“We’ve gone out on an adventure, and we’ll be back at 4.30pm. Love, the Kids’ Club gang.”
It was day two of our family trip to Passo Tonale in Italy with Crystal Ski. D and I were back from the slopes at 3pm, and had decided to pop down to the Kids’ Club HQ. How were the children settling in to their Crystal Ski childcare? Did they want to come out of the club early, to hang out with Mum and Dad?
We needn’t have worried. Whizz Kids (now renamed Beanie Bear Club) was possibly the best kids’ club we’ve experienced – and we’ve tried a fair few. Here are some of the reasons why we’ve been raving about it since coming back from our Christmas ski trip.
The kids loved it
On the way home, Gwen (aged five) kept asking when she could go back to Whizz Kids. It was a big hit. The Crystal Ski childcare team – all qualified to level three or above – clearly loved their jobs. Most of them worked with children all year round. In the summer, they usually just transferred across to a Tui sunshine resort.
Sammy, Passo Tonale’s childcare manager, who “likes singing and hates snakes”, according to the friendly introduction written about her on the clubhouse wall, told me that some of her staff didn’t even ski. Childcare was their profession first and foremost, and it showed.
Gwen developed a real bond with a couple of the staff, and they did a great job of looking after Austin when he was poorly and had to come out of the club, offering board games to keep him occupied while he was recovering from a sickness bug.
Family skiing made easy
Skiing with young children is never easy. In the past we’ve found parts of it a struggle – like first thing in the morning. Strapping them into ski boots, doing up jackets, helmets and gloves, and making sure they arrived at ski class in time, all takes a mountain of patience. The Crystal Ski childcare took all the pain out of this process, and made the morning ski routine, with our eight- and five year-old, feel like a breeze.
The new club house at Passo Tonale was in our hotel, the Grand Hotel Paradiso. It was an easy journey in the morning, from bed, to breakfast buffet, to club HQ. The children padded in at 8am each morning, dressed in their ski socks and base layers. The rest of their kit was stored in the clubhouse and the locker room overnight. The staff did all the hard work of helping Austin and Gwen into their salopettes, jackets, jumpers, ski boots, skis, goggles and helmets, ready for ski school at 9am.
Apart from when we were hiring and returning the gear, we needn’t have even touched the children’s ski boots or skis, unless we wanted to take them out skiing in the afternoons. All this meant that D and I could head off to ski by ourselves, drink thick hot chocolate in the hotel’s Ombrello bar, or take a gondola up the glacier, to sample the local bollicine. It felt like a real treat.
Fun programme of activities
After ski school, the childcare staff took the children back to the clubhouse for lunch. I ran into them a couple of times after my own lessons, walking along in a gang and singing the Whizz Kids song (“we are the Whizz Kids! Mighty, mighty Whizz Kids”) as loud as their lungs could manage. When we did our meet-and-greet on the first day, Austin and Gwen told the staff what they liked to eat. This was relayed back to the hotel kitchen, so they could make sure the children had their favourite dish at least once during the week. Lunch was hot, and child-friendly – including dishes 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. These included gondola rides, snowball fights and bum boarding. The club house was well-equipped, with a soft play climbing tower at one end, and a mini bouncy castle/ball pool at the other. The room was sound-proofed, but when I walked past a couple of times, I could still hear the excited shrieks and shouts of kids on the bouncy castle. Security was tight, with CCTV cameras outside the door, to capture any comings and goings.
Crystal Ski celebrated skiing, and our kids
D and I both felt the childcare staff really ‘got’ our kids. With a decent staff-to-child ratio – one to eight for indoor activities, one to five for outdoors – there was plenty of opportunity for them to get to know each other. The children seemed to really bond with each other, too. The kids’ club group was relatively small, with around sixteen children. Gwen made some good friends, and even went for a little playdate in a friend’s suite one evening before dinner.
The ski school presentation ceremony took place on the last day, and the local instructors gave each child a medal, as well as booklet listing the skills they’d learned over the week.
That wasn’t the only presentation, though. At a festive ceremony on the last afternoon, the childcare staff awarded each child a personalised certificate. Austin was ‘Piste Prince’ – he really was pretty good on the slopes, for an eight year-old second-timer. Gwen, who adores art in any form, was ‘Whizz Kids Picasso’. The children all sang songs, recited poems, and showed off their Lego contructions to a crowd of eager parents. Even some of the tinies in Pepi Penguins, the nursery for children aged 6 months to four years, had a go at dancing.
It really was a lovely way to end the week. After the show, Gwen bounded off to throw her arms around the workers for a farewell cuddle, while D and I looked through the children’s artwork folders and holiday journals.
Kids’ clubs aren’t for all families. But on a ski holiday, where everyone’s at different levels and adults might want to try more challenging slopes (or even just relax, child-free), then the kids’ club is perfect. It’s flexible, so we could sign the children out whenever we wanted. We wouldn’t hesitate to use Crystal Ski childcare again. For us, it was the thing that made our holiday that extra bit special.
You can see our children enjoying the fun at Passo Tonale in this video:
Beanie Bear Club childcare (formerly Whizzclusive), which includes kids’ club childcare for six days from 8.30am to 5pm, ski school instruction, ski equipment hire and lunch, starts at £509. It’s available at Passo Tonale to all children aged between four and eight. Pepi Penguins is for children aged six months to four years, and costs from £359 for six days, from 8.30am to 5pm.
We were guests of Crystal Ski for the purpose of these features. All views are my own.
Read more about our trip to Passo Tonale with Crystal Ski in these posts: