Bonjour Les Alpes
The perfect family ski holidays with teenagers, pre-teens and other big kids!
Muddy Wilts Ed, Joanna, tells it like it is.
It is almost mid Jan and the Mudlets gone back to school. I need a serious lie down/box-set watching session after all that ‘fun’. Phew. But enough moaning…here at Muddy Towers it is our job to sniff out all the cool stuff to do and all the mega deals out there, and this time we have spent the hols snooping out how to have a really fab winter holiday with big kids.
The snow has been dumping down this winter which bodes well for a long and late skiing season (alpine tradition says that an infestation of mice and honey bees in summer leads to heavy snowfall in winter, which is what has happened this year. ‘Tis true. Honest, guv.) There are loads of ski companies serving creche-tastic holidays for families with tiny ones – think wrap-around childcare, night nannies, baby-listening, in-house ski schools and trips in horse-drawn carriages to the village carousel – but what about those of us with older kids? We want to ski with them (within reason, we don’t really want them sobbing about the cold and dribbling over our new ski outfits) and we might even want to spend time with them apres-ski (although the toffee vodka is strictly for moi, n’est-ce pas?). Muddy has done the hard work of digging deep and snooping out the best way to ski with big kids in tow.
Ski companies who LOVE big kids
Yep, there are some out there! These guys don’t necessarily have to saddle themselves with all-guns-blazing creches, smiley nannies and myriads of toddler-friendly pleasures so they can put their money where it matters – into cool stuff for big kids. Think TVs larger than my house, games rooms, table tennis, pool tables, hot tubs and Nintendo Wiis galore, all to keep ’em out of trouble. Our absolute fave recommendation for where to stay with big kids is Reach4TheAlps in Morzine and Les Gets – the perfect resorts for big kids where you can let them loose to explore, eat crepes, swim or ice skate in safety.
Reach4TheAlps were fab with our big kids aged 6, 10 and 12. A traditional chalet company who provide the fully catered experience of the upmarket variety, they made our Mudlets feel truly welcome. There’s an enormous games room with TV and table tennis, plus a hot tub that the kids felt welcome to use (which doesn’t often happen in catered chalets, trust me). The food was top notch (think Beef Wellington with a twist, the perfect Thai Massaman curry and a fantastic Scottish night), the champagne flowed (that’s what I like to see!) but what should really get a mention is that their kids’ tea had just as much care put into it, with home-made chicken nuggets and shepherd’s pie. The older ones were even welcome to eat with the grown ups.
The wonderful Stu, Celia and Sam, chalet hosts extraordinaire, bridged the gap between overly-bouncy kids and toffee-vodka infused adults, making the younger gang feel welcome in the chalet. Again, that doesn’t often happen – I’ve stayed at plenty of chalets where kids are banished to their bedrooms in the evening and big kids are often at a loose end. The hosts magicked ice cream out of nowhere on demand and kept a sense of humour when over-tired 6-year olds tumbled into meltdown.
Bedroom-wise we were close enough but not all piled on top of one another – a spacious quad room next door to our rather smart double slept them all nicely with enough room to lay out ski gear for the morning. No family rooms with bunkbeds here, thank you very much!
Although the chalet was close to the centre of Morzine (most of their other chalets are bang in the centre), we had our own dedicated mini-bus/driver combo to drive us to the slopes/back from the bar in the evenings. With their Chalet Aux Joux ranked no 2 on Tripadvisor and Cairn Lodge, our home from home for the week before Christmas, at no 3, quite frankly I’m not surprised that this company and their big love for big kids gets a 70% rate of repeat guests (beat that!)
Reach4TheAlps also have self-catered chalets, perfect for big kids to make lots of noise in, which gets a big Muddy tick from us. A little birdy just told me that La Ferme and L’Ecurie (both sleeping 15/16 with hot tubs, gardens and saunas, no less) have just gone live on the website and are 2 mins walk from the central ski area.
Now is the time to bag yourself a massive kid-friendly Easter bargain with a FREE kid’s ski pass with the purchase of an adult pass (plus adult passes are reduced by 15%), for weeks beginning 31st March, 1st April or 7th/8th April. Or if you fancy ditching the kids there are some last minute uber-bargains for 21st January at their Chalet Martinet and Chalet Claire Vallee.
If you have any of those pesky inset days coming up, bring the big kids with you for a short stay for 3-4 days. Reach4thealps offer short stays departing on Sunday, Wednesday or Thursday and include the fully catered experience, a 3-day Morzine and Les Gets lift pass and return transfers from Geneva. Actually, inset day or no inset day, just get yourself out there.
Best resorts for big kids
Smaller resorts might restrict your off-piste madness but it means big kids can go off skiing solo and still find their way back (hopefully). This is where Morzine and Lets Gets really hold their own (although once you add in Avoriaz there is plenty of opportunity for off-piste chaos!) You can put your feet up with a hot chocolate (insert vin chaud, cold beer or shot of Genepy if you’d rather) while your kids negotiate the lifts on their own. Uh, yes please…! With Morzine and the greater Portes du Soleil area the top resort in Europe for keeping the slopes open by conserving snow as well as making their own, there is no need to seek out those huge higher resorts. We skied on superb snow (and empty slopes) during the first week of the season and with lifts open until nearly the end of April, you can bag a late ski holiday without paying the prices of mid Feb. A bumper bonus is that Morzine and Lets Gets are a mere 90 minute transfer from Geneva airport, so no long coach journeys with whining teenagers.
Go for a resort that offers ski schools specifically suited for big kids and teenagers. Many resorts (including Morzine and Avoriaz) offer snowboarding camps, ski racing weeks and free-style skiing extravaganzas.
Other perfect resorts for big kids are Alpbach in Austria, Beavercreek in Colorado (unashamedly exclusive but, you know, let’s aim high) and Pila in Italy, which has a small area of well-groomed, snow-sure slopes. None of these are high resorts so you won’t get the coach loads of University students descending to wipe you out on the slopes (yes, I’m talking to you. You know who you are.)
Another option is to go for a car free resort so the big kids can explore on their own. Your kids are probably waaaay more mature than mine but I still struggle with a 12-year old who doesn’t realise roads are where you might find moving cars. Fab-tastic options include Avoriaz just above Morzine, the charming village of Wengen in Switzerland, Oberlech in Austria or, if you’ve got dosh to splosh, Sun Peaks in British Columbia.
The fun stuff for big kids
For boarders look no further than Real Snowboarding in Morzine/Avoriaz – fun, cool and serious about their boarding, these guys are the real deal. The main men, Barry and Dave, teach all levels of snowboarding but thrive on coaching freestyle boarding (they both coach the British Military freestyle snowboard teams and Barry coaches the British junior snowboard team, so they know their biscuits). They run lessons for all abilities but their snowboard camps are a must for all keen boarders (my son loves them). Book now for their snowboarding camp 18-25 March and their kids’ camp in the Easter holidays from Monday 2nd April to Friday 6th April.…details are on their website.
Ready to book?