There are many theories about the best way to learn to ski. Most of us are probably familiar with the old chips-and-pizza method of teaching kids how to position their skis. Chips to go faster, pizza to slow down and stop.
But one ski school in France has decided to try something new: attaching wings to kids and then guiding them down the piste.
While a pair of fairy wings or dragon wings attached to a young skier's back might sound cute and a good way to get their imaginations going, the wings being used in the Three Valleys are not of the fancy dress variety. They're more like miniature parachutes that have been turned into capes.
Parents might not see the benefits of this option at first - after all, it sounds a little bit like the younger skiers might just go airborne during a lesson. In actuality, however, it seems that the wings can be really useful in overcoming many of the difficulties that kids have when learning to ski.
According to Ski Cool in Val Thorens, the wings can significantly help youngsters find their sense of balance, and they also instil confidence. Called Wingjump, this style of skiing is particularly useful for those who are trying to improve their parallel turns and the added feeling of lift that the Wingjump wings provide helps to encourage kids to keep their weight forward. This makes turns easier and allows for a bit of speed to be built up at the same time.
What's more, young skiers find it a lot of fun - and reasonably so! Who wouldn't enjoy having a pair of wings attached to their arms while swishing down a mountain?
Wingjump is part of the standard six-day child group lessons offered by Ski Cool. Classes run from Sunday to Friday for kids in First Star to Gold Level.
Alternatively, if you don't want to commit to a whole week of ski lessons, private sessions are also available.27/02/2017
There's no doubt that skiing and snowboarding are the most popular activities for anyone heading out on a snowsports getaway. But just because you love swishing down the mountain doesn't mean skiing and snowboarding are the only things you can do during your trip to the Alps. In fact, many people like to take a few hours, or a whole day, to try something new during their winter holiday.
If you're really looking to get the adrenaline flowing, there are several alternative snow sports you might want to consider, which will get you moving faster and higher than ever before. Here are some options to consider:
For many years now, kiteboarding has been growing in popularity at the seaside. Using large kites, surfers harness the power of the wind, enabling them to move above the water and enjoy some enormous jumps.
Now, the kites are being brought to high altitudes, and the results are amazing. There are designated snow-kite pistes across France, Italy and Switzerland where you can learn the sport and put your newfound skills to the test, flying, spinning and twisting through the air as a snow kite pulls you up and down the mountain.
This sport might look like normal Alpine skiing at first, but you'll have special bindings that only attach the front of the boot. This allows more flexibility and freedom - especially in the turns. The technique isn't easy to learn, but once you've mastered it, you'll enjoy a more natural and unrestricted feel to your skiing.
Also known as parapenting, this is one of the world's fastest-growing air sports and is particularly popular in the Three Valleys area, which includes resorts like Val Thorens and Courchevel.
To get started with paragliding, you'll probably begin with a few trips flying in tandem with a qualified instructor. Once you get the hang of the activity, you can also go solo.
You begin by running downhill, gaining speed until the parachute lifts you into the air. Then, you can sit back and enjoy the view, while catching wind currents to carry you upwards and allowing you to glide for longer.
You can also try ski-paragliding, which allows you to pick up even more speed. Chamonix is a popular location for paragliding, with the best conditions in May and June.05/01/2017
There are plenty of high-adrenaline sports that visitors to Val Thorens can try throughout the year, from skiing and snowboarding in the winter through to paragliding and mountain biking in the summer. But if you're looking for something a bit more calming, then maybe you should give yoga a try.
Yoga is an activity that aims to connect the body and mind. Various postures, also known as asanas, and breathing techniques (pranayama) are used to achieve a sense of harmony and improve wellbeing. According to those who practise yoga, it can provide numerous benefits. For example, stretching techniques can loosen up the body and are said to have a positive effect on glands and nerves. Asanas can also help to release physical and mental tension may leave people feeling more energetic.
In addition, yoga experts also say that if practised regularly, the asanas can result in calmness, vitality and inner peace, while pranayama purifies and revitalises the body, calming emotions and enabling mental clarity.
One of the great things about yoga is it's something anyone can do. The various poses can be adapted to suit your own abilities and goals and it's believed to be able to help with things like back problems, insomnia, depression, stress and fatigue. Many who take part in yoga claim that the activity can achieve even better results when surrounded by nature. They say that the fresh air and beautiful landscapes boost calming and revitalising effects. So, a holiday in the Alps is the ideal time to take part in the activity - whether you're already an expert or trying it for the first time.
If you're visiting Val Thorens and would like to take part in a yoga class, then there are a couple of options available. Escale Zen hosts classes throughout the year and combines yoga with other activities like climbing, canyoning, kayaking, hiking and snowshoeing. Meanwhile, Nathalie Peynichou offers yoga classes that also incorporate singing and dancing for a unique fusion.
Hiking in the Alps is a rewarding way to spend the summer months. After all, it's a great way to get out in nature, enjoy some fresh air and see some beautiful scenery. Plus, you'll get in some exercise too! Of course, anyone who goes walking in the mountains should be sure to go prepared, with plenty of drinks and snacks, as well as the right equipment in case something goes wrong. The only problem is that carrying all that gear can become a chore. So, why not enlist a bit of help for your next alpine hike - by bringing along a donkey?
These friendly animals are known for their long ears, long muzzles and friendly nature. They're great at rambling and make for great companion animals - so it's no wonder they've been used as pack animals for thousands of years. What's more, donkeys can also be ridden by small children - so if you're worried your youngster might get tired on a long walk through the mountains, they can take a break by climbing up on their new four-legged friend.
If the idea of a short donkey trek sounds like a great idea, then Val Thorens could be the alpine destination for you. Donkeys are available to hire at La Croisette every day from 10am to 12pm and 1:30pm to 5pm, and you can choose from a short ride for a child or a quick half-hour outing, through to hour-long journeys, half days or full days. These intelligent, and sometimes stubborn, animals are sure to provide some fun and unusual memories from your holiday and they'll help to take the load off if you don't want to spend your hike lugging around a heavy backpack.
Choose from a variety of guided walks, like a trip to the Lac du Lou - this picturesque valley refuge is situated next to the largest lake in the Vallee des Belleville and is a fabulous spot for a summer picnic. Evening outings are also available.
Some people would say that this is actually the highest resort in Europe, but its lifts don't quite manage the same reach towards the sky as Tignes. Having said that, Val Thorens' highest lift is 3,200 metres and it's the setting of the village that's the highest in Europe, standing at 2,300 metres. Like most resorts in the Three Valleys area, some of Val Thoren's accommodation is ski-in/ski-out. If you'd like to take advantage of this, then you'll look to book your stay at Le Sherpa, which is roomy and comfortable for all the family.
The benefits of ski-in/ski-out lodging are fairly obvious, as it means that you don't have to spend much - if any - time walking around carrying your skis and other essential gear. Simply give yourself a nudge out the door and off you go towards the lifts and up to the top of the slopes. If you are going to be travelling with children, who are on their very first snowsports holiday then Val Thorens is perfect for you, as it has several convenient nursery slopes that are very close to the ski-in/ski-out chalet.
Val Thorens is one of the most modern resorts in the Three Valleys, as its lifts are fast and run on up-to-date technology. But, the modern twist isn't just saved for the chairlifts because the resort also benefits from state of the art snowmaking, which is essentially man-made snow. The experts at the resort use this in order to enhance the already excellent natural snow cover to ensure that you and your whole group have the perfect conditions every day of your holiday.