When is the right time to book your first family ski holiday?
This is a question we get asked a lot at Powder Byrne and a question that became very relevant for me last winter when we took the plunge and booked to stay for a week in a family apartment at Priva Alpine Lodge in Lenzerheide, Switzerland with our 2 young children, Dolly (3) and Martha (1).
My wife Amy and I met on a ski season in the heady days of 2005 and we both have a passion for skiing and life in the mountains. After the arrival of Dolly and Martha we had not been able to get on the slopes for 3 long years and we were itching to get back out there. We booked in November and were counting down the days until our trip in late March, enduring 4 long months of anticipation.
Despite my initial excitement there was a small voice in my head that was growing louder and louder as our trip drew near. Our children would be 3.6 and 1.6 at the time of travel - had we pulled the trigger too early?! Would the children get too cold? Would they be ok in the crèche? Would Dolly enjoy her ski lessons? Would we get enough ski time without the kids? Would it all turn into a hectic and stressful experience?
I tried to stay calm and didn’t share any of my concerns with Amy, as I knew she was already starting to hyperventilate at the thought of leaving the kids all day long while we were several kilometres away at the top of a mountain.
Luckily for us Powder Byrne have been dealing with nervous parents for over 35 years and are experts in making families feel relaxed, welcome and comfortable in the mountains. As part of the Powder Byrne marketing team this is something we regularly try to convey through our website and all of our client communications, but it isn’t until you properly experience it as a parent for the first time that you really understand the true value of Powder Byrne’s approach to family skiing.
I’ve tried my best to summarise below exactly how the Powder Byrne team looked after us and made our first family ski holiday such a positive experience, but as I’ve already said, you won’t know for sure until you experience it for yourself!
Travelling with small children is always a stressful experience and needs careful planning to ensure you arrive at your destination with your wits intact. Powder Byrne’s pre-travel service is aimed to take away as much of that stress as possible. The Client Concierge team contacted my wife Amy several weeks before we were due to travel to find out if there were any special arrangements we needed for our arrival in-resort, such as a cot for Martha, any other baby supplies, or food shopping for our apartment. We also filled out a crèche questionnaire for both our girls, so that the Powder Byrne nannies would be clued up on their routines, favourite toys, books and games before our arrival. This is a really nice service and something that Amy really valued and helped put her at ease before we set off.
Family friendly welcome
We were greeted at Zurich Airport by the smiling and friendly Powder Byrne driver Ben who immediately offered to carry our luggage, freeing us up to carry tired children to our private transfer. We travelled from Zurich to Lenzerheide in one of Powder Byrne’s shiny Mercedes Vito vehicles with the affable Ben at the wheel. Our transfer was stocked with water, juice, snacks and prosecco, a sure fire way to keep both adults and children happy en route.
Arriving in Lenzerheide we were greeted at Priva Alpine Lodge by a full Powder Byrne welcoming committee. Resort Manager Stephanie and her team of ski hosts, nannies and children’s programme assistants were there to help with our bags and get us settled into our apartment as quickly as possible. They started to chat and play with Dolly and Martha immediately which instantly made them feel at home and excited for the week ahead.
Their excitement reached fever pitch when they saw the mini Powder Byrne rucksacks waiting for them on their beds. Inside they were filled with fun and useful gifts for our week in the mountains, including kids suncream and bobble hats to keep little heads warm. For us parents there was a very nice welcome hamper of holiday goodies and essentials - wine and crisps are most definitely holiday essentials.
The welcome we received from the Powder Byrne team really set the tone for our holiday.
After an exciting and tiring day of travelling and settling into our apartment and a good night's sleep we were ready to crack on with some skiing. How the kids would react to spending full days in the pb crèche had the potential to make or break our holiday and despite our extremely positive start we were still feeling a bit nervous about leaving Dolly and Martha from 9am-4pm each day. Our worries disappeared very quickly as Powder Byrne nannies Elly and Lizzie gave both kids a big hug on arrival and carefully showed them around the crèche, showing them where all of the different toys, books and games were and letting them explore for themselves. Both girls settled extremely well into the crèche and they both fell in love with Elly and Lizzie. Each lunchtime while we were off and up the mountain, we would receive a WhatsApp message from Elly to check-in and tell us how the girls were doing. This was very reassuring, although I have to confess I was usually concentrating on my rosti and beer and studying the piste map with our ski guide Rikki. At the end of each day we collected two very happy girls eager to tell us and show us what they’d been up to. Elly and Lizzie helped the girls produce brilliant diaries that they updated throughout the week with lots of arts and crafts, pictures and descriptions of their day in the crèche. Dolly was so proud of hers that she took it to bed every night!
Dolly on skis
At 3.6 years of age Dolly was old enough to join the Yeti Primer ski programme, designed to introduce eager little would-be-skiers to the slopes for the first time. Conscious that 3 year olds can only handle a short time on skis before tiring out, Yeti Primer involves a few hours of play on skis and basic ski instruction in the morning, followed by lunch and the afternoon spent in and around the pb crèche. This proved to be the perfect balance for Dolly who loved being out in the snow and was very proud of herself going up the magic carpet and down the gentle nursery slope. It also meant she could join her sister Martha in the crèche in the afternoons, who at 1.6 years old was not old enough for Yeti Primer (try telling her that) and was always happy to see Dolly back in the crèche for the afternoon session.
The best thing about Yeti Primer is the early confidence it builds and the enthusiasm it inspires. The simple acts of learning how to put on a helmet, goggles, boots and skis and getting used to the feel of snow underfoot can be big hurdles when children start skiing. By tackling these head-on at the age of 3, they are eager and ready to come back next year and start skiing for real when they leave the pb crèche and Yeti Primers behind and graduate into the Yeti programme.
Our long awaited return to the slopes
The snow gods must have heard our prayers as we arrived into Lenzerheide just after their biggest snowfall of the season to clear blue skies and powdery pistes. After not stepping foot on the slopes for over 3 years we could not wait to get out there for our first morning of skiing. Both of us were completely new to Lenzerheide, so we happily joined Powder Byrne’s ski guiding programme and met our ski guide Rikki at 9am immediately after we had dropped the girls off with Elly and Lizzie.
Rikki was extremely friendly and chatty and wasted no time at all in getting us on our first lift of the day. On the way up the mountain he asked us exactly what we wanted out of day - relaxed skiing and a long lunch, or hard skiing and a quick bite on the mountain. We opted for something in-between, skiing really hard in the mountain and covering lots of ground, followed by a fantastic rosti lunch at mountain restaurant Crest’ota and a more chilled afternoon of cruising. We couldn’t have asked for a better first day.
We skied with the Powder Byrne guides Rikki and Ben throughout the week, effortlessly following them up and down the mountain and making the most of their local knowledge - slopes, lifts, restaurants, apres drinks - they had it all on lock. Another nice element to the ski guiding service is the sociable side. Groups are made up of a handful of Powder Byrne clients of similar skiing ability and offer the chance to all ski together and form your own little band of brothers/sisters.
Experiences on the slopes are always more enjoyable when there is a bunch of you to share in the collective joy of an epic powder run, a fast descent, or an amazing lunch. The ski guides know this and they orchestrate their groups so that everyone is included and made to feel comfortable. Their blend of skiing and soft skills combine perfectly to create a great atmosphere and each one of our ski days end with a happy group of ski-weary clients clinking glasses and shouting prost.
“We have been creating luxury family ski holidays since 1985, with a focus on the highest quality, flexibility and service you can find in the mountains.”
This is a statement that we use regularly at Powder Byrne to highlight the extremely high level of dedication and detail that goes into delivering our in-resort ski services and one of many mantras drilled into our resort teams during their training programme. As such I had no doubt that the service we would receive would be nothing but the best.
Far from being disappointed, Lenzerheide Resort Manager Stephanie and her team really exceeded our expectations throughout our holiday with their can-do attitude and attention to detail. Elly and Lizzie were the most caring and friendly childcare team we could have hoped for, Rikki was an ever-entertaining and professional ski guide and Ben was the always-on-call-always-with-a-smile driver and part-time ski guide. Led by the super organised Stephanie they took care of everything we asked for and also everything we didn’t know we needed.
As our holiday came to an end the whole Powder Byrne team gathered to wave us off with hugs all round from Dolly and Martha. Ben ensured they were strapped in safely and we had everything we needed for a smooth journey back to Zurich. With a tear in our eyes we said our goodbyes and set off on our journey home with one question left unanswered, who will carry my skis back in the real world?
Matt and Amy travelled with Powder Byrne to Priva Alpine Lodge in Lenzerheide, Switzerland in March 2019 outside of school holidays. Dolly enrolled in the Yeti Primer ski programme for 3-4 year old pre-school aged children and Martha enrolled in the pb crèche for babies and toddlers. Both programmes operate throughout the ski season in selected Powder Byrne resorts. Matt and Amy enjoyed Powder Byrne’s complimentary ski guiding programme which is open to all clients who are blue run confident skiers.