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