Having taken my six year old daughter, Amelia, skiing for the past three winter seasons I think I am getting the hang of what works well and what does not. Here are my tails to date which will hopefully give you an insight on what I consider to be a successful holiday if you’re skiing with young children.
Let’s start from Amelia’s first ski holiday. Having taken her for a two week road trip to Bardonecchia and Chamonix when she was 2 ½, I can assure you she did not ski. Often I get asked by clients if it is possible for my child to have lessons… “she/he is not quite 3″. Well my simple answer would be forget it! Of course you can take your toddler to the mountains but they will be happiest in a warm chalet or crèche being looked after by professionals while you hopefully enjoy your skiing. We have used both local and British nannies very successfully.
Our next family ski trip was the following season when Amelia was 3 ½ years old. We went with Ski Esprit to Selva Val Gardena. In my opinion this is the perfect age to get your child started on snow. It is not skiing as you and I might know it but it’s a start and provides a good grounding. Basically, she had 2 hours a day in the ski kindergarten. This involves putting on ski boots and skis and walking around the play area. There is also a gentle slope for your little one to get the sensation of going downhill on his or her own. The ski kindergarten is a very safe environment as it is totally secluded from out of control adults learning to ski and is supervised by specialist child friendly instructors. You may quite rightly ask “well what about the other hours in the day”, well if you go with a specialist ski operator like Ski Esprit they have various options regarding childcare. We booked Amelia into the ‘Sprite Beginners’ with supervised lunch and then the Snow Club in the afternoon. This all equates to a lot of money but your child is supervised all day allowing you, the parent, to ski. We were very happy with the overall service of the Ski Esprit staff but don’t expect luxury accommodation or gourmet food. It’s simple but effective.
Our next trip we went to Chamonix, a resort I love and know well. However, having been told for years that it was not child friendly, I was pleasantly surprised. I would recommend having a car in the resort, unless you stay with Club Med or a chalet operator who have nannies or child minders. What really did it for me and Amelia on this trip was the ski school, Evolution 2 in Argentiere. Fifteen minutes from Chamonix centre the Panda Club run by Evolution 2 really looked after Amelia well and she was with them all day. The Panda Club is a secluded area for young children tucked away in a forest underneath the Grand Montets cable car. They have a little pulley system that gets the children used to a lift and helps them to progress to a full-on button lift. By the end of the week I was skiing with my four year old on the La Tour nursery slopes and she was happy to go on the button lift by herself. Tip: if skiing with your little one, always go first on the button lift as if she falls you can bail out easily and pick her/him up. Also my little one struggled to get the button under her bottom, so to speak, when trying to disengage at the end of the line, so being at the top first meant I could help her. Failing that it was usually a face plant and a few tears before she was off again!
Last season we went on two trips one which was very successful the other not so. For Christmas we went to Champoluc in the Italian Monterosa ski area. This is a delightful place but I was not particularly impressed with the local ski school. The second trip we went on last year was to Courchevel 1650 and Amelia had a fantastic time with New Generation, our ski school of choice. New Gen, as they are affectionately called, are great at looking after children of all ages and the lessons are exciting and fun. The progress Amelia made was amazing.
So what do you need to look out for?:
1. Choose a resort that is suitable, family friendly and not too intimidating.
2. Choose a ski school that has a good reputation for looking after young children.
3. Choose a resort with reliable ski schools.
After all your holiday will be a major success if you have happy children who are progressing and enjoying going to ski school.
All our staff here at ALPINE ANSWERS know the resorts and the ski schools which have been successful for families over the many years we have been organising ski holidays. We consider ourselves to be experts so do tap into our wealth of knowledge and expertise, you won’t be disappointed and neither will your children.