“At what age can I take my children skiing?” is one of the most frequently asked questions we get.
Well, you can actually take them on a flight from 10 days old with British Airways, and Easyjet will take them from 14 days old! But how do you actually manage to ski with a new baby or a child?
Here are a few tried and tested options…
A family specialist with child-care or creche
For first-time skiing parents this is a very good option. You can literally leave the breakfast table and go skiing and return when the lifts and lesson stop.
Meanwhile your children are being looked after and entertained by a qualified childcare team and nursery staff. The childcare team collects your child with all their paraphernalia and delivers them to and from ski school in the morning and afternoon. They also take them to lunch.
When you return from your day on the slopes to your chalet, the children are enjoying a supervised kids tea. So you, as a parent, really are on holiday as well. The childcare teams are generally flexible and if you want to ski with your children in the afternoon for half of the week, you can sign them out of childcare and return them for tea as suits you.
Do it Yourself
If you choose to piece the holiday together yourself then you have a number of options for childcare.
Bring your own nanny or au pair
This is a popular option when a group of friends and family travel together. Sharing a nanny means you have that extra help on the plane, through the airport and with the transfers, as well as in resort and in the evenings. They can work to your agreed schedule.
How does it work?
My Travelling Nanny is one such specialist company. The family pays all the travel, accommodation and meals costs for the nanny. The cost for a week is from £325-£670 per week depending on how many hours and evenings you require the nanny service for.
Alternatively, if you are fortunate to have an extended family who like travelling and caring for your off-spring then rope-in the grandparents, aunties and uncles.
Local childcare resort
Different countries and regions have varying age limits for creche, kindergarten and ski school so if you shop around you will find someone who can care for your children, no matter what their age.
What age will they take babies from?
Hillwood Ski are based in Austria and will take babies as young as 6 weeks old. However, if you are looking to book a week or two away with a British tour operator then generally speaking the youngest they will care for is four months or 17 weeks old.
In resort-nanny services
A number of British nanny companies operate across the most popular resorts with British skiers. t4nanny.com operates in Courchevel, La Plagne, La Tania, Méribel, Tignes and Val d’Isère.
st-anton-childcare.com operates in Chamonix, Courchevel, Mégève, Méribel, Samoens, St Anton, La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand.
petitverbier.com provides Verbier based nannies, babysitting and equipment rental. Handy if you need an additional pram, or cot for the week.
In-resort nanny services and babysitting can also be requested through the local tourist office - however these may not be English-speaking and qualifications will vary.
Ski Schools and Ski Crèche
Many resorts have a ski crèche/ kindergarten attached to the ski schools. In Verbier, for example, Les Moulins Childcare will take your child from 3 months old. 50CHF for a half day, 70CHF with lunch, 85CHF for a full day: 8.30am – 3.30pm
Avoriaz has been awarded ‘Family Resort’ status for several years, partly due to its incredible Villages des Enfants that takes children from aged 3. Based in the centre of the village they run a tight ship and all nationalities are catered for. The prices here are very reasonable; €39 for a half day, €49 with lunch, €59 for a full day 9am - 5.30pm
If you are travelling with a British operator they tend to wait until your child is 3 before they send them to ski school. However, to quote Graham Bell “in Austria they take them skiing as soon as they are out of nappies”.
If you go directly to the Austrian, French or Swiss ski school you can get them going on skis from as young as 2 years old. As long as they are out of nappies.
Some parents may want to have the piece of mind where their child is when leaving them in resort with a ski school or crèche. There are devices your child can wear and you can check on a mobile app where there location is. Most come as a watch the child can wear. For example the LG Red GizmoGadget has a cool fun design but also tracks GPS and also acts as a simple sports watch by tracking their physical activity too.
Five things to remember when dropping the kids off for the day
- Make it fun. It may sound obvious but don't say you’ll miss them! Instead say we’ll be back soon to see how much fun you’ve had.
- Sunscreen. Apply well before they head out onto the slopes so that it has time to absorb, then it’s less likely to rub off or run into their eyes if they sweat.
- Pocket money and snack. Check to see if there will be a hot chocolate stop, in which case pop a few Euros in their pocket and a little snack/treat.
- Dress them appropriately for the weather, remembering that too hot can be as uncomfortable as too cold. Gloves that open up or mittens make it much easier for you and the instructors to put them back on after a little break. Make sure they have sunglasses as well as goggles as it can be hard for little ones to eat and drink in the sun with huge goggles covering their little faces.
- Name it - make sure everything has a sticky label on it. Skis, poles, helmets, gloves, hats, hoods on jackets.
And finally parents…
Write your childcare details on paper as well as storing them in your phone. If your phone stops working due to low battery or extreme cold, you still have the details should you need them.
Leave two different emergency contact numbers with your childcare, in case they need to contact you and your phone battery has run out.
It is wise to keep your phone in an inside pocket or pop it into a spare glove to stop it from freezing.
And always make sure you are back in good time to collect your children at end of the session so you can get any feedback from the instructors, teachers or carers.