An oxymoron? Not necessarily as it’s often the accommodation that is prohibitive, and for this I dedicate three delightful words,
FREE SKI ACCOMMODATION. Bring on the house exchange.
Long flight. Yes. Shuttle bus transfer when you just want to crawl into bed, yes. Opening the door into a three bedroom, ski-in, ski-out roomy condominium with spa bath, yes, yes and YES. All free when we took our kids to beautiful British Columbia for a month.
|Are we THERE yet?|
Windows looking out onto snow-laden pine trees, spa bathing in the snow and a basket full of the Okanagan Valley’s finest beer, wine and produce upon arrival. Personal notes on the best places to dine, ski and shop, Phone numbers of locals to contact for help with shopping, medical emergency or just a buddy to ski with. And there’s in your house back home watering your lawn and collecting your mail and walking your dog. Nice one.
THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS
Every cloud has a silver lining, as the saying goes, and in the case of the GFC home-exchange websites are doing a roaring trade. 1stHomeExchange.com’s Tony Di Caprio has observed new registrations for their site are up 30% in the last 18 months with over 19,000 listings in more than 130 countries worldwide. Log in to any of these websites (listed below), type in your desired vacation spot and hope on a wish and a prayer that someone on the other side of the world fancies the idea of Christmas on the beach.
|All ours free|
|A room that didn’t even get
slept in. (Ski-in ski-out)
It represented a risk on the same scale of acquiring a new babysitter. It’s mutual trust and it pays to form a relationship via email or skype. We’ve all got a 6th sense. It comes to the fore when you’re determining if ‘the family’ is in fact a group of underemployed axe-murders or really who they say they are. Needless to say, you get an idea pretty quickly. Photos of each room help with this.
Our Canadian house-swappers obviously had similar interests to us, looking for a vacation that included sport, good times and whole family participation at minimum cost. The unforseen upside was how WELL our families got on when we met. It wasn’t the intention to socialise but our schedules co-incided and our curiosity got the better of all of us. A few glasses of wine later and we were firm friends. For them, it meant dinner companions and a lot of local advice on the best of the area. For us, it meant a local ski guide and an overnight side trip to Mt Revelstoke for our husbands.
|Come on kids, off to school|
FAMILY SEASON PASSES
Ski resorts are businesses that need skier participation and money to run so these days a lot of resorts combine forces, which makes buying season passes and lift tickets more attractive.
If you shop around, most resorts offer incentives to buy season passes halfway through the calender year on credit credit, by the time the vacation swings around you’ve probably paid it off. I love a holiday that’s paid for before the plane leaves the ground.
Most resorts now recognise that the GFC has made ski families reluctant to fork out for passes so often they allow split payments and sometimes even over three months.
Under five year olds ski free and if you think that age group can’t ski you clearly haven’t seen our three year old rip it up.
The nature of the mountains means they are often fairly geographically isolated from towns and cities. This creates an advantagous holiday situation at the expense of financially challenged generation-Y. Everyone wants to babysit. The waitresses, the cleaners, the lifties, hotel staff and probably the lady who sold you your latte. Walk into the creche and walk out with a 3 page contact list. What this means is we didn’t felt compelled to put the kids in ski school every day. If they looked half tired or half hinted that they wanted to finish yesterday’s DVD they could stay in the condo with the babysitter. Let’s face it, everyone’s expendable. If the babysitter went to Whistler (she did) her friend happily filled her shoes. Often ski school lessons can be taken on non-consecutive days, It gave us flexibility to ski with the kids, put them in ski school or give them a home day. Snowball throwing and icicle spotting are tall amusements when you’re small and a short walk in the snow counts as physical exercise before a nap.
|99 bottles of beer on the wall…|
A FAMILY WHO SKIS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER
Finishing our trip with a weeklong sojourn to the sister-resort meant we could still use our season pass and ski as little or as much as we liked. Buying end-of season ex-rental gear for the kids equipped the kids and makes thrifty hand-me-downs. And because they’re ex-rentals we didn’t freak out if they ran over rocks or concrete, which they did.
If you use credit cards attached to frequent flyer programs you can clock up plane tickets pretty quickly.
If you’re a ski bunny and want your bunnies to love skiing the way you do, it takes a ‘can-do’ attitude and a little research from home. In the words of RobertFrost in 1916, ‘ two roads diverged in a wood, and I — took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference’.
SEASON PASSES FOR BIG WHITE
Youth $820 (ages 13 to 18)
Child ($510 (ages 6 to 12)
Tot $20 administration fee only
Season passes get you 25% on other mountains in British Columbia and discounts at ski school and in retail outlets including food.
SILVER STAR DUAL MOUNTAIN PASS ADD ON
+ $139 adult
(extracts taken from my article published by Holidays With Kids Magazine)