As someone who started skiing in my mid twenties with a massive fear of heights, I think it's fair to say I've been a slow starter on the skiing front. We've been on ski holidays most years since I first gave it a go and I've always loved the amazing scenery, the apres ski and having an active holiday but this year, for the first time, I actually started to love the skiing. My husband, on the other hand, is a total snow boarding addict. He will throw himself down any slope and looks (annoyingly) good doing it. So for different reasons, we've always agreed that we wanted to give George the opportunity to learn to ski from a young age.
Last year when we visited the Alps, George had just turned one and so he enjoyed a bit of sledging and a few trips in the gondola. This year, we decided to try him out on some skis...
Pradollano in the Sierra Nevada mountains was a friend of a friend's suggestion for a good, snow-sure family friendly Easter holiday. We wanted somewhere with good beginner slopes (the other family we travelled with have two boys aged 3 and 5 who are both learning) and we were all really impressed with how beginner-friendly the resort was. Another major attraction of the resort is that it's not even an hour's transfer from Granada airport but is still really high (approx. 2100m at base, over 3000 at the highest lift) so hopefully guaranteeing snow late into the season.
Originally we intended to stay in one of the Melia hotels, which had also come recommended, but in the end we opted for an apartment (a three bedroom Bed and Snow Apartment booked through Booking.com). All three boys shared a bedroom which had plenty of space, there was loads of storage, a big-ish living area and a washing machine. We liked the fact that the boys had somewhere to play and on an evening we could relax with too much red wine when the children were in bed. Even better, the apartment was literally across the street from the main gondola and a two minute walk from the supermarket and lots of restaurants.
Our ski hire, transfer, ski passes and ski lessons were booked through a really helpful website: Sierra Essence (my friend, Claire, is super organised and totally hooked us up with all of this - thanks lovely!). We didn't book George any lessons because we thought he was a bit young to really follow direction. Jack, who is 3, had a one hour lesson each day with the British Ski Centre where the instructors are English or fluent English speakers. By the end of the week he skied, with some help, down a friendly blue to the resort! Thomas, who is 5, couldn't go to ski school because it wasn't running, despite it being the Easter holidays(!), so he skied with the grownups. I booked a two hour private lesson towards the end of the week (after a minor melt down over a steep red run) through the same ski school and was really impressed with the standard of teaching, especially given the conditions on the day I had the lesson, which were icy and snowy.
We opted to take it in turns skiing, rather than putting George in a creche. With us both working a lot, it was lovely to have time with him too. Every day, we tried him on his skis. The first day was a total fail: he cried, point blank refused to walk in his ski boots and then fell asleep in my arms at the top of the gondola lift so I took the opportunity to drink hot chocolate in the sun. The next day we got his helmet and ski boots on with much less fuss and lots more snowball throwing (the snowballs had to be thrown at him, which made us feel like bad parents but made him laugh so we went with it). The day after, he let us pull him along on his skis as long as it was towards a 'ski digger' (George is totally digger mad and so a piste basher is now a 'ski digger' in our family). By the end of the week, Uncle Adam had skied him down a little green slope and he was asking to put his ski boots on but not the skis - apparently he 'no likey skis'. Overall, I'd say it was progress for a two year old with a stubborn streak and, if nothing else, hopefully we are getting him used to the experience of being on the snow.
Whilst we were in Pradollano, we did a mixture of eating in and eating out for dinner. We had some amazing steak (although I've totally forgotten the name of the restaurant despite eating there twice) and tapas (Tito Tapas), and also enjoyed the pasta and pizza at Pizzeria Tito Luigi. Most days we had lunch at the apartment because it was easier with everyone swapping over ski stuff and every day we had breakfast at the apartment (cautionary tale: one morning we ran out of milk and the supermarket was closed until around 8.30am, which was less than ideal with three hungry children wanting Weetabix). One thing I noticed was that there were a lot fewer options for eating up the mountain than I've seen in the Alps resorts I've been to and I didn't particularly like the look of the options there were because of one of the only criticisms I have of the resort: the rubbish! In certain places, it was really off putting and I think it was down to the fact that the resort is quite windy so it was getting blown off tables. The wind also meant the mountain was closed for one day so we couldn't ski but that day turned out to be one of favourites with snowman building, sledging and a ride on the mountain rollercoaster with the kids.
For avid skiers without kids, this resort is probably not the best choice. It's definitely geared up for beginners with well marked pistes and clear warnings when you venture into tougher territory. As a result, the blue runs are busy and there were some queues for the lifts. However, as soon as you ventured onto more intermediate slopes things were quieter and there were lots of red options. We were lucky enough to get some fresh snow in our last couple of days and I know my husband, Rob, particularly enjoyed a bit of off piste action after the snowfall.
This year's trip was one of my favourite ski trips yet. A bit by luck and a bit by design, all our choices worked really well for a family ski holiday and despite the fact we had to pack enough to mobilise a small army, it was totally worth it (any questions on packing for a toddler on a ski trip, just get in touch!). Watching George become friends for life with Thomas and Jack was one of the highlights of the holiday and being out in the fresh air and blue skies of the mountains is definitely good for the soul. It felt like exactly the break we needed after six months of me being back at work.
Skiing with children, like every holiday, is a totally different experience to skiing as a couple but if it's well planned it's a great family holiday and even with a toddler in tow, I still managed to fit in drinking a cheeky glass of Veuve slope side with my lovely friend, Claire, and have a piste date with Rob...