A late convert to winter sports in France

Connexion reader Jo Pendered started skiing nine years ago, when she was 46. “My husband, Steve, is a really keen skier and I’d always wanted to try it, but never had the chance."

19 December 2018
By Connexion journalist

“So he took me to Val d’Isère for a week, and taught me – mainly by putting me on a couple of black runs fairly early on!”

She admitted that she got stuck, but took courage from seeing a crocodile of five year olds skiing past and decided to copy them. 

“Skiing is all in your head, it’s about believing you can do it. So for me, seeing those children go past was a trigger, thinking that if they can do it, so can I.”

A keen runner and cycler, Jo said she has always been quite healthy but learning to ski made her feel able to tackle new adventures.

“I’m 54 and we’re both retired but I have every intention of skiing for the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s fun, the weather is often stunning and the mountains are beautiful.

“I would definitely encourage anyone to take it up at any age. But I would encourage everyone to wear a helmet, too many people come a cropper without them. You wouldn’t go on a motorbike without a helmet on, would you?”

Tai Chi and the art of older skiing

Ski instructor Cathy Breyton (above, middle) is 63 and says it’s entirely possible to learn at any age.

She uses a method which she calls Tai Ski, which uses elements from martial art Tai Chi, especially finding your balance and shifting your weight, which are key skills in skiing.

“Beginners tend to lean backwards, meaning their weight is on the wrong part of the ski and they have trouble controlling the movement. All learners, but especially people over 50, need to transform their fear into a desire to learn, a desire to have fun, a desire to slide. Once that switch has happened and fear has gone, learning becomes easy.”

She recommends The Centered Skier by Denise McCluggage. “I took lessons from Denise and she taught me to ski so well that I set the women’s speed skiing records in 1978 and 1980.

“Her book is a good place to start the psychological journey towards enjoying the sensation of sliding.”

She says that she doesn’t consider skiing a dangerous sport. “You ski for pleasure, for fun. Tai Ski makes it like dancing on snow. But for complete beginners it’s a good idea to do some exercise before arriving on the ski slopes because falling over isn’t the problem. Standing up again is more often the problem.”

The Tai Ski method is particularly good for beginners, nervous skiers and intermediates wanting to ski more effortlessly.

She will run group courses and give private lessons at Grand Tourmalet/La Mongie February 3 to 8 and March 9 to 16 2019, and will be in Val Thorens at the end of March. Nine hours of lessons (in English, Spanish or French) over three days in a group of four to six people costs €164 per person. Cathy’s email is cathybreytonfaye@orange.fr

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