Skiing with children
Planning your first family skiing holiday? It will still be skiing, but just not as you knew it when you went with your mates.
Skiing as a family is not simply a question of cutting back on the apres ski. Taking children to the slopes involves a lot of clobber (we're talking skis, poles, helmets, gloves... and that's before we've even started on clothes, sunblock and sunglasses). And yes, the children need all those things, too. So expect everything to take rather longer than you remember. And to cost rather more.
But family ski holidays with children are the stuff memories are made of. And if you and/or your partner are keen skiers, this is one way to pass on a sport that you've loved to the next generation. (Just remember not to get too piste off competitive when they're whizzing past you on the slopes.)
To help ensure you have the most family-friendly ski holiday possible, here are a few things to consider before you book.
Where to ski as a family
Here are some of the family ski resorts Mumsnetters recommend:
- Obergurgl, Austria: Guaranteed ski on the nursery slopes, short transfer from the airport and almost no cars in the village are what makes this place special for families, especially those with pre-teens.
- Soldeu, Andorra: Ski school has English instructors, lots of other Brits around, great for beginners and cheaper and quieter than the Alps.
- Pamporovo, Bulgaria: Perfect for first-time skiers, good food, quiet.
- Serre Chevalier, French Alps: Ideal for families with older kids, with après-ski activities for kids, including igloo building and animal tracking.
Childcare options for your ski holiday
If you've got a baby or toddler/s, you really need childcare or you won't get a chance to ski at all. And remember to reckon up the faff factor of getting kids to and from childcare as well as yourself and skis up a mountain. Your options include:
- Tour operator's kids' club: The big pull of travelling with a tour operator is the onsite kids’ clubs. Crystal, Mark Warner, Neilson et al, all run their own childcare and ski tuition. You book this from the UK, ideally prior to departure and can rest assured that the childcare will reach UK standards and with English speaking staff.
- A crèche: Lots of resorts have crèches, but check beforehand that there are plenty of English-speaking carers.
- Take a carer with you: This could be a grandparent or other family member, or borrow a friend's teenager - if she/he wants to ski, they might come along unpaid (provided you pay their expenses).
- Ski with another family: This allows you to take it in turns with childminding.
How to cut costs when you're skiing as a family
- Think about where you ski: Bulgaria is a lot cheaper than the Alps.
- Think about when you go: Easter is cheaper than February half-term (but make sure your resort is likely to have snow when you'll be there).
- Think about where you stay: Self-catering is cheaper than a chalet or hotel. But skiing isn't a cheap way to holiday, especially with children, and you don't want to pare back so far that it's just a slog. Book as much as possible ahead online before you go. Find out the nearest hire place to your resort, and book everything you'll need.
"I'd recommend a catered chalet if you can afford it. Self-catering can mean it's all hard work, and a hotel isn't as child-friendly: the nice thing about a chalet is that you can put the kids to bed and relax for dinner." Damsonjam
Children's skiing lessons
You've basically got two options - you teach your child to ski yourself or you pay someone else to do it for you.
If you're already a competent skier, then teaching your children yourself offers the two-for-one of spending time together and saving money. But Mumsnetters caution:
- Visit a dry slope before you go if you're taking your child on a skiing trip for the first time - familiarisation with the equipment can be a confidence booster on day one of ski school.
- If your child is a beginner, book a resort with a good offering of nursery slopes.
- Look for child-friendly ski lifts, carpet lifts, chair lifts and rope tows - they're often the highlight of the day.
- Think about proximity to the lifts/nursery slope/ski school or crèche when you book accommodation: you won't just have your own ski gear to carry around, you'll have your children's as well - so check for a boot room close to the slopes (preferably with boot warmers) and a mini-bus service if your accommodation is any distance from the slopes.
- Plan other activities for the afternoon, as children can only manage a couple of hours on the slopes at a time.
- Remember to pack an extra supply of patience, some children take to the slopes like penguins, others... don't.
But don't feel guilty if you opt for a ski school - this may be your one chance to ski this year and your children won't thank you if you take them down runs that suit you, not them, or if you're getting impatient about going down the nursery slopes a hundred times.
Ski schools vary in quality, so investigate your options. Check the times - if your child is only in ski school for half the day, what happens to them for the rest of the time?
If it's your child's first time skiing, what happens if they really don't like it? Can they still have childcare? Look out for tour operators that are praised for being flexible and willing to work around your needs.
Ski and snow gear
If you have young children and only plan to ski one week a year, it may be more cost effective to hire their equipment. Arrange this at the resort so you can make exchanges easily if anything doesn't fit. If you decide to buy boots or skis, you should get the hire charge knocked off the holiday price.
"I kitted mine out from eBay. Got some very nice salopettes for £8. Check out Freecycle, too. Kids grow out of this stuff so quickly there's tons of secondhand stuff flying around - mention it to all your friends and I bet you'll have an offer of something." hatwoman
"You only need one set of base layer clothes if you buy merino wool (search for 'Icebreaker'). You can wear it for a week, sweat as much as you like and smell fresh as a daisy. Make sure you don't have cotton next to your skin, otherwise your clothes won't wick moisture and you'll freeze. Same applies for children: proper base layers and waterproof gloves/mittens. Ask around and see if you can borrow from friends!" drowninginlaundry
And finally... once you get back, please review your skiing holiday, so other Mumsnetters know the places to book early or bodyswerve.