As a mum of two, I wanted to share my experience to help you get your kids to the ski school or onto the slopes in Val Thorens WITHOUT A FUSS! Especially when it comes to your youngest (ages three to five).
I completely understand that the journey from your accommodation to the ski school meeting point could end up in a family meltdown and make you regret bringing your little darlings skiing in the first place!
So, what are the secrets to turning this potential nightmare into a worry-free experience?
Forewarned is forearmed:
- Never hesitate to call the experts of your destination at the Tourist Information Office on +33 (0)4 79 00 08 08;
- Or ask at the reception of your residence, hotel or agency;
- Or the secretary of the ski school where you have booked your lessons.
Whenever I travel, I always ask the people who live there for information or recommendations of places to go. It’s worth remembering that someone living or working at the destination will often be a good source of advice.
The knowledge of a local is invaluable! I've lost count of the number of times this has helped me become quickly more familiar with a new place. Not only is this reassuring, it’s also another and often more interesting way to get to know your destination outside of the travel guides.
Know where you're going:
Check ahead of time the distance between where you are staying and where you are meeting your ski group, especially on day one.
Here is a map showing the meet-up points for the various ski schools in Val Thorens:
- On skis:
Val Thorens is the ski-from-your-door resort par excellence. Why not ski directly from your apartment? Don't forget to wrap up! I really recommend this option if your children know how to ski by themselves, or put them between your legs... BUT don't try this unless you are an excellent skier, or it could easily end in tears;)
Make sure the journey is direct via the slopes. If you and your child are both beginners, this might not be the best option!
Avoid carrying your child in your arms, in case you should fall—it might end badly for both of you. Skiing with weight in your arms changes your point of gravity and an edging mistake could be fatal.
- By bus:
Lucky for you, Val Thorens offers a free shuttle service! Scout out the closest bus stop to your accommodation (when you’re on your way to getting your fondue fix the evening before, for example) and the bus route (FYI the ride from the top to the bottom of the resort takes 20 minutes). The bus makes two loops: the first from Place des Arolles heading to the top of the resort passing through the centre, Place Péclet, Rue de la Boucle and Quartier des Balcons, before returning to Place des Arolles and making a loop of the bottom of the resort.
One piece of advice is to avoid the buses between 8.30 and 8.45 in the morning because they can be packed. Another reason why you should be well organised and head out early. And don’t leave anything on board.
- By foot:
The journey is no more than 10 minutes away, perfect... except, here’s a little tip: don’t let your child walk there in their ski boots.
Carry your kid’s ski boots in a bag and put them on your little one when you get there. I mean, given the size of our children’s legs, it would be like seeing a couple of twigs with two anvils attached plodding through the snow! Have you ever seen a prima ballerina dance in ski shoes? Bearing in mind the weight/strength ratio of your kids, their legs would be tired and achy by the time they made it to the ski lesson.
Top tip: get yourself a ski carrier strap for your back! An inexpensive accessory that will free up your hands and your child’s! Expect to pay between €10 and €30 depending on how technical you want to get. Made in Val Thorens! I haven't got around to testing it, but it’s on my list, promise!
- By sledge:
My favourite option when there’s fresh snow in the streets, especially with a young child in tow. The sledge needs to be big enough to hold your child and their equipment (let’s not make things hard on yourself!). I take my son to nursery this way as soon as the snowfall allows it. He loves looking out for choughs, snowfinches and other birds from these parts along the way! A lovely activity to pass the time for everybody.
And remember, the aim isn’t to do an Olympic toboggan run to reach your destination! Be careful when moving around.
My ski list:
- Thin hat to wear inside the helmet;
- Goggles (I prefer goggles to glasses because they fit perfectly with your helmet) worn outside the helmet and not inside (already spotted this morning);
- Neck warmer;
- Gloves or mittens with an elasticated band to avoid any snow creeping in or inadvertently losing them (or the good old gloves on a string);
- Ski socks;
- Handwarmers if your child feels the cold and if the temperature outside is particularly fresh;
- Snacks in the pockets, quick and easy to eat;
- Packet of tissues;
- Sun cream;
- A trip to the bathroom before you leave! Because you’re not at the beach and when you’ve got to take your gear off and on again... oh, there goes the bus!
Last piece of advice: if you’re not a morning person, forget the morning class, it’s extra stress you can do without and will ruin a ski HOLIDAY if you are constantly late and putting yourself under pressure for no reason. Plus, it’s often warmer in the afternoon :)
Now you know everything and will never have to tell your child "stop crying we're going to be late for your ski lesson".