Four tips for your first-time family skiing holiday
A family holiday in the snow can be a rewarding experience. Our kids amazed me when they whooshed down the slopes after just three days of skiing lessons. And they were having so much fun doing it. After having skipped a family skiing holiday for a few years, last December we decided to take off for Austria for a week of snow and fun. Preparing for a first-time family skiing holiday is different from a ‘regular’ family travel adventure. Let me share my lessons learned with you. Each family has their own wishes and demands for a holiday. But I trust that these tips will help you plan a wonderful new experience for your family.
Choosing a family-friendly destination
This is something else. As a non-skiing person (from the bottom of my heart) I am not familiar with the ins-and-outs of skiing destinations. All I know is that my family members would one day would love to try the slopes in Whistler (Canada), but our budget is not up to speed yet. So we limited our options to the European Alp destinations. And we asked family and friends about family-friendly destinations. But then still, the list has to be narrowed down considerably. So, where to start?
First, you make a list of all the wishes and demands for all members of your family:
– Do you want to drive there? How long are you willing to drive? Is there an option to take a ski-train or is there a nearby airport?
– Look for an area that caters to beginners and advanced skiers, so both adults and kids will stay happy
– Ski schools with teachers who speak your kids’ native language are a big plus
– Are there any non-skiers in your group? Would they like to hike or try some cross-country skiing? Any younger kids who still have a nap time during the day? Then you might want to stay in the middle of the village close to the ski lifts.
– When traveling with kids one has to stick to school holidays. So you are fairly limited in choosing the time of travel. In Europe, Christmas holiday or mid-February are the only viable option. Choose your destination accordingly, looking for guaranteed snow in higher areas and villages the sun does not reach in December weeks.
But where to start? A great first stop is TripAdvisor inspiration list of ski destinations. And have a look at national travel operators websites. We chose for Gerlos in the Zillertal Arena area, mainly because it is a popular destination for Dutch families. This means we had a good chance of Dutch speaking ski instructors and Dutch kids in ski class.
The right outfit for the kids
One thing I had to discover was that you had better choose colorful outfits for your kids. Not only because it’s fun, but mainly because you can recognize your offspring in their skiing class. Wearing helmets and skiing class vest, all kids look alike. They do! So choose bright orange, pink, yellow. Whatever is to their liking. As long as it is not black…
Looking cute on babies and toddlers, a full body suit for your kids that will hit the slopes is not a great idea. It takes forever to pull off – especially when combined with a skiing class vest. To prevent accidents in the bathroom, opt for jacket and pants.
Don’t they grow up fast, our kids? And don’t they grow fast? That is why we chose to rent skiing equipment at our destination. Skis, ski poles, ski boots, all depend on their size and skiing experience. In the end, you may be off cheaper when renting them. I also love the customer service in skiing villages. When my son’s skiing boots turned out to be too small after his first day on the mountain, we could change them for a wider pair without any hassle.
The challenge called packing
Thermal clothes, ski goggles, ski gloves. The amount of clothing one needs to put on before leaving for the ski lift, is impressive. As a non-skier I was not familiar with the outfit for a day in the mountains. So I had some catching up to do, for sure. I would advise to buy or borrow all stuff before leaving home. Although there are plenty of shops in ski villages, things tend to be expensive.
To give you an idea: before I dropped off my son and daughter at their ski class, we needed:
• thermal clothes (pants and shirt); but only on really cold days up in the mountains
• ski sweater with a zipper at the front; to keep them warm and comfortable
• long ski socks; to prevent snow to get into their ski boots
• sunglasses; put them in their jacket
• ski goggles; to be fastened on their helmet
• sunscreen and lip balm; make sure it has a SPF of 50 or higher
• ski gloves; which are large enough to fit inside the sleeves of their ski jacket
• snow boots; to wear before and after changing into their ski boots
• scarf or a col scarf; only on cold and windy days.
We drove to Austria with our car fully packed. And we didn’t even bring our own skiing equipment. Prepare to fill up your suitcases with bulky ski socks, pants and jackets. On the other hand, you don’t need to bring any entertainment with you. Being in the snow all day is fun and games. And they will fall asleep right after dinner, exhausted from a day of exercise and fresh air.
Family time needs to be planned
Our days are strictly structured during winter holidays. The kids need to be at their ski class at nine thirty in the morning. So to avoid rushing off to the ski bus, we get up early, have breakfast, change and set off. We agreed to a minimum of three days at ski class for both the kids. Which means I don’t get to see them until three in the afternoon. So, it’s quite different from other vacations where we mostly spend the whole day as a family. Because we feel it’s important to spend time as a family, we decided on eating two meals per day together as a family. We start off together with breakfast, split up until mid-afternoon and have dinner as a family. This is especially important, since days are short in the mountains. Don’t expect a long evening, everyone is exhausted after a day of exercise in this altitude.