Learning to Ski in Morzine
How quickly can you learn to ski? Beginner friendly Morzine and the local ESF Ski School invited complete beginner Alex Middleton to complete the task and to experience his first skiing holiday – from zero to hero in just two days!
Beginner skiing on the slopes of Morzine and Avoriaz.
As a perk of my work for Ultimate-ski.com, I was provided with the opportunity to learn to ski, having never had the pleasure before. My task very simply was to find out how quickly a complete beginner might pick up the skill whiile enjoying a first winter sports holiday, in my case at least, the answer was very quickly.
Following a quick and comfortable transfer from Geneva with Action Transfers, my colleague and friend with Ultimate-ski.com, expert skier Robert Gibson, and I found ourselves in the idyllic town square in Morzine, which was the really convenient location of our 3-star Hotel Le Samoyède. We were soon settled in by our charming hostess, Madame Baud-Pachon, with a direct view from the balcony terrace of the surrounding mountains and central thoroughfare. We were then invited to dinner at 8 o’clock, leaving us the rest of the day to familiarise ourselves with the locale, and myself with my first ski equipment hire.
After a brief tour of central Morzine, we visited the Skiset ski rental store on the town square, where I was fitted out with my first set of skis, poles and boots. My complete lack of knowledge was thankfully not an issue: even without the guidance of my seasoned associate Rob, I would have been in safe hands with the store attendants, who were able to size me up notwithstanding my inexperience. This would surely be a comfort to those beginners who might not have access to advice from friends or relatives, but need that all-important first set of boots to fit perfectly.
The rest of our first day in Morzine was spent conducting professional research into the local bars, as well as our hotel’s stylish spa area. Here, we enjoyed a sauna and steam, before a soak in the luxurious hot tub. Fully unwound, our work then took us to the evening meal.
The cuisine at Hotel La Samoyède proved to be rich and varied. Across our three nights’ stay we enjoyed a sumptuous variety of dishes, including rustic meat terrines, fine smoked salmon, tender chicken, and fresh mixed salads. We were treated to hors d’oeuvres of cheese canapes, caviar, and local meats. Desserts were consistently exceptional and consisted of cheesecakes, crème brulées, and sweet terrines. These were always directly followed by an extensive cheese board, which included a number of goats’ and sheep’s produce from local farms. The quality of the menu was complimented by the restaurant staff, whose expertise and professionalism was not only admirable, but useful also in their advice regarding the hotel’s many available wines. The hotel’s breakfast spread consisted of a generous buffet of classic continental options, as well as freshly prepared regional bacon and eggs. Enjoyed in the rustic dining room with its modern alpine design slant, all this glorious food left us properly fuelled up in preparation for our days on the slopes.
On my first day of skiing, however, I was completely unaware of how prepared – or otherwise – I was. We rose early to make our way to the local ESF ski school, by way of the Samoyede’s ski storage. Here, we first met our ski instructor guides, Alexi and Guillaume, who were to instruct myself and guide Rob, respectively. While Rob as an expert skier would be guided largely off piste, I would be participating in Morzine ESF’s excellent You Can Ski program as delivered by Alexi. While awaiting the nearby ski bus, my three skilled companions enjoyed a laugh at the fact that I had yet to step foot on a pair of skis, a thought which was unimaginable for them. There followed several “firsts”: my first cable car ride, first experience of standing on skis, and my first breathtaking view of the Alps. Having taken all of this in, I began to wonder why it had taken 20 years for me to try skiing – it was great!!
Alexi’s ski lessons proved invaluable and good fun. While it should be noted that the one-to-one instruction I received is expensive and unusual as a result, having private ski lessons was undoubtedly a major factor enabling my speedy progress. However the content of my instruction was essentially the same as it would have been in a group class. After an unpredictable introductory few minutes of practising “herringbone stepping” uphill and controlling my speed down a gentle hill, my instructor suggested that I might like to try a pisted slope. Over the course of the next twenty minutes, I was escorted down two green runs, progressing as Alexi seemed to think was appropriate for someone of my level. I experienced, to my surprise, only two falls, and was not disheartened by either of them, chalking them up as part of a steady learning-curve. This lead me to the conclusion that learning to ski might well be attributed to confidence, in leaning downhill instead of up, which is counter-intuitive at first, and not being afraid to slow yourself down. Alexi agreed with this, to an extent, and took advantage of my keenness to move away from the bunny slopes onto more advanced runs. This was a very effective method of progression, as it did not allow me to get bogged down in one particular level, moving forward all the time.
We continued in this way until lunch – a British affair of beer and a burger which we shared with Guillaume and Rob as well. The experience of skiing directly up to the bar for lunch was new and just great fun. And lunching on a mountain with skiers and boarders gliding past was amazing. Well rested and replenished, we continued in the afternoon with our lessons on blue slopes which began at the highest point in Avoriaz and provided a new challenge of skiing against mountain weather on quite icy slopes. After all this, I was able to retire with a sense of fulfilment, as well as a genuine itching to get back on the slopes: not bad for a first day on skis!
A night’s sleep back at the hotel was easy – skiing is quite big exercise, and I awoke with an ache in my legs which Rob promised I could look forward to even after years on piste. As with the previous morning, we met our guides at the ESF, but continued instead to the cable car to Super Morzine. From here we had access to a wider variety of blue slopes which carried us through the picturesque mountain villages and forestry of the great Morzine valley. After a notably more challenging slope than any before, I was congratulated by Alexi on completing my first red run: a feat which Rob hailed as impressive on only my second day on skis. Lunch was in a village beyond Morzine, further into the Portes du Soleil, towards Chatel in Switzerland. The trek there and back provided an extensive look at this beautifully scenic part of France, which is home to numerous renowned snow parks and mountain bike trails, which allow for year-round outdoor activity.
Reluctantly, I skied my last few runs before the time came to make our way back down to Morzine, where we bid our guides goodbye over a beer or two. Our conversation covered much more of what the Morzine-Avoriaz area has to offer including: an annual ski race, run by Alexi; Ice climbing opportunities, frequently enjoyed by Guillaume; and regular celebrations in the Portes du Soleil, which provides a great deal of work and enjoyment for locals and visitors alike.
My first two days’ skiing were perhaps not the norm, however my experience of the Youcanski program would suggest that it is both greatly effective and highly enjoyable. I can imagine that with this standard of instruction, even learning as part of a group would prove really rewarding and Morzine-Avoriaz is just such a great place to do this, with plenty of gentler slopes for the beginner to build confidence on. I couldn’t believe how quickly we had progressed onto actual serious ski runs. If you are willing to put in the effort and heed the lessons of your instructor, with this program there is no reason why you can’t learn to ski too.
List of participating Youcanski sports shops :
ABC Sport : +33 (0)4 50 38 35 71
Action Sport Shishop : +33 (0)4 50 74 79 56
Alpes Attitude Skimium : +33 (0)4 50 92 95 13
Baud François Freeride : +33 (0)4 50 79 09 66
Berger Ski Station Service : +33 (0)4 50 79 05 78
Caribou Sport : +33 (0)4 50 79 02 20
Drug sports Vital rue du bourg : +33 (0)4 50 79 05 96
Drug sports Vital route de la Plagne : +33 (0)4 50 79 22 95
Gravier Ski Shop : +33 (0)4 50 79 04 27
Hubert Sports Skis : +33 (0)4 5079 24 09
Intersport rue du Bourg : +33 (0)4 50 79 14 24
Intersport Super Morzine :+33 (0)4 50 75 93 25
Intersport Easy 2 Ride :+33 (0)4 50 74 05 16
Mathias Sport 2000 : +33 (0)4 50 79 15 50
Morz’na Sport : +33 (0)4 50 79 09 63
Pleney Sports : +33 (0)4 50 79 22 51
Ski Alp : +33 (0)4 50 79 05 23
Star Ski Sports : +33 (0)4 50 79 18 51
Yves Tavernier Sport : +33 (0)4 50 79 07 19