'Lets face it – affordable is not a word we would associate with skiing. Gone are the days you could easyjet over to the Alps for a cheeky weekend – blasting the pistes at warp nine & drinking to oblivion at après ski!
There’s 3 or 4 or 5 (or more) of you now and that’s just added at least another 0 to the price of your holiday. So whether you choose to book last minute, fly, drive, self cater or chalet style your ski holiday – skiing as a family ain’t cheap, so do you really want to add kid's ski school to the long list of expenses?
I’m a big fan of kid’s ski lessons and it’s not just about getting some time off. Here’s why.
1. Ski schools teach your little ones the basics with no fuss. Doing it the right way from the start is a huge plus for kids. And being taught from an expert over yourself, who lets face it has picked up a whole host of bad habits over the years, means they'll progress way faster.
2. Kids just get on with it without their parents being around. Copying their peers, it’s a do or die strategy and tantrums are quashed more by peer pressure, than parent molly coddling. This said, we'd recommend avoiding ESF, who, in our experience, are too strict & might not speak English. Skiing with kids needs to be fun and a traumatic experience could set them back years. The ski instructors from several French, but English speaking, ski schools we’ve used have been young, enthusiastic and quite frankly brilliant with our kids.
3. It’s more fun with other kids! Normally on their 2nd week of skiing they’re out of kinder-ski and snaking the pistes with their new ski buddies. It’s a fantastic chance for your child to meet & socialize with new friends of all nationalities. Imagine skiing with your parents all day, all week? The littles think you’re great fun but start heading into digit numbers and trust me, you’re boring (well all day every day anyway). By putting them into ski lessons, they get to meet kids their own age, zip round snow/fun parks and get to do stuff you wouldn’t even think or know how to do with them.
4. It makes them more independent and gives them confidence. Sure they’re shy on day one, and for the weeny ones there may be a few tears, but once they’re au fait with the whose who & what’s what, they’re off. For the last 2 years we've booked our 7 year old into 4 hours a day 3 x a week and a whole day twice a week. We are required to stuff 5 euros a day into her ski jacket, so she can have a drink on the mountain with her class. She relishes the independence of ordering a ‘chocolate chaud avec chantilly’ with her buddies without Mummy or Daddy being anywhere near and rather than being exhausted from skiing all day as I'd feared, wanted to carry on for après with her instructors!
5. They get a medal! Never underestimate the power of a medal! Especially once they’ve got the first. It’s a great incentive for kids to have a reward at the end of the week and to see how far they’ve progressed.
6. You get a bit of time off. Sure it’s great to get a few runs in with your partner. In an ideal world all lessons would be the same length and at the same time. Fact – it rarely works like that – unless you’ve an only child or twins. Once you’ve got varied ages in the mix, you’ve got different schedules to streamline. Ages 6+ normally start at 9am for 2-4 hours, while younger 3-5s are held off until around 11am, when the snow’s a little softer & more forgiving. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a nanny in tow, it’s a case of getting in a run or two while you can, in between drop off and pick ups. Personally I love to pick my girls up from ski school, to see them flushed with excitement and eager to blurt out their news. I know that this will only last a few more years before they start their supposedly sulky teens? For now I'm not fussed about skiing all day, every day.
What about the tears? The first time you drop your little one off at ski school, especially if they are between 3-5, they will most probably cry. Trust me, the best thing you can do is leave quickly. You will inevitably feel like an awful parent – particularly as they are on their holidays – but it’s just like school back home – once you’ve gone, they will just get on with it.
There’s definitely a few frustrating years of biting the bullet & ‘investing’ in your children’s skiing, but with the end goal of being able to ski as a family together, it’s definitely worth the effort. Fresh from their lessons, the kids will want to show you their new skills and put you to shame with your lack of them!
Let me just say, my aim is to spend as much as my time on the slopes with my family, not to simply waft them into ski school so I can ski all day with our friends. Snow is in our blood – I want them to enjoy it as much as we do and I am impatient for the day that we can ski ensemble & truly believe I am giving them the opportunity of a gift for life.
Ski lessons - totally worth it in our book.
RECOMMENDED SKI SCHOOLS (THAT OUR GIRLS HAVE BEEN TO & LOVED)
MAGIC - Meribel, Courchevel, La Tania or Val Thorens
This is on the only ski school to go to if you're heading to Meribel, Courchevel, La Tania or Val Thorens. They are truly brilliant and are worth every penny. They take children from 3 years and all the instructors speak English and are fun, caring and patient. My girls spent two holidays in Meribel with Magic and cried when they left. They still remember their instructors by name and talk about them all the time. Highly recommended.
For more information give them a call (the office staff speak English) or visit
PANDA CLUB (EVOLUTION 2) - Chamonix
Panda Club (run by Evolution 2 ski school) is a fab ski school for little ones right at the bottom of Les Grands Montets in Argentiere, Chamonix. Minnie spent a week here when she was 4 years old and it was such a relief to find after we had taken her out of ESF's Club Piou Piou. She had been thoroughly miserable at Piou Piou and the instructors refused to teach her if she cried and left her on the side of the piste (heart breaking .....). We took her out after we realised what was happening (no refund) and put her into Panda Club. TOTAL TRANSFORMATION! Panda Club has English speaking instructors and have a lovely warm chalet on-site. On arrival, after sorting groups, they march 100m to their private nursery slope to loud, energetic music blasting from a boom box. They also have a bouncy castle on site. The emphasis is fun, fun, fun. At the end of the week they get their medal from a giant panda. Brilliant!
For older children who can ski check out Evolution 2's Junior Academy.
For all information visit Evolution 2's website www.evolution2-chamonix.com
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far