Family Traveller catches up with Chris Thompson, managing director of UK-based Ski Famille for his top tips on how to get the most out of a family ski trip.
My first tip would be not to try to replicate your pre-child ski trips. It will be a different type of vacation, 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 wee 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 that's needed for vacationing with children can also be provided. Parents 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.
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 atmosphere 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 communicators 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.
Ski vacations have definitely evolved over the past 10-15 years. A lot of families now want to take part in resort activities other than just skiing. 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 sledding, dogsledding, ice climbing, chocolate workshops or a visit 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.
Inevitably my own ski trips end up being a combination of work and pleasure. My two girls, Eva (11) and Delphi (5), 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 favorite family ski trip was probably our first with Eva. We took over a Les Gets chalet with friends 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.