Through the eyes of a child

19th August 2009, by Chris Gill

(c) Family Ski Company

(c) Family Ski Company

First published in WTSS 2003

Having their say

I’ve regularly delivered an annual bulletin for WTSS, from the child-rearing front, principally for the benefit of parents contemplating family skiing for the first time. It’s a heavy responsibility, in which I get no help from my co-editor, child-free Mr Watts.

A few years ago however, I came up with a way to give you a bit of a change from annual variants on my views of this business. Why not, I thought, ask my kids to use some of their abundant spare time to reflect on their various skiing trips and commit words to keyboard?

I’d forgotten, of course, that son Alex is now firmly a teenager, so after a token skirmish around the issue of payment per thousand words he declined and went off to play tennis. Daughter Laura took up the reins and came up with what follows. At a price, of course.

I hope you find Laura’s observations shed some light on what does and does not make for a good family holiday. Ready availability of pizza appears to be crucial. CG

Laura’s observations (ages 4 to 6)

Vermont, USA 1996 aged 4
I learned to ski here, sort of by accident. We went to Killington first. The only reason I opted to go skiing was that I couldn’t play outside in the snow if I went in the kindergarten, so it was slightly displeasing that I was forced to go skiing. Actually, I enjoyed it. Of course I was nervous, but having nerves somehow made it more exciting, and that made it even better. Mum apparently got frostbite, but I can’t remember it, so it can’t have been that bad.
In Smugglers’ Notch I had a lot of fun. I really liked the slopes and I appreciated the food even when I was 4. I think it was fun for everyone, but I didn’t like the fact that it was supposed to be a family holiday, yet Dad kept taking Alex and me to ski-school! I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it though.Dad says we spent a fun day in Boston on the way back.

Chamonix, France 1997 aged 5
Chamonix has quite a few bad memories for me. One thing I absolutely hated was my ski instructor. She was pure evil from my point of view. One time, my family was watching me on the nursery slope, and I skied down to them really well, but I still cried because of my instructor. She was horrible because she wore a horrible pair of blue-tinted glasses and she laughed at me when I fell over; I felt really embarrassed and she didn’t even try to help me up. It wasn’t fair - Alex got a really nice instructor.
The scenery was wonderful; I loved the view in the morning. The room in the hotel-chalet was a bit cramped, which didn’t help. There were lots of other kids there, which made it a bit more bearable. Some of the cable cars here were a bit high though. Mum had to lie down at one point because she was feeling dizzy.

Hinterstoder, Austria 1998 aged 6
I liked the people in Hinterstoder more than any other thing. I went to a kind of ski school and the instructor was really nice, she didn’t make fun of anyone and helped us all.I was really excited when we went to see some husky dogs. That was extremely fun. The slopes were all just about right for me (apart from the one on the last day), though everyone else seemed to be having fun as well.
The food was all good; I liked the sausages a lot. I really liked Hinterstoder.

One night we went out to dinner to a kind of farm where they had sledges. Around the side of the house there was a steep hill and everyone’s dads were pulling them right to the top and letting them go down on their sledges. I really wanted dad to help me and he did. But he only went three quarters of the way and then he wouldn’t do any more, he was too old even then!

On the last day, dad said that we just had time to do the nice easy blue run all the way from the top of the mountain, but when we got there it was really steep and covered in ice! He still made me go down it though; I only fell over about sixteen times and then, three quarters of the way down, I got fed up and just went straight down. I never forgave him for that.

Laura’s observations (ages 7 and 8)

Hemsedal, Norway 1999 aged 7
Norway’s best point was the cosiness, warmth and friendliness of the place. We stayed in a sort of wooden block of flats. I didn’t really like the fact that it was desolate and you had to walk quite a way to get to the ski lifts. There wasn’t any other extra activity apart from skiing going on, so it was a bit duller than the other holidays.
We ate twice in the restaurant across the road, in a cellar-like place. Then one night we were going to have a takeaway pizza, and (of course) mum and dad wanted a bottle of wine. Dad was furious because the nearest wine shop was 20 miles away. The mountain restaurant had nothing but hot dogs and chips - which I thought was brilliant!

Verbier, Switzerland 2000 aged 8
When we visited Verbier, we stayed in a chalet. I really liked that because you have much more room to relax and be yourself. We didn’t really need to go out to eat because we had a chalet boy who cooked for us. It wasn’t that hard to get to the slopes and they all lived up to their grading, not too hard or easy. That was good. Quite a few of them were steep though.
My room was a bit small for my liking and it would have been really annoying if two people had to sleep in it. One side of the double bed was up against the wall. It did test my patience that I had to use my bedside table as a desk.

Laura’s observations (ages 9 and 10)

Les Arcs, France 2001 aged 9
The best thing about Les Arcs was that we could ski straight out of our apartment without having to do anything really! Though our apartment was small, I liked the interior and I always got a good night’s sleep. I never had to get up early because there might be a queue at the gondola, because they were quick and efficient and the queues never stayed for long.

There was a pizza takeaway in the apartment block, which was good because my older brother and I could stay in the apartment while mum and dad got the food. The slopes are better for kids than adults in my view. There was one slope near our apartment that was half flat and half bumps that are really fun to go over. There is a really nice beginners’ slope as well. I especially liked the evening, when the slopes were empty and everyone could go down on their toboggans.We didn’t really go to many different restaurants but one I remember was the Tex-Mex. I had ribs in a barbecue sauce. I didn’t like that, but everyone else seemed to.

Les Arcs was okay, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of my list of favourite places.

Tignes, France 2002 aged 10
One of my favourite things about Tignes is the amount of things you can do (not including skiing). I especially liked the swimming facilities and gym in our apartment block (MGM). There is also a jacuzzi, which was great for relaxing after a hard day’s skiing. There is also a lake which in winter is frozen, and I enjoyed watching people cross-country ski and have snowball fights. There is also a cinema; you can see English films there, subtitled in French.The food in Tignes was wonderful. They have a lot of pizza places, which I was tired of visiting by the end of the holiday. I loved the hot chocolate as well, and they do great pasta.

The slopes are quite nice, but I hated it when we went to the top of the Grande Motte and the snow was really icy; the wind was really harsh as well. But that only happened once, which was a relief. There were quite a lot of hard slopes but that didn’t worry me - it might not be a good place for beginners though. All in all I liked the slopes in Tignes.
One of the things I didn’t really like about Tignes was the amount of walking and climbing you have to do. There may have been an elevator up to the village next to MGM, but it didn’t always work. It was very tricky to get to the MGM ski lockers because there was a slippery slope that was very hard to get up and down.

A good way to get to the ski lifts if you’re staying at the far end of Val-Claret like we were is to use the Transcorde. You just grab on to the length of moving rope and are pulled along. I found it quite fun! All in all, Tignes was a really nice place to stay for me.

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