How to go skiing with kids.
I’m used to skiing with my snow-demon husband, so getting up early is no big deal. If we aren’t on the first lift he has a panic attack, and so he micromanages every part of the morning. On the plus side, it means I get coffee in bed, on the minus side it leaves time for only one pastry, and no lounging about thinking how stiff my calves are.
But getting up at 8am versus getting up at 4.40am is very different. We are just back from a ski holiday where we saved money by having 4 to a room, the two of us and a couple of toddlers (our own, which helped). At night we rotated, like the hands on a clock. Some nights the biggest toddler started in his bed, moved into ours next to me, and finished in dad’s half. The smallest toddler, in a cot next to my bed, woke up. He soon realised that if he pulled his chubby body into a wobbly upright stance, his face was inches from mine. He then screamed until he was released, at which point he happily snuggled into our bed, demoting dad to the end, rather like a dog, curled up on the edge. When one kid was up, the other was woken, so we’d descend to our breakfast as sleep-deprived zombies. Once again, all praise the iPad, sticker books, and Mini Cheddars.
The money we saved (and talk about a false economy…) by having a single room was ploughed into a catered chalet. Our breakfast was cooked by cheerful girls called Tallulah, Ottilie or Peaches, who’d then wash up and hit the slopes with energy I haven’t had for years. It was beyond wonderful not to have to wipe down a high chair for a whole week, although the guilt at the kids’ mess meant we still scrabbled on the floor to pick up pizza crusts, and we left a whopping great tip.
Skiing is never cheap but kids have made it mega-expensive. Ours are too young for ski school, so go to crèche. Mothers' guilt hits yet again when I walk out on them, but a quick vin chaud before 10am takes the edge off. The first time I left my then one-year-old, I explained to the nanny that I’d be back by 11am. I’d never left him before and I couldn’t possibly imagine a day without him. 5pm rolled round and so did I, happily exhausted after a day of hard skiing, punctuated by (very) frequent hot-chocolate-with-rum stops. I was drunk and happy, and delighted to see him. He was just as happy, and ignored me in order to push a Lego man up his nose.
Then you return to the chalet where someone has cooked you a cake. Your toddler eats his piece, and then yours, and because you are so knackered you don’t fight it. Needless to say they then don’t want their dinner, and have a sugar crash at bath time. We didn’t have a bath, so hosed them down in the shower, reminiscent of washing my dog when he’s rolled in fox poo, and just as ineffective. But sod it, it’s only a week, and nutrition and baths can take a back seat on holiday (the nutrition rule applies to adults too). And thank god it’s only a week… it’s knackering in the day skiing from one bottle of rosé to another, and the evenings are battles for bedtime. Let’s not talk about the mornings. But seeing your kids in snow is fab (and of course they like peeing in it and making it yellow), sharing a hot chocolate is messy fun, and having some time out of the office is vital for sanity.
Here’s what I wish I’d known:
1. Take two pairs of gloves per kid, minimum. They get wet or lost. And occasionally weed on.
2. Go cheap on sunglasses and goggles – they seem to go wherever the odd socks go and you’ll get through multiple.
3. Nutrition doesn’t count on holiday, and if your kid is ordering his 4th croissant in French, then it’s educational.
4. Give up on the party resorts. You’ll not be dancing on tables in the Folie Douce. You want somewhere with kiddy menus that is (marginally more) affordable. And you’ll still drink too much so pack paracetamol. Although French drugs are miles better.
5. Don’t try and do it without childcare. You need to dedicate an eternity to getting each child into winter clothes, and then one will need a pee or decide they’d rather be naked and you’ll have to start again. If you try to do it alone, you won’t get to ski. A granny or a nanny or going with other friends with kids to share the load works brilliantly.
As with everything post-children, lower your standards and your expectations. And despite the lack of sleep (and the fact you can't afford to eat for the next 3 months), you’ll have a fantastic time. Especially if you’ve headed my advice about childcare.