The cost of family ski holidays tends to stretch the holiday budget, but if you try the smaller, more local resorts, you're going to get more for your money. Madesimo, a small Italian ski resort two hours from Milan, is one such example.
Those on a budget can head to the slopes at the end of the season (30 March-27 April) to get a free lift pass with their hotel booking, while some hotels will chuck in a free flight transfer – the resort is two hours outside of Milan Malpensa airport – to get tourists over during quiet periods.
Ski lessons are reasonably priced throughout the season, costing €36 for an hour’s private tuition compared to around £80 charged at many other European ski resorts.
During the peak season this is also the place to go for some quiet. The slopes were almost empty during February half term, making the conditions perfect for intermediates and beginners wanting to learn or get their confidence up (the resort has 13 blue runs and 12 red runs).
For the experts, the famous 1000m vertical Canolone route - the longest off-piste run in Europe - is said to be well worth the pop, while there's plenty of activities nearby to satisfy the adrenalin junkie.
In a nutshell this is the place to beat the crowds, not join them. What it lacks in après ski and size it makes up for in quiet andprice.
Madesimo is a mecca for adrenalin-junkies. The resort has a 70km snowmobile track, with Team Extreme Madesimo offering snowmobiles for day or night excursions (€85 if you choose to drive, €55 as a passenger). The evening tour, which lasts just over an hour and ends with a hearty mountain meal, was not for the faint hearted – I was as pale as the gnocchi by the time I got tomountain restaurant La Baitella. Opt for the day tour if you fancy a slower, more scenic drive.
For families, the resort offers ice-skating (€8 for access, €5 for skate hire), snowshoe hire (€7, guides available at the tourist office), a baby park (lunchtime babysitting €36) and two snow parks.
Many of the hotels offer full or half-board packages for guests, making many of the restaurants unusually quiet in the evenings.
For a romantic evening meal try family-owned Dogana Vegia, which serves up traditional mountain food in a charming, 17th century customs house. Expect to try lots of butter and cheese-based smaller dishes before the main, and top it off with a shared pot of Grolla – a flaming coffee mixed with a local liqueur which arrives in a traditional, sugar-rimmed wooden cup. The restaurant is not always open during the week, so call ahead and book in advance to make sure they know you’re coming.
Prices are reasonable, with a main course costing around €12 and a fixed-price set menu setting you back about €38.
For a no-thrills family meal try Soldanella, which is located in the centre of the village and serves up hearty Italian pizzas for around €8.
There is also a supermarket in the centre of town (closed between 12 noon and 3.30pm) for those wanting to make their own food - ideal for families with smaller children.
For somewhere simple and family-friendly, try the Boscone Suite Hotel. A family of four can stay together in one room with rates on offer including self-catering or half-board.
Ski hire is available on site, though the hotels out-of-town location means guests are reliant on a free shuttle service taking them to and from the ski lifts.
Weary adults can try the small spa offering a sauna, steam room, waterbed and a Jacuzzi pool for €15 (one hour), while restless children can give the arcade room a go.
Price: From around £90 per night.
The family-run Sport Hotel Alpina is one of the few hotels that offers guests use of a swimming pool (kids allowed in from 3-8pm) and is located just five minutes from the slopes. Family rooms with bunk beds are available, while the hotel restaurant boasts one Michelin star.
Price: From around €390 per week.
Ski school: The Madesimo Vallespluga Ski School offers group lessons for adults or children from 100€ for 5 days tuition. Private lessons are also available from 36€ per hour, if 2 people in the class 42€ per hour.
Ski pass: A six day lift pass is €135 per adult and €103 for children (€59 for young children)
How to get there: British Airways flight from Heathrow to Milan Malpensa.
Transfers: Madesimo Express transfer start from 40€ each way/person, booked through hotels or the tourist board at www.madesimo.eu
Travel time: A flight from Londont takes 1 hour and 30 minutes, and takes two hours to transfer from Malpensa.
Accommodation: Momentum Ski offers seven nights half board at the 4* Boscone Suite Hotel, Madesimo, from £658 per person based on two sharing a Standard double room. Price includes flights between London Gatwick and Milan Malpensa and private transfers.
Or stay for three nights half board at the 4* Boscone Suite Hotel, Madesimo, from £380 per person based on two sharing a double room. Price includes flights between London Gatwick and Milan Malpensa and car hire.