If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a good skier. I don’t say that to flatter you, or to make you worry that this is a post aimed solely at would-be Bode Millers. But if you’ve found your way to this page, on this website, and were attracted by that headline… then I dare say we have a few things in common.
Maybe you count yourself amongst the many excellent British skiers out there who honed their skills on Dendex matting or inside an enormous fridge connected to a shopping centre.
You could have been a student, a seasonaire, or forcibly dragged on your first ski trip.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter how you got the bug. Because if you’re like me, ever since then you’ve spent countless hours and earnings chasing the thrills that only skiing can provide.
If you’re like me, you’ve always taken skiing just that bit more seriously than your friends or your family.
And if you’re like me, you’ve argued in favour of ‘just one more run’ over stopping for another hot chocolate more times than you care to remember.
The Glass Ceiling Many Skiers Face
Inevitably, when you take something more seriously than the people you do it with, you eventually get better than them.
And what happens then? You get bored and you stop improving.
For a long time, the learning curve for keen recreational skiers who lack the flexibility to spend an entire five-month season in The Alps, or the budget to hire a private guide for a full week on their annual trip, has been the same:
Graduate from ski school, progress beyond the ability level of your skiing friends and family, and finally – without the impetus to challenge yourself – stop improving and proceed to develop bad habits for the next few decades.
The Rise of the Ski Improvement Holiday
Is this starting to sound familiar? You’ll be pleased to know you’re not the only one. Better yet: a solution is at hand.
Enter the ‘ski and snowboard improvement course’, a relatively new product in the ski world designed to meet the needs of those who are more interested in finding great lines than a great place to stop for lunch.
The concept is simple: take a world-class resort, throw a bunch of keen skiers together with the benefits of first-class coaching on the ski hill and the comforts of a chalet holiday off it, and watch as they work together and push one another to become better skiers.
Granted, this is not a brand-new idea. Basecamp Group – who we skied with this week in Meribel to find out more – were one of the first, and have been offering similar courses since the company’s inception in 2002.
But like the handful of other British companies offering these trips, this is not what they are known for. Nor are they part of the legion of more traditional ski tour operators, offering package deals, family trips or weekend breaks.
Instead, the organisations that have leapt upon this rapidly-growing category of ski holiday are those that have made their names as providers of instructor training courses.
No doubt it’s this distinction that has allowed Basecamp and others to quietly carve out a niche for themselves, provide several benefits that you’d be hard-pushed to find from the typical package holiday.
Meet Like-Minded Skiers of Similar Ability
Whilst there are a variety of ski holidays out there for those traveling alone or in pairs, they are typically designed to have a social (or even romantic) theme. That said, skiers on these trips could have a dozen different reasons for being there, and have varying levels of mountain experience too.
Clearly this is one way in which ski improvement courses are set apart. Everyone is there to improve as a skier or snowboarder, and minimum ability levels are a requirement.
Of course there’s still time for a beer or two – this isn’t an Olympic training camp. But the healthy balance of enjoyment and hard skiing greatly increases your chances of meeting folks you’ll want to ski with long after the course has ended.
Discover a World-Class Mountain
The recent ban on ski hosting in France has greatly restricted the options British tourists have to explore resorts they don’t know well.
If you don’t want to join a ski school class, you either need to hire a private guide or stop every five minutes to consult your lift map.
On the other hand, being part of an improvement course will allow you to stop wasting time trying to find the best spots in a resort, shifting the responsibility to your coach to ensure you hit the best conditions every day instead.
It can also be a good reason to explore a mountain that you’d never visit on a normal ski holiday. If that’s of interest, consider Hampshire-based Alltracks Academy who run courses exclusively in Whistler, Canada and have been leaders in the field for coaching standards and course quality for over six years. There’s also the Warren Smith Ski Academy’s powder camps in Hokkaido, Japan.
Take Your Skiing in New Directions
Last but not least, you’ll open yourself up to a whole new approach to skiing or snowboarding.
Always wanted to try hitting kickers in the park? Keen to develop your avalanche understanding and awareness? Now’s your chance to do it safely and with expert tuition.
And of course, if any of this does inspire you to explore the possibility of becoming a ski instructor, you’ll be in good hands to take your first steps.
Sound Like Your Kind of Thing?
Have I convinced you? I hope so. If you’ve completed a ski or snowboard improvement course with any company, we’d love to hear about it. How was it? Would you recommend the company you went with? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us your thoughts @welove2ski.