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Ski Blog

Childcare in the Alps — On The Slopes (Part 2)

clock 8th August 2012 | comment0 Comments

In part two of Tessera Swallow's guest blog, she shares her advice on skiing with children. Tess is the Director of t4 Nanny and is also an instructor for Ski New Generation.

Age

In my opinion the earliest a child should start skiing is five years old. This means the child is old enough to listen and take instruction. Because the child will have started school at home they understand the concept of listening to a teacher. The child will also be physically strong enough and have the co ordination to make the movements for skiing.

Another factor is vocabulary, I was once teaching a three year old and was telling her to open her heels to make a pizza shape. After a while of no success I asked her to point to her heel, she thought about it and then with conviction pointed to her head!

A winter ski resort is a very alien place for children and the little ones can easily get scared if you add in the fact that their parents have left them and they don’t know when they are coming back. The last thing you want to do is put your child off skiing for life!

If you really want your child to start as young as possible then you will have to pay for private lessons as teaching your own children is a bad idea. You should never ski with your children in between your legs! If they cannot ski the slope they should not be there. I have seen too many children have broken bones from their parents falling on them. Leave the ski lessons to the experts.

I recommend a child under five years old should do not longer than a one hour lesson. It can be very cold, and a private lesson is pretty intense.

Obviously all children are different and it is personal choice when you start your child skiing but I would just like to leave you with one thing. Take two five year olds. Child ‘A’ has been skiing since aged 2.5 years old, every year for a week and can make therefore make snowplough turns. Child ‘B’ has never skied before. Within one to two mornings of group lessons they will almost certainly be exactly the same level.

Ski Schools

Most ski schools will accept children in group lessons from five years old. You can get private lessons for younger children but this is obviously more expensive and a school will normally do a minimum of two hours for a private lesson.

Generally group lessons run either in the morning 9 – 12 or afternoons 2 – 5. Some ski schools offer a lunch club, which is a great service meaning you can drop the children off at 9am and have a good long morning skiing before collecting them at 2pm after they have eaten.

I would recommend you try to keep your children in ski school for as long as possible. Once they get older there are some great products for teenagers, which will teach them off piste, snow park tricks and racing all in a safe environment.

First Time Skiing for Parents and Children

You get loads of fresh air, learn something new in an incredible environment and there's a range of activities to do in the village beyond skiing .

If your whole family are beginners book morning group lessons for everyone (with the same school, so the timings all work), then meet up again for lunch. Depending on how you all feel you could either carry on or you could spend the afternoons doing something else – ice skating, looking round the village, snow mobiling, husky sledging or bum boarding! Alternatively you could spend your afternoons in front of a roaring fire reading your book. You really can do as much or as little as you like.

If you are a housewife or househusband, a holiday can often feel like you are doing the same job just in a more challenging environment! To ensure this doesn’t happen a catered chalet holiday will make sure everyone feels pampered. As standard you will have breakfast prepared for you, afternoon tea for when you come off the slopes and a 3-course meal including wine! Perfect.

If possible it is always more relaxing if you can book out the whole chalet, it can often be stressful sharing with people you don’t know. Remember you have to eat dinner with these people every night of your holiday!

Skiing Advice

The recommended amount you should drink at sea level is two litres per day — at altitude (2000m) it is double at four litres per day. Make sure you and your children drink plenty of water.

The sun is extremely powerful — even when cloudy in January you must apply sun cream to the whole family.

Your heart works 30% harder at altitude than at sea level, this means everything is more effort and therefore more tiring, try and include some quiet time each day to avoid getting over tired.

Enjoy the environment, but remember, the weather can change extremely quickly; it is no fun being caught in the clouds not knowing where you are. Always stick to the pistes unless you are with a ski instructor or mountain guide.

Learn and teach your children the ski way code. This is printed on all piste maps in every resort so there is no excuse not knowing it.

Check out our ski schools guide or the ski school Tess taught at, Ski New Gen, to make sure you book the right lessons for your family ski holiday.



Childcare In The Alps — In Resort (Part 1)

clock 3rd August 2012 | comment0 Comments

We have a two part guest blog from Tessera Swallow. Tess is the Director of t4 Nanny and is also an instructor for Ski New Generation. Part one is her advice on childcare options in resort.

Childcare Options

Private Nanny

Option 1: Bring your own nanny with you. This can be great however you will have to share your lovely chalet or hotel with your nanny 24/7. This can be very expensive and intrusive.

Option 2: There are a few tour operators who offer a private nanny service. This means a nanny will come to your chalet for normally eight hours per day to look after the children. The only way you can get one of these nannies is if you book your holiday through one of these tour operators (including through an agent), so it can be slightly limiting.

Option 3: Use an independent private nanny service. This gives you the most choice as you can book any hotel or chalet you like. This option will give you the most flexibility as evening babysitting can be arranged as well as daytime care. Things to ask are: Where do the nannies come from and is the company an agency, or do they employ the nannies for the whole season?

t4 Private Nanny Service — opened fours years ago in Val d’Isere and has been growing each year. They now also have private nannies in Tignes and Meribel as well. As experts in our field, we recruit native English speaking nannies and mannies (male nannies) to take care and entertain your children in the magical mountains. The nannies know the best places to take the children and also all the safety issues of looking after children in the Alps.

This service is very popular and gets booked up extremely quickly; the reservations line is friendly and happy to chat through any questions you might have. We have a wealth of knowledge helping you choose the right childcare solution for your family.

For alternative nanny services and other resorts, check out the list on our childcare and nannies page.

Crèche

There are a few tour operators who offer crèche services. These offer good value for money. Things to be aware of are obviously your child is not going to get as much attention when there are four children to one nanny and make sure you ask how often the children go outside to play.

Questions to ask when booking a chalet holiday

  • Where is the chalet? Location is key; the last thing you want with children is a long walk in ski boots!
  • Is there a driver service? Lots of chalet companies offer a driver service to the slopes in the morning and back in the afternoon. This can be a lifesaver.
  • When is the chalet staff's night off?
  • Is it ski in ski out? This can be great as it means the children will probably be able to sledge in the afternoons outside the chalet. If so, what colour run is it to the chalet? This is a very important question if the run back to the chalet is a red run and you can only ski greens this can be a problem.
  • Can the nanny prepare lunch for the children? Normally the chalet staff are quite relaxed about this, as long as the kitchen is left how it was found.
  • Will the chalet provide lunch for the children? Some will do this, some won’t.
  • Will the tour operator allow private nannies in the chalet? Some chalet companies are fine with this, others — usually for insurance reasons — will not allow this. The ski specialists on the Iglu sales team will be able to check these details for you.

Next week in part two, Tess shares her advice of skiing with children.



2012: The Year Snow Just Kept Giving

clock 26th July 2012 | comment1 Comments

The 2011/2012 season has to have been one of the snowiest winters for years. It snowed, then snowed and then snowed some more. In fact, the winter was so long, that we were still seeing snow-filled photos of Val d'Isere in June.

But how good was it really? Some reports stated we were having the best snow in 20 years, including rumours that in February Meribel had more snow than Val d'Isere for the first time since the '60s.

So, rather then discussing hearsay and rumours, let's have a look through the snowfall records of the past four seasons to see how good a winter it actually was. To make it simple, I'm sticking to three of the big resorts, but tweet us @igluski if you would like to know more about your favourite resort.

Val d'Isere (Espace Killy), France

Val d'Isere — one of the most popular and snow-sure resorts in the world. From 2007-10 in December, the average snow depth ranged 61-141cm, giving an average of 103cm of snow. Considering this is the first month of the season, that's not too shabby. 2011 started in similar fashion, with a respectable 137cm snow — some 34cm above the previous 4 year average — and most of it fell in little over two weeks!

January offered an average of 133cm of snow over the four previous winters, with a low of 86cm and high of 144cm. In 2012, that previous high was smashed, with an monumental 180cm of snowfall. February's average snowfall from 2008-2011 was 130cm, with March offering a slightly higher 140cm of snow, whereas February and March 2012 boasted 172cm and 167cm respectively.

The biggest surprise was the end of season snow. AJ, our Head of Sales, always says the best time to hit Val is late March and April. There is usually a good snow-pack for off piste and the sun is out for the après party. The records back the claim up — the month of April from 2008-2011 offered an average of 104cm of snow, which is pretty good considering spring is coming into full force. However, April 2012 offered an unusually high level of snowfall at 144cm — with spring skiing in Val d'Isere definitely at its best for a long time.

St. Anton (Arlberg), Austria

St. Anton has boasted great snow for years due to the Arlberg's micro climate. St. Anton regularly sees snowfall of more than two metres in a month, and in the past four years has even seen the figure breaking the three metre mark on four occasions — three of them were last season. Though the resort often has less snow in the village than Val d'Isere, its slopes are more than comparable with the snowiest in Europe.

St. Anton, in the season just gone, had an average snow of 92cm which fell behind the previous December's 102cm. Though come January, record levels of snow arrived and just kept on arriving all the way through the season. January 2008-2011 had seen an average of 104cm of snow; this was blown to pieces with the phenomenal 310cm of snow that fell this year, with up to 458cm on some of the upper slopes! The previous three seasons had seen an average of 134cm in February and 156cm fall in March. 2012 obliterated recent records with 328cm in Feb and 256cm in March — for a resort based at 1,300m that's an incredible amount of snow.

So much snowfall arrived in St. Anton that some peak boasted around five metres of snow at the summit and much of the off piste was a no-go to novices — due to the depths and the snow pack that had formed. 2008/09 had seen fantastic snow, but last season really was one to remember in the Arlberg.

Cervinia (Ski Paradise), Italy

Cervinia, which is on the Italian side of the Matterhorn and linked with the Swiss resort of Zermatt, is another resort to have benefitted from a bumper season of snow. The Italian resort started will with 141cm of snowfall in December, which is pretty much on par with the resort's average snowfall of 146cm over the three previous winters.

Heading into the peak season months of January through until March, and Cervinia really held its own last season — boasting among the most snow in Italy and more that it's more renowned Swiss neighbour. In January the resort offered 204cm of snow on its slopes, compared the previous average of 154cm. February was still going strong with 187cm, compared to the 2009-2011 average of 161cm and March rounded off a great season with 155cm, whilst April boasted 170cm. Although, the concluding months of the season didn't quite reach the highs of 2008-09.

Conclusion

The snowfall was actually similar to the 2008/09 winter, but less windy, colder days and nights — and a handful of bumper weeks — really made the 2011/12 season stand out.

Some people were expecting a bad season due to the La Niña effect, and though Whistler — as it always does with this storm pattern around — benefitted from its third record breaking season in a row, Europe in general had a cracking season.

The best snow was found in France, Austria and sections of Switzerland, with parts of Italy and the USA being the main areas to struggle for good snow. Mt. Hood in Washington state is generally known as the snowiest resort in the world, but the off-piste Mecca of Engelberg regularly matched and even beat the North American resort, meaning for much of last season the snowiest resort on the planet was in little Switzerland.

For me, the season has merely proved that weather patterns come and go and the mountains are still getting amazing levels of snow. Roll on 12/13.



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