Thursday, 27 March 2014

Ski Famille 2014/15 on sale now

Ski Famille preview brochure
Ski Famille Preview brochure
It's been a long time coming but we now have next winter's Ski Famille programme on sale. Some guests have been chomping at the bit to get next year booked for months; if that includes you then thank you for your patience!

The reason for the delay is that we have made some exciting changes to our programme. The aim is to offer a more comprehensive service, clearer childcare options and better value.

Our key changes 
  • We are including flights in our packages
  • In chalet a la carte child care is now 6 days a week
  • Much improved child reductions and many free child places
  • Save up to £1,275 per family of four*
  • For loyal guests we offer free skis, boots and helmet for children
  • New La Plagne Select Chalet 
  • New logo and branding 
*Based  on Les Gets Select chalets on 10th Jan 

The look and feel may seem quite different for anyone who has traveled with us before, but rest assured that high quality child care in great chalets remains at the heart of what we do. We also have the same fantastic team behind our 2014/15 programme. 

If you would like to discuss your family skiing plans for 2014/15 do give us a ring on 01252 519 239. 


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Winter Olympics ... it's rather gripping!

I must admit to having had a fairly disinterested approach in the run up to the Winter Olympics. Media coverage seemed to focus pretty much exclusively on Russia’s dismal approach to human rights and protecting the mountain environment, with little room for coverage of the sports or competitors. My apathy was compounded by the winter sports themed festival of injury prone mediocrity that was “The Jump”. I couldn't really see myself tuning in.

… and then I wandered into the sitting room to find my six year old glued to the women’s freestyle moguls. It was fantastic nail biting stuff combining athleticism, finely honed skills and genuine passion. Gold and silver went to Canadian sisters who showed amazing drive coupled with an appealing camaraderie.
David Wise - winner of the men's freestyle skiing halfpipe

Since that event we've made a point of tuning in each evening to see the highlights from the day. This is obviously a welcome respite from the usual torturous pre-bath time children’s TV, but more importantly it has had a whole family beaming with excitement no matter what the sport or the nationalities of those competing. The men’s half pipe last night was again edge of the sofa stuff.

The events that have most drawn us in are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the snow based ones. Visually they are pretty spectacular (modern filming techniques aid this enormously), but there also seems to be a genuine feeling of joy amongst competitors about their sport and the shared experience. An example that stands out for me was an American being interviewed after a disappointing result in the Border Cross; asked how she stays motivated the reply was very quick and along the lines of "Why wouldn't I, this is a brilliantly fun thing to do with some great people."

If you started off with the same view as me it’s not too late – I urge you to tune in. Four years to the next one is a long wait!


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Snow – The Story so far

Last night (13th Jan) saw good snow falls across the Alps, and much more is expected before the weekend, but this season didn't get off to the smoothest of starts.

Significant falls and low temperatures in mid November resulted in many resorts planning early openings and much excitement amongst the trade and then … nothing! No more white stuff fell, temperatures rose and the week before Christmas saw sketchy conditions in lower resorts.

There was a bit of additional cover in time for Christmas and by New Year resorts were looking as they should; although lower slopes were still a bit thin. Early January has seen warmer weather and little in the way of precipitation but, thankfully, that looks to be on the turn.

Webcams this morning show that snow is still falling and next week looks set to be a corker if the snow we expect over the next few days hits the mountains.
Les Menuires 7 day forecast - 14th Jan
If you are tempted to head for the hills we have some great offers on remaining spaces in January, February and March. Click here for more details >>

The sites below are a great source of weather and snow info if you would like to keep an eye on conditions.

Snow Forecast 
Ski Club of Great Britain 

Give us a ring on 01252 519 239 if you want to discuss your plans to play in the snow!


Friday, 27 December 2013

Help for parents travelling with children

Zandra Johnson, founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, knows a thing or two about imaginative play for children and has offered us some tips here for travelling with young ones.

Depending on their age taking children on long journeys, whether by car or plane can be exhausting. The suitcase of toys, books, pencils and games can be almost as big as the space for clothes. The dreaded round of yet another game of “I Spy” becomes an endurance test.

Here are some suggestions that all the family can play together – and no “I Spy” I promise.

Travelling by car both here and abroad

Car Number Plates

Silly Societies. Take the letters on the number plates of passing cars and use them to suggest the initials of a club or society. (Rude words are/are not allowed.) For example SDA = Silly Detective Agency/ Society of Desperate Albatrosses. You may have to be resourceful with XYZ so start collecting words.

Story line. Again using the letters on a car’s number plates, use them to make the first three words to start a story. For example CBR could become “Commander Bridlington roared at his troops….” Or ““Come back Richard” whispered the fairy hiding under the leaf…..” Take it in turns to tell the story. A suggestion for KXX – “King Xavier’s Xylophone was not quite what he ……

Alphabet Spotting. Each person makes a list of all the letters of the alphabet and crosses them off the list as they spot them on the car’s number plate. Numbers from 1 – 9 can also be used. It’s amazing how quickly even the very young can join in with this game.

Of course you don’t have to be travelling to play these games, you could be out walking or shopping as well.

Quite apart from providing a bit of fun for both children and adults and useful for staving off the dreaded “Are we nearly there yet?/I’m bored” there is a very definite benefit to these games. They encourage imagination and creative thinking both an essential part of child development. With the growing popularity of computer games, small computers and smart phones, time to play imaginatively is becoming more and more rare. Computer games are often advertised as encouraging imagination. But the child is playing using the programmer’s imagination, not using their own freely.

Next time there will be some ideas for games to play (quietly) whilst waiting at airports or flying. Meanwhile, have a lovely holiday.

Zandra Johnson

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play.
Zandra is delighted that Fairytale Children’s Furniture® has been placed in all Ski Famille chalets.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

We Love Squirrels

Ava & Luc 'Snowy the Bunny' Organic Pyjamas
Part of the joy of a chalet holiday is that you can wear what you want when you want. There is no dressing up to go down for breakfast as one might in a hotel; if you want to sit munching your pain au chocolate in a curious state of dress half way between pyjamas and full ski kit that is entirely your prerogative.

However ... it is nice to treat yourself and the children to a new outfit every now and then. We got talking to local Mum Angela who runs We Love Squirrels (a fabulous online kids clothing store) and quickly got sucked in to her world of pretty things. So much so that we agreed to give her a shout out on our blog ... it's funny how these conversations can evolve on the school run!

So, if you are looking for some lovely new clothing for your children in time for your skiing holiday (we think Snowy the Bunny pyjamas would look particularly fetching around an Alpine chalet) then do visit Sadly everything is in child sizes, I quite fancied some Poco Nido slippers for Christmas.


Friday, 25 October 2013

School holiday week spaces

Family skiing in La Plagne
As reported in a the ski press in recent weeks school holiday dates are under more pressure than ever before. A combination of great snow last winter and a harder line on term time absences by many schools has pushed demand to unprecedented levels.

We've listed below the spaces we have remaining. The recent launch of our new Chalet in La Plagne (Chalet Nicole, Plagne 1800) gives you a bit more choice.

Christmas (21st December) 

  • La Plagne – Chalet Nicole, whole chalet available
  • Les Gets – Chalet Bacall, whole chalet available. Chalet Bogart, space for one family. Chalet Le Marjorie, space for one family (up to 6). Chalet Grand Mouflon, space for one family. 
  • Les Menuires – Chalet Katie 2, space for one family. 

New Year (28th February) 

  • La Plagne – Chalet Nicole, space for one family. 
  • Les Gets – Chalets Bogart and Bacall, space for a family of 2/3 in each chalet. 
  • Les Menuires, Chalet Katie 1, space for one family. 

Feb half term (15th February) 

  • La Plagne – Chalet Nicole, whole chalet available
  • Les Gets and Les Menuires – no spaces 

29th March 
Good choice of rooms in Les Gets and La Plagne. Just one family room in Les Menuires

5th April
Limited options in Les gets and La Plagne. No room in Les Menuires

If you are thinking of travelling during the school holidays don’t delay, we don’t expect exiting spaces to last long. Search for chalets here >>

If you are lucky enough to be able to avoid school holidays (due to children’s ages or an understanding head teacher) do give us a ring on 0845 64 437 64
re options across the rest of the season.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Holidays in term time - the debate continues ...

They'd be better off in the classroom ...
Most families across the UK will have recently received a letter from their local authority stating that time away from school will no longer be authorised for holidays. Its given rise to heated debate in the press and online. Not ones to shy away from tricky topics, we thought we’d dive in!

We’ve blogged on this topic before, back in the days when all many parents needed was to have a half decent relationship with their head teacher. Times have changed though and, whatever the head thinks of the merits of your holidays plans, they are pretty much duty bound to refuse approved leave.

The text of letters has varied but the general gist is summed up in this example:

“From the 1st September 2013, the new law gives no entitlement to parents to take their child on holiday during term time.  Any application for leave must only be in exceptional circumstances and the Head Teacher must be satisfied that the circumstances are exceptional and warrant the granting of leave. Head Teachers would not be expected to class any term time holiday as exceptional.  Parents can receive a Penalty Notice from the Local Authority for taking their child on holiday during term time without consent from the school. From September 2013 these Notices now cost £60 per child per parent if paid within 21 days and £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days.”

We understand that in reality there are various steps before a fine (although this will probably vary between different heads and local authorities) but the message is pretty clear.

From a position of obvious (and fairly enormous!) bias we feel there is real value to a family skiing holiday and that it should not be labelled in the same way as a “fly and flop” holiday to the Costas. There is, however, a danger of sounding horribly middle class when defending the right to ski. One of our regular guests summed it up thus:

“… there's that little voice in my head that is simply FURIOUS that this policy is being applied as a blanket measure, with no individual circumstances taken into consideration whatsoever. It sounds something like this - "yes, well of course something needs to be done to stop parents who don't care about whether their kids get a good education from further damaging their child's prospects, but let's be honest here, we're not those sort of parents and we are absolutely committed to giving our children the best education and the best upbringing we possibly can, and how dare we be lumped in the same bracket as those people…i mean, we spend every lunchtime teaching Thomas and Isabella how to distinguish between Savoyard artisan Reblochon and supermarket Brie, for pity's sake…". I hate that voice, and yet, he's always there, reaffirming my belief that I'm doing the right thing by my kids.”

It’s a slightly tongue in cheek response but the underlying feelings are ones I’m sure will find sympathy with many readers of this blog … don’t panic we won’t force you to identify yourselves!

A number of families contributed to a recent debate on our Facebook page and I’m pleased to say that there were clear and concise arguments on both sides. One Dad, who was firmly sticking to the school holidays, put across his view as both parent and School Governor:

“As two working parents time is precious and we take our annual leave when our children are off school. It cuts down on the time they are in the care of others during school holidays. Yes, it costs more and I struggle with that…. As a school Governor I see both sides, my school was criticised for attendance rate, upon further investigation the biggest issue was families taking children out to go skiing. We all want more affordability, and perhaps flexibility in timing but there is so much more to this debate.” 

The affordability issue is one where the finger gets pointed firmly at us tour operators . In our defense, it’s not a matter of blatant profiteering on peak dates. Simon Calder, something of a consumer champion amongst travel writer summed up the price issue quite neatly in a piece on the Parallel Trails website:

“While the current situation is painful for families, the alternative would be worse. Many package holidays, including skiing holidays, are sold at a loss a lot of the time. So while it is true that prices during school holidays can be 50-100 percent higher and this is not a comfortable state of affairs, it is the reality of the situation. If the pricing changed then the whole business model would unravel and we would have fewer holidays and ski operators to choose from.”

The peak dates do indeed subsidise the quieter weeks but all the time there are peaks a troughs of demand that is our reality. All tour operators would, I'm sure, prefer a nice neat average selling price across every week of their season ... but only if it was matched by level occupancy rates. Without that even a child who had bunked off for the majority of their school career would spot that the maths simply doesn't work.

In our Facebook debate some parents put a metaphorical two fingers up to the local authority guidance,

“We think the risk of a £60 per child per parent fine (aka parking ticket!) is well worth the benefit of quieter pistes.”

… whilst others had a more tempered approach

“If schools embrace it they can make it educational. Perhaps encourage kids to learn and use a few French phrases or keep a holiday diary and present it back to the class afterwards. Our daughters school did this and view it as worthwhile”

Our suspicion is that the debate will run and run … right up until we get staggered school holidays … and that will open a completely new can of worms!

What do you think?