By Rhonda Carrier
How do you choose a ski holiday with kids when you've never done it before and don't know your ploughs from your parallel turns? We were in the minority among families at Mark Warner's extremely cosy Chalet-hotel Aiguille Percée in the resort of Tignes, in that none of us could ski. Most other parents there were seasoned skiers, and most of their children, even the very young ones, could already tackle the slopes to some degree. We felt that we stood out a mile by our communal ineptitude and total lack of nous.
"Some days we went out on the slopes again to practise what we'd learnt for an hour or so; others we warmed back up in Tignes' indoor waterworld with its mountain views and wellness centre (Jacuzzis, steam rooms, saunas), or in the Aiguille Percée's own spa."
Coming to skiing fairly late in life – in our mid-40s – my husband and I were fairly nervous about the whole experience. Of course, going with a super-child-friendly operator such as Mark Warner – which has been taking people to the Alps for nearly 50 years – takes a lot of the stress and uncertainty out of it.
Mark Warner's first choice of ski school in Tignes is Evolution 2, and we couldn't have hoped for a smilier, more inspiring teacher for the kids than thirty-something Olivier, who doubles up as a carpenter in the summer months. As there are five of us, we had considered having private family lessons. We were glad we didn't – the boys, aged 11, nine and six – would have been held back by we clumsy, slower, more nervous adults. With Olivier and in a group of just four kids, they were on blue runs by day two and on reds by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, our adult group pottered along, dividing into two mid-week as some novices made better progress than others. Even the weaker students got to go high into the mountains, however – Espace Killy lifts and gondolas give you access to a natural bowl with sedate but highly scenic greens, including a zone tranquille for those wanting to keep to a steady pace free of boy- or girl-racers.
We broke ourselves into this first family skiing holiday gently, with half-day lessons – full days would have been too exhausting and may even have put us off for life, especially with the need to get yourself and three children into ski-boots and kit more than once a day. And Tignes has plenty to fill the rest of the day – there's a natural ice-rink on part of the central lake, plenty of tobogganing slopes, husky sleigh-rides, and, for the very brave, ice-diving, ski-paragliding and bungee. Some days we went out on the slopes again to practise what we'd learnt for an hour or so; others we warmed back up in Tignes' indoor waterworld with its mountain views and wellness centre (Jacuzzis, steam rooms, saunas), or in the Aiguille Percée's own spa with its small swimming pool.
Tignes proved an excellent resort to learn as a family of complete beginners, but most of all for families to have fun together. And that, surely, is what a successful ski holiday with kids comes down to.
Read more about family ski holidays in Tignes.
Alternatively, check out five more great resorts for all-beginner families: Alpe d’Huez and Les Gets (Haute Savoie) in the French Alps, Obergurgl in the Tirol in Austria, Canazei in Italy and Winter Park in Colorado, USA.