Hi everyone, and welcome back to another post from Méribel. Well, it's all been happening here over the last few weeks. We are in the middle of the busy French School Holiday period, with the main British half term last week, and also not to forget that Méribel and Courchevel co-hosted the World Alpine Ski Championships the last couple of weeks. It has been quite a schedule, and thankfully the weather has been kind to us with constant sunshine, which I have to say has been rather pleasing.
Even though the Championships have been in town, my ski teaching has continued as normal. In fact most of this work has included skiing/instructing beginners. It's such a joy to introduce this amazing sport to people. And in doing so, you get to meet some very interesting individuals. Please meet Anna and Daniel, a mother and son combo.
I skied with them over four mornings, and they progressed at quite an impressive pace. But what struck me more than their technical skills, was hearing about what life has given them the last year or so. Let me explain.
Anna and Daniel are Ukrainian, and originally come from Kyiv. However on 7th March last year, two weeks after the start of the Russian invasion, they fled their home city. Many members of their family were left behind; even chatting to them regularly via the internet, it is hard being apart.
Anna and Daniel first settled in Germany with some relatives who they had never met before. Then later in the summer they moved to Amiens in northern France, where Anna's boyfriend lived. Anna and her boyfriend first got together just before the pandemic started, talk about a challenging period for them all. It was really interesting meeting them, and hearing about their thoughts and experiences. One thing for sure, they absolutely loved skiing, and also being in the high mountains.
The same week that I skied with Anna and Daniel, I was introduced to Julia. Julia is Bulgarian, and has lived and worked in Moscow for the last ten years. I was a bit taken aback by this when she started talking on the first ski lift, but I went along with it with great interest. Julia wasn't quite a complete beginner; she had had a day skiing in Moscow on a hill somewhere, which I never realised was possible. We approached the first lesson as though she was just starting.
Due to diplomacy and decency, I decided to avoid talking about the Russian Ukrainian war. However on about the third day, the subject came up organically, and I was intrigued to find out her thoughts and those of the Russian public in general. She is a manager in a premium restaurant in the middle of Moscow, so has quite an exposure to different groups of people. The clients of the restaurant are a mixture of food lovers, celebrities, singers and politicians. And her staff have different backgrounds as well.
Julia explained that her staffing levels have changed considerably over the last six months. She now has fewer men working in her restaurant. Several of them have fled the country due to the recent increase in conscription. However some men have volunteered to join the army to help with the campaign. So quite a contrast.
Politics and war aside, it was fascinating to meet Julia, and I very much admired her determination to improve her skiing, she is a very driven person. I believe Julia will be back again because she loved Méribel and the mountains so much. Chapeau to this Bulgarian beginner.
And I also met Sam, a mother of two, who currently lives in Kuwait. I first met Sam on the morning of her third day on the holiday. To say she was petrified, and clearly didn't want to go near a pair of skis again, would've been an understatement. Unfortunately the start to her first ever ski holiday was sub-optimal. However, all was good after the first lesson, when she finished with a beaming smile. Sam and her husband are currently in the first planning phase for another ski trip back in Méribel next winter, and they want to book me all day every day of that week. Thumbs up.
It's lovely instructing all levels of skiers, especially introducing the sport to beginners. So from one extreme to the other, regarding ski performance. How was the World Championships?
In short, very impressive. I didn't get to watch many events, and certainly none of them hosted over in Courchevel Le Praz. I caught the occasional few minutes in between ski lessons, and also during lessons with clients. The atmosphere was special, and everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time.
I have to say that I was very impressed with how well organised the event was. Including all of the laid on transport facilities. It was also really interesting seeing some of the World's best ski racers in action, especially seeing for yourself the sheer speed that they travel at. I'm quite familiar with the Stade (the race piste), and let me tell you it is a very steep gradient. We as recreational skiers, most of the time, look at how we can control our speed. The racers mentality is of course very different. They are trying to go as fast as they possibly can down a mountain. In fact, let's call their race track an ice rink with a steep gradient.
I'm not going to deny that it will be nice to get Chaudanne back to 'normal' next winter. But what an incredible sight and spectacle it has been the last couple of weeks. And I bet it looked great on the telly as well. Speaking of racing, we seem to be racing towards March skiing soon. For some people, this is their favourite part of the ski season. I can't wait to catch up with some of my regular clients during the rest of the winter, and of course continuing to meet new people, and hearing some of their stories and experiences. Right, that's it for now, do come back soon for the next post. In the meantime, here's my usual mantra.....Live With Passion. Martin.