Ski resorts plus children under the age of two don't mix. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is in fact law, given the multitude of mountain activities that bar children under the age of two. But avoid the main resorts and you'll find there's plenty to amuse both adults and infants...
Disproving the theory
So, equipped with our 17 month old son, my wife and I set out to disprove the theory that skiing holidays with young children were mission: impossible. Our mission didn't start well, as we searched for suitable toddler friendly activities, play-groups with similar aged children, kids-clubs happy to take little children, and much more besides. Doors were shut in our faces wherever we went. Activities aren't designed for little ones, people understandably don't set up play groups when on holiday and kids clubs don't want the responsibility of looking after toddlers. Things did not look promising.
Mountains and villages made for children
What we discovered was that the mountains and small villages dotted along their slopes are made for skiing with children. This isn't just a throwaway remark. These villages are invariably home to strong communities unsullied by big brands and broadband, and as such children are incredibly satisfied with their lot.
Visiting local farms
Every day, we visited local farms where we fed sheep, milked cows, watched calves and lambs being born and saw eggs and honey being prepared for sale. Farmers, whose mother tongue was a local Alpine dialect, were always delighted to show us around their barns or to let our son sit on their tractors. Sign-language was a great means of communication for all involved.
Peaceful walks and a natural hot spring
We found immaculate local swimming pools and a natural hot spring. These places were uniformly fresh and clean, and as welcoming as a swimming pool could be for little ones. Walks into side valleys away from the pistes were a revelation. Forest paths passed fascinating frozen waterfalls which later in the season would turn to roaring rivers. The wildlife was incredible: we spotted ibex, chamois, marmot and beautiful birds. These birds became so accustomed to our walks that they eventually accepted crumbs from our hands.
Fantastic sledge runs
The Alps has a network of fantastic sledge runs. Some of them are admittedly pretty hairy, but we found one which was over five miles long, and involved an exciting train ride corkscrewing up the mountain side to get to the start, followed by a steady descent through stunning scenery… and that's before we even started with snowman building.
Look beyond the resorts
Forget the plastic toys at the Alpine kids clubs: look beyond the edge of the ski resorts and you'll find places that will make you and your little ones very happy indeed.