<preform>Q&A: Where can we try gentler pursuits while our daughters ski?</preform>

The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered
Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Q My daughters, aged 15 and 17, have been on school skiing trips and have been pestering us to take them on a skiing holiday. Neither my wife nor I are particular fans of skiing. However, we would be willing to go somewhere we could safely deposit them at ski school and perhaps engage in some gentler winter pursuits. The idea of Canada appeals. Can you help?

Q My daughters, aged 15 and 17, have been on school skiing trips and have been pestering us to take them on a skiing holiday. Neither my wife nor I are particular fans of skiing. However, we would be willing to go somewhere we could safely deposit them at ski school and perhaps engage in some gentler winter pursuits. The idea of Canada appeals. Can you help?

R Ford, Sodbury

A Skiing on the North American continent is a quite different experience from Europe. It's much colder, the snow quality is nearly always better and, generally speaking, resorts have a wider range of facilities for those eager to avoid the slopes.

A s Canada is your first choice, I recommend Whistler Blackcomb, in British Columbia (0800 731 5983; www.whistler-blackcomb.com), 72 miles from the charming city of Vancouver. This is a good resort for intermediate skiers and has plenty to offer families. It's a somewhat self-consciously "rustic" ski-village tucked at the base of two glacier-tipped mountains, which together offer the largest area of skiing terrain in North America.

The ski school is one of the most youngster-friendly in Canada. Its "Ride Tribe" tuition for 13- to 17-year-olds will keep your daughters busy exploring the mountains under the guidance of a professional ski coach. A five-day package (including lessons, equipment rental and lift passes) costs £304.

While your daughters are occupied, you might like to make the most of the resort's stunning views of the Rockies by trying a bit of gentle snow-shoeing. Outdoor Adventures (001 604 932 0647; www.adventures whistler.com) arranges two-hour guided walks through local woodland from around C$55 (£22) per person. Or you can spend an afternoon winter fishing with Cougar Mountain (001 604 932 4086; www.cougar mountainatwhistler.com) for around C$149 (£60) per person. If you fancy a spot of pampering afterwards, the village also has several spas such as the Esperanza Day Spa (001 604 905 4855), which offers a range of Aveda treatments. Otherwise you can occupy yourselves with sleigh rides, indoor ice-skating or even a cookery course at the Whistler Cooking School (001 604 935 1848; www.whistlercookingschool.com). Half-day cookery courses including lunch or dinner cost around C$100 (£40) per person.

The ski season in Whistler can last through April, a bonus considering how late Easter is this year. Departing on 15 April 2003, Ski Independence (0870 555 0555; www.ski-indepen dence.co.uk) offers 10-nights at the three-star Listel Hotel for £1,048 per person. This includes flights with British Airways from Heathrow to Vancouver, room-only accommodation and bus transfers to the resort.

For a slightly shorter flying time, you might also like to consider Smuggler's Notch (0800 169 8219; www.smuggs.com) in the north-east US state of Vermont. This is a purpose-built resort located at the base of an old Prohibition smuggling route from Canada to New England.

These days it concentrates on families, with a plethora of organised activities, all of which can be booked, Center Parcs-style, via the resort's central reservation number above. The ski school runs group Alpine, cross-country, snowboard or snowblading lessons costing £22 per hour-and-a-half session from noon to 1.30pm, which also includes lift and trail passes. In the evenings, your daughters can enjoy the village's Teen Alley, a parent-free club-cum-arcade with internet access, video games, a pool table, PlayStations and dancing.

The resort takes snow-shoeing very seriously, and has 15 miles of dedicated snow-shoe tracks. You can go alone, or join a group on wildlife trails, night tours and whole-family walks for around £12 per person. If you'd rather stay inside, relax with a massage and sauna in the spa centre, or join an arts and crafts workshop: stenciling, painting, sculpture and glass etching all cost around £28 for two hours. You can also try what the locals call "antiquing tours", as Vermont is chock-full of antique shops.

Because Smuggler's Notch is at a lower altitude than Whistler, the season is shorter, so it would be best to go before the end of February. Ski the American Dream (020-8552 1201; www.skidream.com) has a five-night package including flight and accommodation, departing on 15 February, for £906 per person (plus an extra £165 for anyone who books six days' skiing lessons in advance). You have a choice of flying from Heathrow to Newark or Boston before transferring to Burlington, the nearest airport to Smuggler's Notch, so you may consider booking an optional stop-over in either city. This will give you time to get over your jet-lag and even get a little shopping in before you reach the slopes.

Comments