The first time I ever skied was three years ago. So my first ski holiday was skiing with kids – we were all beginners. We were also a bit of a ragtag group as my husband opted to snowboard – less because he wanted to look cool (ha!) and more because the many knee ops he has had made boarding a better option.
So, while I am an expert at being a first time skier with kids, I am not expert skier! But Christine Kerbl is…she’s the owner of the fabulously family friendly Hotel Stadt Wien in Zell-Am-See, Austria.
I asked Christine to share her advice with us:
Skiing with kids – what would be the top three things you would take?
‘Joy! Make the best out of your holidays no matter if it is heavily snowing or if you can already sunbathe in March. A really fatty cream (for cold temperatures) and a sun block – the sun is more aggressive on the mountain. Another priority is good gloves to keep your hands warm and dry – for you and the kids’
What if you’re not a skier? Won’t it be boring?
‘Boring? Definitely not if you have chosen the right region – anyway you will be busy in the mornings until the kids are in ski-school making sure that all are in time and have everything with them – afterwards sit down take a breath and relax!!
Either in the spa of your hotel or maybe the region offers a thermal water resort like Tauern Spa. You could do a shopping tour in town, take part of a guided wild animal feeding, or you can be sporty by yourself without wearing skis: e.g. Guided snow shoe hiking or a toboggan run. In Bramberg there is the longest in the world with 14 km, ice skating on the lake or indoor…everything is possible!’
What’s important in a resort when you are skiing with kids?
‘It’s a good idea to choose a resort that’s easy to access – perhaps not in a valley where, if it snows heavily, you could become blocked in…leading to all kinds of missed flight related dramas’.
Christine also points out that the altitude matters: ‘Travelling in January to a really high ski-resort might cause problems due to the low temperatures which easily can go far more down than -10°C and that makes it really uncomfortable for the kids.’
If your children will be attending ski school (which is advisable if they have never skied before) make sure you check in advance what age they can enrol. Christine also points out it’s worth checking there are enough gentle slopes for your kids to learn on…and that life is usually a lot easier at ski resorts with more chair lifts and less t-bar lifts!
Just to add to this, when travelling with the kids I would always choose a resort that doesn’t have a really long airport transfer – especially as you’re only likely to be away for a week.
How young can you start…and is there a thing as too old to learn?
‘Generally the rule is: you are never too old! And once you have learned it, it is like riding a bicycle – you won’t forget it!’
‘Usually you can start at 4 years old in ski school (there is as well a mini club for smaller ones) – our daughter started with 2,5 and was fine with it just because she wanted it so much. But my advice would be don’t force your kids otherwise they will lose the joy of skiing.’
Top Tips on Skiing With Kids
Ok, so now onto the top tips on making your ski holiday as fun and enjoyable as possible for the whole family!
What ski gear will we need?
- Unless your plan to ski a lot, it make sense to hire equipment. Often you can get a discount if you book along with ski lessons
- Check that helmets are included in ski hire – or take your own. Don’t ski without them
- Good ski gloves really are essential and these are the item that I wouldn’t really scrimp on…especially for the kids as they seem to have their hands in the snow ALL the time! My husband’s gloves ripped (after two years) and he splashed out on some Hestra gloves. They are amazing…my instructor was still wearing a pair he bought in 2004. It’s a family owned company based in Sweden and the quality of the product is amazing…a bit pricey, but built to last. This is one thing I would invest in, and these are the ones I would probably go for
- Go for layers…a thermal top, a fleece and a jacket. That way you can add or take off layers depending on the temperature
- Neck warmers are a great idea, and help keep the wind off your face. Pack some hats for when you are coming home from the slopes to keep you warm
- I bought fairly cheap ski goggles for me and the kids and they were fine…until it started snowing REALLY heavily and then they weren’t great. But still, I don’t think I would splurge on fancy goggles unless I was skiing a lot
- Take several pairs of ski socks and make sure they fit properly…don’t be tempted to put socks on underneath as this will end up hurting your feet
- And speaking of feet…make sure you packs some blister plasters. We used Compeed and they are brilliant…they stayed on through skiing, showers and saunas and kept my feet blister-free
Ski gear for the kids
- Key words to look for on ski gear – insulated, waterproof, breathable and taped seams
- My girls’ ski jacked are from Boden. They wear them to school to which makes them cost efficient. They are fabulous – waterproof, hard wearing and they have snow skirts. And the patterns are so bright I can spot them anywhere! Similar ones are available here in the sale
- Some brands have grow cuffs which means you can let them out as your child grows
- For super cold days a soft balaclava under the helmet will keep little faces warm
- My favourite brand for fleeces is Odlo, and I loved these Marks and Spencer thermals (the women’s selection is very good too and good value). International delivery is available
What else to pack?
- As Christine said, a good fatty cream is essential (I like this one from La Roche Posay…it’s for sensitive skin so I use it on myself and the kids) as is high factor sun block. I also take a heavy duty lip balm
- One word: knickers. Lots of them. I pack two pairs of clean underwear for me and the kids for every day so we can get changed after skiing…and so I don’t have to wash them while we’re away
- Slippers are a great thing to pack for after skiing when your feet ache…we wore ours around the hotel and no-one batted an eyelid. I treated myself to some Ugg slippers when we moved to Germany and they were a great buy…nearly three years on they are still in great condition and so comfy and snuggly (and they don’t smell! That’s what you were thinking, right?!)
- You will need less ‘normal’ clothes than you think. And when you’re thinking clothes, think comfy
- Unless you’re a great skier, don’t have high hopes of looking super glam on the slopes! A waterproof mascara was about as far as my beauty regime went…and as I spent a lot of time face down in the snow I was glad I didn’t bother with anything else!
- By the end of every day my hair was so matted under my helmet that it could have provided a nest for small woodland creatures. Take a good hairbrush and conditioner! I am obsessed with Tangle Teezers, anyone else?
- Sunglasses…the easiest way to slightly improve the glam factor and hide a multitude of sins!
- Packs of tissues to pop into everyone’s pockets
- If you suffer form very cold hands, take some reusable hand warmers
Where can we save money?!
Skiing is never going to be a budget holiday choice – especially if you are skiing with kids and paying for ski school. But if you’re never going to make it cheap, there are some ways you can make it less expensive…
- There are lots of places to ski, and some are far more expensive than others. Bulgaria, for example, will be less expensive than Switzerland. But makes sure that there is a good likelihood of snow in your chosen resort at the time you are going
- Don’t buy all the gear! Especially if it’s your first time and you aren’t sure if you’ll all enjoy it. Hire your equipment and beg or borrow ski gear
- If you have to buy the gear, buy carefully. Shop the sales in Spring (I got all my stuff at 60% off…admittedly, it’s not quite what I would have chosen, but it does the job and it only gets worn one week a year).
- Check out shops like Lidl and Aldi who, in the run up to Winter, do fabulous (tried and tested) thermals for kids…and I heard good reports on their ski socks too
- Buy your kids’ gear in the next size up so they will get more than one season out of it
- Eating on the slopes is usually expensive so taking a packed lunch would be a way of saving
- Bring high energy snacks from home and pack them in everyone’s pocket…rather than paying inflated prices for snack bars when the kids are moaning that they are too hungry to wait til lunch
Other hard-learned tips on skiing with kids…
- One more run? Nope! Stop before the kids get too tired and cold (or you do…)
- Get your kids well drilled on ski-lift protocol…i.e. when the lift comes to a stop get off and out of the way as quickly as possible!
- If you are driving, make sure you have winter tyres/ snow chains on and that everything is in good working order with your car
- Get there early…and get all your ski gear the day before you are due to start. You’ll avoid queues at the rental shop and you can be a bit smug when you get out on the slopes early the next day…or enjoy a longer breakfast
- Make sure your travel insurance covers ski holidays – some don’t, and you REALLY need to have insurance!
- Take a pack of cards, or Dobble or (our current fave, Boggle Slam) for some family fun when you are back at your hotel after a hard days skiing. We all made sure we had some chill out time after ski school, so we packed colouring books, books etc for the kids too
- If there’s a shuttle bus, take it…but be prepared for a crush at busy times! It will save you walking far in heavy snow boots
- ‘No pee no ski’. Get everyone to the loo before they set off so you can make sure they are properly dressed and won’t be bursting for the loo half way down a slope!
Where did we stay? The Details…
We have skied at the same place for the past three years – and stayed in the same hotel. And I am not the type of person that usually goes back to the same place twice…but when a place is as perfect as this…well, it’s hard to leave and easy to return!
We go to Zell Am See in Austria which is about an hour from Salzburg. It’s a beautiful part of Austria and the town on the the lake is picture perfect.
The skiing is great for kids and beginners – lots of blue slopes, very easy to navigate. the restaurants and cafes on the slopes are generally really good.
The ski school is brilliant – we all really enjoyed it, and the instructors are great.
And the hotel? Well, we love it. The shuttle bus runs from directly outside and takes minutes to get to the slopes. You can ski back down. The hotel is is family owned and Christine and Klaus are wonderful hosts – in general, the staff are fantastic. We like the fact that you are assigned your own dining table and sit there for the whole holiday – breakfast and evening meals are included, as is an afternoon snack. I am a foodie and I was SO impressed by the standard of the food. Don’t come here thinking you’ll lose weight…
The kids loved the pool, my husband loved the sauna, and I loved the massage that I had (totally recommend). In a word, we would happily go back here every single year. And no, this post is not sponsored by the hotel!
So, would you add any tips to these? Would love to hear from you!
Interested in more kid-friendly travel tips?