Here are our top 10 things to consider when planning a family ski holiday, with help from European Snowsport’s expert ski instructor Julian Griffiths.
Planning a family ski holiday is hard, right? Whether you have just started and are wondering about where to go, or whether you are just putting the finishing touches on pickup locations in the morning, there is so much to consider that it can seem overwhelming. Here are some tips and suggestions picked up over many years of helping families who travel, and travelling with my own children.
I have divided this blog up in a logical way, from the first things to consider, to the last. A bit like a Christmas day planner, so that you don’t forget about putting the crackers on the table, or the pudding on to heat up, and you have the champagne chilled just when it is needed.
Feel free to refer back to this article whenever you like, and you can also use it together with the resources that are linked and other information and advice in our Good Advice column.
1) Where to go
All the major resorts will have a beginner slope and in all the major resorts, they are now pretty well equipped. If you are travelling with beginners, look for a resort that has a magic carpet and then a drag lift or gentle chairlift just nearby, so that beginners have a simple progression that gives them something to aim for from day 1.
2) Where not to go
Look out for low resorts, especially those where the beginner slope is below 1400m altitude, as this means it will be less snow sure. It is much harder to learn if you don’t have access to a beginner slope. And it is much harder to ski if you don’t have access to snow! A higher beginner slope means it is more likely to be open early and late in the season and snow conditions are likely to be better, whenever you travel.
Unknown resorts can be cheap but it can be a false economy in a poor snow winter. A big-name resort will have invested in snowmaking and that means that, whatever the conditions elsewhere, you will still have plenty of skiing.
3) When to go
As a family, you are usually constrained by school holiday dates, but this doesn’t need to mean huge crowds and expensive flights.
Consider these holiday dates:
- The first week of the Christmas holidays, avoiding New Year week
- The Easter break, especially the first week; this is usually much quieter than February half term
- New Year and February half term are good times to travel if you don’t have budget concerns, but they are also the busiest times in resort, so if you have the option, try and avoid them.
It is not a good idea to try and take children out of school and travel outside the school holiday weeks. Apart from setting a terrible example to your kids and upsetting their school, usually the ski schools don’t run group lessons outside the school holiday weeks. That means you will lose any saving on travel in the extra lesson costs.
4) Who to take
I really recommend taking as many family members as you can. We are here to make great memories and even people who don’t consider themselves skiers can have a fantastic time walking, exploring, enjoying the fresh alpine air, and doing things they can’t normally do at home. Plus it is always great to have a few extra hands for pickups, drop-offs, shopping and so on.
Grandparents love the time with the family and can be a real boon for everyone, even if they don’t ski. Who knows, they might try it and love it! Someone in your family might be inspired by this blog from a grandma who started skiing with Europen Snowsport ski school at the age of 72.
5) What accommodation
Chalet and apartment accommodation usually works best for families. On a chalet holiday, you have staff who will cook for you and this is a huge time and energy saving, leaving you to relax at the end of the day. When you wake up in the morning, breakfast is laid out and you can enjoy it and then set out right away.
Apartments can also be great as you have space for everyone and can suit yourself with timings.
Hotel accommodation tends to work less well for family parties as you don’t have living areas, which are really important for relaxing together on holiday.
Ski lesson are crucial for making sure everyone has a great time on the snow. At European Snowsport we spend the most time and energy of all our lessons on our kids small group lessons.
European Snowsport have small groups with instructors who specialise in teaching small children. There is a maximum of just 4 children in the class, for 3-5 year olds in ES Penguins.
Then for 6-12 year olds, we have a fun-filled ES Kids Academy programme.
For teens, they can challenge themselves, become technically accomplished, and learn about mountain safety on the ES Freeski programme.
Children of 6 and over are big and strong enough to love a full day on the snow in a lesson environment. You will find they make ski buddies as well as improving and learning in the right way, coming back at the end of each day full of stories and adventures.
For the adults in the party, we recommend private lessons. In a private lesson, your ski instructor takes the trouble to understand what you want to improve, and can help you progress, overcome blocks, or regain your confidence on the snow. You will be thrilled at how much progress you can make just with a few lessons at the start of the week.
For beginner skiers, lessons are essential and you cannot start on the snow without them.
7) Equipment and clothing
We really recommend renting equipment from a good shop with new kit. Don’t borrow from friends as their equipment is unlikely to be set up correctly for you and may not function properly. In addition, you will find that the costs of traveling with equipment outweigh the savings.
Even for expert skiers, you can rent this season’s ski and snowboard models from a good rental store and try out the newest kit.
For families and those new to skiing, we also recommend renting clothing. Our partners at Cirkel have a great model where you can rent good quality clothing online and they deliver it to your accommodation for the start of your holiday. That way you have new clothing each time, and don’t need to travel with bulky ski clothing.
If you followed our advice about renting equipment and clothing, this should be pretty straightforward. Think about layering clothing on the slopes; this also makes you more versatile off the slopes as well. In ski resorts people don’t tend to dress up, so leave the fancy shoes and coats at home. It isn’t a fashion show, just a fun family holiday. With shoes/boots, take a pair with lots of tread and waterproof if possible.
Kids will need comfortable clothes for traveling and for changing into at the end of the day, or otherwise they can just hang out in their ski underlayers once you get home (this is what my kids always used to do). Like work, packing tends to expand to fill the space available, so start with the bag you want to travel with, lay everything out on the bed and then subtract until you get to the amount of stuff you are comfortable with.
Avoid cotton if you can, synthetics and merino tend to be the best underlayers for active sports in winter. You can use sports clothing from other sports as underlayers. This article gives you more advice about dressing for the slopes.
9) Traveling with children
Having travelled a lot with my children, both long haul and short haul, I really recommend packing light, being early and staying flexible. There will be delays, things that get left behind or forgotten, changes of plan, and this all happens when you travel. So don’t stress about it. Things happen; this is life.
You are setting out on a big adventure together, and you will have a lot of fun. The things that are unexpected and the way you deal with them will give you the great stories to tell together later; the kind lady who picked up a dropped teddy, the person who helped you understand the trolley system, getting new gloves in resort when you left your others at home.
Enjoy your adventure together and remember this is holiday time; your only objective here is to enjoy spending time with your family.
10) First day on the snow
This is going to be so much fun, and your kids will absolutely love it! No-one has any expectations of you, and your only objective is to enjoy your time on the snow.
Allow plenty of time to get out the door, and write yourself a little checklist if you need to. Mine goes something like this;
- Credit card
- Face protector or balaclava in the pocket
Same for children (except without the credit card), but they will need a small amount of cash for a hot chocolate during their lesson, and I recommend a muesli bar in the pocket as a snack.
Here is a little video that I recommend you watch with your kids.
And here is a link to our blog about 5 things to keep in your pockets
Have a fantastic holiday and we look forward to skiing with you!
This blog is a guest post by Julian Griffiths
Julian is the Founder and Director of European Snowsport, who have been delivering quality ski and snowboard lessons in the Alps for over 20 years. Julian is a former instructor examiner in the British system and now holds the top Swiss, Italian and Irish qualifications. Julian is an innovator, lateral thinker and loves to teach skiing.
Most importantly, he is the father of 2 well-travelled teens.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.