European Snowsport is the premier snowboard and ski school in Verbier, Zermatt and St Moritz. Our friendly, qualified snowsport instructors from around the world go out of their way to make your ski holiday a wonderful experience. At European Snowsport we seek out ski and snowboard instructors from around the world who have a love of teaching and can speak your language.
Winter in the Northern Hemisphere is slowly coming to a close. The snowline is receding and so are people’s clothing choices here in the Alps. T-shirts and shorts are making their first brave appearances, a sure sign that spring has arrived and winter 2018/19 is retiring. That doesn’t mean it’s over though.
Our instructors here at ES may be teaching their last lessons of this European winter, but before too long they’ll be clipping back into their bindings on the other side of the world. In fact chasing continuous winters is something many of our snowsport instructors do.
Mt Buller Australia, Photo John Craig
Maybe you’re not done with skiing either? If you’ve got the bug you could follow your favourite ES instructor to Australia, New Zealand or even Argentina this year. The winter over there starts around mid/late June and lasts right through to September.
Did you know?: ES Directors Julian, Hannah and Martin have also worked Southern Hemisphere seasons!
Perisher Ski resort, photo Ben Davies
What’s the skiing like in Australia and New Zealand?
Australia, famous for its white sandy beaches, abundant wildlife, coral reefs and wide open outback. It may not be the first place you think of when it comes to skiing and for that you’d be forgiven. There are however a number of ski resorts that come to live between the months of June and September. But how does it compare to the Alps?
Well for one let’s forget mountains. Ski fields in Australia are based amongst rounder-topped, rolling hills. Many are tree covered but think less pines, more gum trees. That’s not to say that they don’t get snow. This may not be the best destination for powder lovers but there are plenty of pistes to go round. Mt Buller for example has over 300 hectares of skiable terrain with 22 lifts, the largest lift network in Victoria. There’s plenty of on mountain accommodation too – making a smooth transition on to après.
Wildlife wise you’re most like to see a wombat than a chamois.
New Zealand fits more of an Alpine image for many. Anyone who has seen Lord of the Rings will recognise the imposing, sweeping landscapes. With ski resorts on both the North and South island, visitors can expect impressive views as they descend the slopes. NZ skiing enjoys higher altitude skiing than Australia and good snow too. Most resorts have accommodation off mountain, making travel up to resort a little longer than in Australia.
Worth getting up for. Photo John Craig.
There are also a dedicated few who live in Zermatt all year round. With its Glacial skiing our Zermatt ski school can offer lessons all year round! Why not pay them a visit for a summer holiday and ski?
Interested to find our more? Contact us and we can help you find your perfect summer skiing solution!
ES has had teams in the last few Patrouille des Glaciers, a ski touring race between Zermatt and Verbier. Maryse, who runs our administration office and has been with ES since the start, has competed many times. Now, Jonas and Gibbo head up our ski touring pack. Happily, or unhappily, the Patrouille des Glaciers runs every second year, so this year is the year off.
So to tide us over, we have launched “Touring Tuesdays”.
Initially, this was just run for friends of the school, but now that we have beta tested it, we have decided to open it up to the wider public.
Each Tuesday from 09.30-11.30 you can join like minded people in Place Blanche to start a gentle tour up through the forest.
Our friends at Mountain Air even do a special deal for renting the equipment so that you can try it to see what you think (mention “Touring Tuesdays”).
Touring Tuesdays are not meant to intimidate, but introduce you to a new way to see the mountains. There are many skiers in Verbier who know the pistes well, but ski touring opens a new side of the resort, a very different one.
Away from the pistes and the lifts, and other people, you can improve your fitness, hear the birdsong, smell the pines, and fully appreciate what a beautiful place it is. This is not a race or a competition, it is an introduction to another way to enjoy the mountains.
See you on Tuesday!
The Freeride World Tour returned to Verbier last weekend for it’s last stop of the winter. Crowds gathered at Col des Gentianes to watch the world’s best freeride skiers and snowboarders compete on the imposing north face of the Bec des Rosses.
Verbier is home to the likes of freeride legend Xavier de le Rue and attracts riders from all over the world with it’s impressive and daunting terrain. It’s understandable then that there is such a prestigious gathering from both riders and onlookers.
So what is a Freeride competition?
We’re all used to watching Olympic ski races or Ski Sunday. Tight lycra suits, strangley bent ski poles and precision timing gear. You may have also sat down to watch Shaun White or James Woody (Woodsy) in the freestyle competitions. Halfpipe, slopestyle and big air have all gained the recognition they deserve in recent years.
But what happens if you take away the slalom gates, purpose made jumps and icy corduroy snow? Freeride contests ski to the terrain on the day. Natural cliffs and couloirs are the canvas for competitors on steep off-piste sections. Between the start gate at the top and finish at the bottom, it’s just you and the mountain.
Then how do you judge a Freeride contest?
It’s all about the big picture. The overall image the rider leaves for the judges is important. They could take their time making sure they get their perfect line but at the cost of speed. Or the could stomp their way aggressively from top to bottom but at the risk of missing those important opportunities for technical points.
There are five categories that are taken into account:
Difficulty of Line -Does the line they’ve chosen show imagination? How dangerous, unique or cool is it?
Control -Consequences are pretty high in a mountain environment like this. So control is paramount. If you make a mistake serious injury or even death could occur. So, did the rider fall? If so did they recover well or tomahawk their way to the bottom of the hill?
Fluidity -Was their performance consistent from top to bottom? Points in this category reward those who can complete their run without signs of hesitation. Does the line look intentional or did they stop at the top of a big cliff and falter before hitting it?
Jumps -Like with any sport that has aerial factors style definitely comes into play. Entrance to the jump, what happens during air time and landing are all watched closely by the judges.
Technique -This category is closely linked to the control element. If the riders look comfortable then it’s likely they’re using good technique to stay in control. The way they choose to ride a face is also taken into account however. Did they cautiously side slip a section or did they confidently carve open turns?
Ski Men -Wadeck Gorak
Snowboard Men -Jonathan Penfield
Ski Women -Elisabeth Gerritzen
Snowboard Women -Marion Haerty
2019 Freeride World Tour Calendar Teaser - YouTube
If you want to watch any of these winning runs or other highlights from the event, catch up on the action on the FWT website here.
Freeski/offpiste lessons with ES
Inspired? Freeriding is a sport that has experienced tremendous growth during the last few years. Here at ES we are proud to develop many enthusiastic freestylers and freeriders. Read our blog about off-piste instructing here. There’s also our Freeski Academy, which is specifically designed to produce confident riders who have chosen to take their skiing to the next level. Read more about ES Freeski here.
We also have the Big Five Challenge in Verbier. Ski some of Verbier’s best off-piste/itinerary terrain with an experienced ES instructor.
“I have been incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to ski some of the best mountains in the world, but I have to say that Turkey will always be one of my absolute favourite spots, not only because of the amazing terrain but equally as much for the organization, the guides and the pilots. An incredible experience run with total professionalism” Jansci Hadik, Photographer
The joy of shredding deep, soft, dry snow….
In the Kaçkar Mountains of Turkey, guests are guaranteed 7,000 meters (nearly 23,000 feet or the summit of Denali down to sea level) a day. As the photos show, the skiing is in fact mostly above the treeline. The snow conditions allow groups to ski fast giant slalom style turns and cruisy perfect turns for the whole week. Plus, the professional guides and super efficient helicopter service allowed them leave of any worry. The whole experience once on board the helicopter in the morning is tailor made perfectly to give you and your friends the best experience possible.
There are three things that make this heli-skiing experience different from the rest.
Firstly, being in a culturally vibrant and foreign place like northeastern Turkey profoundly adds to the week’s fun.
Trying new foods and seeing cultural sights after a day in the mountains makes the experience just that much more extraordinary. Let yourself be pushed out of your comfort zone with the feeling that damn, I’m really far from home. Getting this sort of perspective on a ski trip is unique, yet abundant, here.
Second, the absolute lack of logistics to deal with is a rarity with any ski experience.
Waking up at the hotel and getting picked at the adjacent helipad is too easy. The incredible hospitality and great communication between the guides, the interpreter, and the hotel staff made it so that when groups get back from skiing, there’s no need to worry about anything. The team’s great knowledge of the mountains and the conditions that even more stress is taken off the guests’ shoulders. Not having to labour over where to go and how to get there allows our guests to relax and focus on the skiing, which always proves quite exhausting (in the best way possible).
Lastly, the best part of the trip for most of our guests is the amount of vertical skied each day.
Doing 5+ helicopter served runs is a true challenge physically and while you must be prepared, this is an experience to cherish. It’s important to be physically fit because this trip pushes even the most experienced skiers but training camps set up in Verbier and Zermatt with European Snowsport early in the winter will be just the ticket to tune the legs, mind and soul for this adventure. Have a read about Off-piste instructing with ES here.
Groups here get the opportunity to branch out, find the best balance between relaxation and really pushing themselves, and get to travel to a faraway place for one of the most unique experiences of a lifetime.
Price of the classic package is 7’250.00 Euros per person.
· 7 days of heli-skiing
· 30,500 vertical meters of skiing
· Maximum 4 groups of 4 people
· Each group is accompanied by a guide
· Transfers: Trabzon Airport – Ayder – Trabzon Airport *
· Accommodation: 8 nights in a double room with full board.
· Safety equipment: Airbag, Avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe.
*Transfers arranged to fit in with scheduled flights with orientation evening Saturday in Ayder.
For your pre-heliski fitness and technique, contact us at European Snowsport about our powder ski training.
So far this winter our afternoon children’s groups have been more popular than ever, so we have been thinking of some new ideas for Easter! Introducing Easter afternoons for kids at ES Verbier.
If a morning on their skis is enough, then we have an afternoon programme for your children to keep them active, making friends and having fun. After skiing until 12.30, the children will have supervised lunch, and then do an afternoon activity each day. Here’s the plan:
Monday -Treasure hunt challenge
Explore the secret corners of Verbier under the supervision of ES instructors and see if you can complete all the challenges! Keep an eye out for Easter eggs!
Let them try it! Our dedicated snowboard team at ES Ride will arrange everything and let your children try something they have probably been asking about for years. Boots and board rental are included.
See the flights taking off and then try it yourself! Fly above Verbier and enjoy around 20 minutes in the air with a tandem flight from our friends at Verbier Summits. *additional charge of 70chf, making it 170chf for the whole afternoon, including lunch. No additional charge if this is booked as part of a whole week package.
Thursday -Ice skating
With the new outdoor rink, this is a great way to try something new or show off your skills, and improve balance at the same time. Skates included.
Friday -Climbing wall
Climbing is great for strength, co-ordination and a lot of fun! Kids will head to Verbier’s indoor wall, entry and equipment rental included.
A single afternoon is 100chf, including lunch. All entry, equipment and instruction is included. You can choose to do single afternoons depending on which activities appeal, or do the full week of afternoons for 500chf (with no additional charge for the parapente afternoon).
Here at ES we are proud to work with many beautiful chalets and hotels. There’s quite a lot of choice in Zermatt too! Award winning architecture, luxury spas and Michelin star restaurants. You name it. Here are our top 5 hotels in Zermatt.
The best on our list for a reason. A beautiful collection of apartments scattered around the woods with truly spectacular views of Zermatt and the Matterhorn. Cervo pride themselves on the finer details whilst allowing you the flexibility to tailor your stay. Every day they provide some of the best après ski in town whilst you watch the sun set behind the Matterhorn on their stunning sun terrace until 7pm, when the music stops you are almost instantly enveloped by the magic of Zermatt at night. Whether the moon is out or not you will be captivated by the lights of Zermatt, the twinkling stars and the almost total silence the location of this hotel provides.
As well as being able to ski back to your hotel you will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy either of the 2 restaurants on offer, the beautiful design of the buildings and their interiors, the numerous music events and if you are really lucky you might even find their hidden “Speakeasy” called Grapes and Juniper.
A truly top hotel (winner of best hotel in Switzerland in 2016). We cannot recommend a better place to stay in Zermatt.
Perched just above the centre of Zermatt, the Omnia offers some of the best views whilst also great access to the fantastic shops, bars and restaurants the town has to offer. The hotel itself is renowned as having the best service in town, striving to make your stay as perfect and relaxing as possible. This added to the great facilities and the Michelin starred restaurant staying here is a no brainer.
Located just 5 minutes’ walk away from the town centre this bespoke private hotel offers something a little different to usual. The Firefly’s owners have designed the hotel to look and feel like the coolest mountain lodge you’ll have been to. The bar in the hotel is a great place to while away those après ski hours before dinner. They serve the best cocktails in town (try a Moscow Mule!!) in a relaxed atmosphere or play pool in a Harley Davidson themed games room or even smoke fine cigars in their smoking room. This is a top-quality hotel that once you have been, you’ll find it hard not to comeback every year.
This is one of the more traditional hotels in Zermatt but don’t be fooled by the classic exterior. It hosts a number of fantastic restaurants, the most incredible ski room that also links into the Julen Sport rental shop (super easy to organise all the gear you might need) and also a top-class spa and swimming area. If this hasn’t convinced you then maybe being picked up by a horse drawn carriage and taken to the front entrance of the hotel will! Located in the very centre of town means that your access to everything that Zermatt has to offer is unparalleled. Combine this with probably the best concierges in town and it becomes a true contender for top hotel in Zermatt.
Having been refurbished very recently, this is a new arrival on our list. Situated a very short walk from the train station means getting around will be easy and the nearest ski lift is only 200m away. When you enter the hotel, you will be bowled over by the beautiful lobby/bar/reception area. This is a great place to chill and try a number of their tasty cocktails (keep an eye out for the coolest oven/grill spitting out flames by the kitchen). With all the modern amenities of any top hotel, the Schweizerhof tops them with friendly staff, good food and beautiful design.
I truly think this hotel will continue to rise up our list over the next few years.
It’s that time of year again in Zermatt! A few frantic weeks of bumps skiing for ski schools across resort finally came to a head yesterday at Igludorf for the annual Mogul Mayhem competition.
Building the course
Making a mogul competition course isn’t easy. Markers are places at intervals in the snow then stamped into place to make the beginnings of a rut. Then the rut is skied and slipped again and again to form moguls or bumps.
This year plenty of work went into getting it ready, only for a snowstorm to come in just days before and fill in all their hard work. So without much time left builders rushed back to the course to get it race ready once again.
Building the course on a sunny day! Lots of digging needed for the start area.
Slipping the bumps is an important part of building the course. They need smoothing out between skiing so they don’t become too big.
The rules are simple enough. Each team is made up of four and must either be mixed gender or mixed disciplines. As a result we not only saw traditional alpine skiers taking to the rut lines, but also telemarkers, snowboarders and snowbladers -no easy feat.
Teams go head to head down the red and blue flag lines and are marked on their technique in the bumps, overall speed and trick over one of two sized jumps at the bottom. So you won’t necessarily win if you reach the bottom first.
ES Instructor Tim in the bumps
The teams are ordered from slowest to fastest, leaving the best till last. After all four skiers from each team have skied against their opponent the scores are added up and the winners go through to the next round. The teams with the highest scores then compete in the quarter finals and the knock out continues until the final head to head.
ES Instructor Max trying out the Snowblades…
After a few final practice laps and one more slip of the bumps the teams lined up at the start, many sporting fashion statements as impressive as the moguls they were about to ski. ES put forward three teams this year, all sporting fancy dress. Even our team Penguin made an appearance.
ES Instructor Gareth during a practice lap.
The day started fair weather wise but as the competition progressed and the finals closed in, so did the visibility and the finalists found themselves competition in flat light and fresh snow. As if it wasn’t difficult enough already. That didn’t stop them from putting down some impressive runs however, really putting on a show for the crowd.
Anthony Voute grew up in the mountains and has been based in Verbier for over 15 years. He has been a fully qualified off piste instructor for 12 years. He teaches both ski and snowboard and is equally happy with his touring skis or splitboard. We interviewed him to find out what life is really like, day to day, as an off-piste instructor.
“There are not many jobs where you can live out your career and your passion in such a beautiful environment. There is a unique energy about being in the mountains and you can share this with your clients.”
Typical day of an off-piste Instructor:
Night before – check avalanche report 7am – team brief about day 8am –check gear 9am – brief clients/safety talk
“The night before I make contact with my clients to find out what they would like to achieve and what their goals are for the day ahead. Are they looking for an introduction to off piste, or to improve their technique, or discover new areas?
I check different websites for weather, and if I haven’t been to the area I am planning to visit the next day for a few days, or the conditions are changing, I call some friends who work with the ski patrol or someone who went to that area the same day to talk to them about conditions. Usually I visit areas I already know well so I don’t need to check the maps or the slope gradient but I always check the changing conditions.
On the day, I meet with my clients and talk to them about their goals and expectations. We ski a piste together so I can see how they ski. I check everyone’s avalanche transceiver is working properly and that they have their off piste pack and do a briefing. I check the snow conditions and then we do some easily accessible off piste so I can see how they handle the conditions.
We then head off. I always have a plan B for if conditions change. For example, if it is cloudy we might stay in the trees for better visibility. I am also looking out for things like whether a member of the group is getting tired.
Just before we ski an off piste area, I verify the state of the snow and we ski one by one. We establish where to regroup after each ski. On each slope I need to consider what the consequences are if for example someone falls; they might slide, or they might stop safely.
Our goal is always to have fun safely. So I communicate all the time and check that everyone is comfortable and happy. It is important that the clients understand that I am the leader and respect my judgment and this is one of the things we learn in our off piste training; how to lead the group and also how to turn back when it is the right thing to do.”
What qualifications do you need to be an off-piste instructor?
“In the Swiss system there are a lot of courses you need to pass; there are 3 levels of instructor and you need to reach the highest level, the Swiss Federal qualification. The courses include technique, teaching, second discipline, second language (in addition to one of the 3 Swiss languages; German, French and Italian), tourism and law, and off piste and avalanche safety.
In the off piste course we learn how to plan a route, how to identify dangers, and how to manage a group off piste.
Finally you need to complete a written project and then be interviewed about your project by a panel. Once you pass all the levels and the written project and interview, you can teach off piste under the conditions allowed by the law.”
Some quotes from other current Off-piste instructors.
“I want to share my love for the mountains with my clients. Away from the pistes, you have a feeling of freedom you don’t get anywhere else and I aim to transmit my love and respect for the mountains.”
“On the piste you are in a controlled environment but off piste you can’t take anything for granted. You need to stay clear psychologically and not be influenced by a charismatic person who wants to do something, but think about the risks and the right thing to do for yourself and with a clear head.”
“I always try to ask and encourage good questions and think with a clear head about the best thing to do in each moment. You need to remain humble and avoid doing things from habit. A very experienced guide said that you need to tune in to your “inner Indian” and I agree with this; you need to be connected to the elements and feel the right decision from day to day; it won’t be the same as the decision you made the day before.”