By Malati Parekh, ABTA's in-house Solicitor.
Going skiing is always exciting, but especially the first time with your children. Although you may also be understandably slightly nervous putting two skis on your children’s legs and encouraging them to slide down a hill!
When I took my boys skiing for the first time, they were 7 and 11 years old. I was really nervous. So, this blog is intended to give you my tips on keeping you and your kids safe whilst on the mountain, giving you a few tips from my own experience as a parent, which will also help you prepare for your winter sports holiday without breaking the bank.
Make sure your children are comfortable in all their ski gear
Don’t necessarily go for the matching designer look – it’s much more important that they are happy and comfortable in the gear and that you’re not worried if they ruin it while playing around on the slopes because it’s so expensive. You could also ask your friends who have children their age to borrow theirs to save a bob or two. Alternatively, it’s possible to hire jackets and salopettes in the UK and this may be a good option.
Most of the people that we’ve been skiing with tend to hire skis or a snowboard in the resort rather than have the hassle of buying their own and transporting them. However, quite a few of them do have their own ski boots. Think about hiring these too for the first couple of holidays, as kids grow out of stuff so quickly and it is much more economical unless you’re planning to pass them down to someone else’s children. Not all children enjoy skiing, you may not go again, so it’s sensible to hire the equipment for their first time.
When you hire the gear, keep an eye on the fitting of the ski boots. If they’re too tight or too loose, it will lead to unhappy kids with painful feet/legs. Go back and change them if necessary. Hire places are used to this and will be co-operative.
Rent a helmet
Rent a helmet as well; in many countries, it is also a legal requirement for children to wear helmets and many insurance policies require you to wear a one on the slopes. Two years ago we had the experience of seeing how effective helmets are when our younger son, who was then 14, crashed out of control – the helmet suffered a crack at the back, but thankfully he was fine. Without the helmet…well, I don’t even want to think about that!
Book ski in, ski out accommodation
To avoid having your kids lug their ski gear around and walking in the ski boots for long distances (not the most comfortable or natural thing to have to do!), ask your travel company for ski in and ski out accommodation. It’s normally much easier to get to your ski school so you can have a longer lie in. It guarantees fewer arguments, after all, it’s supposed to be a holiday!
Book lessons with your travel company
Whether you’re a beginner or not, ski or snowboard lessons can help everyone improve their skills and confidence. Ask your travel company for more information on booking classes for your children on the slopes. You may also like to refresh your skills. The benefit of the whole family being in a ski school is that it gives you a little break and the chance for your children to make new friends.
You could book for a couple of days of lessons and see how they get on. It’s easy enough to book in further sessions if you want to. Consider having the odd morning or afternoon off from skiing and do something else with the kids, they’ll return back to skiing fresh after the break. My boys enjoyed having lessons for half a day and then staying with us doing our own thing for the other half.
Get used to the slopes
On the day before ski school, take your children to the nursery slope first so you don’t feel you’re throwing them into a full ski week on their first day of ski school. Get them familiar with the equipment, the concept of skiing and being confident to stand up in their skis or snowboard. Walk up the slope around 100 metres and let them slide down on their own.
Beware of the sun
Make sure you apply lots of sunscreen and lip balm and wear goggles or sunglasses. The sun on the slopes is doubly strong because of the reflection from the snow. Your children may complain about wearing goggles or sunglasses all of the time, but explain that without these the sun’s reflection from the snow could give them a painful headache.
Get your children to wear lots of thin layers rather than just a couple of thick ones. It can get hot on the slopes from all of the exercises, so they need to be able to take their layers off. Thin layers can also easily fit into your backpack as well if they are taken off.
Explore what’s off the piste to give your legs a break
Depending on where you go, there are so many activities for the whole family in mountain resorts these days, including sledging, swimming in the hotel pool, building a snowman and walking through the resort village to buy a Nutella pancake and hot chocolate, maybe even snowshoeing. At Christmas, many resorts will be feeling festive as well. Ask your travel company which resorts are best for children.
Get enough sleep and food
Young kids can’t cope with skiing and late nights, so you need to be sensible with how late you go out for the apres-ski with them. You’ll probably find that you and your children will be hungry all the time as you’re doing so much more exercise. Make sure you have wholesome meals and don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day too – your muscles will thank you.
Get fit before you go
Before you travel through, get the whole family eating sensibly and exercising for a few weeks before hitting the slopes. The stronger their legs, the less they’ll complain about aching limbs! The Ski Club of Great Britain has a great video by Chemmy Alcott, multiple British champion and a four-time Olympian here. Get the whole family behind it and practise the moves at home together.
For more ski safe tips visit: abta.com/skisafe