Skiing as a family for the first time – Tips, Questions and Answers

A few weeks ago we went on our first skiing holiday as a family with Inghams.  I have written about our amazing experience here, you can read about our lovely hotel the Sporthotel Igls here and what non-ski activities families will love here.

This article covers some of the questions we had before our trip and the answers which will hopefully be useful if you are thinking about a family skiing holiday.

Who should we book with?

Even if you are seasoned travellers, if it’s your first ski holiday I would highly recommend booking a package holiday through a provider who specialises in ski holidays.  We booked our holiday through Ski specialists Inghams, but other companies include Ski Total, Crystal Ski, Powder Byrne, Espirit Ski and Neilson.

Inghams were great and took our requirements and sorted out everything from our accommodation, flight and transfer to arranging our ski lessons and equipment hire. Having the support from the reps if required to sort out any questions or the logistics of where we needed to go was an added benefit.

What should I look for when choosing a ski resort?

Look for a family friendly ski resort with a short transfer time.  Travelling with kids can be the most stressful part of a holiday so it’s well worth opting for a resort with a short transfer time from the airport, especially for the end of your holiday as many of the UK flights leave early in the morning.

We chose Igls in Austria because it was less than a 20 minute drive from Innsbruck airport and the ski resort Patscherkofel is one of the most family friendly ski resorts in the area.  Whichever resort you choose its worth checking to see if it has good nursery slopes and runs suitable for all abilities, good ski schools and look for child-friendly ski lifts, carpet lifts, chair lifts and rope tows.

We wanted a family ski experience so the girls were with us on the slopes but if you need childcare look for a company that offers dedicated creches and ski schools if you need time away from the kids.

Check how close the lifts/nursery slopes are from your accommodation.  It’s no fun having to carry your ski gear and your children’s around.

At Patscherkofel there was a modern changing room right next to the nursery slopes and ski lifts, which meant that we could catch the free ski bus back to our hotel each day without our ski gear.

If it’s your first time skiing, what happens if you don’t like it?

I would recommend choosing a resort that offers plenty of non-ski activities for the afternoon and evenings.

Skiing for the first time can be tiring and children may only manage a couple of hours on the slopes, so plan plenty of exciting activities apart from learning to ski.

We chose Igls because it offered the perfect mix of ski and non-skiing activities.  At Patscherkofel we loved tobogganing and even more extreme you could take a ride on a bobsleigh with a professional pilot down the Olympic track.

One of our favourite things to do was just to wander in this magical winter wonderland.  Going for walks, taking in the views, playing in the snow, making snowmen, things we don’t get to do very often in the UK.

The beautiful city of Innsbruck was under 20 minutes away which offered so much to see and do for all the family. (you can read what Innsbruck has to offer families here)

What type of accommodation should we choose?

For family ski holidays, catered chalet based breaks are really popular which are essentially private houses that come equipped with staff who take care of the cooking and cleaning.  You also share the chalet with other guests, you have your own room but everyone comes together at meal times and dines around the same table.

Whilst catered chalets are popular our preference was a hotel stay on a half board basis. We stayed at the 4* Sporthotel Igls a traditional Austrian family friendly hotel with the most welcoming and charming staff based in the beautiful village of Igls.

It was recommended to us because it was close to the ski slopes at Patscherkofel, close to visit the city of Innsbruck for plenty of non-ski activities, had a lovely swimming pool and spa and offered modern spacious rooms perfect for a family of four.

Are ski lessons worth it?

Definitely don’t try and skip having lessons.  Yes it’s expensive but you will get much more enjoyment out of your ski break by having professional instruction – check before you book if they have English speaking instructors.  Small class sizes, both for adults and children are essential to make quicker progress on the slopes.

We pre-booked 3 days private family tuition which is even better as you get more one-to-one attention and less standing around getting cold.  Whilst it’s more expensive than having group lessons we found that we grasped the basics much quicker and at the end of the third day of the lessons the children were coming down a difficult blue run.

Do we need to buy skis?

No, you don’t need to buy skis, ski boots, poles or helmets for your first ski trip.  Companies such as Inghams offer ski packs to hire which I would recommend you purchase in advance before your holiday, so it’s hassle free when you arrive.

I would recommend collecting your ski equipment the day before your lesson.  This will give you enough time to try everything on and you will miss the early morning rush.

What about lift passes?

Buy your lift passes in advance, but don’t waste too much money on lift passes you don’t need.  As a beginner you will spend the first few days of your holiday on the nursery slopes and therefore you won’t need the more expensive multi slope passes until the end of the week.

What clothes do we need to pack?

What clothing to take on a ski holiday especially if it’s your first time can be overwhelming – it’s certainly more challenging than packing for a sunshine break.  We had some great advice from friends who are regular skiers along with tips from the friendly people at Inghams so we got a list together of what we would need during the day and evenings.

We never tend to travel light and over packed slightly. Layers are key when skiing, we had unusually warm weather when we arrived so we didn’t need multiple layers but toward the end of the holiday the temperatures started to drop again so you need to be prepared for all weather conditions.

For Children

  • Ski jacket (choose one with a pocket for their lift passes)
  • Salopettes / ski trousers
  • Woolly hat – You need this before and after the slopes as you will be wearing a helmet skiing and there is no need to wear both.
  • Ski gloves – We preferred the mitten type of glove which make it easier to put your gloves on with wet hands
  • Several pairs of other winter gloves for when not on the ski slopes.
  • Good quality ski goggles and/or sunglasses. These can attach to your helmet when you are on the slopes.
  • Midlayers – lightweight fleeces
  • Thermal base layers – tops and leggings. We took enough so the girls had a fresh pair each day – it can get warm and sweaty skiing!  If you do not want to spend on something you will not wear again you could by thermal pyjamas which can be worn at home.
  • Snow boots – we loved our Sorel boots
  • Ski Socks – you need a pair for each day
  • Neck warmer and/or a snood
  • A warm non ski jacket to use away from the slopes.

For Adults

  • Ski jacket (look for one that is windproof and breathable)
  • Salopettes / ski trousers
  • Woolly hat
  • Ski gloves
  • Ski goggles and sunglasses
  • Midlayers – lightweight fleeces
  • Thermal base layers (we took enough for each day)
  • Snow boots
  • Ski socks
  • Neck warmer or a snood (if it gets really cold)
  • Extra warm non ski jacket to use away from the slopes.

In the evenings it’s very much a smart casual look such as t-shirts, jeans and jumpers and some good non slip warm footwear such as Ugg boots.

Don’t forget to pack your swimsuits, going swimming after skiing will be one of your children’s favourite activities if your hotel or resort has a pool.

Take a small backpack which comes in handy to carry small essentials such as water, snacks, sun cream and your sunglasses.

Where is the best place to buy your ski clothes from?

Ski clothing can be very expensive, but you don’t need to spend a fortune as you can pick up some great deals.

We shopped around for the best value and found ski bundle deals which included a ski jacket, salopettes, and fleece for £80.00 at the likes of Mountain Warehouse, Regatta and Tresspass.

Our Sorel boots were our favourite buys – we had a great deal on these at a big discount from Amazon.

Other shops worth checking out include Decathlon, Go Outdoors and if you live close to a McArthur Glen Designer Outlet you can also pick up some great ski bargains at the likes of Helly Hansen.

Is the sun strong?

Yes, you need to remember your sun screen, face moisturiser and lip balm.  The sun at altitude can be strong and you can burn surprisingly easily with the reflection from the snow – also remember your sun glasses and ski googles to protect your eyes from the sun, it can get really bright.

With the dry air, higher altitude and during our trip warm temperatures combined with lots of exercise means it’s easy to get dehydrated.  Ensure that the children in particular have plenty to drink throughout the day.

Would you recommend a ski holiday?

Definitely.  Our holiday to Austria with Inghams was a resounding success, all four of us can ski now – some of us better than others.  The girls in particular are now little ski experts, it’s amazing just how much they have developed and grown in confidence in just a short space of time.

We liked the fact that every aspect of our trip from flights, accommodation, ski passes, lessons etc could be arranged by Inghams.

Perhaps one of the best moments of our trip was when the four of us were skiing down one of blue runs together, with clear blue skies and glorious warm sunshine with views of the mountains in the distance.

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