Feb 2023 – For our little ones’ February holiday, we had initially planned on visiting Kronplatz 🇮🇹…but because I’m an idiot and I don’t understand numbers, I completely mixed up their 2023 holiday dates with their 2024 dates. Thankfully, I was within the full refund cancellation timeframe so I happily ruined the AirBnB owner’s day by cancelling only a month out of our reservation 😬.
We had to scramble quickly since short-notice bookings in Europe for ski holidays are pretty difficult to find…but we ended up rolling the dice on a place called Nendaz located in the far Southwest corners of French-Speaking Switzerland. I had previously tried going here in years past but wonderful German COVID lockdowns and restrictions shut those attempts down with a vengeance. So, naturally, I was really happy to have the opportunity to visit with the kiddos. It would be our first family snow trip to Switzerland since we went to Flumserberg pre-COVID.
We had just finished up a hockey tournament in Garmisch (Bavaria’s little America) and basically drove across the entire Swiss map to get to Nendaz…a solid 6 hour drive 😰. While scenic, that’s about all I’ve got in me these days as far as being in the car with my family goes. After that I start imagining what being single is like (joking of course).
Haut-Nendaz (the actual village name) itself is an extremely high alpine village situated in Canton Valais and sits somewhere between 1300-1500 meters high. The drive up to the hamlet is kind of intimidating but it’s also quite beautiful. Once in the village, your view out towards the Rhône Valley is stunning…pretty typical of any alpine village in Switzerland, to be honest.
The actual ski area stretching across this region is called the 4 Vallées and it consists of Nendaz, Verbier, Thyon, and Veysonnaz along with a few other small villages dotted around the region. This area is completely huge and by no stretch of the imagination can it fully be experienced in a few days’ time. Especially if your kids are doing ski school. More on that in just a moment.
My first tip is to book a solid 5-7 nights’ stay here. You’ll be grateful you did!
We were actually staying in a large chalet within the ski area (more on the chalet at the end). Normally this would have been nothing short of amazing but the warming trend that hit during our holiday (for the second time no less !) had really caused some snow quality to deteriorate.
The most immediate and positive thing I can comment on, with regard to the Pistes at 4 Vallées, is that there are some seriously long runs that feel as if they go on forever. There are even huge designated freeride areas in the upper alpine corners of the resort. However, there is a negative spin to this. If you end up bound by timelines, as I was with kids’ ski school drop-off and pickup times, you could find yourself struggling to really explore the vastness of the region since you have to be back at a certain time. The network of lifts is great, but I found myself timing how long lifts and runs took just so I could make it back in time to pickup both my offspring as they finished up their day.
I felt like a mathematician with the amount of numbers regarding seconds, minutes, and hours I was taxing myself with.
From the Nendaz area, there weren’t too many areas that I felt my kids couldn’t handle. You have to be careful when judging this on your own, though. At this point, mine have been taking lessons for just over four years and they’re pretty confident on Red Slopes throughout the Alps. So that really opened up what they were able to do as far as their ski school instruction went. Don’t be overly confident with where you feel their skills are. You could end up putting them in a very skilled group which can go either good or bad regarding their confidence and sense of safety on the mountain.
So! Let’s talk ski school! Previously during our day at Flumserberg, we booked with the Official Swiss Ski School program there. I felt it was a very thorough bit of instruction but at a more reserved pace than my good friends in Austria. I wasted no time in finding the local SSS program in Nendaz and happily booked a half-day program for them during the entire stay (CHF 472.00) with Swiss Ski School Nendaz. I won’t go too much into my first morning’s horrible confusion…but I’ll simply say I didn’t even follow my own blogging advice (specifically Tip 4) when it came to meeting times and locations. All I’ll say is that after I dropped them off for their first day, I was sweating bullets, exhausted, and needed a drink.
Lift Ticket price note: since we don’t live in the Swiss Alps, it doesn’t make sense to buy a regional pass…but the tickets for me and my two kids came out to a little over CHF 500 for four days.
One of the great things about the official Swiss Ski School program is its organization across the entire country as it pertains to your kids’ learning and progression. I didn’t know this, but after the last day of instruction, your child sort of “Graduates” and gets the official stamp of approval for that course level in a booklet that you can take to any SSS location. The booklet and it’s comments left by the last School are proof to the next School that your kids have completed certain parts of the national program and are factually ready for the next stage. It’s kind of like their ski résumé (or CV for my European-born friends). They even get badges to keep 🙂.
Each morning, there was drop-off, getting the details of the day from the instructors, and then just ensuring I got back in time to get them. My daughter’s instructor spoke German and her class had a few German girls in it so I felt great about her class. My son’s instructor was all French with very little English and no German so, initially, I was worried about his experience. However, he buddied up immediately with a fellow German kid as well as a Dutch-speaking Belgian kid and they all ended up getting along just fine. The biggest headache was trying to get times and locations from his French speaking instructor. The Belgian parents were my absolute best friends for translating for me.
SSS Nendaz was really well organized and taught. I’d recommend them to anyone.
I had forgotten about this part since the last time I saw it was at St. Anton, last year…but the end of program ski races are something you don’t want to miss (which I basically did). The races at Nendaz were a bit better organized than the ones at St. Anton and, after the day’s lessons, there was an entire celebration and event that kicked off down in Nendaz village just for the kids. I thought that was a special touch that SSS Nendaz added to celebrate the kids and their race finish 👍.
Nothing makes a father feel worse than not having gotten back in time for the actual races, especially when they both ask you later, “Dad did you see me?”. I was fortunate that my Belgian friends took a video and photo of my son for me. I still feel awful about missing my daughter’s race. This again is kind of a reference to my negative spin on the 4 Vallées sheer size.
Be sure to find out if there are races at the end of the instruction because the times of everything that morning usually shift around a little bit.
The actual village of Nendaz is an interesting mix of rustic Swiss Alpine culture and large wooden-framed hotels for large crowds of tourism. We didn’t spend much time there since we were staying higher up in the ski area…but from what we saw the village was really nice looking. Take note: this is definitely a place that shuts down for an afternoon break between 3-5PM. Which is great when you take the one lunch trip down just to find this out at the last moment .
The chalet we booked (the above GoogleMap) was this wonderful classic Swiss architecture home. Honestly to me, if you don’t have a jacuzzi outside at your rental for a longer trip, you’re not doing it right. We were very lucky to have booked this place on such short notice. It’s apparently owned and operated by a London-based company, The Hideaways Club, so dealing with native English-speakers for once was a small comfort that we sometimes miss.
Ultimately, the weather and warming spell that hit the Alps during our stay really impacted the quality of slopes that Nendaz had…but Murphy’s Law rules when it comes to weather: you simply can never be guaranteed a perfect winter holiday.
Taking that into consideration, Nendaz is completely superb in every sense of the word when it comes to size, Lift quality, ski school, and freeride options for those of us who enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or expert, the entire area really is big enough to offer a lot of fun for all types.
Give it a go! I’m happy to say that we did.
Sidenote: Charlie Chaplin lived his last 25 years only an hour from Nendaz in Vevey.
If you’ve been there and/or you feel as if I may have missed something, drop a comment below and I’ll respond!
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