Family Skiing Holidays Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09


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Family Skiing Holidays Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09

  1. 1. ?? ? ? let’s TRY… FAMILY SKIING HOLIDAYS Slope off SalzburgerLand Tourist Office ■ Toboganning at Obertauern, near Salzburg with the family W 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
  2. 2. 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 work. 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 lessons. 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. Mark Warner 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 Adelboden, Switzerland 32 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
  3. 3. ● One or more jolly, safe, dedicated kids’ nursery slopes (or “snow gardens”). ● Gentle main nursery slopes, free of through-traffic. ● 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 ice). ● 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 altitude sickness. Austria For many years the favourite destination of British beginners, and still very appealing. + lively, beer-fuelled apres-ski starting mid- Avoriaz/Stephane Lerendu afternoon; appreciably cheaper than France; plenty of small, cute, family-friendly resorts. – few of its big resorts are natural family places; many of the most appealing resorts are at low altitudes where snow conditions are unreliable. be other families to provide distractions for Big-name favourites: yours; in a chalet-hotel (a larger variant, run “For families, Lech ( – 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 ( – 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 ( ) – 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 ( – 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
  4. 4. ■ Choose a family- friendly resort Family skiing facts Package holidays 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 (,The Family Ski Company (, Ski ENIT Famille (, Mark ■ Italy has well-equipped resorts Warner (, Snowbizz (, Ski Amis (, Ski2 (, Premiere Neige February school holidays (which include ( and Mountain Heaven British half-term weeks) ( Big-name favourites: Avoriaz ( – 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 ( – £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 ( – pretty vil- lage at foot of gentle slopes. Other costs La Rosiere ( – 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 ( – 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: Selva ( – great snow- France: sure nursery slope with lodgings beside it. Italy: Switzerland: Switzerland 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 ( – car-free, 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 ( – several The most important information about the Photopress/Alexandra Wey toboggan runs and other amusements. TL top resorts is available on the book’s main website ( 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