What we do
Off Piste Performance Ltd provides ski instruction from Alison Thacker (née Culshaw) ISTD and ski guiding by James Thacker (IFMGA Mountain Guide). We specialise in private ski tuition and ski guiding tailored to the needs of you, the skier. Based in Chamonix since 2005, Alison and James will help you achieve your skiing aspirations and beyond, whether it making your first turns, want to fine tune your off-piste skills, or join a trip to explore the backcountry.
Off Piste Performance offers the renowned 'Ski Performance Course for Mountaineers' which has been bringing together like-minded people to develop their off-piste skills since 2007.
As a dual discipline team, Alison and James work together on a small number of trips to bring a unique blend of instructional and guiding input, sharing their knowledge of Arctic Norway, Scotland and the Alps.
Alison Thacker (née Culshaw)
I pride myself in being able to tailor my ski tuition to the needs of the clients, using simple yet effective instruction. My philosophy is that skiing is about going from A to B as efficiently as possible and having as much fun as possible on the way, whatever the conditions.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to skiing when I was very young (age 2!) on the slopes of my local golf course then at The Lecht in Scotland. Right from the beginning I developed a passion for the sport which has grown and grown since that time.
Between the ages of 6 and 18 I was involved in ski racing winning national titles and representing the British Children's Team and then the Scottish Team at international races.
Following this my passion developed into ski mountaineering and off-piste skiing doing classic ski tours in Europe, skiing wilderness peaks in Patagonia, skiing on Chilean Volcanoes, a ski ascent of Mont Elbrus and most recently spring skiing in the Lyngen Alps in Norway.
I have been teaching skiing in the French alps for 12 years, working for New Generation in Meribel back in 2003 and having worked for BASS Chamonix for 6 seasons from 2005 until 2010. During that time I have gained substanial knowledge of the local ski terrain allowing me to find the most suitable place for your lessons. Whilst based in Chamonix I have delivered Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to the British Mountain Guides and work as a trainer on the BASI Mountain Safety Courses training aspiring instructors.
Not only am I passionate about skiing, but also about teaching and seeing my clients progress, something that I believe is an essential ingredient when I am delivering lessons.
Alison is a mountain professional for Jöttnar.
I grew up on the edge of the Peak District and it's there that I realised I had a passion for the mountains. The "Peak", with it's gritstone edges and limestone dales has been the foundation for many people's climbing. Like many others, I have gone on to seek adventure in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands, The Alps and The Himalaya.
As a keen climber and mountaineer it was some years late that I stepped into skis in East Greenland. Nordic skis and sledges (pulks) being the obvious choice to achieve first ascents in the Lemon and Lindberg Ranges. With the desire to become a Mountain Guide it was inevitable that I would spend increasing time on skis.
Having completed my degree in Environmental Geoscience, I spent a brief spell working as a Civil Servant, before moving into Outdoor Education. My first position was at Derbyshire County Council's Local Education Authority Centre: White Hall OEC. Where I worked with a wide variety of people of all ages. This gave me an invaluable early apprenticeship in helping people to get the most from their time in the mountains. Work as a freelance Mountaineering Instructor (MIC) followed, alongside voluntary Mountain Rescue experience spanning 16 years, with 3 as a Deputy Team Leader.
After moving to Chamonix I qualified as an IFMGA Mountain Guide in 2012. My passion for wild and remote places underpins our trips to Arctic Norway, which appear alongside private guiding on the classic backcountry runs in Chamonix.
Outside the off-piste skiing and ski touring season I can be found working, from Chamonix, climbing and mountaineering on foot while waiting for the next snow fall.
In addition, James is a regular contributor to Trek and Mountain Magazine and the mainstream climbing press and is one of the Trustees of the Chris Walker Trust.
James is a member of the British Mountain Guides and his profile can be found here: James Thacker's profile on the British Mountain Guides website.
The Rest of the Team
Gillian and Alison have a similar background in skiing. They were both introduced to it at a very young age, and Gillian was also a keen ski racer having raced internationally for the British Childrens Team. Gillian continued to race for the university team whilst studying at Glasgow University. At that time she developed a passion for climbing. Ski mountaineering is the logical progression from there; an opportunity to combine the activities that you love. Since then she has completed numerous ski tours across the Alps, including an ascent of Mont Blanc. However Gillian is equally passionate about exploring the Scottish mountains on ski from her home in Fort William. So much so that she is a well known as a local activist in addition to here ski instruction. Gillian has also recently enjoyed Ski Mountaineering ( Skimo ) racing in Scotland, with some positions on podium in the two seasons the events have been running. Throughout...
Andy Nelson will be once again joining us on Off Piste Rover - Gressoney trip. A dual qualified IFMGA Mountain Guide and BASI Ski Instructor, the west coast of Scotland is also his home base making Andy the obvious choice for the team. Originally from Northumberland, Andy has enjoyed climbing and skiing adventures of all sizes for 30 years. He now lives with his family in Glencoe. Andy is also the Leader of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team which provides adventures of a different kind, day & night, summer & winter and gives him an intimate knowledge of Glencoe and some of it’s more “esoteric” spots! Andy is a member of the British Mountain Guides and his profile can be found here: Andy Nelson's profile on the British Mountain Guides website . Andy Nelson's...
George Reid is a regular member of the Off Piste Performance team, having worked on our Norway ski programme for the last few years. For many years George worked as an IFMGA Mountain Guide at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland's National Outdoor Training Centre. George is based in Carrbridge, Speyside but can frequently be found working in the Alps during the ski season. He's passionate about seeking out ski lines away from the crowds and using the latest tech available to aid his navigation and route finding on the mountain. George and Alison often work together, most commonly delivering BASI Mountain Safety courses. We are delighted to have George working with us again in 2018. He's a real asset to the team, being dual qualified as a Mountain Guide and holding the BASI International Ski Instructor's Award (ISIA, BASI Level 3). George also has an extensive knowledge of the outdoor environment and will happily share this with our clients, adding another dimension to the trip. In Arctic...
Jonny grew up on the West Coast of Scotland, where he quickly developed a passion for the mountains. Much of his youth was spent rock climbing in Glen Coe and Glen Nevis and also on the great ice climbs of Ben Nevis. His love for alpinism and skiing has taken him to the European Alps and onwards and upwards to adventures in the Tien Shan, Pervian Andes ,Norway, Greenland, Canadian Rockies, New Zealand and Australia. Jonny now lives just outside Chamonix, Mont-Blanc. Jonny is keen to share his passion and knowledge of the mountains with his clients, and to make it fun - whether it's skiing, ski mountaineering, rock climbing, alpine climbing or winter alpinism. You are sure to find him happy just by being in the mountains. Jonny is a member of the British Mountain Guides and his profile can be found here: Jonathan Baird's profile on the British Mountain...
Rob and Alison have worked together since 2013 delivering the popular Chamonix Off-Piste & Mountain Skills course. Rob has worked full-time in mountain training and guiding since 1999, working for most of the major outdoor providers. He has climbed extensively throughout the Alps and UK. He has worked on expeditions to the Greater Ranges and the Antarctic. He spent 18 months living and working on the Antarctic Peninsula, working as a field assistant for British Antarctic Survey. Rob nows lives and worked in the Chamonix valley. He is equally as passionate about climbing, ski touring (and road biking!). Through his training, he is able to pass on this enthusiasm to his clients. Rob is a member of the British Mountain Guides and his profile can be found here: Rob Jarvis '
Rupert Hutchinson joined Off Piste Performance in 2015 as catering manager for the Lyngen-Oldervik and Kvaløya-Senja ski touring trips. As a passionate cook and former head chef at Glenmore Lodge, he's good at making sure there's a steaming hot cup of tea and a slice of cake, followed by a delicious, hearty meal for groups coming back off the hill. A keen skier, climber and trail runner, Rupert also holds the International Mountain Leader award and has spent the last 10 years leading trekking trips to the Alps and Greater Ranges. He currently lives in Edinburgh where, with his partner Elle, he runs a small-group adventure company ' Living Alive ', which offers unique outdoor experiences in Scotland and the Pyrenees. Rupert Hutchinson's Qualifications International Mountain Leader (IML) Mountain Leader Winter
For the last 17 years Fran has managed to divide her year between her two favourite spots, Antarctica and the Isle of Jura. Her passion for the remote and the untouched have been readily satisfied in both these destinations. Fran started out as a lodge cook and travelled to Iceland initially for a trekking company and then gravitated to mainland Antarctica and Jura with the odd dash of Arctic thrown in. With her passion for food as fuel be assured that there will be cake! Obviously her passion is for the outdoors, and allows her in any spare time to cross country ski, enjoy long distance hikes or cycling in the Peak District. Fran will be joining us on our Lyngen - Oldervik and Kvaløya - Senja weeks.
Blair has spent more than a decade in the Alps, running training and assessment courses for BASI, and developing New Generation Ski School in Val d I'sére. Blair now teaches a primary 7 class in East Lothian, and spends his weekends skiing in Scotland. During the holiday periods he returns to the Alps, and we are delighted to have him working with us in Chamonix. Blair has a diverse skiing background, being a former national alpine champion and an experienced ski mountaineer. He is actively involved in promoting ski touring through his Facebook group British Backcountry. When teaching skiing, Blair's enthusiasm for ski touring, and all aspects of skiing, come shining through. Blair Aitken's Qualifications BASI Level 4 ISTD (International Ski Instructor's Diploma) BASI European Mountain Security