5th March 2023
It’s a dilemma faced by many parents during a winter holiday. What do you do when you book your kids into ski lessons, and then they simply refuse to put their skis on? NEW
We had arrived in the French resort of La Rosiere late on a Saturday night last month after finally navigating through the French half-term traffic from Grenoble.
The overall plan for the week was to enjoy the chalet hosting provided by Esprit and give the kids a five-day ski course in the accompanying ski school in the hope that by the end of the week they had moved on from gingerly snow ploughing down the nursery slopes.
And, of course, to make the most of the child-free mornings to get a bit further afield.
After a very short night’s sleep our eldest, eight-year-old Dylan, took to the lessons like a duck to water.
We would wave him out, skis in hand, and welcome him back after a few hours, excited about his accomplishments for the day.
Our younger daughter, Hazel, however, was a vastly different prospect.
In fact, within an hour of her first lesson it was fair to say that she’d had enough.
Tears in her eyes, she declared she would never put skis back on “ever”.
It was time to step in.
As a snowboarder I last put on skis around a decade ago until a short refresher lesson on a recent trip to Finland in December.
Although I was happy to know that my rickety memory had remembered the basics of parallel skiing, the task of teaching my child was of a different magnitude altogether.
The thing that I found daunting was whether I would be good enough.
As a snowboarder did I remember enough from my early skiing days to pass on?
There was only one way to find out.
After a bit of convincing and a hot chocolate, Hazel and I headed out onto the slopes.
After a tentative start, within the hour, whether I liked it or not, I had got the job.
I was now known as Instructor Daddy.
Since I had been hired for a short term skiing tuition contract it seemed only fair to check out the facilities we’d be learning on.
With a window on the Isere valley that many other resorts can’t rival, La Rosiere may be less well known than its neighbours such as Tignes, Les Arcs or Val D’Isere.
But for families with young children it seems the perfect option, at least for their first forays onto the slopes.
The resort stretches along the valley with what are in effect two bases, La Rosiere itself on the eastern side and Les Eucherts about 1km to the west.
Both have ample children’s facilities and our accommodation was tucked into the corner of the La Rosiere area, a minute’s walk from the piste with the ski school right outside the door.
Alongside a number of self-contained nursery areas for complete beginners, La Rosiere has a short 200m-long slope with a button lift that beginners don’t need a ski pass to use.
This button lift was to be my classroom for the next 24-hours as I held Hazel’s hands going down the hill and eased her onto her first button lift.
My first challenge was that she didn’t want to be left alone as she went up the hill.
And so instead of nabbing the next button I found myself running uphill beside her trying to give words of encouragement in between the wheezes and coughs.
Despite almost having a coronary, day one was, against all expectations, actually a success.
We had managed to find a rhythm with the button lift and the snowplough, and gradually build up confidence.
For the next three days I occupied a sort of skiing parallel universe.
First, my wife and I would help cajole my eight year old into his salopettes and ski boots before ushering him out to classes, then I’d grab a coffee and head to the slopes with Hazel.
With one child in ski school and one being “home schooled” as it were, it naturally awoke the competitive nature in me.
Surely one-to-one would be better than being stuck in a line waiting your turn with the instructor?
I began YouTubeing skiing tuition late at night, seeing where I could pick up tips.
I also paid closer attention to the lines of kids I usually did my best to avoid when on the pistes.
Nevertheless a couple of things worked against me.
Esprit limits its child places to a maximum of eight children per lesson, meaning that each child got a fair share of attention.
Dylan was coming on leaps and bounds and was already needing a lift pass.
While the Esprit “improvers” class headed off to far flung ski places such as “the magic forest” Hazel and I would stick to our button lift.
Then with the snowplough perfected and Hazel beginning to learn her turns we took a chance on the Roches Noires chairlift.
La Rosiere’s Tetras blue slope could arguably be described as an oversized nursery slope.
At times it feels like every ski school in France has descended upon it to learn the ropes.
Private lessons led by red ESF instructors dot the piste, barking out instructions and honing their pupil’s technique.
In terms of classes, Club Med, ESF and Evolution 2 as well as Esprit are all represented with lines of classes snaking their way down the slope.
And then there were dads like me coaxing their kids down the hill gingerly and hoping they haven’t invalidated their insurance by accidentally going off piste.
Quite quickly it became clear that being on a snowboard had an unexpected advantage.
Turning the board side on to the mountain, I found I could carve a furrow through the softening snow, and thus create a path for my daughter to follow to practice her turns.
As such we weaved our way down the blue run for a well deserved lunch at what could be described as, well, walking pace.
Yes, we were the last off the mountain and we were late for dinner at least twice, but we did make it.
Luckily dinners were taken care of most days, allowing us to relax after a long day on the slopes.
We had opted to stay in a four-bed hosted chalet which we shared with another family, a fun-seeking family from south Wales, who had kids of a similar age.
Chalet sharing can often feel like a game of holiday roulette, but we felt like we’d hit the jackpot.
Hazel had a skiing buddy for the late afternoons and we had good company into the evenings.
Being completely oblivious to the menu, I would return to the accommodation mid-afternoon or perhaps a little later to be greeted with cake and the kids settling down to their own meal while the adults ate later.
Surprisingly, a dedicated Esprit member of staff turned up each dinner time to tell the children to eat their greens, or beans depending on what they’ve been served, and to keep them entertained.
It gave us the opportunity to grab a shower, check the weather or just nab a beer and look out over the balcony for a few moments in peace.
On the penultimate day of Dylan’s lessons Hazel rejoined her brother in the Esprit Improvers Group for a single lesson to ascertain her level.
Would she be up to scratch?
Could she keep up with the group?
According to her ski diary she had a fabulous day, stayed in touch with the group and was able to do most of what the other pupils could do.
I felt that in terms of teaching at least I was vindicated.
The Esprit team even gave her a medal as the group celebrated the end of their lessons.
However after three days the limits of my teaching ability had begun to show.
Watching my son ski backwards down the slope to end their last day clinched it and, having witnessed first hand how my two children fared, I had to reluctantly hand it to the Esprit team.
The group structure, accompanied with daily songs, a team-building spirit and the close attention to each stage of the child’s skiing journey meant that realistically only a highly dedicated parent could match it.
The fact that Esprit kept class sizes in the Sprite Beginners and Sprite Improvers lessons of no more than eight seemed to give each child time and attention to master a new skill.
Did I enjoy my role as Daddy Instructor?
In a way I couldn’t have wished for more.
Watching my daughter’s joy as she learned a new thing or seeing her expression as she took her first chairlift was a wonderful experience.
And most importantly, both children have firmly caught the skiing bug, eager to get back on the pistes before we’d even landed in Gatwick.
Next time however, we’ll leave the tuition to the professionals.
Travel & Holiday Information:
The Clark family stayed at Chalet Cleopatra, La Rosiere, France from £1,264 per person based on four sharing.
Flights from London Gatwick
Five day Esprit Sprite Kids ski lessons available from £350 per child
Adult Beginner – AM 3 Days 2 Hrs 30 Mins Ski Tuition, From 17/03/2024 from £110.00pp