Head for the hills
The layout of Passo Tonale, in an Alpine region of Italy with 100km of slopes, is perfectly suited to our family of novice skiers, writes Madeleine Lyons
From the time they learned that persistent nagging could sometimes pay dividends, every year our children ask to go skiing. And every year we counter with a boring lecture about money and trees. But as our last chance to travel during ( cheaper) term time loomed, and before the eldest started secondary school, we decided to bite the bullet.
Initially hours were lost online, gamely attempting to put together a DIY package – flights, accommodation, ski passes and tuition all booked separately. In the end we went the package holiday route. The DIY route best suits experienced skiers or those travelling in groups, where there are good savings to be made.
For novices skiing i s such a vastly different experience to any other that having the transport, gear and lessons sorted by a tour operator has many advantages, not least that on day one you can hit the slopes running.
Priorities for our family of two adults and two children ( aged 11 and 10) were a ski resort with good beginner slopes and tuition; a relatively short transfer time from the airport and accommodation you could practically ski in and out of. ( Ski boots weigh about 3kg each, so it’s no joke having to trudge a long way, especially for kids.)
We hit on the district of Pontedilegno- Tonale, an Alpine region of Italy about three hours from Verona airport with about 100km of slopes, the layout of which couldn’t be better suited to beginner and intermediate skiers.
Crystal, one of the biggest ski holiday providers, operates here, and recently purchased the Grand Hotel Paradiso, a four- star hotel in Passo Tonale. It’s a busy resort where generations of Italian children have learned to ski on annual school tours. Like a natural amphitheatre, Passo Tonale’s wide meandering slopes rise upwards i n every direction, with i ts crowning glory, the Presena Glacier, t opping one of
We travelled mid- March and there was plenty of snow, including a couple of days of heavy snowfall while we were there. This can make skiing hard work because visibility isn’t great and the snow is tricky underfoot, but this was more than compensated for by several days of unbroken sunshine and cobalt skies.
The constant presence of resort reps make the experience all very hi- de- hi but not in an intrusive way. For families with younger children the reps also run kids’ camps where they will bring children to their ski lessons in the morning and feed and entertain them in the afternoons. We chose to meet up after lessons in the morning and choose our own ski runs for the afternoon, taking in lunch along the way.
The days start at about 7am, with a carb load- up at the expansive breakfast buffet followed by ski lessons from 9am to 11am each morning. Our lessons were provided t he highest peaks at by instructors from Tonale Presena Ski and Snowboard school. The tuition was excellent. Despite a basic command of English, the instructor in my group did a good line in admonishment – which on balance is not a bad motivator towards improvement.
Certainly by the end of the week, red runs weren’t nearly so daunting, and this resort has a good selection of long, manageable reds. The kids, of course, were tearing up the slopes by around lunchtime on Tuesday, and would happily launch themselves off any red slope without a second thought. Their parents took a little longer. There’s a lovely final- day event for the kids group, followed by a medals ceremony in the evening.
One new resort feature we didn’t get to try but which is planned for the 2018- 2019 season is a “zip- line” adventure trail – a scenic four- to- five minute slope descent above the tree tops. Between that and the cable car ascent to the glacier, these are good, accessible alternatives to skiing all