Family ski holidays can be a true test of any parents character, a challenge to swerve chairlift tantrums, lost items of clothing and paying over the odds – however, when you do get it right the benefits are unrivalled. Here are 15 top tips to help you survive you next family trip to the slopes.
Before you go
1. Accept that your wallet is going to be sucked dry
Prepare to raid your savings account while regularly repeating the mantra, “It’s worth it, it’s worth it.” A family ski trip comes with a hefty price tag, especially if taken during the school holidays. There are ways to ease the financial pain a little – for example, buying snacks for the slopes in the UK and, if driving to self-catering accommodation, buying most of your provisions in supermarkets en route rather than in far pricier resort shops. You can further reduce costs in resort by eating a substantial breakfast, skipping lunch on the hill and limiting your après time in local bars. But whatever savings you make, it’s never going to be cheap. Take a deep breath, accept it, and focus not on the cost but the value of the experience you’ll be giving your children. Priceless.
2. Get everyone fit and physically prepared
A tough day on the slopes can be enough to leave anyone a husk of humanity. Avoid the exhaustion blues by making sure you and your kids are physically prepared. It’s the perfect excuse to swap TV and computer screens for the football pitch, gym, swimming pool, wherever, as long as everyone’s active in the run-up to the trip.
3. Don’t skimp on kit
Getting your little darlings kitted out with good-quality gear, including jacket, salopettes, socks and gloves to keep them as warm as the proverbial bug in the rug, is one of the keys to on-slope happiness. If you're not keen to splash the cash on items your children will grow out of quickly, consider borrowing from friends or hiring. Try an online provider such as Ski Stuff (ski-stuff.co.uk) or Ski Togs (skitogshire.co.uk). If buying new is on the agenda, then major specialist brands produce mini-me outfits with adult quality that are still stylish enough to satisfy the fussiest of young fashionistas.
4. Pack, pack and pack again
Allow plenty of time for packing – don’t do it the evening before you leave. Make a list and tick off every item, then check and check again. There’s no reason not to get older kids to do this themselves. There are few things more irritating than arriving at your destination without an essential item such as a pair of goggles – buying a replacement in resort could be costly.
5. Book childcare in advance
Consider how much childcare you want and book it far in advance, because demand for services can be high. Do you want to spend mornings or afternoons with your kids, or do you want to maximise slope time and opt for all day childcare? Whatever you choose, it’s money well spent to gain the delicious sense of freedom you get from whizzing down the slopes without a care in the world or a child in tow. Many resorts have their own worthy crèche facilities, but going with a specialist operator such as The Family Ski Company (familyski.co.uk) or Esprit Ski (espritski.com) means there’ll be qualified British childcare staff to look after your toddling pride and joy.
6. Book rental kit, passes and lessons in advance
Anything to reduce the hassle factor once you arrive in resort is worth doing. If you don’t have your own skis or snowboard plus boots, then sorting out equipment hire beforehand will not only save time on arrival – it also means you’ll be able to reserve the type of kit you want. Booking ahead can also save you money, especially if you book direct with a shop in resort such as Intersport (intersport.co.uk) or Skiset (skiset.co.uk). Most tour operators help organise kit hire, lessons and lift passes in advance, and will deliver passes to wherever you’re staying. Another thing not to worry about.
7. Get them used to wearing sunnies
To avoid slope-style strops, get toddlers and infants accustomed to sunglasses before going away – crucial to protect their eyes in a winter mountain environment.
8. Book a connecting room for your kids
It’s a holiday after all and sharing a room with your children, especially babies or infants, is likely to disrupt everyone’s sleep. If it’s the only option, take a torch so you can tiptoe your way around at night and avoid waking them. And bring earplugs!
9. Hit the slopes before going on holiday
Rather than wasting valuable time on holiday learning the basics and getting used to the equipment, book a few lessons before you go on one of the UK’s outdoor dry slopes or indoor snow slopes such as The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead (thesnowcentre.com), SnowDome in Tamworth (snowdome.co.uk) or Chill Factore in Manchester (chillfactore.com). It’s equally useful for more experienced kids – and their parents – to have a few lessons to re-boot their skills and refresh the muscles other forms of exercise don’t reach.
On the journey
10. Avoid toddler tantrums
Journeying to and from your destination with a toddler can be one of the most challenging aspects of a winter holiday, or any holiday for that matter. To avoid potential fits of screaming on a flight, take a dummy or drink for landings and take-offs – a few sips or sucks will help to ease earache caused by changes in cabin pressure. Also worth considering is getting them a backpack with a leash or reins to stop your little adventurer wandering off, especially useful in airports. Or consider a Trunki, the kids’ suitcase on wheels that they can sit on. It's small enough to go on a plane as hand luggage and they’ll enjoy hours of fun being pulled along – especially useful during flight delays.
Remember to bring a spare favourite teddy or blanket as well, because hell hath no fury like a toddler deprived of the current object of their affection.
11. Keep them entertained
Help pass the time when travelling with toddlers and younger children by taking as many books and games as you can. Bring a travel size magnetic drawing board rather than paper, pen and crayons to avoid any risk of your budding Jackson Pollock using accommodation walls as a canvas once in resort. The big winner with children of all ages is likely to be a portable DVD player or tablet loaded up with a selection of their favourite games and movies. This is particularly good for evening entertainment in resort too.
In the resort
12. Get into a routine
It’s difficult enough remembering everything you need to get yourself on to the slopes. Add children into the mix and the challenge rises exponentially. So, you need a rigid routine to make sure nothing is left behind. Attach lift passes firmly to jackets, or zip them securely in pockets, and create a checklist of vital items to collect in the morning – goggles, helmet, gloves – and designate a place where all kit is stored. Zip money for snacks during lessons into children’s pockets along with tissues – ensure it’s a different pocket from the pass to limit chances of it falling out mid-snack rummage.
13. Never teach your kids
Unless you’re a qualified instructor, you really don’t have the skills and will end up teaching them bad habits. Plus, of course, your children are loath to listen to you anyway. Far better to let a professional give the tips, freeing you up to enjoy recreational time together on the slopes.
14. Take lessons
All members of your family, whatever their level, will benefit from lessons. Depending on ability, either learn together or separately, for a minimum of a few mornings during the week. You’ll improve your technique, meet other people and get to go to the front of the lift queues – especially handy during high season. Book lessons in advance to secure a space.
15. Don’t worry, be happy
A family ski and snowboard holiday is one of the most satisfying, fun and memorable ways to spend time together. Let the stresses and strains of everyday life drain away as you share the mountains you love with the people you love.