Thursday, 17 December 2015
Where to ski when tots are in tow
Dreaming about hitting the ski slopes with your tots in tow? You can do it, says Alison Tyler, as long as you're prepared
Taking your baby and toddler up a mountain in the snow for a week is not for the faint-hearted – but for parents who are bold (and energetic!) enough to try it, the rewards more than pay off the effort required.
Of course there was lots of packing and preparation, but introducing our baby to snow was great fun, and discovering we could still have some of the life we had before, but with our children too (so many people had insisted it would be impossible), has been incredibly satisfying.
It felt like a real family holiday, filled with adventure and excitement, and watching the children learn to ski and speak French was a delight. I can’t pretend there weren’t times when I felt like a pack mule, carrying three pairs of skis and supermarket food while trying to heave a sledge up a hill, but I’m sure I’d have been doing a variation of the same on a summer holiday in Spain.
This car-free, pedestrianised village is high enough to offer guaranteed snow all season (as will any resort above 1,800 metres or so). It’s picture-postcard pretty, from the arrival by horse-drawn sleigh to the evening fireworks. It’s also super-family-friendly, with attractions including an ice rink, bowling alley, huge Aquariaz water complex, and sledging slope.
Avoriaz is also ski-in, ski-out – walk out of your apartment and ski straight off (no carrying heavy skis around). There’s a central children’s ski school where you can sit in a café or bar at the side of the piste to watch your little ones make their first runs.
Pierre & Vacances (which owns Center Parcs) is launching new childcare packages this winter in its Premium residences, with activities for kids aged three to 16. The Baby/Toddler Club, for tots aged three months to three years, costs around £22 a session, while three- to six-year-olds can learn new skills such as tobogganing and mini ski jumps as part of the Kids’ Club, for about £15 a time (although you can get cheaper deals if you book).
Family apartments have video and board games, children’s books and kid-sized furniture, while parents can borrow a PlayStation for the duration of their stay.
Premium Residence L’Amara has one-bedroom apartments that sleep up to four from £879 for a week in April; standard apartment Residence Saskia Falaise starts from £373 for up to four, also in April
Alpe, d'Huez, France
The mountain terrain at Alpe d’Huez is challenging on one side while the other side is much gentler, which naturally separates the nursery slopes from the expert runs. This makes it an ideal place for small children – and other beginners – to explore beyond the fringes of ski school because on the learner slopes you’ll never have someone charging down behind you.
Off the slopes, the massive sports centre has a high-ropes course, pool tables, and both indoor and outdoor pools. There’s an additional charge for your lift pass but it does also give you free access to all these extras. Tots will love the Teddy Bear’s Café for story time and hot chocolate. You can even take them up the mountain to see the ice caves that are sculpted into different glistening designs each year.
Better yet, the ski-in, ski-out chalets at VIP Ski’s Le Village are on the side of the piste down to the ski school, and minutes from the main lifts, so getting out couldn’t be easier.
Chalet La Chapelle can be booked by the room, has a hot tub and sauna, plus a balcony that’s overlooking the slopes. English-speaking private nannies can come to your chalet (look out for free and half-price nanny dates over the winter, such as 17 January and 28 February). Cots, high chairs and linen are included, while you can book all the other baby paraphernalia you can think of, and even order the likes of nappies and formula in special packs from £15, to save you lugging stuff out there with you.
From £849 per person per week, including flights, transfers, fully catered accommodation with wine – even ski hosting, where you follow a guide around the mountain. Under-twos go
at a flat rate of £125 for the week, and chalet hosts are happy to make baby purées and serve children’s high tea
St Anton, Austria
This charming pedestrianised Tyrolean town has a buzzy vibe, top skiing and great après-ski, as well as a spa and leisure complex (arlberg-well.com) with spectacular views. Sleigh rides, tobogganing, skating, climbing and bowling are all on offer, too. And while the nightlife is pretty special – if you have the energy! – there are also brilliant family-friendly places to eat.
St Anton Ski Kindergarten takes children from two and a half for around £36 a half-day. There’s also a Minis ski school for four-year-olds, from about £61. St Anton Nannies can come to you and will take care of babies of four weeks up from roughly £10 an hour.
Stay at the contemporary Anthony’s Hotel and you get a steakhouse, pizzeria, sports bar and coffee shop, and modern, family-friendly rooms, plus rooftop sauna and hot tub.
From £1,037 per person for a week’s B&B, including flights and transfers
Kranjska Gora, Slovenia
If it’s your first time on skis and you’re on a budget, Slovenia offers great value – and Kranjska Gora is ideal for beginners, as well as being only just over an hour from the airport. Hotel Alpina is in the best ski-in, ski-out location, a few minutes’ walk from the ski school and lifts.
There’s a wellness centre with sauna and steam rooms (although at an extra cost), but the real draws are Crystal Ski’s Pepi Penguin crèche, for tots aged six months to four years, and its Whizz Kids Club, for five-year-olds up, both based in the hotel; there are also evening clubs.
From £992 for a week, half-board, for a family of four in February at the Hotel Alpina, including flights and transfers
With a traditional centre – the town square has an ice rink, and a carousel in the summer – Morzine makes a good base from which to explore and enjoy the atmosphere off the slopes, too. Older children will love the mini golf, while toddlers will always want to ride the little train from the lifts to the town square.
Riverwood Lodge combines the privacy and comfort of a chalet with the luxury of a hotel. This private chalet that sleeps up to 16 can be booked by the room, so you don’t have to find a dozen friends to invite. You get an outdoor hot tub, balconies and a cinema room at this catered chalet, as well as specific family rooms.
From £557 per person per week with transfers, fully catered accommodation and lifts to and from the slopes. Children under 12 get a 30 per cent discount when in a family room; children under two in a cot are charged about £111
With guaranteed snow and plenty of sunshine right into April, Cervinia is great for families who always get a warm welcome in Italy, and the food’s a winner with the kids. Plus it’s far more affordable than its Swiss neighbour.
The all-inclusive Club Med is a no-brainer thanks to free kids’ clubs and skiing lessons for children aged four to 17. Tots can learn in the hotel’s snow garden, which features cartoon characters and hoops to ski through in complete security.
Petit Club Med, a crèche for two- to three-year-olds, is available as an extra, while Mini Club Med is included, offering basic skiing and other activities for four to tens. Club Med Baby Welcome for up to 23-month-olds includes everything you could need – even baby food and pushchairs. For weary parents, there’s a Décléor spa and Turkish hammam.
From £994 per person for a week all-inclusive in a Family Club Room, including flights and transfers