“Mum can you take me skiing?”

By Fiona Jane Best

Term dates and my husbands work schedule didn't mix and match this year. So, I decided to grab the Milka Cow by the horns and go it alone with my son, aged 6, to Alpe d'Huez. Here’s what I learnt as a single-parent skiing…

Airports - Go local or go loco.

A regional airport, in my opinion, is far less stressful. Our trip was out of Southampton, a small efficiently run regional airport, where it’s difficult to misplace a child.

Keep hand luggage to a minimum when travelling with children. It makes passing through security easier. Pack anything you may need for the coach journey in your hold luggage and grab it on arrival in Chambery.

If you are going to eat at the airport take heed. Children may not always be the best travellers. With this in mind a dry breakfast of perhaps toast and jam, or a croissant with a drink of water is advisable. Milky breakfasts alongside fruit juices can, and usually do, reappear on the winding mountain roads.

Transfers - Don’t overfill the children

So we had packed in our hold luggage flapjacks and crisps as a snack for the bus journey so we grabbed them and bordered our transfer. Within just 15 minutes of finding our Rep and our coach to Alpe d’Huez we were setting off. It was to be just over two hours, manageable, and we both actually fell asleep after the welcome speeches. We woke when the rep announced we were now climbing up to resort. We counted 21 bends on the road up to Alpe d’Huez and thankfully we all arrived in one piece.

However, when the evening coach arrived with the rest of the weeks guests one lady appeared wearing a ski jacket and just pants on her lower half. Her young child, she informed us, had exploded on bend number 18!

Fiona Jane Best

Resort - Choose one with good skiing and non-skiing activities

Fun runs, large learn-to-ski or 'ski tranquil' areas provide confidence boosting areas for you to take your children to after their morning lessons. There a number of really good family resorts and these do tend to have the extra activities that you can do with children (cheaply) on bad weather or non-skiing days.

Sometimes when you can’t go skiing you still need to get out, you need to have options. Outdoor pools, indoor pools, high ropes, climbing walls, ice skating, airbags, zip wires, tobogganing runs, inflatable air jumps. In Alpe d’Huez, Tignes and several other resorts the swimming pools are free to use with your weekly lift pass.

The Chalet Hotel - the food just keeps coming

This was my first time in a large Chalet Hotel. The best thing about staying in any chalet or chalet hotel is ‘chalet-board’. It’s an never ending supply of home-made deliciousness.

Each day at 7am Esprit staff laid out an incredible continental breakfast with hot options comprising  pancakes, porridge or full-english. 

There was cake, cookies and savouries at 4pm each day. Children were then fed their high-tea at 5pm. Canapés and cocktails for the adults at 7pm. And finally, at 8pm once the children were all settled into their rooms or into CocoClub a three-course diner was served, followed by cheese . That all washed down with the Chalet wine, which flowed as long as you were seated for diner.

Fiona Jane Best

Child Care and Skiing lessons - Book it. Book it all week…

You can always pull the children out if they are tired or if you want to do something different but it is always better value to pay for the week than add it later.

The children in our hotel were all ‘checked in’ by the incredibly enthusiastic Esprit staff each morning at 8.30am. After receiving their Esprit bib to wear they would do a little Thai Chi in their ski boots on the way to meet their ESF instructors. Most of the children skied from 9am-12pm. Then returned to the chalet hotel for lunch. After eating the Esprit team gathered the children back into CocoClub for more fun and games until 2pm. It was about this time that we would collect the children to ski a little more or go tobogganing or swimming.

The child care team deserve a special mention as they really are the ones who make a holiday like this work so well. Each week they remember an army of children’s names and make each and every individual feel special. Their day starts early as they check the children into childcare. Then the team escort the children to and from their ski lessons where they help the instructors as required throughout the ski lessons. The reps sit with the children and encourage them to eat their lunch and they entertain them both in the chalet and out and about in resort. Then jn the evenings as the grown-ups dine they position themselves along the corridors of bedrooms and ‘baby-listen’ so you can enjoy your meal uninterrupted.

The main event of the week as far as the children are concerned is the prize-giving which includes the ‘gunging' of a member of staff. Certificates from the child-care team, medals from the ESF instructors and then cheers from everyone as the (very good) resort rep was gunged in the deep snow outside.

So is it possible to take a 6 year old skiing on your own?

The chalet hotel’s social dining and communal areas mean you never need feel alone. It’s easy to meet people after all you already have two things in common with everyone on the trip - You love skiing and you have a child.

You do get to have time to yourself, if you want it. There is time to have a bath. There is time to ski a few of the harder runs. But most importantly there is time to meet others and ski with others who have children the same age and ability as your child and to see the smiles on their faces.

Yes it’s possible and yes I would do it again.

Fiona travelled with family specialist Esprit Ski to the Hotel Marirandre, Alpe d’Huez, France.

Fiona Jane Best

The Facts

A six-day adult lift pass is priced from £250/€259.50 per person.
A six-day child (aged 5-12) lift pass is priced from: £173/€205 per person
Lift passes for children aged under 5 years old are free

Ski hire:
Six days’ ski and boot hire for adults is priced from £53 (£63 with helmet) at SKISET 
Six days’ ski, boot and helmet hire for children is priced from £38 (for children aged 3-5 years old); £44 (for children aged 6-11) with SKISET.
TAGS: Single-parent skiing, family skiing, term-time skiing.