Snow Problem: Go skiing with your baby
Skiing with a baby in tow? You'll be surprised at how do-able it really is
Skiing with a baby in tow? You'll be surprised at how do-able it really is
Beat the winter blues, banish baby weight and eat as much as you want? It might sound too good to be true but a ski and snow holiday gets you outside, gets you fit, and puts a big grin on your face – just wait for that adrenaline rush as you woosh down the slopes in the clear fresh air. And having a little one needn’t change that. Yes, you’ll need to make concessions – think fewer black runs and more toboganning – but that’s no reason not to go. Ski companies are making it easier and more affordable than ever for families to get on the slopes. All you need is an appetite for adventure. And loads of sun block.
Top tips for mums
-Choose a resort that doesn’t have a long transfer from the airport, and accommodation close to the nursery slopes and ski school.
-Investigate what other activities are on offer – toboggan parks, tubing, swimming pools, ice rinks – in case the weather is too bad to ski.
-Children can start to ski from the age of two but most ski schools won’t take them until they are three or four, so check the minimum age before you sign them up.
-If you’re self-catering, shop at the last big town before you arrive; it’ll be much cheaper than the resort. And if you love baby convenience food, pack supplies – Ella’s Kitchen, Plum and Organix Goodies are thin on the ground in Europe.
-Hotels might sound luxurious but apartments, chalets or chalet hotels are less hassle for families. Catered chalets with breakfast, afternoon tea, supper and, usually, wine included in the price can be a better deal in the long run and you don’t have to worry about cooking or eating out.
-Check the minimum age for crèches, kindergartens and nanny services and think about going with an operator that offers childcare. Some of the biggest family operators even offer their own children’s ski school – Powder Byrne’s Yeti Club ski instructors are also trained in childcare.
-If possible, try to avoid going in the last two weeks of February, when most of Europe’s schools, including the UK’s, are on holiday.
-Book ahead for some of the best deals including free child places and ski school offers if you want to be in a prime position on the edge of the slopes. But if you can wait till a week or two before you want to travel and aren’t too fussy about where you go, you’re bound to bag a bargain – and you have the advantage of being able to choose the place with the most snow.
Best for beginners
If you’re as new to the slopes as your children, don’t worry about how much powder or off-piste skiing there is. Concentrate on making things easy for yourself with plenty of gentle nursery slopes, green runs and button lifts that are easy for beginners to get on and off. Choose Cairngorm and you don’t even need to go abroad or worry about understanding foreign instructors. Last year Scotland saw its best ski season ever and on a sunny day it can rival the Alps for views. What’s more, all Scotland’s resorts offer runs for every ability. Cairngorm Mountain has 11 lifts and 35 ski runs over 30 kilometres, as well as a snow park with jumps and rails for all levels to have fun perfecting tricks and jumps. And those who don’t ski can ride the funicular mountain railway to the top, then enjoy their own high-speed thrills in the sledge park next to the Ptarmigan restaurant.
Little extras Cairngorm Mountain offers junior ski packages (for eight- to 16-year-olds) including four hours of tuition, a day lift pass and equipment hire, for about £70 a day. Children aged five and under go free when skiing with their parents. For more information, see cairngormmountain.com.
Where to stay The Hilton Coylumbridge in Aviemore (01479 810661, hiltonaviemore.co.uk) has rooms from £81. Facilities include a crèche, enormous soft-play Fun House and activity park to keep the little ones busy, two pools and a spa to ease your aching limbs, a free shuttle service to the ski slopes for gluttons for punishment, and discounted funicular tickets for softies.
Best on a budget
This hidden gem offers French charm and standards of hospitality at eastern European prices. Close to the better-known Three Valleys, it has lots of easy, wide cruising runs for beginners and intermediates, and they’re blissfully quiet. The pretty village offers plenty besides skiing, from dog-sledding and tubing (sledging on huge inflatable rings), to snow-shoe wildlife safaris and a weekly food market.
Little extras The resort has been awarded Famille Plus status by the French government for its family-friendly facilities. The public crèche is a steal at about £13 for a half day. Lift passes are half what you’d expect in France: £113 a week (£95 for children, free for under fives); beginner passes are about £8 a day. A week’s half-day lessons for children (three- to 11-year-olds) start from just £92 when booked through Peak Retreats (see below), while equipment hire starts from £37 for children and
£54 for adults. See aussois.com for details.
Where to stay Le Flocons d’Argent has ski-in, ski-out apartments (walk straight out onto the slopes) with a pool. Seven nights in a two-bedroomed self- catering apartment costs around £400 in January (and little more at Easter) for a family of four; this includes Flexiplus Eurotunnel crossing, with Peak Retreats (0844 576 0170, peakretreats.co.uk).
Best for a romantic weekend
St Moritz, Switzerland
With glitzy designer boutiques, fabulous restaurants, luxury spas, scene-y bars and the impossibly romantic backdrop of a frozen lake and snow-covered mountains, that sparkle in what can seem like never-ending sun, St Moritz is the perfect place to kick-start your post-baby relationship.
Little extras The skiing is top quality and the pistes are empty, thanks to the bustling atmosphere down in the town – many of the visitors are here to see and be seen, and don’t even bother to ski. No wonder the likes of Liz Hurley, George Clooney, Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer come here to play. See stmoritz.ch for more information.
Where to stay With an unrivalled position at the foot of the slopes, the Kulm Hotel is the oldest, grandest bolthole in the valley, with mountain-chic wood-panelled rooms, a glamorous fine-dining restaurant and a sybaritic spa and pool to unwind in. Inghams (020 8780 6680, inghams.co.uk) has a three-night weekend break to the Kulm hotel from £789, including flights and airport transfers. If you really don’t want to leave the kids behind, the Kulm has a free daily kindergarten for children from two years of age. Also, if you book via Inghams, lift passes are free for under-fives, and children receive free travel insurance when their parents buy it.
Best for groups
Val d’Isere, France
Want a luxury holiday at a bargain price? Then go with another family or two and take advantage of special offers on fully-catered, top-of-the-range chalets. Their size means they’re often harder to fill, so you can get great deals. They’re the ultimate in family comfort and convenience – think afternoon tea, four-course suppers with free wine, and hot tubs to ease stiff muscles. Aside from being part of the largest ski area in Europe, Val d’Isère has plenty of nightlife, plus a petting farm, playground, indoor swimming pool
and climbing wall to occupy the kids.
Little extras The resort has a Children’s Holiday Village, which caters for toddlers from 18 months to three years in the nursery, and has other activities for kids up to the age of 13. Don’t miss the free sledging and airboarding (inflatable lie-on sledges) parks. See valdisere.com for more information.
Where to stay VIP Chalets (0844 557 3119, vip-chalets.com) has its own family chalets, and a team of nannies providing everything from toys and art materials to potties and sterilisers – as well as nappies (although you pay for these) and home-made purées. A week’s nanny service (five and a half days)
in your chalet costs from £450 for up to four children. A week at a family chalet in Aspen Lodge, sleeping eight, costs from £909pp chalet-board, including flights and transfers. If you fill a chalet that sleeps 12 or more, you’ll receive a 10 per cent discount. But look out for special deals on rates, lift passes and nannies closer to the time you want to travel.
Written by Alison Tyler