As soon as the leaves start to change my mind is already awaiting the first snow. I have been skiing since I was five years old and it has been a part of my life for over thirty years, now. Even when I was broke in college I would buy food I didn’t like at our local sub shop since they provided $10 ski passes with a purchase. I have always figured out a way to feed my addiction, except for when I found out I was pregnant our very first winter living in Europe. There was no getting around the pregnancy barrier, so I waited until the next winter and exactly six weeks after I had my son and the “clearance” for physical exertion, I was on the mountain, again. I have learned to find safe, secure, and vetted services to watch my son while my husband and I enjoy time on the mountain. Having fun in the fresh air, getting exercise, and that fabulous boost of adrenaline is not only good for the mind and body, but I think it’s also good for bonding and rekindling the flame with one’s partner. Bowchicawow-wow!
The recommendations on this page mostly cover skiing and mountain resorts since my son is still too young for lessons. However, we have also used these childcare resources so that mom and dad could enjoy a night on the town, stress-free dinners, and to do activities that are a bit too much for a toddler such as intense hiking, wine tasting, or a day of shopping in Istanbul.
The regions I am most familiar skiing in Europe with is southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy. So this will apply to those areas. Most ski schools in Europe don’t allow children to begin until the age of three. However, many of these schools also have a babysitting area for little ones typically aged six weeks to three years old. They are called “Mini Clubs” in most resorts, but to help the search, I use their terms such as Kinderbetreuung (German), Les Enfants (French), or Gli asili (Italian). Many of these childcare centers are located right on the mountain and are easily accessible. The benefit to using these on-site services for very young ones is the ability to swing in and nurse your baby, or to be able to quickly get to your child if you were needed. Typically they are equipped with everything you would expect from a childcare center with lots of toys, cribs and napping areas, diaper changing stations, and most have a fridge and ability to heat bottles if necessary. Many also have the options to purchase lunch for older children, but you can also pack lunches if you have a particularly picky kid, which is often the case with toddlers. The staff, in my experiences, have all been sweet, knowledgable, and eager to care for the little ones. As soon as my son hit a year old, I enjoyed taking him to these places because there are usually other children he can interact with and learn from.
If you aren’t comfortable leaving your child in a childcare center, many ski resorts have a listing of vetted nannies and sitters you can hire privately to come to your accommodation. I typically email the accommodation before arrival because they can usually offer the best referrals and know where to direct you. This saves a lot of time and is easier than scouring the search pages online. When our son was six weeks old on that very first ski trip, we hired a nanny through the Child and Youth Services site in Garmisch, Germany to come to our hotel and watch our son. We enjoyed using her so much that she became our regular sitter for trips down to the Garmisch/Zugspitz area that first ski season. She helped ease my nervousness about being away for him for a few hours by sending us pictures of him sleeping happily. Seeing his sweet little face while being on the mountain helped me relax and enjoy myself a bit more.
The top option, and my personal favorite if it wasn’t so expensive, is the Kinderhotel or Familianhotel option. There are countless family resorts set up around ski areas that offer in-house childcare from six weeks old through teenager at these hotels. They have to go through extensive certifications and offer all-inclusive packages to create one epic, stress free vacation. These hotels usually have an amazing pool and spa set up, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, entertainment, nurses and doctors on-site, and a delicious, healthy, and usually organic variety of food. They cater to your child, the parents, and work really hard to provide a vacation that makes that big spending worth it.
Related posts and where/how I have successfully used childcare while traveling: