My family and I were extremely excited about our Claviere family skiing holiday with Crystal Ski in Italy. No one more so than my three year old daughter, who was looking forward to seeing daddy on his sledge (kids talk for snowboard), building snowmen and learning to ski herself. Now after the event I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of Claviere family skiing holiday.
I’ve been snowboarding for 16 years but my wife had never tried. With kids, eldest aged three and youngest aged 11 months, it seemed like the perfect time for me to get them enjoying skiing holidays.
Claviere is known as an excellent resort for families, beginners and those looking for a calm and relaxed holiday. Known for uncrowded slopes, easy going locals and terrain to suit all levels, combined with Crystal’s renowned kids programs a Claviere family skiing holiday with Crystal Ski seemed the perfect choice.
I wanted an easy journey, so flights from our local airport (Birmingham) were essential. There’s nothing worse than a long drive to an airport with the potential of young children becoming restless and unruly before you even check-in.
We opted to make things even simpler by having our car collected from the airport by I Love Meet and Greet. They take your car to the offsite parking, meaning you don’t have to negotiate the transfer from car park to airport. This is something I’ll repeat on future family skiing holidays, as with my snowboards and young kids it reduced the pre-flight stress.
The flight was pleasantly short and both children were in good form, making friends with the air hostesses and the other passengers. We landed in Turin feeling pretty chipper despite it still being very early in the morning.
I am not a fan of Coach travel at the best of times, but without child seats for the little ones I was a little anxious about the transfer. Thankfully it was comfortable, and luckily children slept during the 1 hour 30 minute transfer, leaving my wife and I to enjoy the scenery as the day dawned.
One of the first things we had to do upon arrival – after checking in to the Whizz Kids Club and enjoying a little nap of course – was to meet the Crystal Ski reps at a local pizza restaurant, called “Il Gallo Cedrone”, for lunch.
Here we got our prepaid ski passes, vouchers for equipment hire and learnt about some of the other activities available on a Claviere family skiing holiday with Crystal Ski. Skidoo rides, romantic meals in mountain restaurants and the usual things were on offer.
An important part of any skiing holiday with Crystal Ski is the customer service. We were very impressed with the reps, who were very pleasant, easy to chat to and helpful. They gave us their mobile numbers and advised they’d visit our hotel everyday to answer questions, but to call if we needed to.
Over lunch we got chatting to another family from our hotel. When they found out my wife would be in lessons, and I would be snowboarding alone they insisted I join them on the slopes the next day. A theme that happily continued for the rest of the holiday. I’m not sure if it’s a regular occurrence on family skiing holidays, but I was very pleased to have riding companions.
Claviere is a very small town. The lifts, hire shop, supermarket and all restaurants are all within easy walking distance even with a young family. Unfortunately we left the trip to the hire shop until too late in the day. My eldest was shattered and the ski boot fitting resulted in floods of tears. In the end I arranged to go back in the morning.
Due to our early arrival, we had plenty of time before dinner to introduce the kids to the Whizz Kids Club and Pepi Penguins creche which are housed on the bottom floor of the hotel. The facilities were great, the kids had plenty of room to burn off energy indoors, and lots of toys and books to keep them entertained.
Throughout the week the staff remained very energetic, and kept the kids happy with various crafts, games, stories and trips to the outdoor play park. The Pepi Penguin area was separated from the Whizz Kids area to keep the little ones protected from the larger kids exuberance. But the great thing was that my eldest daughter could check in on her little sister whenever she wanted.
Late Wednesday afternoon they took the kids to Il Gallo Cedrone for a pizza party – with parents invited. This ended up in some fun dad dancing, and general twirling of kids and of course too much pizza.
A nice bonus was the Whizz Kids and Pepi Penguin pajama party every evening. You could drop the kids off after dinner, to enjoy a couple of hours of freedom with your other half.
The Whizz Kids group ski lessons took place at the local ski school. Each day the team would lead all the children to the school, and leave them with the instructor for three hours of skiing. Unfortunately this didn’t work out for my daughter, just one week shy of her 4th birthday she couldn’t keep up with the other kids physically.
Fortunately the ski school were very understanding and were happy to convert the value of the group lessons to private lessons. After paying the difference my daughter had an hour private lesson each morning with an instructor.
As she finished her lesson the Whizz Kids club were starting theirs, so the Whizz Kids staff would take her back the the hotel to play with the younger kids in the Pepi Penguin creche. Leaving my wife and I free to hit the slopes all day.
Family skiing holidays require a lot more organisation than skiing without kids. Every morning was a rush to get yourself ready, the kids up, changed, fed, changed again and off to the club. But having all the facilities in your the hotel is a huge advantage. The number of times I dropped my daughters off, then had to head back to the room to get something was embarrassing.
On the last day the Crystal kids team organised a presentation, where they handed out certificates and badges for the kids who had attended group lessons. They kindly went to the trouble of making my daughter a pretend gold medal for her ski efforts. In addition to this we took home a folder of art projects she’d completed during the week.
No review of Claviere family skiing holiday with Crystal Ski would be complete without talking about the accommodation. We stayed at the three star Grande Claviere hotel booked through Crystal.
Check-in at the Grande Claviere was straightforward, and we were very pleased indeed to find that our accommodation was large, clean and very comfortable. With two large bedrooms, a small private hallway and a good sized bathroom there was plenty of space. The accommodation includes breakfast, packed lunch and evening meal.
My daughter was excited to have a room to share with her little sister, and so were we. All too often hotel nights can be disrupted because the kids are in the same room as us. To have them safely tucked up in an adjoining room was great. I would point out that not all the rooms are configured as such, for the best choice book your Claviere family skiing holiday with Crystal Ski early.
The evening meals were nothing special, but better than some of the chalet food I’ve been served. The salad bar meant you could pile up on as much healthy food as you want. The serving staff were great, always pleased to see the children, and generally quick to serve your food once you were seated.
Breakfast was a standard buffet style and offered up plenty of choice to fuel a day on the slopes. Packed lunch was simple but filling, I did forgo it on one occasion in favour of a meal on the mountain, but I’ve never had that facility before so was quite impressed.
To enable the kids to go to the pajama party the hotel ran an earlier, kids only dining session. This was one area where I was a little disappointed. The children didn’t have access to the salad bar that was available in the later dining sessions and the kids meals were lacking vegetables. Let’s face it, most of us want to at least offer our kids veg – even if they won’t eat it.
We did choose to eat out one evening with a group of parents who were also leaving the kids at the pyjama party. We dined at Il Gran Bouc, which is a lovely restaurant and just five minutes walk from the hotel.
The wine and beer at the Grande Claviere (inclusive after 4:00pm) was very palatable, and the atmosphere in the bar was friendly throughout the week. It was nice to head there for a pre-meal drink and chat about the day’s exploits.
I had the “Two country pass” which allowed me access to Claviere and Montgenevre, plus one day’s in the rest of ViaLattea (Milky Way). When presented with the ViaLattea piste map, you could be forgiven for thinking that only accessing Claviere and Montgenevre would be restrictive, but I didn’t find this to be the case and never even used the extended day pass.
Slope wise they have everything covered. With motorway wide easy blues, steep icy blacks, treelined cat tracks and some very nice reds. Plus plenty of opportunities to pop off-piste into powder for a few hundred yards before rejoining the slopes.
Because it was uncrowded I never felt pressed for space, on some occasions we’d get to the top of the lift and find ourselves the only group there with a gorgeous view and lovely clear slope ahead. The busiest time was perhaps not surprisingly the saturday but even then queues for the lifts were relaxed and swift.
The quiet slopes meant that although it was April, and afternoons were slushy, the pistes remained relatively uncut up and easy to navigate. There were some exceptions to this like Les Gondrans Le Chenaillet on the approach to Montgenevre village. But compared to the larger resorts, it was great heading home without fighting through big piles of heavy slush, dodging crowds of tired and frustrated skiers and snowboarders.
My wife had a great time learning to ski, she stayed exclusively in Claviere but made it up to the mid station and enjoyed snow plowing her way down the red. It’s hard to start out with a new sport, and there is always the risk you simply won’t enjoy it. But she wasn’t afraid of the odd fall and whenever I passed, or watched her on the slopes she had a big smile on her face which was great to see.
At the bottom of the slopes in Claviere, there is a great little bar beside the ski school serving lovely pizza, wine and beer. My wife and I spent a couple of lazy late afternoons here enjoying a slow drink, and admiring the slopes as the last riders of the day returned, before heading back to get the kids.
My wife had a cracking time learning to ski, she took it well and always had a smile on her face. She was always eager to get back on the slopes the next day, even in less attractive conditions such as white-out and rain.
Our daughters both loved Pepi Penguins and Whizz Kids. My eldest was very proud to have gone up the hill on the chairlift lift, and to have skied back down. She was quite happy with one hour on the slopes each day which with private tuition is enough.
She loved the facilities at the Whizz Kids Club, in fact she had to be dragged away whenever we went to collect her, and always wanted to go back for the pajama party. She met a group of boys and girls and they became a happy little family for the week. It was great to see the kids playing nicely together, especially the older kids including the younger kids.
I had a great week boarding and really enjoyed the ski area, so much so that I plan on writing an article just covering my slope time.
To conclude this review of Claviere family skiing holiday with Crystal Ski, I will ask the big question, would we go back? YES in a flash! It was a great family experience, the beginners loved it, and it would take a lot of snowboarding in the area for me to get bored.
To book a holidays to Claviere with Crystal ski visit: www.crystalski.co.uk/claviere/