Take our advice on how to find the best location, best accommodation and best ski schools for your family snow holiday.
LEARNING TO SKI
Children can learn to ski from about the age of four, and the earlier they start, the more naturally it will come to them. What’s more, with pre-schoolers you’re not restricted to travelling in the school holidays, which means you benefit from off-peak rates – enjoy this luxury while you can.
Often your operator will have preferred ski schools but it’s worth checking the ratio of instructors to children, group sizes and availability of English speaking instructors.
When booking through a tour operator it’s also worth asking whether a member of the childcare team stays with each ski school group. This will be important for first timers and very young skiers.
STYLE OF ACCOMMODATION
Your options for accommodation include catered chalets, hotels or apartments.
While catered breaks may look like a pricey option – with soft drinks costing in excess of £4 in Europe’s more expensive resorts – the catered and fully inclusive deals offer comparably excellent value for money and will let you take a well-deserved break from the kitchen.
Hotels often have the advantage of additional facilities (bar, swimming pool, spa, play room), whereas chalets and apartments provide a more home-from-home environment, which families find more flexible.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Location of accommodation relative to lifts and ski school will be a high priority when travelling with beginners or children.
Trekking any sort of distance in ski boots, particularly when lugging poles and skis with you is exhausting, and can wear out little legs before the day has even begun. Tour operators such as Powder Byrne, VIP Ski and Scott Dunn offer a chauffeur service from accommodation to lifts, where needed.
Resort choice will be influenced by when you’re travelling (the highest resorts have the longest ski seasons) and the skiing ability of your group.
If you’re the kind of family that is on the snow from the first to last lift, après ski may be less of a consideration. But if you’re looking for more than piste action it’s worth exploring what else your resort has to offer.
The majority of the larger resorts have a great selection of alternative activities for families – from husky rides to snowshoeing, swimming to ice-skating.
The Ski Club of Great Britain is a great resource for information on resorts, pistes and conditions.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
Who can resist the lure of a white Christmas – especially when someone else is doing all the catering? Christmas is a great time for a family ski trip as it offers almost guaranteed snow: it can however be very cold.
Easter offers the warmest weather which can be great for little ones, but if you’re travelling towards the end of the season it’s worth booking a high resort to secure the best possible snow conditions.
CHOOSE A TOUR OPERATOR
Tour operator choice is likely to be influenced by four, largely interlocking, factors; budget, resort choice, degree of luxury sought, and childcare requirements.
Powder Byrne, which operates in lesser known but well placed resorts, and offers first class accommodation, an in-resort chauffeur service, and tailor-made childcare. The majority of their accommodation is hotel based.
VIP Ski is based in Europe’s leading resorts, offer luxurious chalet accommodation, in-resort chauffeur service and wonderfully enthusiastic and flexible private nannies in case you want some parent-only time.
Esprit seem to dominate Europe’s best known resorts with their pink and blue jackets and their fun loving staff – their accommodation is not necessarily the finest, but the group childcare (whilst quite prescriptive) is first rate.
Ski Famille is a smaller family travel operator which offers some of the best value family ski deals available, throughout France’s most family-friendly resorts.