Our First Family Ski Trip
As promised here is a website post about our first family skiing trip. I first went on a skiing holiday with my family when I was about 12 years old. I then went quite a few times over my teen years and the last time was in my early twenties. During those years I learned to both ski and snowboard. My preference is to snowboard.
My husband didn’t grow up skiing or snowboarding. About 10 years ago I bought him beginner snowboarding lessons at the Chill Factore in Manchester hoping that he would take to it and we would go on a winter holiday. He did enjoy it but things got busy with two babies in two years and we never got around to that holiday - my husband did visit the snow dome once more with me to practise his snowboarding skills, but when he hit the mountains on our holiday this year, along with the kids, it was for the very first time!
(I wish we had found the time to do a holiday pre-kids, as it certainly would have been a MUCH easier way to introduce him to it!)
My kids had never set foot on a ski or been up a mountain before we flew to the Alps. The closest they have come is going tobogganing at our local park last year! They are 6 and 8 and both quite active and sporty. I think I would have preferred we had visited some sort of dry slope or had an introduction at home beforehand, but those places get booked up EARLY so if you want to do that, I’d suggest booking NOW for next winter! (I was too slow!)
When I posted on social media that we had been skiing there were loads of questions so I wanted to write this blog by answering those questions.
Where did you go?
We went during half term to Morzine, in the French Alps. A great resort for families and there is loads to do for the kids. We went with my family and friends who I grew up going skiing with. There were 14 of us in total, 10 adults and 4 kids. We booked flights with Easyjet to Geneva which was fine, and a private transfer with Cham Express who I definitely DO NOT recommend as they were AWFUL. Late, it wasn’t private, no toilet for a 2 hour journey and we had to switch buses halfway up the mountain. AVOID!
Where did you stay?
We stayed in a catered chalet with Alpine Elements - here’s the exact chalet we stayed in - Chalet Le Petit Philibert
It was FANTASTIC. We had two hosts, Keith and Wendy (from Newcastle) who were the loveliest, kindest, friendliest people ever. They looked after us so well, especially the kids. Wendy cooked incredible breakfasts, dinners and cakes and she catered separately for the children depending on their likes and dislikes (even the fussiest ones!) They really did make the holiday so special for us all.
Over the years I have stayed in chalets like this, self-catered apartments and hotels. For me, as a busy mum who shops and cooks for the whole family every day usually and doesn’t particularly enjoy it, this was a proper holiday treat because all the food was taken care of without me even having to think about it. I was just given delicious meals every day - it was absolute heaven.
If you are staying in a hotel or an apartment without catering I would definitely book restaurants for lunches and dinners before you go, especially if it’s in half term, as things get VERY busy. Because you spend all day on the slopes, the more of the food options you can sort before you go the better I think, as it’s just one less thing to have to think about in all the crazy ski trip admin!
The chalet worked beautifully for children because they had free reign to safely run around. It also had a hot tub in the garden and access to a hotel pool next door they could run across to, which they made full use of. It meant they were always busy and absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, and so they could chill happily in the evenings together with iPads and games on the sofas while the adults either finished their meal in peace or chatted over another glass of wine! I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Is it expensive or are there cheap ways to do it too? What’s the rough cost?
A ski holiday is expensive. It just is. There is loads of STUFF required you have to pay for and I’ve put very rough costs in to give you an idea:
- Flights (£300-£500 per person in half term)
- Transfers (around £100-£200)
- Accommodation (£800-£1500 per person for a week in a catered chalet)
- Ski equipment - Skis & poles or a snowboard, boots and helmets (£60-£100 each for kids, £80-£120 for adults for the week)
- Ski lessons (£200-£300 for a week of lessons per child)
- Lift passes (about £160 per child, £240 per adult for the week)
- Plus extras for snacks and light lunches in the day when on the slopes
Then obviously you have your clothing to buy, rent or borrow before you go so cost will vary massively depending on what you do.
It adds up SUPER fast and to be honest it’s a massive privilege to be able to afford it and to be able to go. I am aware of this. There are websites that tell you where to get cheap deals to European resorts in Bulgaria or Slovenia, but I haven’t been to be able to give any advice. One year I remember we drove last minute to Flaine in France and stayed in a self-catered apartment which my parents inform me was the cheapest trip we did. We also drove to Switzerland one year to keep costs down but ended up getting stuck in a blizzard and having to go to a hotel for an extra night which wiped out the saving! Plus the drive is VERY long. Even with all my long car journey travel tips from my On The Go book I’m not sure I’ll ever be doing that with two kids!
Does going in a big group make it more affordable?
I wouldn’t say so no. It does make it more chaotic and a lot more fun though. But I think our cheapest holiday was when we went last minute as just a family of four, and could just do the bare minimum to get us on the slopes.
What ski stuff did you need and where did you get it from?
You can buy or hire everything you need now online which is great. When we first went skiing back in the 90’s my mum took me on a trip to C&A and fully kitted me out in a snazzy red, black and white number! Nowadays there are lots of options. Here’s what I packed for one week (six days on the slopes):
5 base layer tops and 3 base layer bottoms (I had some old ones from M&S, and three new new from Regatta, Decathlon and Uniqlo. The best ones were the Uniqlo ones. I will buy those again. Great value, very soft, washed well and super warm (heattech).
1 mid-layer fleece from MuthaHood which was brilliant and 1 hoody (which I didn’t wear)
One ski jacket and trousers set (very old Jacket of mine and second hand trousers from my mum) and a lightweight waterproof jacket as I knew it was going to be warm.
One pair of snow mittens (Trespass ones from local discount ski shop)
A new Snood from Passenger (which I didn’t wear as the weather was so warm)
3 pairs of ski socks from Decathlon which were great
5 sets of base layers - we were given lots of these by my cousin (from M&S) so ask people you know who’ve been skiing before if they have stuff to loan, but I also bought some from Roarsome which were lovely and soft. We have previously used Spotty Otter ones which are superb and wash well, but again I’d recommend Uniqlo as they do kids too.
3 mid layer zip up fleeces, which they didn’t need as it was so warm (again, from my cousin)
Ewan’s jacket and trousers were from Facebook Marketplace second hand
Florence’s jacket and trousers were from Dare2Be at a local discount skiwear shop (last seasons?! Who cares with kids!)
2 pairs of gloves each from Decathlon (only needed one pair as there was a drying rack at the chalet, but got two in case it took a day for one pair to dry out)
Two snoods each which they didn’t need as it was so warm (from mountain warehouse)
5 pairs of ski socks each (probably didn’t need this many but they got them for Christmas!)
Helmet covers - you can get lots of fun ones and it makes them easy to spot on the slopes
You can get ski stuff from lots of second hand places like Vinted, eBay, Facebook Marketplace etc. I’d really recommend this as it keeps the cost down and often these things are hardly worn as people only go for a week at a time.
https://ecoski.co.uk/rental is a great website, and has winter clothing for everyone you can hire from base layers to helmets. Kids and adults. If you have never been before and aren’t sure if it is going to be for you then this is a great way to get a lot of stuff without needing to store it later. It’s also perfect for kids because they grow out of stuff quickly.
I’m sure there are other rental websites so it’s worth searching for a few online if you are keen to rent.
Had your kids ever done any skiing before?
Nope, none! And I was quite nervous about this, so once we had all our equipment on the first day I walked with the kids, my husband and my dad up to the little kiddy nursery slopes at the bottom of the lifts. There my aim was just to show the kids how to clip their boots into their skis, get them off again and to let them have a little shuffle about on the snow. As it turned out after 20 minutes they were begging the adults to push them up this little side slope like a human ski lift (I was sweating!) And then they were zooming back down to where we caught them at full speed! But this little taster really helped before they went off on their first ski lesson as Florence said proudly to me after that “the teacher had to help everyone else get on their skis but I did mine all by myself like you showed me.”
What Ski School did you go with?
I left booking this a bit too last minute to get any choice in the matter and we just had to take what we got but it actually worked out perfectly (lucky us!). I was recommended PDS in Morzine but they were fully booked so we went with Easy2Ride ESI and they were great. We booked through the Check Yeti website which is helpful - you type in lots of info and it gives you the options available - and we arranged 2 hour lessons for Monday-Friday at 12:45pm.
This worked out great on the first day because we didn’t arrive at our chalet until 8pm on Sunday evening and if ski school has been first thing on the Monday morning we wouldn’t have had time to pick up our skis before school began, so your arrival time is worth considering. But as it was, we had time to sort out everyone’s ski hire and have our little try on the nursery slope first.
For the rest of the week this time work fine, as we used the mornings to get organised with the kids and get up to the slopes for a few practise runs, had some lunch, and then dropped them to ski school and that was then time for the adults to zoom off for two hours before pick up. If it was possible I would probably try and book for 3 hour lessons next time as my two always wanted to ski more afterwards and it would have given us adults more time to get over the backs of mountains for more exploring. But otherwise it worked out really well.
What were the instructors like?
My children had Carlo and Francesco teaching them to ski. From my perspective they were excellent. They were friendly and the kids could ski and stop after the first day! Ewan was super keen and excited by the whole thing and couldn’t wait to meet up with Francesco and his group (about 5/6 kids) each day. They got a medal and certificates at the end of the week.
Were the kids nervous about going to ski school without you?
Mine weren’t, but lots of children were. The ski schools are very relaxed and ours were happy for us adults to tag along if we liked. We also knew where they were on the mountain as they didn’t go far so we kept bumping into them, which helped. Also my friend put Apple Air tags onto the kids so they could track exactly where they were at all times. Just talk to the instructors if they are nervous and be ready to have days where they don’t go to ski school if you know they are likely to change their minds.
How did the kids do?
My two are confident little things. I prepared them by showing them lots of videos of ski schools from You Tube. I talked about how the day would go and explained it as much as I could. Flo took it totally in her stride and seemed at times very excited to ski and at other times not as bothered but she did really enjoy it and was a confident skier by the end - and by confident I mean she would go directly straight down the mountain at full speed and just come to an abrupt halt at the bottom! But here’s what Ewan said to me one day on the lift, when it was just the two of us:
Ewan “Mummy I was wrong about what I said before.”
Me “What do you mean?”
Ewan “I said I was looking forward to the hot tub most.”
Me “Oh, you mean when I asked you ‘what are you looking forward to most about our holiday?”
Ewan “Yes, I was wrong. I should have said skiing. This is the best bit!”
He absolutely loved it. He wants to go back. Our main issue was having enough energy to keep taking him back up the mountain over and over again! Ewan went to his ski school sessions with Fynn from the other family we travelled with. Fynn is 10 and has a permanent, bilateral, moderate (severe at high frequencies), sensori-neural hearing loss. He also has Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD) bilaterally. He wears hearing aids in both ears. He wanted to give me his own perspective on how he found the lesson which I’m sure lots of you will find very helpful.
My name is Fynn and I am 10 years old and I am deaf. On my holiday to Morzine I went to ski school for 5 days and had lots of fun. During ski school I found the instructor difficult to understand because of his Italian accent, so maybe next time I go an English instructor would be easier for me to understand, especially as I lip read to help me hear. He was very good with me and tried his best to make sure I was always at the front of the line and could see what he was doing. Francesco would also repeat to me close up what we had to do. He was really nice and friendly. The ski helmet was comfortable with me having my hearing aids in and didn’t cause feedback noises. We had to wear helmet covers for the ski school so they knew who was in the class and this covered the whole helmet. Next time I would rather wear a ski school vest instead so it doesn’t cover where my ears are as I found it easier to hear without the cover on. My favourite part of the holiday was skiing down the slopes with my family. If you are deaf then please don’t be scared of skiing, it is the best time you will have and I would recommend it to everyone.
Where do you get lift passes from?
We booked ski lift passes online before we went and got a slight discount because we booked as a group. I suggest doing this although you can just buy them there. For this specific region you can buy passes to just ski Morzine or to ski the entire area Port Du Soleil. We chose the latter to give us the option. If you were all going for the first time I would just buy the Morzine ski pass as there are plenty of nice slopes to explore on this bit of the mountain. On the final day we went over to Avoriaz with the kids and skied some lovely green runs over there with them, which included a little snow park with bumps and mini-jumps etc. which they loved. If we went back I would head over there more often and make full use of that Port Du Soleil ski pass.
What if you don’t want to ski?
My mum doesn’t ski. She has still joined us on all the holidays and enjoys exploring the town, shops and the area. We often book somewhere with a pool so there is something else to do, and there are always lots of other snow activities you can book onto at winter resorts. She uses public transport often to get around and has enjoyed some nice day trips (she once went to where The Sound of Music was filmed).
Also you can buy a day lift pass for non-skiiers. My mum came up the mountain with us on a couple of days for lunch with a walkers pass. The ski school drops off and picks up at an area which non-skiiers can easily access.
Did you hire your ski equipment?
Again this was something we booked before hand. We were given a great tip by my husband’s friend to hire from a place that was right next to the big lift that takes you up onto the slopes. It was called Berger Ski and it was superb. Very friendly, helpful staff, a perfect location and at the end of the day you could leave your ski equipment with them in a drying locker and it gets looked after and dried out to save you traipsing back to your accommodation with poles and boards etc. Winner!
We hired everything except for boots for me and my husband as we had our own. I did this online beforehand, where they ask you all your details and then on the day you just turn up with your booking reference and they sort everything out super quickly.
What extras did you pack?
Packing for skiing is tricky because you need two lots of stuff. Ski wear and then other wear! Because we were in a chalet with friends we didn’t need to dress up for meals and to be honest when I got back from skiing, I showered and chucked on the same leggings and jumpers most evenings to be all comfy and cosy. If we were in a hotel going out for meals this would be different but mostly the vibe is very relaxed so jeans, leggings and jumpers are all you need and you only have them on for a couple of hours too so you can really limit it. The kids wore their PJs or onesies every evening! I came home with some clean clothes for them that weren’t needed.
I only took two pairs of shoes each - some everyday snow boots and some sliders. My boots are super old from TK Maxx and the kids were from the ski discount store near us. Walking boots would do the same job. Sliders were to wear around the chalet.
I also took a very lightweight rucksack for me and a hat to wear after you’ve taken your helmet off at the end of the day. No-one wants to apres-ski with helmet hair!
Also don’t forget to pack heavy duty sunscreen. It was sunny every day we were there so factor 50 was applied and lip protector with an SPF was also essential. I zipped one into each of the kids’ ski jackets on day one. I also packed lots of blister plasters just in case boots rubbed, and a thick plastic bag with kids anti-sickness tablets Kwells, some wipes and tissues and lollipops in as the windy transfer journey was a vomit risk for us! Fortunately the bag was not needed.
What’s the youngest children you’d go with?
Personally for me, the age the kids are is the youngest I’d want to take them. Flo (6) still got very tired and responded accordingly at times. I’m not good at dealing with public toddler meltdowns and doing that carrying skis on a mountain would probably have made it feel less like a holiday and more like a military challenge! I saw lots of families with very little ones though and I’m sure they all had lots of brilliant times too. It really depends on how confident you are on the slopes, if your children like snow and how relaxed you are as a parent! It’s tiring and out of routine, so there are bound to be upsets of course, but the ages my two are now was a lot of fun too.
Love to go but partner has never been. Would it be worth it or very separate?
My husband had never been so I should probably ask him to contribute to this really! But there were times when we were separate as I am intermediate level and have a lot of experience, so I would go off with my dad or my friend, and my husband would stay on runs he enjoyed and practise for a bit. But there were other times where those of us more confident in the group would ski or board with those who were less so too. It’s very mix and match. But if you are new to it I would really recommend getting lessons or a mountain guide to help, as that will make it much easier.
Was carrying all the stuff a right faff?
Yep, always is! Don’t bother with poles for kids. But yep, it’s a ball ache getting everyone dressed and then getting boots on and skis ready and all that jazz. It just is. But when you’re gliding along on a chairlift up the side of a slope in the sunshine, it all seems worth it!
Was it hard work with the children?
Yep, always is! Ha! At times it felt hard work but at other times, like in the evening it felt very easy. They were tired from busy active days and had friends to hang out with in the chalet. And they did go to ski school so you know you’ve got those few hours to yourself in the day. Overall, it was very enjoyable.
Where to begin if you’ve never been before?
I’m not best placed to answer this, as I have grown up going. But my parents took us for the first time when we were young kids and they were in their 30’s - some time around 1994. They got together a group of friends, with kids similar ages, who also hadn’t been before. We did a few evening dry slope sessions together, and they booked the holiday so that everyone spent all morning in ski school and then we had afternoons free. I remember it being a lot of fun as a child, but now I think they were totally nuts! Ha! You can only try and see what happens, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you do go as beginners. Get as fit as you can before, visit a dry slope or snow dome to get a feel for it and go online for some tips and videos about mountain safety. And remember, the apes ski is a big part of it so if slope life isn’t for you just rock your ski wear in the pub!
So there we have it. I hope this gives you some idea of what it might be like if you haven’t done this sort of holiday before. I’ve been totally honest with you all as always, and am happy for suggestions or recommendations if you’re a seasoned ski-holidayer! To offer up a personal perspective, despite having been on many ski trips before I became a parent, I was really worried that it just wouldn’t be the same now that I’m a mum. I’m much more fearful of the world in general and I thought this would transfer onto the slopes too. It didn’t. I was so pleasantly surprised and, for the first few days at least, I felt 22 again and enjoyed the total exhilarating freedom that comes from flying down slopes on a board. Yes I ached a whole lot more and didn’t quite have the energy or appetite for après beyond 7pm but I still enjoyed it all as much as I ever did. I learned a lot from our trip, and my husband and I have done a full de-brief together…perhaps it’s time to start planning and saving for the next one.