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Ski school review: Snoworks

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Ski School Review: Snoworks

Snoworks is one of a small number of peripatetic British ski schools, offering a range of courses in different European and worldwide resorts. The director of the school is Phil Smith, who was formerly one of the directors of The Ski Company. Snoworks offers different types of courses (eg all-terrain performance, off-piste, back-country, bumps, race training, etc) for intermediate skiers and above. I've just returned from a week with Snoworks in Tignes, my third experience with the company (including a couple of courses with The Ski Company). Without doubt Snoworks offers the best ski teaching I've ever had.

The course started with a get-together on Saturday night, with introductions to the instructors teaching that week, a chance to ask any questions and making arrangements for the teaching groups. There is a loyal clientele so the first meeting was, as usual, a chance to meet friends you've previously skied with. I had opted for a Race Training course, which offered an introduction to skiing through GS gates. I was in a group of six - two were BASI 3 qualified and the other four (including myself) were reasonably proficient recreational skiers. Other courses run during the week were All-Terrain Performance (one group at intermediate level and one for people who were about to sit a BASI assessment at levels 3 or 2), and Eurotest Training (for BASI instructors who were training for their Eurotest later this season).

A hallmark of Snoworks is the quality of the instructors who teach on the different courses. This week the instructors were:

Phil Smith: BASI Trainer, ESC Coach and widely recognised as one of Britain's foremost ski teachers.

Emma Carrick-Anderson: Recently retired World Cup skier. Britain's top female skier for 10+ years, represented GB at four Winter Olympics.

John Arnold: Former Director of Coaching for Snowsport Scotland. John was responsible for the development of, among others, Alain & Noel Baxter and Emma Carrick-Anderson.

My instructor for the week was John. He had an amazing ability quickly to isolate technical faults and to suggest what to focus on to improve performance. He balanced theory and demonstration during the week, and gave all of my group much to think about and work on. Several aspects of my skiing improved during the week, and I've got a clear idea of what to practice to consolidate that improvement.

Sunday was free-skiing; a good chance to warm up and find ski legs after the summer. Every evening on a Snoworks course there is a chance to get together with your instructor to talk about your performance that day, review video of you skiing and to discuss the technical aspects of what you are being taught. These are invaluable sessions, especially the feedback from the video. As Sunday was free-skiing the evening session was a 40 minute talk from Phil Smith on different techniques for steering your skis, using clips from a recent DVD he had produced to illustrate the concepts he was talking about. His talk focused on the fundamentals of steering (twisting, pushing or edging the skis) and was a good introduction to the week, ensuring we all had the same language for actions which are often used instinctively.

Monday was a chance for my group to focus on fundamental skills - or skiing acumen as John described it - of switching edges (both cross-over and cross-under), carving and pressure. It was a chance for John to review our performance (and for us too assess how good other people in the group were!) and to discuss what we wanted to work on during the week.

Tuesday to Friday were spent skiing through GS gates. This was either ski a few gates under John's watchful eye followed by group discussion and individual feedback, or skiing laps of the course with John to one side videoing or occasionally offering a few suggestions for things to try. For those that know Tignes, we were based on the 3500 piste (a moderately steep red) for three days and on the Champney (a gentle red) for one day. The difference in pitch between the two allowed us to focus on different technical and tactical skills. The final day of the week normally includes timed runs (with a light-hearted presentation of prizes in the evening) but due to bad weather and a degree of chaos from the cable car derailment this had to be abandoned. This was a pity as the competitive spirit of everyone on the course was only just disguised, so hopefully next time I do one of these courses I'll get to test myself against the clock!

On the social side, the shared passion for skiing of everyone of the different courses meant whatever free time you had was very enjoyable. There were a couple of late night sessions, but early nights (and afternoon naps after skiing) were fairly common for many people on the courses because it was quite a rigorous week. There was an informal 10-pin bowling evening on Thursday, and as usual there was a final social event on Friday before dinner with a couple of glasses of Kir for everyone courtesy of Snoworks.

The courses are based at one hotel (in this case the Hotel Curling in Val Claret) where all the evening sessions take place, although you are free to stay in whatever accommodation you like. The instructors on the course will often stay at the hotel and usually join you for dinner, which is a great way to get to know them a little better. You have the option to book an entire package (travel, accommodation & course) or course-only, giving you lots of flexibility about resort arrangements.

Snoworks website if you want more info is www.improveyourskiing.com

I'm more than happy to recommend Snoworks to any skier from early intermediate standard and above. As a disclaimer, I have no link with this company other than a highly satisfied client.
snow conditions     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Yes, all good. Might book one day.

But more importantly, what's the snow like in Tignes at the moment?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Manda, daughter's skiing up there right now, will update when she gets back. Very cold last night, they had the snow cannons going till late morning at Arc 1600. No snow forecast this week though, and a fair bit warmer from Tuesday to Thursday.

Check out the Tignes accident thread, I added a post on current conditions at Tignes this morning.
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
PG, sorry, I realise I'm shockingly obsessed about snow cover in Tignes right now...
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Good post Rob,

I'm booked on a weeks off piste backcountry in St Anton end of Jan and I can't wait!
I spoke to Phil on the phone before booking and found him to be very enthuastic, a good salesman as well (But i didn't need much convincing!).
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Phil is certainly enthusiastic! He seems very friendly and has a great way of describing skiing in a straightforward, clear fashion (much better than some instuctors I've had who talk so much mumbo-jumbo). I'm sure you'll have a great timem in St Anton.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
I rate Phil Smith as one of the best British Instructors, and one of the nicest!

snowHead snowHead
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