Teaching kids to ski

Having skiing kids guarantees that they still want to come to on holiday with you as teenagers, and also means you continue to spend at least some active, healthy time with them when most of the time they want to lie around doing whatever it is they do on instagram/Snapchat/Wattpad etc etc.  

I’m not a massive fan of ESF but it has its place.  Smaller ski schools such as NewGen in Serre Chevalier have been much more effective.  From times when they were little and taught them how to do keepy uppy and jump off picnic tables to the recent teen freeride courses that’s had them hucking off edges to climbing up rocks – they have provided a huge range of fun and inspiration- variety being the spice of their engagement.   

For very young kids there’s a great range of free and cheap solutions.   We found the free pomas and drag tows at Monetier invaluable.  They are close enough to the loos to run when potty training, and to make frequent chips and hot chocolate stops.   Cos it’s essential to dip chips in hot chocolate!!   And they can get that afternoon nap in the back of the car when they melt down.   

Small resorts like Le Chazelet and Villar D’Arene provide amazing value.  They are small enough to let them whizz around a bit on their own, with their mates and cousins.  This gives a feeling of play rather than ‘learning’.  They end up doing things like building jumps, skiing on one ski, get into a heap in the off piste and generally arsing about which is what kids need to do.  

And as they got older, if a child is not into racing, it’s been interesting to find a wide range of things to continue to learn and gain experience.   At Serre Chevalier we can access a wide range off off piste, and un pisted runs which give alternative fun to the inevitable desire to jump off things in the park.  learning to cross country ski has also proved surprisingly popular- exploring the quieter and more rural places has been a fantastic experience and I’m sure will eventually lead to the idea of ski touring.  

The hours spent with them as babies learning snow ploughs seemed like a hard option at the time, compared with the easy option of shoving them in ESF and going off skiing.  I’m not saying we didn’t do that sometimes – you need to still adult ski, but I’m positive that the variety of experiences has lead to a much deeper love of skiing and all round mountain skills. 


Pow to the people!

Pow is not just for expert skiers. This Christmas, our entire extended family with abilities ranging up from mid life ‘blue cruisers’ to more neck than technique teenagers could be heard shrieking with exhilarating joy as a massive dump of the fluffy stuff descended on us. We happened to be at Serre Che that day, at monetier where it’s deep north facing bowl collects it on accessible runs. No off-piste, but miles of deep fluffy blower pow all over the pistes. My 50+ brother in law, a late in life skier who has never skied while it’s been snowing was heard talking about getting fatter skis!

The next day we were all on the pistes really early, exploring the gorgeous larch slopes of Villeneuve in Serre Che. The kids were singing as they dived off the runs into the sparkly thigh deep fluff in the trees.

From villar d’arene you can pretty much have the pick of the conditions. Yes, it’s ideal for La Grave, but if you don’t feel up to that, whichever way the weather is coming you can pick superb accessible pow. From the west, it’s a quick drive to Deux Alpes. From the north west, you can nip over the Col, through Briancon and access Montgenevre and the Milky Way. And for all the rest there’s Serre Che with it’s lift accessed bowls and perfect melezes (the lovely larch). …..


Skiing with very young children in Serre Chevalier

Having no BASI qualifications but a strong desire to teach my daughter to ski, I started from scratch when she was 2. This consisted of putting skis on her, letting her walk around a bit on flat ground, and pushing her around. Sunny days only I might add – at Easter. We found at Serre Chevalier – well more specifically at Monetier- les- bains – the perfect place and environment to begin the process.

We experimented a bit elsewhere in the area with the French ‘jardin’ system but it mainly brought howls of rage and frustration from our daughter. We wanted her to have proper lessons but the French system didn’t seem right and we couldn’t commit to a whole week – she definitely didn’t want to ski every day.Image044

At Monetier – there is a beautiful area at the bottom of the slopes called Pre Chabert which has two Poma’s, a rope tow, and a tapis Volant (moving carpet!). There’s no having to go up the mountain in bubbles – you can come and go as you like. Most importantly there’s great easy toilet facilities close by, – some very quick removals of skis and running to the toilet is necessary at this age!. You can return to your van for an afternoon kip….equally important for the very young.   At the base is also a large bar and cafeteria which also is fantastic for lunch; Orangina and chips being the choice ‘menu enfant’ of our daughter. And endless crepes to follow!31122007786

Luckily also, for we were on a tight budget, children under 6 ski free, and the adult pass for Pre Chabert was very cheap. Whoever was not ‘teaching’ could go off and ski for 3 hours, and then we could swap over. Local Monetier 3 hour passes are also available which were a great help – plenty of demanding blacks and off piste fun even in 3 hours and much cheaper than buying a day pass for the entire Serre Che resort. A combination of: skiing holding onto a pole together; shouting, ‘pizza’ a lot; bribery with haribo; skiing like silly animals; skiing on one leg, singing songs, and frequent stops for chocolat chaud soon had her flying down the baby slopes.

We then braved taking bubbles up the mountain futher down the Serre Chevalier valley in Chantemerle and Villeneuve, and skiing long green runs back down. This gave her a great sense of adventure and achievement and was relatively controllable. We also got to visit some great other restaurants and sample other hot chocolate and chips – discovering, by the way, the great kids menu in the Grand Alpe restaurant above Chantemerle, which not only gives them nuggets and chips, a drink, a pomme pot – but greatest of all, a kinder egg!

Quickly, we were ready to head all over the mountain and Serre Chevalier came up trumps again with all under 6 going free as long as you get a pass for them at the same time as you get the adult passes.19022008856

At about this time we decided we couldn’t really teach our daughter anymore and enlisted the help of Ski NewGen in Serre Chevalier. This is an English ski school based in Monetier. It doesn’t seem to be like other ski schools. The lessons are all in English, they have very small groups, and seem to be much more fun for the average child than all the other ski schools we have tried. One lesson, the children came back particularly hyper after learning to jump on and off picnic tables in the woods. One of the instructors, Simone, even inspired my friends’ children to want to ski – after years of being seriously reluctant skiers. They came back: demanded twin tips; set off for the snow park; and have never looked back. Now the children are older, Ski NewGen are teaching them all sorts of monkeydom, and making sure their parents are having a really hard time keeping up with them.