We know how daunting it can be organising a ski trip with the kids. Founders Rory and Charlie have taught skiing in the Alps for many years and have seen first-hand what makes for a great family ski holiday.
For passionate skiers, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching your children learn to ski. Though, choosing the right time to introduce them to slopes, and the memories they have of their first experience can determine whether they end up loving it or not.
Here are some commonly asked questions, with top tips and pitfalls to avoid.
When’s the best age to take a child on their first ski trip?
Taking preschool children (four years old and under) is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to improved childcare facilities, kids’ clubs and babysitting services. The best part? You can avoid peak-season school holiday periods.
While you may think your child is too young to appreciate their first ski trip, remember, most children enjoy tobogganing even before they can walk!
Tip: You can grab some terrific accommodation deals from mid-January through to mid-March. So, you can expect top service for considerably less than peak-period price.
What’s the best way to travel with kids?
A common misconception is that flying is quicker and more comfortable than driving with the kids. But, depending on the resort, you might be surprised to hear this isn’t always the case.
Things to consider:
- Plane: The closest airport is not always the one that’s geographically the nearest to the airport. Give us a call before you book your flights and we can let you know which airport offers the best access to your resort.
- Transfer: Shared transfers are not always the cheapest or best option. If you’re a party of five or more, a private transfer can be more cost and time-efficient, which we know is imperative when travelling with kids.
- Drive: with the benefits of iPads and other gadgets to entertain, driving is becoming increasingly appealing to families. Driving allows you to stick to your schedule, stop for as many breaks as is needed and take in the scenery. Note; be sure to check that parking is available with your chosen accommodation. Covered parking is especially beneficial when snow or rainfall is expected.
When’s the best time of year to go skiing with kids?
There are four peak weeks throughout the season, during which operators tend to increase their prices due to demand. In Europe, weeks surrounding the following dates are generally the busiest, and are best to avoid if possible:
w/c 21st/22nd Dec – Christmas Week – Christmas in the Alps
w/c 28th/29th Dec – New Year Week – New Year in the Alps
w/c 15th/16th Feb – Half-Term –
w/c 28th Mar & 4th Apr – Easter Weeks –
Snowsure resorts: several resorts across the Alps offer a far higher guarantee of snow coverage. The more snowsure the resort, the better suited for a pre-Christmas and post Easter ski trip it will be if you’re restricted by school holidays. Some of the most guaranteed, snow-sure ski resorts include Lech, Zermatt, Tignes, Val d’Isere.
Which are the best ‘child-friendly’ ski resorts?
Over the last decade or so, plenty of ski resorts have invested heavily to cater to families and young children.
Some have upgraded their lift systems to accommodate younger skiers. Courchevel, for example, installed Magnestick electromagnets on the seat-backs of some of their chairlifts to prevent children from slipping out. They stick to a lightweight back-protector rucksack that deactivates at the top of the ride and can be hired for the week.
Many areas offer ski storage facilities at the main lift stations, which can save you trudging back to the chalet or hotel with all the kids’ equipment.
Free lift passes
Some resorts offer better nursery areas and offer free ski passes for kids under a certain age, such as:
Revelstoke, Canada – 5-year-olds and under always ski free in Revelstoke. Other deals include free lift passes for children who are 12 years or under with every adult ticket purchased. Find out more via the Revelstoke website.
Val d’Isere, France – Ski passes are adapted for families with reduced prices for children between the ages of 5 to 13. Children under 5 years old ski free.
Dolomiti-Ski, Italy – Children up to eight years old (born after 30.11.2011) are entitled to a free ski pass for the same period as the accompanying adult purchasing a ski pass. Find out more via the Dolomiti Ski website.
Zermatt, Switzerland – Children up to nine years of age ski free in Visperterminen, Bürchen-Unterbäch, Eischoll and the surrounding Zermatt ski area. Discounts are available for children up to the age of 16 too. Find out more information via the Zermatt resort website.
Offers vary from year to year, so check with a Camel Snow representative or research online before you book.
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better
Contrary to popular belief, it’s also not always the largest resorts that offer the best environment for kids going skiing for the first time.
Try not to get bogged down in working out which resort looks like they have more green and blue beginner runs. A child who is just beginning to learn only needs a very small area for their first or second trip to the mountains. Quieter nursery areas, which you will find in smaller French-Swiss resorts like Châtel, Champéry and La Plagne, are less intimidating and offer a safer environment in which to learn.
What type of accommodation is best for skiing with kids?
Many young families opt for hotel accommodation assuming that luxury chalets and lodges are ill-equipped for babies, toddlers and young children. In fact, hiring a chalet or lodge, with chalet staff to help, can be the most comfortable and relaxing way to go skiing.
Tip: We offer many brilliant shared chalet options if you’re planning on holidaying with another family.
Many chalets and lodges have dedicated Chalet staff who can collect your kids from ski school and bring them back to the chalet. While they’re being looked after during the afternoon, you can make the most of your time on the mountain and conclude the day with après drinks or a spa treatment.
Our top 5 favourites chalets for families with children:
- Mont Tremblant, Meribel – A stylish, spacious option for a two or three family holiday. Replete with a playroom for younger kids and tots as well as a TV/ games room for older children and teenagers. (And a sauna, massage room and infinity pool for the adults!)
- The Lodge, Verbier – Part of Sir Richard Branson’s exclusive Virgin Limited Edition portfolio, this nine-bedroom chalet comes equipped with enough to entertain the masses from indoor and outdoor swimming pools, squash and tennis facilities and even a professional covered ice rink!
- Hotel Barriere des Neiges, Courchevel 1850 – Not only is this five-star hotel ski-in/ ski-out, making it ideal for taking the tots out, but it also offers Kids Club Petit VIP and a chillout area for teenagers, complete with private cinema.
- Chalet Grande Corniche, Les Gets – Daily housekeeping and breakfast and afternoon teas from dedicated chalet staff members is only the start. With a piano, outdoor heated infinity pool and two-tier home cinema, this luxury chalet was made for entertaining older children.
- Chalet du Cret, Val d’Isère – This incredible chalet, a converted cheese farm caters to every age. For young kids and toddlers, there’s a den with faux grass, a climbing wall and a snug TV seating area. Meanwhile, teenagers can hang out in the plush home cinema room.
Serviced hotel apartments
And, don’t forget the option of a serviced hotel apartment. You can still enjoy your own space while making the most of the hotel’s facilities, some of which include afternoon crèches and kids clubs within close proximity to the nursery slopes.
Certain chalets can provide all the necessary baby and child equipment you could possibly need, which means you don’t have to bring the kitchen sink with you. Email us to ask about which chalets can offer high seats, cots or buggies.
Do you have any recommendations for ski school?
Nowadays, minimum ski school group sizes are typically 5 to 6 children, the entire group will speak the same language and there’s often a trainee instructor offering support with younger age groups.
If you’re going skiing for a week, we recommend putting the children in ski school for mornings as well as two afternoons a week. This means you can have two full days skiing and can enjoy some family ski time during select afternoons.
Instructor tip: Keep track of the kids’ competency level at ski school to avoid them being placed in the wrong group the following year. A good way of doing this is to take the instructor’s contact details so you can touch base with them if you need to check precisely which group your child should be in.
We can recommend everything from individual instructors to prestige ski schools depending on which resort you are visiting, so please do ask.
What about ski resort childcare?
As well as ski-school, there are a variety of options available for childcare throughout your stay. With our Camel Snow Concierge service, we can recommend a few of the following and arrange them for as little or as often as you need:
- Afternoon crèches
- Live-in or live-out nannies
- 8-children group nursery
Nannies can take them to enjoy an afternoon of tobogganing, snowball fights or even cooking classes, allowing you to make the most of your ski time.
With that, you should be set for the family ski holiday of a lifetime. If you’re still unsure about where’s best for you and the family, get in touch and we will happily recommend resorts, ski schools and childcare services tailored to your needs.