Whether it’s your first time or your tenth time on the slopes, booking some lessons with an expert can significantly improve your skiing and will help you to get the most out of your holiday. Lessons are an added cost but we can’t recommend them enough. A good instructor will correct your posture, teach you things about the terrain, and can give you that crucial extra boost of confidence that will take your skiing ability to the next level.
But what ingredients maketh a good ski school? OnTheSnow tracked down a couple of industry experts to get their view on what separates great ski schools from average ones.
Peter Gillespie is Head of Snowsports at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead. The Snow Centre is London’s closest indoor real snow slope and is where Channel 4’s The Jump celebrities carried out their training prior to the show. Peter has spent many seasons in the mountains as well as teaching in the UK.
He says, “There are many ski schools out there to choose from – ending up in the right one can be a bit of a lottery. Ideally, you want to find yourself in a ski school that has a guest centric focus and is geared towards giving you or your family a fantastic and safe snow experience.”
Safety is one of the most important elements to consider when choosing a school. Peter says, “Most modern ski schools will have a focus on safety first and then running in a very close second the priority should be FUN. If learners are safe and having fun then the learning outcome is likely to also be achieved, and let’s not forget we take part in Snowsports as a fun activity. Remember SEL (Safety, Enjoyment, Learning)!"
How do we ensure that the schools are safe? Peter gave us the following checklist:
1. Qualified and motivated instructors (don’t be afraid to ask the ski school manager this question)
2. A supportive ski school management structure which allows for moving learners around if need be (flexibility in groups)
3. Manageable group sizes (over 10 in an adult group is too much and with children less. A group of 4 year olds should have no more than five children while a group of 5-6 year olds should contain a maximum of six kids)
4. A motivational learning journey so learners can plot their progress – a good school will set them goals. This is really powerful with young skiers
What kind of qualifications are we looking for? We asked Hugh Monney, Director of the British Alpine Ski School Network of elite snowsports schools (BASS), what differentiates his school from the others.
Hugh says, “[The BASS teachers] are among the most highly qualified ski instructors in the world. They hold the BASI level 4 ISTD qualification (British Association of Ski Instructors, Level 4, International Ski Teacher Diploma), which is recognised internationally, including by the French Government. BASS ski teachers are fully registered with the appropriate French Government ministry.”
Hugh was a BASI trainer for 22 years, and has a wealth of knowledge about learning techniques. He told us that many of the school’s directors are also BASI trainers, i.e., trainers and examiners of ski instructors, and some help BASI to develop and improve the training courses.
Hugh said that skiers and snowboarders should seek snowsports schools where the instructors are:
1. Client oriented, by which I mean they put the enjoyment, success and care of their clients before all else
2. Have a track record of astounding success with many of their clients, over many years, showing the ability to deliver for their clients
3. Hold the highest professional qualifications available internationally
4. Show evidence of a sense of humour and a love of life!
BASS operate mainly in France with one operation in Switzerland. The BASS resorts include:
Chamonix - Champery - Chatel - Courchevel - Les Gets - Les Contamines - Les Deux Alpes - Megeve - Meribel - Morzine - St Gervais - Tignes - Val d'Isere.
Check out resorts’ webpages for a mention of awards and client endorsements
If schools have won awards or their instructors are accredited, these accolades will be stated. If you’re unsure, contact the schools directly and tell them what your specific learning needs are.
And for expert skiers ?
BASS run specific clinics for experts called Ski Performance Breakthrough Clinics. Do check with your school whether they provide similar clinics.