Beginners’ guide to family skiing holidays
Family skiing holidays offer a great way to spend time being active with your nearest and dearest. But knowing where to go, what resort will suit you, what to pack and how much it will cost can make the prospect rather daunting. The best approach is to spend a bit of time working out what you want from the holiday and reading my beginner tips on family skiing holidays.
Beginner tips for a family skiing holiday
Try before you go
It’s a wise idea to head to a local artificial slope or indoor snow slope first to give skiing or snowboarding a try. A ski holiday is not a cheap holiday, even when you discover budget recommendations, so it’s important to be sure the whole family is keen to go.
Taking lessons on slopes in the UK before heading abroad makes good sense, too, because it will be easier to pick up the real snow skills when you arrive on holiday.
It means you will have more confidence when booking your next family skiing holiday.
Read my Mat to Mountain Skiing article.
Guide to essential skiing kit
Until you are sure that skiing is going to be a life-long activity – and also until your kids have stopped growing – it’s worth thinking about what you really need for a skiing holiday and what is an expensive extra.
Ski clothing is important but you do not need to buy costly branded products. Look on-line and ask around friends for second-hand items. Kids grow quickly and many children will have worn their ski jackets and pants for only one ski holiday each year so the clothing will usually be in good condition.
Buy a ski jacket or skiing outfit as a Christmas or birthday present and keep in mind that is could be passed on to a sibling so gender-neutral colours are recommended.
You can save money on a ski jacket and trousers by buying something lighter weight and then adding lots of base layers underneath. Brands and shops to check out include Trespass, Dare2b and Decathlon.
For the adults, you can afford to spend a bit more on quality clothing because it should last for you many years. Ski boots are a good idea, too, because you own fitted ski boots will be more comfortable than hire boots. But, until you are sure skiing is for you, there is no point in buying skis boots and skis etc.
It’s nicer to own your ski helmet rather than wearing a hire helmet that has been used my lots of other people at a resort. You could gift your kids the helmet for Christmas, along with a few stocking fillers such as ski gloves, socks and a buff.
Ski goggles are an essential but you do not need to buy top-of-the-range goggles for your first ski holiday. Wraparound sunglasses are a great idea, too, for days when it’s sunny and not snowing.
Walking boots will be fine instead of buying snow boots for when you are not in ski boots and skis. Just make sure that kids have warm socks.
High factor sun lotion will stop the family’s skin from burning. Buy factor 50 lotion from your local supermarket rather than paying for pricier so-called skiing specific lotions. They all of the same thing, it’s just the branding and packaging that makes a difference to the price.
Package versus bespoke holidays
For your first ski trip abroad I would recommend a package style trip. This means that many things are included in the price, such as flights, transfers from airport to resort, discounted ski equipment, lift pass and lessons, food and some drinks, access to childcare etc.
You will usually have access to a ski holiday rep who can advise you about where to go for ski lessons and other details that may leave you a bit baffled on your first trip. Take a look at the ski resort guide by Ski Addict for details and information on where to go.
A word about transfer times
Family ski holidays should be straightforward and enjoyable, especially if your kids are quite young. The last thing you will want is a transfer time of more than two hours. Make sure you think about where you will fly to and check the transfer time to the ski resort.
Remember that transfer times will often be longer than stated because there is usually a delay while the bus waits for all passengers to arrive.
Check average snowfall
If you are a family you will most likely be tied to booking a holiday outwith school term times. (For kids that are pre-school age, this is a good time to take advantage of cheaper ski holidays for families. Going when older kids are at school will save a lot of money.)
However, most families will be travelling during the school holidays. Check independent websites, such as Where to Ski and Snowboard, to see average snowfall at various resorts, as well as other pros and cons.
Book ski lessons in resort
Skiing in the mountains is different to skiing on an artificial slope. The slope at home will be a good introduction but ski resort lessons will be beneficial for all family members.
The lessons are graded to suit your ability and are usually last half a day. This gives you the rest of the day to practise your skills and enjoy skiing as a family.
In some resorts you can pay for private family ski lessons but this will normally be pricier than larger group lessons.
It can be cheaper if you book ski lessons in advance as many ski schools offer incentives to ensure their lessons are fully booked all season.
Ski and ski boot hire
Hiring skis and boots, as well as poles and ski helmets, is all part of your first experienced of a ski holiday. There are different price levels of hire and it’s often a good idea to go for the “middle” price band. You will not need advanced skis but likewise the basic ski hire option might not be as comfortable as a slightly pricier package.
Check to see if the holiday company offers a discounted deal for ski hire. Most do. Or book direct as you will sometimes find cheaper deals. See this guide to ski rentals.
Check out other things to do
If you are new to skiing you might find that day after day of skiing is exhausting. There may well be days when you might not be able to ski due to heavy snowfall. Before you reach your resort, check to see what else is on offers, such as ice skating, swimming, snow-shoeing and cinemas.