Taking very young kids skiing? What you need to know.
15th June 2016
Like every good skier, my husband dreams of our kids being what we call les enfant terribles. You know, those teeny, helmeted kids in close formations, who bomb down black runs like a stream of cannon balls. So from the day we had our first baby he’s been itching to get to a piste.
This year I conceded and we drove all three (aged five, three and one) to the Alps for a week. This is what we learnt.
You have to forget everything you think you know about the formation of a skiing holiday. There will be no jumping on the first lift, long boozy, cheese-based lunches at the top, followed by a tipsy meander to a wild session of apres-ski. We took loads of food from home, picnicked at lunch and skied in batches of two hours each.
At five, our eldest was totally up for it. We put her into a class led by a handsome Englishman (hello Ben) who she fell for and she had a blast. The word from other parents was that the French-led classes can be bigger, tougher and, for some, rather off-putting. Our choice was a bit more expensive but probably worth it for her. If you have a toughie, they’ll surely thrive in either.
From the first lesson she was managing the button lift and snow-ploughing down the slope. By the last day they were happy on chair lifts and she came all the way from the top of the mountain. The technique was a bit scary – snowplough straight down, turning being a total waste of time. But effective. She could get up when she fell and put her skis back on confidently. She loved playing in the snow.
At three, our second was Not Interested. At All. The magic carpet yes. The skiing. No no no. The ski instructor said this is common and the gap between three and four is huge. Next year she’ll be in class. This year we largely let her play in a nice local playground and drink hot chocolate.
You need extra adults to cover three kids. Some families had wisely recruited grandparents. Mixed groups of friends also seem to work well. We took our lovely au pair without whom we’d have not been able to ski together. As it was this gave us a lot of options – Rocio and I did ski lessons and Chris took the kids, Chris and I skied together a little and between us we shared the playground team out.
You also need to plan for non-ski time. Local pools and soft plays are important. Especially if the weather is bad.
But actually, despite my many fears and concerns, it worked really well. Everyone got something out of it. Even aged one, our littlest really loved being around everyone all day and playing with the snow.
And the cost? Hmm… Best not to give any thought to the habit you may be forming because if you calculate travel, kit, ski passes, lessons and the hot chocolate bill for three kids over an 18 years period you’d check into a five star hotel for the week and still save a bomb. Les enfant terribles are an expensive indulgence. But the pride you feel when they confidently shoot down the final piste into town is, as the adverts say, priceless.