Our best advice, and top tips, for a successful family ski holiday will cover:
1. Choosing the resort and how to get there
2. Choosing your accommodation and what to consider
3. What to pack – what to buy or borrow
4. Top tips for once you get to the resort
Choosing the best family ski resort
◻️ Choose a resort with a shorter transfer time from the airport = less hours in a minibus.
◻️ Suss out a family-friendly atmosphere by browsing social-media and review pages to see what others think.
◻️ Look up a selection of restaurant menus online, to see if they offer kids’ stuff.
◻️ Pick a resort that has ‘off-snow’ activities like a swimming pool.
◻️ Modern or newly renovated lift systems often have heated seats with protective shields (like Zell am See) – preventing cold kids can add hours on to your ski day!
◻️ Of course, look for a resort with a high density of beginner and nursery slopes, with beginner/child-friendly lifts.
◻️ If you’re taking a big crew, read our blog on how to save money on a family ski trip.
◻️ An English-friendly resort is really helpful in case of emergencies, but also a bonus for advice and general navigation!
◻️ Check out resorts with lockers at the lifts, like Les Gets. Helps massively not having to lug everyone’s equipment back and forth (they’re not cheap though!).
◻️Here’s our list of the top five family ski resorts in Europe.
Choosing family ski accommodation
◻️ Assess how easy will it be to get from your accommodation to the lift or ski school meeting place? Don’t be lured by ‘ski in-ski out’ if you still have to trudge uphill to a ski school meeting place; for example, there are some stunning Méribel chalets – but in very awkward locations for ski school.
◻️ Consider the time of year you’re booking – anything pre-Feb half term is colder. Also look up local and British school holidays – these weeks are much busier and expensive.
◻️ If family members get cold/tired/injured, or you’re stuck indoors in a white-out, it helps to have booked half-nice accommodation that you won’t actually mind spending a whole morning/afternoon chilling in!
◻️ A catered chalet takes care of all the cooking & cleaning, are on hand for advice and can recommend you a whole host of other services. If you’ve rented the whole chalet, you don’t have other guests to worry about for noise/mess levels etc. (We’re experts on Méribel ski chalets, specifically catered chalets, so get in touch if you have questions).
◻️ A self-catered apartment means your gang can really let their hair down, but it also means you’re more flexible on timings etc where you don’t have set dinners each day. Good if you have a picky eater in the family. (Our sister company The Ski Company can help you with self-catered ski apartment options, for throughout the Alps).
◻️ A chalet hotel or hotel will be your most inclusive option, they often offer their own childcare options, flexible dining and cleaning. Trickier with a noisy group.
◻️ If you’re bringing a baby, speak to your accommodation provider about what they can provide, to reduce the mountain of kit that comes with a little one!
Packing and prep for a family ski trip
◻️ Avoid buying kit for kids who are still growing fast. Borrow ski gear from friends; ask on Facebook groups; or buy off eBay (read our guide to shopping for kids ski gear here).
◻️ You can find ‘family deals’ on insurance – use a comparison site.
◻️ Consider driving so you can bring absolutely everything bar the kitchen sink (read our guide on driving to a ski resort here). It can be a bit of a slog with bored kids, so consider an overnight stay on the way.
◻️ Book in advance: ski hire, lift passes, childcare and lessons. Speak to your accommodation provider about who they recommend. Have a look at online reviews from other parents. Try to find equipment rentals that will deliver to your accommodation for added ease. Ask if your accommodation can sort and deliver your lift passes.
◻️ You might be drawn to a low-cost flight/airline, but they may charge extra for large items like buggies/skis – some of the more ‘expensive’ flights will actually have these items included.
◻️ For the basics, we’ve created this TCC printable packing list – get the kids to help ticking things off.
◻️ Bring some board games for the chalet evenings.
◻️ Don’t forget slippers!
◻️ Bring extra plug adapters than you think you’ll need to avoid arguments.
◻️ Keep kids warm on the mountain by sticking some clickable hand-warmers in their pockets.
◻️ Giving the kids a disposable camera each is a fun week-long activity – pick them up at a pharmacy or corner shop.
◻️ Let kids choose the sun cream they like (smell, bottle etc) and it will make the daily application slightly less arduous.
◻️ Bring spare gloves – kids ski gloves seem to be permanently soaking! It means ski gloves can dry off, while the other pair are out making snowmen.
◻️ Consider brushing up skills at a snowdome (or dry slope) before you go. If it’s your first or second time, it’ll help you know what to expect and boost your confidence for when you get there. Ditto it’ll help your kids get the feel of the boots and the sliding motion too. If the whole family are learning for the first time, it’s best to all learn the same discipline (skiing or snowboarding) that way, you can help each other.
Our advice, once you get to resort
◻️ In good weather, find the local supermarket and take packed lunches up the mountain. This will save you a lot of cash! It can be tricky finding spots to eat them (mountain-top restaurants are very anti ‘picnic’) but if it’s sunny – the top of the lift will do just fine. Save the restaurant meals for days when you need to shelter from the elements!
◻️ If your kids have morning lessons – find a good post-lesson refuel spot. Either for above mentioned packed lunches in the sun, or recharge in a kid-friendly café (check out our favourites in Val Thorens here). You won’t get far in the afternoon with tired, hungry kids.
◻️ Stash some pocket money with kids in lessons – they might stop for hot-chocolate or mars bars with their instructor.
◻️ Ski with a flask of hot chocolate in your backpack, for warmth/hunger/tantrum emergencies (adult or child) …
◻️ Also give young kids a note with your contact details on (and that of your accommodation), to keep in a pocket. Needle-in-haystack springs to mind when searching for an ‘independent’ five-year-old on a mountain!
◻️ If you’re holidaying with another family, consider taking afternoon kid-duties in turn. If kids are tired after a morning of lessons, they may not want to ski again in the afternoon – nominate a parent-a-day to entertain the non-skiers for the afternoon.
Every family ski trip throws up new ‘challenges’ and brings new lessons learnt. And, although this list might not cover all types/ages of families, we hope it’s a very thorough start. We’d love to chat about your family’s ski holiday – whether you’d like to stay in a catered chalet in Méribel, or a self-catered ski apartment elsewhere in the Alps.