Learn to ski: Any colour, so long as it's green

How hard can it be to master skiing as an adult? First-timer Jamie Merrill finds out on (and off) the nursery slopes at Morzine

I never learnt to ski. As a child my family went on holiday to Wales or Cornwall, not St Anton or Val d'Isère. But I've always wanted to give it a try. The idea of soaring down all those white-clad mountains, making swooping turns with an effortless shimmy was appealing enough; the notion that you could combine it with the heady world of après-ski sealed the deal.

The problem, however, was that by my late twenties – when I could actually begin to afford it – most of my friends could already ski, and ski very well. Each year a group of them would head off to the slopes and come back with helmet-camera videos showing just how rapidly they could rattle down deadly black run after black run. If I joined them, I thought, I'd never be able to keep up. Every evening would surely be spent with me gazing forlornly at a glass of vin chaud, while listening to their tales of derring-do.

All this was on my mind as I awkwardly strapped on my ski boots at the cable-car station in Morzine in the French Alps, about two hours from Geneva airport. I was here to join the You Can Ski programme, a three- or six-day course with ESF ski school, which includes a lift pass, daily small-group tuition and all your equipment hire. I'd joined a group of four other adult first-timers, and the idea was that next time round I'd be ready to join my red-run friends.

I soon discovered the biggest problem with skiing for the first time was getting the kit on. I'd been prepared to be cold and frustrated, but I hadn't readied myself for the hell of putting on ski boots, or lugging around unwieldy skis. Thankfully Pleney Sports, the ski-hire shop that You Can Ski uses, was only a few metres from the télécabine that climbs up to the nursery slopes and gentle green and blue runs above Morzine.

You Can Ski is aimed at beginners in their twenties and thirties, but it was soon clear that two of my companions were actually using it as a top-up for their skills. So while I struggled to click into my skis, they were already gliding over to Paul, our instructor. I wobbled across in my cumbersome kit as troops of tots slid by with ease. "Have any of you skied before?" asked Paul. Thankfully my fellow pupils admitted they had, so our group was split, and I was left with Paul and two other beginners. One of these, Graeme, told me his Finnish wife was so professional that he was very keen to master the sport. He explained this between yelps as he lost his balance, flailed backwards and knocked me sideways with his skis.

So, the first fall of the trip was ticked off – and it hadn't been mine.

Day one started gently on the nursery slopes as Paul guided us through putting on our skis, moving forward, walking down inclines, mounting the ski elevator and mastering the "snowplough" (the basic stance in which you form an A-shape with your skis to control your speed). It was hard work, but I wasn't doing as badly as Graeme. After a morning of this (and some reasonably successful runs down a gentle training piste), the "advanced" group swished in. "Do you fancy a tame blue run?" they asked. I looked to Paul, and he gave me gruff acknowledgement: "Yes, of course. You can try." His choice of words concerned me, but I agreed and gingerly headed off the nursery slopes.

Things quickly started to go wrong outside the safety net of Paul's tuition. I gained speed too fast and found myself leaning backwards ("Your first mistake," muttered Paul the next day) down a slope far steeper than I was ready for. The result was inevitable. I wiped out sideways, clattering into an advertising hoarding. Nothing was broken, though, and I eventually overcame my embarrassment and made my way back to the nursery slopes.

Morzine is a pretty little town, with picturesque chalets and bars. Most importantly it has plenty of gentle green and blue runs for beginners. I was staying just outside the centre at the ice-covered Hôtel Fleur des Neiges. It had just the right combination of rustic charm and family comfort, plus a packed bar and a roaring fire.

After a night's rest, my calves were still rather sore. However, aside from a slightly wobbly head from too much wine and cheese at La Chaudanne (the best restaurant in town for a relaxed après-ski meal), I was ready to go. Graeme volunteered to be left behind for a short while so that Paul could take me and another "intermediate skier" (as we'd very charitably become known by the advanced pair in our group) down a gentle run. He was stern but patient and I was surprised with how easily he got me down.

The second night formed my biggest après-ski adventure. It began with me launching myself down a red run on a tiny plastic sledge with only a guide, a head torch and a helmet for protection. For just €20 we hurtled downhill, stopping halfway at a tipi for a warming drink, before hitting town.

And on my final afternoon I started, just tentatively, to parallel turn down a green run. I'm sure it wasn't elegant, but I was quickly imagining myself rushing downhill stylishly to the theme of Ski Sunday.

For me, three days was not long enough. I felt I'd only scratched the surface. However, the premise of taster courses such as these seems sound. Will I head off with my friends next year? That all depends if they are kind enough to join me on the green runs. At least I now know what's in store for me.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Morzine's nearest rail station is Evian, 30km away. By air, Geneva is served by easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyJet.com), Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com), BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com), Swiss (0845 601 0956; swiss.com) and Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com). Transfers to Morzine are available through firms such as Skiidy Gonzales (skiidygonzales.com; €60/£48 per person).

Skiing there

Jamie Merrill travelled as a guest of the Portes du Soleil Tourism Board which offers You Can Ski packages from €169 for three days or €269 for six. Both include ski pass, group lessons with a qualified instructor, equipment and helmet hire (00 33 4 50 73 32 54; portesdusoleil.com).

Activities including sledging are available from Indiana'Ventures (00 33 4 50 49 48 60; or online at indianaventures.com).

Staying there

Hôtel Fleur des Neiges (00 33 4 50 79 01 23; hotelfleurdesneiges.com). Doubles start at €92, room only.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition