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The Guardian publish article on AMP

Learn to ski off piste

One of the Guardians top travel writers Gwyn Topham came to Chamonix to ski with All Mountain Performance on our 5 day Intermediate off piste ski course. Despite going home with weary  legs, Gwyn made massive progress with his skiing over the course run by Mark Gear.

Here is the article that tells his story of how he conquered the slopes of Chamonix.

Learning to ski off-piste in Chamonix

Chamonix is one of the world's best off-piste resorts, a great place for intermediates to take a course in skiing powder

Off piste at Chamonix

Two skiers go off piste at Chamonix. Photograph: Alamy

'What we're looking for," says Mark Gear, head coach of All Mountain Performance, "is skiing without boundaries". Mark embodies ambition: he started his skiing career handing out boots at Beckton Alps, east London's old dry slope, before becoming a giant slalom racer in Chamonix. His business card pictures him skiing a turn so fast I thought it was someone falling over.

Over five days, his intensive course promises to hone the technique of intermediate skiers, to give us the confidence to handle all runs, and to teach the basics of skiing off piste with a view to mountain safety.

Chamonix is one of the world's most challenging and best off-piste resorts, and a great place for intermediates to learn to ski powder. We start on blue runs above Le Tour, the least vertiginous of Chamonix's four ski areas, focussing on elements of turning: pressure, edge, rotation. Basic, but a proper understanding of these fundamentals is, Mark says, crucial to progress off piste. And he quickly identifies how one thing I had thought essential – thoroughly bending your knees – is overdone to the point of unnecessary pain and loss of control.

The deficiencies in my technique are made woefully clear at the end of each day, when we watch videos Mark has shot of us skiing. The others look good: Beth apparently needs to angulate her body more, while Ishbel has a technique so graceful that Mark struggles to find fault. And then comes a figure in a bulky jacket, hunched over with legs splaying out, like a badly erected wigwam battered by a storm.

My illusions of speed and finesse are dead; I don't know what I can do to improve, bar ditch the bobble hat. But Mark has kind words: the worst skiers can make the biggest improvements. I need to begin by straightening up, standing taller and keeping my errant legs together.

And it starts to work. With only three students (the maximum is six) we get a lot of individual attention. By the second day we are skiing some off piste and doing a tricky black run home from Le Brévent; on the third morning we manage a high and steep ungroomed black run on Les Grands Montets, turning over moguls and deeper snow.

It's a good course to do if you're alone, mixing daytime sociability with relaxed evenings: back in the resort, I want to do little other than eat and crash at the chalet, run by Collineige, whose chefs are plucked from some of Australia and London's top restaurants – even a banana cake at afternoon tea comes with a personalised flourish of, I was told, "an Earl Grey-infused crème anglaise". By Wednesday, when I reluctantly leave chef James's cooking for one of Collineige's central self-catered apartments, après ski has become nothing more than a quest for food, a hot bath, and an 11-hour sleep.

In Chamonix, a notoriously steep resort that draws experts in, it is sometimes hard to feel sure of my progress. Yet I'm feeling comfortable on terrain I would never have ventured on before, and the video evidence is encouraging: still no Ski Sunday, but the gap between my imagined appearance and reality is narrowing. Mark replays one of my turns in slow motion, and cries "Stylish!" Nothing could have made me prouder. By the penultimate day, alas missed by the cameras, I produce a deft, slaloming run through deep snow and trees. All I need, it seems, is an immovable object ahead to make me learn to turn quickly.

On the final afternoon we ski gullies, untracked snow, moguls, steep and bumpy off-piste narrow black runs, and long, soaring, carving turns down broader pistes. "Relax, play around!" Mark shouts. Despite legs so tight and weary that they no longer do my head's bidding, I feel I'm finally getting there. Then, on the very last run of the week, our brilliant instructor is taken out by a snowboarder who careers wildly into the back of him, on an empty slope. It's a chance for Mark to deliver a final, rueful lesson: "Sometimes, off piste is the safest place to be."

To view the article on the Guardian website, please follow the link below






Learn to ski off piste

Grands Montets - New Lift

Great News!  The Grands Montets will have a new gondola ski lift ready for the the start of the 2014/2015 season.

Yes, it's goodbye to that rusty old chair lift called the Plan joran. You remember that slow lift that used to drip oily water onto our ski clothes on a wet day.  

This season, we are looking forward to a slick new lift that will replace the old Plan Joran chair.

The new 84 cabin gondola lift can carry 10 people per cabin.  The new lift is capable of moving 3000 people per hour with a cable speed of 6 meters per second. Transporting us from 1242m altitude to 2138m in just under 7 minutes, the new lift promises to significantly reduce lift queing time at the bottom of Les Grands Montets.

The work started on the new lift in the early summer with the dismantling of the old lift and has continued at a good pace. The new gondola lift is planned to be ready for the start of the 2014/2015 season.

The new ski lift at Grands Montets -"Telecabine de Plan Joran".



Early season ski courses

  ski courses

 ski courses


Power - up your skiing with an early season ski course this winter.

Elite ski instructor Mark Gear offers early season performance ski courses for all mountain skiing in Chamonix and Tignes.  

Click here to see early season ski course dates for Chamonix.



Find Your Ski Level


Book Courses


Make Enquiry



Also this early season November ski course special in the resort of Tignes.

November ski courses Tignes


Special 3 day, pre-season performance course on the Tignes glacier ski area November 22nd - 24th 2014. 

Ramp-up your skiing early before the winter gets underway with this 3 day piste performance ski course.  The course is ideal for intermediate & advanced level skiers, or levels 4 - 6 using this skiing level finder.   Find your skiing level.   

As the skiing is at high altitude and on a Glacier, the course will be dedicated to improving your general on piste skiing.  The off piste can be dangerous at this time of year, so we will be skiing on the groomed pistes instead.


For the Tignes ski Course, please send an email to:


Ski Courses


Ski courses in Chamonix with elite British ski teacher Mark Gear.

 ski coursesski courses


With 24 ski courses on the programme for this winter, All Mountain Performance is Chamonix's leading provider for off piste performance ski courses.

All ski courses are run by Mark Gear, one of the UK's leading ski instructors.

There are 3 different ski course levels for all mountain & off piste skiing. Whether you are new to off piste skiing or are already an expert, there are plenty of dates available for Intermediate, Advanced and Expert skiers.  Ski courses for all 3 levels are available throughout the season. You can choose to do a 5 day ski course or a 2 day weekend ski course.  Click Here for All Ski Course Dates.

Intermediate ski courses          

Advanced ski courses          

Expert ski courses

Find Your Ski Level


Book Courses


Make Enquiry



All ski courses include: 

  • 5 or 2 Full days of expert ski coaching & guiding with ski lift priority. Typical skiing time 9am-12:30 then 1:15 pm - 4pm
  • Daily video feedback after skiing 4:15pm - 4:45pm
  • Private Minibus transport for skiing. Your ski coach will pick you up at your accommodation in Chamonix and drop you off each day.


With a maximum of 6 skiers per course, there is a fun and dynamic learning enviroment with a personalised ski coaching approach.  Your skiing will be developed in a variety of conditions and terrain on and off-piste, thus maximizing your ability to ski the whole mountain. Master your off-piste skiing, learn to feel ultimate control on steeper slopes, gullies and couloirs.  Benefit from world-class ski coaching and daily video feedback.

 ski courses

During our ski courses we aim to ski a variety of the Chamonix ski areas. Here is some info about the different ski areas in Chamonix and the type of skiing expected on our ski courses.

Les Grands Montets / AMP Ski courses

 Les Grands Montets  is one of the more challenging of the ski areas. Here you may see famous freerider and alpine skiers hanging out. Big vertical descents with glaciers on the upper section. Wide open bowl skiing with steeps and couloirs. This is Chamonix off piste skiing at its best. The tree skiing and into valley couloirs are also great for expert skiers.  . A good lift system opens up 3 sides to this amazing off piste mountain. Our best spots: Le Grand Muir, Pylones, Point de Vue, La Combe de la Pendant, Combe de la Rachasse. The Magic Forest (Dream Forest) also offers very good off piste skiing in the trees.

Le Tour / AMP Ski courses

Le Tour at the high end of the Chamonix valley is great for all levels on piste and off piste. The front side is easy terrain for beginner off piste skiers. This is an ideal place for us to take intermediate level ski courses on the first couple of days of the course. The back side of the mountain offers very nice off piste terrain for more advanced and expert course skiers. Best spots. All of the back side area and off the Possettes drag lift for some more classic Chamonix off piste. A short climb on foot to the top of Tete de Balme, provides long backcountry ski runs.

L' Aiguile du Midi / AMP Ski courses

The Aiguile du Midi lift takes off piste skiers and alpinists from Chamonix town to an impressive altitude of 3842 meters. This is not a ski area for piste skiing. All the runs are off piste and on a glacier making the skiing more serious. A High mountain guide is advised for this. 

Le Brevent and La Flegere / AMP Ski courses

These areas are linked together and offer very good couloir and open bowl off piste skiing. Most of the off piste in this part of Chamonix  is south facing so avalanches can be frequent on warm afternoons. Best spots. La Floria, Brevent summit, Col Cornu. Combe de Lachanal for more great Chamonix off piste skiing.

Les Houches / AMP Ski courses

Les Houches is situated as at the lower end of the Chamonix valley and offers very nice tree-lined piste skiing and some shorter off piste runs. Best spots. Under the Prarion cables, The hidden meadows and secret off piste spots that only us locals know about.

Chamonix is just 1 hour drive from Geneva airport. Many companies fly into Geneva airport from most major UK airports making it very easy to find transport to come and join one of our ski courses.




Ski courses and ski lessons in Chamonix, France.

New season 2013/2014 course dates



off piste ski courses

off piste ski courses


Announcing new 2013 / 2014 off piste ski course dates in Chamonix with elite ski teacher Mark Gear

After such amazing conditions this season and due to increased popularity of courses, there will be 24 off piste performance courses on the programme for next winter.

Full 5 day courses and short weekend courses will run throughout the season again from early December - late April for intermediate, advanced and expert levels.  2013/2014 off piste ski course dates

Bookings are coming in already for next winter so it's recommended to book early to ensure your place and receive a 10% early booker discount. Book a course before the 1st of August to receive a 10% discount. Book a course

looking forward to skiing with you again soon!

Mark Gear

Tel: +33 (0) 679 630 573 Email:

Ski the whole mountain with control versatility and expression!



off piste ski courses

pre season ski fitness training


Pre-season fitness tips and exercises for better skiing by pro skier and elite level, ski instructor Mark Gear.

Mark skiing

There is no better physical training for skiing than skiing itself. Statistically, the majority of people who ski partake in the sport ski for just 2-3 weeks per year. So its probably safe to say that more enjoyment can be had by most skiers, if they physically prepare for those precious days on the mountain.

This article is not intended to be a set programme, but aims to provide insight for how to train more specifically for skiing. To take your dry land ski training more seriously, why not head down to your local gym and ask for help from the professional staff to design a personal programme. This really can do wonders for your skiing. It's best to be in good physical shape before starting a strength training programme. It is reccommended to check with your doctor before starting a physical fitness programme.

Programme duration

Any exercise you can do before your ski trip will certainly help. However, an 8 - 10 week ski specific programme of 3-4 training sessions per week can help dramatically. Starting with strength training and ending with what is know as plyometric training. This will help prevent your legs from burning half way down the slopes and reduces the risk of injury. More about plyometric training later.

Cross training

Cross training through different sports is also a great way to improve general fitness for skiing and will help most recreational skiers. Any sport that involves moving the legs and getting the heart and lungs working is a good place to start. Running, jogging, cycling, swimming and tennis are all great sports to prepare yourself for the coming ski season.


Flexibility is an important part of training for any sport and can help reduce the risk of injury. It is important to take the time to stretch straight after each training session, whilst the muscles are still warm.

Skiing specific training

This kind of training includes initially strength training with weights and secondly plyometric training. Once strength has been increased, plyometric training can later be used to improve speed, agility and power. Ski specific training, as the name implies, aims to target the muscle groups used in skiing and to use them in a similar way to skiing.

Some skiing specific strength training exercises

The following exercises not only increase strength, but also balance skills which are important for skiing. The exercises should be performed in repetitions and sets. Again it's best to ask a fitness trainer for help at your local gym to design a personalised programme.

Free weight squats

Free weight squats (no machine), for improving whole body strength and balance. This exercise really targets the legs and core which are important muscle groups to strengthen for higher performance skiing. It is important to perform squats with the correct technique. Care should be taken as poorly performed squats can cause injury.




Some useful tips for free weight squats


  • Warm up first with low weight.
  • Use someone to spot you when lifting more weight.
  • Face a mirror to check your technique
  • Keep your back straight and parallel to your lower legs through each squatting movement
  • Keep your head up and look forwards with eyes open.
  • Keep your chest pushed out in front.
  • Keep your feet in a comfortable symmetrical stance.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor through each squat.


The Lunge


The lunge also targets the major muscle groups used in skiing. Precaution should be used to ensure correct technique. The emphasis should be on quality, balanced and smooth lunges without too much weight.



Some useful tips for lunges


  • Warm up first without much weight.
  • Use someone to spot you when lifting more weight.
  • Stand with one foot forward, the other back.
  • Both feet should be facing straight forward.
  • Be sure your front knee is over your front ankle.
  • Lower your back knee almost to the floor, and rise up again.
  • Concentrate on squeezing to push yourself up, keep the abdominals tight and the lower back in a neutral position.
  • Maintain the body in an upright position with a straight back to avoid leaning forward.


One leg squats

One leg squats can be more difficult to perform as balancing is more challenging. It's best again to start with low weight. When comfortable with the technique, weight can be held in each hand or on a bar held behind the neck. Try placing a cushion under the front foot to really target your balancing skills. This helps to strengthen the little muscles used for balance in the legs and core.One-leg-squat

Some useful tips for one leg squats


  • Always warm up first with not much weight.
  • Use someone to spot you when lifting more weight.
  • Stand with one foot forward, the other placed behind on a bench
  • Keep your back straight
  • ensure your front knee does not pass in front of your toes


Plyometric training

Plyometric training involves high-intensity, explosive muscular contractions that encourage the stretch reflex (stretching the muscle before contraction so that it contracts with greater force). Sounds complex although most plyometric exercises are simple. The most common plyometric exercises include hops, jumping and bounding movements. This type of training is typically done after a strength training programme. Plyometric exercises can enhance agility, speed and power which are important components of higher performance skiing.



A great skiing specific plyometric exercise


Lateral jumps

Lateral jumping can be done at home and simulates many movements that are used in skiing. Bending and stretching of the legs with agile lateral movement, including flexing of the ankles, knees and hips. Aim to keep good control and balance, landing and taking off with both feet.

Then, learn to control leg symmetry in lateral jumps. Aim to keep your knees and feet the same distance apart. This is an ideal stance for skiing. Developing this kind of control can really help build stability symmetry and prescision into your skiing stance.




Hope you enjoy these ski fitness tips and exercises.

Article by Mark Gear, director & head coach at All Mountain Performance in Chamonix

Meet Mark Gear

Mark Gear runs performance ski courses in Chamonix for all-mountain skiing.  Improve your skiing privatley or in a small group.  Full HD slow motion video feedback is also included at the end of each ski day with Mark.


Book Ski Courses & Private Coaching with Mark!

Find Your Ski Level


Book Courses


Make Enquiry


Book Private Lessons





Summer ski coaching Tignes


Why not escape the heat this Summer and improve your skiing on one of Europes best Summer ski areas. 


Private ski lessons & coaching with one of Britains most elite ski teachers Mark Gear

The Tignes glacier will be open for skiing from 16 June until 02 September 2012 & then re-opens late in September.



Receive world class ski coaching, private ski lessons & video feedback this Summer from a top level BASI ski instructor on the Grande Motte glacier ski area in Tignes.

The Tignes Summer ski area is a great place to do some Summer skiing.  Many national ski teams use the glacier area for training in the Summer months. The underground funicular opens for 07:30 each morning taking skiers to the Grande Motte glacier in just a few minutes.


Summer private ski lesson times & prices :

8am - 1pm (5hrs) for 1 or 2 people costs 255€

8am - 1pm (5hrs) for 3 to 6 people costs 315€

Prices are per lesson, not per person


At the end of your ski lesson, Mark will provide you with helpfull video feedback to further your progress.

Book Now! Email:

 We can also help you organise airport transfers from Geneva and accommodation in Tignes.


Tignes Summer Ski Info

Click on image to view full size

 Tignes can offer great Summer skiing at an altitude of 3500 metres. 

  • Over 25 kilometres (130 hectares) of runs 
  • Vertical drop of over 750 m For the summer ski season
  • The Glacier will be open from 16 June until 02 September 2012 & then re-opens late in September.


Téléphérique de Tignes

High Quality private ski coaching & private ski lessons in Tignes this Summer skiing with elite level ski instructor Mark Gear.



TIGNES and the mighty Grande Motte (3550m) is Europe’s highest and finest snowsports Summer ski area!  offering up to 28km of excellent summer ski slopes suitable for all levels of skier.  Sometimes, even in the summer months we have powder days!  Ski lifts will be open all summer season, through to early September.  There are enough blue and red graded ski slopes to offer a great ski day.  For freestylers there is a well designed and maintained snow park with many Jumps & features to keep the jibbers happy! Summer skiing lessons in Tignes run on request from 8am - 1pm.


Tignes Summer Ski Cable Car

The snow conditions on the Tignes glacier

Throughout the summer there are often fresh snowfalls on the mountain, which helps to keep  good snow levels. Typically the snow starts off hard in the mornings, then becomes softer as the sun takes effect. By mid to late morning the snow conditions are is at their peak, soften towards the afternoon but remaining in reasonable shape. The snow continues to soften under the sun, but remains firm enough to ski until the afternoon when it becomes quite 'sugary'. The altitude, and the glacier generally help to keep temperatures low enough.

Ski tips for skiing powder


Off piste ski tips for skiing deep powder by top level off piste ski instructor Mark Gear.

Learning how to ski off piste in deep powder snow can make fairly accomplished groomed run skiers feel somewhat like beginers again. 

The following off piste skiing tips will help you cut through the frustration quicker and help you on your way to skiing deep powder snow with the flow and comfort you would like to feel.



Off Piste Ski Tip # 1 - Deep Powder Snow

Use a two footed platform of pressure

Aim to push both skis into the snow when intitiating your turns, this will help distribute pressure onto both skis which provides a more predictable feeling with the skis when deep in the snow.  This is because snow creates resistance around the skis.  The deeper the skis are in the snow, the more snow resistance is felt by the skier around the skis. By pushing both skis into the snow with a more equal distribution of pressure, the snow resistance around each ski also becomes more equal, thus making it much easier for the skier to make both skis do the same thing at the same time.


Off Piste Ski Tip # 2 - Deep Powder Snow

Make smooth shaped turns

Go for smooth fluid movements and turns with a smooth, curved shape.  This will encourage a more fluid off piste skiing run.  Any abrupt movements or turns will have an abrupt effect on your balance.  Smooth turns and a good rhythm are essential for a fluid powder skiing run.


Off Piste Ski Tip # 3 - Deep Powder Snow

Push the heels downwards

Not to be confused with leaning back!  Dont lean back!

In very deep snow, we should aim to push the heels downwards a little to help keep the ski tips up out of the snow.  This movement is very subtle, but very effective.  It WILL stop the feeling of the ski tips wanting to dive deep into the powder snow which is oftern followed by the well known forward face plant.  This movement of pushing the heels down also allows the skier to maintain a relativley centered balance point along the skis length, which is far more comfortable than leaning back.



Off Piste Ski Tip # 4 - Deep Powder Snow

Remember to pole plant

Smooth, coordinated and well timed pole plants are a very important part to off piste and powder skiing. This will help you to build fluidity and rhythm into your run.  The pole plant also helps for commiting to the turn and helps the skier move the body forwards and in the direction of the new turn.



Off piste ski tips by elite ski instructor Mark Gear.


Join Mark on an off piste ski course!


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Ski tips>Ski off a drop


 How to ski off a drop this season with out hurting yourself. No guarantees of course!


Mark Gear skis off a serac at Les Grandes Montets


This is what the ski movie guys do, they don't just jump and hope.


Here are a few top tips for how to ski a drop off.  Watch the sequence of shots.


  • Pick your jump carefully.  Jumping can be dangerous.  Its always best to start small.


  • Always visually check out a jump or drop is safe before leaping off. The landing and run-out should be clear of obstacles and allow you enough space to land and make turns to slow down. Speed picks up fast in the air so you will need plenty of open space for confidence to land well and ski away.


  • It is important to ensure that the landing is not flat. The landing area should slope away from the jump.  Flat landings should be avoided as the impact is greater.


  • Snow texture and depth should be checked before jumping so you know what to expect when you land.  For example, deep and heavy snow will slow you down on landing and could throw you forwards over the skis as you land. Hard snow is going to offer a fast landing and a harder impact.  If the snow is hard, you may want to find a smaller drop.


  • Once you are happy that all you are going to hit if you get it wrong is snow, there's not alot to it other than take a deep breath, point the skis and jump!


  • Take enough of a run up to get some speed off the jump.  It really helps to make a positive, intentional jump upwards and forwards into the air. 


  • Hold the hands forwards for the flight also pulling your knees up towards your chest. This will help keep your balance and stability in the air, also setting you up for the landing phase of your drop.


  • Whilst in the air, you will need to angle your skis to match the angle of the slope gradient.  You don't want to land too far forwards or backwards on the skis.


  • When coming into land, allow your legs to extend a little.  This is like droping your landing gear. It will set you up for absorbtion on landing.


  • Land absorbing the impact, standing up and skiing away hearing the aplause from the nearby chair lift.


By Mark Gear Head Coach, All Mountain Performance


Freeride ski coaching in Chamonix for advanced and expert skiers.

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