Learning to Ski – Part One: Les Houches, Chamonix Valley
Learning to ski has been on my bucket list for longer than I can remember. Having not learned as a child or on a school trip, I’ve been consistently putting it off for a long time. I’d spent countless days mountaineering all around the world, in both summer and winter conditions, so this was a really exciting step and I couldn’t wait to get started.
Some friends and I have rented a chalet in the Alps for the whole of January so this is my opportunity to finally hit the slopes. Looking out of our chalet door and into the mountains, things were looking good for my first day skiing.
Dave, Mike and I made our way to Les Houches (and very nearly didn’t make it…pesky speed barriers eh Mike?!). After working out how to use the turnstile (lift pass in left breast pocket at all times, this is not the tube after all), we were soon making our way up in the cable car to the main ski area.
My friend Dave from Dave Talbot Adventure Events is a qualified ski instructor and had kindly agreed to give me few lessons, so I began learning the basics on the beginner’s slope at the top of the lift.
Dave had a few tricks up his sleeve.
He began from the very start, putting the skis on, basic movement skills, and we then moved on to the infamous ski plough. I began putting some of the skills together and began to move slowly down the slope, it was a great feeling and I knew already that this was something I could very easily fall in love with.
Dave was incredibly patient and constantly gave me tips on how to improve and tweak things. He gave me a number of movement and balance exercises to try, some without the poles, to refine my plough and turns.
The views back down into Chamonix Valley were stupendous and, although there were some rather ominous clouds looming, the sun graced us a number of times.
After a few runs down the beginner slope and after mastering the button lift (the lift operator was now allowing me to use it all on my own!), we ventured down onto a run below. I found it quite challenging and, as Dave pointed out, many of the skills I’d been working on in the hour or so beforehand, went out the window as I picked up speed and panicked. One such panic ended up in a comedy 90° legs-splay which proved a little problematic in recovering from. Unfortunately neither Dave nor I got any footage or photos (shame).
I did take some video throughout the day however and here it is:
Dave then left to find Mike so left me to practice what I’d learnt so far. I worked on getting better at the plough, managing the shifting of body weight and attempted to turn more aggressively. It was a work in progress certainly, but I felt like I’d learnt so much in a relatively short space of time so was thrilled.
We gathered back at the top of the lift and drank a hot chocolate as we reflected upon the day. For me the day had been far more successful than I’d ever hoped and a lot of the worry had disappeared (thanks to Dave’s excellent teaching and patience). Still a long way to go, but one step closer.