It is truly magical to be able to take your child on their first trip to the mountains. This could well be their first time in the snow and being able to share in this experience with them is truly a once-in-a-lifetime gift. Whether you’re helping them make their first snowman, sharing cuddles and hot chocolates in front of the fire or taking them to ride in a gondola (an experience many young children absolutely love), you will want to make sure you savour every precious moment.
Firstly though, the question we often get when it comes to skiing with very young children is at what age parents can look forward to getting them up on their own skis…
How Early is Too Early to Start Skiing?
This really depends on the child and your personal preferences. If you really want, you can start your child off with basic private lessons with a parent at around 18 months. However, be aware that your child could easily hate this and may have much more fun in non-skiing day care. Vice versa, if you book your child into non-skiing daycare and they demonstrate a desire and propensity to get their skis on, there’s no harm in letting them, in a safe and secure way. In essence, you don’t want to push your child one way or the other, but have the facilities there if they do want to give it a go. It’s not uncommon to see three-year-olds up on their skis so they may be up and skiing before you know it!
The Best Resorts
Resort choice is hugely important when travelling as a family. Whether your child is eight months, eight years or eighteen years, there are a number of factors that can help you choose a resort that will give them the perfect experience.
For the youngest children, resorts set at a low altitude are generally more favourable. These resorts often have milder climates, meaning that children can enjoy buggy walks around the town with less chance of there being deep snow or ice on the streets of the resort. In general, parents often prefer to choose a resort with a milder climate for their first trip to the mountains. For both child and parents, this makes the trip that little bit easier, without the worry of deep snow storms or freezing rain.
When travelling with young children, it’s also a good idea to choose a resort with well stocked supermarkets and sports stores nearby. This means that on the off chance you do forget an essential element of ski gear, need to stock up on snacks or need additional supplies, you can do so quickly and easily.
For families with young children it’s also often a good idea to choose a child-friendly resort that is quiet and relaxing. Resorts with an Alpine charm are often very popular with children, giving them a truly unique and magical experience. You will want a resort with very gentle nursery slopes and open flat areas where children can play in the snow, building snowmen without any risk of skiers speeding past.
Another important factor to consider with children this age is transfer time (and ease). A short, direct transfer will be much more well received than a long journey up winding mountain roads.
Finally, it’s a good idea to research whether the resort you are considering has any additional indoor facilities for young children. For example, Val Thorens has a lovely soft play area within the resort’s sports centre and the Zillertal area is home to Playarena, an incredible facility with a soft play area, giant slides and trampolines! These can be a really great addition to your holiday, especially if the weather isn’t as good as you might have hoped!
Resorts we love for babies and toddlers: Zermatt, Les Gets, Meribel, La Tania, Ellmau
If you’re still confused or unsure as to the best resort for you, it might be a good idea to speak to an expert. Crystal Ski Holidays understands that different families have different needs, and with over 120 resorts to choose from, they can help you find the perfect holiday.
What to Pack
We all know how changeable the mountain weather can be and when packing for children, you have to cover all your bases. Warm, waterproof snow suits, durable snow boots and the ever essential hats and gloves (plus spares!) are very important.
You also want to ensure you have sunglasses or goggles, particularly for smaller children. Up in the mountains, you are thousands of metres closer to the sun. Young children are particularly susceptible to damaging UV rays, so it’s essential to protect them from this by ensuring they wear their goggles, sunscreen and lip salve. Baby Banz are a great choice for babies as they stay securely strapped to their head.
TOP TIP – Make sure they’ve tried on all their new ski clothing before you head to the mountains, to ensure that everything is comfortable and fits correctly.
On a family ski holiday, it’s likely that you will want to do some skiing… in order to make this happen when you have babies and toddlers in tow, a good childcare plan is essential. In most resorts, a range of childcare options are available, so you can choose that which is best for your family.
Bringing a Carer
Some families prefer to keep their childcare closer to home, bringing grandparents or non-skiing family members who enjoy life in the mountains, to help with childcare. Of course another option would be to bring your preferred childminder/nanny from home, as this would help children retain a familiarity that you wouldn’t get a different child-care service. However, you do have to factor in the extra costs that would come as a result of paying for an extra person.
Alternatively, you can choose to travel with another family. This way, you can take turns in looking after the children and know that your children are with someone they know, someone you trust. This can also be a cheaper childcare option for those on a budget, however it does also mean that parents won’t get as much skiing time as if you choose in-house/external childcare.
One reason many families opt to travel with tour operators such as Crystal is because of their exclusive in-house childcare options. For example, Crystal’s Pepi Penguin Nursery, which caters for children from 6 months – 4 years. With in-house dedicated nurseries, your child is guaranteed to get the highest levels of care and attention. You can also be sure that your child is in great hands here; Crystal childcare teams are UK-qualified childcare professionals, all of whom are first-aid trained, DBS and reference checked.
Pepi Penguin Nursery gives your child 6 days of full-day care (from 8:30 – 5pm). A 2-course hot lunch is included, as well as snacks and drinks throughout the day, so you know they are being well fed and watered! Activities include stories, singing, arts & crafts, messy play and outdoor activities (including snowy walks, gondola rides or snow painting). There’s also an evening club in certain resorts, to allow you to enjoy your evening meal knowing your child is being well cared for, with calming quiet play, bedtime stories and cots.
Another option is to hire a private nanny. Companies such as Crystal can provide these in-house and there are often other companies within resorts that can offer these services.
Finally, you can choose to opt for a resort creche. However, if you choose this option, you have to do your research. Ensure there are a good amount of English-speaking carers and seriously consider whether your child will be comfortable in this completely new situation.
Best Accommodation Options
It’s hugely important to think about what sort of accommodation will be best for your child. A hotel may be cheap, but will it have any facilities for playtime? Will it have child-friendly mealtimes and on that line, meals?
Of course, some families do prefer a high level of independence and flexibility, opting for self-catered apartments. This can save money and allow for more flexibility when it comes to mealtimes, food preferences and timings, however does mean that you have to take care of all the cooking and cleaning yourself, rather than simply sitting back and relaxing whilst dedicated staff do so.
Chalets allow you the relaxation that many families crave whilst on holiday, often offering in-house childcare which means children can benefit from a home away from home environment.
Another benefit of travelling with a tour operator experienced in family holidays is that you can be sure all the accommodation will be child friendly and well equipped, with high chairs, baby monitors etc. If you’re not sure what your accommodation can or will offer, double check first. You really don’t want to be carting around cot, baby bath, high chair, bottle warmer, pushchair etc. if you don’t need to! Even if your accommodation does not offer this free of charge, there are often ways you can rent.
On this topic – if you do choose to go self-catered, it’s a good idea to consider your travel options. Travelling with children can mean a huge amount of stuff, which when combined with bulky ski gear can mean lots of bags, which can cost a fortune to bring on a plane. It might be a better idea to think about driving out to resort, meaning you can bring as much as you can fit in the car!
Lastly, make sure that your accommodation is in the centre of town. This way you won’t have to navigate snowy roads with a pram or small toddler walking alongside you! If you are in the centre of town, close to the shops as well as the slopes, you will find it much easier to find ways to entertain your child, whether it’s hot chocolate in a cosy cafe or an afternoon making snowmen!
- Research other activities available in the resort before you go. Can you hire snow friendly buggies to take your children for walks around the town? What other activities are available for babies and toddlers apart from skiing?
- If you are flying, ship milk and nappies out before you go to save weight in your luggage
- Check resorts / tour operators for child/family discounts – these can often save you quite a bit!