Family holidays: Winter 3 ways

Family holidays: Winter 3 ways

Keep it cool with a fun family adventure this winter

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Waking up to find it has snowed overnight usually elicits one of two reactions: for every adult who thinks ‘ugh, traffic,’ there’s a child screaming with delight at the prospect of snowball fights, toboggan races and a chance to build their very own snowman.

It’s pretty clear which option is more fun, so to help your grown-up clients rediscover that childish sense of joy, suggest a family holiday where the white stuff takes centre stage.

They could take a first family ski trip, immerse themselves in a Narnia-like landscape on a snow-based adventure break, or take a trip to Lapland to see Santa and his elves – provided they leave any Grinch-like adult tendencies at home and embrace their inner child instead.

Ski: Mountain highs

It doesn’t matter whether parents are ski bunnies or total novices – taking children on their first ski trip is always a venture into the unknown.

That’s why Crystal Ski Holidays has just released a Family Guide to the Mountain, offering much-needed advice on when to go, what to bring, and how to make sure everyone – mum and dad included – has a good time. It’s available online at

The first question most parents ask is at what age children can be taken on a ski break. Even if little ones aren’t yet old enough to get out on the slopes, there’s no such thing as too young for a ski holiday as most providers offer full-time childcare, often from as young as four months.

Esprit Ski even runs Baby and Toddler weeks, with discounted rates for tots aged between 17 weeks and four years old, so ski-mad mums and dads need not miss their winter fix (running on January 10, 17, 24, 31 and February 21 next year).


But for most, it starts once kids are old enough to enrol in ski school. At Club Med, this is from age three, when the Snow Course introduces kids to the mountain, while the Snow Garden offers a safe environment for four and five-year-olds to master basic moves and learn the art of jumping on and off the ski lift.

Three is also the magic number for entry to the Oxygene Ski School at Mark Warner resorts, with pick-up and drop-off from the kids’ clubs so parents need not worry about racing back from their own stints on the slopes.

Opt for accommodation options such as Chalet Hotel Christina in La Plagne, which is right next to the piste and just 150m from the ski school, making it easier to co-ordinate little skiers.

Teens in need of more off-piste entertainment can try a resort with a livelier atmosphere and plenty to do off the slopes. Crystal Ski recommends Tignes in France, home to ice carting, snowmobiling and Segway rides across the ice-covered lake; while Balkan Holidays suggests budget-friendly Bulgaria, where there are additional options such as ice skating in Bansko and night skiing and snowboarding in Pamporovo.

Snow: Adventure capital

Not a ski fan? A blank canvas of thick white snow offers plenty of other possibilities for excitement, whether families want to whizz across it in a dog sled or roll around in it for an impromptu snowball fight – and all without an XBox or an iPad in sight.Activity operators such as The Family Adventure Company and Explore run action-packed breaks during the school holidays.

Dog Sledding

The former’s Winter Pyrenees Family Holiday gives kids an introduction to igloo-making, as well as cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, plus a much-needed chance to warm up at the Caldea thermal baths in Escaldes-Engordagny, Andorra (prices from £1,053 per adult, £948 per child, including flights and some meals, departing December 19, suitable for children aged five and up).

Explore also incorporates fun – but not too challenging – activities into its family breaks. Ice fishing, snow sliding and skating along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal are part of its new Family Canadian Winter Adventure.

Closer to home, the Iceland Family Adventure includes searching for humpback whales off the coast, taking a husky safari through the snow, and seeing the steam rise off the geysers and the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon.

This seven-night option departs in December, February and March and is priced from £1,659 per adult and £1,392 per child, minimum age eight, with flights.

Escorted tours guarantee that families will be able to pack in their chosen activities while the kids mix with others their own age, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.

For those who prefer to go at their own pace, Regent Holidays has introduced a host of self-catering options in Iceland. As well as apartments in Reykjavik, they include the Hotel Grimsborgir, a collection of luxury apartments next to Iceland’s largest freshwater river, each with their own private hot tub; and Minniborgir Cottages, 45 miles outside the capital, offering a great vantage point for spotting the northern lights.

Sweden Northern Lights - Image credit: Fredrik Broman
Image credit: Fredrik Broman

Those lights are also likely to be in full view from the wintry retreat near Lulea where Taber Holidays bases its New Year in Swedish Lapland break.

Families can not only hunt the aurora by sled and pick up a few survival techniques during a session on Nordic Winter adventure skills, but also see in the New Year with a four-course meal followed by fireworks and a bottle of champagne chilled on the frozen lake outside.

Prices start at £1,850 per adult and £940 per child with flights via Stockholm, four nights’ accommodation, most meals and activities.

Santa: Magic moments

Tell any excitable child they’re off to Lapland and there will be only one thing on their minds: meeting Father Christmas.

There’s quite a small age window when kids are old enough to get the most out of a Lapland visit but young enough to be awed by the magic of it all, so don’t let parents put it off for another year.

A day trip might be enough to tempt them. Newmarket Holidays offers handy regional departures – from Birmingham, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Durham, Exeter, Gatwick, Humberside, Liverpool, Newquay, Norwich and Stansted – to Pajala airport on the Swedish side.

With a Sami guide leading the way for a private family meeting at Santa’s log cabin, followed by a ride on a reindeer-pulled sleigh, a husky sled and a somewhat speedier snowmobile journey through the snowy landscape, their introduction to Lapland will be complete (priced at £499 for adults and £469 for children).

Lapland Santa Experience - Image credit: Newmarket Holidays
Image credit: Newmarket Holidays

The experience is no less magical on the Finnish side, especially if families can time their visit to coincide with Christmas Day itself. Cosmos Holidays offers a five-night trip departing December 23 complete with a Christmas gala dinner, a visit to Santa’s Post Office, Elf Workshop and taster sessions in sleigh-riding and snowmobiling, for the ultimate festive treat for the big day.

Lapland isn’t only the preserve of little ones desperate for a glimpse of the man in red, though: Regent Holidays’ expanded Finland programme includes several Lapland and Arctic Circle options that are just as well-suited to older children and teenagers as under-10s.

Its Santa Claus city break, new this winter, is based at the boutique Arctic Light Hotel, a contemporary property which opened in April in the former City Hall of Finnish Lapland’s Rovaniemi. As well as visiting Santa Park and Santa Claus Village, suggest clients explore this interesting student city, which was fittingly rebuilt after the Second World War by architect Alvar Aalto in the layout of reindeer antlers.

Sample Product

A week at Chalet Hotel Ducs de Savoie in Val d’Isère costs £3,689 with Esprit Ski for two adults and a child aged 11-17, departing December 27. The price includes Southampton-Geneva flights, transfers, Wi-Fi and half-board accommodation with a five-course dinner and wine.

Regent Holidays can arrange a four-night stay at the Centrum Hotel in Reykjavik, with flights and a Superjeep excursion to Iceland’s Golden Circle and South Coast, from £1,330.

Cosmos Holidays offers a five-night trip to Finnish Lapland from £3,329 for a family of four sharing a studio with private sauna at Levistar Apartments, including flights from Manchester on December 23, resort transfers and ski suit and snow boot hire.

Ask the expert

Suzel Taber-Shaw, managing director of Taber Holidays:

“If people want to go away for Christmas or New Year, we recommend they book as early as possible as flights are like gold-dust over these periods and fares may rise closer to departure.”

Tell insurance providers about any winter sports activities clients plan to include.

Book nothing but northern lights tours – add dog-sledding or snowmobiling to avoid dis-appointment if the lights don’t appear


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