Chamonix Off-Piste Ski Clinic

This week I had the pleasure of joining Evolution 2 for their half day off-piste ski clinic. Although I’ve been skiing for a few years my off-piste experience was limited to the occasional foray off the side of the marked slopes, where I could easily bail into safer territory if my “sit back and hang on for dear life” technique wasn’t doing me any favours. I decided it was high time to take a proper lesson and iron out my bad habits – would four hours be long enough?!

Evolution 2 Off-Piste Ski Clinic at Les Grands Montets Argentiere

We met bright and early at Les Grands Montets and got on to the gondola before all the crowds arrived. Evolution 2 got off to a flying start with the choice of ski instructor – a handsome young chap by the name of Christophe who put everyone at ease with his friendly charms. He started by handing out avalanche transceivers in the gondola and asking everyone about their ski level to get an idea what he was working with. Our group was made of 5 skiers, all confident on-piste but with little or no off-piste experience.

Evolution 2 Off-Piste Ski Clinic at Les Grands Montets Argentiere

We started off with a few on-piste runs so that Christophe could check out our style (or lack of it) and give us some advice. It turns out that most of us were making the same mistakes – not keeping our upper bodies facing down the mountain and sitting back too much when we turn. Easy to identify but not so easy to correct, as it turns out.

Evolution 2 Off-Piste Ski Clinic at Les Grands Montets Argentiere

After a few exercises to give us an idea of the kind of stance we were aiming for we went up the Bochard and headed off piste in search of powder. It had snowed overnight but was a bit windblown and heavy, so it wasn’t the easiest conditions to learn in. The legs were working hard and within 5 minutes each of us had taken at least one tumble – into soft snow though so we all came up laughing. As Christophe pointed out, if we could learn to turn in these conditions then fresh light powder would be a breeze.

 

Evolution 2 Off-Piste Ski Clinic at Les Grands Montets Argentiere

Even with 5 of us in the group Christophe was great at identifying everyone’s weak spots and giving individual attention to help us correct them. Some people started the lesson feeling a bit nervous but by the time we stopped for a quick break halfway through everyone was relaxed and eager to get going again. This course isn’t just about floating effortlessly through perfect powder; we also learned how to attack moguls, turn on steeper terrain and control our skis in different types of snow – all without being able to see much through the clouds. After all that our first bluebird powder day will be a doddle!

 

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It turns out that one of my (many) bad habits is to use my skis independently of one another, stepping from one to the other kind of like I’m on a stairmaster machine. Having my skis wider apart makes me feel more stable but it also means that they’re far more likely to do their own thing and go off in different directions. It was Christophe’s mission to have me skiing more like an actual skier and less like an ice hockey goal keeper by the end of the session – and he managed it! Since the off-piste clinic I’ve been diligently practising my new skills; I’m not quite ready for the Freeride World Tour just yet, but I’m definitely more confident and skiing with more control than I was this time last week.

Evolution 2 Off-Piste Ski Clinic at Les Grands Montets Argentiere

At just 69€ the Evolution 2 Off-Piste Clinic is a great way to spend 4 hours having fun and improving your technique. If you get it done towards the start of your holiday you’ll have the rest of the week to enjoy practising your newfound skills – I wish I’d done it sooner!

If you would like to book a place on the Evolution 2 Off-Piste Clinic please contact us directly or visit this page for details on this and other ski lesson options.

 

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Kandahar Men’s Alpine Skiing World Cup Comes to Chamonix

After a hiatus of 3 years, one of the fastest and most exciting ski races returns to the slopes of Les Houches in the Chamonix valley.

Kandahar World Cup Ski Race in Les Houches, Chamonix

Kandahar Ski World Cup race route and piste map Les HouchesBringing the best ski racers in the world to our little town, the Kandahar World Cup is more than just a race, it is a celebration that turns the quiet village of Les Houches into an outdoor festival.

The race takes place on the Piste Verte, starting at 1871m near the Prarion sector of the Les Houches ski area. The course plummets 870m in altitude and covers 3343m to finish near the base station of the Bellevue cable car – the best racers will manage this in under 2 minutes!

Today’s races take place at 10:30 (downhill) and 14:00 (slalom) with the prize-giving taking place in Chamonix town centre at 18:00.

Saturday’s race is the infamous Kandahar downhill, taking place at 12:15, with the prize giving taking place 14:30 at the finish line.

The finish line will be packed out with spectators, cheering and clanging their cowbells, as results and updates are posted live on big screens.

There are plenty of vantage points beside the race course that you can hike up to for a close-up view of the action as the racers speed by – they are the areas marked in green on this map. One of the most exciting place to watch from is the “Saut de la Route” just before the last big bend, where the skiers take off and fly through the air at high speed!

The pisteurs have been hard at work preparing the piste for several weeks now, smoothing it down to flat perfection and spraying it with water to cover it with a fine sheen of ice that will make the racers go even faster.

Chamonix ski champion Guillermo Fayed at the Kandahar World Cup ski race in Les HouchesSkiers to look out for include Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud from Norway, Alexis Pinturault and Victor Muffat Jeandet from France, Marcel Herscher from Austria, and Erik Guay from Canada. Alas, American ski star Ted Ligety is out of the running due to a recently torn ACL incurred during training in January.

We’ll be cheering for local boy Guillermo Fayed from Chamonix who has been doing really well in training, you can see him checking out the course here:

Getting to Les Houches is easy by public transport; just catch bus number 1 or 15 from Chamonix, free with your ski pass or carte d’hôte guest card – there will be extra buses laid on to deal with all the extra passengers. We do NOT recommend trying to drive there as you will struggle to find anywhere to park and some of the roads will be closed to traffic. You can find more information on accessing the race site here.

Kandahar World Cup Ski Race in Les Houches, Chamonix

If you can’t make it in person then you can follow the race live with the Vogo Sport app, you can even choose which camera angle you want to view and zoom in on your favourite racers, it’s as close as you can get to being on the race course alongside them. There will be live race results posted on the FIS website and the highlights will be shown on Ski Sunday.

Kitsch Inn restaurant and apres ski bar in Les Houches, ChamonixPerfectly located at the finish line, the Kitsch Inn will be getting the party going with live music from 4pm and as well as their usual scrummy menu they’ll also have the amazing Le Savoie Faire team outside serving burgers, sausages & chips as well as warming, homemade vin chaud & spiced apple juice, soft drinks and snacks from their funky van.

If you want to learn to ski like Guillermo and the rest of the team then ski lessons are a great place to start! Whether you’re looking for group or private ski or snowboard lessons we have a great team of instructors ready to get you flying down the slopes, just contact us for details and booking.

Hello winter! Getting our ski legs back with a private ski lesson

Even folks who are lucky enough to live in Chamonix can benefit from a few tips to improve their skiing. This is what happened when a member of the Mountain Lifestyle team took a private lesson with Chamonix ski instructor Rachel Kerr…

Living in Chamonix for the last six years, I have firmly resided in the snowboarding camp, so last winter I was ready for a new challenge on the mountain, and having skied as a child decided to revisit life on 2 planks instead of 1. I wasn’t quite the complete beginner, but my sketchy technique from 25 years ago was certainly in need of some “fine tuning” from an expert.

12322843_887431241347581_4015209336478610302_oRachel Kerr, independent ski instructor, based in Chamonix for the last eleven years, was the perfect choice for my private half day lesson. Collecting me from home on a cold, cloudy, snowy morning, we headed straight for Grands Montets “for the best visibility”. On the way to the mountain we chatted about what I wanted to achieve from my lesson, and any previous experience I may have had.

Heading up together in the lift, Rachel assessed my equipment, made a few small adjustments, and we were off! Through a series of practical exercises, we made our way from the top of the Bochard to the bottom of the home run stopping every couple of minutes to fine tune and practice the moves and explain why they were important to improve my skiing.

10888467_729637287126978_358188656103605977_nWith Rachel making regular adjustments and encouragements, the varied terrain at Grands Montets tested all aspects of my technique and ability. Her years of experience in teaching really shone through in how she broke down and explained every aspect of what was required in terms of weight distribution and body positioning, which as a snowboarder is quite a different discipline.

As a result of her positivity and constant encouragement my confidence grew. By the time I reached the end of our 3 hour lesson, I had been skiing on one ski at a time, making speed stops, begun to master the finer points of parallel turns, and was happily flying around Grands Montets’ red runs, albeit with burning thigh muscles. I definitely deserved my chocolat chaud at the bottom!!

Taking on board everything I learnt in only a few hours, I was raring to go again to try out my new found techniques and confidence. I skied almost as much as I snowboarded last winter, and by the end of the winter season had invested in new ski equipment, and am raring to get back onto the mountain this winter!

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If you’d like to book a ski lesson with Rachel, or with any of our other ski instructors, please contact us for more details.

10954564_744251688998871_5668283101689446267_nNow is the perfect time to brush up your skills in readiness for winter, the lifts at Les Houches and Les Grands Montets are opening this weekend, with the rest of the Chamonix valley scheduled to open within the next couple of weeks.

Visit the Mountain Lifestyle website to check live lift schedules and keep an eye on snow conditions with our Chamonix webcams.

Make this Winter the Best Ever : Off-Piste Ski Clinics & Private Guiding in Chamonix

After one of the driest summers and warmest autumns on record, Chamonix is looking forward to an epic winter. According to the long-range weather forecast, all the precipitation that has been holding back for the past few months is forecast to fall during December and continue throughout the season.

With plenty of precipitation comes plenty of… POWDER!!! So here are our best tips for making the most of all that lovely white stuff this winter.

December Off-Piste Ski Clinic
Powder skiing in Courmayeur Italy near Chamonix Mont BlancGet in there early and nail those powder turns right at the start of the season. This pre-Christmas off-piste course will not only show you the best untracked snow but will also give you a great start to the season. The 5 day course will teach you everything you need to ski all types of off-piste terrain, including essential avalanche awareness and crevasse rescue skills. Taught by qualified mountain guides and ski instructors, you will learn various techniques to improve your control and performance both on and off-piste; video analysis will help you pin-point whatever you need to focus on to become a much better skier. The course only accepts a maximum of 6 people, to ensure the best results, so book now as places are strictly limited!
Contact us for more details on the December Off-Piste Ski Clinic

aiguille-du-midi-chamonix-01Private Mountain Guiding
Looking to find the best powder, the gnarliest descents, the most remote slopes or the best mountain restaurants? A private mountain guide will ensure that you have an experience that goes way beyond waiting in lift queues and dodging snakes of snowploughing 5 year olds this winter. No matter what your ski or snowboard experience, your guide will tailor your day to suit you and to exceed your expectations. All of our guides are fully UIAGM qualified and know the Chamonix valley like the back of their ski mittens; from classic descents such as the Vallée Blanche to ski safaris and secret powder fields, let them take you on an unforgettable journey into the Chamonix mountains.
Chamonix mountain guides – see here for details


Ski touring in Chamonix with a mountain GuideSki Touring & Splitboarding

New to ski touring or an experienced backcountry adventurer? The Mont Blanc mountains are some of the best in the world for exploring away from the lift systems and groomed pistes. Complete beginners can get to grips with the basics on our one day introductory course; there are plenty of gentle ski tours that are easily accessible from the Chamonix ski areas. Lead by a professional mountain guide, you’ll learn how to use crampons and perform kick-turns to trek deeper into the alpine wilderness. If you want to take your ski touring to the next level we also offer 2 day and 5 day courses, where you will venture further afield and see even more of the incredible Chamonix backcountry.
Ski touring in Chamonix – see here for details

Avalanche transceiver training in ChamonixMountain Safety & Avalanche Rescue
Nothing could be more important than playing safe when you’re in the mountains. Exploring off-piste and skiing fresh powder is amazing but knowing about avalanches, glaciers and crevasses could save your life – or enable you to save someone else’s life. We offer a choice of mountain safety courses from 4 hour basic training to 4 day advanced search and rescue skills. Prices start from just 69€ per person – it could be the best investment you’ve ever made.
Avalanche Awareness & Glacier Safety Courses – see here for details