By Ben KilbeyI could never claim to be a good skier. I could claim to thoroughly enjoy skiing but to state that I was good at the sport would be a gross exaggeration. I have skied once before in the past (that is not taking into account my dry slope encounters) in Austria when I was fifteen. That is almost ten years ago. I should have carried on with my newfound hobby. It was with great delight that earlier this year a press release fell onto my desk that rekindled those earlier days on the slopes. Clean air, mulled wine (or whatever it is they call it) the awesome vistas and snow-capped peaks. Ferme de Montagne had to be visited so that I could claw back some of my slope skills and learn new ones along the way.The flight into Switzerland was a good one. I could see for miles as the air was crisp, clean and clouds failed to fill the sky for the good of all. Upon arrival I picked up my bags (last as usual) and scampered to the exit. I was looking forward to getting to the slopes and cutting up the piste (more realistically rolling down it). Usually you have to arrange your own transfers to your accommodation. Not this time. This adventure began as soon as my baggage left the carousel. Greeted by a host and promptly escorted to our vehicle it was an ideal opportunity to get to know your fellow guests straight away. The journey took around an hour and as we pulled up to our accommodation it was easy to believe other accounts that I had read of Ferme de Montagne. The place really is postcard perfect. OK so it wasn’t as dappled in snow as I may have hoped but come on, we were nearing the end of the season and the slopes were still well layered. I wasn’t going to be skiing on the roof now was I?
The farmhouse was a delight - beautifully designed and well thought out with a superb out door Jacuzzi located near the terrace. What a way to finish a hard days ski - ski back down to the chalet, drop gear, don swim wear and plunge straight into a hot tub. Can anyone put up an argument? And it would be as easy as that as the realisation dawned that the slopes were located directly opposite the chalet and the ski lift a mere two minute walk.
Ferme oozes style and sophistication. As you enter the hallway and climb the small set of stairs you are greeted by a high wood-beam ceiling, the room being host to the daily food activities including lavish four course evening extravaganzas. The room is large and to one end sits a 360-degree log fire. To the other a well stocked and magnificently expensive looking bar.
The rooms at Ferme are nothing short of exquisite. Mine was located on the top floor all on its own with a small balcony over looking the terrace and hot tub below. An ideal spot to watch the sun set with a cold Hoegaarden. The bed was big and inviting and the ensuite bathroom well fitted, featuring a deep bath. Everything you need after a day of smashing your body down a hill of snow.
Even though Ferme is a crowd pleaser on its own laurels it was not my primary reason for being there (what?) Oh no - the reason for my stay was one Ian Prosser and his ‘Inner Ski’ program.
Ian Prosser is a character. His method of teaching is like none I have bared witness to before. Lets say it’s not like teaching at all - but you certainly learn something at the end of your course. It’s, as he puts it in his distinctive voice, ‘learning whilst larking about’.
Inner-skiing is a back-to-basics way of teaching us to learn. “As we grow we find it harder to learn, generally because of a fear of looking stupid. Take skiing for instance. Children are fearless and therefore care not what they look like as they ‘bomb’ down the piste, where as adult’s fear falling and looking stupid.” So that’s it. Or perhaps simply looking stupid as we ‘snow-plough’ from top to bottom.
Ian’s methods are a route to creating an inner equilibrium. ‘Ask not what I can do for you but instead what you can do for yourself.’ At least that is the quote I was hoping for. That, however, kind-of sums it up - you are given direction but need to realise what works for you by means of adapting to what is offered. There is no right or wrong, and this method is certainly neither black nor white. Although at times it can be a little frustrating. ‘Why cant I get my weight to move from toe to toe!!?’
For somebody like me this method of tuition is perfect - these people are not force-feeding us information - they are offering us nibbles and letting us decide upon our own main course. If you make a hash of it then get up and make it work next time. There is no shouting or being told you are wrong - you are the boss and they are your financial advisors (your finances being your limbs and if you don’t wise up you may as well liquidate them).
After our first day we all retired to our lodge. Sat round and discussed what we had all achieved. I wallowed in the hot top and admired the view - my limbs too achy to indulge in the pleasures of conversation. I managed to decipher that everyone was seeing a clear improvement. Well done I thought. When is dinner? The evening progressed via a shower and change of clothes (I came to dinner in my slippers - Ferme is fantastic.)
Dinner is a mixture of five star dining and an intimate dinner party where everyone gets to know everyone else. We discussed our aims over candlelight and feasted on food which I wish I could write about in a way that gives it justice. That is impossible, although - and I hate to use this term - the foie gras was to die for.
The next few days took a similar order except everyday, everyone of us, gradually improved and found ourselves achieving everything we had hoped for on the first night. I finally managed to get the toe-to-toe action to a tee and found the distribution of my weight to the front of my boot most enlightening. To the point of knowing that I was carving - Ian wasn’t just telling me to be pleasant - I could feel my feet carving the snow. I was in my element.
Ian certainly helped my skiing over the short period at Ferme but there was another figure that assisted with my ‘drastic’ improvement. That figure was Nigel Matthews - a man that, just like the food, words fail to describe. Without his influence I would never have achieved all that I did.
Where as Ian’s instruction can be somewhat up beat, Nigel has a calming, more relaxed approach almost where you forget altogether that you are being instructed and instead just do. Snowsport England Senior Coach and Tutor as well as a BASI Instructor, Nigel has been skiing since 1969 and what he does for skiers he aptly sums up by saying; “We are helping people find ways to learn while having a lot of fun in a beautiful environment.”
I came to Ferme a ‘snow-plougher’ I left a mad man full of confidence in my own conviction and execution (I will never forget some advice I received on my last day from one of the assistants - ‘Ben I have heard that you are bounds ahead of you talent in confidence’ or something along those line). The program completely changed by approach to skiing and opened up a whole new world to me.
Your hosts whilst at Ferme are Henri and Suzanne. It has to be said a superb couple who really know how to look after their guests. Ferme de Montagne is definitely the next chapter in sophistication and sheer decadence. Henri will see to it that the champagne flows for his guests whilst Suzanne will tend to your minor skiing injuries - should any occur - with her bizarre reflexology technique.
The proprietors dine with you and really add another dimension to the entire experience. Without them it just wouldn’t be Ferme. It may have been said before but Ferme could go down as one of the greatest holidays of all time. Thank-you to everyone. Go book it. Now.
More about Ferme de Montagne: www.fermedemontagne.com
Exchange rate: 1 GBP = 1.42 Euros or 9.37 FRF
Package price: 7 nights from 950 - 1795 GBP