Family Skiing Holidays Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09

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Skiing offers a rare chance for families to enjoy an active holiday together. But where do you go? Ski expert Chris Gill, a long-time family skier, gives the low down on the best peaks to choose

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  • 1. ?? ??lets TRYFAMILY SKIING HOLIDAYS Slope offSalzburgerLand Tourist Office Toboganning atObertauern, near Salzburgwith the family We were only a year desperate to get back to him (and to a sup- Skiing offers a rare chanceinto our child-rear- ply of affordable wine, I confess). for families to enjoy an activeing project when my Nine months after, we spent a jollywife Val and I Christmas in an Esprit Ski chalet inholiday together. But where realised that we Montchavin. About nine years later, whendo you go? Ski expert Chris were going to have both Alex and sister Laura could get around Gill, a long-time family skier, to start doing family skiing holidays, even the mountain with us, we came to realise before we had a family capable of skiing. what an excellent family holiday skiing gives the low-down on the We had left our precious one-year-old inmakes. It has its drawbacks notably thebest peaks to choose the care of his nanny, and taken off for acost. But to be able to share an exciting, week in Norway. By day three, we were vaguely healthy outdoor activity with theNovember/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 31

2. Learning to skiFirst, will your kids be up to it? They needa degree of determination and resilienceto overcome the inevitable setbacks thefalling over, for a start. Our kids got to thispoint at about age six. At age four, it didntwork. Then, how should they be taught? Ifyoure competent, you could do it yourself.Our kids got a mix of lessons and parentalcoaching at the start, then a year or twoof proper lessons but once off thenursery slope there was no way topersuade either of them to take morelessons. A good compromise is classes in themorning, and skiing together in theafternoon. In many resorts school classesare mornings only but your touroperator may offer afternoonsupervision/amusement if you want tocarry on skiing without hindrance.Mark Warner Of course, youll want to identify a goodschool. Where to Ski and Snowboard canhelp you there (see facts panel). Break time at a Mark Warner ski school Morning lessons leave time Young skiersfree for family skiingin St Anton TVB St Anton am Arlberg/Wolfgang EhnTVB Innsbruck/Klaus Kranebitter Ski kindergarten in Avoriazwhole family is aHow to go rare thing. And itMost British skiers take package holidays, whisks you from even though doing your own thing is pretty the depressing, greysimple, thanks to an ever-wider range ofBritish winter to abudget flights and internet booking of fairytale setting of snow-hotels and apartments.clad forests and mountains,For families, packages have particularwith a good chance ofmerits especially families attracted to the blue skies; unbeat- uniquely British form of ski holiday, theable.catered chalet. Strictly speaking, a chalet is a small Alpine house, though for chalet-holi- day purposes it may be an apartment. Your tour operator staffs a chalet with young Brits, and offers either the whole place or rooms within it, packaging half-board with flights or other transport. No-choice meals are taken at a communal table, with (a key Photopressfeature, this) wine included.Unless you take over a Family fun invery small place, there will Adelboden, Switzerland 32 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009 3. One or more jolly, safe, dedicated kids nursery slopes (or snow gardens). Gentle main nursery slopes, free of through-traffic. Longer, gentle runs (classified green in France) to progress to. A combination of sun and good snow onall these runs (beware resorts that get nosun in midwinter, and resorts wheresnow at village level routinely turns toice). Opportunities to have fun on the snowwithout skiing tobogganing and/ortubing, in particular. Things to do in the evening or on stormydays when skiing is limited swimming,bowling and skating. A well-run ski school. Top resorts country by countryBelow are resorts to consider in the four mainAlpine skiing countries. There are alterna-tives, but I dont recommend them. If moneyis no object and you think the kids can dealwith the jet lag, consider North America: thetuition and the childcare doesnt get muchbetter but it is seriously expensive. Bear inmind that the highest resorts present a risk ofaltitude sickness. AustriaFor many years the favourite destination ofBritish beginners, and still very appealing.+ lively, beer-fuelled apres-ski starting mid- Avoriaz/Stephane Lerenduafternoon; appreciably cheaper than France;plenty of small, cute, family-friendlyresorts. few of its big resorts are natural familyplaces; many of the most appealing resortsare at low altitudes where snow conditionsare unreliable. be other families to provide distractions forBig-name favourites: yours; in a chalet-hotel (a larger variant, runFor families,Lech (www.lech-zuers.at) near-perfect along similar lines) you are almost sure of finding compatible playmates. But the killer packages haveseclusion up the hill at Oberlech.St Anton (www.stantonamarlberg.com) feature is that most chalet operators organise particular meritsexcellent nursery slope at quiet Nasserein. childcare in some chalets, and some opera- Smaller favourites: tors do it in all their chalets.open up many other indirect possibilities allAlpbach (www.alpbach.at ) cute, quietPractically every resort has one or more over the Alps. Quite a few resorts are on thevillage with central nursery slope. public nurseries/ski kindergartens, and somerail network.Ellmau (www.wilderkaiser.info) acres of hotels have their own private nurseries. Likegentle nursery slopes. many British parents, we always opted for The ideal family resort the more predictable tour operator childcare. There is no such thing, of course: what suitsFranceMost people take flights to the moun-one parent and his four-year-old will notNow the dominant destination for Brits, par- tains, followed by a coach transfer takingsuit another parent and her 10-year-old. But ticularly for chalet and apartment holidays. one to three hours, occasionally more. It can here is a list of desirable ingredients: + lots of huge, high, snow-sure ski areas; be less hassle to drive, especially if you have Easy access, without excessively longmany family-oriented resorts with a lot of a lot of baby kit to handle, and a capacious transfers from airports, or excessively very convenient accommodation right on motor. Rail travel is enjoying a revival ofwinding access roads. the slopes; huge choice of catered chalet interest. There are weekly direct services Compact, convenient, safe layout (car- holidays. from London to stations close to several free ideally), so that getting the kids high prices, especially in the top resorts; major French resorts, and services to Parisfrom A to B is hassle-free. huge influx of French families during theNovember/December 2009The Travel & Leisure Magazine33 4. Choose a family- friendly resort Family skiing facts Package holidays Lots of tour operators offer childcare in certain resorts, so you dont need to confine your search to the firms listed here. But these are operators that do childcare Atout France/Chantal Bourreau throughout their programmes: Esprit Ski (www.espritski.com),The Family Ski Company (www.familyski.co.uk), Ski ENIT Famille (www.skifamille.co.uk), Mark Italy has well-equipped resorts Warner (www.markwarner.co.uk), Snowbizz (www.snowbizz.co.uk), Ski Amis (www.skiamis.com), Ski2 (www.ski-2.com), Premiere NeigeFebruary school holidays (which include(www.premiere-neige.com) and Mountain HeavenBritish half-term weeks) (www.mountainheaven.co.uk).Big-name favourites:Avoriaz (www.avoriaz.com) car-free, skiSample package pricesfrom the door resort.Esprit has five chalets in Les Gets. Prices range from 600 in mid-January toLes Menuires (www.lesmenuires.com) 1280 at half-term; theres a complex scheme of free and discounted placesgood choice of slopeside family chalets. for kids.The Family Ski Company has two chalets in Les Menuires. PricesSmaller favourites:range from 420 to 1250; again, children pay less.Les Gets (www.lesgets.com) pretty vil-lage at foot of gentle slopes. Other costsLa Rosiere (www.larosiere.net) goodLift passes: the lifts on some nursery slopes are free. In other resorts, you payrange of family chalets in a sunny setting.for each ride, or buy a special beginners lift pass (perhaps costing 15/20 a day). But inItaly some resorts the nursery slopes are at mid-In the past sold on price but now offersmountain and you must buy a full pass costing OT Les Menuires/P Royerwell-equipped resorts competing withas much as 200 for a week. Children pay less,Austria. and go free under a certain age. Many resorts+ the Italians love kids, and kids love pasta. offer family passes, at a special price. few resorts are ideally arranged; there areSki school classes: expect to pay somethingfew UK tour operators doing childcare;like 100 for six half-days, between 150 andresort childcare is not well established. 200 for six full days, if available.Big-name favourite: Ice castle, Les MenuiresEquipment hire: expect to pay 75 to 150Cervinia (www.montecervino.it) limit-per week per adult for skis and boots, half that per child.less gentle slopes starting right beside thevillage. More information on resortsSmaller favourite: Austria: www.austria.info/ukSelva (www.valgardena.it) great snow-France: www.francetourism.comsure nursery slope with lodgings beside it.Italy: www.italiantouristboard.co.uk Switzerland: www.myswitzerland.com/en/home.htmlSwitzerlandWhere we Brits invented recreational downhillSPECIAL OFFER:skiing, though now a bit of a niche market.Where to Ski and Snowboard+ some exceptionally cute, family-friendly To maximise the chances of a good holiday, get hold of this, the skiers biblevillages in spectacularly scenic settings Britains only annual ski resort guidebook, now in its 14th edition. Readers high prices, especially in top resorts.of The Travel & Leisure Magazine can buy theBig-name favourite:book online fromWengen (www.myjungfrau.ch) car-free, www.wheretoski.co.uk/tlm for the covertraditional village, reached by train. price of the first edition, published in 1994 Smaller favourite: 14.99, with p&p free (it is 18.99 in shops).Adelboden (www.adelboden.ch) several The most important information about thePhotopress/Alexandra Weytoboggan runs and other amusements. TL top resorts is available on the books main website (www.wtss.co.uk). SpecialChris Gill is editor of leading annual guide features include links to the other sitesWhere to Ski and Snowboard and has written mentioned in this article.about ski resorts for 25 years.With two To win one of five free copies of Wherechildren now of student age, he has longand intimate experience of the pain andto Ski and Snowboard 2010, see page 36.pleasure of family skiing holidays. Snowli kids race, Adelboden 34 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009

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