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BASS High Altitude Spring Ski Course

End of season fun with the Ski Club of Great Britain in Val Thorens.

By John Quinn.

British Alpine Ski School and the Ski Club of Great Britain have a long history of collaboration in the Alps. The partnership has helped hundreds if not thousands of club members improve their on and off piste skill. This charming account of the end of season ‘Piste Progression’ course run by BASS in Val Thorens shares the essence of what the week is all about.

SCGB Piste Progression with instructors from the British Alpine Ski School

Day 1

Orelle in a whiteout

Today was day 1 of the SCGB Piste Progression with instructors from the British Alpine Ski School. We split into four groups, handily named after the Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades.

Unfortunately the ski gods were not kind to us and we spent most of the day skiing in cloud. Hearts with Steve Ricketts from BASS at the helm tried to find the gaps in the cloud and, after an early coffee break were rewarded with some sunshine for one magnificent run down towards Orelle but this was short lived and the second lap saw the clouds close in. The afternoon saw the cloud get thicker and at times it was hard to see from piste marker to piste marker and indeed one of the Hearts group skied straight off the edge losing poles, glasses and skis in the process. Fortunately he was not seriously hurt.

Run of the day was Mariennaise.

Day 2

Sunshine and empty slopes in Courchevel

As we met with our BASS instructors for day 2 of Piste Progression, the sky was blue with white fluffy clouds. Hearts and Clubs decided to head to Courchevel and were rewarded with sunshine and great snow. Just perfect for practicing our turns under the watchful eyes of our instructors. Hearts made it to 1850 first and headed for coffee. Our first lift after coffee took us into some cloud but Steve soon got us back into the sunshine so that he could video us. Three rounds of video were taken for analysis over a beer at the end of the day although when we did the second round, one of our group got their first turn entirely wrong and did the whole run on their back (video to be deleted). Fortunately nothing was damaged other than pride. Lunch was taken at Cote Brun in perfect sunshine. The route back took us through Les Menuires which lived up to its nickname of Les Manure – the snow was s***. By the time we got back to VT, it had started to snow and the snow just got heavier and heavier. We really did have all four seasons in one day.

Run of the day Creux

Day 3

Fighter pilots & bump field warriors

Day 3 of the Piste Progression course saw another mix of sun, cloud and the occasional snow flurry but unlike previous days, today finished in glorious sunshine. The Hearts group stayed in VT today and did the runs that couldn’t be tackled in Sunday’s pea souper as well as repeating some runs previously done, but this time we could see the runs. The focus from Steve our BASS instructor was keeping our weight forward and not getting thrown back through the turn. Steve also set us the task of evening out our turns to reduce the different between strong and weak sides. Just before lunch Steve decided we needed to do some exercises in the bumps to give us a good appetite. After a very good lunch we set out to get some miles under our belt and put all of the morning’s learning into practice. We had a real blast and those of us who stayed out to the bitter end clocked up nearly 20 miles in the afternoon.

Run of the day Beranger – in full fighter pilot mode

Day 4

Zag - Zigging the 3 Valleys

The pattern of sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons continued as we joined our groups for day 4 of Piste Progression. The Hearts group set off with Steve (our British Alpine Ski School instructor) in the lead, headed for Courchevel. After a quick detour for a run on the almost deserted Mont Vallon, we found ourselves in Mottaret heading up the Pas Du Lac towards Courchevel. From the top of Pas Du Lac we headed straight down to 1850 for coffee. After coffee we headed across to 1650 via four different chair lifts, choosing this over the more direct gondolas so that we could enjoy the sunshine. Having enjoyed a few runs in 1650 we made our way back across for lunch in Méribel at Le Tremplin. After a relaxed lunch enjoying the food and sunshine, it was time to start heading back to Val Thorens. To avoid the slush of lower Les Menuires, Steve decided that we would “Zag – Zig” our way back keeping as high a possible above Les Menuires. Our excellent day as a group finished with the run down from Col de la Chambre to the hotel. The aim of the day was to put some miles under our belts and we definitely succeeded, clocking up just over 34 miles as a group.

Run of the day was the run from the top of the Pas de Lac gondola to Courchevel 1850

Day 5

All 4 seasons in 1 day

Today is Day 5 of Piste Progression and our last day with our fabulous instructors from the British Alpine Ski School. For the Hearts group, today was all about fine tuning the things we had learnt during the week. We started with an exercise to get us in a good skiing position and our weight forward. We then headed up the Moraine lift for two circuits of long turns in “fighter pilot” mode and some one foot skiing exercises to improve our balance and body position. When we emerged from our second trip up the gondola, we saw the strange sight of a priest skinning up the off piste in full cassock. We then headed for coffee where we reviewed photos and videos of our skiing – not always a pretty sight. After coffee the weather started to close in so we headed out of VT towards Mont Vallon for better visibility and a chance to practice our short turns and to correct the things we had discussed at coffee. However, with the visibility dropping to virtually zero, we headed back to VT via Les Menuires and lunch at La Folie Douce. During lunch the weather improved, so we headed out before the young party goers turned up and headed up Peclec for a run in the sunshine, however, we emerged from the gondola into a blizzard and it didn’t really improve as we headed down. At that point some of the group decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel. The hardy few set off up the Moraine gondola and were rewarded with a run in sunshine and fresh powder. By the end of day the snow storm was back and it was time to head back for a beer.

A fabulous course has come to an end. A big thanks to the BASS instructors for a great week.

John Quinn

Ski enthusiast and top bloke, John writes blogs of his ski trips and courses which can be found on the Ski Club app and Facebook pages. Thanks for this one John.

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