As people here start to get in a frenzy about which set of mountains have the best snow at weekends, some of you might be contemplating a family ski trip for the first time. Here’s a rehash of a post I wrote for BritMums a little over a year ago, but with a few added extra points – you might find it useful!
It’s that time again – the slopes of Europe (and beyond) are covered with snow, and ready and waiting for you to get your skis on. So whether you cannot wait to get back on the piste, or if 2015 is the first time you will ski together, here are a few tips for a successful, happy and enjoyable family trip.
- If like us, you have a mixture of abilities in your family (our group ranges from expert, two small enthusiasts, and the “can ski, but not so enthusiastic” (me!)), make sure you book a resort with suitable runs for everyone. Blues and Greens are obviously best for beginners, Red for the slightly more adventurous, and Blacks for the proficient (not me!)… Too few of one colour might lead to sulky faces if the majority of runs are too easy – and worried/nervous faces if it’s the opposite!;
- Look for a resort with a lift and slope on your doorstep. There’s nothing worse than having to trek miles with all your gear in the morning. I highly recommend that you search for somewhere with less than 500 metres walking distance to a lift, ski resort buses are not much fun with all your gear.
- Consider self-catering – often the easiest option for a family group. Most resorts have good supermarkets so you can cook what you like, when you like. When evening comes, you can pack exhausted children off to bed whilst you get on with the all important apres ski! If hotels are more your thing however, then there are obviously plenty of great options, including many that cater purely for family groups;
- Don’t just go for the popular resorts that are usually the most overpriced (especially in the school hols!), do look at resorts in places such as the Dolomites, in Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland (the beauty about skiing in Bavaria is if you feel you’ve “covered it”, you can drive an hour up the road to Austria and enjoy places like Kitzbuhel, Sol and Innsbruck).
- Pre book your ski equipment and ski passes on-line. I know us Brits are meant to be experts at queueing, but this is one instance where if you can pre-order it all beforehand and pick it up when you arrive, I highly recommend it;
- Clothing. If you can’t borrow it, you don’t have to spend a fortune on decent ski gear nowadays – a a lot of high street shops have their own versions, but don’t skimp on good thermal layers. You can always always take them off if you get too warm.
- If you think ski holidays might feature frequently in your family’s future, look at buying second-hand gear on-line. The cost of hiring equipment can add up, and there’s no point in buying it brand new for children with growing feet (you can always re-sell it!);
- Buy specialist gloves and socks. These are a must. There’s nothing worse than frozen hands, and cold feet in ski boots has to be the most horrible thing about this kind of holiday. Speaking of cold feet, don’t be tempted to wear two pairs of socks, and don’t do your boots up too tight!;
- In some places it’s obligatory anyway, but I always insist on the wearing of ski-helmets. Too many lives have been lost due to accidental collisions that perhaps wouldn’t have been all that serious otherwise;
- Choose goggles over sunglasses. Sunglasses are forever falling off, and can feel uncomfortable under a helmet. Pick decent goggles where the strap fits over the back and keeps them securely in place;
- Don’t forget the Three S’s – Sunscreen, Snacks and Saturation. Sunscreen: You will be amazed at how burnt your face can get even if the sun isn’t out completely – pack a high factor, and don’t forget your lips! Snacks – pack ski jacket pockets full of energy giving carbohydrate rich snacks such as cereal bars, dried fruit, sports drinks/bars/gels… If you don’t eat them, your children will! Saturation – skiing is a high energy sport, and combined with altitude, you will lose a lot of fluids. Keep drinking (and save the vast majority of your alcohol intake for apres!)…
- Whilst on the subject of food, eat a good breakfast, preferably something like porridge which releases energy slowly throughout the morning;
- Book private ski lessons. In my experience, you learn more in smaller groups or in one-on-one lessons instead of huge groups where the instructor cannot devote that much time individually (this is not necessarily the case for children however, most of whom seem to be complete naturals!);
- Write phone numbers (or invest in some Kattoos or similar) on Small People before they are packed off to Ski School. This might only help paranoid helicopter mothers such as myself, but I find that if I am relaxed and happy about such things, I fall over a lot less!
- Common sense, but do make sure you have a central meeting point in case you get separated. Also make sure phones are fully charged – batteries tend to die quicker in the cold;
- If you don’t get on with your ski instructor, go back and ask for another one. There’s nothing that will put you off more, than the thought of spending the day with someone you don’t like, especially when you are paying lots of money for the pleasure (and yes I speak from experience!);
- Find a resort that offers a variety of activities. There will be times when someone doesn’t feel like putting their ski boots on, so having good alternatives such as swimming, ice skating, sledging, snow-mobiling etc. is always helpful (don’t forget your swim suits!);
- If you don’t get on with the downhill skiing, try cross-country (lang-lauf) skiing, it’s hard work, but peaceful and rewarding. And if you completely hate skis, rent some snow shoes for the day!
And finally, go with the flow. You are bound to be nervous at times, it’s not all that natural to strap planks to your feet and chuck yourself down a mountain, but I promise that once you have mastered a few basics, and have gained confidence, you will experience some of the highest exhilaration levels ever, breathe some of the cleanest air on the planet, and witness some of the some of the most stunning scenery that Mother Nature has to offer.
Enjoy, have fun, and don’t forget to reward yourself with a steaming hot mug of gluhwein (or two) at the end of each day, safe in the knowledge that if your children are taught to ski at a young age, they won’t go through the agony of what was in my case mortifying, embarrassing group lessons at the age of 23 like I did. Having said that, it’s never too late, and life’s too short isn’t it?