One of the best things about winter is the chance to go skiing. While I’m hardly a regular on the slopes these days, I do love a skiing holiday and especially love the idea of taking my boys when they get older (we tried taking them this year, but at 2 1/2 and 6 months, it was more about building snowmen than serious slope time). To make things a little easier for anyone thinking of heading off to the mountains, we’ve asked Charlie and Rory of Camel Snow, the brilliant bespoke ski holiday specialists for their top tips on booking a family skiing holiday..
WHEN BOOKING A FAMILY SKI HOLIDAY, WHAT SHOULD YOU THINK ABOUT?
Book early if you’re travelling at busy times. Peak weeks (like half-term and Easter) tend to fill up quickly with families booking before their last holiday has finished. The peak weeks generally don’t get discounted at the last minute as by this time they have generally been filled. So the best way to secure any sort of discount will be by booking early.
Make sure you choose a resort that’s right for your family’s abilities. There are plenty of resorts that offer a good level of skiing to all abilities – but most importantly have the right set up for children in terms of instructors, nursery slopes and childcare. It is important to also make sure that you get ski instruction and childcare booked early so that you know that this is sorted, as again these services get booked up quickly in the holiday periods.
Think about transfer times. When travelling with your family you want to make sure that it’s as easy as possible to get to the resort from the airport. Generally, the best way to reach French, Italian and Austrian resorts is by road. For Swiss resorts the train network is fantastic with plenty of resorts having their own train station.
…And then there’s the ski passes. Resorts vary when it comes to the cost of a pass. In some resorts you won’t have to buy a pass for the nursery slopes, so this can help with costs.
Make sure there are other activities on offer. Most kids won’t be able to ski for the whole day so find out what the resort has to offer in terms of afternoon activities to keep them entertained.
ARE HOTELS OR CHALETS BEST FOR FAMILIES?
Generally if you are travelling as a large family group or with another family, your best option will be a chalet. The benefits are that you can organise children’s meal times and the adults can eat together later. You’ll also have exclusive use of the facilities with many chalets now offering driving services which makes life easier getting around the resort.
For a small family, a hotel may well be the more economical option as a number of hotels across the Alps have decent sized family suites and also have in-house childcare facilities.
Consider your options and check the proximity to the slopes and whether the chalet or hotel are suited to a family. It can be said that choosing between a hotel and chalet is down to individual preferences – a catered chalet means that you tend to eat in all the time, where as in a hotel you may have a bit more flexibility.
WHAT’S THE BEST AGE TO TEACH CHILDREN TO SKI?
We both started to ski around the age of 4-5. Group lessons are a good starting point – although make sure that your child is placed in the right group for their ability. The most important thing is not to rush them, start with a couple of hours in the morning and go from there. Also from experience we have seen that children tend to get on best in a group when the parent is not around. Of course you will be able to give your instructor your number or hide in a local cafe over looking the nursery area to see how they are getting on.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE LEARNING TO SKI FUN?
Make sure you don’t put too much pressure on them. Ideally depending on their age and how strong they are 2-3 hours in the mornings will be plenty. They can then meet you for lunch and in the afternoon perhaps you can have a couple of runs with them so you can see how they are getting on. But again it is important that they don’t over do it – little injuries will happen when they get tired and this can cause a real set back in their learning.
When it comes to lessons make sure the groups aren’t too big. Most ski schools will have a maximum number of pupils per group. Make sure there are no language barriers and that you are using a school with dedicated kid set-ups. It must be said that these days most resorts already have this but again worth checking. A great instructor always helps!
WHAT OTHER SNOWY ACTIVITIES CAN YOU RECOMMEND FOR CHILDREN?
This all depends on the resort you choose. Activities can range from tobogganing, ice-skating, husky rides, swimming pools, building snow men…Choose a resort where the skiers can meet the non-skiers for lunch as this keeps the whole group together.
WHERE ARE THE BEST RESORTS FOR FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN UNDER 10?
We recommend Gstaad & Wengen (Switzerland), Obergurgl (Austria), Courchevel 1650, Sainte Foy & St Martin de Belleville (France) and Plan de Corones – Kronplatz (Italy).
WHAT ARE THE BEST RESORTS FOR FAMILIES WITH TEENAGERS?
Val d’Isere, Meribel & Morzine (France), Verbier & Zermatt in Switzerland (although, not for absolute beginners) and St Anton (Austria)