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.

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

Special VIP SKI Package Weeks

Off Piste, Performance Clinics and Intro to Ski Touring.

24th March and 21st April

We have teamed up with top chalet operator VIP SKI again to offer TDC clients a fantastic deal.

Included in the package is unbeatable luxury accommodation in a fully catered VIP SKI chalet, flights, transfers and a place on a TDC Clinic.

Click here VIP SKI to book your place and see full package details.

Dates and prices

TDCski and VIP SKI are offering this fabulous package in March and April 2019.

24 March 2019

  • 7 night holiday & 3-day ski clinic – package price £1199 pp
    – saving £455
  • 7 night holiday & 5-day ski clinic – package price £1249 pp 
    – saving £516

21 April 2019

  • 7 night holiday & 3-day ski clinic – package price £929 pp
    – saving £296
  • 7 night holiday & 5 day ski clinic – package price £949 pp
    – saving £276

Clinic Levels

We are passionate about helping people really improve their skiing in an enjoyable and relaxed environment.
Our Clinics are adapted to fit the goals of the group and the conditions on the day.

CONFIDENCE CLINIC (on request) – for strong green run skiers…improve and consolidate on the basics of ski technique, learn to make easy flowing turns in control

DISCOVERY CLINIC (on request) – for strong blue run skiers…discover more of the mountain, make skiing easy, learn how to ski more challenging terrain, increase your speed whilst maintaining control, learn to carve

DEVELOPMENT CLINIC – for strong red run skiers…improve your technique, take on steeper slopes, ski more runs with greater confidence, take on different snow types to develop your performance

DEVELOPMENT PLUS CLINIC – for strong red run /ok black run skiers…use the skills you already have to take on more varied slopes, start to learn the basics of skiing bumps and skiing off the piste

CHALLENGES CLINIC – for strong black run skiers…take on new goals in the bumps, on the steeps, in difficult snow, on the piste; challenge yourself – there are always ways to get better…

INTRO TO SKI TOURING – for skiers with some off piste experience, no touring experience required.
Ski Touring is called “Ski Randonnée” in French, and it requires some specialist equipment. The first essential is ski touring bindings that lift at the heel when walking uphill but lockdown when you are ready to descend. You will also need skins that are fitted to the base of your skis when climbing. Skins prevent the skis from sliding backwards but allow the skis to slide forwards.

To Book a VIP SKI package week please contact VIP SKI – website.

Some of the above courses are available without the package deal, if you are looking to take part on these dates, then please email us
[email protected] or call +33615553156

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

Jan 27th 2017 Snow Conditions Val d’Isere Tignes

This week Clare is telling us all about the current snow conditions in Val d’Isere and Tignes…

Conditions On Piste Are Fantastic…Again

TDCski Coach Clare
Clare’s Report

Dustings of snow, Off Piste is good, can be wind effected, some good snow in the gullys.

Things are looking good for February.

Watch a honest and open summary of the current snow conditions.

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

Keep Watching!!!

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 Development Centre coaches tell us what they love about skiing.

Autumn arrives in the northern hemisphere and this means one thing: it’s nearly time to go sliding around on the snow! The anticipation is really exciting, but nothing beats those moments when you’re doing it, enjoying the mountains in the best way we know how. Here at the development centre we’ve been sharing our passion for skiing since 2002 and we’re pumped up for the coming season. These are some of the things that we’re looking forwards to the most –

The Corduroy

cordorouy
Heading down a freshly groomed piste allows you to feel how smoothly and precisely you are skiing. Less interference from the snow, it’s about enjoying your best turns.

Feel of the carve

carve
Make like a racer, feel the forces driving the turn and appreciate what modern skis can do on the piste. The deeper you go, the bigger the rush.

Air Time

jumpIt’s not the size that counts.

Jumps of any size are exhilarating, whether in the park or in the backcountry, jumping is one of those things some people (us) never quite grow out of.

The Quiet of the Powder

Sometimes, after some deep powder turns,the only noise is your own breathing

pow

 

Sharing it

share (2) share3

Wshare the lovee love skiing for ourselves , but we also love it when we can share our passion, knowledge and enthusiasm with others. We love making a real difference to people’s
holidays.

The Development Centre run ski schools in Val d’Isere, Tignes and the Three Valleys. Our team of highly qualified, experienced and motivated instructors are there to help you to achieve your goals, whatever they might be.

www.tdcski.com

How to Find Spring Snow – Off Piste in Val d’Isere

After a bonkers couple of weeks of winter weather, the cold fluffy powder is restricted to the high north faces.  But don’t fret.  We have warm settled conditions now and my 2nd favourite type of snow – Spring Snow.  It can be hard to find and get it good, so here is Coach Kieran explaining:

Terry James Walker TDCski

What is it?
When the sun thoroughly heats the snow pack from the surface down to the earth, the prevalent moisture spreads uniformly across it’s depth.  Given the right temperatures, this freezes solid in the evening and over night.  The next day the sun can heat up the top inch or so, creating a ‘corn’ feel, on a firm base.  It’s great to ski and potentially quite safe.

Problems?
To early = smooth, slick, solid ice.  Both dangerous and uncomfortable.
To late = slushy to the base of snow pack.  Serious avalanche territory.
Too few cycles = bumpy, other skiers tracks, variable depths, variable thaw rates.

So what do you consider when finding Spring snow?

  • Timing:  at 09:00 most of the East faces (Belvarde, Borsat, Charvet, etc) have been in the sun for a few hours, and given time to absorb those rays and soften.  South faces late morning and lunch time.  West faces are best in the afternoon.
  • Temperatures:  The previous afternoon needs to be hot enough to melt out the other tracks and uneven nature of the slope.  This will hopefully be +5 ish with direct sunlight.  Overnight, the colder the better -5, brilliant.  Especially with a deeper snow pack.  As soon as the temperatures approach 0, or go above, combined with direct sunlight the snow will soften.  It may be a short window of 1 hour to hit the slope at the right time.
  • Cycles:  The more melt freeze cycles, the more compact the snow will be, and the fewer skiers tracks from previous days.  This makes the snow and slope as a whole more predictable, and safer as it’s glued together at the bottom.
  • Aspects:  The sun rises due East on the 21st March, and sets due West.  After that date, it rises gradually more North East, but still takes a trajectory around the south of the sky. So North faces will remain mostly in the shade for the season.  Southerly facing slopes at this time of year take a beating from the high sun.  Take for instance the Fontaine Froid; probably the first slope to run out of snow at the end of April.
  • Angles: A slope will absorb more sun if it directly faces it.  A very flat slope will be softened less than a 40 degree slope.  Especially early East faces, and late West faces.
  • Slope base (anchors, rocks, grass, smooth slabs): This is a safety point more than anything.  Rocks in the snow pack create pockets of air, and they heat up in the sun.  A slope dotted with rocks is probably more unstable at this time of year than a big open white slope.  A shrubby, or large scree based slope will have better anchors to hold the snow from avalanching than a smooth rock slope or fine grassy slope.
  • Altitude:  This will usually relate inversely with the temperature, unless there is a pressure/temperature inversion in which the valley is colder than the high mountains.  Generally the higher you go, the longer it takes for the Spring snow to transform from hard icy snow.
  • Wind: The same conditions as the day before mean very little if the wind is 5mph stronger.  Slightly more wind can slow the transformation by more than an hour, and can stop it all together.
  • Cirrus Cloud: That very hazy, high level cloud that slightly dims your shadow.  This can have a massive effect by absorbing the suns rays and stopping the transformation.

There are countless other factors to consider, especially when managing a group in this kind of terrain, but these are the main contributors to good snow.

Always carry at least a Transceiver, Shovel and Probe with you.  We hand these out for use during our Spring Clinics, where you will be guided to cool spots, educated in finding good safe snow, and improve your technique!

Be safe, and try to get out for some high altitude resort fun in Val d’Isere over the next few weeks… We have spaces on our group clinics.  The snow is amazing, the lifts will be dead quiet, and the sun is out!

 

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.

Banishing some half-truths about ski technique

When learning anything, it’s good to keep things simple.  But if we make things too simple, then we can be wrong as often as we are right.  Here are a few commonly held views on ski technique which are too simple to be right all the time.

ALWAYS FACE YOUR SHOULDERS DOWN THE HILL

Twisted and uncomfortable

This can be pretty uncomfortable, but some people strive to do this all the time.  I find facing the same way as my skis more comfortable, and therefore make it my default position.

relaxed and square
Relaxed and square

When to do it (face shoulders down-hill):

twist down the hill to help you initiate a turn, especially short turns on the steep
Twisting down the hill – helping to initiate a turn.  (especially short turns on the steep)

  • To help initiate turns, especially on steep terrain, but it’s not necessary to hold the position
  • When skiing linked short turns
  • When skiing really tight and steep couloirs
  • If skiing a straight/direct/inside line in the bumps

When you don’t need to:

  • Most of the time…

 GOING UP AND DOWN

When you would do it:

  • On Piste:  We all go up and down a little bit, it can help take us from one ski to another (see point 4 – ‘spreading the weight’), but critically, it facilitates lateral body movements inside the curve and across the skis.  We don’t just do it for its own sake.
  • Powder snow:  It often looks like short turns in the powder snow involve more up and down, but this effect is really just the re-bound of the skis (pushing the attached skier upwards) as the skis work in and out of the lovely bouncy fresh pow!

rebound on a steeper slope
Rebound on a steeper slope

BEND THE KNEES

Yes, we need to flex our knees in order to ski, and can’t ski well with stiff, locked legs.

How much to do it:

  • A bit. We also need to bend at the ankle joint inside our boots and at the hip too – a bit.
  • Remember that skiing is not a static sport, so static positions and prescribed shapes are not terribly useful except as a base position to move from.

When to do it more:

flex the legs in the bumps to absorb pressure, if you're going fast enough
Bumps: flex the legs to absorb pressure, if you’re going fast enough

  • When absorbing bumps
  • When creating big angles – flex the inside leg whilst keeping the outside leg strong enough to resist the forces.

 

carving, straighter loaded leg and flexed inside leg
Carving: a straighter loaded leg and flexed inside leg

MODERN SKIS REQUIRE WEIGHT TO BE SPREAD OVER BOTH FEET

Well, no.  For recreational skiers the outside ski is the one to put more weight on, especially at the end of the turn when it is the downhill ski.  We do need to steer the inside ski, but don’t stand on it too much.

Any exceptions?

  • When going straight
  • Standing still on the flat.
  • In soft snow, but only a bit. The outside ski is still dominant.

whatever the conditions, stand on the outside ski
Whatever the conditions, stand on the outside ski

At the development centre, we share a coaching philosophy which tries not to set hard, fast and simple rules.

We work by linking any actions we make, to the results that we desire.  This allows us to be adaptable and progressive.  We do try to keep things simple, but not so simple that we are trapped by unhelpful and dogmatic “technique” for its own sake.  In our coaching sessions; (as part of a group, or privately) we take beginners through to advanced skiers, both on or off piste, and justify our teachings with reason.  We embrace some grey areas, and steer away from doctrine; that’s what makes being a ski instructor so interesting.

Remember though, technique is only part of it.  We work hard with tactical and psychological subjects to improve overall skiing performance and enjoyment.

Coach Giles, is a ski teacher, a director of The Development Centre, and assessor of British ski instructors to the highest level.  High amongst his most proud moments,is Fraser Hopewell passing his L4 technical exam [ed].

Photos by Ben Langridge : benlangridge.com

Henry Meredith Hardy: www.skiingsomewhere.com