How to avoid the half-term ski crowds
If you’re heading out to the slopes this weekend for your half-term family ski holiday, along with crowds of other families, you’re sure to have a brilliant week as the snow’s plentiful and in fantastic condition at the moment. However the flipside is that it will be incredibly crowded, especially in the big famous resorts such as the 3 Valleys, Tignes-Val d’Isère, LesArcs-La Plagne, Verbier, St Anton… but don’t despair and read on!
Half term week is one of the dreaded high-season weeks for resort reps contending with crowded airports and juggling passengers onto dozens of coaches for their transfers to resort; and packed pistes with queues for lits, queues for lunch, queues for ski buses…. For families travelling, you can avoid a lot of the crowds and a lot of the stress and experience a far more enjoyable ski trip by following our top tips:
1 Set off early
If you’re on a package holiday, allow plenty of time to reach the airport, park the car and get through check-in. If you have time to spare, you can always browse the shops/have a snack/change nappies etc etc once you’re through to airside and the pressure’s off. Let’s face it, there’s nothing more stressful than trying to shoo an excited and easily excitable family through an airport if you’re behind schedule before you’ve begun your holiday.
Be prepared for delays and take plenty of snacks and entertainment for the plane. You may wish to read our related features before you set off: Baby on board; Flying with little ones – hand luggage essentials; Tips for stress-free flying with kids; and Entertaining the Kids en route
If you’re driving to the Alps, set off as soon as you can once school breaks up. Those lucky enough to have an INSET day on Friday, head off on Thursday and get a head-start! If your accommodation’s not ready, sleep a night somewhere en route – it’s so easy nowadays to find accommodation with such sites as Tripadvisor and Expedia – but make sure it’s somewhere near the resort so you can make and early start the next day and beat the traffic-jams into resort.
If you’re travelling by train, check out our feature Train Travel to the Alps for tips on keeping the kids amused.
2 Pre-book as much as possible
If you need ski rental, make sure it’s prebooked and ready in resort for collection on your arrival day so you can get going early on your first ski day. No matter how tired everyone is on arrival, go and collect your gear and buy lift passes (if you haven’t been able to prebook those with your ski company).
3 Sit as near to the front as you can on the coach transfers
Also keep everyone off the sweets and fizzy drinks. That way there’s less chance of the winding road making your children sick.
4 First morning – wake up early
Ok, we know you’re on holiday but this will really pay off. It takes ages to gather everyone’s kit together, find missing gloves, check kids have enough layers, do suncream, etc, etc…but get up early and be sure to get to the first lift really early (yes… well before it opens!) to avoid hideous lift queues later in the morning. If you haven’t purchased your lift passes, allow an extra half-hour! You will also be among the first skiers on the mountain, on newly-groomed slopes without any crowds.
5 Reduce stress – yours and your kids – and stay safe
If your children are booked into ski school on their own, write your mobile number on their hand so that you and they don’t feel anxious about being out of touch. Make sure kids have a good covering of day-long sunblock and lip salve on their faces before you leave your accommodation, and that they know the ‘rules of the road’ when skiing/boarding. You can find the International Ski Federation’s Ski Rules for Kids by clicking HERE (and some adult guidelines HERE!). Safety is paramount on the piste, and here at FamilySkiNews we are strong advocates of helmet wearing for young and old alike. You an see our thoughts on Helmet Safety by clicking HERE.
Also, take time to prepare for each day the night before. Follow our guide ‘Six things to do before you go to bed’ by clicking HERE. It will pay off the next day when you manage to avoid the scrum to get to the slopes.
6 Ski at lunch
Slopeside restaurants get really crowded between midday and 2pm, which means one of two things: you either queue for ages to get an overpriced bowl of soup or some cold-by-the-time-you’ve-reached-checkout spaghetti bolognaise or you ski through the lunchtime break on lovely, quiet, uncrowded pistes? For us, it’s a no-brainer – stop for lunch at 11.30 (remember you’re up early for breakfast to get that first lift!) or, if you’re on a tight budget, pack a sandwich and some snacks!
7 Ski with an instructor
In France and in some other resorts in other countries, you may have noticed how each lift has a designated lane especially for ski schools. If you’re with an instructor (from any school, not just ESF instructors), you never have to wait for a lift – you simply go straight to the front of the queue in the priority lane! Check out our guide to ‘Choosing the right ski school for your family’ by clicking HERE. You’ll find your skiing improves too!
These are just seven of our top tips for a smooth and happy half-term on the slopes. If you have any other insider tips to share with us before, during or indeed after your trip, please join the discussion on our Facebook page by clicking HERE, or tweet us at @FamilySkiNews by clicking HERE. We would be delighted to hear from you.
In the meantime, happy ski hols!