From easy on the pocket secrets to once in a lifetime extravagances, Sean Newsom reveals the best family ski resorts for every type of skier. So if you’re forward planning a ski trip for next winter, all the inspiration you need is right here too.
Easy does it: sweet family ski resorts for less spend
Try pocket-sized Pamporovo in Bulgaria for great ski schools
No-one would suggest pocket-sized Pamporovo as a destination for experienced skiers. But its gentle, tree-lined pistes are perfect for first-time families who don’t need childcare, especially those who also like their creature comforts.
Sure, hotel standards aren’t quite as high as in western Europe, but in some school-holiday weeks you’ll get a comfortable, hotel-based holiday for the same price as a self-catering one in the Alps. Crucially, you’ll also get painstaking and patient tuition from its highly-rated ski school. Plus, a week’s course of 6 x 4 hour lessons costs less than half the price of 6 x 2½ hour lessons in many western European ski resorts.
Les Menuires: one of most affordable Three Valleys ski resorts
Never mind its hard-edged, multi-storey architecture. Les Menuires is also part of the vast Three Valleys lift system, and many of the area’s best intermediate pistes are right on its doorstep. Additionally, it’s where to find the underrated cul-de-sac of the Pointe de la Masse, a canny spot to ski if it’s packed elsewhere.
Even better, family-friendly facilities at this ski resort include a nursery, a giant indoor soft-play area and two swimming pools. As an extra bonus, the ski school starts kids’ lessons from three years up.
Admittedly, you’ll pay a lot more here for lift passes, ski hire and lessons than you would in, Pamporovo. But if some, or all, of your family are already skiing well, they’ll relish the chance to tackle the world’s biggest properly-interlinked ski area.
Save on family ski holidays with a drive to Val Cenis in France
Drive yourself to the slopes, bunk down in a self-catering apartment, and you can shave hundreds of pounds off the cost of French ski resorts.
Target underrated Val Cenis and you’ll enjoy excellent skiing too. Beginners get the longest green-rated run in France. AKA l’Escargot, it actually follows the track of a snow-covered switch-back mountain road. Meanwhile, more confident intermediates will love the ski area’s feisty, straight-down-the-mountain reds. Even better, buy the six-day lift pass and you get a day’s free skiing in each of five neighbouring ski resorts.
A taste of freedom: affordable and adorable Italian ski resorts
Corvara wins hands down for family ski holidays in Italy this winter
New this winter, the Movi Family Aparthotel in Corvara offers a new level of flexibility for family-skiing trips. The accommodation is in roomy, upmarket self-catering apartments. But with buffet breakfasts included in the price, and access to a snacky lounge bar until 10pm you won’t be spending all your off-slope hours bent over the stove.
Meanwhile soft-play areas and an indoor pool with waterslides keep kids entertained once the lifts have closed. And there’s even a daily programme of supervised activities for 3-12 year olds if parents need some time off.
Out on the slopes one of skiing’s most ego-boosting playgrounds awaits. Corvara sits slap-bang in the middle of the vast Dolomiti Superski area. Known for its spectacular slab-sided scenery and broad, gentle pistes, families skiing at an intermediate level will love it here.
La Thuile is one of the best Italian ski resorts for older kids and teens
Not all the pistes at La Thuile are steep. In fact, half-way up the mountain you’ll find a broad and gentle balcony of slopes to delight less gung-ho skiers.
But what really sticks in the memory here is the way the lower runs suddenly fall away through the trees on their final approach to the village. For energetic teens who love their skiing, it’s a mouthwatering prospect.
Meanwhile, their budget-conscious parents will be salivating over the cost and quality of mountain restaurants such as Le Petit Skieur. Here, a rich venison stew with polenta for just a few Euros is easily big enough for two.
Childcare champions: ski resorts where everyone gets time to ski
Find Reberty 2000 at the higher, cuter end of Les Menuires, France
At the higher, cuter end of Les Menuires, lies the low-rise suburb of Reberty 2000, home to a Brit-friendly collection of catered chalets that are more or less all ski-in-ski-out.
They’re particularly good for families with first-time kids. The ski-school meeting point and nursery slope sits just across the piste. You’ll find a friendly restaurant next door for lunchtime gatherings. Plus, several of the chalets are run by the Family Ski Company, which offers combined childcare and ski school packages.
All this leaves parents free to click into their skis each morning and take off into the vast Three Valleys network. And from here, easy connections to both the top end of Méribel and high-altitude Val Thorens give you some of Europe’s best quality snow.
Add Ski Famille to your family ski plans at Plagne 1800
Chalet Delphine is one of two catered chalets in Plagne 1800 that have been built to Ski Famille’s specifications. It’s just three minutes’ walk from the children’s ski school meeting point and features several self-contained family suites. Additionally, there’s a playroom as well as an in-house childcare team and kids’ club.
Beginners can get started on Plagne 1800’s own nursery slope. Then, once they’ve mastered their snowplough turns they can head up to the ski area’s high, central plateau. This offers one of the biggest and most varied networks of easy-intermediate slopes in the Alps, and it’s the perfect place to build your confidence.
Should a snowstorm blow in and visibility drop, you can also descend to the sheltered tree-lined slopes around Plagne 1800. Look out for extra enchantment as the lowlights cast by the forest add definition to the snow.
Tignes is one of the best ski resorts in France for Easter holidays
With broad, steady pistes in almost every direction, and links over to neighbouring Val d’Isère, Tignes is a fabulous place to ski in any week of the season. You might experience the odd low-visibility day when the clouds come down, but that’s a minor niggle.
However, Tignes really comes into its own at the beginning and end of the season. With a lift system that rises to the eye-watering height of 3,456m, it can cope with the mildest Decembers and sharpest spring thaws.
Easter in particular can be joyous: bathed in brilliant sunshine and edged with a happy-to-lucky, end-of-term atmosphere.
In the village of Tignes Val Claret – close to the key glacier lifts – Mark Warner’s Chalet-Hotel l’Ecrin makes a comfortable base. Here, you’ll find both family and interconnecting rooms, as well as English-speaking childcare in the on-site nursery and kids’ club. The atmosphere is relaxed and chatty and – surprise, surprise – you’ll find almost every family is just like yours: sporty, outdoorsy and in love with the snow. If they are at all outgoing your kids will soon make friends.
Every little helps: ski resorts that go the extra mile for families
Try easy going El Tarter in Andorra for extraordinary family ski coaching
Book the Hotel de Clos in El Tarter with active-holidays specialist Neilson, and you’ll get at least two free 2-hour coaching sessions with a Mountain Expert. This is a looser, more freewheeling format than a normal ski lesson and led by a local ski instructor who’ll share tips on technique as they guide you to the slopes best-suited to your ability. Skiers who are confident on red and blue-rated pistes are also welcome and, during school holidays, children aged 12 and up can take part.
The sessions are a great way to explore the broad, intermediate-friendly pistes of the Grandvalira ski area. Some skiers will also find they improve more quickly in the relaxed, up-for-it atmosphere. Of course, normal ski lessons are also available, as are Neilson’s in-house nurseries and kids’ clubs. And with children occupied, parents might even find time for a full-body massage in the hotel’s wellness centre.
Galtür: our pick of the pretty and peaceful Austrian ski resorts
In winter, the Bielerhöhe pass above Galtür is blocked by snow, and this pretty little village acquires an unhurried, end-of-the-line atmosphere. Yes, there’s a good mix of pistes here, from gentle blues to straight-down-the-mountain blacks. However, there aren’t enough of them to satisfy mileage-hungry skiers, which leaves the slopes refreshingly uncrowded for families.
But the real draw here, aside from the reliable snow and gob-smacking scenery, is the way the lift company has made the pistes super-exciting, especially for kids who can already ski. In the company of their instructors they’ll love zooming round the banked turns of the mini-ski-cross course and racing each other through the giant-slalom gates. And while they’re busy on the slopes, parents can mix their own skiing with a little me-time back at the chic Vaya Galtür hotel in the village. It has its own swimming pool and sauna.
Club Med masters all-inclusive ski holidays in La Rosière, France
On paper, skiing with Club Med looks dearer than it does with other tour operators specialising in childcare. But that’s largely because Club Med holidays are all-inclusive. Food, drinks, ski school, lift pass and well-run kids’ clubs are covered by the price and only ski hire is excluded.
If you stay in one of the company’s new generation of Alpine hotels, you get state-of-the-art accommodation too. These mountain behemoths are equipped with big, well-lit playrooms, as well a gym, yoga studio, ski-hire centre and a giant lounge. They’re also ski-in, ski-out and have their own ski-school meeting points, right outside the locker rooms.
Launching your family onto the slopes each morning has never been so easy. For first-time families and those relatively new to skiing, Club Med La Rosière is a canny choice. Its sunny slopes suit beginners and intermediates best. And you get the added bonus of a snowy microclimate, as well as gob-smacking views across the valley towards neighbouring Les Arcs.
See you at the top: divine ski resorts for dream ski holidays
Wild and wonderful skiing at Lake Louise in Canada
Skiing in Banff National Park is different. Yes, okay, the fundamentals of whizzing down a snowy mountain are the same as anywhere else. Although at Lake Louise, the park has one of North America’s best mid-sized collections of lifts and pistes. However, what’s truly extraordinary and thrilling about Banff is what lies beyond the bounds of its ski area: absolutely nothing.
Nothing that is, except mountains, trees and wildlife. Human settlement is limited and tightly controlled here. So in place of all the ski towns, second homes, sawmills, farmhouses and quarries you find in the Alps, there are wolves, bears, moose, elk and lynx. It’s not a wilderness exactly, though for kids it feels pretty close.
Keep in mind that ski schools, lift passes and ski hire are all significantly more expensive than in Europe. But for the chance to show your family what winter looks like in such a remarkable place, you may well think it worth the price.
Lake Louise ski package with Inghams: 7-nights’ room only from £1,903pp, including UK flights and transfers.
Experience the luxury of skiing into May at Obergurgl Austria
High-altitude Gurgl is synonymous with snow-sure skiing. Set at the end of the long, cold Ötz valley, hard up against the main Alpine ridge, it usually starts its season in mid-November and runs all the way into May.
The hotels here are studiously traditional in style and most are family-run. And adding to the cosy, gemütlich atmosphere, several offer free childcare too.
The Hotel Alpina Deluxe has one of the best programmes as well as the largest playrooms, and its indoor pool is the perfect place for families once the lifts close. Upstairs, its A3 junior suites have been refurbished in modern, Alpine-chic style and comfortably sleep four. Settle in here and you’ll quickly understand why Obergurgl can inspire extraordinary loyalty. Occasionally you’ll even meet three generations of the same family who’ve all learned to ski on its broad and forgiving slopes.
Obergurgl ski package with Inghams: Seven nights’ half board from £2,260pp, including UK flights and transfers.
Club Med Val d’Isère: one of the most carefree and indulgent French ski resorts
Last summer, Club Med rebuilt its hotel in Val d’Isère and relaunched it as its first top-of-the-range, Exclusive Collection resort in the Alps.
At a stroke, it’s also raised the bar for upmarket family ski holidays in this famously hard-skiing resort. It’s not so much the sumptuousness of the décor. Although the interiors are both understated and chic, and you can deepen the sense of luxury by booking a family suite. What really matters is Club Med’s trademark childcare. Teams of ever-smiling, multi-lingual staff will keep your kids active whenever they’re not at ski school as well as entertained before bedtime with energetic song-and-dance stage shows.
Meanwhile the almost-endless buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner will satisfy even the fussiest tastes. With the young’uns so busy and well-fed, parents can try a yoga lesson, book a massage or feel free to test themselves against some of the finest pistes in the Alps.
Val d’Isère ski package with Club Med: 7-nights all-inclusive from £3775pp, including UK flights and transfers.
Welcome to the ‘Distinction Palace’ in Courchevel
If you think the holidays mentioned so far look expensive, brace yourself. At the top end of the ski market there’s a whole new level of luxury, service and expense on offer and the hotels in Courchevel which fall into France’s five-star, “Distinction Palace”, category are the epitome of that.
At the Tirolean-flavoured Airelles, kids get their own Winter Camp, complete with private cinema, ice rink and arcade-style games, with dog-sledding, skiing with horses and cookery classes as optional extras.
Meanwhile platoons of super-helpful staff are on hand at every turn, and six restaurants await your dining pleasure. To complete the sense of decadence, book the Suites Aubépine & Cardamine, set in the Airelles’ distinctive tower. The view is over the easy Jardin Alpin piste, which runs straight past the hotel, and leads to one of the most ego-boosting ski areas in the Alps.