First ski trip from USA to the French Alps

In Dec ’19 we were contacted by Juliana Gansl from ultimate-ski.com. She was coming to Europe to ski Val d’Isere, Val Thorens and Chamonix.

TDCski was delighted to have her sign up for a few off-piste backcountry guiding sessions so that we could get the chance to show her around what we already know to be the brilliant skiing on offer in Val d’Isere and Tignes.

Here is Juliana’s thoughts on Val d’Isere –
You can read the full article here.

Val d’Isere

Val D'Isere village night
Val d’Isere

©Juliana Gansl

After landing in Lyon, I got my rental car and started the 2.5-hour drive to Val d’Isere at the eastern end of the Vanoise National Park. Several Brits I met described Val d’Isere as a “chocolate box town,” meaning it’s wonderfully picturesque. They were right.

The main street is lined with ski stores, bakeries, restaurants and bars. Some of the side streets are located next to the base area, making everything centrally located and easily accessible. Val d’Isere, combined with its neighbouring resort, Tignes, make up one of the largest ski regions in France – the Espace Killy I purchased a 6-day pass with access to both resorts for USD $290 (including insurance for $2 per day, which would come in handy in case of an emergency). I also pre-booked two off-piste group guided days with The Development Centre (TDC), so that I could explore more challenging terrain and get the most out of the Espace Killy.

Pro-Tip: for skiers used to North American resorts – where mostly all trails, trees and bowls are considered in-bounds and therefore avalanche controlled, patrolled and marked – in Europe, plenty of lift-accessible terrain isn’t avalanche controlled, patrolled or marked. Make sure to familiarize yourself with Europe’s piste and off-piste definitions to avoid ending up in potentially life-threatening situations. Local piste maps are clear, but if in any doubt check your understanding on arrival.

My guides, Steve Angus and Rich Jones, were both professional, easy to communicate with, and extremely knowledgeable about the area. I happened to ski with them on two of the cloudier days, and they did an excellent job of finding untouched powder runs unaffected by the wind. Most importantly, I felt incredibly safe in their care, and would highly recommend them both.

Pro Tip: ensure you have a good low-light lens when skiing in Europe as most resorts are above the tree line, which means that visibility will always be poor when it’s cloudy.

As a solo traveler, I made a sincere effort to talk to strangers and say yes to as much as possible. My first afternoon after skiing I stopped into Chez Jules and the owner and I ended up taking shots of Génépy – an aperitif native to the region – in honor of sharing the same first name. On my second day, I started chatting with a group of young French skiers on the gondola and ended up skiing the entire day with them – including stopping for a delicious lunch at La Fruitiere and then for champagne and dessert at the infamous La Folie Douce next door. While walking around town another night, I befriended a group of lads from Manchester, UK, and met them the next several afternoons at CocoRico to dance on tables and drink caramel flavored Polish vodka.

In Val d’Isere my AirBnB apartment was in a small building located on Rue du Cachay in Rond Point des Pistes, next to the central bus round-about. It was a one-minute walk to the Solaise and Olympique lifts, 30 seconds to the CocoRico, and 5 minutes to the main street (just walk across the ski trail). The apartment luckily included a free, covered parking spot. I highly recommend staying in this area if options are available.

When my seventh day came, I was truly sad to have to leave Val d’Isere – I would have been perfectly happy spending my entire trip in The Espace Killy – but the Three Valleys was up next.

Ultimate-Ski guide to Val d’Isere >

Read Juliana’s full article here.

Kyrgyzstan Ski Touring 2020

Terry, Rich and a team of 6 clients recently returned from ski touring in Kyrgyzstan, this is part of their TDC Expeditions endeavours. Check it out for next January/February 2021!

The trip starts with the team meeting in Istanbul airport ready to fly together to Bishkek, the beautiful capital of Kyrgyzstan. A short (6 hours) transfer past the drainless lake Ysyk-kol leads to the sleepy ‘village’ at the upslopes of the Tesky-Ala mountains of the Northern Tien-Shan Range. Here are the base Yurts for the first 2 days of ski touring.

The kitchen and Dining yurt with warm stove burning away

The terrain around the camp is gentle and sparsely forested. Perfect for an introduction to ski touring skills, familiarisation with the equipment, and acclimatisation. The snow is guaranteed to be cold and dry, a mixture of powder and old faceted crystals that ski beautifully.

Posing for the photo, surrounded by the majestic views

Temperatures overnight of -15/-30 soon warm to -5 which is perfect for the daily ascension of about 350m, or 1.5 hours in the morning to a perfect spot to cruise the powder back to the yurts in time for lunch.

Ripping some powder turns back towards camp

The afternoon holds a similar pattern, with usually an hour of peaceful uphill followed by a mind-blowing descent back to camp. It’s rare to see other tracks, and even more so to ski near them!

Ready for the trip to the advanced camp

The advanced yurt camp is truly isolated and requires a 45-minute ski-doo commute to arrive. Passing incredible scenery along the way… but concentrate as ski-doo drag skiing is not for the faint-hearted!

The team about to embark on another ski tour, yurts in the background

With 3 days out of signal/reception/wifi under the stars at the advanced camp, everyone becomes truly relaxed and collectively didn’t want to leave. The sauna provides the end of each day before dinner is served. 2 courses, including a soup/broth to start and then a mixture of different fusion cultured meals each night. The food is outstanding.

Lunch and Dinners in the yurt are an integral part of the trip

The evening’s entertainments involved Terry playing the guitar, Rich falling asleep playing cards, and the team drinking a tad too much fine whisky, rum or vodka… every night!

The trip finishes with a trip to the hot springs located near the central lake of Kyrgyzstan, an eye-opening stop to get superb lunch at a ‘motorway’ services, and then a night in the best hotel in Bishkek. The restaurant for the final meal has incredible feasts to share, this year involved 4 courses, and almost ordering the correct amount of food. Half the team could deal with the soured milk, half couldn’t bear it!

Final night in Bishkek

Thanks to everybody that came and made it such a special trip. We’re seriously looking forward to next year… and if you’re interested, check out the website for this trip or more.

Ski Lessons or Ski Coaching?

What’s the difference?
Is there a difference between Ski Lessons and Ski Coaching?

At the start of every season, we do the rounds, meeting all the new staff in the ski shops, in the chalets etc. Lots of them know us from previous years but every year there are new faces. So, once again our job is to explain what it is that we do at TDCski, how are we different?

What is it that TDCski does that is different?

So I tell a story about a conversation that took place on a chairlift, that maybe did or didn’t actually happen. Whether it happened is not the point, the story helps answer our question.
The conversation is between me, an instructor, and a random friendly holidaymaker who has overheard my conversation, in English, with my client that day.
It goes like this…

“Excuse me, are you a Ski Instructor?”

“Yes I am.”

“I want to get better….but I don’t want to go to ski school.”

And that is it! Right there, that conversation convinced me and my like-minded colleagues to set up TDCski.

Here was a skier on a chairlift, with an obvious aspiration to improve but to them, the thought of going to “ski school” was just not going to cut it.
They wanted to take the skills they already had and they wanted to ski the mountain, be challenged and achieve new heights in their performance.

For them, the idea of Ski School came with connotations of standing in line and skiing one by one to be told what they were doing wrong.
Where’s the fun in that?

TDCski Ski Coaching safe, fun and challenging
Safe, Fun, Positive and Challenging

The funny thing is that a lot of “Ski Lessons”, run by good instructors, don’t have those negative aspects to them, but that remains the perception!

Giles, Paul, Phil and myself (founding four), talked about this and we realised that we already ran our ski lessons in a way that facilitated improvement and challenged the students. We used the tools that we had all learnt with BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) and we made sure that our students really got to improve their performance. It was not just about technical issues, there were tactical and psychological approaches too (plus a few others but let’s not get too geeky!). We would keep students moving, we would give what were perceived as “tips” and we would set the environment to allow our students to practice and apply them. We kept things simple, but precise.
People liked it, it was safe, fun, positive, challenging.
People improved, did lots of skiing and had a good time.
People described it as Ski Coaching!!!!

Turns out our Ski Lessons were in fact Ski Coaching, or at least that was the perception.

So what did we do? Well in 2002 we stripped away all the words that implied those old, ski school connotations.
At TDC – The Development Centre – there were no more instructors, we were coaches; there were no more lessons, there were sessions and clinics; we weren’t a Ski School, we were a training and Development Centre.

…turns out that nobody searches for “ski coaching” not even people who want it!

This is still our ethos today, but with the advent of the internet it turns out that nobody searches for “ski coaching” not even people who want it! So all the old school words had to come back in especially on the website.
But still to this day, we call our-selves coaches and we run clinics.

The difference between “Ski Lesson” and “Ski Coaching” is at the heart of everything that we do.

The Mountains Still Look The Same

by Colin Tanner – Ski Coach!

Paul, Giles, Colin and Phil started The Development Centre in Val d’Isere 2002 www.tdcski.com

Coach’s Corner Nov 2019

Looking At Dealing With Poor Visibility

Head for the trees

In poor visibility, the shadows and definition from tree-lined pistes break up the whiteness and enhance visibility. Armed with this knowledge, you need not miss a day’s skiing. In fact, bad weather days can be some of the best, as you’ll often have the slopes to yourself.

Keep it real

Have realistic expectations about skiing in these conditions. Much can be gained from working on specific skills that are ordinarily neglected. You will reap the rewards on the next sunny day. Slow down and go for quality. Focus on rhythm, feeling your feet, and planting your poles. In very poor visibility, it is vital to look ahead and not down.  

Take control

Nobody enjoys poor visibility, but you cannot control the weather. Focus on the controllables. Your route is up to you and even in a total whiteout there are ways to navigate. Listen for the lifts to help orientate yourself, head to the side of the piste and follow the numbered piste markers, counting down to number 1. Making these types of choices and decisions will help remind you that you are in control of the situation.

Action

Head for the trees
Realistic expectations
Controllables

Ski Touring – Kyrgyzstan

The TDC expeditions trip to eastern Kyrgyzstan this February was a fabulous success. The team flew from Heathrow/Gatwick/Geneva to Bishkek via Istanbul. Then transfered around the Issyk Kul lake, to within 100km of the border with China and Kazakhstan. The area is dominated by mesmerisingly white snowy hills/mountains visible into the extreme distance through broad valley clefts. The ski touring terrain here is dichotomously friendly and gradual whilst maintaining an aura of dramatic remoteness.

skiing yurts night photography
Advanced Yurt Camp by night, reachable only via snowmobiles. 10km up a glacier carved valley, surrounded by an abundance of not only first tracks, but first descents!

“I would unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and skiing ability who would like to experience something beyond the “everyday” off-piste / tour experience. It’s something I will always remember.”

– Mark, 2019

The trip is 10 days in total, with 1.5 days travel at either end. On arrival at the yurt camp, around noon, the designated Kyrgyz chef provides hot vegetable and meat (beef, lamb, chicken) stew for lunch. The food is extraordinary and cooked on a wood burner, camping gas stove, and portable oven, with dutiful competence by the chef. Breakfast involves milk porridge of ground either milllet/buckwheat/oats/wheat depending on the morning and availability. With eggs (4 for Ian), fresh bread and coffee/tea. Lunch was usually stew based, although occasionally the chef knocked-up some battered sausage hotdogs, or fresh apricot jam doughnuts!

Rich, seemingly unperturbed by the calorie content of his next snack. Kygyz food was oft-times random, but invariably tasty and wholesome.

Dinner frequently involved more stew to start, followed with exeptional rice dishes somewhere between fried rice and biriyani. Then at other times involved almost British meat and vegetables, with delectably dressed salads.

The days in Kyrgyzstan revolved around the ski touring. Mornings can be bitterly cold, with the mercury plummetting to -25 at night. Therefore languid breakfasts, coffees and plans are maintained until around 9:30 AM, ensuring the suns rays and temperatures are sufficient. From the main ‘village’ camp, slopes are immediately accessible, touring from 1.5-3 hours to reach summits through ever-green spruce trees. The snowpack is unconsolidated in Winter and therefore requires gentle slopes (<25 degrees) for descents. This also maximises the number of powder turns to walking time ratio.

Virgin Powder ski touring snow
This was fun

On return from the morning skin up and ski down. Hot lunch is prepared by the chef, and glycogen partially restored to any wanting muscles. After lunch is a chance for another daily exploratory, or known skin up one of the bountiful tributary valleys. It would be hard, and sometimes impossible not to get fresh tracks in this area. The snow is cold and unaffected by wind in the widely spaced forest areas, it therefore remains powder for effectively the whole Winter. This year we saw another team on a peak 2-3km away one morning, we felt gridlocked.

The advanced camp of 2 yurts (one cooking/dining and one sleeping), requires a 30min transfer via snowmobiles. This is exciting. One puts one’s ski pole through a loop in the rope tied to the rear of the skidoo, and hangs on. The journey percolates through some of the most dazzling alpine glades, cols, and plateaus imaginable. This year with a low orange sun, and long shadows creating a majestic light. This journey facilitates the use of the advanced camp.

Towed skiing kyrgyzstan snowmobiles skidoos
Commute from the village yurt camp to the advanced camp. 7 skidoos and a dog

From the advanced camp, a non-intrepid sense of isolation prevails. Rich and Terry carry Sat-Phones and GPS locators for safety, receiving weather updates, and occasional updates from Penny, Rich’s daughter. But otherwise, this location is truely remote. The ski touring descents here are possible in a 360 degree vista. So that’s what we do. The same daily format ensues with a longer morning skin, and optional afternoon outings after lunch. One of the journeys on this years (2019) trip involved a 600m ascent through another stunning wide-spaced forest, and along a broad ‘knife-edged’ ridge to a shoulder of a mountain looking down our valley. From there a slightly steeper descent led the group 3 kms back to the yurts. That’s 3km of 20cm cold fresh powder on a smooth base.

fresh track skiing kyrgyzstan
Just another untouched slope for the group to savor

The trip involves ski coaching throughout. On day one we provide, transceiver training, skinning/touring techniques, and some navigation awareness. Throughout the trip there are 2 tdc coaches per group of 6 to assist with the skinning up, the transitions from touring to ski mode, and to provide technique and tactical instruction on the ski descents. The camp dog also followed us each day, providing joy for all as he bounded through powder on the descents.

skinning up slope skiing

The trip will be running next February 2020, with limited space to keep the instructor to client ratio low. This helps ensure safety, speed across the terrain, enjoyment, and escalates learning curves.

To make contact about next year’s trip, please contact either [email protected] or [email protected] and for more info visit our tdc expeditions website (which is currently being updated – 7th march 2019).

tdc in Val d’Isere, Tignes and the 3 valleys are continually running ski touring and off piste skiing lessons and groups. Please visit the lessons section of our website for more information around those coaching sessions either in view of joining a future tdc-expedition, or simply to learn and enjoy a new genre of the skiing world.

Making the Most of the Pistes

Except for the hard-core ski tourers, most skiers spend a lot of the time on the pistes. To make the most of your time on the pistes you need equipment in first rate order. Then allow the skis to do what they are designed to do. With rockered skis, fat waists and twin tips, it is easy to forget that carving skis revolutionized skiing and piste skiing is where that happens best.

Can your tools handle the power?
Some of the best feelings in skiing are found on the pistes. The power of a carve turn can be incredible, and generates up to 4G in force. Any ski can carve a turn, but to maximise the experience you need a ski which can handle the power. Dynastar’s WC Master series have serious pedigree, coming from their race factory and the Speedzone series make the carve turn easier to achieve.

Are your skis sharp?
The key to carving is tilting the skis over and balancing against the forces generated by the turn. The more you can tilt (and stay in balance) the greater the forces will be. In order for the skis to grip when tilted over on firm pistes the skis need to be in good condition. Sharp edges and a smooth base is essential to build confidence in your ability to tilt over. Get your skis serviced before heading to the alps and at the minimum take a diamond edge tool to keep the skis in great condition whilst you are out there.

Just tilt
If you want to turn tighter in a carve, tilt over more and allow the skis to move further away from the body. Balance through the outside ski and tilt both skis the same amount. High speeds are the result of carve turns so only practice when and where it is safe to do so. You’ll definitely need goggles (not glasses) to stop your eyes from watering and a helmet completes the racer ready look.

As with everything in skiing, deliberate practice in a suitable environment will see you improve your performance, and carving is still one of the great unused techniques in skiing. For more help book yourself some lessons on your next trip.

Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isère Tignes and the Three Valleys, France. He is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.

www.tdcski.com #tdcski #basi #valdisere #dynastar #lange

Want To Know What The Snow Conditions Are Like?

In recent weeks there seems to have been quite a lot of internet discussion about what the snow conditions in Europe and the Alps have been like.

Snow Conditions Val d’Isere and Tignes

Snow Report
Video Snow Report Gi Tells It How It Is

The Alps cover a big area and there are lots of different weather patterns that will bring different amounts of snow to different regions.

At TDCski The Development Centre – we have been making weekly videos that will give you an honest opinion about what the snow is like in Val d’Isere and Tignes.

So if you are coming to Val d’Isere or Tignes, or maybe you are just thinking about which ski resort you should go to, then have a look at our weekly snow reports.

Last Seasons Wrap Up

We are honest and try to maybe bring a smile to everyone’s faces; just a little!

Here is an end of season wrap up (out-takes) of all of the snow reports from last season (2015/2016)

If you are keen to see this seasons reports then be sure to watch out for them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo.

Watch this space!!!

TDCski The Development CentreSki Lessons Val d’IsereSki Lessons Tignes

 

Surviving Winter

OK, “surviving” might be a bit strong, but keeping warm on the slopes in the middle of winter can be a challenge. As well as the main clothing like jackets and trousers, there are other things that can make a big difference for people who struggle to stay warm:

Wear Thermals

Extremities get cold first. It is what the body does to protect itself from cold. So, if your hands or feet get cold, it might not be down to the gloves or boots, but because you haven’t got enough layers on. Wear good thermals, and if your hands and feet are still cold, wear another jumper.

Wear Thermals TDCski
Wear Good Thermals

Helmet and Hat

Helmets can expose the neck to cold mountain air. Neck warmers, thin balaclavas or multipurpose tubes keep you toasty warm. Like scarves, but better.

Get your feet out

Particularly for skiers: if your feet have been cold and numb for more than an hour, you need to warm them up. Get inside, take off the boots and get the feet warm again. This will allow you to ski again afterwards, rather than developing serious cold injuries.

Lange Boots
Get Your Feet Out

Dry your boots

Damp or wet boots are bad news. You need to dry your boots overnight, so if the hotel or apartment doesn’t have specific boot heaters, you need to make your own arrangements. Portable boot dryers work really well and are easier than balancing boots on radiators.

Giles Lewis Dynastar
Dynastar Skis

Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isere Tignes and the Three Valleys, FranceHe is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.

 

www.tdcski.com

#tdcski #basi #valdisere #dynastar #lange

The thing I love about skiing most is…

Win a lesson with
the development centre 

Photo/Story Comp

photo credit Siobhãn Miller
photo credit Siobhãn Miller

As our thoughts start to turn to winter, we find ourselves, starting to think more about the excitement of the oncoming season.
We find ourselves getting skis and boots out of the locker, even though we know that it is another two months until we get to play on them.

Computers are busy with preparations and talk of new snow, and our minds start running wild with thoughts of seasons past. Memories of the best powder days, of the finest blue bird days, of the friends, of the laughter, of the fun all start to coming to the fore of the mind.

With all these thoughts and emotions flying around, here at TDCski we have found ourselves starting to tell each others stories.
“Do you remember that time when…”, “What about when we…”, “The thing I loved that day the most was…” the stories go on.

If we’re having these thoughts then we bet you are too.

it was deep
it was deep

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get everyone to share their stories?

So we thought it might be fun if we run a little competition – the winner gets a free TDCski Val d’Isere 3hr Private Lesson (€230-€280), or a free place on a 5 day Early Season Clinic (€300).

Win a Free Private Lesson or 5 day Early Season Clinic

Fun with a Helicopter
Fun day out with friends

To win this prize all you need to do is to post a photo and a story,  or an heartfelt recollection, of what it is that you love about skiing the most on our Facebook Page – www.facebook.com/tdcski

A great photo, well written words, an overall passion for skiing.

The competition will be open until Val d’Isere’s opening day 28th Nov 2015.

Photos and stories will be reviewed by a select TDCski panel.
The Panel is looking for/judging based on – a great photo, well written words, an overall passion for skiing.
Winner will be announced on Val d’Isere opening day – 28th Nov.

We love skiing, we know you do too, so share those stories.

We love skiing, we know you do to, so share those stories with us and win some fantastic ski coaching.

www.tdcski.com

www.facebook.com/tdcski

VAK Learning styles – Very Awkward Knowledge

Visual/Audio/Kinaesthetic (VAK) gets banded around loads, even at the top levels of Ski Teaching. I’ve often kept quiet, not to rock the boat, as somebody talks ‘knowledgeably’ about it. A paper from 2008: click here illustrates the dearth of worthwhile experiments that have been carried out in this area of psychology, and references papers that have contradicted this learning theory all together.

VAK Myth in Ski Teaching

Please stay open minded reading the paper and this blog. Remember that opinions are great, but science doesn’t really care about your opinion or anecdotes, unless they involve double blind randomised testing with high numbers of trials/participants 🙂

The Pashler et al. paper states that the VAK thing has gained much influence in the world of education, and I’ve seen that it definitely exists in the realm of ski instruction. The paper finds that both children and adults do have learning preferences, but these usually don’t match up to their most effective method of learning a particular subject. Also, of the huge amount of academic literature on the subject of learning styles, very few experiments were capable of testing the VAK hypothesis with validity and those that did contradict it.

You may be thinking “a lack of evidence doesn’t disprove the hypothesis”, but disproving things is tough and sometimes impossible. For instance; we have a lack of evidence for unicorns being able to ski, as we’ve not witnessed it… it’s not disproved. But white-horned-horses carving turns, is as unlikely as Echinacea preventing bruising. Ice prevents bruising, you can test it (punch yourself in both eyes, and apply echinacea to one and ice to the other – monitor results). Why don’t all ski teachers try where possible to use evidence to improve the performance and enjoyment of their clients?

Well, we do (and not to the detriment of fun, enjoyment and happiness). Time would be wasted trying to figure out if my clients have Visual, Audio of Kinaesthetic preferences; if they do, they’re probably wrong, or I’m wrong in assessing it, and it more than likely has no relation on how they’re going to learn best anyway! Crazy eh.

Do we teach using VAK analogies, descriptions and explanations. Yes. It’s a diverse and interesting way to mix up a lesson. Those who’ve been in my coaching sessions may have heard me describe momentum/kinetic energy transferral causing snow displacement thus creating sound waves that we can hear! Everyone can understand my squiggles in the snow, followed by the sound of the turn, and the feeling of the ski under their foot. Boom, there’s VAK all in a one-er. Maybe it is more valuable to utilise a teaching method according to the clients weakest/least preffered aspect of VAK learning. Who knows?

It is definitely far more appropriate to to use a visual lesson when describing how to take a high line in the gates. By drawing lines in the snow, or getting people to watch an example. Whereas it’s more important to be auditory in explaining that someone can’t get their foot in the binding because the heel piece is in an upward position. Attempting to get one’s weight centred across the sole of one’s foot is impossible to listen for!

It may take a while for ski instructing examining bodies to get on board with not talking about this, so if you have an assessment coming up, be nice to the trainer and point them in the direction of http://scholar.google.com Because telling people that their theory is debunked doesn’t always go down well. Trust me.

Terry – these are my own words and not necessarily the views of the development centre as such… though the team whole-heartedly agree with my adoption of evidence based practise, where possible, in teaching skiing.