The Week That Was In France – Week One

Posted: January 15, 2011 in Course Diaries

Bonjour de la France!

Greetings from SnowSkool in France for the very first time.  Our inaugural ski instructor training course here is off to a flying start – the little traditional French village set in the largest ski area in the world is picture-postcard perfect; the food is just great; the group is hitting its straps and the training is challenging but fulfilling.  Parfait!

But back to the beginning.  Welcome to the first weekly newsletter for SnowSkool France 2011.  Each week, we’ll send through links to our blog and to some photos so you can get a feel for what’s going on over here.  The first instalment is always longer than most – introductions all round plus the scene needs to be set.  Chalet hosts, Jonny and Louise, arrived a couple of weeks ago to get the place ready and a few students also checked-in in advance.  Marion from SnowSkool Australia arrived with the family at the start of January, bringing her experience in hosting SnowSkool in NZ and Canada.  Course host, Nick – a Level 2 snowboarding graduate from SnowSkool in Banff 08 – arrived a week early and being a more than capable French-speaker, ironed out some of the last minute details.  Any man who can successfully shop for shower curtain hooks, Blu-Tac and recycling bins – in the local language, no less – is clearly up to the job!

By mid last week, all that was missing was the bulk of the students.  It was the calm before the storm because by 6.30pmlast Sunday 9 January, the chalet was finally full and buzzing as the students descended.  After a short transfer from Geneva through some rather rainy French countryside, the students arrived in the beautiful if a little wet town of Chandon. They moved their mountain of bags into their new home for the season, Chalet Ballenberg.  And as luck would have it, with them came much-needed snow, which made for an even more picturesque and atmospheric start to our sojourn.

Students hit their rooms, dumped their bags and headed to the communal lounge for a well-earned beer, introductions were made and stories exchanged.  While all students are male, there is a lovely mix of ages, nationalities and backgrounds, which is what always adds to the SnowSkool experience.

The long rustic table was full as large helpings of the first meal – lamb tagine followed by sticky date pud – were devoured.  A briefing was provided by Nick and Marion, followed by a course overview from our ski school partner, Parallel Lines.  This first week brought 5 days of training, 6 hours per day – welcome to first grade, SnowSkoolers!  Afterwards, most headed up to Meribel – about 5 minutes away by local bus – with Nick, to get the lay of the land.  First it was drinks at the “Lodge du Village” (LDV) and then into town for the infamous “toss the boss” night down at Jack’s bar.  Roll a dice against the boss and if you win your drinks are free.  We won!

Fresh powder called on Monday morning and the group rushed out for the local shuttle to the ski area.  The first exit is always a mad scramble as everyone tries to remember all the bits they need to take with them.  All but three made it down the short 30-metre walk to the bus stop in time – the French bus drivers seem to delight in seeing the whites of your eyes as you run those last few metres… and then they hit the gas!  Still, lesson learned and way better it happened before training day.

With the ridiculous amount of snow that had fallen overnight everyone was itching to get their first turns in.  It was supposed to be an orientation and equipment buying day but we unanimously voted powder should come first and shopping second, so it was straight up the mountain for first lifts.  After a good first day’s skiing we met at the bottom of the hill and went for a wander around Meribel town centre to see the sights, take in the culture and of course, to see what the local shops and bars had to offer.

A much quieter group sat down to dinner on Monday night (tagliatelle lasagne followed by brownies) and with training due to commence the next day, it was time for students to contemplate just what lay ahead and how well they’d cope.

On Tuesday, we arrived at the Parallel Lines meeting point bright and early to meet their instructors, John and Gary, who will be guiding them through their Level 1 & 2 exams and off they went for their first day of instruction.  Nick met up with a very happy group of SnowSkoolers for lunch. Some had made their own baguettes while others opted for their first taste of on-mountain cuisine. Particular mention should go to James St Clair who demolished what can only be described as a behemoth of a burger, known only to locals as “the mountain burger” (thick steak, raclette cheese, salad, loads more).  When we reconvened to catch the bus home the group looked a little less sprightly than they had in the morning, and this was confirmed by subsequent sofa snoozing.  Short work was made of another amazing meal and outside the chalet it was chucking it down with snow.

Having woken up on Wednesday to 30cm of fresh snow and blue skies, the guys were raring to go. We jumped on the bus up to resort and met up with John and Gary for Day 2 of ski instructor training. With that much new snow, morning lessons were centred on powder skiing and for one of our guys, David Slocum from Canada, it was the first time he’d properly skied powder. There was so much of it the guys were still getting fresh tracks at lunch time!  In the evening, we headed over to the Lodge to catch one of the finest live bands in Meribel.  Sean Horne, our resident magic man, was busy impressing the local girls with his tricks while the big man from Bolton, Alex Crompton, impressed everyone further by finishing the Lodge’s “Top Yard Challenge” in near record time!

Fortunately there weren’t any sore heads Thursday morning and everyone was up the mountain early for lessons to prepare for the approaching BASI level 1 exam. The weather couldn’t quite decide between cloud and bright sunshine. After another hard day of lessons the guys crashed out on the chalet sofas. The hour or so between the bus home and dinner has now been nicknamed “quiet time” seeing as everyone is so exhausted. The hope is that in

a few days, the ski legs will kick in and people will still be awake in the evenings.  John Hendry from Parallel Lines came over to give an informative mountain safety and avalanche talk and made the team feel better prepared for the season.

More lessons on Friday and the guys have all noticed a significant improvement in their skiing.   Having studies hard for the approaching BASI Level 1, after dinner we all got together for a beer and a film to unwind.

That’s it from us over here in France for the first week of our ski instructor training course.  We are well settled, having fun and learning heaps.  Back in touch in a week’s time.

Click here for photos from our first fun-filled week!

The SnowSkool Team in France

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Ski instructor course France

  1. Great post & pictures!

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