When I signed up for the Ski Club of Great Britain’s “Women’s Adventurous Powder Week” in Flaine last winter, I wasn’t quite sure how it would pan out. I was excited and curious in equal measure and couldn’t help but wonder what sort of people would I meet and why they would choose a women-only trip.
The answer was quite a revelation.
Who was this ski club course for?
My fellow skiers were mostly married women, some with careers, some with children but all were
keen to escape, brush up their skills and improve their fitness for trips with family and friends later in the season.
One was a doctor, another had two little ones at home, reassuringly demonstrating their ability to keep up with personal passions despite busy lives. All six ended up being excellent company and great fun to ski with without any of the pressure of mixed groups.
Diane Moreau, our goddess of an instructor and mountain guide for the week, summed the vibe up perfectly over lunch mid-week,
“the group dynamic is really powerful – there’s less apprehension in a women-only group, there’s more of a sense of solidarity with everyone supporting and encouraging each other – it gives you a real boost and the confidence to
tackle challenging situations.”
“The adventurous part is as much about taking in the scenery as it is skiing. Women ski differently from men, too, they are more supple and fluid, focusing more on technique than the typical, more forceful masculine skier.”
Thankfully, we were all of a similar level so the pace was ideal – we had all self-identified as advanced intermediate to advanced upon booking. The Ski Club has a skill and fitness grading system which is colour-coded to make sure that all of their group trips match like with like – blue for beginners up to red, silver, purple, and gold for experts in any conditions. Luckily, we proved compatible on outlook too.
On one particularly beautiful descent, we were all content to stop and watch the ptarmigan flying overhead, to point out to each other the herd of chamois in the distance and to examine the tracks of a white hare near the edge of a dramatic cliff, guessing which way it was heading. The experience turned out to be about living in the moment more mindfully; to take the foot off the pedal a bit and concentrate on the journey rather than the destination.
The rhythm was refreshingly peaceful and excellent preparation for my intense powder expedition a few weeks later. We all hired skis in town so that we could swap our kit for a touring setup if the conditions demanded, although thankfully we were able to find fresh tracks every day without.
Sport2000 rented us Zag skis, made just up the road in Chamonix, which were a delight to ski with on and off-piste – light on the powder and good grip on the downhill warmups.
With the odd bit of vertigo-inducing terrain, which Diane sprinkled into the itinerary once she knew we could handle some proper adventure, safety was always front and centre. Learning to read the snow off-piste, however, might take many more hours of practice, looking out for the tell-tale windblow to work out if your next turn is going to be on something soft or hardened into a slab.
We practiced finding avalanche transceivers hidden underneath the snow and forming a chain of command between us, making a mental note of the checklist of tasks should the worst happen.
Over supper in the chalet, we would share anecdotes, clothing tips, and app recommendations. We stayed in one of the few chalets owned by the Ski Club, in the Scandinavian-style hamlet overlooking Flaine.
Inside, the décor was a blast from the past – typically 1980s French with lots of pine and plaid furnishings. We were well looked after and the buzz continued in the chalet sauna as well as under the stars in the outdoor hot tub at the nearby spa.
What is Flaine Resort like?
Flaine itself is family-oriented and functional – this purpose-built resort is known for race training and a snowy microclimate, thanks to its proximity to Mont Blanc. It’s a place to ski rather than to be seen, with limited nightlife but the skiing is varied and the powder plentiful, with spectacular cliffs and charming tree runs at lower elevations.
The transfer from Geneva is relatively short, too, and we found an atmospheric restaurant up the road for the staff night off.
VERDICT: As instruction and guiding go, it’s easy to see why the Ski Club has recently celebrated its 120th anniversary and is still going strong – they have adapted with the times and continue to foster camaraderie in the modern age. My technique has improved as a result of the course – we learned to turn and pop in steep conditions, and to bend and swivel in tricky snow. If my experience is anything to go by then it’s no wonder they have such a loyal membership base.
ABOUT SKI CLUB: The Ski Club run Freshtracks courses in many resorts for skiers of every ability – on piste, off piste, all mountain, ski touring, weekend dashes and bucket list destinations that sell out in a flash. Japan is particularly popular and they also put on dedicated weeks for the over 60s. Their tried and tested formula for enabling people of a similar standard to ski with each other has been honed to perfection, be it with an adventurous spirit or something a little more sedate.
HOW MUCH: Ski course is £595 for 5 days tuition and transceiver hire. All-inclusive is from £1495 for: 7 nights chalet board, chalet accommodation, single occupancy room, return set coach transfers from Geneva, 5 days with instructors. Ski pass and ski hire extra. Club membership is required, available at half price when booking a holiday.
FLY: SWISS offers 79 flights a week from UK airports to Geneva, with one-way fares starting from £54.
STAY: Chalet Freshtracks, Flaine () in the hamlet above the resort or book your own accommodation in Flaine centre.