Who needs ski school?
If you’re a beginner, instruction is always a good thing, but professional ski and snowboard schools are helpful even if you’re an expert skier or boarder—there’s always room for improvement and lots more style!
If you’re heading for a holiday in Morzine and ski or snowboard school is on your mind, here’s what you should know to get the most out of your experience.
Who really needs ski or snowboard school?
If you’re brand new to snowsports, it’s a no-brainer that a little expert instruction is probably a good thing. A good introduction to etiquette, safety, proper techniques, and a few basic moves to get you started can make the difference between a holiday spent enjoying success on the slopes—and a holiday spent nursing an avoidable injury while your mates nurse a few après ski drinks.
But don’t stop there—ski and snowboard school offers a lot for even for the experienced and expert skiers and snowboarders. Wouldn’t you like:
- More confidence as you develop parallel skiing skills or learn more style when putting in a carve turn on your snowboard?
- Skills to tackle new terrains, bumps and moguls, and even forging your own path off-piste?
- To really learn and understand how to sit back in Powder?
- A little avalanche awareness to help you avoid a catastrophe?
- More confidence in hitting the kickers, boxes and rails in the Park?
Even if you think you are intermediate to expert – there’s value for mature skiers and snowboarders, too. A little refresher course to build confidence, maybe, or some situational awareness tips to help avoid injury.
Lacking in Confidence? If you’ve previously suffered through a serious accident—well, there’s nothing like a little one-on-one coaching to get your ski legs back again.
Don’t forget the little ones…
If you’re on a family holiday with kids, ski school is a lifesaver—and a great alternative to traditional childcare and gives you the chance for some mountain time!
Wouldn’t you love to see your child develop good habits so he or she can share your love of winter sports? Not to mention those character-building successes and failures that build strength and resilience?
How to choose the right ski or snowboard school
There’s no shortage of highly recommended schools in the area, so I recommend answering these questions to help you narrow down your choice:
- Are you bilingual? If you’re not, an English-speaking instructor is pretty important.
- What’s your budget? Like everything else in life, ski and snowboard schools range from economical to high-end, so set your budget and eliminate those outside your range.
- How much time do you want to spend on instruction? Most schools offer everything from a half or full day of instruction to a series of one- or two-hour group sessions during your stay.
- What do you want to accomplish? Your choice will be different depending on whether you’re just brushing up after a long break from the slopes or you’re a serious skier who wants to explore the Portes du Soleil off-piste.
- Is the location convenient? You definitely want to pick a school close to where your gang is skiing or boarding—otherwise how would you meet up for lunch?
- How large are the class sizes? This is one situation where bigger is definitely not better.
- What does your tour provider recommend? Often, your best source of information and recommendations is your tour provider, because they have first-hand knowledge of all the area snowsports schools—and know which ones rock (and which ones don’t!)
A little word of advice about location…
If you’re in a large resort area like the Portes du Soleil, it’s so important to choose a school near a convenient starting point for your group—especially if you’re getting a drop-off from your chalet. Your driver can’t be in two places at once!
Although both the Morzine Pleney side and the Avoriaz side have good options, we recommend our guests go with Avoriaz. There’s a great variety of pistes to suit any level and the meetup spots for lunch are fabulous, which means that as accomplished skiers – you can go off and ski to your heart’s content whilst your friends and / or family are getting the lowdown on how to ski or board better on a beginner piste just around the corner.
If your group includes children or nervous beginners, Morzine/Les Gets is a good choice, too—there’s easy access to town in case they want to call it a day before the rest of your gang and it just feels closer to home so not as scary for first timers or novices. Plus there are some great English speaking schools on the Pleney side of Morzine
Private lessons or join a group?
Although not all snowsports schools offer both options, it can be a challenge to decide which is right for you if you have a choice. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each:
Hands down, group lessons are more economical than private instruction, if budget is a priority. There’s also a feeling of camaraderie in a group that can calm nerves and lessen feelings of embarrassment for “never-ever” skiers and snowboarders.
The drawback to group lessons, however, is that you may not get the one-on-one instruction and attention you feel you need when in a larger group environment.
You do get to cut lift lines, but your own group takes up quite a bit of space!
These are definitely best for intermediate to advanced skiers and they offer more flexibility with scheduling than group lessons. As an added bonus, you get to cut lift lines if you’re with an instructor.
You also get the one on one coaching and critique. This is what a lot of people strive to find in a good instructor. Some of them may even video you and playback your skills so you can see what you are doing wrong or right!
On the down side, however, you’ll pay a lot more for the privilege.
“Private group” hybrids
Most instructors let you schedule a private group lesson where you and a few mates get some personalized instruction and split the cost among so it’s more affordable. The pre-requisite for this is that you are all of a similar level and this can often be awkward to ascertain before you get on your hols. My advice would be to stick with two or three of you, maximum.
Of course, not every instructor offers this option, so if that’s what you want, shop accordingly.
Ski and snowboard schools we love
Before we go into the nitty gritty – you can’t talk snow schools in Morzine without first mentioning ESF Snow School. The Ecole du Ski Francais is a bit of a French institution going back to 1937 when Georges Blanchon, the secretary of the French Ski Federation presented his plan for the school’s “single skiing technique.”
It really is the dominant player in snow schools—there are over 17,000 instructors in 250 locations teaching over 2 million pupils each year. Nothing else comes close and it is an institution.
Did you know that it’s incredibly difficult to become a ski instructor in France? The level 4 and speed tests are extremely tough to pass and are only for the talented few. When you have a French instructor, you know they are some of the most qualified in the world.
That being said, the groups can be a bit bigger than other schools, and some of them are so good that they can appear to get a bit laissez-faire. That said, you can’t beat the value for money ESF lessons offer. For the price—and you will learn quickly and it’s a great starting point.
There’s also a pretty fantastic kids program. Club Piou Piou in the Jardin d’Enfants on the Pleney slope is open to kids ages 3 through 12. This is pretty much where the Morzinois kids call home in the winter once they hit 3! There are both half and full-day sessions with optional lunch provided. For less than €450 Euros for the week, it is not to be sniffed at and offers great value child care on the slopes!
It’s a very French style of childcare, well-run with military precision, however, the larger groups can be a bit overwhelming for the very littlest ones who don’t speak french—but it’s extremely safe and well-run and gives parents a lot of flexibility for a full day of skiing and snowboarding. Plus Morzine ESF Piou Piou has lots of lovely English speaking instructors that are amazing with the kids.
A word about kids’ schools…
Personally I love the ESF program at it makes complete sense to get your kids started when they are 3-4 years old. You progress through a series of levels and they get a little badge at the end of each course which makes them extremely proud.
My own four-year-old son goes twice a week for lessons alongside school and he can already ski reds with ease and execute parallel turns. But…. he speaks French and is surrounded by all his school classmates all day so it’s an extension of his social life. I fully appreciate he probably has a different experience to a holiday maker here for just a week.
Don’t forget kids get tired fast too!, If you don’t want to push your wee one into becoming the next downhill champion French-stylee, there are a lot of other options for kids ages 4 and up and these offer much smaller group sizes of 6 or less and morning sessions which last until lunch time.
- British Alpine Ski School (BASS) offers eight hours of instruction over the week for kids age 4 and up and the feedback we’ve received has been excellent and extremely consistent.
- The Snow School has a beginners class for 4 and 5 year olds and a Snowflake program for kids 6 and up. Again great feedback from parents and a real caring way with the kids. All the instructors speak English.
- If boarding is more your style, MINT has a mini-shred course for kids as young as 3 (see the video below). I can recommend this as my 4 year old does this too!
And for the adults?
You can’t go wrong with The Snow School, which is a private English Speaking niche offshoot of ESF or BASS (British Alpine Ski and Snowboard School) in Morzine, but there are also lots of smaller independent schools in the area that do a great job. Some of which appear in other resorts too, however, we like the local guys that have been here for a while.
They are all good for lots of different reasons, but mainly the best thing to do is get on the blower and have a chat with them all. You will get a feel for who you like the sound of and just trust your gut!
You can see our series of articles on our blog page about some of our favourite ski and snowboard instructors..
You can also find a complete list of the ski and snowboard schools we recommend in the area here.
Just remember to pick the right side of the mountain so you can all start from the same place and meet up for lunch!
A tip from the pros.
A question we hear a lot is what kind of preparation we recommend before starting ski or snowboarding school. And my advice is simply this—put in the time to get fit before you go so you get the most out of your lessons.
It really is the best thing you can do for yourself before you plan a snowsports holiday.
Ready to get “back to school” on your winter holiday? Brush up your technique or learn something new?
Get in touch today and let us help you plan your Morzine trip—we’ll help you find the perfect class for you and your gang.