Though I dabbled on the slopes as a teen, I used to think family ski holidays were only for those who were, like, proper ski fanatics. After having kids myself, I thought those who headed for the mountains with their young children were certifiable: why would you want to tarnish your week of skiing and apres with the demands of little people?
And it’s true, many of the holidaymakers I met on our trip to Tignes with Mark Warner last week were hardcore snow junkies, but also lots of them were just like me. They were happy to potter up and down the slopes with other adults in the morning, but didn’t think twice about hanging up their skis before scoffing a whole pizza for lunch and following it with beer, a massage, and a snowball fight with their kids.
I have SO MUCH to say on the subject of our sojourn to The French Alps, but before I do I thought I’d give you a little insight into the planning stage of our ski holiday. This part was unlike any trip I’ve ever taken before pre- or post-babies, with piles of stuff-and-paperwork required pre-departure.
Here’s how it began:
The sheer amount of stuff you need for a ski holiday is mind-blowing. And when you multiply this by how many children you have, it becomes a not just the literal mountain that seems insurmountable.
I made my first list in October, four months before we were due to leave for Tignes. Before you roll your eyes at my insane need to be organized, check out this list of clothing that each and every member of my three-person family required for our week away:
Ski socks (various)
Thermal base layer – top and bottom (you’ll need at least two of these)
Second base layer – top only
Ski boots (either purchase or rentals – the best ski boots for beginners are here)
I had to check our own inventory of stuff and purchase everything that we didn’t have at the best prices, which leads me on to the next point…
Plan your shopping
Ski stuff is expensive. EXPENSIVE. Which means it makes sense to plan your purchases way before they’re needed, taking advantage of sales and promotions.
You can borrow the majority of these items, but I bought mine because I knew we’d get wear out of them year on year.
I got some great Black Friday deals back in November, and my Helly Hansen ski jacket was a past-season bargain from Sports Direct (score!). I panic-bought my ski pants from Roxy after Christmas because the ones I’d purchased back in 2016 no longer fit, which was also when I bought the kids their Moonboots (which were awesome and span three sizes – amazing).
Aldi do some insane bargains on skiwear; I didn’t want to risk our outerwear not being totally top-notch, but I bought both myself and the kids thermal under-layers from here (mine were merino wool!).
I also purchased kid’s ski socks and thermals from Muddy Puddles which was also where Hux’s ski jacket and salopettes were from (mega cute), and extras for me from Mountain Warehouse. Elfie’s MEGA cool coat and salopettes were bought from Trespass, who do really good value adult stuff, too. Some of my running tops from Nevica and Cold Gear pulled double duty on the slopes and acted as second layers under my coat.
To save a bit of cash I wrapped up all the children’s ski gear and gave it to them for Christmas; this had the dual purpose of them feeling like they had a heap of exciting Christmas presents, as well as getting them excited for their holiday. Clever old Father Christmas, eh?
Book a chalet hotel over self-catering
There is SO MUCH to think about when you go on a ski holiday. Before we even got there we had five, yes five suitcases to juggle, and knowing we had additional ski gear to sort once we were there I didn’t fancy facing down any additional stress.
Which was why we chose to stay at the Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin on a half-board basis (breakfast, afternoon tea, kid’s tea and supper with wine), with an excellent cleaning and nanny service in addition. I can’t imagine having to worry about sorting out our meals and cleaning our accommodation as well as co-ordinating two children, their ski school movements and their equipment: having that stress taken away was a lifesaver.
Work your legs
Whatever you do to prepare, your legs are going to hurt like they’ve never hurt before. You know that hover you do when you wee at a public toilet? That’s skiing, but you’ll be doing it for three hours at a time, not thirty seconds.
To try and ease the pain a little I did lots of leg-work at the gym pre-departure. I’d like to think it helped a little…
(The slopes do smell better than the loo, though. Just saying).
Book yourself into ski school
I first skied at 12 and have been on a few mountain holidays since, but it’s bloody well not like riding a bike. Each time I go again I’m like a deer on ice, wobbling around and forgetting how to use my legs, and there’s always room for improvement. Even the most experienced of the skiers I met invested in a couple of hours of teaching time.
I booked a week of 3 hours daily group tuition with Evolution 2 ski school who were absolutely fantastic, and the kids had the same. I did however feel such a long learning time was a bit intense for me – it was very full-on – and I would have preferred one-on-one tuition for a shorter period of time.
It’s not just the ski holiday itself that’s expensive, there’s also the incidentals around it. Equipment rental (skis, poles, boots, helmets) will set you back around £230 for a family of four, and a week’s tuition around £350. A week’s ski pass can be £250 and food on the mountain is eye-watering: pizzas are around £18 and a pint of beer can reach £9.
So it helps to travel with full coffers where you can.
Purchase good insurance
…but don’t scrimp on your insurance! If, god forbid, anything should happen up on the mountain, recovery and medical care does not come cheap. A helicopter ride can stretch to £2,000 per minute, a short 5 minute spell in an ambulance £500 and an x-ray £300.
I’ve heard horror stories of hospitals not accepting patients without guarantees from insurance companies, so make sure you have their details close to hand. The fewer levels of bureaucracy, the better: buying insurance directly from a provider rather than a third party means the claim process will be easier, should it come down to it.
Do you fancy a winter ski break with your kids?