Family ski holidays – insane or inspired?
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More than anything Mr Muddy loves to ski, and it’s been a source of great irritation to him over the last few years that trivial things like C-sections and eye-watering epidurals have meant my back is not up to snowboarding. It’s still dodgy as it happens, but something about Mr Muddy’s pleading eyes made me give in this year, so just before Christmas all five of us went on a family skiing holiday.
Now before you stick your fingers up at the computer screen and zone out, this isn’t a feature slogging through the glories of my fabulous holiday (though it was actually really good haha!). I’m writing about it because you might find yourself in a similar situation to me.
As a family we were a motley crew of abilities and ages and temperaments, almost so different that it felt like a hassle to go at all. A toddler who was too young to ski, an older one who was onto his third week. A middle child who was yet to ski and might point blank refuse to try. A husband who wanted to ski all day. And me? I wasn’t risk doing my back in before Christmas, so I decided not to ski at all, instead hoping for some R&R and to be on hand to help my kids have a good time.
We went with Ski Famille, a relatively small company compared to the big beasts like Powder Byrne and Neilson, but Mr Muddy and Finn had been away with them a few years back and loved it, so it had form. Having worked out of Les Gets for over 20 years it’s carefully expanded, now boasting a clutch of chalets in the area. The secret of Ski Famille’s success is reflected in its name – they are family holiday specialists, working out every conceivable way to take the hassle away from parents who want to ski and have a break, but also spend quality time with their kids.
We stayed at the entry level chalet Negritelle, chosen because it was in the centre of Les Gets, so easier for me, the non-skier, to get around and see/do stuff. There are definitely sleeker chalets in their portfolio – I had a sneaky look at the new Chalets Bogart and Bacall just built opposite and they were smarter than my house! That was an extra £1000 a week per family so you might think it worth paying for a more luxurious experience. You can also get a ‘whole chalet’ price if you want to take it over with just your friends. But for us, Chalet Negritelle was perfect and came with a basement playroom, plenty of loos (the downfall of many a communal chalet), open plan lounge/dining and chef Louis and Becky the childminder.
Here’s what you need to know. I didn’t lift a finger to cook all week – delicious breakfasts, afternoon teas and three course dinners cooked each day by the lovely Louis. The children were collected by Becky for their skiing lessons, and taught by instructors who spoke great English and showed a level of patience not always associated with our Gallic friends. Then they played with kids from other Ski Famille chalets in the afternoon, and were deposited back at 4.30pm (unless we wanted to fetch ourselves. Er, NO).
My week was quiet and relaxing. No dizzy heights of excitement – that’s what the mountains are for – but knowing that my week was going to be more serene, I was prepared and I quickly established my own routine. A bit of blogging in the morning (that Muddy Stiletto Christmas giveaway wasn’t going to sort itself out), a bath, some trashy reading, and then off for a coffee on the slopes to watch the end of the kids’ ski lessons.
I met Mr Muddy most days for lunch and in the afternoons I organised my own entertainment including an afternoon snow-shoeing with local guide Caroline from the Snow Shoe Company. Who knew walking in the snow with tennis rackets attached to your feet for three hours could be so much fun (or that my Just Sheepskin boots would be so brilliant for the job)? I was pleased to get on the snow and into areas of the mountains even skiers can’t easily reach and do a bit of exercise that didn’t involve moving cake from plate to mouth. We happened to walk on a day where visibility wasn’t great but on a bright sunny day there would be some exhilarating views.
Later in the week I managed to swim a couple of times in Morzine, about 10 minutes away by bus, in a stupendously clean and slick new pool/steam/sauna/that made British municipal facilities look positively toxic, and nearly got round to having a massage and doing a chocolate making course and considered going shopping to Geneva for a nanosecond, but it being a holiday, couldn’t quite be bothered. Yeah I’m lazy, so sue me!
And what of Les Gets itself? It’s an attractive, unpretentious resort with an easy 1 hour transfer from Geneva, and a life outside skiing – so there are plenty of local haunts to offset the more touristy restaurants. The skiing is fab, part of the Ports du Soleil range that also includes Morzine and Avoriaz. Les Gets is also very beginner friendly with a ‘magic carpet’ next the nursery slope , itself next to a cafe, which is next to the bubble. Parfait really.
So the holiday was a massive, unexpected success, and it also changed my perspective on family skiing breaks. They’ve always seemed so expensive and hard work, but without being too gut-wrenchingly sentimental about it, I can see now how they bring families together, experiencing an exhilarating activity together, but giving everyone the space they need. Next year we’ll hitting the snow again – and this time I’ll be joining in.