TDCski Tignes coach India Cairns placed 5th place in a strong international field competing at The North Face Frontier 4 star Freedride World Qualifier.
India was in NZ this “summer” and she kept herself busy!
The North Face Frontier 4-star was held at The Remarkables ski area in Queenstown, New Zealand, from the 4th-8th Sept 2022.
Putting down a solid run at The Remarkables Alta Chutes, India had a great result.
The event was part of the Winter Games NZ, check out the video about the event that was made by WinterGames NZ. (skip to 16.16 to see India in action)
India also entered into the lower tier event The North Face Frontier Freeride Qualifier 2-star event. India placed 4th in the 2-star event.
India showed some great form and some great results.
I was pretty nervous because of the snow, the level of the other girls and because the event was filmed there was a drone following you which I’ve not experienced before! The snow for the 2* event was like frozen concrete, the conditions were slightly better for the 4* but you had to be careful not too pick up too much speed otherwise you’d fly past your hits. I was just happy to have stayed on my feet and skied my line as I planned.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
by Colin Tanner – Ski Coach!
Paul, Giles, Colin and Phil started The Development Centre in Val d’Isere 2002 www.tdcski.com
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.
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.
Head for the trees Realistic expectations Controllables
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.
“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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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, France. He is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.