Three small children and a skiing trip – it’s not quite the recipe for a relaxing family getaway, is it?
My husband Philip and I learned to ski as teenagers and always wished we had started when we were younger, because we were awestruck by the fearlessness of tiny daredevils whizzing by on the slopes.
So what is the best age to start skiing? Our children are eight, five and three – surely we would hit the jackpot with at least one of them?
As I was not keen to spend the week lugging three extra sets of skis and boots around as well as my own, I booked our break with Club Med.
Friends assured us that we would merely have to dress the children and give them breakfast, then the staff would take them off our hands for the rest of the day.
On our first morning at Club Med’s Pragelato resort near Turin, the two boys, Zevi and Rafael, were off, showing no fear. They’d had two dry-ski lessons in London beforehand and they seemed to have paid off.
Although the boys were put in different groups, they soon found friends, and by day two they both thought they were experts.
On day four I booked them a private lesson so I could check out their progress for myself.
The weather had closed in and it was a complete white-out. I could hardly see a few feet in front of me, but the boys barely seemed to notice and were turning on the slopes like pros. However, their stopping skills mainly involved colliding into each other and then bursting into laughter.
Our three-year-old daughter, Zeabella, was a different matter. As the resort offered ski school only for over-fours, I booked her a mixture of kids’ club and private lessons. Her first one was an unmitigated disaster, prompting a full-blown tantrum.
Fortunately, her instructor was the epitome of calm and patience, even picking her up in his arms at one point and skiing with her down the slope while she bawled.
In the end we took her hand and gently coaxed her down the nursery slope again and she did, just about, stop sobbing by the end of the lesson.
The next day my husband and I took her skiing and she was much happier and calmer. She even got the concept of opening and closing her skis and did it on her own for a few seconds.
But it definitely wasn’t the right age – or sport – for her. Having learned to walk not that long ago, perhaps she couldn’t see the upside of having two planks strapped to her feet.
As for Club Med, I couldn’t fault the accommodation or food. But if I had to pick an ideal age to start skiing, it would be five – by then children get the idea, have no fear and don’t have far to fall.