Cross Country Skiing Takes Off In France

More and more skiers are clipping into long, skinny skis to get their snow fix.  PlanetSKI has been talking to a Nordic skiing instructor in the French Alps about the surge in demand for cross country lessons as the lifts remain closed.

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Guy Beaumont is one of only three British ‘Ski de Fond’ instructors qualified and fully licensed to work in France.

He operates in the Giffre Valley between the Grand Massif and the Portes du Soleil in the Haute Savoie region.

With the high-altitude resorts of Flaine and Avoriaz nearby you would be forgiven for thinking the area is not the place to head to for cross-country.

In fact, the Giffre Valley alone has 42.6km of tracks with another 123km within about 30 minutes by car.

It seems growing numbers of skiers are discovering them.

Short of strapping on skins and going touring, it’s the only option if you want to ski in France right now.

Nordic skiing has been permitted in France on a personal basis for fitness reasons since the country’s tough lockdown measures were eased slightly in December.

Later that month when lockdown was lifted, lessons were allowed to go ahead with a maximum group size of six, including the instructor.

Since then, Guy Beaumont has taught 104 clients, a massive increase on last year.

Bookings over the Christmas holiday period were almost double the usual.

Guy Beaumont

“I normally have singletons or couples as clients wanting to improve their cross country technique,” he tells PlanetSKI.

“The Christmas and New Year period gave me a marked change in clients. Suddenly I found many families were wishing to try the sport for the first time, from age 6 to very senior.”

“Mostly they were all novices, trying out a multitude of winter sports rather than the alpine skiing they normally do.  Happily I have had a reasonable number of repeat bookings for additional sessions.

“Most people knew very little about the sport and were surprised at the peace and quiet they encountered compared to the queues and noise of the lifts on the alpine slopes.”

Guy’s students are usually multi-national and English-speaking.  This winter so far around 25% have been French, reflecting the travel restrictions in place.

The newbies have been surprised to hear how many places around Europe have cross-country trails and how cheap it is in comparison to alpine skiing.

A season pass covering every Nordic site in the Haute Savoie is only €99 if bought online before 15th November or €122 after that.

A day pass will cost you less than €10.

And if you get hooked, you can pick up decent skis, boots and poles for around €150 in the sales.

Cross country tracks around the lake at Joux Plane, close to Guy’s base

The French are desperately hoping the ski lifts will be allowed to open in February for the peak holiday period.

“Some of my clients are planning to return to the area in February,” Guy says.

“They are already booking alpine lessons in the morning and Nordic lessons in the afternoon.

“I think many people have had their eyes opened and will continue to participate, particularly those looking to improve fitness or their green credentials.”

Guy Beaumont in action at Joux Plane

If we could get there, we’d be taking Guy up on his offer of a lesson.

At PlanetSKI we love a bit of cross-country.

“For me, the ability to escape to the mountains without the crowds is perfect,” Guy says.

“Plus the ability to ski long distance trails over multiple days in total tranquillity does wonders for your mental well-being.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Find out more about Guy and his lessons on his website, GBNordique

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