Q I recall reading some time ago that it was possible for 16-year-olds to go on an unaccompanied skiing holiday. Can you provide any details?
J Shaw, via e-mail
A Unfortunately for your son or daughter, who may well feel that at 16 he or she is independent enough to travel without supervision, most specialist ski operators don't see it the same way. In general most will not permit under 18s to travel on skiing trips unless accompanied by an adult.
However, there is an exception to this rule. The Ski Club of Great Britain (0845 458 0784; www.skiclub.co.uk) offers a solution. It organises two trips every year, one at Christmas and one at Easter, in association with the ski operator Skiworld (08702 416 723; www.skiworld.ltd.uk). These holidays are open to 13-19-year-olds with some previous experience on the slopes. It would be a great opportunity for your son or daughter to meet some ski enthusiasts his or her own age. The group size for each trip is around 20.
At an average basic price of £500, these are not cheap options, but at least you can comfort yourself with the thought that the extra money should ensure that your child is looked after by qualified instructors. Skiers stay in one large chalet generally with three live-in supervisors. The day is structured around a full day's free skiing accompanied by the Ski Club supervisors, with skiers usually split into groups of seven according to proficiency. Each evening the group returns to the chalet for dinner. Some older members of the groups are permitted to venture into the town after dinner, but this is up to the supervisor's discretion and is also dependent on the individual's parents' wishes.
The first departs on 13 December to the chic resort of Verbier in the Swiss Alps. It boasts 410km of sunny pistes over its distinguished "Four Valleys", but there are very few green runs so this package is not recommended for beginners or nervous skiers.
The price of £420 per person includes return charter flights from Gatwick to Geneva, a week's catered chalet accommodation and constant leader supervision. You will have to factor in some additional costs though. A week's lift pass will cost £122 for over 15s and £101 for those 14 and under. Ski and boot hire, which the Ski Club can arrange, will cost around another £80 per week. There will also be the question of spending-money. As a guide, the average resort price for a soft drink in Verbier is a rather pricey SF4.50 (£2).
The second trip offered is to the French resort of Tignes, neighbour to the glamorous resort of Val d'Isère whose combined slopes create the vast and varied "Espace Killy". The one-week holiday, price £575, departs from Gatwick on 10 April 2004. The price includes return charter flights to Lyon, catered chalet accommodation, transfers and supervision. The cost of a weekly lift pass is £130 for under 20s, which is pre-payable with the Ski Club. Again, extra costs incurred will be for skiing equipment and spending money; the average resort price of a soft drink is €3.30 (£2.30). Tignes is an exceptional all-round resort with good snow guaranteed nearly all season.
To book either of the two packages your son or daughter will need to become a member of the Ski Club of Great Britain. This costs an additional £15 per year for under 24s.
If your child needs lessons in either resort, they can be arranged through the Ski Club, but it is recommended that youngsters stay in the group. Morning lessons are usually around three hours long and currently cost around €100 (£70) per week. An alternative would be to have a few lessons on dry slopes (there are currently about 100 in the UK) before departing, which cost between £3-£10 per hour, contact the Ski Club or see www.ifyouski.com/dryslopes for a directory of British options.
Finally, take out adequate insurance that fully covers your child's activities. The Ski Club offers two deals, basic cover costing £19.25 and the more comprehensive cover at £21.50 for one week.