UCPA is a huge French non profit organisation that offers over 80 different activity courses at 70 destinations across France plus a further 19 centres overseas. Union national des Centres sportifs de Plein Air, has built a 50 year legacy in the realm of French outdoor sports. Originally established by the government to encourage young people to take more holidays and experience the outdoor lifestyle, it is now a chartered organisation which continually promotes and grows the sense of enjoyment through outdoor sporting activities. In line with the original purpose of the UCPA, to make outdoors sports and coaching accessible to young people, age restrictions apply.
UCPA train their own instructors, buy all of their own equipment plus manage their own centres enabling the costs to be kept as low as possible. By sharing rooms and clearing away your tables after meals, you enter into the UCPA spirit, something that is proving hugely popular with the British. Although not a luxurious holiday, it is a very sociable week with everything included in the price.
Purpose built activity centres in fantastic location
The UCPA centres are located in the best locations in France for the chosen activity. They are purpose built activity centres so the majority can host their main activities within metres of the front door (beaches, pistes, rivers, golf courses etc) yet are never far from the local nightlife and amenities. The accommodation is 'hostel style'; simple, no-frills yet clean and comfortable. Some of the newer centres are of similar standard to a 3* hotel. Most centres offer the option of twin room accommodation for a small supplement however these places are limited. Due to the ethos of the UCPA multi share rooms are still the norm and provided as standard. Above all, the communal, social areas found within the UCPA centres wholly comprises the spirit of the organisation.
UCPA Instructors are either already fully qualified under the French BEES (Brevet d'Etat d'éducateur sportif) system or are currently under training to achieve their qualification (but are suitably qualified to teach the group). This is similar to the UK Coaching Course (UKCC - endorsed) programmes being introduced within the UK sports associations. Whilst the average age of the UCPA instructors is fairly young they have chosen to instruct their sport as a career and take the job seriously, albeit still having fun!
Huge range of equipment
UCPA are partners to some of the best manufacturers for the specific activity. The centres store a huge range of equipment as they fully appreciate that everyone is different and what suits one individual may not suit someone else. Every year 50% of the equipment is replaced therefore you can be sure the equipment is all relatively new and well maintained. The equipment you are provided will be based upon your level, course requirements and sizes required. The equipment room is open daily so any problems can be reported and equipment exchanged.
The UCPA experience is very unique so let us explain what you should expect from your UCPA holiday.
The UCPA accommodation is referred to as ‘centres’. These can best be described as being on the scale between activity centres, nice hostels and basic hotels. Some centres are newly renovated and very modern where as some are slightly older, however they are all very clean, warm, sociable and in great locations. Rooms are shared therefore if you select the multi share option you will be allocated a bed in a room with a couple of other people (usually 4-6 people per room). If you are travelling alone this will be a single sex room, if you are travelling with mates it may be a mixed room. The UCPA always tries to room friends together and 99% of the time this is possible, however in some very rare circumstances they are unable to do so. The only way to 100% guarantee you are roomed with a friend is for you both to select the private twin room option and pay the extra supplement. Private twin rooms are available in most of the centres for 2 people travelling together, availability is limited though. The UCPA is very sociable and the shared room set up means that the UCPA is a perfect environment for solo travellers or people keen to meet similar minded people. Usually toilets and shower facilities are shared between a few rooms. The UCPA centres do differ between resorts to see the specifics for each resort and view some pictures click here. The UCPA has plenty of social areas including a bar, so the bedrooms really are for sleeping only. You will be required to make your beds on arrival and strip your beds when you leave. You are also expected to give your room a clean before you go. This helps keep the UCPA holiday costs low.
UCPA packages are full board, therefore all meals are included in the advertised price; breakfast, lunch and dinner. As you know the French take a lot of pride in their food and meal times are a special and sociable time, expect no less from the UCPA. Meals are buffet style and there are always a number of different options and courses. Breakfast options tend to include a number of cereals and muesli options, yogurts, bread, cheese and breakfast drinks. At most resorts you can return to the UCPA centre for lunch where you will find a few hot meal options, a salad bar, cheese and meat platter and desert. Dinner usually includes a meat option, fish option and vegetarian alternative. Again there is always a wide variety of mixed salads, meats and cheeses, bread and a desert. If you have a dietary requirement you are advised to contact UCPA directly before arrival and speak to the chefs on your first day. If you require special food alternatives, such as gluten free bread, we suggest you take your own. These will not be available at the UCPA and it’s unlikely you will find these in resort either. The food is really great at the UCPA and you certainly won't go hungry! To help keep costs down you are asked to clear your dirty dishes and give the table a wipe when you finish.
The UCPA has a huge variety of courses and instruction options for both skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Whether you are an absolute beginner never stepped foot on a ski slope before or a seasoned expert searching for adrenaline filled days, there is a course perfect for you. There is usually a non-instructed option, perfect for people who are happy to explore and progress on their own without guidance. The price difference is minimal so we do recommend you take the opportunity to join a group – it’s genuinely the best way to meet people, improve and find the best conditions. You can check the ability level of each course by reading the course information on the booking page. If you are unsure of what level you are you, compare your experience against the UCPA ski/snowboard levels.
When you arrive in resort you will be asked to describe your level and previous experience. This will allow them to allocate you a place in the correct group. Instruction begins on the Monday morning therefore it is important you attend this session (for beginners it usually begins on Sunday afternoon). The instructors and guides are all qualified through the French system which is generally considered to be the most difficult system to qualify thorough, so you will be learning with the best. The UCPA instructors are all really young, enthusiastic and up for a laugh, so the instruction is much more relaxed than others you may have experience. You will have the same instructor and group for the full week so you can really get to know each other.
The lift pass will be made available to you on the first ski day, for a week long break this is the Sunday morning. The lift pass is yours for the week so look after it! The lift pass you are issued will depend on the resort and the course you booked. For some resorts the wider ski area lift pass is issued as standard for everyone, despite their course. For other resorts the lift pass available may have restrictions depending on the course selected. The lift pass information for each course is highlighted on each activity page. Therefore before proceeding with booking do read the course information. The lift pass is normally valid until midday on the final Saturday of your week long stay, any variations to this will be outlined on the course information. Therefore for week long trips you will have 6.5 days on the slopes.
When you check in you will be issued with a ticket or card for the equipment hire. The equipment hire is all onsite so it couldn’t be easier to get yourself organised! The kit you will be issued will depend on your level, the course you are registered on and your size. Rossignol and APO are common brands of equipment. Half of all equipment is replaced every year therefore the kit is quite new and well maintained. If you are taking part in a specialist course you will be provided with all equipment required for the activity e.g ski touring equipment or avalanche safety kit. Helmets and ski clothing are not provided. Helmets can be hired in resort for a small fee however you should come prepared with your own clothing or rent clothing in advance. If you are not sure what to pack check out our winter kit list. The ski and snowboard kit is available from Sunday morning until the following Saturday lunch time during normal week long holidays.
A large majority of the UCPA course options require you to be at a minimum standard.
Detailed below are the descriptions for the various ability levels.
The French piste grading system
Learning or Beginner slopes. These are usually not marked trails, but tend to be large, open, gently sloping areas at the base of the ski area or traverse paths between the main trails.
An easy trail which are almost always groomed, or on so shallow a slope as not to need it. The slope gradient shall not exceed 25% except for short wide sections with a higher gradient.
An intermediate slope. Steeper, or narrower than a blue slope, these are usually groomed, unless the narrowness of the trail prohibits it. The slope gradient shall not exceed 40% except for short wide sections with a higher gradient.
An expert slope. Steep, may or may not be groomed, or may be groomed for moguls. Black can be a very wide classification, ranging from a slope marginally more difficult than a Red to very steep avalanche chutes like the infamous Couloirs of Courchevel. France tends to have a higher limit between red and black.
UCPA ski and snowboard ability levels
You are discovering the sport for the very first time or your experience is too poor to ski on your own. You will be introduced to your ski equipment and will ski on gentle slopes in a glide and then make some gentle turns and learn to stop under control.
You have completed a week of skiing before. You can go down green slopes with confidence and certain blue slopes. You are gaining confidence to ski more quickly but are beginning to master your speed and control your skis and direction. You are developing parallel turns and starting to link turns.
You master your speed and control your skis on blue slopes. You can go down red slopes when they are even but have difficulty when there are moguls. You are starting to ski some easy black runs. You are perfecting carving technique and body positioning, tackling bumps and steeper slopes, learning to manage difficult conditions. You are able to link confident parallel turns.
You can ski confidently on any kind of slope of the ski area, even if you feel a bit less at ease on difficult slopes (moguls, ice, powder). You can carve effectively on groomed pistes, however your technique is not so consistent with steep or bumpy slopes during challenging snow conditions. You can adjust your technique and mix short and long radius turns when required. You spend time in the side country perfecting off piste technique.
Your experience permits you to adapt your technique according to all situations and you can ski the whole mountain with excellent technique; steep slopes, moguls, different kind of snow. You can link carving and big turns on any kind of terrain. You are relaxed and comfortable off piste in difficult conditions.
The UCPA was originally set up to make adventure holidays, top resorts and quality coaching more accessible and affordable for young people aged 18 to 39. In recent years UCPA have become more flexible with the age restrictions, increasing the upper age to 45 and introducing special courses and weeks to allow families and people over 45.
UCPA train their own instructors, buy all of their own equipment plus manage their own centres enabling the costs to be kept as low as possible
The UCPA purpose built activity centres are located in the best locations in France for the chosen activity
UCPA Instructors are either already fully qualified under the French BEES (Brevet d'Etat d'éducateur sportif) system or are currently under training to achieve their qualification
Huge Range of Equipment
UCPA are partners to some of the best manufacturers for the specific activity. The centres store a huge range of equipment as they fully appreciate that everyone is different and what suits one individual may not suit someone else.
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