Family Skiing Holidays Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09
? let’s TRY…
FAMILY SKIING HOLIDAYS
Slope off SalzburgerLand Tourist Office
■ Toboganning at
Obertauern, near Salzburg
with the family
e were only a year desperate to get back to him (and to a sup-
Skiing offers a rare chance into our child-rear- ply of affordable wine, I confess).
for families to enjoy an active ing project when my Nine months after, we spent a jolly
wife Val and I Christmas in an Esprit Ski chalet in
holiday together. But where realised that we Montchavin. About nine years later, when
do you go? Ski expert Chris were going to have both Alex and sister Laura could get around
Gill, a long-time family skier, to start doing family skiing holidays, even the mountain with us, we came to realise
before we had a family capable of skiing. what an excellent family holiday skiing
gives the low-down on the We had left our precious one-year-old in makes. It has its drawbacks – notably the
best peaks to choose the care of his nanny, and taken off for a cost. But to be able to share an exciting,
week in Norway. By day three, we were vaguely healthy outdoor activity with the
November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 31
Learning to ski
First, will your kids be up to it? They need
a degree of determination and resilience
to overcome the inevitable setbacks – the
falling over, for a start. Our kids got to this
point at about age six. At age four, it didn’t
Then, how should they be taught? If
you’re competent, you could do it yourself.
Our kids got a mix of lessons and parental
coaching at the start, then a year or two
of proper lessons – but once off the
nursery slope there was no way to
persuade either of them to take more
A good compromise is classes in the
morning, and skiing together in the
afternoon. In many resorts school classes
are mornings only – but your tour
operator may offer afternoon
supervision/amusement if you want to
carry on skiing without hindrance.
Of course, you’ll want to identify a good
school. Where to Ski and Snowboard can
help you there (see facts panel).
■ Break time at a Mark Warner ski school
■ Morning lessons leave time ■ Young skiers
free for family skiing in St Anton TVB St Anton am Arlberg/Wolfgang Ehn
TVB Innsbruck/Klaus Kranebitter
■ Ski kindergarten in Avoriaz
whole family is a How to go
rare thing. And it Most British skiers take package holidays,
whisks you from even though doing your own thing is pretty
the depressing, grey simple, thanks to an ever-wider range of
British winter to a budget flights and internet booking of
fairytale setting of snow- hotels and apartments.
clad forests and mountains, For families, packages have particular
with a good chance of merits – especially families attracted to the
blue skies; unbeat- uniquely British form of ski holiday, the
able. catered chalet. Strictly speaking, a chalet is a
small Alpine house, though for chalet-holi-
day purposes it may be an apartment. Your
tour operator staffs a chalet with young
Brits, and offers either the whole place or
rooms within it, packaging half-board with
flights or other transport. No-choice meals
are taken at a communal table, with (a key
Photopress feature, this) wine included.
Unless you take over a
■ Family fun in very small place, there will
32 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
● One or more jolly, safe, dedicated kids’
nursery slopes (or “snow gardens”).
● Gentle main nursery slopes, free of
● Longer, gentle runs (classified green in
France) to progress to.
● A combination of sun and good snow on
all these runs (beware resorts that get no
sun in midwinter, and resorts where
snow at village level routinely turns to
● Opportunities to have fun on the snow
without skiing – tobogganing and/or
tubing, in particular.
● Things to do in the evening or on stormy
days when skiing is limited – swimming,
bowling and skating.
● A well-run ski school.
Top resorts – country by country
Below are resorts to consider in the four main
Alpine skiing countries. There are alterna-
tives, but I don’t recommend them. If money
is no object and you think the kids can deal
with the jet lag, consider North America: the
tuition and the childcare doesn’t get much
better – but it is seriously expensive. Bear in
mind that the highest resorts present a risk of
For many years the favourite destination of
British beginners, and still very appealing.
+ lively, beer-fuelled apres-ski starting mid-
afternoon; appreciably cheaper than France;
plenty of small, cute, family-friendly
– few of its big resorts are natural family
places; many of the most appealing resorts
are at low altitudes where snow conditions
be other families to provide distractions for Big-name favourites:
yours; in a chalet-hotel (a larger variant, run “For families, Lech (www.lech-zuers.at) – near-perfect
along similar lines) you are almost sure of
finding compatible playmates. But the killer
packages have seclusion up the hill at Oberlech.
St Anton (www.stantonamarlberg.com) –
feature is that most chalet operators organise particular merits” excellent nursery slope at quiet Nasserein.
childcare in some chalets, and some opera- Smaller favourites:
tors do it in all their chalets. open up many other indirect possibilities all Alpbach (www.alpbach.at ) – cute, quiet
Practically every resort has one or more over the Alps. Quite a few resorts are on the village with central nursery slope.
public nurseries/ski kindergartens, and some rail network. Ellmau (www.wilderkaiser.info) – acres of
hotels have their own private nurseries. Like gentle nursery slopes.
many British parents, we always opted for The ideal family resort
the more predictable tour operator childcare. There is no such thing, of course: what suits France
Most people take flights to the moun- one parent and his four-year-old will not Now the dominant destination for Brits, par-
tains, followed by a coach transfer taking suit another parent and her 10-year-old. But ticularly for chalet and apartment holidays.
one to three hours, occasionally more. It can here is a list of desirable ingredients: + lots of huge, high, snow-sure ski areas;
be less hassle to drive, especially if you have ● Easy access, without excessively long many family-oriented resorts with a lot of
a lot of baby kit to handle, and a capacious transfers from airports, or excessively very convenient accommodation right on
motor. Rail travel is enjoying a revival of winding access roads. the slopes; huge choice of catered chalet
interest. There are weekly direct services ● Compact, convenient, safe layout (car- holidays.
from London to stations close to several free ideally), so that getting the kids – high prices, especially in the top resorts;
major French resorts, and services to Paris from A to B is hassle-free. huge influx of French families during the
November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 33
■ Choose a family-
friendly resort Family skiing facts
Lots of tour operators offer childcare in
certain resorts, so you don’t need to confine
your search to the firms listed here. But
these are operators that do childcare
Atout France/Chantal Bourreau
throughout their programmes: Esprit Ski
(www.espritski.com),The Family Ski
Company (www.familyski.co.uk), Ski
Famille (www.skifamille.co.uk), Mark
■ Italy has well-equipped resorts
Snowbizz (www.snowbizz.co.uk), Ski Amis (www.skiamis.com), Ski2
(www.ski-2.com), Premiere Neige
February school holidays (which include (www.premiere-neige.com) and Mountain Heaven
British half-term weeks) (www.mountainheaven.co.uk).
Avoriaz (www.avoriaz.com) – car-free, ski Sample package prices
from the door resort. Esprit has five chalets in Les Gets. Prices range from £600 in mid-January to
Les Menuires (www.lesmenuires.com) – £1280 at half-term; there’s a complex scheme of free and discounted places
good choice of slopeside family chalets. for kids.The Family Ski Company has two chalets in Les Menuires. Prices
Smaller favourites: range from £420 to £1250; again, children pay less.
Les Gets (www.lesgets.com) – pretty vil-
lage at foot of gentle slopes. Other costs
La Rosiere (www.larosiere.net) – good Lift passes: the lifts on some nursery slopes are free. In other resorts, you pay
range of family chalets in a sunny setting. for each ride, or buy a special beginner’s lift
pass (perhaps costing £15/£20 a day). But in
Italy some resorts the nursery slopes are at mid-
In the past sold on price but now offers mountain and you must buy a full pass costing
OT Les Menuires/P Royer
well-equipped resorts competing with as much as £200 for a week. Children pay less,
Austria. and go free under a certain age. Many resorts
+ the Italians love kids, and kids love pasta. offer family passes, at a special price.
– few resorts are ideally arranged; there are Ski school classes: expect to pay something
few UK tour operators doing childcare; like £100 for six half-days, between £150 and
resort childcare is not well established. £200 for six full days, if available.
Big-name favourite: ■ Ice castle, Les Menuires Equipment hire: expect to pay £75 to £150
Cervinia (www.montecervino.it) – limit- per week per adult for skis and boots, half that per child.
less gentle slopes starting right beside the
village. More information on resorts
Smaller favourite: Austria: www.austria.info/uk
Selva (www.valgardena.it) – great snow- France: www.francetourism.com
sure nursery slope with lodgings beside it. Italy: www.italiantouristboard.co.uk
Where we Brits invented recreational downhill SPECIAL OFFER:
skiing, though now a bit of a niche market. Where to Ski and Snowboard
+ some exceptionally cute, family-friendly To maximise the chances of a good holiday, get hold of this, “the skier’s bible”
villages in spectacularly scenic settings – Britain’s only annual ski resort guidebook, now in its 14th edition. Readers
– high prices, especially in top resorts. of The Travel & Leisure Magazine can buy the
Big-name favourite: book online from
Wengen (www.myjungfrau.ch) – car-free, www.wheretoski.co.uk/tlm for the cover
traditional village, reached by train. price of the first edition, published in 1994 –
Smaller favourite: £14.99, with p&p free (it is £18.99 in shops).
Adelboden (www.adelboden.ch) – several The most important information about the
toboggan runs and other amusements. TL top resorts is available on the book’s main
website (www.wtss.co.uk). Special
Chris Gill is editor of leading annual guide features include links to the other sites
Where to Ski and Snowboard and has written mentioned in this article.
about ski resorts for 25 years.With two ● To win one of five free copies of Where
children now of student age, he has long
and intimate experience of the pain and to Ski and Snowboard 2010, see page 36.
pleasure of family skiing holidays. ■ Snowli kids’ race, Adelboden
34 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009