The Reality Of A Family Skiing Holiday

13/01/2015 23:25 | Updated 20 May 2015

skiing as a family

Skiing is a great family holiday. Its combination of healthy outdoor pursuits, breathtaking scenery and kid-friendly cuisine of crepes, chocolate and cheese draws thousands to the slopes year after year.

However, for those who skied before kids, be warned, it's also the polar opposite to the booze-fuelled piste parties of yesteryear. And I don't just mean the cruel absence of Jagermeister.

At Christmas, we embarked on our first family skiing holiday. I say embarked because in the run up it was akin to the preparation Captain Scott underwent on his first expedition to the Antarctic.

I had a romantic vision of the family gliding down the slopes five-abreast in matching neon ski-suits like minor members of the royal family. Swinging our legs with joyful glee as we sat arm in arm on a chairlift, the gentle snowball fights and mugs of vin chaud in cosy alpine refuges. In short, living the ski dream.

In reality, a skiing holiday with kids is utterly exhausting. If you've booked ski lessons in the morning, it's like doing the school run but in minus-10 and with balance-challenged penguins.

skiing as a family

On a positive note, ski school is a blessing. Not only does it give kids the best start in the sport, but it means that parents will have the luxury of time on the slopes sans enfants.

Here are some other ski facts they won't tell you about prior to your holiday...

1. Your new role as ski mule.

I would strongly suggest building your upper body strength to Thor standards prior to your holiday, because as a parent you will be expected to carry EVERYTHING. Skis, poles, gloves, spare gloves (see point 2), and any number of inconsequential items. "Where's my polar bear, I can't ski without him."

You'll then find yourself in the gondola with eight armfuls of equipment before one will whisper, "I need a wee..."

2. Bring spare gloves, hats, scarfs and patience.

Do not underestimate the need for spare items of clothing. Mittens and gloves come with a death wish and will fling themselves off chairlifts, be left in cable cars, under tables or on ski buses if not monitored very, very closely.

Ditto hats, scarves, ski poles and anything else not secured by chains. And don't forget to threaten arrest by the mountain police if any child removes the ski pass from their coat.

3. The icy cold fear you will feel.

Children are born without the fear gene, so prepare yourself for the icy spear of dread that will pierce your beating heart as your precious offspring go gung-ho down the slopes after just two lessons.

My heart missed several dozen beats when I spied my nine-year old daughter, Lola, from the chairlift just as she launched full throttle down a slope without turning once. Then when I saw her brother crouched Ski Sunday-style at the top of a rather hairy red run, I was almost airlifted off the mountain such was my distress.

4. Why a catered chalet beats self-catering.

Skiing is a notoriously expensive holiday, but if funds will stretch I would choose a catered chalet over self-catering, because boy, are you going to need some pampering (not to mention a vat of wine) after a day on the slopes with the kids.

If, like us, you've opted to go self-catering, then prepare to cook meals using little more than a camping stove, a sieve and a spatula. Chalets and apartments are always under equipped, they do, however, all have a corkscrew.

5. Forget apres ski. There is no apres ski.

A major attraction of any skiing holiday is, of course, the apres ski. Sadly, apres is gifted only to those without children. Long gone are the endless hours in the bar drinking jugs of beer chased down by shots of toffee vodka and Jagermeister with 20-year old snowboarders, before staggering back to the chalet with one ski and a jester hat.

In my experience, children, even my children who generally love a pub, will point-blank refuse to enter any bar straight from the slopes, no matter how much chocolat chaud you promise them.

6. Death by tantrums

Trying to get off a ski lift with a child in full tantrum over the wrong colour goggles is one of those parenting moments which makes you wish you had opted for a labrador instead.

As one with a fear of heights, chairlifts are not my favourite places at the best of times, but when seconds from imminent death because the 12-year old taunts the nine-year old by threatening to unclick her skis, your screams will echo round the mountains like a four-letter yodel.

But despite all this, and the fact that you will need a proper holiday to get over it, skiing is brilliant fun and I would, without a doubt, do it all over again next year.