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Learning to ski 3

Confessions of a late convert to winter sports

Photo: Propaganda73

Photo: Jo Pendered

Photo: Agence Urope

Photo: P Compere

January 2019 I French Living

Connexion reader Jo Pendered (above) started skiing nine years ago, when she was 46. “My husband, Steve, is a really keen skier and I’d always wanted to try it, but never had the chance. “So he took me to Val d’Isère for a week, and taught me – mainly by putting me on a couple of black runs fairly early on!” She admitted that she got stuck, but took courage from seeing a crocodile of five year olds skiing past and decided to copy them. “Skiing is all in your head, it’s about believing you can do it. So for me, seeing those children go past was a trigger,

thinking that if they can do it, so can I.” A keen runner and cycler, Jo said she has always been quite healthy but learning to ski made her feel able to tackle new adventures. “I’m 54 and we’re both retired but I have every intention of skiing for the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s fun, the weather is often stunning and the mountains are beautiful. “I would definitely encourage anyone to take it up at any age. But I would encourage everyone to wear a helmet, too many people come a cropper without them. You wouldn’t go on a motorbike without a helmet on, would you?”

Your resort of choice will depend on if you want to head to an après-ski party, stare at the heavens on a clear night (Pic du Midi, top), or relax in a spa (Cauterets, below) after a day on the slopes Photo: Arnaud Spari

once you do get round to strapping a pair of planks to your feet, you’ve got over 100kms of pistes to explore. On a good day, you can see the Spanish border. If you really cannot stand the easy life any more, you could always take the cable car up to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre on the summit above the resort. NASA had a telescope installed there in 1963 to take photographs of the moon in preparation for the Apollo missions. Failing that, a short drive will get you to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, where there are supermarkets, a casino, an 18-hole golf course, and a spa. For a Pyrenean resort which offers yet another spa, and is directly accessible by train, try Cauterets. A real market town, it has access to the ski slopes via a fast cable car, and you can rent a locker and leave your equipment up on the slopes, meaning you do not have to tote it all up and down the mountain every day. For families, St-Lary is hard to beat. It has 100km of ski runs including the challenging 3.6km Mirabelle run, but is also well-equipped for children, with a snow kindergarten, a special park for six to 12-year olds, a toboggan run and a recently refurbished area for beginners. So when choosing a resort, rather than looking at pistes and snow, try considering either a) a purpose-built resort or real village/town; or b) party central or chill zone. But don’t forget to check out offpiste activities and amusements. And if you are opting for self-catering, remember that unless there’s a large hypermarket nearby, you will pay a fortune for groceries.

Photo: Cathy Breyton

Tai Chi and the art of older skiing

Ski instructor Cathy Breyton (above, middle) is 63 and says it’s entirely possible to learn at any age. She uses a method which she calls Tai Ski, which uses elements from martial art Tai Chi, especially finding your balance and shifting your weight, which are key skills in skiing. “Beginners tend to lean backwards, meaning their weight is on the wrong part of the ski and they have trouble controlling the movement. All learners, but especially people over 50, need to transform their fear into a desire to learn, a desire to have fun, a desire to slide. Once that switch has happened and fear has gone, learning becomes easy.” She recommends The Centered Skier by Denise McCluggage. “I took lessons from Denise and she taught me to ski so well that I set the women’s speed skiing records in 1978 and 1980. “Her book is a good place to start the

psychological journey towards enjoying the sensation of sliding.” She says that she doesn’t consider skiing a dangerous sport. “You ski for pleasure, for fun. Tai Ski makes it like dancing on snow. But for complete beginners it’s a good idea to do some exercise before arriving on the ski slopes because falling over isn’t the problem. Standing up again is more often the problem.” The Tai Ski method is particularly good for beginners, nervous skiers and intermediates wanting to ski more effortlessly. She will run group courses and give private lessons at Grand Tourmalet/La Mongie February 3 to 8 and March 9 to 16 2019, and will be in Val Thorens at the end of March. Nine hours of lessons (in English, Spanish or French) over three days in a group of four to six people costs €164 per person. Cathy’s email is

Profile for English Language Media Sarl

The Connexion 195 - January 2019  

France's English-Language Newspaper

The Connexion 195 - January 2019  

France's English-Language Newspaper