Specialist family operators 2012
The family ski market is constantly changing, with new lodging, destinations and specialist tour operators. Using our annual family chapter in Where to Ski and Snowboard, we outline some of the options below; there are more, of course, but the table below gives an idea of the leading tour operators.
WHO TO GO WITH?
You can, of course, have family skiing holidays more or less completely unaided. Or you can call on the support of resort nurseries, and childcare facilities associated with resort ski schools.
But huge numbers of British families are wedded to the comfortable childcare arrangements offered by British tour operators. And if you plan to do that, you have a choice of three main types of supplier.
First, you have small, specialised companies which are well represented by the firms advertising with us. These firms go to a small range of resorts that they know inside out (only one resort, in the cases of Snowbizz and Ski 2), and are basically owner operated, so you can reasonably expect them to be very responsive to the needs of the individual.
Many, but not all, operate catered chalets. If that doesn’t mean much to you, check out our feature on luxury chalets – which includes an explanation of this splendid, uniquely British concept. (Unless your infants are appreciably better behaved than the editorial ones were, you probably won’t want to let them loose in anything resembling luxury, of course; but the explanation in that feature is a general one.)
Then there is Esprit Ski, also a chalet operator, but on a much bigger scale. Esprit Ski claims to be ‘No 1 for Family Skiing’, and it’s not an unreasonable claim, with holidays in 10 French resorts plus an interesting sprinkling across the rest of the Alps. The business started life in much the same way as its smaller rivals, but earlier – 29 years ago, in fact, so about nine years before I first used it. In that time it has grown and grown to the point where it is now a different animal (along with Total and Inghams, part of Hotelplan).
As well as an unmatched range of chalets, Esprit has lots of chalet hotels – hotel buildings operated along chalet lines. If the chalet formula sounds a bit claustrophobic for your taste, the chalet hotel may be the solution.
A clear advantage of increased scale is that it supports wider travel options: Esprit flies to Geneva (for France and Switzerland) from the obvious regional airports and Edinburgh and Southampton. It has Chambéry flights (for France) from a range of regional airports, again including Southampton and my favourite, Bristol. For Austria and Italy, it’s Gatwick and Manchester to Innsbruck.
Your third option is bigger still – the mainstream operators such as Crystal, which operate the same sort of childcare in a selection of the many resorts where they sell holidays. To save you the work of figuring out who goes to which resorts, we’ve drawn up a table showing exactly that. The table covers the advertisers in our book to give you an idea of your options.
Note that some of the smaller operators are less specialised in family holidays than others, and don’t have full childcare facilities in every chalet or even every resort. Of course, there are plenty of other operators offering childcare. Last time we checked, there were over 40 UK firms doing it.
Who goes where
|St Anton||Esprit Ski|
|Alpe-d’Huez||Esprit Ski, Crystal|
|Les Arcs||Esprit Ski, Ski Amis|
|Ardent – Avoriaz||Family Ski|
|Les Coches – La Plagne||Family Ski|
|Courchevel||Esprit Ski, Ski Amis|
|Les Gets||Esprit Ski, Ski Famille|
|Les Menuires||Family Ski, Ski Amis, Ski Famille|
|Méribel||Esprit Ski, Ski Amis|
|Peisey-Vallandry – Les Arcs||Esprit Ski, Mountain Heaven|
|La Plagne||Crystal, Esprit Ski, Family Ski, Mountain Heaven, Ski Amis|
|La Rosière||Esprit Ski, Mountain Heaven|
|La Tania||Ski Amis|
|Tignes||Crystal, Esprit Ski, Ski Amis|
|Val d’Isére||Esprit Ski, Ski Amis|
|Val Thorens||Ski Amis|
|Champoluc – Monterosa||Ski 2|
|Val di Fassa||Crystal|
|Saas Fee||Esprit Ski, Family Ski|