It is worth getting used to adapting your rhythm and speed when skiing on powder, as well as the need to adopt a narrower stance and perform larger, more exaggerated turns.
If your first run of the season is your maiden heli-ski run, you could very well feel intimidated. Take to the piste a few days before your first heli-ski to warm up your legs, recover from any jetlag and get into the swing of things.
4. Invest in the right kit
Heli-skiing is quite an exclusive holiday and as such, comes at an expense. If you have invested a considerable sum of money into the experience, don't find yourself set-back by some of the smaller details, such as equipment.
Ensure you have a good layering system that you can add or take away from depending on the conditions (a backpack with a down jacket could come in handy), as well as long, warm and waterproof gloves to keep the powder out. You will also want to be wearing a pair of high-quality goggles that are resistant to fogging up and a hat that covers your ears.
If the tour operator does not provide them already, you should also invest in some powder skis; these have a rocker-shaped or reverse camber to help you keep balance and a larger width waist to help you "float" on the softer snow.
You may also want to get some shorter ski poles with larger snow baskets. These will be able to push down on more snow without sinking. For heli-skiing, some recommend that your poles should be 5cm shorter than those you would use on the piste.
Should I Opt For A Self-Catering Ski Chalet?
July 8, 2014
When planning your perfect ski holiday there are many things that need to be considered; choosing a resort that can offer the right mix of skiing and other activities or finding programs suitable for the kids usually sit at the top of the list but after you have chosen your destination, what type of accommodation you prefer is a big decision. However, if flexibility and convenience are important factors, a self-catering ski chalet might be the best option for you.
While some may like having every aspect of their holiday organised for them, one of the greatest advantages of a self-catering holiday is the freedom and independence to enjoy yourself to your own schedule, in the company of friends or family - or both. Alpine Infusion's luxury, five star ski chalets can accommodate from 8 to over 15 guests, meaning it's an opportunity to share the costs of renting and great for a communal group to have fun together. Or share dishwasher duties...
A self-catering ski chalet also opens up a wealth of dining opportunities. Rather than being limited to the options provided by a hotel you can eat whatever you want at whenever suits you. Perfect if you aren't an early riser and would otherwise miss the set breakfast time. Plus, you can eat out at some of the many resort restaurants, or bring back local delicacies to enjoy at any time. If want pizza and wine at three in the afternoon, there's nobody to stop you.
Of course, this control extends to your leisure time too. Take to the slopes when you please, explore the attractions, go shopping or simply sit back and relax when the mood takes you. Some of Alpine Infusion's larger chalets boast the space for games like pool or darts, a jacuzzi, sauna or even a swimming pool too.
So, if you want freedom, flexibility and value for money, a self-catering chalet could provide all the ingredients you need for the dream ski holiday.
The Top Five Glaciers For Skiing
Summer’s officially here, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw your skis to the back of the cupboard. While it’s normally considered a winter sport, many of Europe’s glaciers offer skiing all year round; perfect if you’re after some fun on the slopes in the morning and an endless list of activities to partake in after lunch.
Many visitors fail to realise that the head of the valley here is home to a massive glacier. Return during the summer months and you’ll find a totally different side to Meribel. Fancy a summer activity holiday? The dramatic landscapes make the perfect environment to go hiking, mountain biking or horse riding in the afternoon.
Les Deux Alpes, France
Just a couple of hours from Lyons, Les Deux Alpes is sandwiched between Brian?on and Grenoble with a spectacular glacier allowing you to ski up to 3570m. Up on the top, you can find the off-piste playground of La Grave. Throughout the summer months, Les Deux Alpes has a famously huge terrain park on its glacier.
Zermatt’s Theodul glacier, just falling under the shadow of Matterhorn, remains open for die-hard skiers all summer. In fact, they go so far as to offer an “absolute snow guarantee”. Pistes on the glacier are graded red and blue and, although not staggeringly steep, have the best snow in Zermatt. There is a year-round half pipe on the glacier, as well as skiing.
Particularly popular with race teams for summer training, Hintertux is a small village to the furthest side of the Tux valley. The glacier here is said to be the steepest in Austria and can be accessed via lifts which are a short walk from the village (around 15 minutes). The glacier is pretty challenging and boasts the highest World Cup half-pipe in Europe.
This is the biggest glacier in Austria, less than half an hour away from the resort of Neustift. Skiers can be prepared to ride up to a height of 3200m, relishing the breathtaking views from the top. Don’t forget your panoramic camera.
If you’re yearning for the slopes, don’t wait ‘til the winter. Book your summer ski holiday today with Alpine Infusion, the best chalet company in the Three Valleys.
How To Keep Your Kids Entertained On The Slopes
There’s nothing like a family skiing holiday; quality time with the kids, fresh air, exhilarating fun and swapping adventurous tales at the end of each day.
However, any parent knows that children aren’t the easiest people in the world to keep entertained. It’s therefore important to plan ahead; how are you going to keep them happy, safe and warm on the slopes?
First and foremost, your child must be kept warm. It’s impossible for them to have the times of their lives if they feel like their hands are going to fall off from frostbite. Make sure you invest in all the right clothing – in particular, good thermal underwear and gloves or mittens specifically designed for skiing. Ski suits can be warmer than separates, but are harder to remove if your child needs to use the toilet regularly.
If your child is old enough, book them into morning ski lessons rather than trying to teach them yourself. This will avoid tantrums (from both sides!) and means you can ‘slope off’ to improve your own skiing. You can always continue skiing with them in the afternoon or partake in other activities – energy level-depending.
If you have a baby or toddler in tow, you will really need to make use of the resort’s crèche if you want to ski at all. Check before you go that there will be English-speaking carers around. Your little ones will love spending a morning or afternoon with their new best friends.
Make sure you bring some snacks to the slopes to prevent hunger pangs in between meals. Fruit and granola bars are ideal as they will give your kids an energy boost to keep them going.
Nothing beats a good old fashioned snowball fight. Take some time out from your hardcore skiing sessions to simply spend time with your kids in the snow. Just don’t get too competitive!
If your little monkeys aren’t old enough to ski (or they just fancy a change), sledging is a great way to while away an hour (or four). There’s always good sledging to be found on the lower slopes, but be warned: while it’s highly entertaining for the kids, it’s a mighty workout for the adults when you have to keep dragging the sledge back up the slope.
Don’t forget, there’s plenty of fun to be had after the skiing day is over. From swimming and table tennis to pool and table football, your kids will never be short of things to keep them amused.
Looking to take your family to a luxury ski chalet in Meribel or Courchevel? Contact Alpine Infusion today and get the (snow)ball rolling.
3 Valleys Ski Area & Ski Lift Developments
The coming season will see a host of minor improvements to ski runs and ‘fun’ areas rather than the addition of new lifts. The main Doron piste has been widened, making access from the upper part of the resort to the main Chaudanne lift area safer and easier for all.
Whether you are a speed merchant or blue-run skier, don’t forget to try out last winter’s World Cup Downhill slope where you can compare yourself to some of the world’s top skiers. This blue run was formerly two runs: le Grand Duc and Escargot, it has now been renamed Le Roc de Fer and has been reshaped for more enjoyment. The Grand-Duc piste underwent improvements so it now has a more progressive gradient and less abrupt drops in preparation for the 2015 World Ski Cup. The improvements will also be enjoyed by those who are not champion racers!
No more picnicking in freezing weather, a new relaxation and rest area has been created at la Chaudanne in the Saulire Express building. Called “The Lounge”, this new rest area will be the ideal place to eat your picnic in peace or simply relax.
Méribel will now also offer even more entertainment for the young (and young at heart) in the various fun areas. The Moon Wild piste at the beginners’ Altiport area has been reshaped to make it more easily accessible. The themed piste also now has even more life-size animal models meaning children can have fun on skis while learning about mountain animals.
The Actimel mini-snow park has now closed but instead children will enjoy the new Inuit Village on the Louveteaux piste where they can try out various Inuit-themed games.
Over at Méribel’s Moon Park, there are even more features. You can practice freestyle with less risk of bruises thanks to the new steps, box and fun box which are made from foam rubber. Alternatively, why not indulge your competitive streak at the Moon Park Boardercross? This has been enlarged so you can now race down it in teams of four.
For even more thrills, expert skiers shouldn’t miss Méribel’s most notorious black run, the Vertical Xperience. The start of this piste is now fully completed, making it more accessible than ever before. Don’t be fooled by the easier start - this couloir is 37-degrees in places, making it the steepest run in the 3 Valleys after Couchevel’s Grand Couloir. The less daring can watch the experts tackling this impressive slope from the top of Saulire Express gondola lift.
The new Saulire Express gondola has now been completed, and the new Chaudanne departure station is of a modern, spacious and airy design. Now the ascent to the summit of Tournier couloir will take only 12 minutes, instead of the previous 22 minutes, and all in great comfort. The ESF offices and the ski lockers are still housed in this new building.
The descent to the Chaudanne via Bourbon Busset piste has also been made more accessible. This piste is now less of a challenge, especially where it merges with the bottom of the Mauduit run.
Courchevel, La Tania & Méribel-Mottaret
In Courchevel and La Tania many of the improvements have been to the ski lifts and pistes.
The new and improved Biollay 6 seater Detachable Chairlift is 1690 m long and has a 365m of vertical rise. It is also now a more powerful ski lift catering for a very busy part of the ski area, transporting 3300 people per hour instead of 2500, it has had a 32% increase in capacity. The lift has improved greatly with better comfort when loading due to a special positioning carpet and arriving at a higher altitude the lift now gives more skiing options than before.
Petit-Moriond Mini Cable Car is 145m long and has a vertical rise of 47m. It has replaced the 3 Vallées fixed chairlift, ready for the development of the surrounding land. The lift gives quick, free and easy access to the centre Courchevel-Moriond for both skiers and pedestrians, and can transport 520 people per hour.
There is also now a manmade snow on the Cruex piste, to guarantee snow cover on this much loved and appreciated red run. It now has a total of 46 snowmaking cannons across the 4.6km long piste.
The Cospillot piste also has the addition of 12 snow cannons on the 1.8km long piste. This means there will be guaranteed snow cover on the piste giving skiers access to the residential areas of Courchevel 1850.
In Meribel Mottaret the Plattières 10 Seat Telecabine now has a 60% increase in speed with a total time of 9 minutes and a 40% increase in capacity transporting 2800 people per hour instead of 2000. This powerful lift is considered to be the backbone of the 3 Vallees and guarantees more skiing thanks to the reduced transport time. The lift has a vertical rise of 734m and is 3178m long.
The new Ourson Magic Carpet replaces the old rope pull making it easier for beginners, with free access this 60m long lift has improved the area for beginners.
The Martre Piste has been reshaped to optimize the snow cover as this is piste is a vital part of the Méribel-Mottaret skiing area. The reshaping makes the return to resort easier from Les Menuires & Val Thorens for beginner and intermediate skiers.
The excellent Park AREA 43 is one of the best parks in France and has a half pipe built to European standards. The snow park is accessible for beginners, intermediates and experts alike.
After the development of the Magnestick-Kid (the back protection which «sticks» kids to the chairlifts), the success of Security Patrols (1st piste patrol in a French resort), Courchevel, Méribel-Mottaret and La Tania strengthen their leadership in security matters by the extension, to all their chairlifts, of the Magnestick-Bar (system that locks the security bar).
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FHM Challenge 2004 in association with Alpine Infusion
As exclusively featured in FHM 2003