There’s a nip in the air and that means just one thing – ski season! Josephine Price has nailed how to ski successfully with the little ones and discovers the very best places for a family ski holiday you’ll all treasure.
Whether you are a family of beginners or seasoned skiers, a holiday on the slopes provides the perfect opportunity to get out of London and enjoy sweeping mountainous landscapes and clean mountain air. It comes as a welcome break for urban families and the children love it.
A family break does not come cheap, so researching the best type of break for your family is essential. From the well-trodden pistes of Europe to the grand North American counterparts, there truly is something for everyone. According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), winter sports holidays have increased in popularity by 10 per cent since 2012. And after the great snowfall last year, the 2013/14 season looks set to be another busy one. Teaching children to ski while they are young is like the old bike trick, once learnt…
Choosing where to ski and where to stay with your children in tow is a big decision.
Location makes all the difference to your holiday, as you don’t want to lug gear around unnecessarily. Savvy skiers may opt to send their gear ahead with luggage collection company, First Luggage. And to check out details on snowfall and ski resorts, visit The Ski Club of Great Britain which has plenty of great tips for bewildered first-timers.
Born To Ski
There are conflicting views about what age is best to get your children on the slopes. The French strap on skis as soon as a child can walk, others think it is best to wait until they are about three. Whatever you decide for your under-fours, there’s a ski school to suit. And once you’ve strapped them onto their baby skis, you’ll be astounded at the speed with which they learn – and envious of how little fear they show. Even the most apathetic of families will find it hard to ignore the competitive streak that a day on the slopes can ignite!
With the mixture of skiing, toboganning and other fun-filled activities at the kids’ club, a ski holiday rarely prompts the cry: “I’m bored!” from your little ones. Specialist family ski destinations are packed with nurseries, qualified nannies and instructors, plus they offer itineraries to keep everyone busy from morning until night.
Teaching your children to ski yourself causes mixed emotions – potential parenting battles can be offset by the pride in seeing them swoop off for the first time. If you choose to pay someone to do it for you, make sure to get a certified instructor with experience of teaching young children. Your resort is sure to have one.
When To Go
If you have pre-school children, you’re lucky – you can plan to travel outside of school holidays, thus avoiding the price hikes the travel industry imposes on parents. For those who have to follow the constraints of the academic year, the period over New Year and February half term are renowned for being busy – especially as both state and independent schools have their half terms at the same time in 2014 – but with Easter falling late, lack of snowfall might mean you find more edelweiss than snowflakes.
Where To Stay
The good news is that most ski resorts lend themselves to family groups, so it is not difficult to find accomodation to fit your needs.
Self-catering apartments are available in all ski resorts and offer the most independence. They also work out rather cheaper but it is important to remember that you might feel the need for a little rest and luxury at the end of a long day shepherding your herd down the slopes.
Ski hotels range from basic bed- and-breakfast to five-star resorts. This type of break means that someone else does the cooking, cleaning and washing-up and also offers facilities such as swimming pools, spas, gyms and play areas. Prepare to be pampered, but pay for it.
Picturesque ski chalets are typical of alpine accommodation. Chalets tend to provide a full- board experience which means that, unless you hire the whole chalet, you share your meals and leisure time with other guests. Staff are often on hand to sweep the children off to a crèche or separate dining area if requested. Chalets have recently upped their game and many now offer spa facilities to match hotels.
Each ski destination has its perks and it is a good idea to find out its secrets. For example, the French ski resorts are flooded with university students in the week before Christmas. Expect noisy crowds in the evenings, but quieter slopes in the mornings.
Top Tips For A Family Ski Holiday From ABTA
- Make sure everyone is covered with Winter Sports cover
- Pack layers to keep warm
- Always wear a helmet
- Carry a piste map with you at all times and choose pistes suitable for your ability
- Make sure children are properly supervised at all times
- Remember you’ll be doing a lot of exercise, which can leave you hungry and dehydrated. Pack a few small snacks just in case.
- Take extra care in the sun, remember to pack a high SPF cream with you.
- And finally – children love winter sports but keep an eye on them to make sure they are not attempting too much – they will probably be better than you by the end of the week anyway!
Four of the best destinations with kids
Aspen Snowmass, USA
Aspen, Colorado is a great option for intermediates. The Rocky Mountain range is beautifully groomed and like most things American, enormous. The long distance (flights to Denver are 10 hours) turns the trip into a fully-fledged adventure, with no language barrier. Viceroy Snowmass is a fantastic mountain resort hotel with two kids’ activity centres. Elegant Resorts price a seven-night stay for a family of four at £6,985.
Avoriaz in the French Alps is a true family destination and being car-free, means that accommodation is ski-in, ski- out. A chalet option is the best bet here and Chilly Powder, with a team of qualified nannies, understands that you may not always want to watch the little ones perfect their snowplough. Evenings are a delight, as Francesca unveils her Cordon Bleu training over supper. Expect prices to start at £3,200 for a week’s accommodation for a family of four.
Norway is fast becoming a popular choice for families to discover Scandinavia. The Trysil resort, the largest in Norway, boasts the biggest children’s area in Northern Europe. The Northern location ensures a longer ski season from November to late April, which helps out with time or school holiday restraints. Travel experts Ski Safari price a seven-night stay for a family of four at three-star Fjellblikk self-catering apartments from £2,140.
If you love skiing in style, Courchevel is for you. The Cheval Blanc hotel understands that what awaits you after a day on the slopes is as important as time spent on them. Brought to the Alps by LVMH, the brand responsible for Dior, De Beers and Dom Pérignon, Cheval Blanc has made its mark with Michelin stars and designer boutiques. Expect to pay £17,969 for a family of four for seven nights.
How To Find Your Perfect Get-Away
Baby Friendly Boltholes is a website set up for parents to help you find holiday cottages that are great for breaks with kids. Many have baby sitting facilities, most have toys and books for the little ones to keep them amused and you can order ready meals or even arrange for a chef to cook for you. Chalet Chambord in the Swiss Alps has a children’s snow park nearby and offers fabulous ski-ing, a hot tub and sauna. There are crèches and babysitting in the resort so grown-ups can make the most of the ski-ing and the après ski! The chalet enjoys uninterrupted views of the Rhone Valley and Southern Alps and has an upside down layout to make the most of the views, with a fabulous open plan living area on the first floor featuring a double height wall of windows and doors onto a large balcony with eating area and barbecue. www.babyfriendlyboltholes.co.uk