Chamonix: practice SNOOC with the ESF (Interview)
A practitioner of ski touring, downhill skiing, Jean Charles Poirot National Monitor of the ESF (French Ski School) likes to diversify the activities and discover new disciplines.
An interview conducted by Cyril Colmet Daage president of SNOOC.
Cyril (C): Before getting to the heart of the matter, who are you?
Jean Charles Poirot (JC): I was born in Chamonix, a former top athlete in ski jumping, ski instructor at the ESF Chamonix and a passionate photographer of mountain images.
C: How do you introduce ski touring to beginners?
JC: If the people are good or very good skiers, I take them directly on “traditional” touring skis. For intermediate or beginner skiers who are apprehensive but who want to slide in sumptuous mountain landscapes.
For families, groups with very different levels, I prefer to take them for a ride with a beginner's ski touring which facilitates the descent: the SNOOC.
Technically, the seated descent is much more accessible than standing.
It is a simple touring ski that can be transformed into a “sit-ski”, very easy to pilot downhill with excellent sensations for beginners as well as for good skiers.
C: What is the difference between “traditional” ski touring and “sit” ski touring?
JC: The big difference is that ski touring as we know it requires a decent level of skiing. Probably a few weeks of practice if you want to go back down on a track. On the other hand, it will take a good level of skiing. 3 to 4 years if you practice one week a year, to start descending in any snow off the slopes.
In Snooc, after two or three hours of initiation on easy terrain, in compact snow, you can take a ride on a secure route. For example, on a signposted route starting with a descent on groomed slopes.
After half a day of practice on the slopes, the Snooc allows you to practice in more variable snow and on trails off the slopes.
Beyond the technicality of the practice, the practice spaces are also very different. In ski touring, we will look for large areas with 40 to 50 centimeters of powder and with slope.
In SNOOC, we will look more for 4x4 trails, snowshoe trails with a gentle and progressive slope and occasional passages with 30 centimeters of powder and 30% maximum slope.
C: When did you discover SNOOC?
JC: In 2019, on the Planards area in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, I immediately hooked with accessibility. Then I was surprised and won over by the sensations, I did not expect to have so much fun.
Honestly, on some days I choose to do Snooc rather than skiing. It’s neither better nor worse, it’s complementary, it brings other sensations.
C: What has been your practice since 2019?
JC: In the Chamonix valley, I was the first instructor to teach the activity. I was able to bring my expertise and work on pedagogy with Cyril, the creator of SNOOC.
It is a source of pride for me to have been the first ESF instructor in this adventure and to have been able to participate in defining the stages of learning this practice.
Last winter, I was able to introduce and train more than 500 people, downhill as well as hiking.
For the SNOOC team, I am the reference for the practice of SNOOC in the Chamonix valley. I got on well with the team and became a partner of the brand.
Obviously, I also did a lot of Snooc Touring for myself in the Chamonix valley, both for my pleasure and to spot new routes.
C: What does SNOOC bring compared to existing activities?
JC: What I notice is that there is unanimous support for SNOOC. 100% positive feedback last season, that's something!
At first, people are curious and dubious. But as soon as they take the time to sit on it, to test, the result is surprising: Regardless of the age of the person, whether they are a ski expert or non-skier, the sensations are intoxicating.
It allows people who have sometimes very different interests (some ski while others contemplate) to come together around a common activity, to share fun and emotional moments.
It’s one of the few activities that brings everyone together.
For families, it also helps motivate young people to take family outings ... because the descent is fun ;-) And on the descent, it's not always the parents who are in front, it's gratifying that too!
C: What are your recommendations for people who take up seated ski touring?
JC: Even if the SNOOC makes it easy to go through a variety of conditions, as soon as you leave the slopes of the resorts, you are in a natural environment that you have to know.
The first step is of course to be comfortable on compact snow. Then, it is knowing how to read a map, take the weather forecast, know basic safety rules when you go to the mountains.
As in ski touring, as soon as the route takes slopes greater than 30% or is overlooked by steep slopes, it is necessary to know how to identify and manage the risk associated with snow, and to use equipment for searching for buried people ( DVA), know the routes to take.
It's not complicated, but it can be learned.
My recommendation is that: although the activity is easy and accessible to everyone, autonomy in the mountains requires learning. And it's my role to teach and gradually empower my clients.
C: A recommendation for beginners who want to discover seated ski touring?
JC: Already, it is obvious that even if you can discover SNOOC alone on the slopes, with an instructor you progress and have fun much faster.
The role of the instructor is to guide you towards independence more quickly.
Depending on your feelings, by identifying your difficulties and your facilities, he will be able to personalize his support with advice and exercises. He will also choose the terrain that will be best suited to your learning and your level.
When hiking, it is even more obvious. Beyond the security that I bring by my knowledge of the mountain, I live here! Among a multitude of possible routes, I know which route will be the most suitable depending on recent snow conditions, the number of visitors to the course, the level of the person or group and of course the weather of the day. This fine knowledge takes years to acquire.
This is what allows me to guarantee an unforgettable day for the people I supervise.
C: Your advice to people who would like to discover seated ski touring without supervision?
- It is forbidden to go up an open ski slope. Find out about the suitable spaces, there are more and more marked climb routes in the resort.
- The first time you handle the equipment, do so in the warmth of your home. There are some very well done tutorial videos on the SNOOC website. Do the transformation at least twice. You will be more efficient at the top in the cold.
- Take the opportunity to adjust the bindings to your size
- For your first descent, choose terrain with hard snow, such as skiing, it is easier to start on snow with strong support than in powder.
C: What motivates you in this practice?
I already have fun practicing it myself :-)
I was quickly able to realize the accessibility and ease of maneuverability and progression with this new sliding device. The incredible security it brings to learning.
What fascinates me is SNOOC's ability to restore confidence. People realize that they are progressing quickly, faster than they imagined. It’s not just a sliding activity, it’s a self-esteem ointment.
I can no longer count the number of people who are non-skiers or who no longer practice sliding because of a physical problem, to whom I have been able to introduce or rediscover the pleasure of skiing!
It’s gratifying to see people taking confidence, and ending their session with a big smile!
Then, it is the sincere pleasure that these sensations get to the participant, the sharing on the ascent and the descent, the time we take to find each other, the magical landscapes that I never tire of and that I love. to discover.
It’s a real moment of sharing, I still have so much fun teaching and supporting.
C: What are the testimonials / feedback from the people to whom you introduced the activity?
This is often feedback on the quality of their experience and the relationship.
Two examples of written testimony I received:
“We had a great time with my totally newbie son. We had a great time. Jean-Charles is an initiator and an extra accompanist, and SNOOC immediately gives you good feelings. In one word: TOP!"
Sacha and Emmanuel
“We absolutely loved this session !! We warmly thank Jean-Charles for all the wise advice he gave us. We had a blast! The magnificent view of Chamonix at night from the top of the chairlift was a must see!
Angélique and Laura
C: How do we contact you to go on a SNOOC seated ski touring trip?
JC: Nothing could be easier, just contact the ESF Chamonix, if I am not available, there will necessarily be a competent and trained instructor who will take pleasure in accompanying people.
Maison de la Montagne,
190 Place de l'Église,
00 33 4 50 53 22 57
Par mail: https://www.esfchamonix.com/contact/