Switzerland

How to plan the easiest first time ski holiday with your kids

Last updated 10th July 2024

Is Crans-Montana one of the best ski resorts for beginners?  Justine Gosling puts it to the test on a first time family ski trip with her children.

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Station Hiver, Crans-Montana © Patrick Guller

There’s a lot of faff, donkeying awkwardly-shaped equipment, and expense involved in a family ski holiday for beginners. It’s not exactly the most relaxing break, but sharing a love of the mountains with children and seeing them build their skills and confidence as they rocket past you down the slopes with big smiles on their faces will make all the effort worthwhile, eventually.

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Having fun at Chemin Lanternes, Crans-Montana © Maxime Aliaga

Ski holidays for beginners are all about good planning

Good planning and choosing the right resort for a family’s first ski holiday can make all the difference to stress and enjoyment levels. After extensive research, we made the wise choice to visit the French speaking resort of Crans-Montana in the Valais region of Switzerland for our first family trip to the mountains with our 8- and 11-year-old.

Certified by the Swiss Tourism Federation as a “Family Destination” with services specially designed for families, Crans-Montana had everything we needed on and off the slopes to ensure we all had a great time. And as an added bonus, the resort is sunny and south-facing with 140km of slopes of varying difficulty situated between 1500 and 3000m above sea level, and accessed by a network of 27 lifts.

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Snow tubing at Snow Island © Florence Zufferey

Crans-Montana has plenty of family activities on and off the slopes

Off the slopes, there’s an array of indoor and outdoor activities to keep kids entertained, from a climbing wall and horse riding stables to surf and skate parks.

We spent a lot of time on Snow Island, where there’s a magic carpet for beginner skiers, sledge runs, and snow tubing, all cheered on by ‘Bibi,’ the marmot mascot. There’s also a kids’ club so adults can get in a few runs by themselves.

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Crans-Montana, Switzerland © Patrick Guller

How to plan a great ski holiday for beginners

We started by borrowing children’s ski gear from friends who’d already passed the ‘ski holiday for beginners’ hurdle: their pre-trip advice proved invaluable. And here are some other tips we picked up that could help your first family ski trip go smoothly.

1. Before you go, get children excited

If your kids have never skied before, it might be difficult to understand what skiing is. Choose them fun outfits and let them try their gear on.

Then help their understanding and get them excited by showing them videos of kids skiing, big hot chocolates and other fun ski resort activities. This lets kids know what’s ahead and gives them the opportunity to ask any questions.

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Alaïa Lodge, Crans-Montana

2. Convenience is key on a ski holiday for beginners

We based ourselves at the family friendly Alaïa Lodge, which is just 300m from the Crans-Montana Route Télé.

Our casual, minimalist room was on the quiet top floor with views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Larger than many family suites, it featured two bedrooms, a living room, and essentially, a separate bathroom and toilet. Plus, it was located in the centre of town, so it was easy to pop out for dinner or an ice cream, and we were just a few minutes’ walk to the ski lift.

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The best ski resorts for beginners are snow-sure at Easter © Louis Dasselborne

3. Try the best ski resorts for beginners at Easter

Forget Christmas and February half term, the Easter school holidays are the best time to ski. The kids won’t be blown off the mountain or stand shivering in lift queues. It’s the sunniest and warmest period of the season, and what’s more, the slopes are often quieter.

Our trip to Crans-Montana was the last week of the season and we felt like VIPs with sun-drenched slopes all to ourselves, almost as if we had our very own private resort in Switzerland.

Also, the last week of the season is always good for a first time ski trip as the slopes are practically empty, and everyone has finished their season and assumes the snow conditions are poor: often not the case.

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Snow Island, Crans-Montana © Florence Zufferey

4. Don’t worry about the snow quality

As long as there’s snow kids don’t care about its quality and the difference between between powder, sludge and soft is meaningless to them. Although long-season, snow-sure resorts are good for spring or Easter ski trips.

5. Be prepared for a certain amount of faff

First off, even getting kids into all their ski gear and out of the door can be a sweaty battle. However, what you should really prepare for is carrying all your equipment, plus theirs, as well as all the extra water, snacks, along with additional layers, and probably spare gloves too.

6. Best ski resorts for beginners are crowd-free

Try to choose small, lesser-known resorts to avoid the crowds. Not only will you feel more like a local and less overwhelmed at a smaller resort, things tend to be closer together. As beginners, kids will likely stick to a selected few runs where they feel confident, so you don’t need the variety and expanse of the more mega resorts.

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Disco Glace proves Crans-Montana is one of the best ski resorts for beginners

7. Be realistic on a first time ski holiday

Between toilet stops, rests, snack-breaks and tiredness, skiing with children is often a stop-start activity, and rest days may be needed. Also, supervising kids means you won’t get to ski much yourself, and young beginners probably won’t manage a whole day on the snow. With this in mind, think about whether all adults need their own lift pass, or if sharing is an option.

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Crans-Montana, Switzerland © Florence Zufferey

8. Think about getting a guide

Frustratingly, most kids are better behaved around strangers and are more attentive with the familiar classroom structure of teacher-student. As well as improving the child-adult ratio, a guide also means you have help carrying all the kids’ equipment or getting on and off lifts. And a local who knows the resort can take you down runs appropriate for kids’ skill level, or get you to a toilet quickly when needed.

9. Build plenty of breaks into your ski days

Kids are often having so much fun they don’t want to stop for the toilet, until they really need to, and inevitably, you’ll be far away from facilities when that need arises. A bit of forward planning, along with building set breaks into the day, making regular water and snack stops, and knowing where toilets or cafés are, will help avert most minor crisis.

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Perfect first time ski holiday conditions, Crans-Montana © Florence Zufferey

10. Don’t put any pressure on your kids, keep it fun

Although you love skiing, and want to share the experience and fun with our children, they may not take to it straight away. So remember to keep the experience relaxed and happy, because the more fun kids have the quicker they’ll pick up the technique.  Also, You need to wisely choose a high moment to finish on each day, then head for a crêpe or hot chocolate. That way your skiers in training are left wanting more, and excited to head back to the slopes.

11. Ski with friends or a group with other kids

Skiing with others raises the fun level, means the kids have playmates, and adults can share the childcare, so you can sneak off for a few solo-runs or even out for a grown-up dinner. Plus, learning together is less intimidating for children, and can help share the cost of a guide.

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Indoor pool, Six Senses Lifestyle Spa

And finally! Adult-only time in Crans-Montana

Take some time out at the spa or for adults’ treat dinner. We spent an afternoon at the new 2,000sqm Six Senses Spa and relaxed our slope-sore muscles in the outdoor pool and Stretch Pod.

This was followed by sake-based cocktails and a delicious Japanese dinner of grilled fish and Japanese Wagyu tataki, served against a sumptuous silk interior at Six Senses’ restaurant, Byakko. A highlight of the week!

How to plan this ski holiday in Crans-Montana

How to get there

Direct UK flights to Geneva take from 1 hour, 35 minutes

Where to stay

Alaïa Lodge, Family Room (2 adults, 2 children)  from £231 per night, including breakfast

Find out more and book