Skiing with children
Skiing as a family is a whole different (snow)ball game. It's not simply a question of cutting back on the apres-ski: taking children to the slopes involves a lot of clobber, a lot of organisation and – inevitably – more dosh. (To help with that get 5% off all Mark Warner Ski holidays by quoting 'Mumsnet' when you call their reservations team on 0333 305 9795).
Here are a few things to consider before you book
1. You're probably going to need a different resort
Look for a resort with less emphasis on off-slope
drinking socialising and more on childcare facilities, suitable slopes and kid-friendly eateries.
- Obergurgl, Austria: “Guaranteed skiing on the nursery slopes, short transfer from the airport and almost no cars in the village make this place special for families, especially those with pre-teens.”
- Soldeu, Andorra: “The ski school has English instructors, there are lots of other Brits around, it's great for beginners and cheaper and quieter than the Alps.”
- Deux Alpes, French Alps: “The resort was 200m from lifts and ski school – and the nannies took the kids to and from the lessons each day. For the little ones, they took all the skis on the sledge – so I cannot fault that.”
- Pamporovo, Bulgaria: “Perfect for first-time skiers, good food, quiet.”
- Serre Chevalier, French Alps: “Ideal for families with older kids, with apres-ski activities for kids, including igloo building and animal tracking.”
2. It'll be pricey – but you can cut costs
Skiing en famille isn't a cheap way to holiday, but you don't want to pare back so far that it's just a slog. Happily, there are a few things you can do to make your budget stretch further:
- Think about where you ski: for example, Bulgaria is cheaper than the Alps.
- Think about when you go: Easter is cheaper than February half-term (but make sure your resort will still have plenty of snow).
- Think about where you stay: self-catering can be cheaper than a chalet or hotel – but make sure you do your research as package holidays can end up cheaper once you consider flights and transfers.
- Think about what you take: 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 easily exchange anything that doesn't fit.
“I kitted my children out from eBay with some very nice salopettes for £8. Check out Freecycle, too. Kids grow out of this stuff so quickly that there's tonnes of secondhand stuff flying around – mention it to all your friends and I bet you'll have an offer of something.”
3. Don't try to do it without childcare
If you've got a baby or toddler(s) you really do need childcare, or you won't get a chance to ski at all. And don't forget to factor in the faff of getting kids to and from said childcare, as well as yourself – with 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 – Mark Warner childcare staff even do the drop off and pick up from the slopes so you can enjoy a full day of skiing. You book this from the UK, ideally prior to departure, and can rest assured that the childcare will reach UK standards and that they use 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: sound out a grandparent or other family member, or borrow a friend's teenager. If s/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.
4. Nail how you're going to teach the kids
You've got two options, essentially – teach your child to ski yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you. If you're already a competent skier, then teaching your children offers a two-for-one: spend time together and save money. But Mumsnetters caution:
- “Visit a dry slope before you go if you're taking your child skiing for the first time – familiarisation with the equipment can be a confidence booster on day one of ski school.”
- “Look for child-friendly ski lifts, carpet lifts, chair lifts and rope tows – they're often the highlight of the day.”
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 easily, others… don't.”
5. Don't feel guilty if you opt for the ski school
There are no prizes for taking the harder route, so be realistic about whether a ski school might suit you all better. Your children won't thank you if you get grumpy going down the nursery slopes for the hundredth time, or take them down runs that suit you, rather than them. 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 – it's all about having fun, after all!
Claim your 5% discount with Mark Warner Ski Holidays
Hit the slopes in the French, Austrian or Italian Alps and enjoy snow-sure locations, fabulous food, friendly staff and market-leading childcare – holidays from £599.
As this is an exclusive offer, please call Mark Warner's experienced reservations team on 0333 305 9795 and quote 'Mumsnet'. For more details, visit the Mumsnet partner offers page.