School ski trips have been happening for a long time, many decades—except during the Covid19 pandemic. And, following Covid19, it is expected that there will be a very busy ski trip season for UK schools starting again in 2022. When we talk about ski trips we are including snowboarding and combined snowboarding/ski trips as well.
The wider benefits of school ski trips to the kids and their education/development will be looked at in another article. Here we focus on the things which make for an outstanding experience for the kids and staff involved.
Some of our repeat customers get in touch with us after their trips to let us know how they got on and, occasionally, to share a photo or two of the kids wearing their ski hoodies. At the Leavers Hoodies Company we hear that school ski trips fall into only two categories: Great and OK!
OK ski trips
These are the trips when everything went pretty well to plan. No one got hurt and all of the kids had a good time for most of the time they were away. But nobody came back absolutely buzzing. Only one or two of the pupils would sign-up again if the opportunity came up. The staff, who know they might be doing it again next year with a different group of kids, are not running for the hills in horror, but equally wouldn’t be too upset if other school staff members fancied a go instead. Overall it was just OK.
GREAT ski trips
The trips which were described as ‘GREAT’ had everyone, staff and pupils, on a real high for weeks or months after the trip. They said…
The skiing was wonderful.
Surprisingly, it seems that this was not dependant on the slopes, lifts or quality of the snow but much more a factor of how the kids reacted to the ski lessons and worked together and supported each other to get the best, most fun, out of it.
The place was wonderful.
Again, rather surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to have been a feature of the destination town or the actual accommodation but more about the people there who made everyone feel welcome and the freedom accorded to the kids and staff. When the resort and school staff on the trip had to constantly be on watch that the kids were safe and behaving well the trips got categorised as merely OK.
Trips got classified as GREAT when all of the staff involved (resort and school) worked together and were part of the trip party, obviously (but not too obviously) in charge, and when they had fun along with the kids and showed their human side rather than their professional/discipline focussed side.
Ensuring a great school ski trip doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a ton of planning and preparation. It seems that some schools get it right every time while the success of others is less consistent. The real success stories appear to come down to the attitude of the school staff involved in the trip and to the relationship with, and between, the kids who are going.
When there have been lots of pre-trip activities to build relationships and establish a team spirit and the expectation of having a great time – a great time follows. It doesn’t seem to be remotely dependent on whether all the kids have any experience on skis or snowboards before going. Team spirit and expectation seem to trump skill and knowledge by a big margin.
We only see, or hear from, those trip parties who bought ski trip hoodies (obviously) but the hoodies do seem to be a part of the team/relationship-building process. It doesn’t surprise us. The benefits of the group identity that the hoodies bring extend beyond ski trips to school leavers, other trips and teams/groups too.
The attitude of staff and pupils on a school ski trip is key to a GREAT experience for everyone.
Obviously, safety and discipline are must-haves whenever and wherever staff and pupils interact—whether it is in the classroom or at the top of a snowy mountain in France (other ski resorts are available).
Staff members who can maintain discipline and respect, seemingly without effort, while interacting with the pupils in all environments are like gold dust for educational trips. Probably in the classroom too. With such staff the kids know where the boundaries are and, mostly, are happy to operate within the rules. Any efforts to test the boundaries tend to be done to learn rather than to rebel.
The relationship between staff and pupils is important to a successful trip. But so is the relationship among the pupils. Whether it is a mixed age group trip or a single year group who are going skiing the success of the trip depends greatly on all of the kids getting along and treating each other well. Bullies, standoffish pupils and recluses are not ideal candidates for field trips and such pupils cause problems for other kids and staff alike.
It doesn’t matter how good the planning and preparation is, or how well the staff and pupils get on if the activities on the trip are not fun/exciting. Skiing, for school kids anyway, can’t take up all of their waking time. There need to be other things for them to do to occupy their time. The unstructured/unplanned activities as well as any other, more formally arranged things take the trip from OK to GREAT. Whether it is the meals, playing cards or staying up later than normal watching a movie or two—the off-piste activities will be remembered and contribute greatly to the trip’s success.
Making and keeping memories
When everyone gets home safely, even if completely worn out, sharing the memories among the people who went and with friends and families who didn’t is key.
So plenty of opportunities to take pictures and videos while at the resort and on the journey both ways, with everyone wearing their ski hoodies (obviously) are important. It is difficult to see how people retained memories before the advent of the mobile phone and digital camera. The written word must have been a powerful force once!