- Do your research and choose a family-friendly resort
- Ski lessons boost your kids' skills and confidence
- Save money by hiring kit and equipment
You never know quite how the kids are going to react to their first ever time on the snow. Some take to it like penguins to ice chutes, while others are more tentative and nervous, taking their time to feel comfortable on their skis, unable to move without doing the splits.
Before you head off to a mountain resort, introduce your child to the basics by visiting a man-made snow centre or dry slope.
'A dry ski slope is the ideal place to try out the sport and get equipped with the basics – from learning to put skis on and standing up in them, to leaning forward when moving,' advises Beth Walters, a seasoned ski instructor who's spent 15 years teaching kids to ski in Europe and Canada. 'It can help put worries or misconceptions to bed before you arrive in resort.'
There are dozens of slopes dotted around the UK – and even a few resorts. Check out the Ski Club's map to find the one that's closest to you.
Getting the right kit
Skiing can be expensive. Aside from the many layers of clothing, gloves, scarves and boots you'll need, there are the all-important skis, helmets and goggles to think of.
Thankfully, all good resorts hire out essentials and experts agree it's beneficial to make the most of this, especially for a first-time family ski trip.
'If you or your children haven't skied before, we recommend hiring all your hardware to begin with, so you can see how you get on and make sure it's right for you,' recommends the team at mountain sports retailer Ellis Brigham (@Ellis_Brigham).
Plus, if you hire gear, you won't have to keep buying new ski clothes every time your kids grow a few inches.
Selecting the best ski lessons
It's tempting to try and teach your kids yourself, but it can be more beneficial for them to join a ski school.
'Ski lessons are a great way for children to learn to ski and meet others their age at the same time,' says Paul Eyre, from ski chalet company Chilly Powder.
In addition, they're an important way for kids of all ages to learn from an expert. It is important to find the right group for your child – one with others their age that suits their ability.
'Lessons are available for all ages, typically from four-year-olds to teens, and the instructor will assess which class is best for each child,' explains Beth. 'Lessons for the younger kids are designed to be super fun, so it doesn't feel like they're at school, whilst the teens get to learn at their level.'
Typical first-time skiers, and how to help them
'For the more timid, a good instructor will boost their confidence on the snow and get them moving with ease. By the end of the week it's not unusual to see your previously tentative seven-year-old skiing down a blue run with ease!' says Beth.
'The overly confident need a bit of reigning in,' Beth recommends. 'They need to learn the basics just like anyone else. Being fearless is good in some ways, but safety – both theirs and other skiers' – is critical.'
The slippery slopers typically slip and slide their way down, falling over numerous times along the way. But as Beth says, 'practice makes perfect.' Give these kids plenty of encouragement and support and they'll get there in the end.
While skiing is a lot of fun, safety on the slopes is essential. Taking out travel cover provides some peace of mind, but teaching your kids the basics of piste etiquette reduces the risk of accidents too.
Stop where you're visible on the side of a piste, rather than in the middle of it, and 'always look both ways when you're crossing a slope', says Dave Morris, a ski instructor from Courchevel Moriond 1650, a family-friendly skiing village in the Trois Vallées area of the French Alps, which has excellent beginners' slopes.
Wrapping up against the cold is obvious, but the sun can also be an issue. The sun on mountaintops can be strong, so don't forget to pack and use plenty of sunscreen.
'Because of the higher altitude, the sun's UV rays can be just as damaging on the slopes as they are on the beach. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF30+ and reapply it regularly,' advises Dr Perry Robbins of the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Where to go skiing?
Areas of the French Alps such as Val d'Isère, Tignes and Tignes-les-Brévières are popular with families and boast top facilities and ski classes. Package deals for families are often available, helping keep costs down.
'This season at the top of the Solaise, above Val d'Isère, there are new upgraded beginner slopes, serviced by two new covered magic carpets,' comments Becky Coates from chalet company Ski Bonjour (@SkiBonjour). 'The gradient of the slope has been reduced from 16% to 7%, so it's ideal for beginners and the perfect place to learn to ski.
'The magic carpets – a form of moving pavement-style lift that takes you up a ski slope – are something the kids might enjoy as much as the skiing!'
When to go skiing?
'Christmas is always popular, but I suggest opting for Easter school holidays,' advises Beth. 'As well as tending to be cheaper, the weather is more likely to be stable. Think blue skies and sun – perfect skiing weather!'
By planning carefully, choosing an appropriate resort and getting some expert ski tuition, your time on the slopes should go well. You may even trigger a lifelong love of skiing in your little ones, too!