- Go someplace you either know well from personal experience or you’ve been able to get very, very detailed information about.
Ours was a last-minute decision to take a holiday, and because we chose
Slovakia as our destination, we weren’t able to get a ton of info about
it. With young children in tow, intimate knowledge and detailed
planning are key.
- Look into smaller, less expensive ski areas for your holiday.
Even if the kids are in ski school for part of the day, you’re simply
not going to have time to explore those 140 km of pistes, so don’t waste
your money on a massive mountain. As long as they have good
infrastructure and kid-friendly facilities, smaller places are fine and
often have shorter lift lines, easier access, and less-crowded slopes.
- Stay either on the mountain or very close to it.
You get the kids all bundled up and ready to go, load the skis, boots,
poles, snacks, cameras, this, that, and the other, and then have to
drive 30-40 minutes to the slopes. Chances are, by the time you get
there the kids are going to be sleepy, hungry, and the initial
excitement will have all but dissipated.
- Make sure there is short, easy access from parking areas to lifts.
At the ski area we chose, we discovered that available parking was
several kilometers from our destination, necessitating a wait for a
shuttle bus. Now, ski boots – even good ones – are heavy, awkward, and
uncomfortable for walking. If your kids have to wait 20 minutes for the
ski bus, they’re going to be whiny and grumpy before they even get into
the damn thing, and the ride in a crowded bus in full ski gear will not
improve their mood.
- Get the kids in lessons from the get-go. You don’t
want to try to teach your kids to ski. You want trained professionals to
do that, for a number of reasons. One, they’re trained professionals.
Two, your kids will probably be in an area reserved exclusively for
lessons, so there won’t be other skiers and they’ll be able to use those
easy conveyor belt-type surface lifts rather than chair lifts, which
are a bit frightening and tricky to master when you’re just starting
out. Three, the kids are far less likely to whine, moan, or completely
melt down when they’re with an instructor and a bunch of other children
than they are with you. Which brings us to four – you simply don’t want
the pain and aggravation. Trust me on this. (I watched a father
literally growling at his son, “Yes, you CAN snowplow, everybody can snowplow, it’s EASY dammit!” I watched him from a very short distance, because he was me.)
- Reserve a space in ski school before you get to the mountain, either by phone or online.
You don’t want to get there and discover, as we did, that the classes
are full. An added bonus is that there are often discounts on
instruction when you book it online.
- Go someplace that has a children’s fun park with sledding, tubing, and the like.
Young kids simply can’t handle the physical demands of being on skis
for a long period – I’d say two hours is about the max for the very
youngest, but that’s two hours you and your spouse can get away and
enjoy the mountain. After that, you want some place to be together and
have fun without the ski boots and the frustrations of learning
something new, so a fun park is just the ticket.
- Check beforehand if you can either get a half-day pass or a partial refund on lift tickets if you leave early.
If things go pear-shaped and you decide you need to leave, you don’t
want to be out a big chunk of cash. We spent 70 Euro on two lift tickets
for myself and my wife, then took one run – one
exasperating, teary, hair-tearing run – before packing it in for the
day. We had read that you could get a partial refund if you left after
only a few hours, but hadn’t read that you needed to purchase a special ticket to enjoy that option. Know before you go.
- Don’t try to overdo it. Until your children are
older and reasonably good at skiing, you’re not going to be having the
same skiing experience that you enjoyed before kids. If you get a couple
of hours in while your little ones are in lessons consider it a
blessing. If they’re older and you’re skiing together, go slowly, take
frequent breaks, and never push them to take trails that are too
difficult or make them in any way uncomfortable. You want them to love skiing, after all, and taking it at a relaxed pace will avoid frustration, fear, and resistance.
- Relax. Tension and irritation should have no place
in a ski holiday, so avoid situations that lead to them. On our last
holiday I was not relaxed. In my defense, the circumstances didn’t
really allow for it, but I could have, should have, done better in terms
of maintaining a positive attitude. If you’re not having fun, it’s not