It’s at this time of year that I start thinking of skiing. The endless Facebook updates from friends fortunate enough to be on the piste don’t help! For the last two years we haven’t made it to the slopes…last year I was expecting our second child (and I can’t imagine it would have been that fun watching everyone else ski!) and this year we’ll be heading to Dubai again (long story….I’ll write about this at some point).
When our daughter had just turned one we hit the slopes in Val Thorens. We skied there two years previously (when we were still young and trendy!) so felt comfortable taking our daughter back (we felt familiar with the set up I guess). Whilst it’s the highest resort in Europe (and therefore pretty cold!) it caters remarkably well for children and for non-skiers (we were taking my parents with us so this was important as well).
We flew to Geneva and were met by my parents who had driven out (leaving the UK a few days before us). We didn’t fancy driving straight from Geneva to Val Thorens (its a 2hr 43 journey) – not with a one year old. Thankfully we decided to break the journey up by staying in Annecy (a much more palatable 45 minutes from the airport). The conditions on arrival were particularly snowy and road conditions were hazardous – so it was wise not to head up the mountain.
We found a wonderful AirBandB apartment (in Annecy) – centrally located and wonderfully equipped. Parking was slightly problematic but the owner pointed us in the right direction. After a restful night sleep my mum and I ventured out (in icy conditions) on the search of croissants (a holiday in France wouldn’t be complete without far too many croissants!).After breakfast we drove to the supermarché. We wanted to stock up on food and perhaps most importantly wine before we drove up the mountain (it is considerably cheaper). It also provided a nice opportunity for our daughter to run around inside in the warmth. With a car full to the brim we drove up to the resort. Road conditions were manageable and we arrived in good time.
Parking in Val Thorens is really simple. You need to pre-book it before you arrive via that Val Thorens website.
We use Skiset for our equipment hire. We’ve used them in VT and elsewhere and have always found them to be efficient and helpful. Great quality equipment as well. It’s worth emailing them before you book to see if they’ll give you a discount code (perhaps saying that you’ve used them before!). It’s always worked for us.
In planning the holiday we spent a long time looking for child friendly ski accommodation (yet again!). At the time Tots to Travel didn’t have anything listed and neither did the alternative, Baby Friendly Bolt Holes. They do now have accommodation and it looks wonderful but it is very expensive – https://totstotravel.co.uk/family-friendly-ski-holidays/. Instead we opted for Le Hameau du Kashmir. It has a prime location in VT – right on the slopes and is easily ski in and ski out (onto a blue run). We opted for a 3 bedroom apartment in the residences – 3 double bedrooms with their own bathrooms (quite luxurious really). The open plan living room/dining room/kitchen had the most incredible view overlooking the slopes. Our daughter loved looking out and watching all the people zooming past (not sure the cleaners appreciated the grubby hand prints on the windows!).
My parents had brought out a whole box of toys and the hotel provided each child with a sledge (we took our Joolz pram system. Despite having been sold as great in snowy conditions it really wasn’t up to the mark. The sledge was far easier!).
I’d picked up some trespass ski wear for our daughter (second hand). She’d only just started walking so whilst I knew I’d need some snow boots I was worried about the weight of them. After researching the options I chose these light weight Crocs –
We booked our daughter into the ESF nursery for 6 mornings. This was conveniently located a 5 min sledge ride from the accommodation (or 15 minutes on foot). Taking the sledge meant that my husband and I could ski straight off from the nursery without having to return to the accommodation. She needed to be collected at midday so we had to make the most of the time we had (that said, we could have booked her in for the whole day if we’d wished). We chose to spend the afternoons as a family. I feel that a ski holiday is the hardest one to juggle the wish to ski as adults and the needs of your children and the desire to spend time as a family. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable putting our daughter in nursery all day (each for their own though) and felt we compromised on half days. She did seem to have fun though. She often came home with things she’d made and the staff seemed very friendly. On the one occasion that they felt she needed calpol they telephoned first (cue me stopping on the side of the mountain and in very bad French discussing my daughters temperature). She was given healthy and wholesome snacks as well as treats like hot chocolate (it does taste divine up the mountain!). There were a number of nationalities represented at the nursery, including a small handful of other British children. We’d certainly use them again when we return to France to ski. Parents be aware though that you won’t actually be shown the room – you hand over your children in a waiting room and they are taken into the play room (this felt odd compared to the very open nature of British nurseries).
Immediately after collecting our daughter from nursery we’d head for a leisurely lunch (with wine!), back to the apartment for her snooze (although she often slept at the nursery!) and then a swim in the hotel pool, a play in the snow or a trip to the soft play (in the sports centre). All topped off with a pancake! The main tourist office also had a great wooden play house for children with loads of crayons etc.
A must see for any family when in VT is La Ferme de la Choumette. Located just down from VT (but ski in and ski out if you’ve got the time) – this restaurant has animals in the basement and the food is divine. My review from the time can be seen here.
Our daughter developed an addiction to tartiflette and they served a fab children’s portion at La Ferme. She also enjoyed looking at the animals. A welcome break from the snow.
Whilst in VT my husband and I enjoyed a night out without our daughter (thanks again to my parents). Having been to VT 2 years previously we went straight to our favourite places – big mistake! We found ourselves surrounded by energetic young couples who were knocking back the toffee vodka (had we done this on our last trip!?!). We made the decision to head to a more age appropriate venue and enjoyed a lovely meal and a bottle of red. Slightly worse for wear (I blame the altitude!) we walked back to our accommodation, hoping and praying our daughter stayed asleep! She woke early to groggy parents! Nothing a day on the mountain couldn’t solve though.
We ended our trip with another night in Annecy (staying in the same apartment). The drive down the mountain was pretty horrific – an accident meant it took well over 2 hours to get down to Albertville. By the time we had gone down the mountain it was lunch time – we opted for a Buffalo Grill restaurant (a poor version of the hard rock cafe) – it was convenient, nothing more. A picturesque drive around the Lac D’Annecy was enjoyed by all (well almost all – our daughter had her moments – cue the waving of Lamaze toys again!). On arrival in Annecy we had a wander around and then found a pancake house (why break with tradition!). Dinner was already sorted but we couldn’t resist a french patisserie where we purchased our body weight in fruit tarts. A perfect end to a wonderful week in the mountains.
Top Tip: Live like a local, book an apartment through, this link for £30 travel credit with Airbnb and we get a little something off our next booking too, enjoy!
Top Tip – whilst we actually enjoy self catering and find it by far the easiest option with children in tow….I realise it’s not for everyone. There’s a great company that comes highly recommended by friends – Chalet Kitchen deliver meals across the Three valleys and the Port Soleil ski region. They provide evening meals, breakfasts, lunches, afternoon tea and children hampers.