Family Ski holiday – tips and advice for your first time skiing with your family ski
Christmas 2015 saw my family and I embark on our first ski holiday! Although the rest of the family had skied it was the first time for me. We booked with Crystal Ski Holidays and went to Les Deux Alpes, France. Ive put this blog together in case you are about to embark first family ski trip. There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into this type of holiday especially if you have not skied before so to take some of the mystery out of it I have put together my top tips and advice for a first family ski holiday. Prior to prepping and planning I did find this somewhat of a daunting task and not as straightforward as our holiday in Cornwall last summer.
Before you depart make sure you have the appropriate Travel insurance; it’s always best to check the small print to ensure winter sports is included. Also if in the EU make sure you apply for an EHIC card; when applying on line make sure that you do through the government website as there are private companies that offer to do it for a charge and it is free, I’ve known countless people that have fallen for this.
What to wear on the Slopes
- Layers, layers, layers! Yes lots of them you can always strip off if you get too hot! Thermals and base layers are a must but I’ll be honest and say that I found my thermal leggings sagged and I got a sweaty bum from them. For some bizarre reason I took my Adidas Climacool Running tights and found these kept me warm, stayed in shape and I didn’t get sweaty in them.
- Ski Socks of the tube variety as the ski boots can be quite hard or your ankles and feet so these give you good padding, plus tub socks have less seams to rub.
- Salopettes and Ski Jacket. These will keep you dry and act as that final barrier against the cold. I found that the ski pass machines in the European resorts tend to be on the left side as you approach them so having a zipped pocket on the left sleeve or a breast pocket is handy as you just keep your ski pass in one of these and the machine will zap you instead of you having to fumble for your pass and annoy everyone else that’s in the queue behind you! Also jackets are generally lightweight nowadays as it’s all about layering up!
- Helmet – this really is a must! I got wiped out twice whilst skiing and one involved a snowboard and my head! Need I say more?
- Buff or Neck Gaiter – it can get chilly and these just keep the cold out. On the lower slopes I didn’t wear one but up on the glacier it was windy and I was able to cover my face without getting twisted up like you would with a scarf!
- Goggles keep the wind out of your eyes and from your eyelashes frosting up like mine started to do when I was up on a glacier on a foggy morning!
- Sun Glasses for when the sun’s out! The reflection off the snow can be very bright plus it’s a chance to look remotely cool! (Well in my head I thought I did).
- Swimming trunks or swimsuits if your accommodation has a hot tub; it’s a great way to chill out and relax those tired muscles after a day on the slopes.
Buy, borrow or hit the sales!
Kitting you and your family out for a ski trip needn’t cost the earth. Especially as children have this habit of growing as if anyone has any ski gear you could borrow. You’ll be surprised how many people offer up the loan of ski gear if you mention you are going on a ski holiday. Take them up on this offer, some nice chocolates and a bottle of wine is always a nice way of saying thank you for the loan if you do borrow any kit.
Trawl the internet there is always a ski sale on somewhere and out of season is generally where you find bargains.
Remember prior to packing get everyone to try it on! Also get it all ready each night before hitting the slopes. Generally to make the most of the slopes or if you have morning lessons you will be out early; prep the night before including sorting back packs, etc will really pay off.
When you book your holiday take the opportunity to check out prices for hiring skis, boots and poles. If it’s a package holiday check it’s included if not search ski hire online in the resort you are going to. It will all be pretty standard stuff and nothing fancy if you are a beginner but it will do the job. Prepare yourself for the boots; first couple of days I found extremely uncomfortable but stick with it your feet will get used to it. I also found it easier standing up when I put them on instead of sitting down and pulling them on. You can wear them loose if you are walking around in them but make sure they are done up tightly around your calves as this helps with your skiing technique. Don’t know why but it worked for me!
Don’t worry about not being sure how to clip your boots into your ski’s as your instructor will show you how to do this and you will be quite the pro by the end of your holiday.
I so wish I’d found out about these prior to my ski holiday. We were half a mile from the slopes. Lugging ski equipment and wearing boots from the chalet is something I NEVER want to repeat! Plus I ended up carry my 9 year old’s ski equipment so let’s just say it was a fraught journey to the slopes. Day 2 we found out we could hire a ski locker for approxiamately 10 Euros a day, close to the slopes. These held all our ski equipment and had the luxury of boot warmers. In my view money well spent! So if you’ve got to trek
What to take on Ski Slopes
- Back packs. Especially if you are all going off in different directions but go for something small and carry only the essentials. My family all ended up in different groups. However, make the most of all the various pockets you will have on your jacket and Salopettes but don’t bulk yourself out too much!
- Sun block. You will need this as the sun (if it’s out will reflect off the snow and you standing a greater chance of burning). I slathered it on the kids before they went out on their lessons and put a small tube in their back packs.
- Lip Balm with SPF as with sun block do take it! You can keep this in a pocket.
- A bottle of water. You will need this!
- Cereal Bars or something like a Twix or Mars Bar. You will burn a huge amount of calories when skiing even if you are a beginner. I was ravenous at the end of my first 2 hour lesson and was glad I had a cereal bar in my pocket!
- Money for a hot chocolate/snack. There will be plenty of cafes’ on the slopes. Also mid lesson your instructor may take you or your children to café for a quick drink to get you through the rest of the lesson. My kids tended to go for a hot chocolate break with their instructors but some won’t but that depends on the Instructor, the queues and where you are mid session.
Ski Lessons; Private or group?
Firstly my children all had a couple of lessons before they went. Admittedly on a dry slope but it helped them get to grips with the basics and as a result skipped beginner level. They progressed in their actual ski lessons whilst on holiday but I was told by my instructor that children do progress quicker then adults. I suppose they are fearless unlike me! I had group lessons each morning with one private lesson; expensive but worth it as it sharpened my technique and all the instruction was focused on ME!
I was the complete beginner in my family and I had a group lesson each morning that lasted 2.5 hours. Not only did the instructor get me on my ski’s, mastering turns and eventually parallel skiing (last day) he gave me the confidence to use the button/drag lifts, t-bars and chairlifts. I won’t event begin to impart my knowledge of how to ski as I am no expert but the best advice from my instructor which really resonated with me was:
- Always look ahead and not at your ski’s
- When turning always concentrate your weight (approx 90%) on the outside foot/ski; you never fall up a slope
- Don’t worry about the speed it will come instead concentrate on your technique
- Only concentrate on your own progress not the others in your group or ski party
- Enjoy the learning to ski
- Skiing is 90% in your head so focus and concentrate on what you are doing not what’s happening around you!
My lessons equipped me with the technique and confidence but I practiced on in the afternoon to reinforce what I had learnt during my lessons.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your instructor questions they are always happy to answer questions! Plus I found out loads about the resort from my instructors such as best places to eat and drink, best times to getup to the glacier and what else was on in the resort.
Ski Lessons before you go?
In hindsight I wish I had lessons before I went but simply ran out of time. However it didn’t put me at much of a disadvantage I went out wanting to learn and my progress from the first day of putting on skis to skiing at glacier (twice) on my final couple of days just proved that I had made a phenomenal amount of progress. I did practise a lot in the afternoons so missed out on the Après Ski a lot of the time as the slopes and lifts were quieter; I suppose that was my only slight regret after all I was on holiday!
Get out on the slopes early if you can
Slopes and lifts are generally quieter in the mornings so take advantage to get some practice in or simply enjoy the calm of a quieter slope. Get your ski wear and kit ready the night before!
Get fit before you go
I workout out and run a lot; I found this put me at an advantage in my lessons as I didn’t tire as easy and I’ve got a strong core which helped me with my balance and turns. Skiing, particularly if you have never done it before, is hard work. Think about doing exercise that will strengthen your legs (squats, lunges) and core (planks, crunches). Any sort of cardio exercises will help not only for tackling the slopes but lugging ski equipment can be exhausting, Pinterest has some great Ski Workout boards for you to get inspiration from.
Finally remember to enjoy your first ski holiday!
There are a lot of things to consider but planning and preparation will help take some of the pressure off. Get all the family involved in getting ready. When it comes to learning to Ski be proud of your achievement! At the end of it you will have learnt a new skill! I was totally buzzing after skiing down my first glacier and that was after only 4 days of lessons. The ultimate for me was going on a family ski down an ‘easy’ blue run on our last full day my nephew filmed it on his go pro. Now I can’t wait to get back on the slopes next year and neither can my family now we’ve just got to choose which resort we go to next!