Ski school is essential but also tiring (instruction usually from around 9am-12pm), after which your children (and you) will mostly likely be able to do a couple of extra hours before or after lunch and that’s it. Five hours of skiing a day is plenty for first-timers.
Manage your time if you want more time on the slopes — book childcare for the afternoon, or go with a group and take it in turns to look after the children. Especially for the first few days as newbies won’t be able to manage the slopes yet.
Ski in/out accommodation is a godsend. You don’t have to walk too far in heavy ski boots, so you can pretty much get going without (too much) whining.
Hire kit on arrival. It takes most of the day to reach the Alps from the UK, usually ruling out same-day skiing. So, if you can organise kit hire the afternoon or evening of your arrival it means you can hit the slopes first thing the following day. But note: get comfy with the kit before you leave the shop to avoid schlepping back with gear that pinches. And say yes to helmets.
When you’re not skiing there’s usually plenty of activities to try, such as sledging, ice skating, luge, tubing, swimming indoors and out, and scenic cable car rides. The top of black runs are often lift-accessible and are great places for views and a hot chocolate. At the top of L’Alpe d’Huez DMC lift, for example, there’s an ice grotto.
Buy a ski pass for the week, photograph it for proof and pray your kids don’t lose it. Most ski jackets have a secure ski pass sleeve pocket.
Make use of in-resort babysitters. Apres ski is a bit of a damp squib with kids in tow, but it’s probably worth a sitter once or twice to enjoy the likes of L’Alpe d’Huez’s La Folie Douce, for example.
Layers. Unless it’s very cold, one thermal base layer and one fleece mid layer is enough under a jacket.
Goggles rather than sunglasses. They’re easier to keep on and better in flat light.
Snow footwear. Many resorts have snow-clear pavements, and if you have a ski in/out chalet, walking boots or wellies should suffice.
Unless you ski regularly or in extremely cold weather, it’s not worth investing big bucks in kids’ kit as they will fast grow out of it. These are the bare-minimum basics…
Jacket: Go for one with air vents under the arms, and lots of pockets.
Salopettes: Great for stopping snow getting in after a fall (rather than ski trousers); all-in-one suits are even better for smaller kids.
Gloves: Better than mittens for keeping hold of poles, though mittens are warmer; silk glove liners add
Helmet: Usually provided as part of your ski hire.
Neck tube: More useful than a scarf as you can adjust to keep your neck/chin/face warm and can be tucked into helmet to form a defacto balaclava.
Ski socks: Cold feet stop play so go for decent quality as socks will grow with kids to a certain extent. You don’t need a pair per day — good socks wick moisture and dry well, so wear a few times and wash out.
Sun cream: Keep a small lip salve-sun cream all-in-one in jacket pocket.
Published in the Winter Sports guide, distributed with the November 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)