How it all started
Puy St Vincent early 1980s: Michel worked on mountain rescue while I worked for a UK tour operator. By the time we married in 1986, friends were telling more friends about their ski holidays spent with us in this little gem with its perfect pistes and fantastic snow record. Before long we were organising charter flights via my lovely bosses at Ski Sunmed . With their encouragement and our family and old friends from Sunmed and Blue Way days donning various hats to help us – Snowbizz was born.
Even with children we still wanted to ski
Within a few years the babies were arriving but everyone still wanted to ski so we took on two qualified nannies to run our very first creche. The babies grew into three year olds who needed to be taught to ski, but it was our own bad experience that led to the creation of our ski school.
Our daughter, Elodie, aged 3, attended the local ski school – first year she was taught by the wonderful Pierette and it was every skiing parent’s dream – Elodie would cry when she had to stop skiing and became a tiny escape artist always finding ways to be back on the snow.
The following year was a complete disaster
I think many young parents will have shared this moment – that gut feeling that you really don’t feel comfortable about someone – instinctively you know that they don’t even like children, but because they’re cloaked in some sort of respectability you’re afraid to cause a fuss. So you let the most precious thing in your life go off and hope you won’t live to regret it.
Perfect Puy St Vincent morning turns into bad movie
Two proud parents try to restrain an over-enthusiastic little girl from pushing into the large group of French children gathered around an angry-looking old man in red. No-not a grumpy Father Christmas more like death-eater, even before JKR had invented them – morphed into a red instructor’s uniform.
Mum makes faces at dad when she sees who is taking the class. Dad just about hides his horror. He’s a local and can’t make a fuss so he shoots her his best “don’t panic, she’ll be fine” look.
So that was us – the Lyotiers who should have known better.
I had wanted to be brave but a polite translation wouldn’t come. We just hoped this locally known nightmare was having one of his better days. He wasn’t.
The silver lining and husky dogs
It was a whole year later a lot of bribing (with a family of soft toy husky dogs) that we got Elodie back on her skis. Now working alongside us at Snowbizz she laughs at our little blip and even agreed to share it to make a point. Brilliant skiers don’t always make brilliant teachers. One good thing came out of our experience.
If we couldn’t trust the local ski school we’d need to start our own.
We feel very proud that we have helped so many children have the best encouragement possible. We’ve created many little champions who started with us aged three and have progressed through to our Race Training classes and now ski for various teams. But it’s not just about creating champions – it’s more about treating every child as an individual and giving them a new found confidence, whatever their ability, which will stay with them long after the holiday is over.
Like the very best private school – only top teachers allowed
It’s Michel and his amazing team of hand-picked instructors who have made all this possible. In another post soon we’ll tell you how they achieve this.