Skiing with your family – all you need to know

Thinking of trying skiing for the first time? Or going back to the slopes now you've got a family? It's easier than you think...

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Whether you’re a seasoned advanced black runner or a novice to the blue runs, seeing the snow outside in the recent months might have got you thinking about skiing this spring. “But what about the kids?!” is the next question. When you’ve got even one little person, the idea of hitting the slopes is suddenly harder. What will there be for your little one to do? Can you all learn to ski – or can you learn to ski while the tots are looked after? And what about accommodation, entertainment and the essentials, like safety, food and sleep? It also might seem like a pricey option for a sport you might not get on with! Marion Telsnig from Crystal Ski explains: “It certainly requires organisation before you go skiing with a young family. But it is possible to go on a ski holiday with a young baby or toddler. A recent survey by Crystal showed that location of accommodation is the most important factor followed by the provision of family rooms and baby and infant facilities including cots, bottle warmers and highchairs.”

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Choosing a resort
Most people tend to head to Europe for their first ski trip. Flights are short, and transfers are included in package deals. Many independent chalets offer transfer services too. Marion says: “In our survey, the favourite resorts for families with children aged between two and fifteen years were Alpe d’Huez, La Plagne, Flaine, Les Arcs and Morzine (all in France). The resorts chosen by families with infants are: Morzine, Flaine, Claviere (Italy), Les Deux Alpes and Mayrhofen (Austria).”

MFM tip! Speak to friends who have already been about what a resort offers – they’ll give you the real lowdown on what it’s like.

What about accommodation?
The accommodation you choose will make or break your holiday when there are little ones involved. Most operators offer a range of options, from catered chalets to family-orientated hotels, says Marion.
Find what’ll suit you:
Self catering: Recommended for families who are on a smaller budget, but also for those who like to be independent and want to experience more of the resort, want to eat out every evening. Also good for those families whose children like to rise early in the morning or have special requirements for food.
Chalet: Give a real ‘home from home’ feeling, says Lisa Dance from Family Ski, as everyone’s in the same space rather than along a corridor. “We have a mixture of chalets that sleep from 1 family to 5/6 families, and a small chalet/hotel that can sleep 8 families.  We only sell holidays to family groups.  You can take rooms in a chalet and share with other families which is very sociable and great fun.  We offer fully catered chalet accommodation and wine is included with dinner.”
Hotel: like being pampered and have it all provided? Pool and saunas and spa facilities? Then a hotel is for you. There are special family hotels in ski resorts with high chairs, nappies, extra kitchen to heat up food, playrooms, etc.

MFM tip! Check out reviews on websites aimed at people who want a lively party atmosphere trip. If they rate the hotel, it might not be right for a family even though it’s a top hotel.

Time for some skiing!
If you’ve skiied before you’ll have seen very young children with safety helmets careering down the slopes on their skis. They’re fearless, so actually taking children at a young age will make more confident skiers than if you wait until they’re older. “Crystal has childcare for children as little as 6 months in creches, and kids clubs for all ages in 17 of our resorts,” says Marion Telsnig. There are also private nannies and babysitting services available in many European resorts. Family Ski offers ‘Powder Hounds’, Adventurers or Huskies clubs for the children who want to learn to ski or are good enough to join competition groups.  Ski lessons take place in the mornings, the children then come back to a hot lunch and have various activities in the afternoons depending on their club and age.  They may ski for fun, go snow shoe walking, go ice skating, tobogganing, and there are plenty of indoor games for when the weather is not so good. Some resorts offer ski school for children as little as 3 years old, but this is the exception.

“Most resorts offer ski school for children aged from 4 years,” says Marion. “I think skiing is a great way to learn a new sport – as a family. So many new experiences which you can share and all learn together. Just one advise to parents: don’t be upset if your child / children can ski better after a week skiing than you! They just learn quicker, because they are used to listen to the teacher, whereas adults always have to think about what the teacher says and don’t follow instructions!”

Have a go – without going too far!

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And if you’re still nervous…Try an hour rather than a week! If you’re not sure about a whole week on the slopes, why not try a couple of hours first! SNO!zone has three indoor ski slopes with ‘real’ snow (it’s frozen water vapour) for you to try out. Group lessons start from £27 per adult and £23 for children you want to get ahead as an adult before you take the kids away. SNO!zone also has slopes at Leeds and Glasgow. For more information go to www.xscape.co.uk

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