Skiing can be the most fun holidays, because the whole family is together; there is not many distractions and you spend the day out in fresh air. Planning is important for for travelling with any kind of child, but especially when travelling with children that has autism or are very sensitive – like my son.
I am not a big skier, but my husband loves it and goes every year with friends. But my son, who is diagnosed with Asperger and usually only want to stay at home (unfortunate with a travelling mom), likes going on ski trips, so we have been two times and are now planning a third in February. There are many good blogs on skiing specifically. Therefore I will only highlight the special circumstances of going with an child with autism.
WHERE TO GO
When I was a kid, we always went to Norway and stayed in a Høyfjellshotel. That is probably why I prefer this. France is very expensive, so this year I have been looking at Austria. Austria is very child friendly, but a lot more expensive than Norway. The bad thing about Norway is that you might not see the sun at all. But all together – the best option is Norway! There are many good areas, but we go to Skeikampen in Gausdal, North of Lillehammer. It is very very small and therefore easy for my son to navigate and this keeps him feeling safe. With an autistic child familiarity is a big deal, so this is also why we go the same place every time.
For more on Norway as a ski destination: Is Norway really a Winter Wonderland? YES!
HOTEL OR CABIN?
Do you want to make your own dinner or go out? If you are with a bunch of friends or an extended family, it’s a good idea to rent an apartment or a cabin and just figure it out. This makes the child feel more at home with better possibility to take a timeout. But if you’re a small family, I would definitely recommend letting somebody else do the cooking, since you will be very tired after day of skiing and might not eat until late. Children and grownups with Asperger would often not like to go out, when they are tied. So we always book a hotel, that has a restaurant (only vacation we choose all inclusive). This makes my son feel safe and he knows the menu in advance, and on the last trip he even went down and started breakfast without us. We normally stay at Thon Hotels Resort.
Make sure you are not staying too far away from the actual lifts or slopes. An autistic kid can’t handle too much so make the route as short as possible or you might not get to go skiing at all. Also you might need to split up with one parent going back home early, so make sure you can reach your hotel easily.
The first time we enrolled our son in ski school, but there were too many kids and he didn’t understand the teachers so that was not a good idea. We taught him ourselves instead.
And always bring a snack in the pocket, since many ski stops cafes can be quite overwhelming to an autistic kid, and everything just gets worse, when low on energy. And of course respect, if they don’t want to try unknown slopes.
This seems kind of extravagant, but I need a pool and a fireplace on my ski trips. I only ski for half the day, since our son will get really tired and needs to relax. This suits me fine and my husband just goes out without us in the afternoon. This means of course, that a pool is great for afternoons and preferably a sauna to melt your aching muscles.
Usually we try to avoid bringing electronic devices everywhere, but with an autistic child it is jut not that simple. So nowadays, we go for wifi, since many autistic children use online games and YouTube to relax. In the meantime I can sit in front of a fireplace and read. Gotta read! And the pool table is also a winner. Many also have playrooms, but this is sometimes too much noise for autistic kids.
Depending on your child’s level of sensitivity there is the possibility of going in a horse drawn carriage or on a dog sledding in Norway. One year, we took the dog sledding trip -although quite expensive. It was great, but we were a bit surprised, we had to drive it ourselves. One of the dogs was in heat and kept jumping the others and they smelled quite bad and my husband had a lot of difficulties keeping us level. My son was a little scared of the dogs (being scared of animals is quite common), but all in all we had an experience or a lifetime.
I hope you found these tips helpful.
For more inspiration to family trips with sensitive children or children with autism, see here.
Let me know if you have good advice for ski trips?