Winter fun for all the family
A skiing holiday with children in tow doesn't have to mean financial ruin or parental stress
Wednesday 07 November 2012
What's the attraction?
"The family that skis together, stays together," is a saying that helps those who financially ruin themselves each year to justify that annual S.K.I* holiday (*Spending the Kids' Inheritance). It's easy to spend a lot if you don't plan it all meticulously: the cost of a half-term family ski holiday can easily reach £5,000. Get advice from specialist operators such as Ski Famille (0845 6443764; skifamille.com), Esprit Ski (01483 791900; espritski.com) and the Family Ski Company (01684 540333; familyski.co.uk).
Mountain-top pleasure dome
Avoriaz (avoriaz.com) in France has taken family ski holidays to a new level with the opening of the 2,400 sq m indoor water park Aquariaz, part of a €200m investment, the biggest in the ski world this winter. Think of it as a Center Parcs tropical swimming dome at the top of a mountain. Ski Collection (0844 576 0175; SkiCollection.co.uk) offers a week's self-catering, self-drive holiday at the ski-in/ski-out Atria Crozats apartments in Avoriaz over Easter (arrival 30 March 2013) from £282pp.
A family ski holiday doesn't have to be just about skiing. You can make it an adventure by basing yourselves in a Lapland resort in or near the Arctic circle and mixing ski lessons with dog sledding and reindeer safari sessions. Santa's waiting there too, of course, and fans of Philip Pullman's Northern Lights can indulge themselves, too. Crystal Ski's (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk) week-long Lapland Winter Wonderland trip to Ruka in Finland costs from £335 per person.
The price is right
Club Med (08453 67 67 67; clubmed.co.uk) pioneered the all-inclusive ski holiday, now an increasingly popular fixed-price option for families. Club Med Cervinia in Italy is especially family friendly, with an indoor pool and a teenage ski programme. The resort's slopes are already open and are home to Europe's highest glacier skiing. A four-night package departing 25 November costs £645 for adults and £585 for children, including flights from Gatwick. The group is also opening a new resort in Italy's Aosta Valley on 16 December.
Who said that?
"I grew up thinking of snow as a luxury you visit" – film director John Landis
"I started skiing around the same time as I began playing the piano, at around four, before moving to the violin at five" – Vanessa Mae
"The family that skis together bitches at each other" – filmmaker Warren Miller
Give us a lift
At expensive resorts, a family of four can pay close to £1,000 on lift passes for the week. Child ticket prices vary tremendously. In Switzerland they're half price for under-16s, with more than 50 resorts including Zermatt offering free skiing to age nine. Sno.co.uk (020 8133 8899; sno.co.uk) is offering a week in a chalet there for £415pp.
The season's ski deals
La Plagne (00 33 479 09 79 79; la-plagne.com) offers a free Paradiski child ski pass over Christmas when you book direct and arrive on 22 December. A week's self-catering starts at €908 with lift passes for a family of four. The same week, Iglu (020 8542 6658; igluski.com) offers seven nights at Chalet Chamois d'Or in Val d'Isere with flights and free child lift passes and rentals from £789pp. "Superkids" from 16 March in the Italian Dolomiti Superski region (DolomitiSuperski.com) ensures under-eights don't pay for accommodation or lift passes.
If you've already skied as a family in the Alps and want to try a different destination, Inghams (01483 791111; inghams.co.uk) offers Mont Tremblant in the Canadian province of Quebec. Travel in early December and a week costs less than £800 per person including flights from Heathrow and accommodation with breakfast. Neilson (0844 879 8155; neilson.co.uk/ski) serves Baqueira Beret in the Spanish Pyrenees; a week for four from Gatwick or Manchester on 24 March costs £1,439 per person, half-board.
Anyone planning a family skiing holiday should prioritise their needs as a family over their desires as a skier. With children in tow, a short airport transfer, proximity to ski school or childcare and child-friendly room layouts will bring far more joy than superb off-piste opportunities or après-ski venues. If you get the balance right in the early years, the children will fall in love with the mountains; before you know it you'll be struggling to keep up with them." Chris Thompson, managing director of Ski Famille
The most important issue for children on skiing holidays is keeping warm and safe. Wearing a helmet is a must (a legal requirement in France and Italy and some insurance companies are making it a requirement, too) but the little things matter as well. "There is nothing worse than sending your child off to ski school in the morning with wet gloves," says Lisa Dance, a director of the Family Ski Company. "Always take at least three pairs per child."
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