Start the kids skiing overseas? It's easy in Argentina ..

snow action team 18.04.2014

Back when we were skiing with the kids we were all learning at the same time, albeit not at the same pace – memories of quaking in fear peering over the Selwyn Quarry drop off while the 11yo and his mate just charged over it, or of getting dragged on my face up the Front Valley t-bar the last time I tried snowboarding together with the by then teenager, who picked it up in no time, still haunt me.

Day 3 on snow and already riding Nubes lift to the summit © Owain Price

Day 3 on snow and already riding Nubes lift to the summit © Owain Price

Fortunately once the step-grand kids got to skiable age we could get from A-B ourselves, and knew a lot more about how it all worked, including how to save money where possible. Of course the advantages of grand kids are that: a) you hand them back when they get stroppy; & b) the parents cover the airfares, so that makes learning to ski overseas a lot more affordable. But really the deals are so good that to many resorts you effectively have to pay for little more than the kids’ airfares as they get to stay, ski and rent free, and maybe get lessons too if the adults take the same product.
Good lessons are really critical, and at our winter home resort of Cerro Catedral above Bariloche in Argentina’s magnificent Patagonia region there’s a choice of 14 ski schools. Most of the good crew instruct in Europe or the States as well, so language is not a problem. With 3 kids who had never even seen snow before to fire up last September – aged 6, 8, and 10 – I opted for a series of half day private lessons, with an excellent young instructor, Santiago Murtagh, from the newest ski school, Jibbinarg.com. Having known him for a decade I had full confidence in him, and the kids just adored him. He was stoked too, amazed how quickly they took to it – like most Aussie kids, if they can ride the plethora of skaty things, razor scooters, etc then skiing is not that hard.


By day 3 we were at the summit of the mighty Nubes (Clouds) express quad, sharing the incredible panorama along with all the experts heading off to the chutes there. It’s nearly 2000 vertical feet off the one lift, and long runs sure do make for fast progression, one of the big advantages to starting the kids o/s. Downside is it does tire them out, but when the 6yo spat the dummy I flipped him over my shoulder and shot down to the nearest mountain cafe – nothing sugar won’t fix with kids, and after munching on a ‘cubanito’ (a fat chocolate dipped wafer full of the lethal dulce de leche caramel gooey stuff Argies love) and a hot chocolate he was back from the dead in 15 minutes flat.

The kids' progress inspires dad to get some huge air ..

The kids’ progress inspires dad to get some huge air ..

Taking the kids somewhere more exotic when they’re still at that soak-it-up-like-sponges age is also great for their development, and your own, sharing the excitement with them. Amid the frenetic rush most families live in these days stopping to ski together is as good as it gets for a holiday experience, and you don’t have to earn a fortune to do it – just sort out your priorities. Say it costs you $10,000 to do Japan for 2 weeks with 2 kids, all up, then sticking with a $20,000 used car instead of opting for the new $40,000 SUV equals 2 incredible holidays.
Of course I say that now, back when we were skiing with the kids, not the grand kids, we were basically throwing our wallet away at the National Park Gate and saying, “Go ahead, clean us out!” And they did.
These days deals are so much better, yet the cost of an airfare is about the same as it was 30 years ago. No kidding, it’s cheaper now in actual dollars, never mind inflation adjusted ones, to fly to South America than when I went backpacking there in 1978 – so it’s a whole new ball game taking the kids o/s to ski. Do it.

Time for a sugar shot

Time for a sugar shot

The Ticket

Getting there: Cerro Catedral is 45 mins from Bariloche Airport, flights www.lan.com
to stay Stay on mountain to avoid day tripper rush up/down from Bariloche
packages www.travelplan.com.au www.deeppowdertours.com
cerro catedral: stats snowfall 6m top lift 2,180m base 1050m vert 1130m
lifts 40 incl gondola, 6 & 4 seat xpress terrain 1200ha+ • 30% adv/exp
• 40% int • 30% beg resort www.catedralaltapatagonia.com