Sophie Chardon has been an instructor on Maison Sport since 2016 and is one of the most invaluable instructors on our platform. Born profoundly deaf, Sophie has an incredibly inspiring story. A trip to the mountains at the age of 8 ignited her love affair with skiing and ultimately changed her life. Fast forward to 2024 and Sophie is the only deaf female ski instructor in France and is passionate about making the sport more accessible for people of all abilities.
Aimee Fuller, ex-Olympic snowboarder and presenter of BBC Ski Sunday, sat down with Sophie in her home resort of Courchevel 1850 in Les 3 Vallées to speak to her about her journey to becoming a ski instructor and the successes and challenges she has faced along the way.
Credit: Paul Besson, Les 3 Vallées
Sophie, tell us about where you grew up?
My family are from Paris and this is where I was born and grew up. I have now been living full-time in Courchevel for the last 25 years. The mountains feel like home to me and I love it here!
How old were you when you started skiing?
I was 8 years old when I went skiing for the first time. It was incredible! My first experiences skiing were in Courchevel and I continued to ski here as I grew up. I met my husband here and now we live together in Courchevel and it holds a very special place for us both.
Did you always know you wanted to be a ski instructor?
Growing up in Paris I wasn’t around the mountains. I was born deaf and didn’t know whether learning to ski would be possible for me. I was first introduced to skiing at the age of 8 and we used to come during our holidays, at Christmas and Easter. At the age of 13 I started to consider becoming a ski instructor, but at this age I still wasn’t able to speak at all and communicated only in sign language. I was told it would be impossible to become a ski instructor without having the ability to speak. For me, impossible was not a word that was in my dictionary, so I continued to push myself. I learned how to speak and continued to come back to the mountains and successfully managed to pass my ski instructor qualification. Now I’ve been working as a ski instructor in Courchevel in Les 3 Vallees for 25 years.
Sophie, that is truly incredible! Am I right in saying you are the only deaf ski instructor in France?
Yes, that is right. When I heard that the BBC were interested in interviewing me for BBC Ski Sunday I said – absolutely! It’s really important for me to improve the awareness and accessibility of learning to ski in the deaf community.
Do you have many deaf students that you are introducing to the mountains for the first time?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of deaf students to teach. I have tried to get the word out, but there is not enough information out there and many people don’t know that it is possible to learn how to ski with a deaf instructor, like myself. I was thrilled to have this opportunity to do this interview with Maison Sport and BBC Ski Sunday as I saw it as my chance to show the world that it is possible to learn to ski when you are deaf.
I can see there is a badge that I’ve not seen before on your jacket, please could you tell me more about this?
Yes absolutely, the flag that is on my jacket is the universally recognised deaf flag and is an extremely important symbol for deaf communities around the world. I hope that wearing this badge when I am teaching skiing will help people in the resort to discover me and learn more about the opportunities for deaf people in skiing. Individuals in the deaf community will immediately recognise this badge as a symbol of someone with involvement in the community, whether that be they are deaf themselves or able to communicate with sign language.
Watch the full episode of Ski Sunday on BBC iPlayer here
Following Sophie’s interview with Aimee Fuller, the show takes you behind the scenes to witness Sophie in action teaching a deaf client on the slopes of Courchevel. Sophie’s segment is preceded by thrilling winter sports action, including the longest and fastest race on the World Cup circuit – the classic men’s downhill ski race in Wengen. Make sure to tune in for an episode packed with action and inspiration!
Watch the extended episode on our YouTube Channel:
At Maison Sport, we consider it a true privilege to offer a platform that enables Sophie to connect with clients, share her incredible story, and thrive as an outstanding ski instructor.
Nick Robinson, Co-Founder of Maison Sport, shared his insights on Sophie’s contributions to our clients’ experiences:
“As Sophie alluded to earlier, she doesn’t get to teach deaf students as much as she would like. Having said this, she is a superb ski instructor and teaches ski lessons both in spoken French and English as well as sign language. The feedback we have received from her lessons has always been positive, and she has consistently received 5-star reviews. Her ability to teach is second to none, and we are delighted to have her continue teaching on our platform for years to come.”