A fabulous family ski trip to Passo Tonale, Italy with Crystal Ski

A fabulous family ski trip to Passo Tonale, Italy with Crystal Ski

“Would you go back to Passo Tonale? We would. Hey, perhaps we’ll all end up back here together next year!”

So said Wei, a friend I made in my ski school at Passo Tonale, Italy. Crystal Ski had invited our family of four (including Austin, eight, and Gwen, five) to try out their childcare, as well as find out what we thought of Passo Tonale as a family ski resort. We arrived in Italy with a mixed bunch of abilities: Austin and Gwen had only skied once before, in Austria, while I’d been on three ski holidays. D skis well, after starting to learn when he was six.

Our verdict? Passo Tonale is brilliant, with something for skiers of all levels. Crystal’s Whizz Kids club (now renamed Beanie Bear) was a huge hit with the children – and it gave me and D a chance to relax, and unwind our way onto the slopes.

Travelling to Passo Tonale

Italian Alps

Flying off on holiday only a couple of days before Christmas is possibly the most exciting experience for a young family. The excitement carried us through the early morning flight (6.25am from Gatwick), and the three-hour coach transfer from Verona airport. At one and a half hours long, the flight was quick and painless. A relay of cheery Crystal staff directed us from the airport exit to our coach, where we met Jess, one of our reps for the week. More coaches were lined up for holidaymakers arriving on different flights – D’s parents, plus his brother and family, were flying from Bristol a couple of hours later, to join us for Christmas. After our reps had made sure all the families were on board, we set off on the drive, past Austrian-influenced churches, the beautiful Lake Iseo and up narrow, winding mountain roads, whose verges became more snowy the higher we climbed.

Checking in to Passo Tonale

Grand Hotel Paradiso

The Grand Hotel Paradiso was to be our home for the week. It was turnaround day and five coaches had arrived at once, so there was a queue to check in. Rather than waiting, Jess suggested we stash our cases in the luggage room and walk the five minutes into Passo Tonale’s centre. It’s a small place with only 300 inhabitants off-season, but there were plenty of eateries along the resort’s one main road. We chose La Botte, a cosy bar/restaurant with a roaring fire and a 10% discount for people who buy the Crystal discount card (€5).

La Botte

Unwinding in La Botte, Passo Tonale

hot chocolate

Several hot chocolates and tasty paninis later, we headed back to explore our hotel room. Greeting us was the most magnificent view of the setting sun, framed like a painting by our balcony window.

Passo Tonale

Our stay included half-board accommodation. After meeting up with the rest of the family, we headed to Paradiso’s restaurant, where a buffet dinner was served an hour earlier than usual (6pm Italian time). This was so the youngsters could have an early night after the journey, and wake up fresh for the piste. Passo Tonale is exceptionally snow-sure. Sixty cm of snow had fallen the week before, and at least eighty cm more fell while we were there. But just in case, the latest snow-making technology was there to give nature a helping hand. There was no need for it while we were there, though.

Passo Tonale

Crystal Ski kids’ club

Crystal suggested we sign our Pigeons up to their childcare for the week. For our stay, this was the Whizz Kids club. It’s since been renamed the Beanie Bear club, for children between three and eight (a separate club, Pepi Penguins, runs for younger children).

It was a good call. Sammy and her team of childcare staff really looked after our family while we were away, from the cheery text message before we’d even arrived at the resort, through to the presentation ceremony at the end. Gwen was crowned Whizz Kids Picasso, for her artistic talents, and Austin was named Piste Prince, after he wowed the team with his smooth moves on the blue runs. The staff really ‘got’ our kids, and did everything they could to make the stay a fun, happy time.

Crystal Ski Whizz Kids club

This was the first year Passo Tonale offered Crystal Ski’s specialist childcare. It made all the difference to our trip. The club was based in our Grand Hotel Paradiso, so it was an easy journey, from bed, to breakfast buffet, to club HQ. We took the children in at 8am, padding along in their ski socks and base layers. After drop-off, the patient staff dressed them in salopettes, jackets, jumpers, ski boots, skis, goggles and helmets, ready for ski school at 9am. The kit all stayed in Whizz Kids HQ and the heated locker room, so we didn’t have to carry it at all, unless we wanted to take the children out skiing ourselves. After ski school ended at 11am, the staff took the children back to the HQ for a child-friendly hot lunch – like chicken nuggets and vegetables, pizza or spaghetti bolognese. Indoor play, with arts and crafts, brick building or soft play, was usually followed by an outdoor excursion: gondola rides, snowball fights or bum boarding.

Crystal Ski Whizz Kids club

If we’d wanted to, D and I could have taken off for the whole day, skiing from 8am until 5pm, when the club ended. There was even an evening childcare service, for an extra charge, from 7.30 till 9pm. We decided to take advantage of the flexible sign-in, sign-out system, and kept the children with us on the afternoon of Christmas Day. Father Christmas had found us Italy, so there were presents to open! And our son was poorly half-way through, so he didn’t ski on the last few days. But once he was contagion-free, we put him in Whizz Kids just for the afternoon sessions.

You can read more about Crystal Ski’s childcare in this post.

Ski School

Passo Tonale

Some of Passo Tonale’s beginner runs

Passo Tonale is blessed with 100 km of ski slopes, including plenty of quiet, wide pistes for beginners. Unsurprisingly, it has one of the busiest ski schools in Europe. I signed up for six days of two-hour lessons. On our first day, the Italian ski instructors took the complete beginners off together in one big group, and we ‘intermediates’ – people who could just about do a snowplough, through to those who’d skied black runs – took it in turns to ski down a gentle slope, so the instructors could group us based on our ability.

My group was led by Tiziano, a young local who’d lived in the area all his life. The teaching was excellent. Over the week, we graduated from very gentle slopes, to an easy red and on the last day, we even skied down part of the 3,000m glacier overlooking the town.

Passo Tonale

Passo Tonale

The children’s ski school followed the same pattern. My daughter was in the group for complete beginners. She learned how to whizz down a very gentle slope without falling, and travel up on the button lift. My son, who’d already picked up how to snowplough and turn when we were in Austria, went up the mountain on a chairlift with a handful of other slightly older children. If he hadn’t been struck by the bug halfway through, I have no doubt he’d have been a better skier than me by the end of the week. As it was, I did see him zipping past me on a blue run, all cool and nonchalent in his bright orange jacket.

Whizz Kids ski club

In a presentation ceremony on the last day, the ski instructors gave us all booklets showing which skills we’d mastered. The children received medals. My daughter, who isn’t the most sporty individual yet, was so proud of hers (as were we!).

Whizz Kids ski girl with medal


Travelling to Passo Tonale with Crystal Ski was loads of fun, and hassle-free. Because of all the services Crystal offered to families, D and I could enjoy ourselves without having to worry too much about keeping the children happy. Although we didn’t pay for this trip, we’d definitely book to go away with Crystal. Both children adored the kids’ club, and were genuinely clamouring to go back. If our son hadn’t been unwell we’d have put the children into a couple of evening sessions, too. Then we could have taken advantage of Passo Tonale’s night skiing, or Crystal’s evening trip to sample local food and drink in a monastery. As it was, the extra help from Crystal meant that Austin’s bug was nowhere near as tricky to manage as usual. Let’s face it, those of us with young children are familiar with holidays where someone or other is ill. If that holiday’s still a fun, happy time, despite the lurgy, then someone’s doing something right.

If you’d like to read more about our time at Passo Tonale, check out my post on the Grand Hotel Paradiso. There’s more on Crystal’s Kids Club here and on Passo Tonale and the Pontedilegno-Tonale ski area here. In the meantime, here’s a video with some highlights from our trip.

Check out these other posts I’ve written about Passo Tonale:

  • Whizz Kids club
    Crystal Ski Kids Club at Passo Tonale, Italy

Family holiday deals to Passo Tonale are available on the Crystal Ski website. We were sent to the resort on a press trip for the purpose of this post. All views are my own.

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Passo Tonale

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  1. January 8, 2018 / 8:37 am

    Oh what a fab ski holiday Nell. We actually stayed on Lake Iseo once so that brought back memories, I’d love to ski in Italy. The kids club looked amazing and what a beautiful resort. We’re only just back from skiing but you’ve got me wanting to head back again! Looks like the perfect family ski trip.

    • January 8, 2018 / 8:41 pm

      It was great, Nichola. You’d enjoy skiing in Italy, I’m sure. x

  2. January 8, 2018 / 10:01 am

    Oh I am so jealous of your ski trip! So, you were actually there for Christmas? How magical! I cannot wait to take my boys skiing. Think next year is the year! I wonder if I still have my ski legs though… #MondayEscapes

    • January 8, 2018 / 8:42 pm

      Oh, I bet skiing will all come back to you! Yes, we were there for Christmas – a special time.

  3. January 8, 2018 / 12:25 pm

    I’ve never been skiing but would love to go

    And if I don’t like skiing there always hot chocholate

    • January 8, 2018 / 8:42 pm

      Yes, and the gluwein’s pretty nice too, even if you haven’t been skiing!

  4. Oh wow Nell! What a resort and those views… incredible! My hubby and I used to go skiing regular before having kids but we’ve now not been for about 7 years;( My youngest is now 3.5 year old so I think a ski holiday next winter is definitely doable. I cannot wait and I will keep Passo Tonale in mind because the kids clubs etc sound fab for little ones.

    • January 8, 2018 / 8:43 pm

      Sounds as though your family’s the perfect age! x

  5. January 8, 2018 / 12:51 pm

    This sounds like a great place for a family ski holiday. I’m hoping to get my lo on skis in the Spring… #MondayEscapes

    • January 8, 2018 / 8:45 pm

      Spring’s a great time for it!

  6. January 8, 2018 / 6:16 pm

    I can’t resist skiing posts! Looks fabulous and you all did so well. The weather looked like it was great. Thanks for making me look at yet another resort 😉 #mondayescapes

    • January 8, 2018 / 8:58 pm

      Megan, do consider Passo Tonale. It’s a fab place – the glacier was incredible.

  7. January 8, 2018 / 6:38 pm

    This sounds amazing Nell, I’d love to learn to ski. I like the sound of the kids club too so that they can learn to ski with friends and not in the same lesson as me and show me up!

    • January 8, 2018 / 8:58 pm

      Haha yes – I think learning to ski is a bit like learning to drive. There are very few families where it works for the parents to be the teachers!

  8. January 8, 2018 / 7:55 pm

    Sounds like an amazing ski trip Nell. Can’t wait for ours in February #MondayEscapes

    • January 8, 2018 / 9:07 pm

      I’ll look forward to reading about it!

  9. January 8, 2018 / 9:36 pm

    What a brilliant way to spend Christmas. It sounds like the kids had a blast. I love the variety of things for them to do during the day and the options to give you time on the slopes. I’ve skied once and would be apprehensive about going with the kids unless I knew that we’d all get lots out of it like this!

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:33 pm

      It really was a good way to keep everyone happy. I’d definitely recommend it for your gang – they’re a good age for it.

  10. January 8, 2018 / 10:05 pm

    I loved following your holiday on Instagram Nell – it looked so beautiful, and I’m especially envious because we’re not skiing this year. I’ll definitely consider this for our next booking.

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:34 pm

      They’re a great company to go with, Helen x

  11. January 9, 2018 / 9:48 am

    We haven’t been skiing as a family for ages! The thought of combining Italy with skiing is too tempting. I must go next year.

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:34 pm

      You definitely should, Susanna!

  12. January 9, 2018 / 10:25 am

    Loved following your trip Nell, and so good to hear how it can work for all abilities as I am really keen to try as a family after my solo experiences! Agree it is the BEST time to escape just before Christmas.

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:35 pm

      It was a good way to set us up for winter. Nice blast of blue skies!

  13. January 9, 2018 / 8:16 pm

    Love the video! Your daughter looks like a natural! I did my first ever skiing in Italy, I’d love to go back. The resort sounds brilliant and the kids club sounds great fun. Am now very tempted, my little one is only 3 though so I think we might leave it another year or so….

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:36 pm

      There was a four year-old out skiing with Whizz Kids, so I think they can start quite young. The teachers were excellent – really nice.

  14. January 9, 2018 / 9:54 pm

    I absolutely loved to follow your trip. It looked so magical and to spend Christmas day out on the slopes…how fab is that? With three little ones, I would definitely consider this trip it sounds amazing and so family friendly !

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:37 pm

      It really took the burden off us, and with three kids I bet you’d find that even more.

  15. January 10, 2018 / 9:16 pm

    Ah it looks just amazing Nell, The views and sunset look breathtaking and I know the boys would love skiing, me? I would love watching and enjoying the views thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes x

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:40 pm

      They did a wicked hot chocolate, which I bet you’d love!

  16. January 11, 2018 / 8:55 am

    It sounds like a great trip Nell. So sorry that your son was ill, but the fact that you are so positive about the holiday despite this speaks volumes!

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:44 pm

      Yes, you rarely seem to get a hitch-free break when young kids are involved. But this one was fun nevertheless.

  17. January 13, 2018 / 7:16 am

    This sounds great and you were clearly very well looked after by Crystal. Whizz Kids looks like. Lot of fun and great that they get them outdoors in he afternoons too! It’s so helpful to have (fun) child care available so you can do some skiing as well. The scenery is stunning too!

    • January 13, 2018 / 4:52 pm

      It was spectacular, especially up on the glacier. VERY cold though!

  18. January 13, 2018 / 9:59 pm

    What a fab way to spend Christmas! I really loved following your trip.
    I need to read more posts like this because I have never been but my husband is desperate to get back on the slopes!

    • January 14, 2018 / 6:41 pm

      Oh, you’d love it, Daisy. It’s not as easy to learn when you’re an adult as it is when you’re a child, but I bet you’d be great.

  19. January 15, 2018 / 2:48 pm

    What a magical Christmas trip, Nell. It must have been so special having a properly White Christmas and even more exciting for the kids to learn how to ski too. I learnt to snowboard in Banff with Crystal but we haven’t been skiing with the kids yet. They’d love it! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • January 18, 2018 / 2:11 pm

      And thank you for hosting x

  20. January 15, 2018 / 7:12 pm

    I bet being there for Christmas was cosy and magical. Guaranteed snow! We just had our first ski trip of the year yesterday, but to a small, local mountain. Nothing like this – sounds like an amazing spot that cater well to kids – a deal breaker these days! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • January 18, 2018 / 2:14 pm

      Yes, it really helped, especially as ours are so young.

  21. January 30, 2018 / 8:54 am

    What a glorious trip, it makes me so excited for our first trip if we ever get round to booking one, definitely on our bucket list of family holidays. Thank you for joining in #SnapshotsandScenes – this months goes live on Thursday

    • January 31, 2018 / 8:47 pm

      Thanks for having me!

  22. January 30, 2018 / 7:13 pm

    Oh wow, Nell. It looks like you had an amazing trip to Italy! Your photos are absolutely beautiful and congratulations to the children for their medals. Looks like Crystal Ski really went above and beyond to give you the trip of a lifetime! Thanks for joining in with #SnapshotsandScenes. I hope you can join us again on Thursday.

    • January 31, 2018 / 8:48 pm

      Thanks. We were so proud of the kids!

  23. January 31, 2018 / 8:20 pm

    Wow that looks so amazing and what a grand family adventure. I have always wanted to take my kids skiing but hubby is so against snow and skis hahaha I don’t think it will ever happen for us sadly. But love to see other enjoying it. #snapshots&scenes

    • January 31, 2018 / 8:48 pm

      Aw, that’s a shame!

  24. February 1, 2018 / 7:18 pm

    The snow, cable-cars and hot chocolates look fantastic. Can’t imagine spending Christmas away but it looks like it worked for you

    • February 4, 2018 / 6:32 pm

      Christmas away was different – not something I’d want to do every year, but it was lovely to have all that snow.

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