It has all the right ingredients for a great skiing holiday for the whole family, says Siobhan Mulholland

My expectations were that the native would go off and indulge in a bit of "proper" skiing - cross country. I would spend time relaxing with a book or hanging out with the youngest. The girls would put their genetic heritage to good use, quickly becoming confident skiers bombing down the slopes.

Holidays rarely turn out as expected. The husband did spend some time on his own - but not much, because I took to the slopes in a way I had not foreseen. Yet the girls, despite their DNA, showed a marked preference for the creche rather than the slopes. The only one whose holiday turned out as predicted was the toddler.

One reason I enjoyed it so much was because of the resort itself. Geilo is in the heart of Norway's Winterland region, between the cities of Bergen and Oslo. Set in the middle of a valley, by a beautiful frozen lake, it is a cosy sort of place. Either side of the valley are two mountains covered in pistes and whichever route you take, you end up back in Geilo. There's little fear of you or your children getting lost. Which is why Geilo markets itself as so family friendly - that and the fact that amongst the 34 downhill pistes there is a wide choice of blues and greens making it an ideal place to learn to ski.

The real beauty of Geilo, though, is the splendid isolation. When we visited in the middle of April, there were few others on the slopes enjoying the still-abundant snow. So, no queues for lifts or lunch. At times, we found ourselves completely on our own. The freedom and space were wonderful, the landscape striking in its white emptiness.

At the weekend the place got busier but not by much. And because there is room to ski, everybody is so polite. I remember falling over on a French slope and having a large Brit plough into me. On impact, he uttered those warm and friendly words "silly cow" - not exactly the sort of experience that inspires confidence in a beginner. Compare that to losing my pole on a Geilo slope - as I struggled uphill to retrieve it a couple of teenagers on snowboards valiantly came to my rescue. I thanked them in my best evening-class Norwegian. It was only later I heard them chatting away in my native tongue; bless them, they were Brits as well.

For the first time, I had one-to-one lessons. They transformed my skiing. My teacher was a very personable Swede called Anders. I learned from him a great deal about technique and what it's like living in Geilo. As Anders, father-of-two, and me, mother-of-three sat on the lifts we had those very middle-aged conversations. We talked about local property prices (very expensive), local schools (very good) and our respective children's skiing ability (his are so good they do stunts in films).

My half-Norwegian progeny were not the naturals I thought they would be. Anders also gave my two girls a couple of private lessons - after they'd been thrown out of ski school. On our first day I handed the girls over to the English-speaking ski-school teachers believing I had a couple of child-free hours. But there were tears and tantrums. By Day Two I had to use every bribe in the parenting manual to get them to turn up to ski school again. When we got there the instructor told us it would not be a good idea for them to join in that day because they wouldn't be able to keep up. Private lessons were recommended. Step in the ever-patient Anders who got them doing high-fives, laughing and joking, and a little bit of skiing as well.

I thought it best at this stage to drop the pushy parent bit and let them spend most of their day off the slopes. Then, on our last day skiing, a surprising thing happened. I'm not exactly sure what went on in the creche that morning, what was discussed amongst the very young. But whatever it was a certain four year old was involved - Charlotte from Suffolk. At lunchtime my two appeared hand in hand with Charlotte talking about their determination to take on those nursery slopes.

Charlotte turned out to be one of those kamikaze four-year-olds with Eddie the Eagle potential; fear isn't part of her psychological make up. Peer-group pressure meant my girls spent the afternoon bombing down those slopes in a way that no instructor, parent or chocolate bribe could achieve.

Geilo is an excellent resort for children. The under-sevens get a free lift pass when they wear a helmet - hire of which is also free. There are plenty of nursery slopes and all instructors speak good English. Everything is compact: the ski school, the creche, the equipment hire and the restaurant for lunch were all next to each other. There is also a free bus service to the mountain on the other side of the valley with its nursery slopes. And reassuring for many parents, is the knowledge that this a nation where safety is paramount; it comes before all else, to the extent that they don't even allow alcohol on the slopes.

Other activities the resort offers are tobogganing, driving a snowmobile through a Norwegian forest, and going on sleigh rides drawn by either a horse, reindeer or pack of husky dogs. We opted for the husky dogs and spent a magical afternoon being taken around a frozen lake. It was real winter wonderland stuff at the end of a lovely, sunny day. The advantage of going to Norway in April is that the days are light until around 8pm, so you can do many of the above after a full day skiing.

What you don't get in Geilo is a resort that can compare to the size and scale of say the French Alps. The mountains are not high, the runs are typically shorter, and the après-ski is not in your face. What there is tends to take place in a few hotel bars and is very expensive. At our hotel a half-pint of beer cost nearly £5, and a glass of wine £6. The only party goers I saw were city dwellers escaping from Oslo for the weekend.

Our hotel - the Highland Park - was near the centre of town and only 300m from the slopes. We stayed half-board; on a couple of nights a truly excellent seafood buffet was put on. Every day we used the large, warm swimming pool; there was also a sauna. My only slight gripe was the Highland's lack of ambience; it felt more like a tired business hotel than a cosy place to hang out in.

You know you've had a good trip when you start talking about buying a holiday home. In our case these discussions are entirely hypothetical. However, underage-skier-of-the-year Charlotte's father was slightly more serious about the whole thing; he had made a few enquiries. Well, since our return at least we can boast that we have made enquiries about returning to Geilo for a skiing holiday next year.

Siobhan Mulholland travelled with Crystal Ski (0870 160 6040; www.crystalski.co.uk). A family of four staying half board at the Highland Park Hotel pays £1,954 which includes return flights from Gatwick, and transfers. One week's lessons for children at the Per Bye Ski Skole costs £93 for five days of two hours a day. Private lessons: £36.50.

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