Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm
and Saturday 10am to 6pm
Service department 0800 260 5082
Contact us
Travelski Booking Department:
0800 260 5082

Available from Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 6pm

Find your ski holiday

ESF Ski lessons in English: know your level, test your skills

By TravelFactory , 20/10/2022
An ESF instructor leading a group of skiers on a flat piste

Taking lessons from a certified ski instructor is the best way to learn and improve. Plus, group lessons provide a supportive learning environment. They can help you to feel less intimidated and give you an opportunity to socialize with other students. 

There are plenty of lessons in English at French ski resorts. So, our Ski Travel Guide would be incomplete without an overview. The level system may be confusing at first glance, but we’ve broken it down for you below. 

English Speaking Ski Schools in France 

We’ll start with the choice of school. It largely comes down to either the ESF (The French Ski School) and the ESI (The International Ski School). Most families choose the ESF, considered an institution since its founding in 1945, for its wide-reaching presence in the Hexagon. So, we’ll focus on their offerings and level system.  

An ESF ski instructor

ESF instructors are easily recognisable in their signature red outfits.  


ESF Ski School: Activities and Lessons for Kids of All Ages 

ESF offers ski lessons for all levels, from seasoned skiers to complete beginners. Even babies and toddlers can get in on the fun with organized winter activities. We’ll start with the littlest holidaymakers.  


ESF Supervised Winter Activities for Babies and Toddlers 

In most ski resorts, ESF offers a day care service for children between 18 months and 3 years old. Trained childminders add a winter holiday flair, leading participants in indoor and outdoor activities and supervising naps. Contact the ESF before your departure to make sure they offer this service at your destination. 


Club Piou Piou – 3-5 years old 

For complete beginners. Most ski resorts in France have a Club Piou Piou, which offers group ski lessons with a certified instructor. Kids will get familiar with their ski equipment, learn the basics of skiing from friendly instructors, and get around in the snow either on foot or on skis. Perfect for a first ski holiday. 


Alpine Skiing: Lessons & Tests for Kids

Once your little ones have got the basics down, it’s time for them to level up and put their skills to the test. They can earn badges, stay fit, and of course have fun! Before you know it, they'll be skiing all over the resort. Prices for kids: 350-450 euros per week, depending on the resort and the season.

An ESF ski instructor leading a group of children on a flat piste


Bear cub (Ourson) Level – from 4 years old  

For kids who have skied before or ambitious new skiers. This is the first course that leads to a badge. Participants learn how take their skis on and off, use a ski lift, and glide on their skis. They’ll be able to slow down for turns and keep their skis parallel when going downhill. Once your child has completed this course, they can head for the green slopes! 

Snowflake (Flocon) Level – from 5 years old  

You can sign your child up for this course even if they’ve never skied before and haven’t completed the Bear Cub Level. Participants learn how to adjust their speed, slow down, stop, and go downhill. The icing on the cake: seven or eight consecutive snowplough turns before going down a small hill. Better balance and confidence are achieved at this level. 

1st Star (1er Etoile) Level 

The 1st Star course can be done after the Snowflake Level is completed. Your child will glide down gentle slopes and learn how to skid for simple turns. A badge is granted for several snowplough turns done consecutively by skidding.  

2nd Star (2ème Etoile) Level  

In the 2nd Star Course, participants learn to go over small hills and navigate slight dips. The Skater’s Step is introduced, and participants will be able to do several turns consecutively on an average slope and develop an awareness of their surroundings. 2nd Star in hand, your child will be ready to accompany you on the slopes! 

3rd Star (3ème Etoile) Level  

By the time your child reaches the 3rd Star Level, they’ll be like an old pro! They can hit the slopes with you, taking on several turns consecutively, just as you do. For this badge, they’ll have to show their mastery of parallel skiing. At this point, balance, precision, and speed are the name of the game! 


Go further! Additional Tests for Ambitious Kids 

Children who have completed the 3rd Star Level are already well-prepared to ski on average slopes with the entire family. However, if your child is looking for a challenge, the ESF also offers advanced level courses to help them brave all types of terrain. Bronze, Silver, and Gold Star Levels are available to those who want to push themselves further after several years of practice. 

Bronze Star Level  

Ski sequences, tight turns, and balance on uneven terrain are the focus points at this level. Participants can also learn carved turns. Your child will feel like a professional skier! 

Silver Star Level  

Having a Silver Star allows students the freedom to ski on all different types of snow. They will improve their precision, controlling their movements with less and less skidding, and perfecting their style. The most exciting part? They are ready to take on their first small jumps.  

Gold Star Level  

Your child has reached the final step in their ski education. It takes years of hard work, and they’ve persisted like a pro. For a gold star, a timed ski run is required. The challenge is to ski without stopping and to take on ten consecutive turns on a variety of terrains. The grand finale is a timed giant slalom.  



ESF Alpine Skiing: Lessons & Tests for Teens and Adults 

Although skiing is often learned young, it’s never too late! In most ski areas, the ESF offers group lessons specially designed for teens and adults.  First, make sure you have all the gear you need. Check our Ski Holiday Packing List. Then, take a look at the offerings below. Prices for adults: 250-350 euros, depending on the resort and the season

Two adults skiing off piste led by an ESF instructor


If you’ve never skied before or it’s been a while, this course was made for you. The instructor will help you get familiar with your equipment and adapt to the slopes. Once you’ve completed this course, you’ll be able to use a ski lift, ski on smooth terrain, and make a snowplough turn. 

Class 1 

Once you’ve got the beginner’s course under your belt, you’ll start to feel more confident on your skis. In Class 1, you’ll learn to do a basic downhill turn on a gentle to medium slope, sideslip, change directions, and move forward. 

Class 2 

At this level, you’ll leave snowplough turns behind and learn how to skid and parallel turn. You’ll encounter different types of snow (icy, deep, packed) and different kinds of terrain (slopes, bumps). 

Class 3 

You can now parallel turn anywhere. You’re ready to perfect all kinds of turns. Soon you’ll be at ease with multiple techniques and put your all-terrain knowledge to the test.  

Class 4 

This advanced level gives you the opportunity to finetune your skills and hone your expertise. Bends, short quick turns, long carving turns, and more. Once you’ve mastered this level, you’re ready to join ESF’s ski touring sessions.


ESF Snowboarding Tests for Kids 

Alpine skiing isn’t the only activity on the slopes. Snowboarding is becoming more and more popular, and the ESF has responded to the growing demand. They now offer three level tests for aspiring snowboarders from 2 to 12 years old. Prices for kids: 350-450 euros per week, depending on the resort and the season.

Two snowboarders practicing gliding on a flat piste in the Alps

Goomie Rider Level 

Sign your child up for Goomie Rider if they have limited snowboarding experience. This level acts as an introduction. Your child will learn how to go up a ski lift with their snowboard and master some gliding basics. 

Rookie Rider Level 

Sign your child up for Rookie Rider if they’re ready to focus on turns. In this level, your child will learn how to change direction, link turns, and take on their first box. Don’t worry—boxes are low to the ground to start.  

Izzy Rider Level 

Izzy Rider is the highest level available for children, and the focus here will be stringing together a series of turns.  They’ll be able string together 4-6, to make a jump on a gentle slope, and to do a 180° slide crossing. 

Curious about snowboarding? Check out Snowboarding 101.


ESF Nordic Skiing: Lessons & Tests for Kids 

A similar system of levels and tests applies to Nordic Skiing. Nordic Skiing, in which skiers traverse flat terrain, is a subject addressed at length in Nordic Skiing. Prices for kids: 350-450 euros per week, depending on the resort and the season.

Three children in skis on a flat piste posing with their ski poles

The Bear cub Level (Ourson) 

The Bear cub Level is for complete beginners. Children will learn the basics of Nordic skiing: how to move forward on level ground and gentle downward slopes. Snowplough turns are introduced. 

The Snowflake Level (Flocon) 

Children will continue their practice on slight downward slopes and learn how to slow their speed. They will be able to go back uphill using the herringbone technique.  

The First Star Level (Première Etoile) 

Children will learn skating style—that is, forward movement without ski poles. Snowplough turns are mastered, and practice terrain is more slippery than at previous levels. 

The Second Star Level (Deuxième Etoile) 

Children learn to perfect their skating style, but they don’t leave the classic style behind! They’re presented with classic-style challenges, such as doing twisting steps and navigating dips and bumps

The Third Star Level (Troisième Etoile) 

Skating style: children move on to half and two-stroke skater steps on flat terrain. Classic style: children learn more complex sequences and take on consecutive turns. 

The Bronze Star Level (Etoile de Bronze) 

In both the classic and skating styles, children move on to backwards and parallel ski turns

The Gold Star Level (Etoile d’Or) 

For a gold star, children must do a ski run on varied terrain, maintaining a certain speed. Flat zones, hills, and dips will test their skills. They are given free rein to use the technique that feels best for adapted to each part of the course.  

The Timed Test: Nordic Cross 

The Nordic Cross, which has been around since 2005, is now the official (and only) timed test for Nordic skiers. The piste is ridden with bumps, turns, and jumping-off points meant to test expert-level skills. The record time for completing the 600-meter course is one minute and forty seconds. It’s a great challenge, but not for the faint of heart!