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Thousands of tips to make it heaven, not hell.

There's no better family holiday than a skiing holiday. It’s a fact, believe us.

Just check out some of the photos below and it will give you an idea of what we mean.  The family that skis together stays together!

the_boys_in_verbier_400If you have a baby you have the freedom to leave your little loved one in a nursery you trust and finally get some time to yourself. A holiday at last.

If you have a toddler there’s nothing quite like watching your toddler take to the snow like a duck to water.

When you start skiing round as a family as equals laughing, speeding, lunching and falling over together there’s nothing quite like it.

Then comes the inevitable day when your children become better than you and you feel an enormous sense of pride (tinged with regret though!).

Family skiing is fantastic, however it can also be stressful, expensive and a complete nightmare if things go wrong.

The editors of PlanetSKI, James and Kisia Cove, have 3 children (now 18, 16 and 13) and they all started aged 4 years old. The kids ski around 4/5 weeks each winter and have been to the Alps, The Pyrenees and the Rockies.

They started off in crèches as babies, progressed through various ski schools and now doing race camps.

We have experienced pretty much all the problems there are and in this guide pass on our own personal advice. It comes from experience.

Esprit Ski

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have also teamed up with Esprit Ski, the No 1 family specialist, to bring you some helpful advice.

What to think about when taking the children skiing.

  • Flight times out of UK - are they a civilised hour for children?
  • Check distance/time from arrival airport resort.
  • Choose an operator with plenty of experience and that offers a choice, not just limiting families to a particular resort where they "do" child care.

Child care questions to ask:

  • Is it the resort's or the Tour Operator's?
  • Are the child carers qualified?
  • Is the nursery in the chalet or do you have to traipse your child round the resort?
  • Activity clubs - what do they do, are they just video clubs or do the children get out and about?
  • Any evening activities for children?
  • Any babysitting provided?
  • What are the age ranges for nursery or child care?
  • What are the catering arrangements?

Nursery Care for babies and toddlers

Not many Tour Operators offer their very own nursery care and attention needs to be paid to what exactly you are booking for your infant.  If it is a local resort nursery, do the carers speak English?  Will they follow your child's routine? What will they do? And will it be for 5 or  6 days?

Select  an operator that has  dedicated nurseries in each resort, staffed by British qualified Nursery Nurses and managed by experienced Child Care Managers.

Lunch and all refreshments should be included and a daily diary ought to be kept  to ensure you can keep up to speed with your child's day.  Children should be  taken outside when weather is suitable and given every opportunity to experience the mountains, subject to their age and parental consent.

 Ski School for children

Many holiday packages offer children's ski classes but it is important to know whether or not the classes are just the local ski school's or if the operator has any special arrangements. 

Some operators just book children into the local classes, which may then have anything up to 16 children in them and be taught in the local language.  Also worth checking is whether the parents have to take to and collect their children from ski school.  It can severely restrict a parent's time on the slope. 

Another factor is whether to have all day skiing for your child or just the morning.  Younger children or beginners benefit from half a day skiing and half a day having fun bum-boarding/snowman building/snowball fighting etc.  Older and more experienced children want to be out most of the day.   Does the operator offer such combinations?

You may want to chose an operator that has it own ski classes and contracts instructors from the local ski schools to teach  children in English and with only a maximum of 6-8 in a class.  

Some have afternoon activity clubs - Snow Clubs - which include pick up from ski school, lunch and  fun-filled afternoons of outdoor and indoor activities.  

Babysitting

Some operators charge extra for babysitting, others don't do it at all.  If night life is important, try to check beforehand how much extra you may have to pay out in resort to avoid hefty bills not budgeted for.

 Others provide a FREE Baby Listening/Child Patrol service one night a week or often every night in Chalet Hotels and larger chalets.

Catering

Check the eating arrangements.  Children tend to be happier eating all together and can't last all evening waiting for an adult dinner at 8pm.

Location of properties

Where the chalet or hotel is situated will have a big impact on the enjoyment of the children.   Ski in/out is ideal for parents but for children who will be in ski lessons it may be advisable to look for properties where the ski school meeting point is close by.

Good operators have  chalets and Chalet Hotels in superb locations for children and they will collect your children from your chalet every morning to take them to the meeting point and make it full of fun and games so that any physical activity is minimised.  Any resort where walking is involved they should offer a minibus service.

You don't want your children being put off the sport by having to struggle to walk in big clumpy ski boots!

Prices

Skiing with children can be expensive.  Some child friendly operators do not have child friendly prices.  Check the discounts according to children's ages and up to what age they are applicable and also the number of children allowed. 

Many operators only allow 2 children at a child's price and thereafter charge adult prices.  Always work out the whole package price before deciding which is better value - an operator with the most expensive adult price may turn out to offer the best whole family cost. 

Often sharing the parent's room gives the greatest discount for children but if you want separate rooms for the children you will not get much of a discount from some operators.  Brochures/websites that do not give any child prices are questionable - do they make them up as they go along?!

Booking certain dates with some companies may give good offers - free children's places etc but again we suggest you work out the whole package before getting excited about a great deal.

For more information then see further details from Esprit Ski.

Expert advice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a list of our favourite family resorts look in the Which Resorts section of PlanetSKI.eu.

Babies

It’s perfectly possible to take a baby on a skiing holiday and we took our first child when he was 12 months on a Mark Warner holiday to Courchevel.  You will need to have complete trust in the nannies and there is obviously a lot of kit to take with you.

The family ski market has developed hugely over recent years with many companies offering special services.  For example Crystal organises supplies of nappies in resort recognising that it is a difficulty for parents of babies to bring them out.

However, if your child is having trouble sleeping through the night or there are any problems it won’t be that much fun so you do need to be pretty dedicated to go sking or snowboarding with a baby.  Another option is to go with the grandparents, which for us was a preferred option and they helped look after the kids in Wengen and Les Gets.

Alternatively you could go in a group with some other parents with children of a similar age and share out the childcare.

There’s nothing to stop you going with a baby, we did on many an occasion, but be warned you will not have the type of ski holiday you once had.  Limited après ski!

Top Tips


– You MUST have good child care
– Don’t use the resort crèche, but go with a British specialist company
– Choose a resort with short transfer from the airport
– Take a sling or backpack as pushchairs and snow don’t go together
– Remember your luggage allowance

 


Babies

It’s perfectly possible to take a baby on a skiing holiday and we took our first child when he was 12 months on a Mark Warner holiday to Courchevel.  You will need to have complete trust in the nannies and there is obviously a lot of kit to take with you.

The family ski market has developed hugely over recent years with many companies offering special services.  For example Crystal organises supplies of nappies in resort recognising that it is a difficulty for parents of babies to bring them out.

However, if your child is having trouble sleeping through the night or there are any problems it won’t be that much fun so you do need to be pretty dedicated to go sking or snowboarding with a baby.  Another option is to go with the grandparents, which for us was a preferred option and they helped look after the kids in Wengen and Les Gets.

Alternatively you could go in a group with some other parents with children of a similar age and share out the childcare.

There’s nothing to stop you going with a baby, we did on many an occasion, but be warned you will not have the type of ski holiday you once had.  Limited après ski!

Top Tips


– You MUST have good child care
– Don’t use the resort crèche, but go with a British specialist company
– Choose a resort with short transfer from the airport
– Take a sling or backpack as pushchairs and snow don’t go together
– Remember your luggage allowance

 


Toddlers, 4 - 6

This is the age to start a child on skis, as they will have the strength to ski and boundless enthusiasm. The ESF in France takes children from 3 years old and the Swiss Ski School starts children at 4. Our youngest child, Max, started at 3 and a half with the EV2 ski school in Tignes.

max_at_4_400Many of the specialist family ski operators will have teams of nannies on call to look after them, take them to ski school, build snowmen and generally keep them fed, well looked after and entertained.

The family market has expanded greatly in recent years with Tour Operators making all sorts of special arrangements for families and young children.

For example Crystal, the largest tour operator in the UK has a dedicated crèche at Chambery airport. "With long check in times at airports we decided to have a dedicated crèche for families to use as flying with young childen is stressful enough without all the hanging around at airports,"' says Marion Telsnig, the company's marketing director.

Once in the crèche you can then see and ski with them as much or as little as you want. 

Personally we preferred to let the nannies look after them in the mornings so we could ski but then always returned at lunchtime to have a bit of a ski with them or just muck about in the snow.

You need to be very careful about the ski school you choose as it could put them off and if they are not happy then you will certainly not be either.

We found a ski school that has a separate ski area complete with magic carpet and all sorts of toys and games is best. It needs to be in a sunny location and with a crèche so they can go in if the weather is cold or if they’re not in the mood.  Here they can play in the warmth or simply have a hot chocolate.

You may also want to consider taking them out of school if you want to save some money.  Contrary to some people’s belief you can take them out of school with the permission of the head teacher.

This is an area that really is up to each individual parent. 

Some think missing a week of school will harm the children’s long-term education, while other parents most certainly don’t. Personally we took them out at various times when they were aged 4 – 8, usually at the end of the Xmas term or when half terms didn’t coincide, but wouldn’t dream of doing it now.

All we can say is that it doesn’t seem to have harmed their education one little bit and in general terms skiing has made them more confident, self sufficient and well-rounded individuals.

TOP TIPS

- Choose accommodation near the slope
- Use mittens not gloves and connect them with a ribbon or elastic running though suit
- Choice of ski school is critical. We recommend a British one and if you’re in Zermatt or Verbier you’ll get a 5% discount from Europeansnowsport if you book here
- Don’t forget to pack your patience and sense of humour

- Consider taking them out of school for a week

- Get second hand or cheap gear – they will soon grow out of it

- One piece suits are best for very young children


Kids, 6 - 10

If they have been skiing from an early age this is where the fun really starts as you begin to ski around as a family. 

family_line_400There will be tears and tantrums, but there will also be enormous fun as you all go playing together in the snow.

Again what we tended to do was put them in ski school in the morning (even if they didn’t particularly want to go) and then ski with them every afternoon.

Sometimes it was hard, especially on a powder day, but we found skiing with them in the afternoon was essential and more often than not worth the sacrifice and the effort.

You will see a huge improvement in their skiing or snowboarding over this age period.

Top Tips

- Go to a resort with free/discounted lift passes

- Snow park is essential

- Use an instructor with English as a mother tongue


Kids 10 - 14

If your kids have been skiing from an early age then this is when they may well get better than you. You have been warned.  It’s a deeply satisfying and totally depressing moment in equal measure!

They will also probably not want to go to ski school anymore but if you want them to be good skiers it’s worth persevering, though expect a few arguments about it.

An idea now might be to find a ski school that has a racing class or perhaps one that focuses on learning a bit of off piste, freeride or going into the fun park.

Europeansnowsport in Verbier has a special section called the ES Falcons for those kids who have grown out of ski school, but still want to progress in a structured teaching environment.

My kids are joining in this season so I’ll let you know how they get on. With a bit of luck I may get them to write it themselves! Again, book your ES Falcons lessons here and get a 5% discount.


Teens, 14 and upwards.

This is the tricky age as they will probaly be better than you by now or at least want to go much faster.  Maybe they wont even want to be on the same slope as you :-( 

Then there is the lure of the apres ski........

alex_carving_400

The teenage market is a pretty under-recognised one, especially in Europe, but things are changing slowly with resorts doing more things for teenage children.

As an instructor I’ve taught many teenagers over the years and seen many a different relationship between parents and child.  Some excellent, some a bit strained and others well little short of disastrous.

First of all if they’ve been skiing for a while they will probably not want to go into ski school.

Race and freeride camps yes, ski school no.

So try one with a theme to it if you want your child to have instruction.

This is not a web site about how to deal with the teenage years but my best advice is just let the teenagers do what they want to do (within reason) and if you’re lucky they’ll want to do it with you sometimes.

Especially if they want the bills paid!

If you think teenagers are a problem you wait till your child is intent on doing their third 'gap year' season and you worry that they will ever get a job in the “real” world!   All that education and all they seem to want to do is hang around ski resorts.

Top Tips

- Snowpark is essential
- Drinking age is 18 in the Alps but some bars are pretty relaxed!
- Let them off the lead and hope they have picked up some mountain awareness over the years

 


Big Kids - You!

The people often forgotten about in family holidays, especially when the children are young, is you. The Parents.

kisia_and_alex_400First of all you must remember it's your holiday too and ensure that you enjoy yourself.  There will inevitably be stress, arguments and you'll feel frustrated not being able to have a carefree time on the slopes that you once had. Not to mention a heavily curtailed nighlife!

We’ve had problems aplenty, but the trick is to move on swiftly.

When you have young children chalet holidays with friends are pretty much ideal as once the kids are tucked up in bed then you can relax and enjoy a good meal washed down with some wine.

Also the kids can run around making noise and mayhem without disurbing too many people. For them it's just a week long sleep over.

We found that in a hotel we spent the whole time trying to get the kids to behave like perfect children and this became stressful for us.

Don't spend the whole time running around after your children but put yourself first a few times. 

Do bring out some homework and books but don't bring loads as you will only spend the whole time trying to get them to do it with the inevitable frustrations and arguments.

Same with toys.

TOP TIPS

- Only one; put yourself first a few times!



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