There are many suitable destinations to choose from and numerous factors to be considered when planning a family skiing holiday apart from where to go, so here are some useful tips to help you plan the ideal ski holiday for you and your family.
When to go
Christmas, New Year, February half-term and Easter are the most popular and expensive weeks of the season and coincide with the school holidays. It is essential to book ahead. Skiers with children of pre-ski age should book low season weeks - in January, March and April (except for Easter), when accommodation and travel prices are lower. March and April are warmer, with longer daylight hours, so more child friendly.
Where to stay
Filling a chalet is a good option for a group of families travelling together, offering all the fun of a week-long sleepover and no concern about spoiling somebody else's ski holiday, while Club hotels are a good alternative for families with teenage children.
Travelling with children
Travelling on airlines (including low-cost) not catering specifically for families can be a good option. It usually puts you to the front of the queue and they should be able to cope well with just a few children. Most airlines allow carriage of baby buggies free of charge. Check the local laws regarding child seats when booking a hire car and ensure that you order sufficient; also that you have the chains/snow tyre options ticked - a snowy downhill with a car full of kids is not time to be honing your cadence-braking skills.
Book childcare well in advance
Many tour operators offer some kind of childcare - private nannies, baby equipment and English-run crèches. Booking ahead is essential as demand for these services is high. Some also offer free babysitting or supervised children's entertainment at some point during a week's holiday and some accommodation has room listening on a complimentary basis. Otherwise babysitting is easier to organise in the bigger resorts.
Buying new ski clothes for the whole family is expensive. First timers should buy second hand, borrow from friends or club together and share. Clothing must be water resistant; don't skimp on accessories such as hats, gloves, goggles, and waterproof footwear. Pre-season ski shows
Rent ski equipment in the resort, but pre- book for high season
A helmet is an essential part of the wardrobe - some ski schools insist on children wearing one to join their classes, and they are compulsory for children in Italy and Norway. It should fit properly so that your child can still see to the sides and hear clearly; check that goggles and sunglasses fit with the helmet too.
Skiing and snowboarding lessons for children
Children need ski schooling in their mother-tongue so check that instructors are either native English speakers or very fluent. Your kids will also get on better if they are with friends or at least with kids of the same age and nationality in the class. Ski school only covers part of the day. Consider who will look after your children before ski lessons start, when they end and during lunch-time if supervision isn't provided. Resort layout and your map-reading competence will be an added factor. One of the best developments to help children in the early-learning stages is the 'magic carpet' lift, now quite widespread but nevertheless a useful indicator that a resort is serious about showing kids a good time - check Ultimate Ski resort reports and resort websites and piste maps to assess facilities.
Limit your children's time on snow
Most active kids love winter holidays but they are less motivated than keen adult skiers to endure being cold and tired while wearing strange boots and equipment in foreign climes. Holidaying with similar-aged families can add a helpful element of encouragement but don't force your children to ski when they've really had enough however much you've paid for their lift pass.
Protection from the elements
The alpine environment is a challenge for young babies and you should protect them from the elements including extremes of cold, even brief exposure, intense sun and snow-reflected light (how do you keep those cute sunglasses on your face when you barely have a nose?) and altitude as even the base elevation of the higher resorts can be a problem. Additionally, buggies don't work well on snow and ice so use a use a sling or backpack but don't even think about skiing with a rugrat on board.
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