/ Learning to ski at Christmas

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spenser - on 12 Jul 2017
I'd like to learn how to ski and have a week of leave which is currently not earmarked for any specific trips, if I'm trying to get myself started it seems to make sense to pair it with the christmas week and go for 2 weeks. Given that it's quite early in the season I'm guessing that I'll need to go high, where would people recommend as a reasonably friendly place?
I'll be going on my own and don't want to spend an absolute fortune on the trip so would prefer communal youth hostel type accommodation (I also hate staying in hotels in general) if possible.
Chris Harris - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:

High + Christmas = expensive, booked up well in advance & subject to the vagaries of the weather.

Tricky.

summo on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:

Peak season at Xmas
Guarantee of snow
Cheap

Pick any two, but you'll struggle with all 3.

Kvitfjell and Åre (and other smaller places) opened in mid Nov last season. But for the best and cheapest places to stay you are too late for the 2017/8 season in Norway or sweden. We booked our accomdation for some trips in 2018 before this years season was even over and we were the late ones! Bookings for many places open 15mths ahead. You have an advantage that you might pick up the odd remaining single room if you're lucky.
In reply to spenser:

I'd really recommend going out of the school hols/halfterms/Christmas/Easter periods and going in late Feb or March, especially when learning, as the weather is generally warmer and you won't suffer from cold hands, often a problem early on, plus there will be minimal ski lift queues so you'll get more done.

Having said that if you wan't to go somewhere reasonably high up that isn't extortionate, then I'd recommend Les Contamines near Chamonix which has its own lift system and a good selection of low to mid-grade runs. Le Tours, the other side of Cham, is also good for easier runs.
Doug on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:

You'll save a lot of money going just before or just after the school holidays. If you speak some French consider UCPA (http://www.ucpa-vacances.com/sport/ski-alpin/#origine=Footer ) which are subsidised by the French government & based in hostel style accommodation (although sometimes with other options). I think they now run some courses in English but not sure if that includes skiing
Dave Kerr - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports:

>
> Having said that if you wan't to go somewhere reasonably high up that isn't extortionate, then I'd recommend Les Contamines near Chamonix which has its own lift system and a good selection of low to mid-grade runs. Le Tours, the other side of Cham, is also good for easier runs.

Les Contamines is lovely but the snow situation was poor there last Christmas.

Personally I'd wait until quite closer to the time to see what's happening and book some where that's had some snow.

Toerag - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:

Did a week in Saas-fee at xmas 2001. Pros - Plenty of snow, snowboarding instruction pretty good, no queues worth mentioning. Went ice-climbing in the carpark where they have the world cup. Cons - lots of darkness, and consequently very cold - -23 at the top of the mountain and -10 at resort level. I'd go back.
wynaptomos - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:
Maybe this is just me but when I have been skiing, one week is enough for me. I think two weeks in a ski resort would start to get tiring and dull, not to mention expensive.
captain paranoia - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:

I have been skiing over New Year a couple of times. Once in St Gervais-les-Bains (travelling out on Boxing Day), which isn't that high, but the snow was okay. The top of Les Houches was pretty bare at the time, though (we took the funicular)...

As said, it is pretty cold; I'm usually fairly lightly clad when skiing, but I recall wearing my Montane Extreme smock.

At the other extreme, I've been to the Three Valleys in the 2nd/3rd week in April, wearing just lightweight softshell trousers and a PowerDry base layer. Icy in the morning, Slush Puppy in the afternoon. Or just a white strip of piste running down alpine meadow into St Martin de Belleville... End of season is cheap.

Pot luck, really...
plyometrics - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:
Despite its reputation as one of the more 'gnarly' European destinations, Chamonix and surrounding resorts etc isn't a bad shout.

Easy to get to and the town has plenty going on to keep you entertained away from the piste, as well as a variety of accommodation options.

Would recommend a few sessions on a dry or snow slope in the U.K. in advance just to try and find your feet. Not essential, but certainly wouldn't do any harm.

Re snow quality / quantity, you're pretty much in the lap of the gods in most of Europe these days!

Best of luck.
Post edited at 20:47
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kos_os - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Doug:
Can't recommend the UCPA enough, I've been on two of their courses; an intro to off piste in Les Deux Alpes and an intro to ski touring in Chamonix and they were both great.

They have a UK booking agent (Action Outdoors - http://www.action-outdoors.co.uk/ ) and most of the courses have a mixture of English and French speaking participants, with Guides or instructors generally able to instruct in both (there's normally a big enough group of English speakers to make sure there's a fluent instructor).

Food (all you can eat buffet style, decent quality), accommodation (hostel style, most have a bar), ski pass, hire and instruction is all included, a week on the off piste course cost me around £600 (without travel), and 4 days in Chamonix with a IFGMA Guide, including a night in the Argentiere hut with food, was £400.

Their prices don't tend to change as you get closer to the dates so is a good one to wait on, and they've got venues in pretty much all the high French resorts.

Kieran
Post edited at 13:54
SFrancis on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:

+1 for UCPA courses. They have been brilliant, I have done 3 weeks with them in the last few years. Two Freeride rando courses, and one week with no instruction in chamonix. Not that it will interest you much on the first few weeks you go, but the no instruction chamonix lift pass included unlimited access to the Aiguille du Midi lift. Incredable value for money.
Doug on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to kos_os:

Interesting to hear, maybe 15 years since I went on a UCPA course and at that time it was almost entirely a French clientele - fairly sure that apart from a couple of Belgians I was the only 'foreigner'. I've no idea if our monitor spoke English, he just assumed that if I was there I would be able to speak French (which I could)
spenser - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:

Thanks to everyone for the advice, I've taken it onboard and decided not to go skiing over Christmas due to cost. A friend is organising an ice climbing trip to Ouray Ice Park mid January so I think I'll find somewhere to go skiing over there and make it a two week affair (I'll have all of the warm kit with me anyway and it's a bit far to go for a single week). Now just to do some research and get things booked!
Cheers
Spenser
JuneBob on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to spenser:

To emphasise what some others may have said, I'd highly recommend a few visits to the snow dome before you go. I used to teach, and it always seemed a waste to me that people went on a very expensive trip to the Alps, only to spend 2/5 of it on the nursery slopes in town.
Learn the basics before you go so you can head straight up in to the mountains.

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