Skiing with Young Children
A blog from Nicola...
Introducing young children to skiing for the first time is both fun and daunting. Andorra offers some excellent family friendly resorts, perfect for their first ski holiday. Read our first hand experience of a first time skiing with children.
Getting to Andorra
Getting into Andorra usually involves flying to either Toulouse in France or Barcelona. It's worth noting the only mountain road into Andorra when transferring from Toulouse occasionally has to be closed due to snow fall, resulting in a long-winded diversion. We chose Toulouse, mainly due to the bargain prices available from the UK and my 4 year old travels pretty well. However if this is a concern, flying into Barcelona may be a better option.
Upon arrival at Toulouse, the Andorra bus transfer bus stop is easily located just outside Entrance B of Toulouse airport. Conveniently located just inside Entrance B is a soft play area allowing you to sit inside the airport, right by the window in full view of the bus stop whilst the little ones can burn off some excess energy between the flight and the transfer.
Once you enter Andorra, the bus ride from Toulouse is wonderfully scenic. By that point however my 4 year old had already nodded off from all the excitement of flying and soft playing and stayed fast asleep until we arrived at our hotel in Soldeu.
TIP: There are no toilets or scheduled stops for toilet breaks on the Andorra Bus route, so a quick toilet break at the airport before hopping on the Andorra bus is highly recommended with the little ones.
Soldeu is a great resort for skiing with young children - its small, with a real family friendly resort vibe. The hotels, cafes, restaurants are all mainly focused around one main road….with the Gondola just at the top. Everything is walkable for little legs.
Arinsal, in the Vallnord area of Andorra is also another great option for families and a shorter transfer time if flying into Barcelona. In Soldeu, we stayed at the Hotel Himalaia, just yards away from the Soldeu gondola.
Ski Equipment & Lift Pass
Following a good varied buffet breakfast at the hotel (perfect for fussy eaters), we arrived at the Soldeu Gondola on the dot at 9am - obviously “on holiday” with young children doesn't translate into a lie in so we'd already been up for 3 hours by this point making use of the hotels soft play gym! The lift pass collection point and ski hire shop are both conveniently located right at the base of the gondola which was mere yards from the hotel.
Lift pass: All children up to five years receive a free lift pass in Grandvalira upon presentation of their passport. This was a quick, painfree process. We were the first ones there so no queues to contend with either.
Ski Hire: I anticipated a battle trying to convince my 4 year old to put on ski boots but all the staff were great and clearly experienced dealing with young children and they had my 4 year old kitted out and raring to go before I even had my first boot fastened. We were ready to get on the gondola in plenty of time for our 10am lessons.
Having previously been used to skiing in North America resorts, the lack of massive queues momentarily confused me. One massive plus of skiing in Andorra, even in peak season you will rarely have to wait long in the queues for the gondolas and chairlifts. Perfect when travelling anywhere with young children. Again the staff were all fantastic with children helping me navigate a 4 year old through the electronic gate with his skis and my skis in hand. So far so good, now for the fun part - skiing!
A 10-15 minute gondola ride will take you to the top of the Soldeu slopes. Upon exiting the gondola station, turn right and straight ahead is the ski school meeting point right next to the children's Snow Garden. I was able to drop my little one off 5-10 minute before the start of his session, allowing time to settle him in and be on time for my ski lesson.
The indoor section of the snow garden is similar to any good pre-school facility. If your young children already attend a pre-school, they will feel right at home here. My 4 year old loved it immediately, his favourite toys were everywhere and all the staff were lovely.
Whilst the under 3s in the nursery section stay inside and play, the 3-5 year olds are taken out to a fenced off section of the beginner slopes right next to the snow garden for their first skiing lessons. The snow garden lessons coincide with the adult lessons – both running for 3 hours – usually in the morning and you then have the option for them to stay at the snow garden in the afternoon where they'll have lunch and enjoy a wide variety of indoor activities such as painting, toys or a nap if needed, leaving you free to enjoy a few more hours on the slopes.
TIP: Ski mittens win over ski gloves for little hands every time. Luckily I brought both with me.
Off the Slopes
As it was a first ski trip, I decided to leave mine in just for the mornings whilst I had lessons and then find other activities to do in the afternoon. A highlight for us was the dog sledding. This is a great option if you a have a few children with you and a mix of ages. The dogs are situated at the top of the El Tarter gondola (a nearby resort). If your young skiers are confident enough, you can ski over to this area from Soldeu. We chose to take a short bus ride over to the El Tarter gondola and the gondola up the slopes. The dogs get pretty loud so if your children are not confident around dogs this may not be for them. My 4 year old isn't a massive fan of dogs however I managed to persuade him onto the sled and once on and being pulled pretty swiftly across the snow he absolutely loved it. I would highly recommend this if you can.
Following a morning of skiing and an afternoon of dog sledding, my son was thrilled with the indoor soft play area at our hotel and I was thrilled as its proximity to the bar and roaring open fire. A nice relaxing end to a surprisingly easy first time skiing with a young child.
For anyone slightly apprehensive about the idea of taking their young children skiing for the first time, all I can say is do it! Soldeu was a brilliant choice for my 4 year olds first ski holiday. Andorrans love children, you will be made to feel welcome in the restaurants and the hotels, several of the hotels cater for keeping the little ones entertained whilst off the slopes with a variety of soft play facilities, babysitting services, swimming pools and staff who will always make your children feel welcome.
Outside of your hotel there are a wide variety of activities to entertain the little ones such as dog sledding, public swimming pool, and ice rink (in Canillo). The Snow Garden staff and facilities were fantastic and really made my 4 year old feel instantly at home.
My son, whilst not thrilled by the initial restriction of ski boots and skis definitely enjoyed the experience. It was by far the best skiing trip I've been on…mainly because I got to share one of my passions with my son for the first time but also because Andorra was so accommodating and family friendly… an unforgettable experience… we’re already looking ahead to our next trip.
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