In March 2016, 6 of us went for a fantastic week skiing in Courchevel, France! This is a very expensive resort, so I don’t really have any money saving tips for you, except to convince your parents to help out! So this time, I’m going to give you an overview of what a skiing holiday is like, and some of my best tips when planning your first skiing holiday.
This was actually my second time to Courchevel, but my first time skiing. The first time, I was snowboarding. Between these two trips, I have learned a lot! Snow holidays are quite different from most other breaks. There’s a fair amount of prep to think about before you go, but it’s such a totally different experience it’s totally worth it. I’d highly recommend going at least once in your life, just to try it.
So the first thing to note is that this is not your standard kind of holiday. We were staying with two ladies from Chester who were seasoned skiers, and Debbie put it best – don’t expect to really enjoy a skiing holiday until the third break. This is because, for the first couple of trips, you’re still learning to ski, gaining confidence and stamina. Until you’ve done that, you’ll be restricted to the easier runs, and not able to make full use of the resort and pistes. I don’t say this to put you off – but rather, for you to understand the reality. It’s hard work, it takes time to learn, and you have to be able to pick yourself up in the early days. Once you finally get it though, the world (or in this case, the Alps) really is your oyster.
Leading on from that, here’s my biggest tip for you – take lessons while you are there!!! I really can’t stress this enough. The first time holiday, we had a couple of lessons before we went. This proved to be a major mistake – we could only board down a couple of runs, we couldn’t really progress, and we were probably a bit dangerous, too! It got a bit frustrating sometimes if you got stuck in the wrong place.
This time, we went the other way – we had a 2.5 hour lesson every morning. Whilst we progressed rapidly – I went from being a total novice to working on blue runs in parallel turns – it was super tiring. You definitely need at least one day off in the week, especially for your first time – you will be totally knackered. So, take lessons, but not every morning, and definitely not all day!
Another top tip is not to skimp on buying the gear. If you don’t have everything, buying the kit can get expensive, so do factor this in when budgeting. The first time I went, I bought everything in the end of season sale (around late March time). TK Maxx is a good place to look, too. You will need a good jacket, gloves, and salopettes – you’d have a bad time if you didn’t. I also very strongly recommend a helmet, especially for beginners. Since Schumacher’s accident, we’ve seen a lot more people wearing helmets, so you won’t be the only one.
I’d strongly suggest to try your sport before you book. I would recommend having a go at your chosen sport on the dry slope. Having tried both (and seeking the advice of many dual athletes) I can tell you snowboarding is much harder to learn, but probably more fun when you do pick it up. If you’re looking to get going on the slopes quickly, I’d definitely say go for skiing – but do have a go at your local first. You’ll have to do it for a week solid, so it’s worth checking you don’t instantly hate it! You’ll also find the flat parts tough going on a snowboard, as you just can’t go anywhere – of which you’ll find lots on the easy, beginner slopes.
Prepare to be exhausted. I found myself in bed every night at 9:30pm because I was just wreaked. Going from a desk job to intense hours of activity at altitude is not an easy adjustment to make in a week. I’d also suggest you try to do some exercises and training before you go – I told you it’s a hard-work holiday! – you’ll easily find some helpful exercises on Google. It sounds like faff, but it will help you make the most of your time while you’re there.
Group holidays are ace. Skiing is better as a social trip – if you can, I highly recommend going with a few people, or looking out for events such as Snowboxx. There’s a freedom that comes with access to the pistes, and having the chance to ski runs with different people with different abilities is super fun. I found I could ski down a blue with my mum, and then take Rob down a green run – we weren’t limited by how good someone was. You’ll also need someone to laugh at when they fall over, too!
Don’t be the only beginner in a group of seasoned skiiers. Or really, don’t try to keep up with the seasoned skiiers. We came across this on our first trip – my Uncle has been skiing for decades. My ski teacher gave this advice – for seasoned skiiers, their idea of ‘easy’ is definitely not the same as an actual beginner. If they take you down runs you can’t actually manage, you will get stuck but you’ll still have to find a way down. Go on runs you practised in your lesson, or ask the advice of your ski teacher about which runs are suitable for your level – don’t get peer pressured into doing ‘this really easy red’ which actually has a near-vertical drop in the middle of it.
My final, but perhaps most important top tip – definitely buy travel insurance, and specifically check its for winter sports cover – basic insurance won’t cover these. Accidents, especially for beginners, are rare, but if you do get caught out, you might find yourself having to cover costs for helicopter rescue…much better to pay your £20 and not be sorry.
I hope some of this advice is helpful; I know I have made it sound like hard work, but the rewards are totally worth it! Snow holidays are really great fun, especially for us Brits who don’t often see the snow. Many people who go find real enjoyment and passion from the sports and you’ll find yourself tempted back year after year…(if things go really that wrong, the scenery is stunning and there’s a few different activities you can try aside from snow sports, so it’s a pretty safe bet).
For 2017, we’ve booked a flights, hotel and ski package separately for the first time, so watch this space for further tips for a budget ski holiday!