The European ski season is already well underway and with the lifts in most resorts remaining open until after Easter, there is still plenty of time to book an Alpine adventure. If you’re contemplating a family ski holiday for the first time, here are some tips on how best to go about it.
When to go... It goes without saying that travelling outside of school holidays is preferable (prices will be lower, ski schools will be quieter, slopes will be less crowded), but also consider the differing conditions during the season. Christmas to early March is peak season, it snows more often and it’s generally much colder, which isn’t always ideal for younger skiers. From mid-March into early April, snow conditions can still be very good, but temperatures are milder and there are more blue sky days – cue fewer complaints from little ones about the cold and more opportunity for you to sit in the sun sipping a nice, crisp rosé.
Who to go with... Group holidays are not for everyone (let’s face it, our own kids can be annoying enough), but when it comes to skiing, teaming up with family or friends can really work.
Booking out a whole chalet for a big group can offer much better value for money.
Kids can buddy up together in ski school, while parents can share childcare and take it in turns to hit the slopes. The nature of a ski holiday also means that the group is generally split during the day, so you get a break from each other and there’s less chance you’ll spend the holiday silently seething over your differing parenting techniques. Everyone comes together over dinner at the end of the day to swap stories of their adventures.
Which resort to choose... There are many, many ski resorts to choose from and it can feel overwhelming if you don’t already have a favourite haunt. Decide your priorities and do your research. If you want lively après-ski and quick access to a large ski area, then the bigger, purpose-built resorts might be for you. If you’d rather get your Hygge on and experience a quieter holiday in a more traditional town, then seek out a smaller resort.
The holy grail is a “satellite” village, connected by ski lifts to a bigger resort
so you can enjoy a peaceful holiday but still have access to a decent-sized ski area – the best of both worlds. The Ski Club of Great Britain has a handy resort finder tool on its website that’s a good place to start.
Where to stay... The accommodation you choose will largely depend on budget and personal preference. If you are going as just one family, a hotel with a babysitting service may work best. For big groups, you can opt for the full-on, all-inclusive chalet shebang or go self-catered. With a chalet, you’ll generally get your meals cooked, your beds made and you and your skis shuttled to and from the lift by a twenty-something Seasonnaire. It’s luxury, but it comes at a price and you’re often living by the timetable of the chef/chaletmaid/host. Self-catering is obviously less expensive and can actually give a little more flexibility in terms of working around the demanding and complex schedule of a toddler, just make sure there is a decent supermarket in resort.
What to book beforehand... Book as much as you can in advance, particularly if you’re going during peak weeks. Most resorts have their own website with links to everything you need to book online, including ski lessons, ski passes, ski equipment hire and childcare. If you’ve booked via a tour operator or chalet company, they should be able to organise everything for you. The more you can get sorted before you go, the easier life will be when you get there. No-one wants to drag a journey-fatigued troupe of children to the ski hire shop as soon as you land in resort, or worse, arrive to find all the ski lessons fully booked.
What to pack... This deserves a whole post in its own right! Packing lightly and skiing do not go hand-in-hand. At a very basic level, everyone planning to ski will need thermal underlayers, a fleece, ski jacket and pants, ski socks, goggles/sunglasses and gloves (skis, ski boots and helmets can all be hired in resort). Add in nappies/wipes/formula/toys/books/an entire pharmacy’s worth of Calpol/the kitchen sink and you’ll certainly need to check luggage into the hold. As with any holiday, check what children’s equipment is available in your accommodation to avoid packing everything your kids have ever owned. It might seem overwhelming at first – there’s no denying that there’s a lot to think about and plan – but get it right and the end result will be so worth it. Think of it as laying the groundwork for years of family ski holidays ahead, because once you get the bug, I promise you won’t be able to give it up. Bon ski!
You can also take a look at Beth's article 'How to make the most of a ski trip with kids' by clicking HERE.
Written by Beth Roberts
Beth works in PR and lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two sons, aged four and eight months.