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Bad experience with kids ski school ( ESF) on a Clubmed holida

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
So we just got back from an otherwise good week in Clubmed Tignes ( with such snow conditions - how can one have a bad holiday!). However our experience was spoilt by a really bad experience with our older childs ski lessons ( provided by ESF through Clubmed ) . On arrival we have been asked questions to determine the childrenís ski level. Our son who is 7 yrs old had previously skied twice and passed level Yeti 1 with Evolution 2 ski school last year, so was placed in 1st star. At the same time his friend who also came with us was for some reason was placed in 3 star level despite the fact that she only passed a lower Petit Yeti level last year. This was not a problem though but our drama started when on the first morning of lessons our son was very tired and did not focus at the lesson and so we were told that next day he needed to go to lower level - Flocon. That afternoon we spoke to ESF head and explained that they should not base their judgement on one bad day and they seemed to agree with us and said that they will move him back to 1st star - but this never happened. In fact we spoke to both ESF head and our sons Flocons instructor multiple times during the second and third days and every time they promised us that our son would moved, but never actually did it...so when by 3rd day afternoon session nothing happened despite their promises we were understandably very upset by ski school constantly fobbing to us and telling us untruths (or more colourfully described as lying) to us. My husband went to speak to the 1 star instructor and requested a reason why our son had not been moved to her class. Her only response was that he misbehaved once on the first day (when he was clearly tired and transitioning to a new environment) and went to deep snow. She also spoke about our child with such animosity that we were really taken aback. On seeing this instructor get upset as her authority had been (rightly) questioned, the head of ski school came over to my husband. In front of the whole of our group and a number of children he screamed at my husband and pushed his fingers within2-3 cm of his and behaved as he was starting a fight! At this point we went to speak to chef of the clubmed and explained the situation to him.He promised to speak to the ski school head but by this point it was the 4th (penultimate) day of ski school and the group had progressed too much for our son to catch up.
As a result of all this our son has not only not progressed in his skiing but considerably regressed! From skiing almost parallel with good speed and using his poles confidently on green and blue slopes last year he went back to sitting back in snowplough position ( no poles) and moving very slowly this year. We can see by the way he behaved and how he engaged with skiing (unlike last year) he felt very demotivated and sidelined. The behaviour of the teachers has done nothing for his skiing technique or his confidence.
If they thought that he was not suited for 1star and had no intention of moving him - instead of continuously lying to us and ignoring us they could have suggested that we book him a private lesson or two and to catch him up and move him to 1 star level later in the week. However the time was lost due to lies and he was stuck without a chance to progress for the whole week. Still feeling really Sad and thinking of sending a formal complaint to clubmed...
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@Bella2015, I am sorry to hear you and your family had such a bad experience.
It sounds like the ESF Directeur's actions were both inappropriate and disproportionate.
Not sure how it is in Tignes, but in Avoriaz, the ESF Directeur is answerable to pretty much nobody.
Experience has shown that sometimes, ESF "levels" are determined by many factors including: languages spoken, maturity, siblings, group dynamics, the number of students divided by the number of instructors, and in some cases by ability.
Given the commercial links between the ESF and ClubMed and mutual interest existing therein, I fear that your complaint might fall on stoney ground.
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I'm afraid we found our ESF experience with ClubMed to be equally atrocious. In fact, with the exception of one instructor we had for a private lesson we've found ESF to be consistently awful. I know some people have had good experiences with ESF but it doesn't seem there are many. It's a crying shame they have such a monopoly.
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@WindOfChange, thank you.. I think you are right - the ESF guy was not really answerable to anyone so the village chef could not influence him...And you are also right about ESF levels, it was not too much to do with actual ability in this case...so just something to keep in mind for the future. Anyway might just give the complaint a try ( have nothing to loose, right?) .
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I was put off ESF years ago, for class lessons....and am sorry to hear that this kind of thing still goes on.

When recommending a ski school in Tignes, that isn't one of the very expensive (but v.good) ones, I would always go with Evo 2. In over 20 years, I've never had a bad experience.....in fact this year, when one of our group (beginner Snowboarder) took ill and missed 2 days, they (without argument), put the money to some Private lessons (as he would have been too far behind the rest of his Class).
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Have used ESF a few times in Vallandry and have found them to be ok. However, was always horrified by the size of ESF classes for ClubMed, with as many as 14 in a group Shocked
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Funny thing that in our first year of kids skiing in Chamonix, ESF worked pretty well for them actually. Although Evo 2 was definitely better last year and I would have gone with them again had we not booked clubmed which works with ESF unfortunately....but just to balance things up the instructor in our ( adult) ski class was excellent..so I guess it all depends
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@Boris, they were about 12 kids in the group I think.. so a bit too many. There are other advantages to clubmed set up with kids ( mini club, ski in ski out etc) so not sure but the ESF thing left really bad after taste..
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Have used ESF for kids in Arc 1800, Arc 2000, Flaine. Always went very well and kids were happy with their classes.
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Only thing is that in more advanced classes they can push the kids more. Fine if you want your kids skiing to progress. But maybe not so enjoyable for kids who just want to have fun and mess with the other kids which they seem to get to do in Austria
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Many years ago we stayed at Club Med in Chamonix and put our girls in with ESF. The outcome was an awful experience for them, and my wife giving up her lessons to look after them. It took 20 years to get the three of them back on the slopes, and in my wifeís case she still does not Ski, which is a great shame.

The salutary lesson from this is to ensure that you are 100% happy with the arrangements for your kids, or you may put them off skiing for a long time.

I would suggest that Club Med may appear to be great for young families since it ticks all of the boxes, but it does not necessarily tick the English speaking sympathetic ski instructor box for kids.
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@Bella2015, was there something you could have done better yourself so your sonís experience were better?
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@peanuthead, I am no tiger mum but yes the idea was to see some progress for my £££
@DavidYacht, sorry for your bad experience... maybe it was not so awful then in our case, as despite everything we all skied and had a good time and even my older son canít wait to go for a ski holiday again ( mainly due to the fact that we go with his friends and that he enjoyed the mini club etc., and also can understand French)
@mooney058, in the hindsight I should have booked him a private lesson either on the first day to ease the transition or when he was first moved down..not sure what else I could do
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It's a shame that he didn't enjoy the group he was in. I don't know the Evo2 or ESF gradings, but I've seen some kids entered into the top groups in Sweden really struggling to keep up. Most of the class skating off, jumping off kickers, with some polling along at the back and barely parallel. I doubt they are having much fun and it's a blow to their confidence. Especially when they have them do things like leave one ski at the bottom of the lift, and ski down on one.
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@Themasterpiece, leave one ski at the bottom of the lift , really? Ok not sure they did this even in 3 star ESF class... the thing with my son is that he is a kind of child that will try and keep up if pushed but in this group the level was too easy so he was bored and did not even try to improve
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Yes really, for age 7-9 group, and on an anchor lift, which I think is worse trying to ski up on one ski. He didn't enjoy it the first time. But now he's quite good on one ski.
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Bella2015 wrote:
@Boris, they were about 12 kids in the group I think.. so a bit too many. There are other advantages to clubmed set up with kids ( mini club, ski in ski out etc) so not sure but the ESF thing left really bad after taste..


It would be worth looking at Esprit for another year, as they have the kids clubs etc but the childrenís ski groups are always limited to 8 for the older ones. They do use ESF in some resorts but not all (they didnít Val díIsŤre where we went with them last April)
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Tignes was where I had my worst ever ESF experience as an adult (20 ish) but in the mid-90s. Thought they'd be better by now?! I did write a strong complaint, and they offered me one free group lesson as a compensation. Like I was going to drive back there from Brussels for their 20quid voucher?! Swore they'd never get another penny of my hard-earned.

Your son is very young, by comparison. Get him a couple of private lessons next time as a compensation, it will boost his confidence hopefully. And tell him there are idiots in all walks of life and sometimes we just have to get over it.
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Bella2015 wrote:
At this point we went to speak to chef of the clubmed and explained the situation to him.He promised to speak to the ski school head


That's where you went wrong... catering staff have surprisingly little influence over ski school personnel, unless there is a direct family connection.
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@red 27, Very Happy the village chief of course.. still didnít help much
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@Orange200, I will report back on outcome of my complaint.. I am sure they have wised up by now so not much hope for even 20 quid ..
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@NickyJ, yes will look at Esprit as well next year.. this time we got a really good early deal with Clubmed ( £3600 for 4 all in with lessons and ski passes) so hence went for it.
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Bella2015 wrote:
@NickyJ, yes will look at Esprit as well next year.. this time we got a really good early deal with Clubmed ( £3600 for 4 all in with lessons and ski passes) so hence went for it.


That is a good deal. Have managed similar with Esprit in the past for either first week of season or last week of season, though didnít for this coming season... not to worry girls are older now so we donít need the kids clubs etc in the same way and we have the Spring Family Bash to look forward to now instead snowHead
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@NickyJ, clubmed do good discounts when they first release their holidays.

I have been looking at the Spring family bash too and trying to convince my other half that a second ski holiday would be great for boosting my sons confidence.. but he is not so easily convinced...
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Bella2015 wrote:
@NickyJ, clubmed do good discounts when they first release their holidays.

I have been looking at the Spring family bash too and trying to convince my other half that a second ski holiday would be great for boosting my sons confidence.. but he is not so easily convinced...


Admin is looking at getting an instructor where we can book some private lessons with them. My youngest (8yrs) could use some more lessons but doesnít get on well in groups due to being on autistic spectrum and dyspraxic so I hope to book her a couple of 1hr or so lessons. I think you are right it would be great to improve his confidence and being with other British similar age children.
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Thanks.. itís just a question of whether we can afford another ski hols ..will keep looking into it
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Interesting that the OP had the issue with ESF (via ClubMed) in Tignes.

That's where I've had my worst ever ski instructor - so much so that myself and my friend asked to get moved down a group, even if to a non-english speaking group, just to get away from that instructor! We thought he was dangerous and taking us beyond the level of the group.

Two days later, we were proved right, as the one other Brit who'd stayed in his group turned up with a broken arm!
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Did you ask your son why he went for deep snow while being tired?
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Langerzug wrote:
Did you ask your son why he went for deep snow while being tired?


He was tired. Didn't focus on the lesson. Didn't listen to the instructor. Transitioning to a new environment. Didn't do as he was told......instructor's fault obviously. rolling eyes
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@Thornyhill, instructor's fault obviously.

And hopefully it cost him his job.

That poor child.
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While I have no love for ESF I have to say group, especially child group lessons seem to get the worst/least experienced instructors in all resorts and countries. Only last year we were sat quietly in the morning gondola in Ischgl when we were joined by 3 young ladies. We must have been looking very German/Russian that morning because said ladies started to chat away about how their first season as instructors was going and how many children they had lost/lead down the wrong, too difficult runs/etc so far.

Having listened to this for the whole journey and embarrassed silence fell over the gondola when, approaching the top station, one of us says in a clearly native British accents "So, drop down to the reds off the top of C3 to start?" as we approached the top station...
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esaw1 wrote:
@Thornyhill, instructor's fault obviously.

And hopefully it cost him his job.

That poor child.

I think that is a bit harsh, after all, if you are teaching a group of children, and one is not doing as their instructed, whether they are tired, or adjusting to a different atmosphere, or just being themselves, then it would be in that childs interest to be moved to another class. I have seen in both skiing situations and riding schools where parents are convinced that a child is good enough to do a certain level, but in fact they are just not ready.
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@biddpyat, It was my poor attempt at sarcasm. As an ex (many years ago) instructor, I wholeheartedly agree with you.
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oh sorry @esaw1, Embarassed Embarassed lol, I took you seriously. I saw a life guard lose his job in Egypt over parents feeling their child was mistreated. While a few of us explained what happened, staff were so easy to get in the resort, the manager just handed him his cards. Evil or Very Mad .
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Iím a bit with @biddpyat, on this one. Have also come across the precious parents where nothing is good enough for little Jonny.
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IMO. The ski school had 2 sensible options:

- Politely say that they were standing by their original decision about moving the boy down ie. Not pretend otherwise.

- Give the lad a second chance, with the option of moving him, if it didn't work out.

When my kids were around that age in L2A, Luca, the splendid instructor for the International Ski School had a very disruptive child, who kept trying to do his own thing. Luca was strict about keeping him in line.

After a couple of days, the father came up to Luca (who must be 6'5") and started laying down the law about how his precious Son was being spoken to.

In reply, Luca was forthright in making it clear, that the safety of all the children in his group was his responsibility and could not have one child skiing off on his own. He said that if the father was unhappy, he was free to remove his Son from the class. The child remained in the class and ended up towing the line.

Personally, I think the ESF could have handled it better.
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Ok thanks for their comments and opinions everyone.. my point was that my son had one bad morning and was clearly good enough for the 1 star level and also did not misbehave again on subsequent days a - so in this case the ESF instructor just would not let him have another chance...this I think is more than just a bit harsh...
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@Old Fartbag, I totally agree with you. this is exactly the point! They could have either been honest with us and said that they would not move him or given him a chance to try again.
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maybe he needed to perfect his snowplough a bit better to go back to the first level? at seven he has a lot of time to improve, and a sound start is probably what they were aiming for? . When our kids were learning they did morning lessons and we helped them practice in the afternoons, at the end of the day the qualification means very little as to what class they were actually in, but if they progress and enjoy their family ski time, then nothing is really lost. ( my girls hated ski school after the second year as they wanted to just bomb on, but we told them learn the basics first)
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Another way would be the dry slopes here. I've never had a lesson over seas, my folks put my brothers and I on the dry slopes here all year before the hols which I think lead to me picking it all up a lot faster and being able to cope with the worst conditions of the alps.
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