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Skiing with kids - DO IT!! (warning long post)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Returned yesterday from a week in Meribel.

Let me start by saying that I was very anxious about this trip. Having learnt to ski in Cairngorm aged 6 with wellies strapped into essentially planks of wood, it has always been a passion and far and away my most enjoyable hobby, so much so I picked my medical school based on the proximity to the slopes.

My last trip was in April 2003 since when we have had 2 babies and the skiing has taken a back seat. This was really a make or break trip – if it was a nightmare then we could be looking at no more skiing trips for several years, if it was a success then we could all look forward to a week in the mountains every year. Leaving the kids at home was just not an option I was willing to entertain.

We decided to drive as I could not bear the hassle of flying and the limitations it puts on you (also I’ve always wanted to drive to the alps). We booked our ferry through www.norfolkline.co.uk, £49 return for us all. We left our house in West Devon at 0400hrs to catch a 1000hrs ferry. We got to Dover at 0900 despite being stuck in queues on the M20 (accident) and a short diversion (Operation Stack). The Norfolkline boats are really superb, brand new and shiny, good Kids area and most unusually for cross channel operators, smiley, helpful and efficient staff. We left 10 mins late and arrived in Dunkirk 2 hrs later with a hassle free and quick offload. Filled up with cheap French diesel and hit the road at 1330hrs - A25 to Lille and then A1 (both free) to join the A26 peage. Quick stop just south of Reims to change nappies and put kids in pyjamas then back onto Autoroute to our overnight stop north of Dijon where we arrived at 1900hrs

http://www.likhom.com/chambre_hotes.asp?chambre-d-hotes=Aux-Iris&ville=veronnes&code=BO2103031

We booked the suite( bit of a splurge at 110 Euros) but really lovely en suite bedrooms and breakfast. Not much more expensive than 2 rooms in a hotel (except perhaps F1). Set off at 0900 French time for final leg of trip to Meribel. Lovely autoroute cruising then stopped at Aire “Poulet de Bresse” on the A39 for an early lunch. A really great Aire based around the Bresse chicken (which has its’ own AOC!) with superb kid’s facilities. Both our boys ate chicken like never before especially the brown meat with the breast being left. A triumph of taste over appearance!

We continued on our way and left the autoroute to join the scenic route of the N504 to Chambery. If time is not a major constraint then I would thoroughly recommend this route, your rarely get above 50mph but the scenery is fantastic and really gets you excited that you’re coming to the mountains. It ends after a tunnel which emerges above Chambery giving you fantastic views of the town, the Lac be Bourget and magnificent snow capped peaks in the distance. I reckon it adds 1-1.5 hrs to the trip despite being shorter in km. There’s also no tolls.

We rejoined the autoroute at Chambery and sped along to Albertville before reaching Moutiers and heading up the hill to our Chalet in Le Raffort.

We decided to go with www.skicuisine.co.uk as they seemed to have a really child friendly chalet in Chalet Richard. The service was excellent throughout. Kid’s meals served at 1800hrs with 2 hrs to get them to bed before main meal at 2000hrs. Good food and unlimited wine / beer / softies 24hrs a day, hot tub and cooked breakfasts really helped to make it a relaxing week. We’ve previously been with www.purpleski.com where I’d argue the food was of a higher standard but the chalets not as child friendly.

On to childcare. This was perhaps the area where things could have been most difficult and was certainly what we’d been most nervous about prior to the holiday. Ski Cuisine have there own band of UK nannies who work seasons in Meribel in much the same way as the chalet staff. Our nanny Gemma was a trained nursery nurse who would arrive at 0830 and would leave at 1700hrs. She would completely look after the kids all day if necessary although we would generally get back to the chalet for 1500hrs to take them out sledging and skiing, we’d keep Gemma on for the last 2 hrs as a helping hand which was very useful. We had absolutely no reservations about leaving the kids and they had a whale of a time with Gemma taking them on gondola rides, in the minibus to the park at Les Allues or playing in the snow outside. She had a half day on Wednesday when she finished at 1230. Thoroughly recommended.

The trip back was as hassle free as going down except we took the more traditional Moutiers/Lyon/Macon/Dijon/Troyes/Reims/Lille /Dunkirk route. Took us 8.5 hrs driving (10hrs including one stop for tea). Stopped overnight just outside Dunkirk at http://pantgat.free.fr/ (Le Pantgat Hof) which was superb and incredibly cheap at 58 euros for the suite (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 5 beds and breakfast). After breakfast next morning, short 20min drive to port for the ferry.

All in all a fantastic trip and we’ll definitely be doing something similar next year. Not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. We could have done things much cheaper but I’m convinced would not have enjoyed things anywhere near as much. The extra spent was worth the debt and hey we’ve got 12 months to save for the next one. I’ve loads more details which would be delighted to share, just email me. If you have kids and want to take them skiing I’d say go for it but I’d also say be meticulous in your preparations (especially the first time) and don’t expect skiing holidays like you had pre kids.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
....... great post jonathancarty,

snowHead ...how many sleeps to next year....? Smile
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
jonathancarty, great to here you had a good time. Was my condition for having a family, we went skiing! Had our first trip when our twins were 1 and have been every year since.

Each trip gets easier as you need less stuff (cots, nappies, pushchairs etc) completely agree that driving is way to go with young family. Also great when they start skiing, boys started at 4 and (at 6) are now scarily good. Also great to take them out with "grandad" aged 71, so we have 3 generations skiing.

Excellent - have fun and get planning for the next trip snowHead
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jonathancarty, Good helpful post. How old are the bin lids?
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Boris,
Quote:

Each trip gets easier as you need less stuff

Wait until they are teenagers and see if you can say that again wink Laughing
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boredsurfin, they can carry it themselves then.....................and buy me a beer wink
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Kids are 2yrs 6months and 11months. Actually put the eldest on a set of skis and he really loved it (probably as he got to wear a helmet). Managed 10m between me and his mum without falling. He also thought the magic carpet in the Rond Point beginners area was just the best thing he'd ever been on.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
We went last year and this year with Esprit and have booked now again for next year. However the cost seems mad. Is it cheaper and easy to book DIY holidays with kids? We have a 5, 7 and 8 year old Puzzled
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gwaelod, the cost of the childcare with Esprit was always a factor which made us book elsewhere. I'm sure it is wonderful, but it wasn't for us. Also, I don't believe in kids having separate mealtimes from their parents, it doesn't teach them to be sociable eaters, or try new foods. (we nearly went with friends a few years ago, our 12 and 13 yr olds couldn't eat with us) For us the answer was a self-drive apartment, and meals out at night, early if they (or we) were tired, and later if we weren't. But, our kids were about 7 and 8 when we did that, the two previous years we stayed in a Club Hotel, with childcare, although they did eat with us at night. Have also done a couple of chalet holidays, but none with kids only mealtimes, and haven;t used the childcare, preferrring to put them into half-day ski school, and ski with them each afternoon.
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gwaelod, if you can avoid school holidays and take last minute deals, esprit offer some excellent bargains

http://www.esprit-holidays.co.uk/Ski/index.html (see special offers at the bottom)

If you book normally with esprit, by the time you add on all the extras, they are expensive, but you get a professional service.

When ours were the same age as yours we went DIY to this place http://www.maerchenhotel.ch/maerchenhotel/english.php where there was so much for the kids.
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Quote:

Also, I don't believe in kids having separate mealtimes from their parents, it doesn't teach them to be sociable eaters, or try new foods.


Horses for courses (sorry) I suppose. Kids had a great time eating with the other children in the chalet and all the adults were there anyway as all the children needed supervision (eldest being 4!) it was more of a social occasion than anything we do at home. I agree older kids should eat with the adults but expecting Ben (11months) to stay up until 8pm seemed a bit cruel. As for the food, the chef made a kid's meal every night which always went down well and they ate loads of stuff they hadn't eaten before. Also the ESF PiouPiou only take kids form age 3 so that wasn't really an option until next year although I agree getting them out of the chalet onto the slopes as early as possible seems sensible for future years.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
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We eat with the ids all the time at home. I quite like when in a chalet tha fact the kids are fed first. Gets them in a bedtime mood at a reasonable time and lets us adults have a quiet and adult dinner. On chalet night off it is usually bedlam when out with all the kids. Whatever works for you though Very Happy
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As someone who doesn't have kids, I wouldn't be very impressed if I was forced to have dinner with someone else's whilst on holiday. Very Happy
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Kramer, maybe, but not everyones kids are badly behaved.
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I have used Espirit and Mark Warner in the past when our kids were young and couldn't fault them. I think that when you need childcare and say the flexibility of kids being in ski school for half a day and then childcare for the other half, then you have to be prepared for it being expensive, unless you are flexible and can take advantage of any late booking offers. Before kids are school age you will always be able to have a slightly cheaper holiday by going outside school holiday times. I think you just need to remember that your costs will go down in the future as childcare won't be an issue once your children ski all day with you as my kids now do.

I think that having children eat earlier does work well. In my experience, the children have had a ball all eating together (with the adults sitting around at the same time) and for me having an adults only meal feels a bit like eating out every night which is a nice part of the holiday.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Talking of Mark Warner one of the couples in the chalet with us this year had been with them last year and they were convinced that it had been more expensive but a vastly lower overall quality of service.

Booking last minute can be difficult when you want to guarantee your room/chalet/resort and brochure prices of the main operators are comparable mostly to the independant guys only with much less emphasis on personal service.

Obviously booking last minute and being flexible can save you hundreds. Whenever I try to be last minute and flexible I sprain something and end up in a world of pain metaphorically speaking.
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Agree with you Helen Beaumont, We've avoided the "children eat first" arrangements. I aslo don't quite understand why anyone would want to take the family skiing but then leave the children elsewhere during the day - I know it might take the edge of the skiing if you have to acommodate the younger ones but in my exprience it's possible to do a bit of everything. It's never going to be like a skiing holiday "pre-children" but then why would/should it be?

I'm amazed at the lack of holidays which cater for families who want to give their children ski school in the morning and have some way of ensuring/coordinating that they're safe when the ski school finishes with them in the event that the parents are stuck elsewhere or a little late. The ski school escort services seem to be tied into childcare in the afternoon and add to an already expensive hol.
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My kids are very well behaved when eating in Restaurants, Little Angel but I would agree with Kramer's point above .......
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johnnyh, We tend to go in a large groups. the kids would rather eat with their friends than with us.
Quote:

It's never going to be like a skiing holiday "pre-children" but then why would/should it be?
this is true. Pre-children I was the quickest skier in the family Very Happy
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Quote:

I aslo don't quite understand why anyone would want to take the family skiing but then leave the children elsewhere during the day

Quote:

I'm amazed at the lack of holidays which cater for families who want to give their children ski school in the morning


Is that not slightly contradictory. Unless you're in the same class as your kids that is.
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boredsurfin wrote:
My kids are very well behaved when eating in Restaurants, Little Angel but I would agree with Kramer's point above .......


I am amazed that some parents do not appear to teach their children any table manners or etiquette at all Sad
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jonathancarty, I think his point is that you want to spend the afternoon with your kids, but they ar ein ski school in the morning. If you use the chalewt childcare service you pay to have them looked after all afternoon, not just to make sure they are collected safely before you arrive to ski with them in the afternoon. Most families do not spend a lot of time together and it is nice to be with them on holiday. The quality of the food (in my experience) was always inferior for the kids meal, no fresh veg, stuff out of the freezer, certainly much less edible than the adult food.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
boredsurfin, I agree. I suspect it is because many families rarely eat at a table together. We are lucky in that work allows us to eat together every evening. Tou can't teach table manners without a table.

FWIW my kids are litle horrors at home, but thankfully (and miraculously) seem to know where and when it is important to behave when away from Chez Frosties.
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jonathancarty, - what Helen Beaumont said.

although I suppose there was an inherent contradiction in there - but since . . .
. . . I want my children to learn to ski - ski school in the morning does that for them. After that I'd like to spend time with them so we can have some fun. Very few tour operators cater for the "inbetween" bit where having skied elsewhere in the morning one might be delayed getting back to ski school drop off point in order to pick up young(er) children.
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Helen,
I have to say that the children's food was excellent with Ski Cuisine. Not a chicken nugget or turkey twizzler in sight, always fresh veg and always freshly prepared.
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We have three children now 3, 4, 6 and about to go self drive / self catering apartment for the third year. Have them all in ESF at various levels, which the eldest last year was skiing from the main lift exit back to town, something I enjoyed as much as he (hope the others can get to do the same, children skiing is extreme on the body).

Have looked at the Mark Warners and Espirit, but part of a 'Family' holiday for me is the half the time spent on the slopes with the kids. Use the ski school as your childcare and accept the fact that 'serious' skiing will be little and rare, use the local shops to get meals, restaurants can be convenient, but if you're tired and the kids play up........ no one enjoys it.

Thing I struggle with is to find information on child friendly resorts (generally the smaller resorts) where I can find out about ski school , shops , town access etc all with the little ones in mind.

As for collection of kids from ski school, maybe an hourly drop in creche to fill the gaps would be a good idea, would give peace of mind when you are stuck in a lift queue the other side of the mountain with ten minutes to get back.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
johnnyh,

I completely take your point the younger they get on the slopes the better and as I said above my 2 1/2 yr old was on skis this year. What winds me up though (which doesn't happen on this forum) is the attitude of folk who don't take their kids skiing. Some seem to be saying that parents who take their children skiing and then put the kids in ski school / creche / nanny care or whatever are somehow selfish and only going so they can ski all day while someone looks after the kids.

Because our kids are early risers on average I think they were left with the nanny for 4-5hrs max per day, 2 or 3 of shich they were fast asleep for and the the rest seeing and doing stuff they really enjoyed whilst building their social and interpersonal skills.

Had we taken then skiing all day they'd be knackered cold and fed up. Had we stayed in the chalet and played with them we may aswell have been at home.

Each to their own I suppose.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
This is a great thread for parents who are or have taken the little 'uns for the first time. We took the plunge with our 22 month old at Christmas and tried the new SkiBeat chalet in La Rosiere. The little fella had the time of his life while in resort, the SkiBeat nannies were excellent. We flew out and suffered the transfer from Grenoble airport(+4 hours due to traffic on the way back!). The altitude, time of travel, flight, waiting around etc. got to the adults more than the him!

The whole experience was really good, we did not feel bad about leaving our son with other people all day, especially when his was chanting 'creche creche creche' and pulling us towards the door each day.

We have decided to do a half term drive to Les Contamines, so all advice is gratefully received! To be honest, we are really excited by the whole journey thing, the little fella is booked into the French creche near the nursery slopes (hopefully there will be enough snow for some sledging!!).

Have family will ski!!!
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You know it makes sense.
Helen Beaumont wrote:
Kramer, maybe, but not everyones kids are badly behaved.


It's not so much about their behaviour, and more about mine! Very Happy
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Yes. I wish my folks had taken me skiing when I was a child - and that's why we're taking ours now so they can learn as youngsters.

I think some people do go on ski hols and "dump the children" - but to be honest they probably dump the children when they're not on holiday too. I think the main issue is how do you integrate the (different) families needs, everyone's different abilities and desires into a holiday package. I'm not sure the tour operators have managed it yet and its tricky if you only holiday as one family.

We took our eldest when he was two and a bit to the US, but he could only just walk so we couldn't get him on skis. Nevertheless the holiday was spent passing him around between the adults while we tried to ski a bit. It was OK, but maybe too much too soon.

jonathancarty wrote:

Had we taken then skiing all day they'd be knackered cold and fed up. Had we stayed in the chalet and played with them we may aswell have been at home.


Definately a tricky one this as I completely agree neither is a winning fomula.

dsando, I'm with you on this - we try to strike a balance. I love skiing with my children now. They've graduated from skiing between my legs to being off over bumps and really confident. Nevertheless we have struggled to find the right combination of each year

The costs of the Mark Warner/Esprit holidays are very high if you're not getting exactly what you want too.

I sometimes feel that organising a ski holiday for the family will take the best part of the non-ski season to get right.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

will take the best part of the non-ski season to get right.


Yep, booked the room in July and spent the ensuing 5 months sorting out the rest of the details. Actually quite good fun and very rewarding when it goes well.
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pitchski, would be good to get a family skiing thread going with some useful links to operators/resorts/ etc.

I think more people try to take the family now than they did a few years back - although I doubt I would have noticed families when I didn't have one myself.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Quote:

I think more people try to take the family now than they did a few years back - although I doubt I would have noticed families when I didn't have one myself.


I think the other major thing is that loads of us who learned to ski in the massive surge of skiing in the 70s, 80s and 90s are now growing up and having kids hence the massive incresae in demand for family friendly skiing holidays.
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I also think a Family Skiing forum area is a good idea. I struggled to find the best place to start this thread and even now think it's probably in the wrong place !
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jonathancarty, I think this has been a very interesting thread. I am past the childcare arrangements (my boys are now 21,18 and 16) but we have been skiing with them nearly every year for the past 15 and there is something very special about skiing together as a family, and it is somehow a different emothional experience to taking a summer holiday together.

From very early on, my boys (when financial constraints have necessitated it) have chosen skiing rather than a summer holiday.

Our next hurdle will probably be faincees/daughters-in-law followed by grandchildren expanding the ski party - which I am greatly looking forward to - though I have explained that I do not plan to be the built-in creche wink
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jonathancarty, Excellent suggestion! snowHead
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Kramer, ah well, if your projectile vomiting is anything to go by, most kids will think it's hilarious, but not sure their parents would.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Nick L,

You're dead right. There's something so much more special about winter holidays in the mountains, more exciting and magical I suppose than you're average summer holiday. I'm always much more excited about skiing holidays than any other breaks. Just have to make sure we pass that on to our offspring!!
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My twin boys are now 6 and just had third skiing holiday - the problem now isn't so much us getting back to meet them, its them getting back to collect us!

When we have used chalets, we booked the entire chalet with friends, so we didn't run the risk of upsetting anyone who wanted child free hols. Now they are a bit older we all tend to eat together, with the adults having a cheese and port course later on when kids are in bed. When they were young it added to our hols to have a relaxed meal with other adults in the evening.

Never felt guilty about leaving them in childcare, they seemed to enjoy it and did a lot of new things.

As mentioned before it is getting easier now as they are past the need for creche facilities and can ski with us in the afternoon with ease.
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Kramer, Better not stay where we are then Madeye-Smiley
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