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

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.


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.