I’ve skied with children, but not my own kids, I was a teacher on a school trip helping out the PE department – we had a wonderful time in Austria and I loved how we learned in the beginners class together. It was a real privilege to be in loco-parentis on that trip, it’s a big thing to take on a ski trip, but even the most nervous absolutely loved it.
I have skied again solo recently in the stunning French Alps in Morzine, and was blown away by the family friendliness of the region, French resorts are where most British skiers head. It made me want to take my own kids, I think everyone should trying skiing at least once! There are a wide selection of family ski chalets in French resorts.
I loved the experience, and while I think I reached my happy place with it and don’t really want to go much faster or harder, just potter down the slope taking in the views, I just absolutely love spending time in the snow around Christmas, it’s magical.
So based on my experiences with a lot of children, and the wise advice of those friends who ski regularly with families, here are some tips for families considering their first trip.
Book ahead and do your research
Because skiing is seasonal and many families are limited to school holidays, deals to popular family friendly places can go quickly. Planning your first family ski trip can feel like a bit of a whirlwind, so plan ahead – allow time to compare options and find the best resort for your family. Look out for children go free deals too.
Choose a family friendly resort.
Don’t just go on price. Do your research and find out what’s on offer for families to do on and off the slopes. Are there family friendly places to go on days off from the slopes? Newer skiers especially might welcome days away from the slopes – there are lots of ways to enjoy the snow if you just want to dip your toes into skiing – tobogganing, sledging, snow shoe walks…
Are there family friendly places to eat? Make sure your accommodation is close the the slopes – tired kids won’t want to be walking far. Does your accommodation meet the needs of your family? Family ski specialists will have lots of amenities to offer to make it all easier.
A chalet is a little like a B&B in set up, but much more special. You have your own bedrooms but unless you book as a large group will share the chalet’s communal areas with other skiers. Your hosts will cook and clean. You’ll usually have half board, breakfast and dinner. Early teas for children are usually provided.
As a new skier you may want to consider a family-friendly catered chalet, skiing is physically tiring and you will we really appreciate someone cooking for you. Some companies even design the chalets around hosting families. There’s no getting round it, skiing holidays aren’t cheap, but at least with a chalet you will know most of the costs upfront and know you are getting a break.
Getting the childcare right for your family is so important. If you are all new and have older kids you might fancy what a couple of my friends recommend which is hiring a private ski instructor just for your group and learning together. It’s not as expensive as you might think, especially if you travel with another family.
You can arrange the times to suit your schedule, as ski schools can start quite early, which doesn’t suit everyone. It may also be less daunting to have one place to get everyone to when you are all new to skiing. I loved learning to ski with my 11+ aged students and we were all beginners together which gave us lots to laugh about back at the chalet!
If you have a mix of experiences or very young children who won’t be able to keep pace with the grown ups, look for in chalet childcare and/or ski schools with really great reviews from parents and consider the language of the staff looking after your child. Ask friends with similar age kids about their experiences and what they recommend.
It’s worth doing this as soon as possible – book childcare, ski passes, ski lessons, rental kit like skis, helmets and boots. Then you can relax and look forward to your trip, and spend every minute of the trip enjoying yourselves too. Look out for in chalet childcare which means younger children are looked after in the chalet – less too-ing and fro-ing and a more familiar environment for them.
Get everyone fit in the run up to the trip, by bumping up sports and clubs for you and the kids and making time to try skiing out on a dry slope or indoor snow slope. Look for You Tube for videos of ski workouts – make a regular slot to work through them together and get excited for your trip.
See what you can borrow or rent as ski gear can be expensive and kids grow fast! Don’t scrimp on anything on the list, and take spares if you have them too, one of our group lost their gloves in Morzine and they were expensive to replace in resort. I forgot my hat because I was wearing a helmet – but got so hot and adrenalin pumped skiing my first blue run my head was drenched wi5h sweat afterwards and I was too chilly to appreciate my exceedingly well deserved apres-ski.
Pack ahead – leave plenty of time
It takes a little bit more organisation to prepare for a ski trip, I watched some fun ski packing videos on You Tube before my last trip which really helped me feel confident about my own gear as well as the kids. Don’t forget comfy clothes and slippers for relaxing in your chalet and something festive, maybe even Christmas jumpers? Gripped waterproof boots for exploring town. And something smarter but still warm for apres ski, although you may find the chalet is just too hard to leave!
Skiing is tiring, so your kids are probably going to want to chill out after all that fresh air and exercise. Taking a tablet or mini DVD player with favourite films and shows gives everyone a break. Also handy if they opt for an early children’s tea in the chalet – kids are entertained while you enjoy dinner.
Have a routine
When getting ready to leave the chalet, try and do things in the same order and have a checklist for everything you need each day and make sure everyone goes through it before leaving. Remind everyone to go to the toilet before piling kit on. Allow a lot more time than you need, use any spare time to take pictures and talk about the day ahead, rather than stressing to get kit on.
Even when you are shattered at the end of the day get everyone on board with hanging kit up carefully ready for the next day. It will soon become second nature!
Know where the toilets are
Getting out of kit when you are desperate for the toilet is a big deal for little ones, and big ones sometimes too! Know where the toilets are, be prepared to help them navigate restaurants and small booths in ski boots and don’t leave it til the last minute.
Carry emergency kit
Make sure everyone has a big fat energy filled snack in their pocket when they go out. Skiing burns serious calories and an attack of the hangries in the cold is no fun.
A small rucksack with things like water, lip balm, suncream, tissues, plasters, spare gloves, hat, sweets, hand warmers, money can be really handy, but don’t weigh yourself down, you may find you can stuff the essentials between you in bum bags or pockets, or that you are near enough the chalet to nip back for things, at the beginning you won’t be venturing too far!
Have you taken your family skiing or are you keen to?
What are your tips for a successful ski trip? What are you most unsure about?
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