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.

Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living