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If Austrian Tyrol has been at the back of your mind for a family ski holiday up until now, it’s time to bring it right to the front and start taking the idea seriously this winter.
Not only is the region spectacularly lovely, and scattered all over with adorably pretty Alpine villages, it’s also one of the first in Europe to open lifts. You can often ski right up until late April and low-cost flights from the UK to Innsbruck take less than two hours, all year round.
Tempting as all that sounds, it’s not the main reason families should be skiing Austria this winter. For that you have to look towards the Samnaun and Ötztaler mountains to the west of Innsbruck, where the resort of Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis has been scooping up awards left, right and centre over the past few years, and mostly for an unwavering focus on fantastic family ski holidays.
With a few exceptions, most European ski resorts claim to be family-friendly these days. But you won’t be the first to discover, often too late, that friendly is open to interpretation, kids’ activities are limited to a ski-school, and pizza is the staple diet for under 12s.
Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis take family-friendly literally, and nothing is open to interpretation. For a start over 125,000m² of the resort’s ski area is devoted to children.
Kids as young as three have fun first lessons with local ski instructors, and older wannabe downhillers or snowboarders can hone their skills, pick up new techniques, and enjoy the freedom of learning on slopes designed for them, and them alone.
The grandly named Schneebenteurraum translates as Snow Adventure Room. It’s an imaginatively designed kindergarten, for kids two and up, where kids can go adventuring in the snow, hang out with new friends, or take a break from ski or snowboarding lessons. It’s staffed by the resort’s fully qualified childcare team; so if you want a few hours on the grown-up slopes, your kids are in great hands.
Serfauss-Fiss-Ladis has two restaurants designed exclusively for children. But, don’t worry, the treats are balanced with plenty of cleverly disguised healthy options. The focus is on fresh, local ingredients, and menus are nicely varied, so nobody is ever too bored to eat up.
Serfaus, Fiss and Ladis are charming Tyrolean villages with breathtaking mountain views, long and fascinating histories, and the type of sweet good looks you always hope for in ski resorts. This only makes their sporting credentials all the more remarkable.
The entire Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis ski area covers almost 500 hectares with altitudes ranging from 1200 to 1400 metres.
There are over 162 kilometres of downhill runs, more than 214 kilometres of skiable slopes, and upwards of 80% of the area is groomed with artificial snow – although Austrian Tyrol tends to be naturally snow-sure for most of the winter season.
Excellent local ski schools, combined with a good range of nursery slopes, and intermediate runs, are great for building new ski confidence. And more experienced skiers can test their mettle on mighty moguls, race tracks, powder off-piste routes, and challengingly black downhill runs.
Boarders and free-skiers of all levels are covered by the resort’s range of snow parks. Teens like the laid back vibe and high energy of Sun Park and Shred Park. Serious types can get into Freestyle Circus on Komperdell Mountain. And nobody, no matter how cool, doesn’t get a bit excited about the Fun Slope; more demanding than it sounds.
If you’re tired of the slopes, head for one of the resort’s flying attractions. With names like Serfauser Sauser and Family Coaster, the rides sound cute but the speed, height, and drop action, is top white-knuckle terror.
Berta’s Indian Village, Dino Forest, Fiss Cave World, and the exciting Murmli Trail are just a few of the adventurous places for younger kids to play outdoors. Although the climbing gym at Komperdell Valley could persuade even the most enthusiastic little snow-lover to come inside for an hour or two.
Tobogganing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, and snowshoes hikes are all fantastically exciting too, for both kids and grown-ups.
When the weather isn’t great, there’s PLAY Serfaus to keep families busy, with six floors of soft play, laser tag, climbing walls, and bouldering zones.
Whatever you get up to, this mostly pedestrianised resort is easy to get around, and you can even hire e-buggies for babies and toddlers.
Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is actually made up of three Tyrolean villages, all close neighbours, and each delightful in their own individual way.
Serfaus is the larger of the three; bright and lively for older kids and teens, pleasantly pedestrianised for wandering around with young children. There’s even a Village Underground, so keen skiers can go direct to lifts without any distractions.
At 600 years’ old, Fiss is the resort veteran and has the historic architecture to prove it, just don’t expect a sleepy village atmosphere.
This is the hub of fun and learning for kids, on and off the slopes. It’s also home to the ridiculously fast Fisser Flieger ride, and the enormous Skyswing.
Ladis is smallest of all and most famous, thanks to the Sauerbrunn Spring which was discovered here in the early 1200s.
The spring’s curative waters made the village a tourist hotspot for centuries, and the legacy of lovely buildings, and pretty streets, are just as much of a pleasure to explore today.
There’s a wide choice of places to stay in each of the resort villages, and family-friendly comes as standard from self-catering chalets to five-star hotels.