These days you can find plenty of advice on where to hit the slopes with your toddler or young children in tow. In fact facilities for young families have never been better with most destination resorts these days offering nursery care, ski kindergartens, special evening entertainment programmes for young families and much, much more.
But what about when your kids are not quite so cute and cuddly? When they’re passed 12 and the airline, the hotel and maybe the lift company has deemed them an ‘adult’ but they still need entertaining, and you, of course, want them to be safe too, whilst they push on the boundaries.
Finding the best resort then can be more of a challenge. The list of options off the slopes is suddenly much diminished at many when it comes to older kids. The theory seems to be that so long as there’s a good WiFi signal they’ll be happy.
But there are some bigger ski areas that have more to offer older families than others, with some unique attractions to offer, and one of the best is Switzerland’s Crans Montana which may just offer more for this age group than any other.
Here are just some of the ideas on offer, on and off the snow:
The great hangout for all teens, freestyle fans will find one of the best snowparks in Switzerland complete with an Olympic-size halfpipe. Covering 100,000m2 it’s the biggest in French-speaking Switzerland and has a huge range of intermediate to advanced level features. For those new to freestyle, there’s also the Discovery Park designed for beginners complete with snowboard cross course, mini pipe, various rails, wall ride, small jumps and boxes. It’s the perfect place to learn.
There are not many things more fun than riding a fat bike – an oversized mountain bike with huge, soft, chunky tyres. The Swiss ski school offers you the chance to try fat biking on the slopes either before the ski day begins with their “Earlybird Fatbike” sessions which give you the chance to enjoy the slopes all to yourself before breakfast, or for those who aren’t early risers, there’s the “Après-ski Fatbike”, with a bumpier ride to enjoy after the slope has been cut up by skiers and boarders through the day. Which is more fun? Only you can decide.
It’s true that a lot of ski resorts have ice rinks but in Crans Montana their Ycoor Ice Rink offers more than ‘just’ skating and curling on an ice area of over 2,000m2. Plenty of activities and entertainments are organised here all winter long, including the popular ‘White Nights’ when you can get down and dance with a different ambience, decor and music provided each time. In addition on two evenings, the Carnival is in town so you can dress up too.
Teen Ski Camps
The ski schools at Crans Montana offer special teen ski lessons so that they don’t have to be held up by either younger children or slow old mum and dad. The Riders Club for children aged 12 to 15 years old operated by the Swiss Ski School, for example, has two options, one for beginner and those who have only skied a week or two, and another more advanced group aimed at intermediate and good skiers who are confident on red and black runs.
For true teen cool you need a ski resort with its very own music festival, and Crans Montana’s has recently been voted the best international electro festival in the world. The resort’s Caprices Festival takes place during the Easter holidays each spring, taking place high on the mountain in an incredible setting up at 2200m. Some of the world’s best DJs do their stuff in the heart of the ski area!
There are just a few ski resorts around the world that boast the ultimate teen attraction – an indoor freestyle park. Crans Montana joined this elite group earlier this year with the opening of Chalet Alaïa, a veritable shrine to action sports. The building is chock-full of high-quality facilities including trampolines, ramps, foam pits and bowls meaning different sports can be practised all winter whatever the weather outside.
As well as big jumps – whether it’s outdoors on to airbags or indoors into foam pits – older teens like to test themselves against nature as they reach adulthood, and one way to do this is the classic man-(or-woman)-against-nature discipline of ski touring. Heading up the slopes with skins under your skis using your own effort rather than a lift and heading into the backcountry away from it all when you ski down. It’s an amazing experience but something many adults haven’t tried and will be loathed to send their kids off alone doing.
Fortunately, there’s the unique ‘Rando Parc’ at Crans Montana with 15 new ski touring routes (blue, red and black) with over 40 km of marked and secure paths. Along with expert level routes designed by local world champion Séverine Pont-Combe, there are three introductory level routes and guides and instructors ready to teach and guide your teens safely through it all.
Crans-Montana is already well-known for its bike park and wake park but this summer will add a gigantic skatepark to add to the new Chalet Alaïa facility. Opening in July, the skatepark measures around 2,400m2, and will consist of a snake run, pump track and a skate plaza and bowl. These will be summer camps on offer too so teens don’t even need Mum and dad to bring them along – unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to spend a more relaxed time in Crans Montana whilst the teens let off steam that is.