The Alps Accommodation team are always reviewing new developments in skiing equipment and facilities - as part of our service to guests in Samoens. So, we arranged for one of our regular clients, Pat Ward-Lee, to test the latest, amazing piece of French kit for disabled and non-skiers, the Tessier Tandem’ Flex. This streamlined machine, brand new for the season, is compact and light, with a comfy, wide bucket seat, neoprene-lined chest straps, superb shock absorption and stays in perfect balance even at speed or on lumpy snow.
For our 21/2 hour test, the device was handled by super fit “pilote”, Michka Gulliot of the Ecole de Ski Internationale ZigZag based in Samoens. Zig Zag, established in 2006, is a leading Samoëns ski school specialising in group and individual courses and is at the cutting edge of the rapidly increasing facilities for skiing for the disabled, with highly qualified and sympathetic instructors. Alps Accommodation clients receive a 5% discount on all courses.!
Before his trip, Pat, 75, who skied until ten years ago when old rugby injuries and a dodgy back forced him to retire from the sport, was fitted with a helmet at the Roland Gay Ski Service equipment store at Samoëns 1600. He was able to wear his own heavy boots – no ski boots required – and borrowed a pair of waterproof trousers and goggles to team with his own ski jacket.
Was he nervous? ‘At first, I worried because I weigh 90 kilos and the 38 kilo machine looked too light to take my bulk.’ he admits, ‘but my confidence was boosted by Michka, who told me that there are three weight settings, and mine was only the middle one! He chatted to me throughout the trip, and checked whether I wanted him to take fast turns, or slow down.
‘The weather wasn’t the best, with mist and thin snow which thickened up as we skied down towards Flaine from Samoens 1600 but I was completely dry, strapped in, and cosy under the tough, zipped waterproof cover. I found the action strong, smooth and precise with no jarring on my back, or hips. It was great to ski again with my wife Sally and son Tom after 10 years of being “handbag holder” down at the bottom!
‘On chair lifts, the gas spring assistance helps the seat rise smoothly so you can sit upright and chat to your mates. The lift guys slowed things down for us, of course, but we didn’t hold up the queue for more than a minute or two. Michka was always attached to the machine and the chair was very responsive to his ski turns and braking, so I felt safe. Having heard so much about the smooth ride on the Chariande Express up to the Tête des Saix (2118m), it was great to try it for myself.
“I would recommend this to anyone who is handicapped, a non-(or former) skier like me, or who wants to join their family and enjoy the thrill of seeing the stunning Samoens scenery, the incredible view from the Tête des Saix, and Mont Blanc’s dramatic peak, up, close and personal! Just remember to remove your false teeth, take a handkerchief to wipe your goggles, and wear warm gear!”
Pat was so enthralled with his experience that he persuaded Michka to take the long red run “Marmotte” from the top down to Samoens, twice! In fact, you could tackle even more difficult runs, but, in the case of black or off-piste trips, two “pilotes” are needed.
“Since I’ve been back home in the UK, a number of my friends, former ski-ers and people with aches and pains like me, have been fascinated to hear of my experience, and can’t wait to try one of these machines for themselves, “ says Pat. “It would be a real treat, for instance, for older relatives who are accompanying families on their holidays. Of course, if you are disabled, there is no better way to see the mountains and enjoy the thrills of skiing safely. I now know what I want for Christmas!!!.”
Pierre Tessier, who established his company in Saint Rémy de Maurienne in 1995, has seen demand for specialist equipment rise by about 30% in the last couple of seasons. He says: “We allow only professional ski instructors to use this machine and they must undergo rigorous training. It will be more widely available here and abroad after this season’s baptism.”
Buying your own model would set you back 7,300 Euros, but, if you want to try it, a trip in the Tandem’Flex costs a reasonable 46 Euros an hour. Contact Zig Zag Ecole de Ski, Samoëns (email@example.com www.zigzagski.com). (Don’t forget: Alps Accommodation guests receive a 5% discount on their trip!)
Check your insurance! Although your “pilote” will be covered by his or her professional insurance, you may need extra cover for yourself.
Sally Ann Voak