1. Location, location, locationWith a huge variety of resorts available in Europe, the problem will be narrowing down the options until you have only a handful of contenders.
An important consideration is the level of ability of the skiers in your group. Bigger resorts usually have more variety of terrain, so it’s easier to please everyone from the littlest one who’s still a little unsteady, to experienced and advanced adults.
However, a smaller or less-known resort may be less daunting for first-timers, with less pressure for lifts, quieter slopes and a simpler network of runs. Of course, after a lot of careful planning, the last thing you want is to arrive and find there is no snow.
There is a wealth of information on the internet about snowsure resorts, so it’s easy to choose a location where the white stuff is in plentiful supply.
2. When to goIf school holidays and work schedules don’t impose too many restraints, it’s a good idea to look around to find the best dates to take a break.
Of course, European resorts tend to be busiest, and therefore most expensive, around Christmas and New Year, Easter and the weeks which coincide with half-term holidays in February.
Choosing to travel outwith the peak season allows you not only to find better deals on flights and accommodation, but also to have a more relaxed holiday when the slopes, lifts and restaurants are crammed to bursting.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that later on, towards the end of the season, the days begin to get longer and the temperatures start to rise nicely which may be more suitable for younger children who don’t cope well with being in the extreme cold.
Whenever you choose to go, the further in advance you book, the more choice you will have of accommodation and other services such as childcare, ski schools and evening entertainment. So get out your diary and set a date!
3. More than just a place to rest your weary headOn an active, energetic holiday, having a comfortable place to stay is essential so that you can relax at night and wake up ready to make the most of the day.
The huge range of accommodation options can be daunting, but taking certain things into account should help the decision making.
Firstly, if you are going to travel with very small kids, save yourself from listening to constant moaning and book somewhere that is very close to the slopes, ideally ski-in/ski-out, to avoid long walks in the morning and evening carrying awkward equipment whilst wearing clumpy boots.
Privately catered accommodation, such as a chalet or apartment offers more flexibility when it comes to meal times and food options, and you also won’t have to worry about disturbing other guests or diners.
If you’re not keen to spend every evening cooking, then find accommodation which offers a catering service and you can enjoy the best of both worlds – great, restaurant quality food in the comfort of your own home.
4. Snowsports - it’s child’s play!Booking ski lessons with a ski school is an excellent way to make sure that kids have a positive first experience of the sport. Make sure you find a school where the instructors are native speakers or highly fluent in your child’s first language.
Many resorts also have special children’s areas with easy to use magic carpet lifts, and fun snow parks where little ones can improve their technique and build up their confidence before hitting the main pistes.
For older kids and teenagers, a big attraction could be a snowpark where they can learn or perfect their tricks. Check out the availability of these facilities on resort websites.
Having the right equipment to ski is essential, so research the local rules and regulations when you are buying ski gear or reserving it to hire in the resort. Pay special attention to rules regarding helmets for kids – in most countries, this is recommended, but in some, such as Italy, it’s compulsory.
5. Leave those kids alone!While the kids are having the time of their life at ski school, the grown-ups can head off to explore the winter wonderland to their heart’s content.
When choosing a school, find out exactly what the arrangements are for child-care before and after lessons, and also if there is supervision to cover snack or lunch breaks.
Choosing a school which offers continuous supervision will allow you more freedom to ski yourself. If you plan to enjoy some child-free evenings during the holiday, be sure to book childcare services as far ahead as possible.
Babysitting services are more plentiful in bigger resorts, but many hotels will offer some kind of childcare service if given enough notice. Plan ahead and the whole family will have an amazing time – the start of a new family tradition!