For an inter-generational ski holiday, grannies have to seize the moment. To make it happen before the time comes to hang up your own boots, various things have to fall into place. But it’s definitely worth the effort as there’s nothing quite like the fun of a family ski trip.
The window opens of course when children become old enough to cope with and – as important – enjoy the challenge of learning to move on slippery snow and are willing to get dressed up for it in unfamiliar clothes and accessories like hats, gloves, goggles, helmet, sunschreen.
I found mine were up for it from the age of around four. At the same time of course parents need the patience to organise all this extra paraphernalia before being free to take to the slopes themselves, not to mention having enough additional cash to splash out on ski-hire, lessons, lift passes and mountain restaurants which never come cheap.
Suitable resorts also need seeking out with care when you’re catering for a wide age range, 70 years in our case, and abilities range from complete beginners to adventurous speed-mongers. For our first family trip Avoriaz in France ticked all the boxes. Purpose-built in the 1960s it is car-free and situated above the much older resort of Morzine at the centre of the extensive Portes du Soleil ski area. Being high it retains good snow late into the season when prices are lower than at half-term and it tends to be warmer which small children appreciate.
Avoriaz also has a large choice of apartments, self-catering being a more flexible option than a hotel or chalet we reckoned. We settled on a three-bedroom apartment in the Amara residence, particularly attractive as its apres-ski facilities included a pool, likely to be popular with the boys, a steam room and sauna for soothing away the aches of the day from older bones and a spa offering facials and massages.
Catching a horse-drawn sleigh to the ski-school was as good as it gets for the two grandchildren, then aged 4 and 6. Having no motorised transport, the alternative to getting around the village on foot or skis is to summon a sleigh. The ski-school had one of its own, with bench seats for about a dozen children and, conveniently, it called at 9am each morning at the Amara. One of the ski schools was particularly geared to small English-speakers and combined skiing with fun activities – a bonus for first-timers.
The resort is particularly suited to multi-generational skiing as most of the lifts converge on a flat central expanse of snow, Le Plateau. An easy slope leads directly down from it beside the village’s single main street while others go down towards Morzine through a pleasantly wooded area. Experienced skiers can also take lifts directly up from the Plateau to slopes on the Mossette area for a choice of many more pistes, including simple blues, reds and challenging blacks.
One ski pass covers the whole network which links five villages, four of them just over the border in Switzerland. For a full-day tour, there are circular routes in either direction from le Plateau. The two boys were put in different classes and settled in well despite initial moans about all the paraphernalia that skiing involves.
By the end of the week they were thrilled to be competent enough to ski a few of the slopes with us adults and I know it won’t be long before I get overtaken. Grannies beware! Most lunch times we all gathered at one of the slope-side cafes on the Plateau where favourites likes pizzas and pancaks were on offer as well as local specialities, notably tartiflette, a cheesy potato and bacon casserole.
As lunch was an option at the ski school, we adults could have a whole day to go off and explore further afield. This also enabled my daughter and son-in-law to head for blacks and moguls as I was pleased to do some of the picking up. Indeed I decided that sledging, building snowmen and playing snowball-granny games with them was just as much fun as the skiing itself. With a choice of child-friendly places to eat nearby as well as a supermarket, we alternated in the evenings between home cooking and eating out.
The Amara itself had two restaurants where raclette and fondue became favourites all round. The main village street, a 15-minute walk – or sleigh-ride – away, is lined with more restaurants and bars.
Although music events from rock to jazz are organised during the ski season, Avoriaz offers little by way of non-ski distractions except a handful of shops and various bars and restaurants. However it does boast the Aquariaz, an indoor water park, the only one of its kind in the Alps. This has a ‘river’ which bubbles through lush tropical greenery to a large pool, a giant slide and exotic paddling pools with tipping buckets, dripping flowers and hoses that children soon discover are perfect for squirting adults of any age.