• Boris Johnson, Sochi Olympics and Ski Instructors

    Posted in skiing on February 25, 2014


    Inspired by Sochi and need a ski instructor? Don’t worry, things are not as bad as Boris thinks…


    Team GB’s haul of four medals at the Winter Olympics in Sochi was the best showing by a GB team since 1924. With British winter sports on the up at elite level, Ski Club of Great Britain is expecting a mass exodus of British people to European ski resorts like Chamonix and Morzine over the next few years. But what hope is there for people to learn when Boris suggests French instructors, “cost this country millions in the treatment of wholly unnecessary broken legs as well as retarded our progress up the medals rankings in the winter Olympics”?

    People young and old, all across Britain have been inspired by Team GB’s contingent of ‘Fridge Kids’ who took part in Sochi 2014 this winter. Off the back of Sochi, Ski Club of Great Britain is predicting a myriad of British people to descend on dry ski slopes in the UK, and on French resorts like Chamonix and Morzine. 95% of people who skied last season are expected to return to European resorts this winter, and 75% of inactive skiers intend on returning within the next three years.

    However, Boris Johnson warned on Sunday that by booking ski lessons through one of France’s big ski schools, British holiday-makers are likely to be matched with a native French, and possibly non-English speaking, instructor. He argued that ski schools run by UK nationals were difficult to find, and that the partnership of British student and French ski instructor is unlikely to be fruitful for the student – “wholly unnecessary broken legs” being the probable outcome.

    In fact, there are lots of fantastic British ski instructors working alongside French ones all across the Alps, and the reality is that for most Brits learning to ski, the nationality of their instructor is irrelevant. What’s most important for any student is that their instructor matches their learning style and helps them to improve their skiing in a fun and safe environment so that they’ll come back year after year. The problem that Boris really alludes to is that finding an instructor who fits that profile can be difficult, and often left to chance.

    It’s a problem that Nicola Broom, skiing enthusiast and co-founder of upmysport.com, is familiar with. She recalls, “In 2011 I was looking for a brilliant instructor to help me improve my skiing, but I found it hard enough to find any independent instructors, let alone the perfect instructor for me. Lots of my friends had the same problem; they often ended up giving up skiing after a poor learning experience at a big school or even started teaching themselves.”

    To help solve the problem, less than a year later Nicola co-founded a London-based startup called upmysport. upmysport is dedicated to helping people meet their perfect instructor. It is a web and mobile experience bringing together the community of passionate sports instructors, and connecting them with the millions of people in the UK who need guidance in sport.

    upmysport co-founders Neill, Nicola and Steve

    Upmysport co-founders Neill, Nicola and Steve (in need of running coaches…!)

    Launched in 2013, the community is growing, now featuring more than 400 lessons by instructors in both London and the Alps. That includes skiing and snowboarding lessons offered by both British and French instructors working in the French resorts of Chamonix and Morzine, and the 400 is set to grow as the instructors currently listing on upmysport are joined by others from resorts all over Europe and from the UK.

    Those who have booked instructors from the UK before going on their skiing holidays have found the website particularly useful. Nurette Stanford was delighted to have found Alison Culshaw, a ski instructor in Chamonix, she tweeted, “@upmysport@Offpisteperform great holiday made AWESOME by Alison’s instruction!! Glad we found you both!


    Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 13.56.36

    Nurette, after she met her perfect instructor, Alison Culshaw, through upmysport!

    With a successful Sochi for GB over, now is the time for Britain to shake off the tag of being a non-winter sports nation. As more people take to the slopes in the footsteps of their new sporting idols, upmysport are connecting them with their perfect instructor, increasing the chance that they’ll return the following year, and helping to make sure that the Sochi legacy is a long-lasting one.


    To find your perfect snowsports instructor in Chamonix and Morzine, or to search for London-based instructors across lots more sports, click the links below:

    Snowsports Instructors in Chamonix

    Snowsports Instructors in Morzine

    Sports Instructors in London

    upmysport is a UK-registered company, co-founded by Steve Brindley, Nicola Broom and Neill Pearman. The team is based in Central London, among a cluster of technology startup companies, and in the mountain town of Chamonix, France, the adventure capital of Europe and host of the first winter Olympic Games in 1924.

  • Pert buttocks, endurance, elegance and a lot of lycra – An introduction to Cross Country Skiing

    Posted in cross country skiing on February 21, 2013

    Upmysport’s Alice Gartland takes her first official skating steps into the world of cross country skiing….

    Two years ago I made my first attempt at cross country skiing. Back then it took me about 45 minutes to work out how to put the skis on. Thankfully in 2013 I had cross country skiing expert Tania Noakes by my side.  I got my skis on in seconds, propelled myself forward and we were off!

    There are two styles to cross country: Classic or Skate.

    Pippa Middleton does Classic…

    Pippa Middleton and others doing Classic technique – it’s a bit like a walking motion

    I do Skate …

    Learning the V shaped Skate movement (it’s good to practice without poles)

    Tania is an expert at both and whilst I have started with Skate, the origins of cross country are in the Classic. Mastering the Classic first is a good way of getting to grips with the basic alignment of your hip over your foot, which is the foundation for an efficient cross country technique in both disciplines.

    Tania explaining the importance of getting the alignment of your hip over your foot – key to both cross country disciplines

    The Skate is an elegant movement, whereby you rise and fall with the motion of your skis as you alternate pushing out your left and then right ski. You also need to keep your head up and not look down at what your skis are doing. As Tania points out, this helps with the main point of cross country – to get out there and enjoy the view. But as with alpine skiing, keeping your head up and looking out and ahead, also aids balance and good posture.

    Tania showing me how it’s done

    However, don’t let that elegance mislead you. It is a superb work out for your heart and lungs and does wonders for your core and buttocks – It is cross country skiing that has been credited as the mastermind behind the world heritage site that is Pippa Middleton’s derriere.

    Mastering hills is a challenge and you have four ‘gears’ to help you manage the changing terrain.

    Tania introduced me to the two most helpful: Gear three or ‘Skate 3’ which is where you double pole over/on every other leg. You use it on the flat and on gentle downhills; and

    Tania demonstrating Skate 3

    The first gear or ‘Skate 1’, which has a slightly off-set double-pole over/on every other leg. This is used mostly for hill climbing and slow conditions, or getting going. Tania introduced it as “the telephone” technique – one pole is slightly more upright and you bring it up towards your ear – a bit like answering a telephone. I now think of Lady Gaga and Beyonce on all uphill. It works (for me).

    Tania demonstrating Skate 1

    Hills aren’t the easiest and you have to up the tempo and really build the momentum to propel your way up. Downhill on such skinny skis is also pretty exciting and it’s a fun test of your balance. It also feels like a nice complement to alpine ski technique.

    Skinny skis and nimble boots

    Cross country skiing is a lovely way to travel in the mountains, and there are some pretty exciting endurance challenges out there should you be tempted. The epic Transjurrassiene takes you into the heart of cross country skiing in Europe. As Jeff who completed the 57km this year says it’s, “one of the most gruelling events in the cross-country calendar. There are departures at 76km, 57km and 25km from the finish in a race held whatever the weather. It was minus 20 degrees celsius at the start this year. An ascent of about 9km through pine forests populated by bell-clanging Jura villagers helps make it one of the most arduous and exhilarating events around.”

    There is also the historic and super tough Vasaloppet ski marathon in Sweden which Pippa completed last year and there are loads of other races dotted around the mountains throughout the winter.

    Traversee de la Ramaz 2013 – 30k start

    Tania has been Cross Country skiing for over 10 years and competing nationally since 2006.  She is a former GB champion in both the 10km Classic, and the 10km Biathlon Mass Start and has been British Biathlon Union Club Champion for several years.

    Tania Noakes in action (Note the Skate 1 technique)

    You could get intimidated by that, but Tania just loves what she does and gets totally excited about you travelling 50m or 50km – it doesn’t matter – she just wants you to be out there and have fun!

    I have just propelled myself forward about 10m – smiles all round!

    It’s also that energy and her ability to focus in on your technique in a really subtle way as you are skating along enjoying the view, that meant that after just two hours Tania had got me skating smoothly, broken down the elements of the technique, given me some key drills to practice, totally inspired my confidence and also got me contemplating my first cross country ski race (a somewhat hillier than anticipated 7.5km). And for the sake of my buttocks, a Transjurrassiene in 2014 …

    Just finished the Traversee de la Ramaz 7.5km – a hilly but happy start to my skating career – Thank you Tania!

    If you have been inspired and would like to have a go, Tania would be delighted to take you out for a lesson in Chamonix and the surrounding areas.

  • Chamonix skiing: there’s something for everyone!

    Posted in skiing on February 4, 2013

    Chamonix is the stuff of ski legend. So many legends, there’s not enough room to list them all. But from Sylvain Saudan, Patrick Vallencant, Anselme BaudJean-Marc Boivin,  Stefano De Benedetti, to arguably the best haircuts and sound track to a ski movie ever (see Glen Plake’s mohawk and friends on their first Chamonix adventure in the 1988 ski classic the Blizzard of Aahhhs) –  the valley’s history and iconic landscape is endlessly inspiring and tales of new skiing feats continue to echo from the mountainside.

    Skiing off piste at the Grands Montets – Argentiere Glacier Side

    Chamonix is known as the extreme ski capital of Europe for good reason, but scratch the ‘extreme’ surface and you’ll find there’s something for everyone – on, off and apres the piste…

    EXTREEEME smiles as standard on a Chamonix powder day

    Enjoy skiing and tartiflette with your family and friends in the picturesque ski area of Les Houches, try out cross-country skiing, become an off piste ninja, hire a mountain guide to take you ski touring, improve your knowledge of avalanche safety or venture down the Vallee Blanche, or just have a play in the freestyle parks or snow shoeing – there’s a lot to keep you occupied.

    Heading down the Aiguille Du Midi arrete to the Vallee Blanche

    It’s also just one hours’ drive from Geneva making it one of the most accessible resorts in Europe.

    The Chamonix Ski Areas

    There are a variety of ski areas in the valley- here are the highlights.

    Le Domaine de Balme 

    Enjoy wide open pistes in Le Tour and tree lined runs of Vallorcine. A special area, it’s also a popular starting off point for some great off piste adventures. La Vormaine beginners’ slope is also here.

    Skiing off piste at the Grands Montets – Argentiere Glacier side

    Grands Montets

    The pistes are spread over three mountainsides, there’s a lot to choose from. There’s also a freestyle park by the Lognan mid station.

    Brévent / Flégère  

    These two ski areas are linked by cable car. They’re south facing and offer some of the most stunning views in the valley. Le Savoy beginners’ slope is also near the Brévent lift.

    Les Houches

    Often referred to as the most family friendly of the ski areas, Les Houches offers great ski runs and alongside beautiful log cabin restaurants serving some of the best tartiflette in the valley!

    Skiing – it makes you happy!

    Beginners slopes are also found at Les Planards and Les Chosolets.

    Also don’t forget – Italy and the fantastic resort of Courmayeur is just a short drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel.

    We hope to see you on (or off!) the Chamonix pistes soon!