As the beginning of the ski season dawns on us, you may be considering a trip to the slopes with your whole family. Skiing with children can be one long cycle of tantrums and tears but it doesn’t have to be that way, with a little planning ahead skiing is a fun and active holiday for the whole family. Fraser Ewart White, father of three and Director at Powder White, a specialist ski tour operator, gives his top tips for skiing with children.
Introduce Them To Snow
Before you go skiing with children, book in beginners’ lessons at an artificial snow dome. This will introduce children to the basics of skiing, even simple things like getting skis on and off can be quite a daunting task at first. Along with getting a feel for skis on snow, lessons at snow domes are less expensive than lessons in resort and free up time once you’re actually in the mountains.
Wrap Up Warm
Once in the ‘real’ snow, make sure that your child is warm enough – this is probably the most critical thing to get right, the key rule here is there’s no such thing as too many layers. If a child begins to feel cold, they won’t enjoy themselves and this is when the tantrums will start. Because a child is smaller than an adult they lose bodily warmth much quicker – so wrap them up warm. All the usual rules apply, but apply them rigorously: lots of layers, good gloves, warm socks and keep the head warm. Thermals are a must – top and bottom; a pair of inner gloves and a balaclava may seem excessive, but are very effective.
Familiarise your child with ski boots, even for an adult ski boots are pretty alien. Put them on well before the first lesson, get your child to stomp around in them, and get a feel for them. A great tip is to leave the boots on a boot warmer or on top of a radiator (beware of fire risk) the night before – this will not only mean that the boots are warm when they put them on, but also the plastic of the ski boot is much softer, making it much, much easier to put on.
Be patient and take it slowly, gentle encouragement goes a long way. Encourage them to fall over as it means that they won’t view it as a failure. When you pick your child up from ski school, overly enthuse about it, and it will hopefully result in your child sharing with you their achievements that day. Also remember that being a beginner skier is a pretty exhausting, so don’t force them to go skiing immediately after their lesson if they don’t want to – much better to have lunch and some chill out time, and then get them back on the slopes.
Choose the right ski school – the ski school you choose should reflect your child’s temperament. Don’t automatically opt for the National Ski School e.g. ESF (Ecole de Ski France) or ESS (Ecole de Ski Suisse). There are a lot of excellent alternative ski schools that you can choose from that generally have smaller class sizes, good English speakers instructors and a sympathetic style of teaching. With all ski schools it’s important that you book lessons in advance, don’t wait until you get to the resort, especially during school holidays when ski schools get booked up months in advance. Book any lessons at the same time that you book your holiday.
Let Them Lead The Way
Ask your children’s teachers where they take them on the mountain. It’s a good idea to return to your child’s favourite slope and let them take the lead, giving them the sense that they are showing you the mountains.
Pack a few little extras into the pockets of your child – a few chocolates zipped into your child’s ski jacket will give them a much needed energy boost at some point during the lesson, as well as something that they can share with other children in their class.
I would recommend giving your child a small amount of money (€10) just in case they need it. Also, put your business card or a bit of paper with your telephone number on it, for the very rare occasion that your child gets lost on the mountain, or perhaps write your mobile number on their arm – they can at least show this to someone on the mountain who can call you. It gives you peace of mind as well.
Chairlifts can be a pretty daunting task for any child, take time to stand outside the lift line with your child and watch other skiers and boarders line up and load the chairlift, explaining the process. Stress that your child should ask the lift attendant for assistance any time they need it. Once on the lift explain that they should sit as far back as possible, a helpful reminder is “back to back” – sit all the way to the back of the chair seat and don’t lean forward.
The fetching and carrying of tired children plus their skis and sometimes poles along with your own can prove a challenge as you run out of arms. A great piece of equipment is a backpack designed with particular clasps either side of it intended for clipping on little skis, freeing up a few fingers at least.
Above all else have fun with them, when their legs are tired switch to taking a toboggan out instead, or building a good old snowman. Many children also really enjoy seeing themselves on screen (skiing and falling over) so a GoPro camera or a normal camera on a phone may be the perfect extra touch to help them to keep trying!
Many ski operators, including Powder White offer ‘nanny’ services which you can book in advance, this can help lighten the load if you need some time out. You can also book entertainment from movies to games consoles or use the laptop computer in the chalet to help keep the kids busy during the evenings.
FREE Ski Pass – Christmas 2015
Can you think of anything more festive than skiing at Christmas? Imagine spending Christmas morning, presents around the Christmas Tree, chalet fire roaring, deep powder outside, and the excitement of a day skiing the mountains followed by a delicious Christmas dinner with all the trimmings cooked for you with no washing up! Book a catered chalet for this Christmas (w/c 19th/20th December 2015) and Powder White will give each guest a FREE Ski Pass.