What is the ideal age for my children to start skiing? What childcare options do you offer for babies and toddlers? What are the most suitable resorts for families? How much ski time can I expect? What will my children experience in your ski programmes? What if I’m a non-skier?
These are all common questions from families who are looking to book their first ski holiday and are unsure what to expect. From families who are all complete beginners and want to learn together, to parents who are avid skiers and want to pass on their passion to their children, we relish the challenge of finding the perfect solution for all of our clients.
With over 20 years experience in luxury family travel, we asked our Managing Director Simon Meeke to share his top tips for families booking their first ski holiday.
I’ve always had a passion for travelling, an active lifestyle and finding new adventures and I like nothing more than helping clients find the perfect solutions for their precious down-time, creating richer experiences that deliver more than just an ordinary holiday. With three young children of our own, I draw on my experience of wanting to bring my family together and get more out of our holiday time together, whether that’s on the slopes in our Original Skiing programme, in the Med in our one of our summer resorts, or an intrepid adventure in a far-flung destination.
1. Advice for parents looking to book a family ski holiday for the first time:
Consider how much time you want together as a family, as well as for your own ski time and make sure you have the right support in place. There are so many services tailored to every need that can be planned in advance. 'Happy kids have happy parents’… there’s nothing worse than when everyone has to make a big compromise on holiday and if the kids don’t enjoy their holiday it makes the whole trip more challenging. De-stress the experience by selecting a suitable resort and trust a specialist with all the logistics. You don’t necessarily need to be in a top named resort, a gentler introduction for the children with quieter slopes can be a great confidence builder before you progress to buzzier resorts. Be realistic about your objectives for your first ski holiday - get it right, and the kids will be begging you to return and you’ll have succeeded in passing on your passion for a lifetime of memorable skiing!
2. Consider which resort is right for your family:
Most resorts in our portfolio are suitable for first-time skiers as our services and local team make all the difference, but I particularly recommend the Swiss resorts of Grindelwald, Lenzerheide and Arosa for first-timers thanks to excellent nursery slopes and plenty of accessible blue runs once you get the hang of things. We offer our exclusive programme, Learn in Style, for adult beginners in selected resorts, which delivers a unique instruction programme for small groups of like-minded adults which is very popular.
3. There is no ‘perfect age’ for kids to start skiing:
Children all develop at different speeds, so it is more about finding the perfect age for your child. Some children have natural coordination and are more capable from a young age, others benefit from a gentler start and will develop when the environment is right. Parents know their children best and what they are capable of and there is no ‘perfect age’ in our view. The first experience is crucial though, and for those who are ready at 3 years to take their first tentative steps on the slopes, our carefully designed Yeti Primer programme gives them the ideal start. Over three decades it has been tried, tested and developed by our most demanding clients (the toddlers, of course!).
4. Make it fun and they’ll build a lifelong love of skiing:
The first objective of our Yeti programme for 4-9 year olds is for everyone to have fun in a great environment with lots of friends, to feel safe and supported and to learn at their own pace. We don’t identify their time on the slopes as ‘ski school’, as a Yeti they’ll enjoy fun and games throughout the ski day, skiing in a small group of friends, as well as organised activities and supervised supper after skiing back at their hotel. We create a really fun and relaxed environment with lots of encouragement and support so they’re not really aware they are in ski school at all!
The quality of the instruction they receive is guaranteed thanks to small group sizes and the support we provide which allows the instructor to remain focused on the skiing. All our Yeti groups are led by a qualified instructor, but crucial support is also provided by a Yeti assistant who is there to encourage their group in a big brotherly/sisterly way, break out the biscuits when energy needs boosting, and manage the inevitable comfort breaks that can otherwise disrupt the progress of the lesson.
The culmination of the Yeti week is a demonstration on the final morning where Yetis show-off all the new skills they have learned as they hit the race gates to the applause of their proud parents.
Of course, as they progress with their skiing, we ramp it up with more structured technical sessions and strong skiers will be pushed to discover new skills and disciplines as we seek to make them rounded skiers in all conditions and terrain. Mountain awareness and safe skiing is the foundation of SnoZone and PB Ski Academy programmes which offer structured group instruction through to teenage years.
5. Peace of mind for those travelling with babies and toddlers:
We’ve been supporting families travelling with babies and toddlers for decades and our dedicated pb crèche service is designed to give parents peace of mind so they can continue to enjoy the sport they love. We adhere to the usual UK standards for childcare and our crèche managers are fully qualified NNEB or equivalent nursery nurses. We’re happy to welcome babies from 4 months in our pb crèche, and toddlers up to the age of 4 will be kept busy with indoor and outdoor activities between 08:30 and 4pm 6 days a week.
Whilst providing a great crèche environment packed with fun and stimulating toys and games is essential, we identify our pre-travel service as perhaps the most critical element in ensuring a seamless service. A ski holiday with very young ones does present its challenges, but none are insurmountable with the right plan and support in place. Our Client Concierge team will provide every detail in advance and arrange for a call with our crèche manager before you travel so you can run through every detail.
We offer a pre-travel purchasing service for all your baby essentials and we’ll have these waiting in your room upon your arrival - one less thing to worry about when packing! We provide all the necessary baby travel seats for transfers, buggies in our crèches, we’ll arrange microwaves/bottle warmers, can liaise with hotels to puree food - in short, everything has been anticipated and our team will be ready to take away all the hassles. Our team are also available for evening babysitting so you can really make the most of your holiday. We also offer a private nanny service in addition to our crèche programme.
6. Don’t forget it’s your holiday too and we’ll make sure you make the most of it:
Skiing with Powder Byrne is all about the camaraderie on and off the slopes and making the most of the mountain resort. Our complimentary ski guiding programme for adults creates the perfect environment for parents to ski in small groups with others, hosted by amiable Powder Byrne guides whose job it is to ensure everyone skis at a pace that suits them. Our guides plan the days skiing, organise a beautiful lunch stop, make sure you find the best snow and the quietest slopes, using their local knowledge to enhance your experience. They’ll even carry your skis for you, coordinate shuttles and logistics; their aim is to ensure you spend the maximum time enjoying your skiing. One client once described it as ‘leave your brain at the door’ skiing, which we believe is what a holiday should be all about.
7. Don’t worry if you’re a non-skier, there are plenty of mountain activities for you to enjoy:
We make non-skiers just as welcome! Our Client Concierge Team will run through all the options for non-skiers before you travel and our Mountain Host team in your chosen resort will coordinate all your arrangements, from guided winter walks, sleigh rides, to meeting up with skiers for lunch. Some of our properties have amazing Spa facilities and we can coordinate the perfect pampering day. Our driver service is on hand throughout the day so non-skiers can explore neighbouring villages or resorts, or we can arrange trips to local towns for shopping or sight-seeing.
8. Why not bring the Grandparents too and make it a real family affair:
We see an increasing number of clients travelling with multi-generations and our private apartments in Flims and Arosa are particularly popular as they give larger families more privacy, lots of space, multiple bedrooms all with ensuite facilities. Big Family Christmas celebrations have always been a tradition at Powder Byrne and we’ll liaise with our clients to arrange a bespoke festive celebration which is always a hit with kids and grandparents alike.
9. Family holidays are precious, make the most of your time together:
As parents of kids growing up with so many distractions and increasing pressures around us all, I’m convinced that family holidays are taking on an even greater significance to ensure everyone can press the pause button. Creating memories together away from it all and making time for each other without screens and distractions is becoming a luxury commodity. There are so many options out there, but also lots of obstacles to avoid along the way. Taking the hassle out of the planning and preparation and using our experience to ensure things run smoothly is what our clients trust us with - so if you need a bit of help with that then we’d love to share some ideas.
10. Don’t leave it too late, you may miss out on the best options, or end up paying more:
We receive interest from skiers to secure their arrangements throughout the year and in some cases clients books their holiday plans more than 12 months in advance to ensure they get the particular accommodation they want. In our view, it’s never too early to start the conversation, allowing our Travel Consultants to recommend the widest choice of suitable options.
Booking last minute restricts you to only those options that are left, as well as invariably higher prices for flights, so if you want to secure the best value we recommend booking your skiing before the end of the summer holidays as a rule of thumb. Of course, skiers not restricted to school holiday periods can leave it a little later if they want to see how the snow is looking, and we’ll be more than happy to provide sound advice on the best resorts and conditions for weekends and short breaks nearer the start of the season.
Call our travel consultants on 020 8246 5300 or enquire online to secure your Family’s First Ski Holiday.