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11 December 2012

Andy's Blog: New focus, better results

Andy Brown finds out why it's not as difficult as you think to take on new terrain

You may have read my recent blog about heading to Tignes to ski with Snoworks. It was more of a whinge about how bad my technique has been on the bits of the mountain we all stare at from chairlifts – the untouched white stuff which makes you fall over.

If you have the same problem, and the same desires, read on because Snoworks take a different approach to tuition geared towards enabling skiers to negotiate new terrain. So someone else can be staring at you from a chairlift instead!

Deep powder in Tignes

When I arrived in Tignes everyone was in great spirits as the snow had again started to fall – and it just kept coming! While it’s a touch unstable at the moment given the amount of recent snow and wind, anyone who’s booked a holiday should be delighted as the Alps are now set up for a cracking season.

I think we probably saw a metre of snow in the few days that we were there. Our ski days were right in the middle of the storm, so we actually had to deal high winds and low visibility for the majority of our skiing. But that was no bad thing given that Snoworks’ coaching philosophy focuses on feeling the snow beneath your feet and becoming more responsive and effective in different terrain, rather than worrying about what you look like, or mimicking exactly what the instructor is doing.

This approach basically encourages you to figure things out for yourself, and advises you on how best to adapt your technique and where to focus your efforts for each different type of terrain or snow. I found it particularly useful. It took away my obsession with changing little things to solve my problems. By focussing on the important bit – what my skis were doing and how/when I was applying pressure through them – my technique became much simpler, more relaxed, and as a result dare I say better? 

I was taught by ex-Winter Olympian Emma Carrick-Anderson and Lee Townend, who were both really insightful, and neither got hung up on minor details, which was a breath of fresh air. Snoworks was founded by Phil Smith who we know very well as an outstanding instructor and mountain guide as he’s one of the instructors responsible for teaching our very own Ski Club Leaders!

Teaching with Snoworks
Emma Carrick-Anderson with Andy Brown

What was great to see was the number of Ski Club members, and Ski Club Leaders (Snoworks cater for intermediate to advanced skiers as well as offering courses to professional skiers and instructors) on the course. Numerous Ski Club Freshtracks customers also go on Snoworks holidays, and vice versa. They’re similar products, both offering experiences which broaden skiing horizons and so are particularly resonant with Ski Club members and indeed anyone with a keen interest in skiing.

We were lucky enough to enjoy an hour of good visibility and the snow was perfect – while there wasn’t much of a base (I was glad they weren’t my skis!) the snow was light and powdery. That morning I was with the more advanced off piste group, and it was fantastic to be able to find deep snow with the assurance of someone who knew where to go in the unstable conditions. I’ve been to a few avalanche talks but of course still wouldn’t take the risk of venturing off piste when I wasn’t completely confident in the conditions.

To sum up my trip, I learnt a lot about how to approach skiing new terrain. It made my skiing simpler and in focussing on feeling the snow beneath my feet and reacting to it effectively to achieve what I wanted to do, I found I was skiing far more comfortably regardless of what I was skiing on. It was a bit of an eye opener to be honest, after years of trying to figure out which specific bit of my precious technique was causing me to ski off piste like I’d never seen snow in my life.

If you’re interested in finding out more, Snoworks are based in Tignes and Courchevel but also offer courses to other alpine resorts, plus adventures to other continents where you can sample totally different ski experiences.

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