Some people will tell you there is no point taking a child skiing until they are six but we’ve had great fun in the mountains with much younger children.
We took our eldest on a ski holiday when he was four months old (night feeds are somehow easier to cope with when you’re in the Alps), then a couple of years ago we took three children under the age of four to Austria, and had a memorably brilliant family holiday. I much prefer skiing holidays to summer holidays as days have a routine to them and I get to spend some quality time with my husband while the children thrash about at ski school.
There are loads of ways of doing a family ski holiday; it all depends on how much you want to spend and what kind of ski experience you are after. We’ve tried various options: the ski hotel, the chalet holiday and the self-catered apartment and I’ll explain a little more about each below.
Sadly the words “skiing” and “cheap” are mutally exclusive. I’m afraid skiing is one area where money really does by happiness. Still, this doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. We finally achieved a budget ski holiday earlier this year and there was little compromise on the fun.
Here are Mumfidential’s tips for the best ever family ski holiday:
Find the right style of ski holiday
It might take a few holidays to find the type of ski holiday that suits your family. And it also might change as the children grow older. We’ve experimented with three differerent kinds:
We’ve stayed in two different ski hotels in Austria, both near the slopes, which made life easy. It felt like a proper holiday as we were well looked after by the staff and didn’t have to think about cooking or shopping for a week. They had all the baby equipment you could need including bottle warmers and monitors; one even had an amazing kids club where the children (from aged three) could play while we went skiing or to the spa.
The downside of a halfboard hotel is that you feel you can’t try other restaurants in the resort but this didn’t bother us at all as the food in the hotels was great and we didn’t want the added expense/ hassle of getting a babysitter.
Last April we went to St Martin de Belleville with the Alpine Club and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It was one of the most fun ski holidays we’ve had, probably because St Martin de Belleville is small and pretty with excellent skiing across the Three Valleys, and there was a nanny to look after the children when they were tired of skiing plus a driver to transport us to the slopes (carrying three extra sets of skis is hard work).
Our chalet was a beautifully converted barn in a hamlet just above the resort, decorated in stylish alpine decor with wide wood floorboards and a roaring fire. The children had their own bedroom and bathroom, which gave us some peace, and there were toys and books on their beds when we arrived.
The food was a highlight; in the mornings there would be a choice of cooked breakfast as well delicious mueslis and fruit and yoghurt and we’d arrive back after skiing to a freshly baked cake. Dinner was a three or four course fine dining experience and there were delicious wines, too. As it was just us in the chalet, the whole experience felt personal and the chalet staff were full of suggestions for adventures we could go on in and around the resort.
Thanks to the nanny, who the children adored, this was the holiday with the most amount of skiing for the adults!
We’ve done this, too, in Verbier last New Year. It felt like a proper adventure packing up the car with everything we might need for a week and then driving out to the Alps. Verbier is a good resort to drive to from London as it is really only two half day drives. We booked a cheap apartment on Airbnb and while it was seriously retro in appearance it was generously proportioned with a log fire and a large dining table. It was great to feel that you were free to do exactly as you wanted: cook in, eat out, order takeaway.
The only problem was that the apartment was too far from the slopes and the ski school, which meant a moaning walk back with the children each day. If we did it again (which we will because it was considerably cheaper than the other options) we’ll be more careful about where we book.
Ski holidays require so much planning, particularly when there are children involved. It’s a good idea to book ski school and nannies before you leave, as they get booked up and you can get left with the dregs. If you’re really organized, you’ll also book restaurants for lunch each day; this way you are guaranteed a table and you know what childcare you’ll need that day.
Weirdly, you don’t need many clothes on a ski holiday, as you are mainly wearing ski stuff. I find I always pack much too much for the children. They tend to wear a base layer (leggings and a matching long-sleeve top, or a Petit Bateau polar neck) and then their ski stuff, rarely changing into anything else when they finish skiing. This means the piles of jeans/ jumpers/ shirts in the cupboards are completely redundant.
Get the right kit
You need to have good kids’ ski stuff, which means mittens that pull on easily and salopettes that are easy to pull down in the loo. I love Muddy Puddles ski clothes; they last through multiple children without looking faded or worn and they seem much better quality than the clothes you buy in resort. I also get great ski stuff from Ski De Rouge in Clapham, an emporium of skiwear (including the brand Dare2b, which is affordable and excellent quality) and all the other equipment you might need such as googles and snow boots. They have an extensive second hand range, too, which keeps the cost down.
Take your Ipad
The children are also exhausted after a day in the mountains, even when they’re too young to ski. We let them watch movies after skiing and put them to bed as early as possible as they can become pretty tired and bratty as the week wears on.
Soften the ski school drop off
Our youngest wasn’t too keen on the idea of ski school initially but when we packed a few sweets in his pocket along with his teddy-bear-rag he was more willing to go off with his teacher.
Go with the flow
The first day or two of a ski holiday can be quite stressful as you sort out ski hire and childcare but try to relax and start enjoying yourself from the start.
This might mean the children watch more TV, eat more chips and stay up later than usual. Remember, though, that everyone will get really tired, so make sure you have some chill out time after skiings. A week flies past in no time and it’s a shame if you only start letting your hair down on the final days.