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In the beginning there were two feet - Jane Peel, Tignes
Saturday January 16, 2016 - Email this article to a friend

Snoworks is a ski instruction company with a very particular way of teaching. Sometimes it means unlearning things you've been taught before.

How to ski - part one

It's all about the feet. 

Forget what's happening to the rest of the body. 

You need to feel a connection with the mountain.

And that connection is felt through your skis and your feet, not your arms, your poles, or your upper body.

In a nutshell, that is the Snoworks philosophy.

Of course, there's more to it than that, and I've signed up for an all-terrain course run by Snoworks in their home base of Tignes to find out what it's all about.

SnoworksTignes looking good













Snoworks run a variety of courses in 15 resorts across the world, including Japan and Chile. 

Its coaches include an ex-Olympic racer, a former head coach of the England Ski Squad, and a BASI trainer.

So, I guess they know what they are talking about.

SnoworksPhil and coaches prepare for the day ahead













Snoworks director and founder, Phil Smith, says the key is to understand that skiing is an "open" sport. 

By that he means the environment is open, as the terrain is constantly changing.

There are bumps, soft snow, hard snow, ice. 

Sometimes all of these features can be encountered in just one run. 

And the next day, that same run could feel very different.

"If people learn a specific technique, there will come a time when their performance doesn't match the open environment," he says.

"You trip over snow, other people put you off. We can't teach specific techniques because they won't match the terrain you are skiing".

Phil is saying all this to me and the rest of this week's Snoworks pupils at a de-briefing after our first day on the mountain.

SnoworksThe debrief













"As everybody knows, today it wasn't that easy to ski," he adds.

The man is a master of the understatement.

It was a non-stop blizzard.  

Few lifts were open so the runs were crowded.  

Visibility was challenging, to say the least. 

We couldn't see the lumps of variable, often heavy snow we were attempting to navigate.

Most of us had headed for the trees, with mixed results.

SnoworksTree skiing and falling













Skiing had rarely felt more of an endurance test.

"If the snow was catching you out today," Phil says, "there could be a number of reasons. The first is that you probably weren't adapting to the changing environment.

"This environment is generally down by our feet.  We say you have to develop a connection with the mountain, keep your focus on your contact with the mountain, what is going on under your feet".

The last thing we should do, says Phil, is think about what might be coming up, look too far ahead or dwell on what we think we've just done wrong. 

It's all about the "now".

My coach for the rest of the week will be tasked with instilling this philosophy into my psyche.

SnoworksPupil and coach



















She is Emma Carrick-Anderson, the former ski racer who's competed in four Olympics. 

If she succeeds, then the next time I open my curtains to a whiteout, I won't be wishing I could go back to bed, but instead yelping with  joy:

  "Yes, it's snowing again".

SnoworksIt's snowing again!













How will I get on? 

Part two of the Snoworks experience is coming soon. 


Snoworks run a range of courses, from helping skiers overcome the intermediate plateau to hardcore backcountry adventures for the more advanced skiers. 

For more information go to

Jane stayed at Mark Warner's Chalet Hotel L'Ecrin in Tignes Val Claret. Mark Warner ( offers a week's chalet board at L'Ecrin for £899 per person, based on two sharing, including flights from Gatwick and transfers, departing on 13 March 2016. 

Departures from other airports, including Heathrow, are available. 

 See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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