Talk to your skiing friends, go on Snowheads or Mumsnet and you will be shocked at how common the ski school disaster story repeats itself. Yet with a bit of home-work it can be a great success.
In our second blog on ski school options we look at British Tour Operators offering ski classes.
So how do you find the best ski classes?
Phone! And ask lots of questions to determine exactly who will be teaching your child. If you are holidaying in a larger resort you will be dropping your child off, or they will be being collected from your accommodation, and you might never actually get to meet the instructor, who is hopefully going to get your child to love skiing as much as you. If you just leave it to chance and don’t ask the necessary questions beforehand, you could be making an extremely expensive mistake.
What you really want to know is this – is it an exclusive lesson with hand-picked instructors or are they just being put in a large group with a large ski school. Here’s how it works:
Ski Operators with their own in-house Ski School
To the best of our knowledge there are just three British tour operators with their own in-house ski schools: Snowbizz in Puy St Vincent, Interski and Ski2 in Italy. This has to be the icing on the cake – you have the benefit of knowing that all their instructors are hand-picked and, as the tour operator directly controls every aspect, the chances of success are far greater than anywhere else.
Pros– As above, small, friendly classes, greater flexibility. Tour operator staff and instructors both working together with a common aim.
Cons – Honestly none: the whole idea of having your own ski school is to set standards.
Ski Operators employ private instructors from local ski schools
Most British tour operators, even the house-hold names, do not have the resources to offer a full in-house ski school, so they do the next best thing: employ a few local instructors in each resort, on a private, hourly basis and package it up with a catchy name. It looks like a bone fide ski school but is in fact groups of private lessons. It works well when they are using one of the smaller English-speaking ski schools, but the flexibility/standards will vary from resort to resort, depending on numbers and whether the operator is actually able to hand-pick who they are working with.
Pros– Great if really good instructors are employed and classes kept small.
Cons– Although it’s still exclusive to their guests, they can’t always offer a full range of classes and progression can be hindered. Siblings can end up with one having lessons in the morning, and the other in afternoon.
Tour Operators with no influence over ski classes!
A handful of companies are very naughty and package the brochures/websites to make you believe you have all or a little of the above. But whilst you go off thinking your children are being looked after in small, friendly groups they might actually be in one of the larger ski schools with several nationalities. This is often softened with “a ski school helper”, usually really sweet gap year students, who are great with the kids, but have no control over the lesson. If it’s a great instructor and a small class it will work. But it’s back to playing the lottery again. In skiing, big isn’t always beautiful. Bad instructors will always slip through!