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Welcome to the third and last of three part with our very best advice on how to get the most out of your family skiing holiday. Last time we focused on choosing the right accommodation. This time we look at “when to go”.

When to go

The first decision is inside or outside the school holidays. If your children are not yet at school there is an obvious advantage in missing the busier and more expensive school holiday weeks. Check too that you are outside the local French school holidays.

If your children are older and at school and you don’t want to take them out of school then the price you will pay will depend on the  holiday you choose. February half term weeks are the most popular  and most expensive because the snow conditions then are usually the best of the year. However the first week of the season often lies within school holiday time and is the bargain week of the season.

Similarly a late Easter will provide a bargain week at the end of the skiing season and skiing conditions are still highly likely to be very good. Late season skiing has become much more reliable with increased snow-making facilities and in many recent years the snow conditions have been so good that it has been a frustration when the lifts close in late April when skiing conditions are excellent running into May.

The other two school holiday periods are Christmas and New Year, both magical times to be in the snowy Alps with your family, especially now that a white Christmas seems to be a rare event in the UK.

All parts of the season have their own special character and fans among skiers. Here’s our view:


The traditional first skiing week of the season is eagerly awaited by keen skiers. We like to enjoy the wind up to Christmas at home but then escape to the Alps before it gets too much before returning ready for Christmas at home. There is a buzz at the beginning of the season. There is no doubt that Christmas in the Alps is special with a young family and New Year is popular with those who like to spend Christmas at home with a treat to look forward to when the festivities at home are over. This is a great time to ski with a family especially if keeping within school holidays is a priority. It is wise to check how Christmas and New Year will be celebrated so as not to miss out. We like to make a big festive effort!

A concern in people’s minds is early season snow cover and it has been thinner than usual in some recent years. Our advice is to pick snow-sure resorts and this has certainly been a prime factor in our choice of resorts in Family Ski. This is our assessment of the snow-sureness of our resorts.


January is the quietest time to ski, ideal if you are looking for less busy slopes and because of that it is a good time for beginners and less experienced skiers. Cold powdery January snow is also easier to ski in for beginners. Restaurants are less crowded at lunchtime, service more attentive perhaps. Queues barely exist and January has the feel of an earlier age on the slopes. It is also good value and certainly the cheapest time of the year for accommodation, flights and tunnel charges if driving. There are some other tips here on making skiing affordable.

It’s the coldest time of the year on average so time to wrap up well. However unless the weather is bad and the wind is blowing you don’t feel cold with the right clothes. The real difference is that you will be enjoying a cosy lunch and hot chocolate stops indoors rather than outside.


February is peak skiing time with generally the best skiing conditions of the year as the snow depth has had time to build up, the snow is still cold and powdery and yet the sun has started to make lunch on the terrace feel more realistic on some days. It is also the busiest time on the slopes, half term in the UK and French school holidays are taken in successive weeks with different regions taking different weeks.

The quiet peaceful slopes have gone and the atmosphere is hustle and bustle with everyone having fun together. There will be some lift queues but these clear quickly nowadays with super-fast new lift systems. Of more concern the slopes will be busier and this is perhaps not the best time for beginners for that reason.


March is quieter, particularly after the first week and the slopes and restaurants become less busy. It is a bit like January except that you are exchanging those cosy log fire lunches for sunny terraces. The days are longer, the sun is stronger yet the snow is usually plentiful with good falls of snow. The snow can be cold, powdery and easy to ski but the sun will make it more variable. March is good for those who enjoy long days as more daylight lengthens lift opening times. It still feels like winter in the high Alps even if the birds are starting to sing.


April is the sun-lovers time to ski. You will need your high factor sun cream and dark lenses as you enjoy not only sunny lunches but sunny après ski as well. In April you have a wonderful experience of skiing from one season to another, from Winter to Spring as you descend from the top of the mountain to the bottom. There are often significant snow falls and some excellent off-piste skiing conditions but any powder will soon become heavy. The skiing day takes on a new rhythm as you look for sun-softened slopes in the morning and then move on to higher slopes later in the day looking for goldilocks spring snow – just melted in the sun enough to be soft not too slushy.

April used to be thought of late to ski but late season conditions in recent years have been very good and snow making facilities have meant that resorts have been able to build up strategic piles of snow to repair any thin patches lower down. This makes a big difference because in times gone by skiing conditions higher up on a run were often excellent and all that was needed was a bit of extra snow at the bottom to keep runs open and very enjoyable and the new snow cannons have now seen to that. Just as early in the season choosing a snow-sure resort is important. Have a look at ours here.

We hope you’ve found our advice helpful

That’s the last of our three articles.

We have been working hard for over 20 years to perfect family skiing holidays. If you have any questions please get in touch!

Welcome to the second instalment helping you get the most out of your family skiing holiday. We have been providing family-only skiing chalet holidays with childcare for over 20 years and we will share what you want to know and what we think you really ought to know.

We’d love you to come with us but promised our best advice not a sales pitch and we will keep to that.

Last time we focused on how to meet the needs of all the family by picking the right resort and ensuring the right childcare. This time we look at picking the best accommodation.


First and really important – when you have made your accommodation choice you will need to pay for it. Many smaller operators in the Alps operate under the radar without the security of a travel agency bond. This means that in the event of the company going under your money is not protected. Check carefully that your operator is bonded. (Family Ski is protected by ABTOT).

Choosing Accommodation:
Chalet, Hotel or Self-Catering?

There is no doubt that self-catering is an option enjoyed by many families and it is certainly the cheapest option. Of course it is more work – going shopping for supper after a full day on the slopes can be a bit of a chore without children but is definitely not on our list of favourite holiday activities with young children.

Our experience is that the savings from self-catering have to be set alongside the costs that you are going to incur anyway: airfare, driving, ski hire, lift passes, ski lessons and drinks and lunches on the mountain. The percentage difference in the overall cost of the holiday compared with chalet or hotel options can be less than you would think – and the difference in the quality of the experience can make it less than worthwhile. With young families the points below on location convenience apply equally to self-catering.

Hotels vs Chalets?

Cards on the table we only offer chalets because we think they work much better for young families but freely admit that hotels have their advantages provide you pick one that really is set up for young families, especially with good in-house child-care at levels suited to your family.
(Check this includes baby-listening services and suitable mealtimes for young children for instance).

The big difference is that you are more detached from other guests than in a chalet and this suits some people. In hotel facilities can be good including swimming pool and hotel bar and a gym (Though after a day’s skiing this is not at the top of many people’s lists.)

Ski chalets accommodate usually from 6 to 25 guests and you may take over a whole ski chalet with a party of friends or book part of a chalet with your friends and family and join other guests in the ski chalet. Our experience is that, for families with young children, chalets have some important advantages over hotels but just as with hotels it is important to be in a families-only chalet . It does not work to mix 18-30 fun seekers with families!

  • For many people the opportunity to chat with and make new friends for a week is a great part of the experience – it is much easier than in a hotel where you often find yourself hitting it off with people towards the end of a holiday when it feels too late.

  • You are with other families – existing friends or people you have met on holiday. Your children will make friends quickly as children do when they eat and play together and your fellow guests expect to be among children if you holidaying with a family specialist operator

  • Like at home your children are sleeping close by upstairs – you will hear them if they cry and you will not be worrying about the hotel baby-listening service whilst trying to enjoy dinner.

  • The smaller scale of a chalet makes everything easier – the lost ski glove is somewhere in the ski chalet – not somewhere in the hotel

  • In a family specialist ski chalet everything is geared to creating a family friendly environment: details like sterilisers, stair gates, become part of the chalet’s infrastructure – you won’t have to worry about asking for them in a hotel where the degree of child-friendliness is often an unknown.

Choosing the Location

The first factor is convenience which really does matter with children even more than with adults. There is no denying the first morning’s challenge of assembling children ready for ski school in warm ski clothes, gloves boots, sunglasses, snack and sun cream by 9.00 or so. You do not want to increase the challenge by adding even a 10 minute bus journey to the nursery slopes – which may well be in a different area to where the parents will be skiing.

At Family Ski all our chalets have very easy access indeed to the slopes for children as well as adults. Most are ski in ski out i.e. you are a few metres at most from leaving the chalet with your skis on in the morning and returning home in the same manner. Secondly all our chalets have easy access to ski school for children.  You will want to look for similar convenience wherever you go.

Child Friendliness

There are some more basic questions to ask concerning child-friendliness: stair-gates for example – are they fitted, do they work and can you count on everyone in the chalet to use them, even those without toddlers? Sterilising equipment, toys, suitable and not unsuitable videos.

After that what do families with young children including those in the earlier teens need around a chalet to have a great holiday? In truth less is often more. Even teenagers seem to grow a year or two younger when it comes to simply enjoying playing in the snow around the chalet. A stream, a small wood and somewhere to build an igloo or sledge after tea in safety are far better than a busy street with shops and traffic powering through on the wrong side of the road.

All Family Ski chalets are in small child-friendly villages that are attached to very big ski areas. For example, in Les Coches our chalets are 100 metres away from a small pleasant pedestrian-only village with a good bar and a few shops but even then, the focal point of our guests’ evening is almost always the chalet and that of the children, just outside the chalet, playing in the snow.

Chalet Luxuries

Finally you will of course want to look at the chalet itself. En-suite bathrooms, roaring fires and hot tubs where pleasantly tired skiers can sip champagne whilst gazing at the Alpine night sky have become the experience that our guests expect and you will find that these luxuries will make all the difference to your enjoyment as parents. Apart from the hot tub the children are unlikely to notice such refinements – just make sure there is a video and play area for when they have finally had enough of igloo-building or sledging.

Eighteen of the nineteen Family Ski Company Chalets have hot tubs, most have en-suite facilities and almost all have wood fires. For most of our guests most of the time these touches win hands down when it comes to deciding whether to step out to the local bar or stay in by the fire especially with pleasantly tired ski legs. Take a look at our chalets.

Next time…

we will look at when to go including the pros and cons of various times in the ski calendar.

Read Part 3/3 now..

Welcome to the first of three blog articles with our very best advice on how to get the most out of your family skiing holiday. We have been providing family-only skiing chalet holidays with childcare for over 20 years and we are more than happy to share everything we have learned. We’d love you to come with us but promise our best advice not a sales pitch.

Family skiers generally fall into these groups:

  • First time for all the family
  • Back skiing after children
  • Going with other families
  • Including grand parents

In all these cases the best family skiing experiences meet the aspirations of all family members as individuals and together as a family or bigger group.

The two biggest factors in this are childcare and resort choice and so here are some pointers on both to look out for when planning your holiday:


Even if you are all beginners young children learn best with kids their own age whilst you are in an adult class. For families with more skiing experience, if your children are having fun learning to ski on the nursery slopes, or playing in the crèche and your partner is burning adrenalin with some competitive pals whilst you are taking a few gentle turns in a nice sociable ski lesson everyone is happy.

You can all look forward to a nice lunch and some quality time skiing together in the afternoon. When it comes to families skiing together, good childcare is really the key to making it work for everyone.

You need childcare that clearly recognises that what works best changes as children grow – not kids of all ages in the same group.  

If your children are younger than 4 they won’t be skiing but having just as much fun playing in the snow, hunting  bears in the woods, playing games indoors with children their own age. Younger skiers aged 4 to 6 respond best to a morning in ski school and other fun activities in the afternoon, rather than a whole day’s skiing. At 7 plus, skiing 6 mornings and then varying afternoons between skiing and other adventures produces the most progress and is the most enjoyable for most children.

Of course children are different and you need to make sure that childcare arrangements are sufficiently flexible. By far the best is full-day childcare for all your holiday but with flexibility to take your children skiing for the afternoon whenever you like. Though if the childcare is really good you may find the youngsters take a little persuading to leave their friends. Childcare is at heart of what we do and this is how we organise it.

How to choose the best family skiing resort

Once again the trick is to meet all the family’s individual needs and there are a few resorts that really do let you have your family cake and eat it. Here are some pointers.

Firstly don’t be fooled by the term “family resort” applied to a small ski station at low altitude with few facilities. We have nothing against small resorts and they can great fun and great value but only where nursery slopes are good and easily accessible and only then when snow conditions are really good and you will usually know that far enough ahead to book a family skiing holiday.

Neither do you want to be in a big strung out resort with long and difficult access between the slopes, your accommodation and other facilities. For example St Anton and Chamonix are great for serious skiers but a poor choice for families with young children.

No matter what your level of skiing you need snow and in fact beginners benefit from good snow more than experts who can cope with different snow different conditions.  If you have good skiers among your party you will also want an extensive ski area for variety over the week.

Putting this together we have found that small, low traffic resorts that are well located at the centre of  big ski areas are best for families. This might mean villages you have never heard of but in famous ski areas. We are in the Portes du Soleil, Three Valleys, and Paradiski (La Plagne Les Arcs).

Access to the lifts and especially the ski school is critical. Carrying your skis and clomping in ski boots to a bus stop and then on to the slopes is never much fun but you really don’t want to be doing it with young children. Accommodation within 150m of the lift to ski school and beyond, preferably  ski-in and ski out is best for families. It is nice to have a bar or two for an après ski or evening out but our experience is that while many parents enjoy an après ski celebration of their skiing day, late night bar revelling tends to be replaced by chalet dinner parties with children asleep upstairs.

How do I make sure there will be snow?

You will be told that it is all about altitude and that you should pick a resort at 1800 or 2000 metres. It is certainly true that high altitude is a good way to be sure of snow but it is only part of the answer. In recent years snow-making has become more and more widespread as resorts have invested heavily to make sure key runs are skiable and the bigger resorts have invested the most.

However the orientation and substrate of the slopes can be even more important than altitude.  For example, our resort in Ardent at the heart of the Portes du Soleil is at just 1200 metres but the run down to our resort of Ardent is in a sheltered north-west facing  valley and on a rock base which keeps the snow cold.  As a result in the twenty plus years we have been skiing there the run has been open and skiable from the very beginning to the end of the season apart from three days fifteen years ago.

Lower slopes in nearby Les Gets and Morzine are on meadow, lower and not so sheltered so lose their snow much more readily.  So it is worth checking out more than just altitude when you are selecting a resort. Ask also about snow record on the runs down to the resort where you will be staying.

A special note on the nursery slopes were young children will be spending their first few days on the snow before venturing up the slopes.  It can feel like a good idea to pick a resort where the nursery slope is on the edge of the resort village.

This is fine for high resorts  and our “Jardin de Neige” nursery ski school is in our resort of Reberty – but that is at 2000 metres. But in all but the highest resorts better snow conditions, easier for beginners to learn to ski in, will be found higher up by taking a lift up. Check too where nursery slopes are and how easy it is to get there.

Family Ski Company concentrate in the best
three family friendly resorts:
Ardent, RebertyLes Coches.

we have previously been in other resorts and left because they did not work as well for families.

Coming up in part 2:

We will look at choosing where and when to go looking at accommodation choices: self-catering, hotel or chalet. We also look at the pros and cons of various time of the skiing year.

Read Part 2/3 now..