Where's best for first-time skiers?

The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered
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Q. We are thinking of going skiing in the United States at Easter. We have two children (age seven and 15) and are all beginners. Where would you recommend and will there still be snow at this time of year?

Q. We are thinking of going skiing in the United States at Easter. We have two children (age seven and 15) and are all beginners. Where would you recommend and will there still be snow at this time of year?

O Murray-Jones, London

A. The US offers some of the best skiing in the world, from Vermont and New York State in the east, to Colorado and Utah in the west, with plenty of snow to go round. While the world-famous resorts of Colorado such as Aspen and Vail might spring to mind, there is a good selection of resorts that are family oriented. Here are a couple of the most popular to get you started, but these are the tip of a big snowy mountain. All the resorts run programmes designed for children, which incorporate activities such as ski and snowboarding lessons, daily progress cards, games and races. Perhaps as importantly, they provide the opportunity for your children to make friends.

Family Resort of the Year, according to The Good Skiing and Snowboarding Guide, is Deer Valley in Utah. The resort is a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City airport, and is a venue for next month's Winter Olympics. The resort's slopes can be enjoyed by all levels of skiers, and are good for beginners. I recommend that you stay at the resort for a minimum of 10 days, due to the distances involved when travelling from the UK.

A selection of accommodation is available at Deer Valley. The easiest option is to book a package from a UK-based operator. Be warned: it is not a budget destination. Made to Measure Holidays (01243 533333, www.madetomeasureholidays. co.uk), and Ski World (020-8600 1799, www.skiworld.ltd.uk) feature Deer Valley in their brochures. Ski Safari (020-7740 1221, www.skisafari.com) offers 10 nights at the resort for £4,285 for your family over Easter, which includes flights, accommodation and car hire. Ski passes and lessons cost extra. The skiing season at Deer Valley ends on 7 April, so you should make it. For information visit www.deervalley.com.

Slightly closer to home and voted number one for family skiing in North America for the fifth time by Ski Magazine, is Smugglers' Notch in the Green Mountains of Northern Vermont. Morse Mountain, next to the village, is suitable for beginners. The skiing season at Smugglers' Notch runs through to mid-April, and with temperatures moving up to about 2C by the end of winter, you should get sun and snow. Facilities close to the village include an indoor pool, hot tubs, ice-skating rink and Nordic Centre. "Mom and Me" or "Dad and Me" ski sessions are available and, in the evenings, your 15-year old can meet other children at the Outer Limits Teen Centre.

Accommodation in the village ranges from studios to fully equipped five-bedroom homes. A one-bedroom condominium, which sleeps four would cost $99 (£69) per adult and $85 (£59) per child per night for a minimum of seven-nights. This includes accommodation, lift passes, cross-country trail passes, and a daily group snow sport lesson, plus access to the pool, hot tubs, ice skating and the Outer Limits Teen Centre. For more information, freephone (0800 169 8219) or visit www.smuggs.com.

Travelling independently lets you cash in on the low fares across the Atlantic. Bridge the World (0870 444 1716, www.bridgetheworld.com) offers flights to Burlington, Vermont, for the Easter period for £400 per adult and £251 per child under 12; you fly from Heathrow or Manchester with United via Washington. Alternatively, fly to Boston (a four-hour drive) or Montreal (a two-hour drive). Trailfinders (020-7937 5400, www.trailfinders.co.uk) quotes £267 per adult and £175 per child to Boston on Northwest Airlines from Gatwick, though this is a tedious journey involving a change of plane in Detroit. Through Trailfinders, a direct return flight to Montreal with Air Canada costs £310 per adult and £185 per child for travel between 21 March and 30 April, if booked before 28 January.

British Airways (0845 77 333 77, www.ba.com) quotes £415.50 per adult and £300 per child return to Boston for travel after 22 March, but the fares drop to £281.50 per adult and £209.50 per child for departures before 21 March.

The driving should be easy. Interstate highways are well maintained in winter travel. A week's car hire should cost around £180 with Holiday Autos (0870 400 0099, www.holidayautos.co.uk).

Q. Our son is beginning to display an interest in fishing. As a birthday treat (his 16th) in May, we would like to take him somewhere he could learn the basics of fly-fishing. We were thinking of Ireland. Can you advise?

P Walters, Amersham, Bucks

A. Crystal clear waters, prolific quantities of Atlantic salmon, sea trout and wild brown trout and a wealth of lakes and rivers combine to make Ireland a fly-fisher's paradise. The west and south-west of the country tend to have the best fishing, with the Moy in County Mayo arguably the best salmon river in Europe. There are a number of fly-fishing schools around Ireland where your son can learn the basics of the sport.

Typically, courses will teach him how to set up the tackle correctly, cast competently, how to spot feeding fish, catch fish and handle them as humanely as possible, as well as when to use different kinds of flies. Tuition may begin indoors and on a casting green before progressing to a beginner's lake and more difficult waters. The schools are concerned with salmon and trout fishing, known as game angling. Most are attached to quality fisheries or have access to them, so there is always a chance to put newly acquired skills to the test. Some fisheries open for salmon fishing from January, but in general, the fly-fishing season runs from mid-March to the end of September, depending on the type of fish and the lake or river in question.

Try the Great Fishing Houses of Ireland (00 353 1 298 8850, www.irelandflyfishing.com), a group of 21 establishments offering angler's holidays. Accommodation ranges from guesthouses to country mansions, some with private waters, others on the great free lakes of Ireland. Rod rooms, drying rooms, freezers and, in some cases, smokeries ensure that your tackle and catch are treated with care, and advice, tuition and ghillies (attendants) are at hand. One property to consider is the Clonanav Fly-fishing Centre and School (00353 52 36141, www.flyfishingireland.com) near Clonmel in Co. Waterford. Rooms cost €38 (£23) to €51 (£32) per person sharing a twin room. Two-night packages, including six hours' tuition, cost from €400 (£245) each.

Clonanav has a tackle shop, casting green, and beginners' lakes. Rods and waders may be hired. Wild brown trout and salmon can be fished from April to September. For non-anglers there is an on-site tennis court and forest walks, sightseeing, golf courses and horse-riding in the vicinity. Or, book a package through a specialist such as King's Angling and Activity Holidays (01708 453043) or Leisure Angling (0845 130 5200, www.irelandbreaks.co.uk). For further information, visit www.angling.travel.ie, part of the Irish Tourist Board website.

Flights from UK airports to Dublin, Cork and Shannon start from £20 with Ryanair (0870 156 9569, www.ryanair.com) and £60 with Aer Lingus (0845 973 7747, www.flyaerlingus.com). Return ferry crossings from Pembroke to Rosslare or Holyhead to Dublin cost from £138 (covering a car plus driver) with Irish Ferries (0870 517 1717, www.irishferries.com).

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