There comes a time in most skiing parents’ lives when their children become better skiers than them. And while our children are generally fairly patient with our slower skiing and my shouts of ‘don’t go off piste there, it might not be safe!’, often it is clear that skiing with someone more adventurous would be ideal for them.
So I (and they) were delighted to hear about the new Free Ski S’Cool set up in Belle Plagne by Half Pipe specialist Marie Martinod whose impressive CV includes two silver medals at the 2014 at Sochi Winter Olympics and in 2018 in Pyeong Chang, two gold medals at X Games and seven World Cup wins. Now retired, she works as a sports consultant.
Marie said: “Skiing has offered me a lot. It gave me structure and the chance to live the dream by travelling and competing all over the world. By creating these camps, I want to give kids the chance to learn some of the things I have learnt.”
“When I was a kid I was a great fan of competitive skiers and by spending time by their side, I was inspired. I learnt great values such as positivity, working for your dream, respect of other people and of nature, humility, helping each other. It’s my turn now. If I can help show them this path, I’m happy. As a teenager, parents aren’t always the person you want to learn from or copy. And finally – I love to share my skills. Giving advice doesn’t make me poorer but it does make them richer!”
The five half-day course was taught by uber-cool Mathias Lefort who spoke near-perfect English and while thinking nothing of performing a casual back flip on the drag lift, but would also willingly listen to my mumsy requests to talk to the kids about piste safety and why it’s better not to ski alone.
The groups are guaranteed to be of less than ten, but as it turned out there were only two others in the lesson with Toby, 17, and Olivia, 15, so there was plenty of personal attention.
Each day the group learnt some new skills ranging from general off-piste, powder and mogul techniques as well as skiing in the trees. They also practised tricks in the snow park such as how to do the rails and box, as well as 180/360 turns. The programme varies a little from week to week according to the weather, snow conditions and the wishes of the group with other possibilities include how to gain speed on the ski/boarder cross and half-pipe skills, as well as a game which also serves as an introduction to how to search for a DVA in the snow in case of avalanche.
The minimum level required to take part in the course is a bronze star but as with any group ski lesson, levels (and ages) varied within the group and while this meant a little waiting around at some points while skiing, there was always time learn an extra trick or two. Participants need twin-tip skis, a helmet (of course) and back protectors which I had to somewhat reluctantly buy, but as it was the kids quite took to them and are likely to continue to wear them, which was an unexpected bonus.
Marie personally joins the class for at least one session for during the week and also sets up a WhatsApp group for each week’s group which was brilliant for practical arrangements, encouragement from Marie herself and for sharing photos.
Highlights for my children included learning how to ski backwards, jumps from the box in the snow park and new tricks including ‘the worm’ (skiing, rolling over and the continuing to ski without losing speed). Olivia said: “Using equipment like the box looks difficult, as long as you have someone to show you step by step how to use it, it isn’t as hard as it looks. It was exciting to meet Marie – she was really encouraging and we had a brilliant time with Mathias – he was really fun and really patient.”
The courses aimed at teenagers (though there is some flexibility in this) run five mornings or five afternoons during selected weeks during school holidays and costs from €219 to €299. They’re ideal for kids who are a bit beyond ski school but not quite old enough to ski alone, or simply those who want to learn something new and different.
We also have a good number of other articles about family skiing: