From snowboarding for beginners to training for ski races, find your perfect snowsport school
Best for beginner skiers
Never been skiing? Or maybe it’s just been a while. You’ll be swishing down the slopes in no time with lessons from Oxygene Ski School in France at Val d’Isere, La Plagne, Courchevel and Meribel. (In Val d’Isere, try to get into one of the two Andreas’ classes if you’re a bit nervous.) You’ll start by learning to snowplough (angle your feet to make a V) on the nursery slopes, to navigate the lifts (drag, chair, gondola) and do some basic turns. By day two or three, you’ll abandon the nursery slopes for blues (easy pistes), and by the end of the week, you might even be ready to tackle some reds (intermediate pistes). L’Oxygene has highly recommended kids classes, too.
Best for advanced skiers
Want to zip down black runs and maybe add on some off-piste? Warren Smith Ski Academy is for you. Renowned among in-the-know Euro skiers for his outstanding courses in Verbier and Saas-Fee, Switzerland, he’s now branched out to Japan, too, giving a new level of interest to seen-it-all-before skiers. His unique approach involves adding ski biomechanics and physiology to typical ski instruction. Our reporters felt they’d improved significantly after just one day with Warren’s team, moving up from tentative black runners to confident speedsters who could confidently tackle gentle off-piste. Among his celebrity fans, former rugby player Lawrence Dallaglio is a fan: “I’ve had so much coaching throughout my rugby career that when I met Warren I quickly realised I had struck gold.” Our reporters would certainly agree.
Best for kids
Having been awarded the Neilson Marque of Excellence for ski school six years in a row, you can be sure you’re in good hands with Ski Banff Lake Louise-Sunshine in Canada. Lessons are offered for children three to 12 years old. The youngest, three- to four-year-olds, learn to use the skis and balance on the hill before enjoying supervised play in the kids-only wilderness adventure park, while the older kids learn to ski using techniques such as ‘pizza’ and ‘banana’. You can leave the kids at ski school, safe in the knowledge all the instructors are licensed with the Children & Youth Services of Alberta, or you can watch their progress from the nearby lodge. There are also excellent programmes for teens, varying from beginners to off-piste.
Best for beginner snowboarders
The thing about learning to snowboard is, what you want on a nursery slope is exactly the opposite of what a skier wants. Minuscule gradients are a nightmare for boarders. What’s more, you need instructors who really know their stuff. Too many ski schools have added on snowboarding as a sideline, and it just doesn’t work. The mechanics and skills are as different as chalk and cheese. Forget all those horror stories you’ve heard of friends trying snowboarding and coming back black and blue. Learn to snowboard by the people who are passionate about it – on the right terrain – in Laax, Europe’s snowboarding hotspot. The school here offers excellent tuition for learners from aged six to over 60.
Best for advanced snowboarders
Whether you want to venture off-piste, explore backcountry, bust moves on the half-pipe or just improve your black-run technique, McNab Snowboarding is the place for you. McNab’s unique technique focuses on controlling the board with just your feet, so carving is easier and sharper. Like Warren Smith, McNab also focuses on biomechanics and spends far more time than the average instructor making sure your stance is correct before the lesson begins. A championship snowboarder, Neil McNab is one of the sport’s most experienced and highly qualified instructors. His courses, most of which are three-day or one-week, are hugely popular and book up fast, but he does run them all year round. Most are based in Chamonix and Les Deux Alpes, France, but other destinations include Norway, Russia and even India.
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