Family Traveller catches up with Chris Thompson, managing director of Ski Famille for his top tips on how to get the best out of a family ski trip
How do parents with young children make the transition from skiing without kids to skiing with them?
My first tip would be not to try and replicate your pre-child ski trips. It will be a different type of holiday, but no less enjoyable. You might not hit the first and last lift every day, or be dancing on tables in your ski boots until the small hours, but as parents who really has the energy for that anyway?
Catered chalets can be a great option when children are young. You don’t need to take up any time thinking about cooking, cleaning or any other chores. All the kit needed for holidaying with children should also be provided. You can simply focus on relaxing and enjoying everything that the mountains offer.
An element of childcare is enormously helpful too. Parents get to spend time skiing together (as well as enjoying the occasional long lunch on a sunny terrace) and children get to meet and play with new friends. Families can then come back together later in the day for snowman building or other winter adventures.
What’s the secret to getting young kids successfully on the slopes, loving ski?
Spend time with small children playing in the snow and help them to get comfortable with being on the mountains and wearing chunky winter clothing. If they feel relaxed in a ski resort while still young then, before you know it, you’ll be struggling to keep up with them out on the slopes.
For children old enough to ski, most resorts have ski school options from three years of age. Pick a ski school with good spoken English and a sympathetic approach. There will be a few wobbles (physical and emotional) but the vast majority quickly learn to love the freedom offered by whizzing along on the snow.
Are we seeing a move away from just skiing towards other winter activities?
Ski holidays have definitely evolved over the past 10-15 years. A lot of families now want to take part in resort activities rather than just ski. Resorts have adapted to demand so there are lots of great events throughout the season as well as the opportunity to try activities such as tobogganing, dog sledding, ice climbing, chocolate workshops or a trip to the spa.
The flip side is that many families do simply enjoy relaxing in their chalets. Fortunately chalet facilities have improved dramatically and saunas, hot tubs and even cinema rooms are now widespread. That said, sometimes it can be hard to beat a glass of wine served in front of a roaring fire!
What does Ski Famille offer to make life easy for parents?
We only provide holidays to families so there are no compromises on facilities or services. All of our chalets offer in-house childcare with a dedicated playroom as the base and no snowy trudge to an impersonal crèche.
Almost all of our rooms are family suites, so parents and children have their own bedrooms but all behind one door, and every property is an easy walk from the slopes. All chalets have a hot tub and many also offer a sauna. Our newest properties even have their own private cinema rooms.
A children’s evening meal is provided every day of the week, allowing adults to dine a little later and enjoy a three-course meal with wine. Our aim is to create a hassle-free experience that is a true holiday for all of the family. Two of Ski Famille’s ski chalets are in Les Bruyeres, France
What was your best skiing holiday with your own children?
Inevitably my own ski trips end up being a combination of work and pleasure. My two girls, Eva 11 and Delphi five, do love time spent in the mountains though. Both are honing their skills on the slopes and we hope to all ski again next Easter.
My absolute favourite family ski trip was probably our first with Eva. We took over a Les Gets chalet with friends from our NCT group (a common Ski Famille occurrence) and had a fabulously relaxing time. The children, although young at that stage, loved playing in the snow and the adults got to spend time exploring the slopes and enjoying good food and drink with none of our normal day to day responsibilities.