Skiing is one of my all-time favourite family holidays. Both Nick and I were very fortunate and had parents who loved to ski so we both put on skis at a very young age. Keen to instil our love of the slopes on our children, Alfie and Tess also started when they were little and are now great skiers. This year, when we go to Morzine in February, it’ll be Sam’s first time on the slopes. Well, almost his first time. We had a trial run at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead a few months ago, which wasn’t an overwhelming success (you can read about our misadventures here) but I’m hopeful that actually being on the mountains will help!
However, despite how much I love family ski holidays I’d be lying if I said that weren’t a hassle. Unlike a beach holiday where you can fly and flop onto a sun lounger, a family ski holiday involves so many different elements to organise. First there’s your accommodation, then you need to book ski hire (essential if you’re planning to ski over February half term in particular) and ski lessons, and you’ll have to organise your lift passes.
How to plan a family ski holiday
Having enjoyed many a family ski holiday, I can confidently say what has made our life easier. If you’re going skiing with the kids for the first time, or even if you’re a seasoned pro, here are six top tips to ensure your first family ski holiday is a success.
Choose the right resort
In theory can take your kids to any ski resort but some are more suitable than others and there are certain things you’ll want to consider when choosing where to go.
Location: If you’re flying then you’ll want somewhere with a shorter transfer time, especially if you’re travelling with little kids. Resorts like Morzine in France and Seefeld in Austria are both easy to access from their nearest airports. Less well known but brilliant for families is Les Houches in the Chamonix Valley.
Ski area: If you’re a beginner then you really don’t need to pay the extra £££ to go to a big-name resort with a huge ski area as you’ll pay more for something that you won’t take full advantage of. Look for a resort with good beginner slopes and a nursery slope.
Accommodation: When skiing with kids it’s handy to stay in a chalet or hotel that’s within walking distance of the slopes. What you don’t want to be doing is catching a bus with kids and ski gear every day (hint: kids hate carrying ski kit!).
Ski school: You’ll want to make sure that the local ski schools cater to the ages of your kids. It’s also worth seeing what else there is to do besides skiing; is there an ice rink or a toboggan run that kids can enjoy off the slopes for example? The French resort of Avoiraz has a huge tropical indoor water park for example and Les Carroz has thrilling tobbogan run.
Charm: If scenery is important to you then you’ll want to take that into consideration. Some purpose-built resorts such as Tignes are great for a snow-sure holiday as they are high but are not very pretty. If you’re looking for charm then many Austrian resorts, such as Kitzbühel started life as a village and offer bucketloads of character – but perhaps not as much snow as they lie lower down the valley.
Find family-friendly accommodation
Finding the right place to stay in a resort is really important. Accommodation options generally include hotels, self-catered apartments or chalets or a catered chalet. Whatever type of accommodation you choose, you’ll want to be near the slopes. There are also specialists family tour operators such as Ski Famille that offer very family-friendly accommodation and include in-chalet childcare! Some of them also offer hot tubs, playrooms and more. Although I have never tried this kind of organised ski holiday, it all sounds very easy.
Choose the right time to go
Not surprisingly, school holidays are the busiest – and most expensive – times of year to go skiing. Traditionally Christmas and New Year were very busy but with unpredictable snowfall in recent years, the February half-term break has become the go-to week for a family ski holiday. Easter, depending on when it falls, is also a popular time. Make sure you book everything ahead if you’re planning to ski during the school holidays (especially ski hire and ski lessons). If you have pre-school kids then take advantage of the weeks when everyone else is back at school and enjoy a cheaper ski holiday. The months of March and April are warmer and with longer daylight hours, which works well for kids.
Get the right ski kit and clothing
If it’s your first time skiing then check to see if you can borrow some kit from friends or family, especially for the kids. This includes salopettes or ski pants, a waterproof jacket, googles and gloves. Alternatively, look for cheaper options rather than expensive brands. A friend recently kitted her kids out in ski gear from Aldi and places like Uniqlo do great fleeces at really reasonable prices.
You can hire equipment including skis, poles, boots, helmets and snowboards) at the resort. If you want to know what you need to pack for the cold weather, take a look at my cold weather packing guide. One final thing, if you’re skiing with little kids allow yourself a lot more time than you think you’ll need to get them in their ski clothes. I’ve yet to meet a toddler who enjoyed dressing up in multiple layers before putting on a thick ski suit – it can take a lot of time and often some tears!
I can’t tell you how important it is that you book ski lessons! Lessons not only teach you how to ski but they teach you the rules of the mountains and how to ski safely. If you can ski and your children are just learning, I still say that you should book lessons and not try to teach your kids yourself – not least because then you can enjoy the slopes. Private lessons are more expensive but you will progress quicker. Group lessons, especially for kids, can be fun and Alfie and Tess loved progressing through the various stages of the French ski school system, the ESF. If an English-speaking instructor is non-negotiable there are lots of British-run schools including the New Generation Ski and Snowboard School, which operates in 15 resorts in France and Switzerland.
Finally, have an amazing time! Skiing truly is, in my opinion, one of the best family holidays you can enjoy so get ready and head to the mountains.
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