Looking Out To Sea

Life's a Biche and then you Diot

A week skiing in Les 3 Vallees, based in La Tania. My second skiing holiday, after about two years of absence. We visited Xcape at Braehead for an afternoon’s refreshing the mind and the limbs. I slowly worked my way out of snowplough turns and got a bit more confidence to say “let’s go”.

The holiday was a last-minute decision. We piggy-backed on the airport transfer that Helen’s parents were using though we weren’t staying with them. We stayed in a catered chalet with two other parties: the hillwalking parents of the chalet cook; and a family of snowboarders with friends in tow. So between skiing, snowboarding and hillwalking there was a variety of activities under discussion at the end of the day. The younger members of the snowboarding party were keen on action cam recordings so there was a lot of reviewing the day’s spills every evening.

On my first day I felt pretty nervous about the Blue runs and was keen to have someone to give me the tools and confidence to navigate them. The next day I got a private lesson from Alessandro at Magic in Motion Ski School. Two short hours made all the difference and I came away feeling that, instead of being given the ability to ski better, I was given the ability to feel safe in troubling conditions. Situations that were previously tricky were still tricky, but I only had to recall the simple instructions I was given and it would magically work out anyway. It was like a shortcut to skiing!

He watched me ski some simple turns and told me what my overall problem was, mechanically, and how that relates to my fears. He told me how skiing should be done, in terms of balance distribution (the legs do the skiing, the body does the compensation) and the physics of it all. But this was just background: the important part was he gave me simple actions to try in order to fix my problems:

  • Ride with my shoulders square to the downhill, always looking down. If you start facing in the direction of the skis across the hill you “spin” uphill and fall. Which is what I was experiencing.
  • Compensate for the angle of the legs on each turn by moving the body “outside”. If you lean “inside” the turn you can only maintain balance if you continue the turn in a full circle, back uphill. So again, leaning inside makes you fall uphill.

For the rest of the week I went out often with Helen and her parents and their party, slowly getting better using the simple ideas that Alessandro gave me. Every day there were trials. Getting hot and tired makes it harder. The snow changes over the course of the day. Hunger and fatigue lead to anger and frustration. But I also started to enjoy the runs too. Sometimes going fast was fun! One piste in particular, called Biche, we did many times a day. I should have had an action cam for that!

It’s not all fast skis and loose bindings, of course. Mountain diots, pot au feu, genepi, creme de violette — all there for the taking. And a day of skiing really gives you an appetite. The evenings in the chalet were nice and the others staying there were all friendly and chatty, with interesting experiences. I think we all got on really well.

In one short week my skiing came on a huge leap and I had a great time. I’m now eager to go skiing again, the addiction is forming!