If you are considering taking your kids skiing for the first time, this is the guide for you. We’ve skied with our children since they were eighteen months old! They’ve been on skis since they were three. We like to think we’ve learnt a few things about skiing with kids in that time and we’ve certainly made some mistakes along the way. So if you are planning on taking your kids skiing for the first time, take a look at our top tips for skiing with kids before you book.
We are big fans of Esprit Ski for their wraparound childcare offer. If you’re used to luxury ski chalets then Esprit might seem a little below par but what they do well, exceptionally well, is think of everything for the children on a ski holiday. Of course you are on a family ski holiday, and you’ll want to spend time with your kids (probably!), but with Esprit you really can pick and choose when that is. They provide a nursery, Snow Club and evening childcare. They’ll take your kids to and from their ski lessons, give them lunch, and entertain them until long after the last lift has closed. They’ll supervise their evening meal and then take them out for more fun while you eat yours. If your kids are too young to go out, they’ll provide baby listening in your chalet, so you can eat your evening meal in peace. We used to joke that the only thing they were missing was taking your kids off you at the airport!
We’ve been on 5 Esprit Ski holidays – here are our top two chalets:
Chalet Hotel Des Deux Domaines, Belle Plagne – the accommodation here is of an excellent standard. The rooms are spacious and modern, and the hotel has great facilities – a fab pool, hot tubs inside and out, and spa facilities.
Chalet Schatzi, La Rosiere – we lucked out with a great room in this chalet, two bedrooms, a large sitting room and a balcony with a fab view. The chalet also had a nice communal area for afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks and had very easy access to the slopes.
If you choose not to go with Esprit Ski it is perfectly possible to get some time on the slopes without the kids. For little ones who aren’t ready to ski you may consider using a nanny service (we can recommend Jelly and Ice Cream). For those in ski school in France, ESF offers morning lessons plus supervised lunches giving you nearly 5 hours childfree!
Location, location, location
With young children the location of your chalet is crucial, and for us it’s got to be ski in / ski out – or as near to the slopes as possible. What you don’t want to be doing with young kids is lugging ski gear back and forth all the time – or having to make a hairy left-hander on a busy slope to get to your boot room. If you can’t get a chalet near the slopes, then consider using lockers near the main lifts for your gear. This was our solution in Tignes to avoid the trudge up the hill in ski boots every afternoon!
Sometimes the weather doesn’t play ball – too much or too little snow – and sometimes you just don’t want to ski, but you’ve still got little ones to entertain. Aim to pick accommodation or a resort with other activities, especially some indoor options. We’ve got two lively active boys, so swimming is often an activity of choice for us. If you haven’t got a swimming pool in your chalet check out what the ski resort has on offer. Both St Anton, Austria and Tignes, France have great public pools – though do check the local dress code before you pack! France can be a stickler for a speedo!
Got the blues?
Most resorts have a decent choice of blues, and even greens in France, for beginner skiers, but sometimes the route back to the resort can be rather more challenging! Some resorts rely on using lifts to get beginner skiers back to base, but it’s nice to ski down at the end of the day – especially if you’ve picked your little one up after a day of childcare or lessons for a quick hours ski together. The best resorts we’ve found with good, easy routes close to base have been Meribel and La Rosiere in France and Obergurgl in Austria. You’re also spoilt for choice for blues in Belle Plagne‘s Paradiski area. The resort is full of easy, wide runs perfect for beginners to practice their turns.
Things have changed on the slopes since I was a kid. Back then we made our own fun in forest tracks and off-piste. Now more and more resorts create imaginative snow parks for younger skiers (and their aging parents reliving their youth). Meribel has an excellent green run, with a mini playground (complete with igloo) half-way down; La Rosiere has a St Bernard dog-themed forest run which the kids adored; La Plagne has the longest ‘fun run’ in Europe (apparently), a border-cross track and even a couple of half-pipes; Obergurgl’s fun parks were a little more challenging, but our then 6yo was completely obsessed by them!
If you’re planning a family ski holiday you may have a little one or a grandparent in your party who doesn’t ski. Keep everyone happy by choosing a resort which enables non-skiers to enjoy the mountains too. Ideally you’ll want them to be able to get a cable car directly to a mountain top restaurant to meet the skiers for hot chocolates and cheesy lunches. By far the best we’ve experienced of these was in Obergurgl which not only has a fab restaurant at the top of the Hohe Mut lift, but also a great playground.
Are we nearly there yet?
Sometimes it’s a little riskier flying into airports closer to the mountains such as Innsbruck or Chambery. They are more likely to close in bad weather, but the pay off for a shorter transfer time, especially with young children, is worth the risk. Innsbruck to Obergurgl is a mere hour and a half transfer, while getting from Chambery to the mountains will usually take an hour and a half to two and a half hours, depending which resort you are heading to. Don’t forget the sick bags! Those mountains roads can be tough on little tummies.
You may think that packing light for skiing is an impossible task, but over the years we’ve realised we need to take less and less with us. The kids tend to spend most of their time in either pyjamas or their thermals, so no need to take endless changes of everyday clothes – just in case – for them. Most chalets are heated to sauna-like temperatures, so instead of packing your cosiest winter knits, take lightweight jumpers and tops, and layer up when you head out. I do take changes of gloves for the kids, and spare ski gear too. Invariably they get wet when the kids play in the snow and don’t always dry out by the following morning. Do leave room to pack snacks for the kids. Those resort supermarkets are pricey and poorly stocked! I’ve written up our guide to packing over on the Little Trekkers blog.
There’s no doubt about it, skiing is an expensive holiday. We’ve tended to go during school term-time or book last-minute to make some savings. If that’s not an option for you consider self-driving or self-catering to cut the costs. We did both for a ski trip to Val Thorens, France during February half-term in 2020. It was still an expensive trip, taking into account French toll roads and kids ski school, but we think it it was definitely cheaper than going with a ski company during the peak half-term period. You can read about what we did and our top tips for making a self-drive, self-catering ski trip work here. Skiing in the Balkans can be significantly cheaper and both Italy and Andorra can also offer great skiing at lower prices than the big resorts in France and Italy.
Hopefully I’ve given you some inspiration for skiing with kids and some food for thought. If you’re hesitating going skiing with the kids I’d like to think I’ve shown you that it’s not just possible, but actually really fun! Do get in touch if you’d like to ask more. If it helps, here’s a list of the resorts we’ve been to with kids:
- Les Arcs 2000
- Belle Plagne
- La Rosiere
- Val Thorens
If you’ve any top tips I haven’t covered here, please do share in the comments.