Adventure travel: Crawling, walking; now get them skiing

Claire Gilman on how to ensure your kids love the slopes from the word go

Skiing as a family can be one of the most rewarding of experiences, and your child's first venture on to the slopes should be an exhilarating time for you all. Most ski professionals agree that four or five is the optimum age to start skiing. But kids are like the proverbial elephant, and if it all goes miserably wrong on that first attempt, they will never forget; no amount of bribery will get them back on skis. So it is important that you do all you can to ensure whinge-free skiing pleasure from the start.

Weather conditions can be a major cause of discontent; children get bitterly cold standing around on the nursery slopes, particularly in January and February. Once they have suffered frozen fingers, the whole skiing experience will be tarnished. Therefore, it is best for young families to go late- season skiing, when the weather is warm and the sun is likely to shine. Aim to go before Christmas, in April, or even in May.

Extended skiing seasons depend on the height of the resort and the availability of glacier skiing or artificial snow. The French Alps offer a good choice of big, high-ski areas with efficient lift networks. Resorts such as Val d'Isere, which links with the glacier skiing at Tignes, or Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe (part of the enormous skiing region of Les Trois Vallees) run seasons from early November to May.

Austria has some of the best glacier resorts in the Alps and is renowned for its warm welcome, lively night-life and good-value accommodation. Both France and Austria have a good reputation for children's ski schools, although you must satisfy yourselves that the instructors are speaking English in the classes. If your child doesn't understand what is being said, they cannot be expected to progress or to be happy.

For those with a tough constitution, who can stomach the idea of an eight- hour flight with the kids, North America is a good option for late-season skiing and there are some good deals to be had at the moment. The US, in particular, has good, reliable ski conditions late into the season in most areas, thanks to low winter temperatures, extensive snow-making and religious piste-grooming. Another advantage is that there are no language problems for children in the ski schools.

Although late-season skiing means that you miss the worst of the winter weather, good quality, warm clothing is still essential for children. But it must be manageable for the child when you're not around; if they can't do up their own salopettes, it doesn't much matter which month of the year you ski; it will be an unmitigated disaster.

Ski hire equipment in most resorts is good now, but if your child complains of uncomfortable boots, etc, don't be afraid to return as many times as it takes to get a good fit. Take your time; be patient but persistent. Uncomfortable boots will put your children off skiing more quickly than anything else.

Despite your best efforts, and against all probability, you have to face the fact that your child may loathe skiing. So, make sure that you are booked with a reliable tour operator who specialises in family skiing holidays. Finally, don't start the child skiing too young. The best time is governed not so much by age as by ability. They must be able to put on their own gloves,and be reasonably self-reliant. If not, they will get cold and miserable and be put off for life.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: We are currently looking for a Geog...

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links