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Backcountry Insider: Derek Chandler of Marmalade Ski School

by FLŌA Sports November 28, 2019

Before we get going, I have to ask, why the name Marmalade?

When we were setting up there were plenty of other enterprises on the scene and everyone was coming up with some very serious names or abbreviations and acronyms - but that didn’t really fit with what we were trying to create. 

While we are a serious and professional outfit we’re also very much about enjoying the mountains, skiing and promoting that life is about having fun.  So we wanted to steer away from the normal type of name and have something that embodied more of what we were trying to create. There was another funny name in the runnings, but it got canned pretty quick - That’s another story though!


Your slogan 'Avec Zest' - what does this embody for you? 

On paper every ski instructor and ski school is the same (particularly in France). We are all qualified the same and hold huge amounts of experience and knowledge. The journey to becoming an instructor is rigid and tough. The idea behind #aveczest is that this is the difference between us and other instructors/schools in the this area. A lesson with Marmalade will have all the correct main ingredients for a classic valuable ski school, but will be delivered with a little extra something - passion, enthusiasm, eagerness, fun, challenge, smiles and that is the extra zest!


Tell us a little more about your operation

We are a team of 10 full time instructors along with a variety of subcontractors. This is our 10th year of operation. It started with myself, but was swiftly joined by my fellow directors Nick and Greg. Whilst I started Marmalade it was always going to be a joint effort with the other lads - we just had to be patient and get to the point where we could combine forces. 


How is Marmalade Ski School connected with FLOA? 

Both Nick and I seasoned with Fergie Miller in Canada some 20 years ago and have remained in touch ever since. We have collaborated on a number of projects, and worked for Fergie’s Basecamp venture a few years back. Today, our instructors enjoy a trade discount from FLOA and we include FLOA base layers for everyone who joins our Development Camps here in the 3 Valleys. 


How would you compare a FLOA base layer to others that you've worn? 

We’re not in the textile, fashion or tech clothing world. But we have worn our fair share of base layers over the years. The great thing about the FLOA base layers is that you don’t even notice they are there. They do the job - not too hot, not too cold, not too sweaty, not too stinky. They just work.


You're running a FLOA promotion for your Development Camps this winter. Can you tell us a bit more about these? 

The camps are based around our Development weeks. Which is our version of group lessons. Rather than try to compete with other schools offering the normal group lesson concept we thought the week long package was an interesting concept to explore. It allows you to really making the most out of every day and truly get full value out of your time in the mountains. Not just in the technical skiing but the whole approach to the week so that the user leaves the week thinking not only has their skiing level escalated beyond where they thought possible. But also they were part of something worth coming back to.

Our camps are these weeks, but with an all-in accommodation package thrown in. We’ve teamed up with three different providers to cover a range of budgets and accommodation quality. 

Sounds brilliant. Let’s talk a bit more about the mountains. What does the backcountry mean to you? 

Backcountry means a couple of things. I guess I think it refers to the off-piste skiing which is slightly further away from the pistes. The level of technique, commitment and nuance required to enjoy might be slightly higher. That said I feel it all falls under the category of “off-piste” and whether I am just the other side of the piste markers, or on a three day tour well away from the confines of the resort, it requires the same diligence, effort and respect.

To me, backcountry also means a world away from the confines of the normal skiing. Theres an air of freshness, purity, cleanliness, energy, experiences, unknown, challenge, physicality, and relationship. Backcountry is skiing #aveczest


Image by Michael Truelove


What advice do you have for someone coming to the 3 Valleys area and looking to get off-piste?

Obviously take an instructor or guide with anyone (preferably us) who can add value to your holiday. That instructor/guide is not just there to add value to your morning/afternoon/day/week by making you better, but also by showing you the world in which we live and thrive. Living and making a living in the mountains is a privilege and part of what we need to do is present the full picture.

Apart from that - treat the area with the respect it deserves. Learn about proper technique and how to stay safe with regards to avalanches. Take a course. Wear and carry the correct equipment. Do some research into routes and take advice. Chat to people and gather ideas and act accordingly. Be safe, but enjoy!


What makes the 3 Valleys such a special place for skiing and snowboarding?

The huge diversity and variety of terrain, scenery, challenges, restaurants, and apres. It’s massive and it is very unique in that the geography seems to lend itself perfectly to being united across the three valleys. There are plenty of other large areas to go skiing, but they are so obviously separate venues linked by a run or a lift that it doesn’t blend together very well. I think the three valleys is  so perfectly created that it blends into one cracking super resort. Nothing comes close!


Thinking of visiting Meribel, La Tania or Courchevel this season? Take a look at Marmalade Ski School for development camps, off-piste lessons and guiding and ski-touring as well as private lessons.


FLŌA Sports
FLŌA Sports


FLŌA creates active wear so you can enjoy your passions safe in the knowledge that you have the best clothing possible. Whether it's developing ground breaking technical apparel, or working together as a team, at FLŌA everything we do is about being in flow.


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