12 tips for organising school ski trips

  • School ski trips can be incredibly rewarding experiences for students
  • However, a successful trip requires plenty of advance planning
  • We share some important guidelines to ensure your trip runs smoothly

A ski trip is an amazing outdoor learning experience that gives students the opportunity to develop valuable social and physical skills.

Good ski trips require careful planning to mitigate any potential risks. Ensure your plans remain on course with this checklist:

1. Booking your trip

Use a specialist tour operator with experience of planning ski trips for schools. They will take you through the process and advise you on all aspects of the trip.

Remember to read the small print. It is important to know what guarantees are included in your booking and if there are any potential surcharges. What happens if there is little or no snow?

“Most resorts have artificial snow-making as standard and temperatures well above freezing are very rare,” says Julian Livsey, managing director of SkiSchoolTrips.

“Check your group insurance policy for details of financial recompense should the worst happen, and if you are concerned, choose a resort that has skiing above 2000 metres or a ski-friendly glacier where the snow won’t melt, even through the summer.”

Check what meals will be provided and whether your accommodation can cater for special dietary requirements. Ask if group leaders can participate in lessons, and find out who will provide specialist equipment, such as boots and helmets.

“Any member of the School Travel Forum will have been rigorously vetted and will have safety minimum standards in place, thus giving ultimate peace of mind,” says Tim Johnson, managing director of Club Europe Group Travel.

It’s important to plan and prepare for the trip well in advance. Many schools organise and book their ski trips up to two years in advance.

2. Travel arrangements

Think carefully about how you want to travel. Flying is quick but can be expensive. Travelling by coach eats into your time but can be easier to supervise.

3. Budgeting and fundraising

Give parents time to budget and save, and avoid travelling during February half-term as this tends to be expensive. You could also get students and parents involved in fundraising activities.

4. Guidance from your local authority

Find out if your local authority has specific guidance relating to skiing and accommodation. For example, you might be required to do a fire drill on arrival as well as completing a risk assessment.

5. Assess the expertise of your group

Choose a resort that matches the level of expertise in your group. Although first-hand knowledge of the resort and an ability to speak the local language is valuable, do not just book your own preferred option.

“While most resorts are keen to attract first-time skiers, some resorts are certainly better laid out for beginners than others,” says Livsey. “If your school group is of mixed ability, choose a resort where everyone can enjoy some good skiing but still easily meet up for lunch or daytime activities.”

6. Keep parents engaged

Invite parents to an evening meeting to discuss pre-trip questions. It is particularly helpful if a representative from the tour operator can attend.

Share any plans for evening activities well in advance. This gives plenty of opportunity to brief parents and students as some activities may require additional consent.

7. Build in flexibility

Build flexibility into planned programmes to allow for last-minute alterations. Remember, mountains in winter can be unpredictable.

Johnson adds: “Never underestimate how tired the students can become midweek. Our advice is to have at least one quiet night on day three or four so the students can catch up and re-energise for the remainder of the week.”

8. Prepare your group leaders

Make sure that leaders have prior knowledge of the group, including their experience, physical capabilities and any relevant medical conditions. Leaders should also be properly equipped with spare gloves, goggles, hats, sun block, and a small first aid kit.

And don’t expect everyone to learn at the same rate. Lessons should encourage appropriate progression and include a warm-up, instruction on how to fall safely, and guidance on proper use of ski tows.

Livsey says: “Even with a group of first-time skiers, by the end of the week, some of your students are likely to be confident enough to tackle blue runs and maybe even some of the easier reds. This means your group is likely to naturally spread out through the resort, so make sure you have enough staff on your trip to accommodate their progress.”

9. Consider qualifications

Ensure that if students are allowed to ski or snowboard outside their lessons, they do so with a suitably qualified person. You might want to attend a formal skiing training course before the trip so you can make a full contribution to student supervision.

“Most local authorities require the lead organiser to have at least the Snowsport Course Organiser certificate,” advises Livsey. “This is a fairly simple one-day course. The next step is the Alpine Ski Course Leader certification. Run by Snowsport England, this course takes place on snow and is designed to give education visit leaders the knowledge and know-how to run a successful trip.”

Snowsport Scotland also offers courses for those wishing to be in charge of groups when skiing.

10. Be prepared for changing weather conditions

Obtain a weather forecast and road access report before setting out. Be aware of and respond to changing conditions, and be prepared to take life-saving action in an extreme situation. It is sensible for at least one of the group’s leaders to hold a current first aid certificate.

11. Check your insurance cover and key documents

Don’t travel without having the right insurance cover in place. It’s worth contacting your school’s insurance company to understand what the policy covers.

Parents should be informed of any opportunities to take out optional extra travel cover. Carry details of insurance arrangements and the company’s telephone number in case of emergency.

Remember to check whether you need visas and other travel documents too. Confirm that all those going have valid passports and carry photocopies of these.

Organisers should also check that those eligible have EHIC cards – which allow access to state healthcare in the EU and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. These cards do have an expiry date, so organisers should check 30 days before travel to allow time for parents to submit them, check the validity and renew if required.

12. Remember the basics

Regular and frequent head counting is essential. Ensure your students are easily identifiable; get them to wear hi-vis arm bands. It’s virtually impossible not to panic if anyone gets lost, but clear report-back times can minimise the risk.

Brief students on the action to be taken if the group becomes separated and make students carry a written message in the local language and some local currency for phone calls. Leaders can carry passport-size photographs of group members and the name, address and telephone number of the accommodation.

Keeping your school trip on track

While there is a lot to consider, there are plenty of organisations and experienced tour operators that can help keep your school ski trip on track.

One final piece of advice for a smooth journey home from FamilySkiNews – encourage parents to tape a packing list inside their child’s suitcase: “With any luck most of it should then actually make it back, bar the odd sock or two.”