Putting on skis for the first time is the first step in a lifetime addiction for most us, but it ain’t easy. Until you master the basics That first few days is fraught with falls and fatigue. That’s why where you learn is crucial.
It’s stress-free, provided you choose the resort that’s right for you
Yes, even the busiest week of the season can be just fine in the 3 Valleys…if you know where to go. The Price Family chose La Tania for their second week on skis. Well, they didn’t actually choose it. The 3 Valleys chose it for them as part of the £30,000 prize for winning their Easy Rider competition.
The Easy Rider concept’s pretty simple: take a British family of four absolute beginners. In this case, it’s parents Carsten and Hayley along with 12-year-old Ashley and eight-year-old Jasmine. Kit them out in all the latest gear from Scott and Salomon. Set them loose for three whole weeks of ski holidays in one of the largest and most sophisticated ski areas in the whole world. See what happens.
Now for Ski Holiday no.2 in La Tania. The village was originally built at as a dormitory for the 1992 Winter Olympics, but it has long since developed into a cosy little resort in its own right. Old 3V hands know that above it lies some of the least crowded and sheltered piste skiing in the area. The serpentine Plan Fontaine is a long green run all the way down from the top of the gondola – just perfect for second-weekers.
There’s a wider choice of tuition here than in any other ski area
But as every skier knows, even the best-laid holiday plans can go pear-shaped. “Sorry,” said the red-jacketed and now red-faced ESF on arrival in La Tania, “we’ve forgotten to book any lessons for you guys. It’s half-term and we’re full.”
Oh dear, it’s really not been a good week for the UK image of the ESF, what with claiming – and getting – €9000 damages against Le Ski as part of a test court case by the French government in Albertville. The judgment has led to the end (at least for the moment, pending appeal) of all ski escorting in France. British tour operators have offered the free service to their guests for the past 50 years.
But the Prices are committed to the ESF. Never mind, Three Vallees Transfers swiftly arranged for them to bus up to Courchevel Moriond (1650) each morning for group lessons with another branch of the ESF.
Yes, we do know it’s February half-term. For Carsten and Hayley there’s a mind-boggling 22 semi-novice skiers in their ESF class. Admittedly they have two instructors. But it’s, well, chaos until their teacher Maxime forms a breakaway group of 11. Maxime does his best in two languages to explain what he wants them to do. But there’s no chance of individual teaching – he doesn’t even bother with names. This is the old follow-my-leader school of instruction.
Nevertheless the adults are making serious progress, and the kids? Well, they’ve already taken off and are now itching to explore the whole mountain.
Once you’re off the nursery slope, it’s not too steep
In The 3 Valleys there’s plenty of advanced – even extreme – skiing, but one of the beauties of the area is the choice of gentle progressive slopes that give the wobbly second-weekers cause for confidence.
The Courchevel Moriond (1650) ski area is the best-kept secret in the whole 3 Valleys. It’s linked, yet separated from the main arterial runs of the region. If staying elsewhere, you won’t stumble upon it by accident and it always remains relatively uncrowded. So at half-term, this is absolutely the best place to ski.
The Prices are all passionate tennis players. Their fitness is serving them well, but it’s easy to underestimate just how exhausting is the first fortnight on skis. “You find muscles you never knew existed,” said Hayley, “and they hurt!”
By midweek Hayley is looking technically the better of the adults. She’s slower and careful not to fall. Carsten, on the other hand, goes for it – regardless of the consequences, which can be as spectacular as Andy Murray over-stretching for a forehand return.
Who’s better, Mum or Dad? I ask the kids. “Definitely Dad”, they chorus, “he’s much faster. Mum’s too slow.”
Ashley and little Jasmine whizz down largely in control. Clearly they are hooked for life.
What do you like best about skiing? “Bumps,” said Jasmine. “Speed” said Ashley.
Lots of family-friendly tour operators come here
La Tania is car-free and incredibly family friendly. This is why Le Ski, the Price family’s half-term hosts, has three chalets there. Le Ski’s main chalet operation in the 3 Valleys is centred on Courchevel Moriond, which again is great family territory. Esprit Ski, who looked after the family at Christmas in Meribel also offers holidays in Courchevel.