Our family of five has been skiing as a unit for five years now. Every Easter holiday, we set off for a week on the slopes, each time we’re all a tad wiser about managing our expectations. We have tried lots of ways to make the holiday work for everyone: group ski lessons, individual lessons, hanging out in crèches or children’s clubs, staying in luxury hotels, family hotels, or chalets. So by now, it’s fair to say, I feel a bit of an expert. I realise that children tire easily on the slopes and need a big chunk of après-ski each day, that hotels that only open their dining room doors at 7pm for dinner are a killer, and that a friendly, English-speaking instructor makes all the difference to your child’s experience.
But wouldn’t it be great not to have to learn the hard way? This is what the luxury family tour operator Powder Byrne promise. They also promised that we needn’t compromise our family holiday with our young children, Freya, nine, Kristin, eight, and Magnus, four.
So, with this assurance in mind, we booked our family in for a week of skiing in Zürs, Austria, and I’ve got to say, Powder Byrne’s attention to detail is impressive. Firstly, the pre-allocated seats on our scheduled flight with Swiss from London City Airport to Zurich meant all the family could sit together. Then our two-and-a-half hour transfer to our resort in Zürs was made a whole lot more comfortable when a cheery rep showed us the way to a people carrier for our family’s exclusive use. This was a joyous moment, as travelling on a packed coach with small children on windy roads usually leads to everyone scrabbling for wet wipes.
But what really matters for children is how they are looked after on the slopes, and this is where Powder Byrne have worked hard to get it right. Children are grouped according to age and ability: the Yeti Primer for three- to four-year-olds; the Yeti Club for four- to nine-year-olds; and Snozone for the older children. Each group has their own English-speaking instructor, and there’s often a nanny in tow, too. The day lasts from 9am to 4pm, with a big chunk of skiing in the mornings (and in the afternoon for older children) and a long lunch. Along the way, there are snacks, songs and games. And it was these clubs that made the week so enjoyable for our three children. For the first time on a skiing holiday they made “pals”. Our eight-year-old, Kristin, swapped addresses with her new friends and whenever I walked around the resort with my three in tow there always seemed to be another child calling out “hello”.
Run by the lovely Thomas and Hannelore Eggler, the Arlberghaus Hotel was also exceptionally family-friendly. Children’s tea was available from 5pm each day – featuring meatballs, grilled fish, fish fingers, pizza, pasta – and breakfast included newsletter updates on the weather, the day’s menu, and at least three corny jokes, which had Magnus chuckling all the way to ski school.
But what about the “no compromise” holiday for grown-ups? Well, just a few strides away from our hotel door were lifts linking us to arguably the best powder ski area in Europe – Austria’s Arlberg region. That’s a whopping 260kms of prepared pistes and even more kilometres of exciting off-piste action. Although less ambitious,
I still found there were enough runs for six happy days of skiing and the nursery slopes were close enough to drop in on the children.
The resorts of Lech, St Anton, St Christoph and Stuben are also close at hand. The glamorous Lech is where various European royal families have come to ski – including Princess Diana, who visited with Prince William and Harry. So one morning, Kristin and I opted out of skiing and went to Lech to people-watch, window-shop and drink delicious hot chocolate in this most chi-chi of resorts.
This was a relatively effortless family ski holiday – it didn’t take a lot of effort to travel to our resort, to get our children out on the slopes, or to find time to ski ourselves. And that’s because the little details of this holiday worked – details which we didn’t have to worry about – which, after all, is what the perfect holiday is all about.
Seven nights at Easter (including accommodation, flights, transfers and medical insurance) costs from £8,658 for a family of five (not including ski passes). Children’s clubs cost from £375 for six days per week.
Visit www.powderbyrne.com or tel: 020 8246 5300.
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