How to Choose the Resort for your Family Ski Holiday
It’s that time of year when a vast swathe of parents start thinking towards snow. Not the will-it-snow-at-Christmas thoughts their 7yr old has been having since June. No no – these parents are plotting their escape to high mountains, big skies and the swoosh of the snow as they speed down the slopes. The family ski holiday – how fast things have changed. In my youth (and no, I’m not THAT old…) it was just for the posh family in the street. But over the last decade skiing has become ever more accessible, and even those of us who didn’t grow up spending two weeks in La Plagne, or even going on the annual school ski trip, have dipped our toes in the snowy mountain idea for a winter break.
But if you’re a newbie, how d’you know where’s best? Which resorts will be filled with noisy apres-ski parties spilling onto the streets at 2 in the morning, and which will have brilliant teachers and nursery slopes for your nervous 8yr old? Fear not – we’ve picked the brains of Those Who Know, and have put together a fabulous starter pack for you to think about.
- Will There Be snow?
Don’t laugh – it’s not always a given. And really, if you’re going on a ski holiday you need to be sure of this one thing above all else, right?
Most ski resorts are reliable mid-season – but if you’re early or late, you’ll need to do some checking before you book.
Try checking SkiResort.info for tips on snow season length and reliability.
How Are you Getting There?
Every parent knows that travelling with kids can be exhausting – and you’re setting off on a really busy week. To avoid starting yourselves off feeling wiped out, avoid long flights and long transfers. and stick to the amazing range of European slopes. It’s not like it’s a poor choice!
Also check the transfers – you might be an easy 90 minutes from Geneva, or you might be facing hours on a coach winding through twisty mountain roads.
The ski train is a brilliant way to travel with kids; Eurostar runs direct day trains to the French Alps on Saturdays between December-April and direct night trains on Fridays from January-April (and the luggage allowance means you can take your skis or snowboard, as well as two suitcases at no extra charge), from £99 an adult(£70 a child)!
How close are you to the Ski School?
Remember you will be carrying all your own ski equipment plus your child’s – you do NOT want a long walk or a bus ride.
In an ideal world, with young children you want to be as close as possible to the piste or ski lift.
Question your Tour Operator – they should be able to tell you exactly how to get on to the piste each day. if you can ‘ski out’ from the chalet, you’ve found a winner!
Look For Somewhere Quiet.
You’re not 18 any more. After a day on the slopes with small children, the Apres Ski you’ll require will be a hot shower, a long quiet meal and a nice fire before an early night. Look for quieter villages – they’ll be filled with like-minded young families!
Lots of Ski options
Yes you’re going to need nursery slopes for the kids, but if you’re already a competent skier then be sure to pick somewhere with enough options to keep you happy too.
Check the nursery slopes
If your kids are learning to ski, they’ll need nursery slopes plus lots of green/blue runs. Check the piste maps of your selected resorts, and use Where to ski and snowboard to find the percentage of blue runs in each resort (and lots of other useful information!).
Check that ski-schools have well qualified instructors.
Check the instructors can speak English (they don’t have to be English, obviously, but it helps if your kids understand what’s going on!). Also check the class sizes and timings, and if the ski lessons are part of your package childcare with your tour operator then make sure you understand how it works!
Check your childcare
Just because you’re on holiday, don’t forget all the stuff you wouldn’t hesitate to check at home; are the carers well-trained and DBS checked. Do they speak English. What will the children be doing each day? What ratio of child-o-carer is there? If you know your kids are having a great time and being well cared for, you can properly relax and enjoy your own holiday too.
It’s not just the skiing!
You’ll probably want a break and to change things up a bit, so look for resorts which also offer fun activities like tobogganing and tubing which you can enjoy together. For a break from the Great outdoors, look for local swimming pools, and of course just getting out and walking the landscape with snowshoes is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
So. With young kids it’s best to avoid the huge resorts; you’ll never ski everything they have to offer, and you will be paying for lift passes you’ll never use. Find somewhere compact, with a resort centre that you can stroll around easily and one that has accommodation close to the slopes and lifts. Our personal top pick is a Les Gets family ski holiday in France – the picturesque village of Les Gets is about as far from a purpose built ski resort as you can get, with pretty tree-lined pistes, a fab Indian Village children’s zone, it’s only an hour from Geneva airport, and there’s lots of English spoken.