Sharing the magic of the mountains with your children is a special way to make long lasting special memories. Think sunny days, fresh air and great food. Picture rosy-cheeked children with a healthy glow from being active in the great outdoors. Imagine roaring fires, cosy chalets and good wine. Fast forward to what can be the reality for many…….a hugely expensive holiday, overtired difficult children and harassed parents. However, its worth it – I promise! And there are many ways that you can prepare. Read on to learn more about half term skiing: how to survive the madness!
Half term is the most popular time for families to ski. However, UK and french school holidays often coincide so the resorts and pistes are extremely busy over February half term. Tour operators and hotels are usually completely booked up, holiday home owners flock to their chalets and apartments are full. Busy resorts can lead to logistical challenges with transport, parking, eating and booking services. I have complied my top tips to help you to minimise stress when skiing at half term.
Top Tips for half term skiing
Start by preparing well for your journey to the moutains. Airports are notoriously busy at February half term time. Be prepared for queues (both in the airports and on the roads). Make sure that you have plenty of snacks and activities for children. Think about what you are wearing to travel. All too often, people wear bulky clothing and ski jackets which can be restrictive and too warm. Try and wear layers that can be easily removed so that you don’t overheat en route.
If you’re travelling with young children, keep a change of clothes accessible (for all of you). Think spillages, accidents and travel sickness on windy mountain roads. Also, keep a packet of baby wipes and tissues handy.
If you arrive in a resort feeling harassed after a difficult journey, it can take a while to get back on track. I wrote more about this in a previous blog on why skiing brings out the best and worst in people.
For school holiday periods, book ski lessons at least six months before your trip (a year if possible). Finding a free ski instructor in half term is near impossible.
Leave early to get to lessons so you don’t have a panic if it takes you longer to get to the meeting point you anticipated.
Ski and board equipment
Prebook ski and snow boarding equipment to avoid a last minute rush when you arrive in resort. Many companies offer a delivery service where they will bring the skis and boards straight to your door, for example Door Step Skis in Morzine and Snowberry in Val d’Isere. This hugely takes the stress out of ski and board hire. No more traipsing to the shop and queueing for kit.
Buy a lift pass on line, order it through your tour operator or buy it the day you arrive. You don’t want to spend ages queueing for a lift pass the first day that you want to hit the slopes.
Restaurants and meals
Book evening restaurants well in advance to avoid disappointment. Ideally book before you arrive in the resort.
If the weather is warm enough, consider a picnic lunch. This will save you money and help you avoid queues in busy mountain restaurants. It is so easy to grab a baguette and some ham or cheese. You could also consider packing some sandwich bags in your luggage to make preparation easier.
If you are self catering, take the stress out of cooking each night and order a few meals in. There are a growing number of companies that now offer a food delivery service. An example of a company delivering fresh meals to your door in Morzine is Chez Michelle and across the french alps is Huski.
During February half term the pistes are extremely busy. I would strongly recommend teaching your children about piste safety and the skiers highway code.
We covered many aspects of snow sports safety in our blog on skiing out of control.
Be prepared for all weather. February can be freezing cold or very warm. Dress yourselves and your children appropriately. Again, think about wearing layers that can be easily added or removed rather than bulky tops.
Pack at least two pairs of gloves per child for your holiday. For young children put the gloves on an elastic or velcro strap to reduce the chance of loosing one! Having a spare pair will also help if the children have been building snowman. No one wants to put on wet soggy gloves and the cold can be dangerous for little fingers.
I find that mittens are usually best for keeping little hands warm. If you have very young children, putting gloves on can be challenging. However, there are some great gloves on the market that zip down to the wrist to make life easier. Check out these links:
Think about the little things that will make getting out the chalet easier the next morning. Ensure that all wet clothing is hung out to dry and don’t leave your ski boots in the cold over night. They will be very stiff and difficult to get on the next day.
Getting yourselves and children dressed and out of the house in full ski gear can be a huge palaver if you are not used to it! Plan the time that you need to leave the chalet and start getting your outdoor gear on at least 15 minutes before you are due to leave. Trust me, it can take this long to wrestle little ones into their salopettes and ski boots.
Unless you have to plan your timing around lessons, leave early to get the first lifts. An early start means that the queues won’t have had much time to build and you can head away towards quieter pistes straight away.
Think about what time you will eat your lunch. Between midday and 2pm the pistes are usually much quieter so this can be a great time to ski and board to avoid the crowds.
If you are physically in discomfort from poor fitting equipment, aches and pains or injuries then stress levels are likely to run higher. Be fit to ski, pace yourselves and think about recovery after skiing. Wear suncream and dress according to the weather. Ensure good fitting equipment that is adjusted to your specific needs and ability.
You may be on holiday, but avoid the temptation to keep children up too late. Over tired children can lead to meltdowns and therefore frazzled parents. Also bear in mind that the altitude, exercise and cold temperatures can tire all of us out more than usual! A ski trip is not like a summer holiday where you can sleep off late nights next to the pool the following day.
If you have very young children or babies, have a look at our blog on skiing with a baby for tips and ideas on how to make this as easy and fuss free as possible.
If you need a nanny or babysitter during half term you will need to book this months in advance. Also, consider if you will need a lunch club (if available) with ski school or creche facilities during your trip. The earlier you book, the less likely that you are to miss out.
Finally, if you are working in a resort for a season, use this time to maximise your income. Avoid the slopes when they are packed and increase your hours to benefit your earnings if possible. This may not be an option if you are working in a chalet, however sometimes you can bank over time hours which you can then use during a quieter period.
Take the trip!
So to sum up, take the trip! It is well worth it and an alpine experience with your family will undoubtably be special. The better you can plan, the more enjoyment you will have.