Sunday, 12 February 2012

Teaching Friends to Ski on Ski Holidays in Europe

Home-Made 'Ski Lessons' for Friends! 

I love ski - flag with sunlight

Teaching my Husband to Ski

Well, even getting Richard to learn to ski was a bit of a hullaballoo! To be honest he has every right to be terrified of sliding about on snow and ice, he broke his wrist ice-skating when he was young. (He slammed into the wall and put his hands out flat to save himself – nothing to do with the ice really). However we gave it a go together for the first time on holiday in Swtizerland on a whim. It really wasn’t an ideal location to learn – high up in the mountains in Fische at Springtime, with sheer views down into the valley so far below that we couldn’t even make out what we were looking at! Richard was indeed terrified, and decided it wasn’t for him.
After going skiing a few times and with Richard just watching, I built up my skill and learned to ski parallel as well as on different slopes, different Euopean ski resorts, and in different types of snow.
Snowy Vosges mountainsOne (very cheap and economical) skiing holiday in Gerardmer, in the low Vosges mountains of France, I’d had a particularly easy day of skiing and really eased into the parallel technique. I was feeling bolder and after a good burger and chips, I managed to persuade Richard to give it a go once again (its best to make any sales pitches to Richard after a good burger, when he’s at his most agreeable!)
The beginner’s area at Gerardmer ski resort was excellent, with a tow-rope and an extremely gentle gradient which evened out into a flat area. After lots of sliding about, swearing, and flailing of arms, Richard had gained more confidence in his ability to stop and turn on a flat area, but he was still adamant he couldn’t control his speed and his turning, despite the fact he hadn’t made any mistakes.
Since that day, Richard joins me skiing whenever we go on ski holidays and he has developed his parallel ability now also. We have had a few difficult episodes, usually involving me being too ambitious with him and taking him up some long Alpine slope at an Olympic ski resort (still a green slope, but they are much harder in the Alps!) But we muddle along together and I egg him on when he loses his nerve, and after a few 'ski lessons' from me, he says he really enjoys it now.

Teaching my Friends to Ski

About a year after Richard had tried skiing for that second time on that memorable day (only memorable by the burger – just ask him and that’s what he’ll say) we took two friends Caz and Jamie on a ski holiday to the Vosges mountains to ski for the first time. I knew it was an excellent resort to learn at as it is so relaxed and the slopes are gentle.
Leading up to the holiday I was panicking that there wouldn’t be enough snow on the beginner’s slopes (and therefore having to drive to a resort near Switzerland) but sure enough, a week before we left, the Vosges experienced an excellent chute de neige! It’s meant to be!
First of all I let Caz and Jamie get used to their ski gear. The feeling is so alien and you can’t really take in much about the technique when you feel all trussed up and clumsy in new bulky ski jackets, trousers, and not to mention the strangely solid ski boots, annoyingly long skis and, pointless poles. It's like preparing to go into space, but with all the finesse of an ice-skating elephant. 

Once on a flat area at the base of the beginner’s slope I explained the snow plough (pizza) – with the fronts of the skis close together and the backs far apart. We practised stopping using this technique and I pulled them along by their ski poles to let them try the technique.
Caz and Jamie picked this up so quickly and before we knew it we were on the tow rope heading up to the top of the beginners slope. Jamie got his skis wedged over a dip so the middle of the ski wasn’t touching the ground. He kept sliding backwards into this dip every time he tried to get out, and when I pulled him it just made me slide towards him! The most frustrating thing is losing control and sliding around blindly. However with a few Borat quotes, Jamie rescued himself in the end and we were ready to ski. 'Great success'! 
They both sailed down the piste with excellent control and at a slow speed. I was amazed! After the ordeal with Richard it seemed too simple! I guess it’s harder to teach your husband because you can say what you want to him and lose your patience (although I am adamant he was the one with a bad attitude!)
Caz and Jamie were building up some speed and turning in no time at all. By the end of the day they were skiing the beginner’s piste together with no help at all.
In the evening we took to walking on the frozen lake and rolling about in the snow like a bunch of yobs who had never seen snow before (it has to be done, it just has to be done). 

After a day off from skiing (we visited Colmar and got really lost in the evening!) Caz and Jamie’s skills just got better when they were back on the slope, and they agreed to each try the next slope (an easy but non-beginner’s one). It was a short one with a winding start, a steeper middle and a long wide area at the base where it evened out.
Jamie was up first and I briefly explained how to get on the poma lift. I looked behind me and saw him pull the pole down like a pro and put the seat between his legs, excellent! At the top I waited for him to arrive and instead of taking the pole into his hand to let it swing into the air and ski down the slope, he proceeded to sit all his weight on the seat, letting it sag to the floor with him, before rising into the air without him, leaving him sliding down to the lift exit on his backside. Well who could blame him! This is such a difficult thing to co-ordinate if you’ve not done it before.
To make up for this little hiccup, Jamie skied down the slope perfectly without falling. He controlled his speed at all times and stayed at a safe distance behind me. Way to go Jamie (We have to add in the fact that the flaps on his hat looked like little doggy ears flapping in the breeze as he skied down to Caz and Richard. Awww).
Caz’s performance was just as good, despite falling once (she couldn’t get up for ages, poor Jamie must have been so worried seeing that happen from the bottom of the hill). After a bit of flailing Caz took her skis off to get up, and tried the slope again. She did it perfectly and after this high point it was time to leave. (always leave on a high!)
I just hope any other friends I take on a ski holiday pick it up as easily as Caz and Jamie!  

Driving back to the UK was quite eventful, we got lost in Brussells and Luxembourg. I still dream about ‘Teddy Second Hand Shop’ – a shop whose name we disputed the meaning of for quite a while and KEPT seeing every time we thought we had found our way and broken free from Luxembourg’s hold over us... And don’t even get me started on the signs in Brussells. (We had so much of fun though!)

Lake Gerardmer view and the sunset

For further information about Alsace visit my article:

Text and Images Copyright © Lise Griffiths, 2012
All Rights Reserved
I really reccommend helping someone else with something you want to get better at yourself - like skiing. However be careful and make sure you know what you're doing when giving ski lessons. I of course cannot be held liable for anything in this article! Teaching my friends to ski on ski holidays has really helped my confidence with my own skiing.


  1. It’s sweet of you to help a friend to learn how to ski. :) I haven’t tried skiing yet, but I definitely want to try it sometime, if I’m given the chance. I’m just looking for the perfect weather to ski and the best set of friends to come with me. Good to know you had fun at the end of the day.

    Kayleigh Holton

  2. Ah thanks! Yes it is amazing and once you get the hang of it, it is like flying! Just persevere through the hard bit and the feeling of un-naturalness to begin with, and warm-down/stretch your muscles afterwards. European mountain weather can change very quickly, but perfect ski weather with powder snow can be the stuff of dreams! The Milky Way (Via Lattea) region of the Alps is pretty notoriously sunny I think... Good luck and have fun!


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