Inaugural Godille International Ski Week
La Tzoumaz, Verbier’s 4-Valleys, Switzerland
16-20 March 2015
Day 1 Blog Entry
My wife and I had ski lessons in our early days, but none in the 21st century so, we decided to sign up for the inaugural Godille International Ski Week in La Tzoumaz to gain some new experiences. The price included accommodation, ski pass and a full week of guiding/instruction in the 4 Valleys, Switzerland. Not knowing what to expect, we were somewhat nervous at the thought of being dragged around unknown mountains by a demonic Swiss ski instructor and we’d even heard rumours of the quantity of wine to be consumed en route.
We arrived in resort in the late afternoon and were immediately whisked off to Vitho’s Bar for tea and cakes with our other Godilleurs and members of the Swiss Ski School. Whilst eating delicious home-made chocolate cake and drinking hot wine, we heard a babble of questions and answers around us – “Is the Vallon d’Arbi open?”, “Where can I rent an ARVA for the week?”, “What time’s the first lift?”, “What are the moguls like on Mont Fort?”. We were feeling more and more nervous as we were looking for a less challenging week. We were saved by Mario, the course coordinator from Ecole Suisse de Ski, who explained that the week was aimed what at the participants (not what the ski school) wanted to do. We explained that at our age (to give you a clue, we’ve been married for over 40 years!) we preferred to stay on the pistes and to be shown the whole area with some tips on the way to iron out our bad ski habits. Thankfully, the response was ‘no problem!”.
Next morning, we were up on the first lift to meet our instructor, Jindra, at the restaurant at 09:00. He gave us a friendly welcome and we immediately hit it off. His English was excellent and we spent a while agreeing the objectives of our first day. Having left the ARVA brigade behind, our group felt much more comfortable already. We donned our skis and set off down a beautifully prepared blue run with Jindra watching behind him to check our level of skiing. Being mid March, we had the slopes almost to ourselves – superb.
After the initial trepidation, our first day was such a pleasant surprise! By lunchtime, we’d corrected a few habits already – my feet were no longer locked together so I was more balanced and my wife was looking back to admire her beautifully carved tracks. On the lifts, our lively conversations with Jindra covered anything from British food and Swiss tennis players to the meaning of the names of the mountains and ski servicing techniques! Periodically, Jindra would check that we’d been concentrating on his guided tour by asking us in which direction La Tzoumaz lay and quite often we pointed in completely the wrong direction, so thank goodness we didn’t have to find our own way home.
For lunch in Verbier we managed to meet up with an off-piste group led by Harald so we were able to swap stories. We decided to try some of the local specialities (Rosti Bacombe and Boeuf Tapaki which were excellent) and the story of unlimited wine consumption was immediately dispelled as relatively few of us had a welcomed beer before we set off again.
Jindra picked up the pace in the afternoon as we followed in his tracks consolidating what we had learned in the morning. He kept emphasizing that he would not make us do anything we didn’t want to do but he still managed to encourage us to go down a boarder-cross course and a timed speed run! In fact, his gentle encouragement to move us a little out of our comfort zone was just what we needed and at the end of our first day we were able to reflect on a worthwhile experience that we hoped would continue as we looked forward to the rest of our week. In fact, we were delighted at Jindra’s unintended compliment when he told my wife and I that he actually stopped a lot less during the day with us than with his younger clients! Bring on Day Two! (KJM)
Day 1 Blog Entry
After organizing avalanche equipment and making our way to the top of the telecabine, we all met for a coffee before the day started. The views of the mountains were magnificent. We had a brief discussion with our instructor/ guides on the plans for the day, a quick “renversee” each (the local swiss version of a Café latte), then our group headed off down the slopes following Harald, ski-school style. My first group lesson for 15 years! Harald began gently carving his way down the blue. Carving’s easy right? So why were we all slower than Harald? He skied more turns, covered twice the distance, yet still went faster. After a brief lesson in carving, the slope became steeper, so Harald checked out our short turns. Individual feedback to each of us followed, before Harald bobbed down the slopes looking incredibly cool, and videod us from the bottom. Now we have a base point.
Over to Verbier with more carving technique, and we were starting to get the feel of it before we headed up the Col de Chassoure. Our first lesson in Moguls. Apparently what we needed was “overcooked spaghetti legs”. Harald demonstrated this, traversing from side to side, faster and faster, legs pumping like pistons. After we had bounced over the moguls a few times, we slowly got the feel of them, before learning our next lesson. Turning when only the centre of the ski is touching the snow, rather than jumping to free the ski.
After the Col de Chassoure we stopped for a beer or a coffee in “The Tepee”, before heading down another unpisted moguled itinery for feel-good rostis in the Carrefour Restaurant. After more lessons on the Vallon d’Arbi, we returned back to the Etablons Bar for 4pm.
Key thoughts on the day.
- The slopes were amazingly empty
- It felt special to be so surrounded by nature as on the Vallon d’Arbi. We were never closer than 800m to another group during our entire descent. The Vallon d’Arbi is avalanche controlled itinery, so you don’t need a guide to ski it provided you are a good skier and you stay within 20m of the yellow poles which run down the centre of the recommended line
- We were so energized by the lessons, that rather than finishing the day at 4pm, we raced up the lift for more moguls. I’ve never felt so stable on moguls, and it’s just an awesome feeling! (PJK)