Independent Families: 'We're looking for a resort where a nanny will look after our little ones while we ski'


Q. My husband and I are keen skiers and are thinking of taking a two-week skiing holiday in Europe this winter. The only drawback is that we have two young children (one and three years) who will obviously need to be kept busy while we are on-piste. We are a bit wary of the kids' clubs that are often offered by tour operators, which can be rather too regimented for such young children. Ideally, we would like someone to look after our children on their own and in the familiar surroundings of our chalet. Is this possible and would it limit the resorts we can choose?


D Cater, Rochester

A. Children's clubs have sometimes been described, perhaps unfairly, as loosely disguised boot camps. This can be unnerving for parents unused to leaving their children in such an environment. When it comes to providing childcare options, the norm is for tour operators to stick to clubs and schools. A handful of companies, however, do recognise that some parents want a service closer to a private nanny than a nursery. Scott Dunn Ski (020-8682 5050; www.scottdunn.com) runs a well-respected nanny service in the Alps. Nannies are British-trained and are flown out to the resorts (Courchevel, Val d'Isère, Meribel and Zermatt) to look after children in your chalet. The price is £335 a week for the first child and £135 a week for each additional child. The service is available from 9am-5pm Monday to Saturday, but is fully flexible within those hours. Children can expect to build giant snowcastles, take part in a puppet show or even enjoy a horse-and-cart ride through the snow, depending on their age and inclination. Lunch can also be provided. The number of children a nanny can look after is entirely dependent on their ages, and the service must be booked through the London office prior to departure.

Crystal Ski (0870 405 5047; www.crystalski.co.uk) offers a similar service in a number of its resorts throughout France, Switzerland, Austria and Norway. It includes childcare for youngsters of six months-plus from qualified, experienced English-speaking nannies. The service is available up to eight hours a day, except Sundays, and can be tailored to meet individual requirements. There is a ratio of one nanny for every three youngsters, and the price includes indoor and outdoor activities, as well as drinks and snacks (lunch is an optional extra). Six full days, without lunch, costs from £100 per child (£180 during half-term holidays).

Crystal Ski also runs a private nanny service at its Courchevel, La Plagne and Meribel resorts, priced at £450 per week (selected chalets only). Crystal Finest (020-8939 0842; www.crystalfinest.co.uk) offers the same service in France (Meribel, Courchevel), Switzerland (Zermatt, Verbier) and Austria (St Anton) to residents from 8.30am-5pm Monday to Saturday. There is also a babysitting service one night a week to allow parents a night to themselves. The cost for one week is £550 for up to three children.

The benefit of booking with Ski Famille (0845 644 3764; www.skifamille.co.uk) is that childcare is included in the cost of the holiday and you can decide how long you want your children to be looked after for each day. It offers childcare within its Les Gets and Morzine chalets, almost all of which have playrooms filled with toys and games as well as more practical equipment (high chairs and cots). Childminders will take children as young as two months and typically look after no more than three children.

Collineige (01276 24262; www.collineige.com) runs tailor-made ski holidays in the French resort of Chamonix. It offers private childcare for children up to the age of 11 years, costing between £7 and £10 per hour. Parents are given the opportunity to get in touch with their nanny prior to leaving the UK, which allows them to get to know their childminder and discuss any special requirements for their stay. For infants (up to two years) the company also recommends using its local network of nourrices. These are nannies, often bilingual, who are registered and vetted by the French authorities and who look after groups of up to five children at their homes. This works out slightly cheaper, costing around €9 (£6.40) an hour per child, but is recommended for babies and young toddlers.

Alternatively, Purple Ski (01494 488 633; www.purpleski.com) does not offer a dedicated nanny service at its resort in Meribel, but will give a 50 per cent discount on your nanny's flights and accommodation if he or she comes with you.

Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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