At the foot of Mont-Blanc
Saint Gervais is a bustling ski resort in the Haute Savoie French Alps close to Chamonix and the foot of Mont Blanc. The famous “Voie Royale” departs from Saint-Gervais and is renowned to be the most direct access to the summit.
More than 400km of ski slopes
At the heart of the Evasion Mont- Blanc ski area Saint Gervais offers 400 kilometres of slopes towards Megève, Combloux, and Les Contamines with Le Bettex offering direct access to the Evasion Mont-Blanc ski area.
The resort also benefits from 30 kms of slopes on the opposite side of town in Les Houches/Saint-Gervais, accessible by the Mont-Blanc Tramway, one of the oldest rack and pinion railways in France.
Evasion Mont-Blanc is the third largest ski area in France with 219 ski runs, 107 ski lifts and 850 artificial snow making canons helping ensure the ski area is open from the end of December until the middle of April.
Hotel Val Joly
For my visit I stayed at the Hotel Val Joly, a small family run hotel 20 minutes walk from Saint Gervais. The rooms are comfortable and furnished in a simple yet beautiful way. You can book half board or room only and pay for any meals. I chose room only and sorted out my own breakfast. The restaurant at the hotel offers evening meals from the menu or a set three course option for 20 euros which is different every evening. Typically consisting of soup, main and dessert the owner of the hotel certainly knows how to cook. With the exception of two evenings, when I wanted to be in Saint Gervais, I ate at the hotel. All the family speak English but since I speak French most of our conversation was in French. Only on a handful of occasions did I speak in English. The hotel is on a bus route but don’t rely on the buses turning up ! I was late for my ski lesson one morning because the bus didn’t come and they only run every 35 minutes.
Why I come
Finding a ski instructor and coach who suits you is hugely important. An instructor who understands how you think, the way you learn and wants you to achieve the same goals as you do is massively important. Not only that, but training should be fun and enjoyable.
I have been fortunate enough to find two great coaches both of whom are BASI examiners: Alessandro Cambon (who lives close to Villars-sur-Ollon in Switzerland) and Will Roberts (who lives in Saint Gervais).
I come to see Will for one reason, and one reason only, coaching.
Those of you reading this blog in the hope that me and Will ski off into the snowy distance together are going to be very disappointed.
Having done a day of coaching in January I returned for further coaching the second week of February booking 2 hours on Monday, 2 hours on Wednesday and 4 hours on Thursday with that last day aimed at a fun day of great skiing.
At my last coaching I had just recovered from a chest infection and skiing all day in heavy snow had made me really ill again. However, this time it was Will who would be ill.
Monday greeted us with heavy snowfall. Just like my last coaching. I texted to make sure we were still training. We were.
Not long into the two hour coaching session I took a real tumble on to the snow. Will not only called out to me ‘are you ok?’ but even skiied over to me and repeated the question. This told me I must have really smacked into the snow. As I picked myself up, dusted the snow from me and re-attached my ski that had come off we were both metaphorically scratching our heads; neither of us knew why I had fallen. At least I’d not disappeared into a snow covered hollow again.
When I fell I had landed heavily on my right side with one of my ski poles underneath me. Initially I thought I was alright but as the session progressed my side started to really hurt. At one point I was close to stopping and abandoning but because it was only a 2 hour session I kept going. I wasn’t enjoying it though. Will didn’t seem to be enjoying it much either.
The following evening I got a text message through. He was ill. Unable to do any further coaching with me he offered to move me to one of his instructor colleagues or refund my money. I was not happy. This gave a problem. Will is the only one of his team who is BASI and I still had a technical resit to do. It’s why I choose him and not any of the others. I opted to be placed with one of the other instructors on Wednesday (either Ollie or Giacomo) and asked for Thursday to be refunded. Since I didn’t know anything about the other instructors I let Will choose knowing he would opt for the one most suitable.
On my last visit one of the Freedom Snowsports instructors had walked past me at the bus-stop whilst I was waiting for the bus back to Geneva Airport. Tall and very good looking … ‘who was that’ !!?? When I got back to England I jokingly said to Will I needed to book a lesson with them. Using https://www.book.ski/team/ I identified the mystery instructor as Giacomo, one of the Italians. When I had skied on the Monday I had half jokingly again said I might book a lesson with them.
Having opted to be placed with one of the other instructors for Wednesday (either Ollie or Giacomo), and leaving Will to choose which one, he placed me with Giacomo; the instructor who had walked past me at the bus-stop.
Was this based on what I had said ? Will showing his sense of humour ? Possibly. Or chosen for being the most suitable instructor ? Almost certainly.
Giacomo teaches in a very simple, easy to understand way. There was no mentioning of the BASI manual or Alpine Level 1 criteria. My 2 hours were spent as someone having instruction because they wanted to improve their skiing and not because they had an exam to pass. It made a refreshing change. At the end of the lesson I booked another for the following afternoon.
Guided by Will as to the contents of my lesson we worked on my long turns and carving using easy green and blue runs the first morning before moving onto black runs the following afternoon. My long turns had somewhat been forgotten about in recent months as the focus had been on short turns. There is so much to remember. I’ve had to write it down !
It was quite funny when Giacomo realised who I was. ‘Do you post a lot on the website? … now I understand’. This is true. I do comment a lot (and I mean a lot) on the Freedom Snowsports Facebook page. It’s a sort of you help me and I’ll help you type of thing.
I had a fantastic week with Freedom Snowsports, Will and Giacomo. Thank you to you both and get well soon Will !