Those of you who followed my recent (and first ever) family skiing holiday on Instagram will know:
a) it was my first time skiing with the kids
b) it was a huge success
c) me and my Pink House Dwellers stayed in THE most incredible place, Chalet Mirabelle in St Gervais, near Mont Blanc in the French Alps
d) I’m a lucky, lucky sonofabitch
Much of b) and d) can be explained by c) – finding the right venue for your first-ever family skiing holiday is a large part of making it work, and Chalet Mirabelle is next-level incredible, especially for families – more on this below. But there are other factors that help ensure every member of the family, whatever their ski ability, has a bloody good time. So here are my 5 family holiday skiing commandments, to (almost) guarantee your time on and off the slopes is sensational, no matter how many small people you bring with you:
[Chalet Mirabelle photos by Susie Lowe]
1) Put them into ski school
Ignore this if your child can ski at least as well as you, as then you can just all hit the slopes together (not too hard, mind). But if they’re a beginner/substantially worse skier than you are, then signing them up for lessons is the answer for two reasons: 1) because they’ll learn to ski properly (do NOT attempt to teach your progeny – it will end in tears all round), and 2) because you are no longer encumbered by your child’s and you’re free to slalom at speed down black runs/get stuck into the apres ski. We used the St Gervais Ski School which was excellent – we chose the Flocon class for our 6yo beginner (below), and Class 1 for our 9yo who’d had a few lessons on a dry ski slope and could already do snowplough turns. We pre-booked the kids lessons HERE.
2) Hire a chalet nanny
I appreciate this might not be an option for everyone, as it’s yet another cost on top of what, let’s be honest, is an eye-wateringly expensive holiday. But for me it was the equivalent of buying the jump-the-queue ticket at Legoland: it means you get HOURS AND HOURS more time to enjoy the rides. Ski school tends to last only a couple of hours a day, and I don’t know about you, but that’s not enough free ski time for me. Hire a nanny (or bring a willing, non-skiing grandparent/auntie/mate) and you can take to the slopes before AND after lunch, with a fondue and a glass of gluhwein in between and a spot of table dancing to finish it all off nicely (I recommend the Folie Douce Mont Blanc for spectacular mountainous backdrop (like, duh), live singing, an electric-guitar playing rock star (below), and a smoke machine. Remember? Just like the good old pre-kids days.
3) Stay somewhere that understands kids
By which I mean, somewhere that has really thought through what you AND your children will need to stay warm, comfortable, well-fed and happy while on a skiing holiday. These are family-friendly things that Chalet Mirabelle provided that I would urge you to look for in your accommodation (or just book Chalet Mirabelle, because it doesn’t get any better):
A well-stocked playroom with TV (you won’t have the energy to entertain the kids)
A cook who understands that just because your child is on an exotic skiing holiday, it doesn’t mean he/she has suddenly developed a taste for exotic food
A cook who makes amazing cakes for when you return from skiing
A cook. Period. You don’t want to be cooking after a hard day on the piste – you want to be drinking wine/eating hot cheese/sitting in the sauna or hut tub. Well, at least I do. And tbh that goes for life, not just skiing holidays #icanbutdream
A hamper of snacks because everyone wants to eat all the time, and sometimes crisps are better than cake
Sauna and hot tub (see above). The latter keeps kids amused for ages
Cool bedrooms so they’re excited about bedtime. The bunk beds at CM are just dreamy. Literally. (see below)
4) Pre-book everything possible
By which I mean: ski passes; ski equipment; ski lessons. This way, you will minimise the chances of the Faff Bat ruining your holiday. Not familiar with the Faff Bat? Sure you are – it’s the evil beast that swoops in to waste your time with tedious mundane tasks when you want to be doing something exciting, and is especially likely to be found in the vicinity of small children when you’re trying to leave the house with loads of stuff/perform complicated admin tasks. Pre booking ski passes, equipment and lessons is a sure-fire way to take out the Faff Bat – if the items you require are already in the car/your pocket then FB is left with nothing to do and you and your progeny are into your perfectly fitting ski boots/through the lift gates/saying hi to the ski instructor before you have time to say, ‘has everyone been to the toilet?!’
We used Mov Mountain for our ski hire and they were excellent, turning up at our chalet early on our first day of skiing as requested and fitting our family of four with boots, skis, poles and helmets with minimum fuss.
5) Parents: know your limits!
A word of warning: there is no quicker way to ruin your skiing holiday, even one which follows Commandments 1-4, above, than someone getting hurt. If you, like me, haven’t skied for more than 10 years due to the creation and management of your mini-mes, you may find, as I did, that it takes a day or so to get back into the swing of things. DO NOT RUSH IT! Even if your schussing skills rivalled Graham Bell’s pre-kids, you may find a decade or so off the slopes, plus all the damage done by aforementioned progeny, means that at first you’re less Bell and more, well, bum-plant. I’m not trying to put you off – those skills are still there – but your body might just take a little while to find them. And you may not be quite as, ahem, fit as you once were. So take your time, and stop before you’re exhausted and the only way down to collect the kids is a vertical black run. The regular hot chocolate stop is your friend.
Finally: everyone in the family should wear a helmet. When I last went skiing people still wore white sunscreen painted in war paint-style stripes across their face. And not an adult helmet to be seen, except on Eddie the Eagle. But now you’re considered a fool for not wearing one (I received a number of very stern Insta DMs berating my be-hatted head), and rightly so, as it’s a not a risk worth taking. And there are some cool helmets out there so you don’t even have to sacrifice style for safety.
The Pink House Dwellers stayed as guests of Chalet Mirabelle in exchange for honest reviews on here and Instagram (see @pinkhouseliving bio for my holiday highlights on stories - saved as Skiing). As always, all opinions are my own. And as you can tell, I bloody LOVED it there. Visit Chalet Mirabelle’s website for more info, and follow them on Instagram @chaletmirabelle