“Mummy & Daddy, will you take me skiing?”
What to do? …… Your little one has been in ski school, and can now SKI! She/he can link snow plough turns, control their speed, and most importantly STOP. They’re ready to leave the safety of the nursery slope and discover the big wide world of the mountain, but are you? If you’re full of ‘What If’s, rest assured that our contributors have all been through the same nervous feelings. From my own experience there is a fine line between having great fun and having a disaster! Here are our inspired tips which will make venturing out on the slopes with children much less daunting…
Before you head out on the slopes, a quick tip – this is THE most vital skill you will need:
PROBLEM: How is it that children can put their feet facing opposite directions? How do I untangle a twisted heap of legs, arms, poles and skis – without getting myself ensnared, and both of us then sliding away down the mountain?
ANSWER: Pick them up under the armpits with their legs dangling, and let them unravel themselves like a piece of twisted string. Easy when you know how!
I have asked some of my friends who have been through the ‘Take Me Skiing’ scenario with their own children to see what they can recommend; their favourite pistes, and top tips.
Izzie Milne, Ski Instructor, Sweet Snowsports Ski and Snowboard School.
(Mum to a not-so-little 13 year old)
‘My favourite Meribel routes with the little ones are the trails like Inuits around the Altiport, which have little attractions like bells to chime, penguin slaloms and other fun features. Littilies often don’t see the point of skiing at first so the features keep them interested and make them turn and control their speed. Until they can do so, mums and dads need to be able to ski with the little ones between their legs on the steep bits, think for their children and even get them to follow. From day 1 the skiers code is really important, like teaching them road safety. Use the bubbles to go down – the lower slopes are often busy and worn by the end of the day. No point spoiling the fun. Plenty of food, water and sleep too. The key thing for the Littilies is that it should always be fun. Lumps and bumps, on the side of the piste, hot chocolate and snowmen play as much a part in learning to ski as snowploughs.’
Ginny Christy – Alpine Therapies massage and physiotherapy.
(Mum to a 3 & 5 year old)
Les Verdons in Courchevel 1850 was our best run by far – especially because in the new Polar Café at the bottom you can get a very reasonably priced hot chocolate and a cookie, and coffee for the grown ups! Amazing value in a very convenient location, so there was always an incentive at the bottom of the run! We did lots of Verdons laps. With loos at the top and bottom too it was ideal, and just watching all the bubbles and comings and goings at the Croisette was entertainment in itself. Plus a cable car ride was an option (without skiing down yet for us!)
My top tip (as a physiotherapist!) is to not over do it with little ones, but try and tailor the skiing (and parents’ expectations) to their pace, and make sure you keep their energy levels topped up with regular snacks!
Sarah Woodbridge – Alpine Infusion luxury chalets in Meribel, and Courchevel
(Mum to 3 boys of 7,9 and 11)
When the children were younger I always liked taking the boys on wide, gentle pistes around 1850. One of our favourite spots was the Pralong area in Courchevel 1850. There are toilets and a snack kiosk, and picnic tables at the bottom of the Pralong Chair lift . The Courchneige on the green Bellecote piste is a favourite hot choc stop and quite child-friendly. It’s easy to access from the drag lift which is quite long but not too steep (make sure you send your children up in front of you so that you can keep your eyes on them at all times!) and the piste is quite wide but with enough slope to keep them going. Avoid flatter runs as you’ll end up having to pull them along!
John Hendry – Director Parallel Lines Ski School, Meribel
(Dad to a 12 and 10 year old)
“The Meribel Valley has really improved its terrain for children in recent years. After the nursery slopes, when children can snowplough and control their speed enough to follow someone, the Altiport area in Meribel is superb. There is the Piste de Animaux which winds its way through the forest with models of local wildlife at the edge of the piste, the Inuit village with swings, igloos and events organised for children, and many padded shapes to ski through. The Altiport 8 seater chairlift is very well designed to make getting on and off with children as easy as possible.
Another great area for children has been created in Mottaret where the Yeti Park has themed kids slalom, hidden Yeti cave and tunnels that talk, all based around the new Combes Chairlift.
Once kids can bomb around and cope with Blue runs, a fun area to ski is from the top of the Plattieres telecabine where the Sittelle Piste has easy bumps and jumps and a really good, winding skier cross course that’s not too difficult.”
Tom Pinches – Director of The Boot Lab boot fitting in Meribel and Courchevel Moriond (1650)
(Dad to boys aged 7 & 4)
We found that the best way to our children started on longer ski outings was to put them between our legs with the poles horizontally under their arms so you can easily pick them up if its steep or busy, or if they get tired. The Courchevel 1650 area is ideal for intermediates and I find its wide, quiet slopes great for younger children. My two particularly enjoy the Indiens piste. It has a bit of a steep start but is well worth carrying them down this short bit for the rest! There’s a lovely winding gully through the trees which feels like a real adventure, then half way down you’ll come across two wigwams on the left. It’s very a welcoming and fun Native American themed area for children – there’s facepainting, bow & arrow shooting with ‘Grey Wolf’, you can toast marshmallows and have a cup of tea around the fire and nose around at the bones and lizards in jars and dress up with authentic headdresses. It’s is on the way back down into 1650 so is a good treat for them without there being any more lifts to tackle afterwards.
Anna Cosgrove – Holiday Baby Hire
(Mum to 3 children between 9-4 yrs)
Plan Fontaine in La Tania is one of our favourites for a family ski. We take the La Tania bubble and the start of the piste is just below the Bouc Blanc restaurant (so it’s perfect for an energising hot choc before you start!) This long green piste winds its way through the woods all the way back to the village. It’s not steep and there are lots of twists and turns to keep them interested – it feels like a journey rather than a simple up-and-down. More confident kids love finding little jumps at the side of the piste, and as they gain more confidence they cut the corners and can race along quite safely as it feels quite enclosed. As the children have got older they always want to ski to the Family Park at Verdons. It’s very cool to watch people doing the big jumps and they can feel a part of it all when following the ski cross track which is quite gentle. At the bottom they love to watch the Big Air Bag.
Richard Sinclair – MD of family ski experts SNO (Dad to boys aged 8 & 10)
In Meribel’s Family Cool area, the Moon Wild slope (aka the Animals run) takes you between the trees where kids can look out for local wildlife and learn about the tracks and sounds they make. The youngsters always love skiing up to the information points and spotting the animal models. Blue Le Pic run is another family favourite, with a dragon theme and hammocks to rest on. I think the Zen slopes in the area are cracking for anyone who wants to get their ski legs back or needs a confidence boost – offering smooth, spacious skiing without interruption from any speedsters.
My tip would be to take a rucksack with spare gloves and socks, hand warmers, sun cream, drinks, snacks and a camera!
Please let us know if you have any other recommendations, we love to share top tips with our customers.