How do you get 3-hour private ski lessons for £45? Well – here’s one method: come to the ski resort of Are, Sweden, and sign up for one of its Skistar Experience sessions. They’re a cross between a guided tour and laid-back ski technique clinic, and I’ve just done one in Duved. It’s a quiet and mellow ski area which is a 10-minute drive from the main hub of lifts and pistes. And although, technically, each of these sessions can take up to eight people, I was the only one on it.
The cost is 450 SEK per person: about £45. With a British ski school in one of the big French resorts, like Meribel, you’re looking €225/£192 for three-hour private ski lessons. So this was less than one quarter of the price. You can understand why I was excited.
Even if other people had shown up, the session would still have been extraordinarily good value. Skills clinics with British ski schools in Meribel cost €139/£118pp for two hours: more than twice the price.
The lead instructor was Andreas Liden, and he explained the problem. “The Swedes are pretty self-reliant people.” he said, as we rode the first lift up. “It’s hard enough getting them to stop in a mountain restaurant for lunch – many of them ski back down to their apartment to make it themselves. So ski lessons can be a hard sell.” Especially if you’re selling them in Duved: because in a normal week, outside the school holidays, no-one skis there. Okay, so I’m exaggerating. But only a little: last year, in the first week of February, Welove2ski was bombing about on its pistes with just one or two other skiers for company. It was like skiing the first lift of the morning in an Alpine resort – all day.
Yesterday was a little busier. It’s a school-holiday week in Sweden, and five or six buses full of teenagers had pulled up in the car park in the morning. But all the same, the mountain soaked them up without any trouble. On piste, you’d get the occasional skier coming down, or the odd pack of teenagers – and then nothing. It was even quieter next door, in the Tegefjall sector. Off-piste, we saw just one other group of skiers.
Andreas’s clinic was entitled, “the secret spots of Duved” – an introduction to the best off-piste runs both above and below the treeline. We skied with Julia, who’s a trainee at the ski school (so in fact there were two instructors on my private ski lesson). Both spoke perfect English – and we had a blast. At Are’s ski school the focus is on having fun first – see the “Have fun when you learn to ski” video we shot last winter with instructor My Dahlström for more on that – and the instruction part of the clinic wasn’t heavy at all. Mostly they told me not to rush my turns and concentrate on the gaps between the trees (there were in fact lots of echoes of the “How to ski the trees” video I shot in Heavenly, California a couple of weeks back). “Take it easy and enjoy yourself” they both said.
And that’s exactly what I did.