It had been on “the list” for a while, our long-awaited Alpine adventure as a family. Quite different I envisaged to those hazy days of my 20’s on group ski trips with only the wonder of where your next cool beer or slice of cake from your catered chalet was coming from! Nevertheless, I had a “vision” , one of the great outdoors , the kids with rosy glows and hot chocolates and conquering button lifts for the first time. And so the time had finally come, money saved, nappies and bottles a past memory the plans for our first ski trip started to take shape one night over a glass of wine.
So first things first, we don’t do fuss on our travels and whilst we like the nice touches substance trumps style every time. Authentic experiences where you get a real sense of the country not a superficial glaze are always what we strive for, and whilst we sometimes fall short more often than not we hit the jackpot. This trip was to be just that, so let me share with you how we created our little Alpine dream, but also some of the harsh realities of a family of four embarking on a week together learning as we went along!
Slovenia is a hidden gem, don’t overlook it for the glitz and glamour of better known resorts
So I admit we had intel, my brother and his wife had fallen in love with this wonderful country 15 years ago, we had already skied with them there pre kids (I can just remember , through the haze of a very boozy week) and joined them for their wedding there too. Now a lot can change in that time but we were not disappointed, fast forward to 2018 and what we loved about Slovenia then has not been erased. It’s an authentic country, humble about it’s breathtaking scenery and passionate about an outdoor life. Slovenians by their nature are laid back characters that value balance in their lives and spending time there it is clear to see that memories and experiences, not material “things” make the Slovenians tick. Rated second only to Bulgaria in the league tables of “cheapest ski pass and equipment hire” it also makes for a much more economical ski trip especially if like us you “self build” the trip and book flights, accommodation and ski school separately (more to come on that below).
Be brave and “self build” your own package, its easy when you know how!
Whilst the benefits of a ready done package are clear , it takes the pressure off and sometimes it’s so tricky to know what to book and when, with a little bit of research and mediocre organisational skills (like me!) you can pull off your own bespoke trip and shave a couple of “k” to boot!
Here are my tips for Slovenian ski trip self builds :
- Flights – choose a low-cost carrier, EasyJet fly direct to Ljubljana the capital from Stansted (then a 45 min drive to the ski resort of Kranjska Gora) or we flew Ryanair from Stansted to Trieste (2.5hr drive to the ski resort). In skiing terms both really short airport to slope transfer times, even if from up North it is a bit of a drive to Stansted. There are plenty of airport hotels where you can stay over before you fly and even leave the car for your trip.
- Accommodation – there is plenty to choose from in Kranjska Gora. If you like full board and central locations then try the Ramada or a two-mile drive away is the lovely Hotel Spik, a great little find with views of the mountains to die for. There are two sections to the hotel to choose from, a basic three star and a more upmarket four if budget permits – and worth it to get thicker walls which is handy with noisy kids! There is also a pool which is great for spending time in later in the afternoon when ski legs get tired. We opted for half board and enjoyed great hearty buffets each evening, however foodies beware its rustic fayre so consider somewhere else if you want to indulge your foodie desires!
- Ski school & equipment hire – book in advance and you will be ready to hit the slopes on your arrival. We went with SkiSchool.si Kranjska Gora they operate a number of ski school options from private lessons to 2 hr daily slots in groups of children. We found the two-hour group lessons perfect to enable us to have quality time as a family but still give the kids and us time to upskill and practice our skiing! Another bonus is the lessons start at 10 or 11, and believe me by the time you have loaded up your car, got your gear on and headed to the ski school that extra time helps! Ski passes can be bought simply on the day and for up to a week and equipment can also be hired from the ski school on arrival.
Pack for Arctic conditions, but take your suntan lotion too
It’s inevitable with a ski trip that the weather can vary, so don’t forget to pack for all eventualities! My kids both tend not to feel the cold but never assume how the kiddies are going to react. Layers are key and make things flexible, and you don’t need to spend the earth on gear especially when the kids will grow out of clothes by next season. Mountain Warehouse have some great ski wear packages and Aldi are also now doing a ski range. Gloves rather than mittens help for skiing and also goggles worked really well for the kids rather than sunglasses as they tend to stay on better. Thermal layers and a thin fleece underneath a ski jacket and salopettes mean that you can bulk up or strip off depending on the temperature. And don’t forget the sunscreen, its amazing how those rays can bounce off the crisp white slopes!
Learning to ski is a marathon not a sprint…
I too often speak to people who want to become experts and for their children to become 1st class downhill skiers in one holiday. My advice would be to chill out, relax and enjoy the ride. The kids will progress at the pace that is right for them, and frankly getting the basics right equals safer kids on the slopes. So be patient with yourself and them and take time to enjoy your surroundings and just being outdoors together, learning a new skill. For those parents that were black run fiends back in the day, be prepared for a bit of a wobble when you first start-up again – age sometimes knocks the confidence and I know when I got off my first chair lift after ten years and looked down that slope I certainly wasn’t as confident as I used to be (or perhaps that was the mulled wine that was talking in the past!)
Mix it up a bit, its tiring so indulge in some apres ski, even if that means lying on your bed with a book , half a lager and a large piece of Toblerone (the best Alpine diet)
How I used to ski for 8 hours a day I will never know, but rest assured a few hours on the slopes sufficed per day now. We also found that whilst the kids were keen to stay on in the afternoon and practice their skills it was pay back time later on in the day when tempers were frayed. Encourage the children to know when to call it a day, go back to the hotel or chalet and swim, read or play games. A ski holiday is about the time to relax and reflect on your day not just to max out on slope time.
Venture out beyond the slopes… there is more to see in this beautiful country
We based ourselves in the main ski resort of Kranjska Gora but if you want to have a few trips out there is plenty to see and experience in Slovenia. Visit the capital Ljubljana, a cosmopolitan, modern city which offers a wealth of history and beautiful architecture. Stroll up to the castle for spectacular views, wander around the old town or watch the world go by in one of the many street cafes. Fall under the spell of Lake Bled – this iconic Alpine lake is a sight to behold all year round, take a Pletnas (a traditional wooden boat) to the island in the middle of the lake, take a long stroll around it’s shores and then settle down to admire the view with a well-earned coffee and a Kremna Rezina (the famed local cream cake). Or head further afield to the coast to experience the picturesque city of Piran – this tiny town with its terracotta rooftops and brilliant white buildings is brimming with history.
There is no denying it a ski trip is a luxury, but if you can stretch the annual holiday budget and piece it together yourselves it can be a really special family treat.
You will learn together, fall over, pick yourselves up, laugh, dust yourselves off and build memories that will last forever.