Top Five Family Ski Tips
If you're reading this page, you've probably decided to take the kids skiing or are at least thinking about it. On this page, you'll find honest impartial advice about skiing as a family. Skiing as a couple or with friends is a totally different experience once you've got children with you. However, provided you inform yourself and your children as to what to expect and prepare accordingly, the whole experience should be a rewarding one for you and your family. Before writing this page, we talked to lots of parents who've skied with their children, some who work with our company and other via ski forums such as Snowheads.com which has a wealth of information available and is a great place to talk to other parents about Winter Ski Holidays.
If, as a parent, you think we've missed something, please do contact us and let us know as we're always eager to learn and improve our information for other parents.
What to Expect from a Family Ski Holiday
We posed this question to lots of parents and here's a few of the responses:
"A few scrapes, a few tears and an utterly exhausted child at the end of the day"
"Don't expect the same experience as skiing with friends. Firstly, everything will take a little longer than expected, things like gloves and sunglasses will get lost so bring a few extra. However, you'll find the whole experience a total joy and a great bonding time for the whole family"
"Your kids to be flying past you on the slopes by day 3 of the holiday!"
"Some time to ski without the children, but not too much. A lot of laughter, giggles, smiles, and a few tears. Maybe a few dinners out without the children if you can find a decent babysitter. Someone saying "That was the best ever holiday. When can we go again?". A 2 year old who wants her own skis and boots and then wears them in the living room everyday for the entire summer. A 5 year old who misses his ski instructor so much that you take her to Hawaii for a month so he can be with her!"
Family Friendly Ski Resorts
Location, location, location - this is never truer than on a ski holiday. Imagine if you went on a beach holiday and your hotel was located 15 minutes from the beach - then you had to carry your skis and your child's skis, whilst wearing a pair of heavy ski boots to the beach each morning and back to the hotel in the afternoon. You just wouldn't do it.
So, when choosing your property, ensure you're either within easy walking distance to the ski lifts and ski school meeting place or at least have a ski bus which stops close to your accommodation.
If your children are a little older, you may like to give them some freedom in the afternoons after ski school or be able to meet them back at your property after skiing. For peace of mind, maybe consider a smaller resort rather than a bustling town. Some Austrian and French villages are ideal.
Many properties have crèches and playrooms so be sure to fully check the facilities before making a final decision. Mucking about in a swimming pool can be a great way to ease tired limbs after a day on the slopes. If your chosen hotel doesn't have leisure facilities, many resorts have leisure centres. Check the Resort Tab on our Hotel pages for full details of what's available.
Before booking, also check the transfer time to your chosen resort. After a 2 or 3 hour flight, a 4 hour transfer maybe too long for some young children. You know your children best but we recommend trying to keep to 3 hours or less. Unfortunately they haven't figured out how to build international airports in the mountains - Yet.
Getting to your Ski Resort
Depending on the age of your children, your requirements for the airport, flight and transfer to your resort will vary.
If travelling with very young children, consider packing an extra set of clothes in your hand luggage, especially if you think spillages are likely. If you're travelling with a baby, you'll probably know what to take on board a flight with you but remember that you may not have access to your main luggage until your reach your hotel so be sure to carry a couple of extra nappies, bottles and a few extra muslin cloths are always handy. Also remember that if the temperature isn't below freezing at the airport, it most likely will by the time you reach resort so you'll need easy access to the appropriate clothing.
Travelling with slightly older children should be an easier experience. At the airport before you depart, it's worth giving them a little freedom to run about, given you'll be expecting them to sit in the one place once on board for what may seem like an eternity to them. Though not a popular choice with some parents, portable DVD, Nintendos etc can be fantastic on flights and transfers and probably a godsend in the event of flight delays.
Pack a few snacks too. Eating at airports can be an expensive business and meals on flights are ever increasingly becoming a thing of the past.
Packing for Your Familiy Ski Holiday
Comfortable clothes rather than dress-up stuff. Thick tights (even for boys) to go under trousers when long underwear isn't enough. This would be especially important in higher altitude resorts particularly during January when it's coldest.
Check the fit of gloves and mittens before leaving home and see whether they stay on when wearing the ski jacket or snow suit. Mittens that are too small are worse than those that are too big and most children seem to have too small mittens (or gloves). An extra set of old gloves can be ideal for those snowball fights or sledging in the afternoon which can leave gloves wet and cold making them very uncomfortable to wear while skiing.
If practical, it's often better to bring two sets of ski wear rather than lots of other après ski clothes - most kids seem to wear their ski stuff all day and then change straight into their PJs. If it's your first time skiing and you don't fancy the expense of buying a full set of ski clothing, you may be able to find a stockist who rent good quality ski suits at a fraction of cost. A quick Google search should point you in the right direction.
Good waterproof shoes or boots are ideal for after skiing and playing in the snow. These can be expensive given that children's feet grow so fast. It's worth checking Ebay who do a roaring trade in these.
For a baby bring as many nappies as you think you should and probably a few more (if you're really loyal to a particular brand). Don't forget the usual over the counter medicines. These can generally be bought locally but it's better to bring them since you usually need them in the middle of the night.
Sunglasses with a strong UV protection are a must regardless of whether the sun is shining or not because of the glare from the snow. If you haven't bought Goggles, you may decide to wait until you get to resort to see if they are actually needed. If it's not actually snowing and the wind isn't too strong, the sunglasses may suffice. If travelling with a baby, small sunglasses are available with little straps to keep them on.
Sun cream is so important whilst in the mountains. For young children, look for a very high protection. SPF 100+ can now be bought in most chemists.
Bring some favourite toys and games. We mentioned portable DVD players earlier which people seem divided on but if you are taking one, maybe bring a couple of movies for yourself too. A new family board game may be a great way to spend some time together after dinner although you may be tight on space at this stage!
Advice for the first morning
If at all possible, it's always handy if you can arrange your ski equipment hire on the first day you arrive in resort giving you some extra time the next morning. Check with your Rep on arrival to see if this is possible. If not, don't worry - you'll just need to get up a little earlier on that morning if you intend on taking ski lessons.
Even if you can't get your ski equipment on arrival, you may like to take a walk to where you need to go the next morning finding the location of the ski hire shop and the ski school office. Maybe take time to choose a meeting point in case anyone gets lost during the week. On this note, we'd suggest you put a card with contact details in your child's pocket and, if necessary, any relevant medical info.
Try giving yourself half an hour more than you probably think you need on the first day. At peak times, queues in ski hire shops and lifts can slow the whole process down. Missing the first half hour of ski school can be a little frustrating for all concerned.
Some resorts still require a passport photograph for your ski pass so check before you leave home if this is required and this will give you back some precious time. Most resorts however, use a chip system on their ski passes which need to be scanned before using a ski lift. Lift tickets should be kept in a safe pocket with a zip and ideally attached to something within the jacket pocket. If lost, it's unlikely you'll receive a refund for a ski pass. While you're at it, pop a bar of milk chocolate in their pocket.
Now you get to the point where you have to hand your little treasures over to their ski instructor. Be sure that your children are aware of the process for the day and discuss this in advance of arrival at the ski school. There is one recurring piece of advice which keeps coming up so we'll say it loud and clear - Walk away. Probably really tough to do, but their instructor needs their full attention so it's really the only way. If you feel the need to keep an eye on your children, watch from a distance.
Keep it Fun!