Yes, I know I’ve said it a million times before but skiing really is a brilliant family holiday. I originally wrote this piece for The Express last year – it’s only just gone in so I had to recheck all the prices. One had stayed the same as last year – the rest had all gone down. So there are some real bargains to be had. What are you waiting for?
Les Coches, France Part of the vast Paradiski region in France boasting 425km of pistes, Les Coches is a small village-type resort built with lots of wood, slate and stone. It is set around a pretty pedestrianised centre making it ideal for wandering around with children and there is often free street entertainment and games in the evenings. None of the large tour operators have a presence here and while there are several good bars and restaurants, night-life is limited so it has a quiet, family atmosphere. Location-wise you would be hard pressed to beat Family Ski’s Chalet Les Arolles which is right on the piste and just a short slide from Les Coches’ main six-man chairlift. Family Ski offers a comprehensive childcare and ski programme for babies and children three months plus. Seven nights half board accommodation at Chalets Les Arolles with Family Ski starts from £549 per adult and £478 per child. www.familyski.co.uk, 01684 540333. Flights to Geneva with easyJet from various UK airports start at £27.99 one way. www.easyjet.com
Gerlos, Austria Kids can start skiing early in Gerlos with lessons available for two year olds in this pretty resort which is part of the Zillertal Arena with 166km of slopes. The small Gerlosstein ski area accessed by a cable car is ideal for families who want to ski away from the crowds – it’s also home to a 7km toboggan run. Stay at the Kröller Family Resort Kinderhotel which as well as offering up to 72 hours per week of childcare and just about all the children’s facilities you could think of including a soft play area and pony rides, also has an indoor pool and spa. Seven nights all-inclusive (excluding flights and transfers) starts at £1625 for a family of four. www.kinderhotels.co.uk, 0845 0822 422. easyJet flights to Innsbruck start at £30.99. www.easyjet.com .
Borovets, Bulgaria If your family are new to skiing there is little point heading to a huge resort and paying for an expensive ski pass if you are barely going to stray from the nursery slopes. The Eastern European ski resorts can be a great budget option for beginners and early-intermediate skiers – a three course evening meal costs around £11. Borovets is Bulgaria’s oldest and biggest resort with 45km of pistes set among the stunning Rila Mountains. Childcare facilities are available for children aged one upwards with ski school for the over-fours – there’s also a bowling alley and horse-drawn sleigh rides are available. Seven nights half board in Hotel Iglika Palace costs from £916 for a family of four including flights and transfers with Balkan Holidays. www.balkanholidays.co.uk, 0845 130 1115.
LAAX, Switzerland Just 90 minutes from Zurich, LAAX has three “Snow Wonderlands” for children aged two and up where, as well as learning to ski, they learn about mountain wildlife and animals and take part in treasure hunts, collecting organic souvenirs from the mountainside led by fictional character Ami Sabi (Spirit of the Mountain). Various family accommodation is available – from traditional hotels to the ultra-modern sugar-cube-shaped buildings of rocksresort and all kids love La Vacca – a restaurant in a tepee lined with cow hide and wood and set around an open fire. Seven nights at rocksresort with Swiss Travel Service costs from £3,219 for a family of four including flights, self-catering accommodation and transfers. www.swisstravelski.co.uk, 0844 879 8812.
Kranjska Gora, Slovenia With just 30km of pistes, Kranjska Gora is best suited to beginners and early intermediates and is a great budget option for families being a small, well-laid out resort with excellent English-speaking ski schools, a ski kindergarten for children aged three to six and family-orientated hotels. Children can ride in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, go ice-skating or tobogganing and there is even a water park. The layout of the resort means it is also good for non-skiing parents who can sit outside a café with an Italian hot chocolate watching their kids getting to grips with skiing. Local shops are inexpensive and the town of Bled is about half an hour’s drive away if the family feels like having a day off skiing. Seven nights half-board accommodation at the Grand Hotel Prisank with Directski.com including flights and transfers costs from £529 pp, including three hours free entrance to the water park. www.directski.com , 0800 358 0448.
Saas Fee, Switzerland A traffic-free, pretty resort set in spectacular scenery surrounded by no less than 12 4000-metre peaks. Snowsure, it offers 100km of pistes rising to 3,600 metres. Away from the pistes it boasts the world’s largest ice grotto buried inside a glacier which is reached by a subterranean alpine train. Afterwards, you can enjoy dinner in the world’s highest revolving restaurant or take the children husky-sledding. Esprit Ski’s Chalet Annahof is within three minutes of the three main chairlifts and offers skiing back to the door, as well as family suites and spa area with sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. Esprit offers an excellent childcare and ski programme for babies and children age four months plus. Seven nights half-board at Chalet Annahof starts at £699 per adult including flights and baby-listening – one child aged 2 to 10 travels free on selected dates. www.espritski.com Tel: 01252 618 300.
Tips for skiing with children
If both parents want to ski, make sure you have good childcare in place before you arrive – or invite the grandparents.
Buggies do not work well in snow – take a baby carrier or back pack.
Make sure your children have all the necessary ski clothing – especially thermal underwear and decent ski gloves or mittens. A cold child is a miserable child.
A snow suit is generally warmer than a jacket and salopettes and snow cannot get into it but it is harder to take off for toilet breaks and your child will get less wear out of it at home.
Book your children professional lessons rather than trying to teach them yourself – the latter is likely to lead to tears and tantrums.
Put mini-chocolate bars in your children’s ski jacket pocket for energy, along with a card with your mobile phone number on in case they get lost.
Make your child wear a helmet – it not only protects them if they fall but also from being bumped on the head by lifts, other people’s skis etc, as well as keeping them warm.