Last Saturday I was lucky enough to meet up with the language instructors at VLS, Verbier Language School, to join them for an afternoon on the pistes.
This new offering from the language school is definitely a first and certainly one of the best ways to make the most of your time on the slopes. VLS On The Piste combines learning languages and learning, or improving, your skiing or snowboarding. Not only is the ski instructor a fully qualified ski and snowboard instructor but the lovely Céline Ghirardelli, is also a language teacher!
Hard to imagine a nicer atmosphere for learning either discipline, I was lucky enough to be taken up onto the slopes by Eléonore Ribordy, Director and teacher at VLS. Her bubbly personality is contagious and she certainly put me at ease regarding the 'on piste lesson'. Less of a formal structure, their 'On the Piste' offering is more about enjoying the outdoors, learning new skills, chatting and having fun. Fluent in her native French, as well as English and Spanish, Eléonore is able to switch between the languages with such ease that I found myself being inspired to give it a go and crack out some of the few French phrases I knew.
Chatting away about the season, the weather, the slopes and the snow we skied our way down to La Chaux where we were to meet up with Céline and her clients for the day. We joined them for a hot chocolate as they took a break from the skiing. The client had travelled over from Venezuela and was trying to improve not only her skiing but also her French. Her Swiss husband (annoyingly fluent in French, English and Spanish!) had joined them to spend some time with them as they went through their ski lessons. All conversations were held in French with the occasional explanations in English and Spanish to ensure everything was understood.
Céline has been living in Verbier for the last nine years, alternating between teaching skiing and snowboarding and languages with VLS. She has the highest snowsports qualifications, the Brevet and Patente, and has worked with all ages and levels of snowboarders, skiers and language students (especially those wanting to perfect their French!) and is a qualified youth and social worker for child protection services. And as if this isn't enough, Céline also has the same infectious bubbly personality that puts an instant smile on your face. She is so excited about her job and about teaching that you feel instantly at ease and excited to learn something new.
Whether you are a complete beginner or know the basics this is a perfect introduction to skiing and language. As a fairly decent snowboarder, I am looking forward to getting some one-on-one time with Céline to improve my snowboarding and now that I have met the team, I'm actually excited about the prospect of doing it all in French!