The joys of summer skiing

30th August 2016, by Abi Butcher

Summer skiing on the Zermatt glacier: snow, sun and blue skies - what's not to love?

Summer skiing on the Zermatt glacier: snow, sun and blue skies - what's not to love?

Summer skiing – why would anyone do it? Summer is for warm weather, right? As much as I love my skis, I love the mountains in their summer skin – for walking, climbing and cycling, while marvelling at the magical green carpet that lies beneath the snowy peaks we see in the winter.

Or so I thought. But for the past 10 days I have been in Cervinia with the Warren Smith Ski Academy, working towards my ski instructor qualifications. And you know what? I LOVE summer skiing.

WTSS web editor Abi Butcher teaching a lesson in front of the Matterhorn

I’m writing this on a rare cloudy day, when the lifts are closed due to the rain and thunder overnight, but until now we’ve had wall-to-wall sunshine. Cervinia in Italy, as you probably know, offers access to the Zermatt glacier in Switzerland. OK, it’s a bit of a faff taking three lifts (cable car, gondola, cable car) up and down to ski, but you can store your skis and boots at the top and go up in trainers without dragging your kit with you. Once you’re up there, you have 21km of pistes with varied terrain on which to ski, ski and ski — Zermatt’s glacier is the biggest summer skiing area in the world. There’s also a huge freestyle park open and we’ve been sharing T-bars with some of the world’s best freestyle skiers and snowboarders this week.

It’s also warm. I feel the cold terribly and brought out all my winter kit as well as spring skiing shell kit, and I’ve been down to a t-shirt some days, sunglasses on, getting a rather nice tan (big bonus). Despite this the conditions are fantastic — we currently need a little more snow so the fact that it rained down here bodes well, we should get some fresh snow up top. The pistes are groomed overnight and the glacier offers up perfect conditions for the race training and instructor training going on — there are Italians, Slovenians, Austrians, Swiss, Brits here to name but a few — as well as clients of the Warren Smith Ski Academy getting in a week of solid skills work ahead of the winter.

Early evening in Cervinia, beneath the mighty Matterhorn

And you don’t miss out on proper summer! Afternoons are spent in shorts and t-shirt, walking in the mountains enjoying their “summer skin” — or in my case reading and studying on the terrace of the gorgeous, family owned and operated Hotel Mon Reve in Cervinia. This is the base for all of Warren’s courses and, like everywhere at this time of year, oozes relaxation and friendliness. I’ve joined the tail end of a nine-week “Gap Year” ski instructor course (for all ages – we range from 21 to 55) where participants have been taking their Level One (basic, indoor teaching qualification) with the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI) and then working towards their Level Two, a global certification.

I did the first part of my Level One at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead with Alpine Coaching Snowsports last month, before calamity struck and I broke my wrist (regular readers will know breaks and smashes are a common occurrence with the WTSS web editor). But, I pulled it together and arrived in Cervinia 10 days ago, for a week of training and now a six-day exam with IASI … and we are currently on day three. How will I get on? Who knows, but I will let you know (maybe).

All smiles in the sunshine: Abi with WSSA instructor Rob Stanford

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