All praise the family ski hols

issue 7 - 2017
By FELICE HARDY · Images Elisa Fernetti, Toshi Kawano, Felice Hardy

Aching limbs, triumphant runs, snowball fights and mountains of cheese – nothing is as bonding and joyous as hitting the slopes with your nearest and dearest.

issue 7 - 2017
By FELICE HARDY · Images Elisa Fernetti, Toshi Kawano, Felice Hardy

Aching limbs, triumphant runs, snowball fights and mountains of cheese – nothing is as bonding and joyous as hitting the slopes with your nearest and dearest.

 

Felice Hardy and family on the slopes

For as long as our three children can remember, we’ve spent Christmas Day on the slopes – opening our stockings in the morning and then venturing out for a refreshing, relaxed ski and a light lunch somewhere really beautiful. Then, as the light fades, we head back for the full works in the evening, including mince pies, mugs of steaming glühwein and, of course, plenty of turkey. This year, for the first time anyone can remember, we’ll be doing things a bit differently, as our eldest son is jetting off for a wedding on Boxing Day. But no matter – we’ll just make it a week or so later. After all, our annual family skiing holiday is a sacred tradition and we’ll do anything, whatever everyone’s schedules, to make it happen.

My husband Peter and I are both skiing journalists, so it’s strange to think that I didn’t exactly relish my own early family ski jaunts.
My very first ski holiday was to St Moritz when I was just three years old, and I wore a powder-blue all-in-one ski suit. I know this because my mother
– a keen skier herself – avidly filmed every ski holiday our family ever went on, even though I could never quite muster the same enthusiasm. And yet, somewhere between tackling the moguls of the Hohe Mut run, and the Solaise in Val d’Isère, I began to fall in love with skiing. Now, it’s what I do for business and for pleasure.

 

So just what is it about skiing that makes it ideal for a memorable and bonding family holiday? Part of it, surely, is the sheer physical pleasure of the snow; messing around in snow simply makes everyone happy. Then there’s the sense of shared endeavour – of everyone, from youngest to oldest in the family, striving to achieve what can seem, at the beginning of the day, an impossibility. And, of course, the fun of getting back from the slopes – piling back to the chalet for tea and cake, easing boots off tired feet, swapping stories and tales of the day. Everyone’s exhausted, but in a thoroughly enjoyable way; there’s no such thing as a bored, fractious child on a skiing holiday.

Some of my own best early memories were created away from the slopes. There’s a romance to skiing resorts. I remember going skating on the ice rink with my grandmother, which, at the time, I thought was much more fun. I loved the tea dancing in Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl, and I fell in love with my handsome Austrian ski instructors: Pepi one year and Walter another. I was still under ten, and they probably didn’t notice.

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The real turning point, though, was when I got to my early twenties. I booked a holiday to Courmayeur, just myself and my sister, and we had such fun – the equipment was better, it was sunny, we’d hang out at the American Bar until late and I made a breakthrough with my technique. Suddenly I was completely hooked. I went on to become a Ski Club rep for several seasons.

My husband Peter started skiing at a later age than I did, on family holidays to Lech, and the Austrian theme was complete when we met on a ski trip to Obertauern. Skiing will always have a special place in our hearts. And so, when we had children, we were determined to give them the very best start. We knew that the day would come when we would all want to ski together. We also knew that we shouldn’t push them to go out on the slopes in freezing cold weather. We should wait until they really wanted to ski.

We’d take them to ski resorts with us, and they’d simply revel in the pure pleasures of the landscape – tobogganing, building snowmen, throwing snowballs, doing what children do. When I caught sight of Max trying on a pair of our enormous ski boots and pretending to be skiing in them, we knew he was ready.

As I’ve watched each one of them make their first link-turns down the mountain, I’ve felt so incredibly proud. Knowing that you’ve taught your children a valuable skill, and that they’re enjoying it, is a wonderfully rewarding experience for any parent. These days, in a way, I find it more enjoyable than skiing myself.

All the children have been on ski trips without us since, but we all agree it just isn’t the same. Part of the joy of skiing with your family is that you love the same routine. For us, it’s a morning on the slopes and then a long lunch somewhere, before making the most of the après-ski scene in the evening – trying the different Alpine restaurants near our chalet, chatting and joking in the way that you don’t after a long day at work.

 

We’ve had more family ski holidays than I can count now. The children have ended up far better skiers than either Peter or myself – Max was captain of his university and went on to be a member of the British ski team, competing in Europa Cup ski cross competitions. Barney worked as a ski instructor for three seasons in Verbier. Izzi was under-13s British Schoolgirls’ slalom champion and later worked in Verbier before uni.

All three of them still come on family holidays to the mountains, and as they get older, there’s a sense that they appreciate both the skiing and our time together much more. Now that our eldest is working, he’s the first out of bed and ready to head to the lifts. As a teenager, it was quite a different story.

 

 

Our annual trip is something all of us know will happen and make time for, and we all decide together where we want to try out next. Of course, for the children there’s something to be said for a free holiday with nice accommodation, but it’s more than that. They love skiing together, and aren’t nearly as enthusiastic when it comes to renting a villa or planning a city break.

There’s a wonderful simplicity to the format we’ve honed together over the years. We know what to expect: a laid-back, light-hearted trip, with time spent together as a family, doing what we love. I know my mother, who died very young, would be delighted to see us all skiing together, and when Max, Barney and Izzi have children of their own, I imagine they will carry on the passion by taking their children skiing. And I hope that, like my grandmother before me, I will be invited along.


Felice Hardy is co-editor of the ski information website welove2ski.com

 

 

 

Everyone’s exhausted, but in an enjoyable way. There’s no such thing as a bored, fractious child on a skiing holiday

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Dunn Recommends:

 

 

ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS

Courchevel, France

Kids from as young as three can be seen slaloming around Courchevel's slopes under the watchful eye of some of the Alps' best instructors. There are dozens of ski schools to choose from, and plenty of gentle green and blue runs at the foot of the mountain. Scott Dunn’s private nanny service (also available in Val d’Isère and St Anton) will entertain children aged four months-13 years, and work out a tailored activity plan, from encouraging little ones onto nursery slopes to swimmingand tobogganing – leaving you time to enjoy yourself.

TEENAGE KICKS

St Anton, Austria

It might be through misplaced confidence, but by now they can hold their own – to the point that they’re leading you down the blacks. Après-ski is on their radar and glühwein stops are becoming a regular thing. For better or worse, St Anton’s infamous MooserWirt claims to sell more beer than any bar in Europe (5,000 litres per day in high season). Ski in, grab a stein, and dance on the tables until late. Or, once they’re old enough, maybe just leave them to it…

FAMILY ALL-COMERS

Val d’Isère, France

They’re beginning to find their feet, but have a tendency to hold you back (as unfeeling as that sounds) – you need somewhere that’ll keep everyone entertained. As one of Europe’s highest resorts, Val is rarely short of snow, which means its huge selection of wide, cruising, blue and red runs are always in tip-top condition. Here, you’ll find instructors who aren’t afraid to take you out of your comfort zone, as well as a Scott Dunn Explorers kids club for children aged from four months to 13 years old.

THE STALWARTS

Jackson Hole, USA

You’ve been skiing as a family, year in, year out, and everyone knows exactly what they’re doing. This year, you want somewhere that’ll get pulses racing. Be warned though, Jackson Hole is not for the faint-hearted. While not every slope is as terrifying as the infamous Corbet’s Couloir, there’s quite a lot around that’s scarily steep. Don’t fancy quite that intensity? The pistes are generally nice and quiet, as everyone’s busy skiing the backcountry.

THE FOODIE FAMILY

San Cassiano, Italy

Try as you might to keep the family united, as soon as you get to the top of the lift everyone will go in different directions, with “Rendezvous at the restaurant” the parting shot. Fortunately food is a serious business in San Cassiano, both on and off the slopes. The mountain restaurants serve exquisite homemade dishes – a fusion of Italian and Austrian fare, showcasing the best of the South Tyrol region. The wine is excellent and Michelin stars are in abundance, especially for a resort so small.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FAVOURITE

Whistler, Canada

As endlessly enjoyable as skiing is, it’s often a good idea to have a contingency plan – fun to be had away from the slopes – especially if you’re going for anything longer than a week. Whistler has it all: zip-lining, ice-skating, tubing, tobogganing, scavenger hunts, Olympic bobsleighing and snowshoeing – it’s nothing short of a winter theme park. We’d recommend taking at least a day off to enjoy some of the fantastic activities the resort has to offer.

THE BLOW-OUT TRIP

Niseko, Japan

This year, your children have decided to go skiing with friends instead. To celebrate your new-found freedom, it might be worth pushing the boat out and going somewhere slightly more exotic. Located on the west of Hokkaido, directly in the path of the Siberian winds, Niseko is blessed with a consistent snowfall that is dry and deep (an average of 600 inches per season). The pistes are expertly groomed, but you can venture off them to discover exactly what Ja-Pow (powder skiing in Japan) is all about.

For further information about booking your family skiing holiday, speak to the Scott Dunn ski team on 020 8682 5050

 

 

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