Pre-children I have only skied a couple of times and – despite the sore muscles and hideous hangovers – the experiences I had were unforgettable. Those ski holidays went a bit like this:
1. Wake up at a reasonable hour and tuck into a cooked breakfast.
2. Shower and get dressed at my own pace.
3. Ski all morning and enjoy a few chocolat-chaud-in-a-deckchair breaks.
4. Have a leisurely lunch on top of the mountain and sip on a vin chaud…then another…
5. Ski for a few more hours.
6. Lie horizontal on the chalet sofa gorging on freshly baked cake.
7. Spend the evening in a fondue restaurant over-indulging in cheese or in a bar swigging back sambucas and dancing on tables.
Now I have two boys (aged four and six), a ski holiday is an altogether different affair:
1. Get woken up at 6am by two excited sprogs jumping on the bed and screaming in my ears.
2. Lay out the boys’ kit for ski school and make sure I haven’t forgotten anything (arriving with my eldest dressed in just thermals was not one of my best moments, neither was forgetting to put a mid-morning treat in my youngest’s pocket…).
3. Pack my backpack with military precision: two pairs of shoes (for when the boys have had enough of ski boots), packets of sweets (for mini meltdowns), sunglasses, water, spare gloves, snoods, hats, lip balm (because there’s nothing worse than a screaming child with cracked lips), sun cream, money, ski passes…
4. Have a shower in under three minutes.
5. Attempt to dress myself and the boys whilst they roll around on the floor in fits of giggles.
6. Force-feed the boys breakfast (because the taxi’s waiting) and grab a croissant for myself.
7. Get the boys into their ski boots and suits whilst ignoring their ‘Ski school stinks!’ moans.
8. Drop the boys off at ski school and deal with any ‘I don’t want to go!’ tantrums.
9. Feel guilty for leaving my youngest howling ‘Mummy!’. Convince myself that he will love it as soon as I’m gone.
10. Spend two hours skiing whilst clock-watching the whole time.
11. Collect boys from ski school and lug all their kit and mine to the nearest restaurant whilst working up a sweat in a boiling ski suit.
12. Eat lunch at speed because the boys are exhausted and it’s turning into tantrum time.
13. Go back to the chalet and entertain the boys with board games, which always end in an ‘It’s not fair!’ fight.
14. Get the boys fed, bathed and in their pjs whilst coping with over-tired outbursts.
15. Have supper, drink a few glasses of wine and go to bed around 9pm (because sleep is far more appealing than a bar full of 20-something après-ski ravers).
Skiing with little ones: it’s not really a holiday at all, is it? In fact it’s the total opposite of relaxing – it’s physically and emotionally draining.
But then there are the moments that will stick in your mind forever: your littlest’s supersized grin when he sees mountains for the first time ever; your children rolling around in the snow whilst squealing with excitement; their chocolat-chaud-covered faces; and the ‘I’ve done it!’ high-five from your eldest who’s just whizzed down the nursery slope all by himself, bottom still intact.
And it’s those moments – plus plenty of vin chaud – that make it all worth while.