Ski holidays in France are always an exceptionally popular choice for British families because is less travel involved, meaning it’s a much cheaper and viable option than Canada or the USA.
If you are planning a family ski holiday in France for the first time, you may find the process a little daunting. There is so much to consider, especially if you have kids of different ages and the research, organisation and weeks leading up to the holiday can be a bit on the stressful side.
Here are some useful tips to help you plan the perfect ski holiday in France for you and your family:
WHERE TO GO?
Here are some great options with four of the best family ski resorts in France.
The most popular of the four is Les Gets which is perfect for families looking for stunning scenery, varied ski options and access to world class slopes. The resort is a very short transfer from Geneva and also offers fantastic ski school options as well as in-chalet childcare.
Les Bruyeres and Reberty 2000 are two of the picturesque satellite resorts situated beside the slopes of Les Menuires, both offering picturesque scenery and excellent high altitude skiing with a range of slopes that cater to all abilities.
Part of the Paradiski ski area, La Plagne is the perfect resort for novice skiers, but there’s also plenty of challenging terrain for the more experienced skiers of the family.
WHEN TO GO?
The European ski season typically runs from the end of November until the end of April. Christmas, New Year, February half term and Easter are the most popular and expensive periods as they coincide with the school holidays so it is essential to be organised and book well in advance.
January is the best time for families as it’s cheap and the slopes are quiet, however, March and April are warmer, with longer daylight hours, so more child-friendly.
One question a lot of families ask is will there be enough snow? This is something you just can’t plan for. You can be somewhat assured if you go in skiing in the winter months. But with recent winters having been quite light in terms of snow, it’s never guaranteed that you’ll get a lot of snow. You should always check snow forecast websites to see what the current conditions are in the area you’re travelling to.
Most ski resorts will either have chalets or hotels or potentially both. Hotels often provide some of the cheapest and most relaxing options for your family ski holiday, with half board accommodation meaning you don’t need to worry about meals. Club Hotels are ideal for teenagers as they normally have a bar, swimming pool, DVD rooms, pool table etc.
Chalets, on the other hand, are a great option for larger families or a group of families travelling together as there is more room available and they’re usually located right on the slopes meaning you can ski straight out the door!
TRANSFERS AND TRAVEL
Some resorts in the French Alps are as little as 30 minutes away from main airports like Geneva and Innsbruck – a real bonus if you are travelling with babies or young children.
Travelling on airlines not catering specifically for families can be a good option as it usually puts you at the front of the queue and they should be able to cope well with just a few children. Most airlines allow the carriage of buggies and pushchairs free of charge.
Organising transfers to and from the airport is a very important step as you don’t want to arrive at a new and strange place and have no idea how to get to your ski resort. If booking your family ski holiday through a Ski Operator then most will offer inclusive flights and transfers meaning you will be met at the airport and then transported to your accommodation, either by shuttle bus, coach or taxi. Bear in mind that they will not usually provide or fit child car seats.
If you are intending to travel by car, Les Gets is particularly easy to drive to as it’s one of the nearest French resorts to the channel. Les Menuires and La Plagne are only an hour further down the autoroute. Check the local laws regarding child car seats and also ensure that your vehicle is suitable for use in snow/icy conditions and that you have snow chains available.
If you haven’t been skiing before, it’s imperative that you book ski lessons for the whole family. This can ease you into the whole experience and set you up with the basic skills needed to have fun, but to also be safe. Most ski resorts will operate a ski school providing lessons for adults as well as children with English-speaking instructors.
Finding the right instructor, guide or ski school can turn an average holiday into an amazing one and there are websites such as comeskiwith.me that can help you make a choice. Find out where the ski school is based and which learning areas or slopes they use. If you are travelling at peak times such as half term of Easter, be sure to pre-book your ski lessons before you travel as some book up very quickly.
SKI EQUIPMENT HIRE
Most ski resorts will have a partner company or their own kit (skis, boots, helmets) to hire out so be sure to book in advance to avoid missing out. They will have a range of sizes and options to suit both adults and children.
In terms of clothing, buying new ski clothes for the whole family can be expensive so first timers should buy second hand, borrow from friends or share amongst themselves.
If you would prefer to buy new then supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl now offer incredibly cheap but pretty good quality winter clothing. You can often kit your child out with winter boots, ski jacket, ski trousers and gloves for around £50.
Clothing and footwear must be water resistant and don’t skimp on accessories such as hats, gloves and goggles.
The alpine environment is a challenge for babies and young children so you should protect them from the extremes of cold, intense sun and snow-reflected light with sun lotion, lip balm, sunglasses etc.
Many tour operators offer some kind of childcare – private nannies, baby equipment, creches. Some resorts may also offer free babysitting, in-chalet childcare or supervised children’s entertainment. Booking ahead is essential though as demand for these services is high.
While some children will want to ski until the last lift, some (especially younger children) may not have the interest or energy for a full day of skiing. Thankfully, there are usually other things to do within the ski resorts such as sleigh rides, tobogganing and ice-skating, not to mention indoor activities such as water parks. In the Les Gets resort for example, après ski activities include dog sledding, paragliding and hot air ballooning.
Once you’ve finished all this planning, all you have to do is get excited. Family skiing holidays can be an exhilarating experience and seeing your kids make their first few turns on skis or watching them fly down a toboggan run with massive smiles on their faces are memories you’ll never forget.