Earlier this month, we spent a magical week in Obergurgl, Austria with Esprit Ski. It was a week I’d been excited and fearful about in equal measure (more of that in a min). It turned out to be everything we’d hoped for and more.
(Watch the first video here:)
When you plan a family holiday, there’s always elements of juggling what everyone needs and wants. For us, skiing could’ve been a big juggle in the planning. Mr TT is a hardcore, ski lover. He’s skiied for 30 years and he’s at his most happy up a mountain. He’s always been the eager puppy, ready and waiting for the very first lift and only being dragged home as the last light of the day fades.
I, on the other hand, am a much more hesitant. I’d skiied for a couple of weeks and then, in 2008 someone skiied into me and I broke my leg. After some pins in my tibia (!) and a week in hospital I’m now absolutely fine, but it’s left me with a lingering fear of the slopes, that 6 years without skiing hasn’t helped.
Then, of course, there’s the holiday needs of our pair of our three and a half year olds. They’ve never skiied, or seen that much snow, would they enjoy it? Would the cold dampen their spirits? How would they feel about the childcare?
We needn’t have worried. Somehow, this holiday with Esprit made everything fit in to place. Everything was thought of, leaving us all to just soak up the mountain views, the fresh air and the free flowing wine at dinner (!).
We flew into Innsbruck airport early on Sunday afternoon and were instantly transported to another world. The runway is nestled between the mountains and as the plane descends, you feel like you could almost reach out and touch the mountains next to you. Slightly terrifying, but totally enchanting.
Us and our mountain of cases were greeted by the friendly Esprit Ski team and ushered onto the transfer coach. The hour and a half journey to Obergurgl is much shorter than the transfer on many ski trips. Perfect for our now very tired little ones.
We rolled off the coach in pretty little Obergurgl, welcomed by piles of the white stuff. Even in their sleepy state, the children could not get enough of the snow in the town. They were stomping and making snowballs and just generally amazed by it all, I couldn’t quite manage to prepare them for how much snow they would be seeing in the light the following day..
We woke up to the most beautiful white blanket. Seeing their faces was a moment I won’t forget. “It’s just like in the Snowman Mummy!”. We went to hire skis and helmets for all of us and off we went to meet the rest of our chalet over breakfast.
We stayed in Chalet Verwall, which hosts about eight families at a time. This chalet size was perfect for us. All the benefits of a hotel, with meals and housekeeping, but small enough to feel very safe and secure and to get to know the other guests.
Breakfast was followed by our first introduction to “SnowClub”. Esprit Ski offer a full childcare service, from 9am until 6pm if you wish. Now, if you’re not a skier, that sounds ridiculous, I know. Why would you go on holiday and hardly see your children? But sking together, until kids are up to a safe skill level, is just not an option. So the fact that the childcare is there and available, means you can use it as and when, as much or as little as you want, to find a ski schedule that works for your own family.
I really thought that we wouldn’t use the childcare fully, however, as it turned out, they loved it so much that every morning H was getting herself dressed at 6am asking “how long until SnowClub?” Clearly it was much more fun than being with us is!
Ski lessons took place for their age each afternoon, for 5 days of the week and they were taken there as part of the SnowClub schedule with their new little mates. Then we would go and watch and cheer them on and bring them back to our room at 3pm for a cuddle, rest and time to hear about their day before the high tea for children at 5:30pm.
Some afternoons, we collected them and took them on the nursery slopes ourselves which they loved. Mr TT was more exhausted by this than a full day exploring the whole mountain. The shouts of “AGAIN AGAIN” every time they reached the bottom of the slope were ringing out around the valley.
In the evenings, with Esprit Ski, you have the options of putting the children to bed and using the baby listening/corridor monitoring service (depending on which chalet you’re staying in) or the evening kids clubs. Ours were so tired, they fell asleep instantly, meaning we got to enjoy supper with the other adults in the chalet each evening.
The three course evening meal was accompanied by wine, and followed by cheese in the chalet lounge. A great chance to chat and compare stories of the slopes that day. We met some really lovely families who I hope we keep in touch with. There’s something really unique about the chalet experience, it’s so much more personal and enjoyable than staying in a faceless hotel.
We’d stayed in chalet accommodation before having children and it was mainly a chance to find additional drinking buddies (!). Now, with kids, it’s so much more. The children always had some of their new little pals to play with, there was never any feeling of worry or embarrassment about rampaging children as we were all in the same boat and most importantly, it all felt very child safe.
So, the children were as happy as clams. What about me and he? Well, I’d splashed out on three, two hour private lessons through the week to try and get my confidence back. These were such a worthwhile investment. My lovely, man of few words, instructor Richard told me “don’t think. Just ski”. Simple ‘eh? But really he was right, I just needed to get back out there. And yes, I’m slow, but I’m doing it again and actually enjoying it, so a huge victory for me.
Mr TT was also loving life. He spent three days of the week enjoying the excellent ski hosting from Esprit Ski. This is where one of their reps takes a group of skiers of a similar level (confident on red runs) out and leads them in skiing the resort. This is not available in France or Italy, where only local guides are allowed. A major bonus for us where we ski at such different levels. It meant that he could go and ski hard, with the enjoyment and safety of being in a group. A brilliant Esprit service and it would certainly be a factor in us returning to Austria with them again in the future.
Then for a few sessions, Mr TT and I did ski together. I worried about this beforehand. I adore this man, but we all know, teaching the people you love to do things can be tricky to say the least. But oh, it was SUCH a pleasant surprise.
I posted on Instagram that day that, when you’re a parent, much as we love those littles so much, you can sometimes get distracted by working and washing and all of the day to day stuff and kind of forget each other. Well that day he and I spent together skiing, we laughed until I cried (tears that froze instantly!), had a cheeky beer and lunch on the slopes and just absolutely loved remembering how fun it is sometimes just to be together doing something amazing. At the end of that day my heart was fit to burst. Definitely a day to remember.
(Watch video part 2 here:)
For us, this week with Esprit Ski was a bigger success than we could ever have imagined. By the end of the week, we were waving off our new friends; we were happy, relaxed and more confident on the slopes. I hope this is the start of a lifetime of family ski adventures.
Are you a skier? Have you braved it with kids? What’s your dream adventure holiday with the family?
Click here for PART TWO of my posts on our trip, the final video and more photos – The Lowdown on Obergurgl, Austria.
Disclosure: The cost of our trip was covered by Esprit in return for an honest review and thoughts on our experiences with them. As always, all opinions are our own.