How to go skiing as a family
There are plenty of benefits to family skiing adventures - but just how easy is it to go skiing as a family? And when can you start hitting the slopes en famille? Ben Moore is a dad of two and co-founder of the family ski website paralleltrails.co.uk
WHAT AGE TO START
Every parent will know their child best, but as a guide it is probably not worth starting your child until they are five years old. In my experience at this age they have stamina to cope with being on the mountain, can handle getting to and from resort (whether you fly or self-drive) and can adapt and settle in the learning environment of ski school more easily.
Flying may sound the obvious answer, particularly if you go for a tour operator package deal. Going on a plane is a great experience for young children, but not all young flyers take to travelling easyJet easily. Airport queues and ears popping can make the start of your holiday stressful. Be prepared with water, snacks and a surprise toy or magazine to distract and delight onboard. And think carefully about where you land and how long the coach transfer is into resort.
Alternatively go for the self-drive option. It can be cost-effective taking the peage to the Alps, especially for families who already have a lot of their own ski gear. If you are self-catering then driving is a great option as you can take some essentials with you to avoid the high mountain supermarket prices. Driving to the mountains can also be an integral part of the family experience. You will be looking at nine hours at least from Calais, so why not break the journey up with an overnight hotel stay.
WHERE TO STAY
This comes down to personal choice. Booking a package ski deal at a catered chalet takes the hassle out of the whole experience. But you can lose a degree of control. Meal times will be set and these might not fit perfectly with your child’s routine at home. Fussy eaters may also suffer.
Booking your own self-catering accommodation however gives you more freedom and flexibility. You are in charge and meal time and bed time routines can remain the same as at home. Skiing is a physical activity for young children to adapt to and there is a lot to be said for having a bedtime routine that ensures they get sufficient rest.
PREPARE BEFORE YOU GO
Take a trip to one of the UK’s indoor snow centres. Getting your children used to the equipment they will be using in the mountains in advance ensures less stress on the slopes. Getting ski boots on and clicking them into skis can prove a challenge for many young, first-time skiers. So why not practice it before you go.
KITTING OUT THE KIDS
You may be fanatical ski fans, but you have no idea if your son or daughter is going to take to skiing in the same way. So it is more sensible to see if you can borrow ski clothing from friends, or seek out some cheap deals. Aldi has launched a ski clothing range at family-friendly prices, while Sports Direct has increased its ski offering this winter (they have some particularly good value thermal tops and leggings). But it is worth spending a bit of money on a good helmet and pair of gloves. You want their head well protected and being up a mountain with a child with cold or wet hands is no fun at all.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A RESORT
Initially avoid the mega, linked resorts as you’ll never ski everything they have to offer with young children and you will end up paying for lift passes you will never need. Find somewhere compact, with a resort centre that you can stroll around easily and one that has accommodation close to the slopes and lifts. Such as:
Les Gets, France - compact town, tree-lined pistes, Indian Village children’s zone, close to Geneva airport, lots of English spoken.
Flaine, France - not the prettiest but good range of accommodation close to slopes, excellent snow coverage, also close to Geneva.
Obergurgl, Austria – traditional-Tyrolean ski resort, easy slopes ideal for children, high altitude so snowsure through to late Easter holidays.
However good a skier you are (or you think you are) don’t try and teach your children to ski. Trust the professionals and get them booked into ski school. The next question you’ll ask yourself is local instructors or an English ski school based in resort? Once again you will know your child best, however bear this in mind - a family skiing holiday should be a cultural experience as much as it is a physical activity. I am a big supporter of local ski schools for this very reason. I have two boys, they have both completed their gold badges with the French ski school ESF. They have gone into morning ski school with ESF since the age of five and they and their skiing have flourished. Being exposed to a teacher with a funny accent, as they put it, has been a very positive learning experience.
The other benefit of ski school is that while your children are having fun with other children, you can indulge in a few hours adult skiing. Then when you are back together you can encourage your children to show what they’ve been doing in their class - most children love showing off their new skills to mum and dad.