Ski Like The French: Elegantly, Gracefully And With Style
Snow has finally arrived in the French Alps! While the slopes were originally due to open on 20th December, many ski stations were able to open a week earlier than expected. Thanks to wonderful weather conditions, twenty stations were able to open on Saturday 13th December. Snow also hit the Pyrenees; Font Romeu Les Angles opened 10 pistes and Cauterets opened 8. Cross-country skiers will be pleased to learn that all 25km of slopes are open in the Savoie Grand Revard ski area, as are a selection of the Lac Blanc slopes.
With the powder-covered slopes awaiting, that ski break you keenly agreed to months ago is fast approaching… Do you fear you may be more of a Bridget Jones on the slopes than a typical French skier? Sometimes it just feels unfair; not only do the French have children who don’t throw food, they never get fat and as anyone who’s been anywhere near the French Alps will know, they ski like pros. But, never fear, we’ve come up with a few tips which will have you hitting the slopes looking elegant and feeling like the man on the flying trapeze, parallel skiing with (seeming) ease.
- Sort your look out. No need for garish, ineffective ski gear anymore! Ski attire is now high-fashion business, with online luxury retailer Net-A-Porter offering a dedicated section of its website solely to skiwear. Expect lots more (subtle) colours and flattering looks with new built-in breathable technology which also keeps you toasty when not in action. Helmets are fast becoming a must, and, for the most chic among our readers, there are even fur lined varieties. If wearing a hat, make sure there is no gap between your headgear and your goggles; you’ll thank us when you don’t have awkward forehead sun burn… Well fitted ski boots are very important, go to a specialist skiwear shop and benefit from their guidance, ask any questions you may have. Be aware that ski boots don’t come in standard sizes and may be a little tight on the first try but equally, they shouldn’t squash your feet. Finally, never, ever tuck your ski pants into your boots; it’s just not a good look.
- Plan, plan, plan: skiing is a sport and if you want to look like a pro, it’s certainly worth putting a bit of work in ahead of your trip to be at your best. Ideally start at least 6 weeks before your trip. The most important areas to strengthen up are your thighs, calves and bum. Think lunges, split squats, step ups, deep squats and cycling. A great exercise for balance is to stand up straight on one leg for as long as you can. Running up and down stairs can also be a surprisingly effective pre-ski exercise. Many of you may remember doing ‘wall sits’ before school ski trips, you will be happy to know they have largely fallen out of favour as part of pre-ski regimes since they don’t actually strengthen or stretch muscle.
- Get the basics: Even if you’ve been skiing before, it may be worth investing in a refresher class or two with an instructor to ensure your technique is tip-top. Although not quite as good as an instructor, there are also a number of ‘ski lesson’ apps to download onto smart phones and tablets which can be handy.
- Be confident! Do like Miriam González Durántez, wife of Nick Clegg, and just fake confidence; your skis will do the rest. Always look ahead: not at the ground and definitely not at your skis. This should help you to plan your path, avoid nasty collisions and other obstacles on your descent. Your posture and thus balance and steering control will improve instantly and you will avoid the terrified beginner skier look. Another top tip is to relax your toes. Yes, you may be at the top of a cold mountain, with only two planks attached to your feet to stop you from hurtling towards a bad injury. But, if you go against the natural reaction to clench your toes, and you will enhance performance with increased blood flow, loosen your lower body and improved stability and control.
- Stretch! When you hit the slopes, don’t forget to stretch before you begin. Just a few light stretches to loosen up the muscles (swinging arms and legs using your ski poles, extending the muscles…), there’s no need for a long, strenuous stretch beforehand. Once you’ve done all that, just enjoy the magical mountain views, the fresh air, some delicious fondue and the break from busy everyday life! See you on the slopes looking fabulous!
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