The secret to the best family ski holidays is finding the right place to ski. But it’s also about choosing a resort where skiing isn’t all that’s on offer. And when you’re planning a break with kids, easy travel in the equation doesn’t hurt either. Peak Retreats are French Alps specialists and experts in family ski holidays, and this winter they’re recommending Isère in the heart of the French Alps for all-round amazing. Here’s why.
Let’s start by clearing up something: Isère is not to be confused with Val d’Isère. One is a well known ski resort, the other is a French département which contains 21 resorts, a few of them just as famous as Val d’Isère. Isère is also home to four mountain ranges, vast ski areas and some very well kept secrets you want to be in on this winter. Start with authentic Alpine villages which sit under-the-radar but link to some of Europe’s best skiing. Add in wonders like Pra Valleys and Vercors Massif just waiting to be discovered. Then – keep this one very quiet – the lively city of Grenoble is less than an hour’s drive from quite a few Isère family resorts. In fact, one resort is so close, you can even ski overlooking the city below.
Why pick Peak Retreats for family ski holidays in Isère this winter?
As we said, Peak Retreats are French Alps specialists who specialise in family skiing. So if an Alpine resort in France is family-friendly, you’ll definitely find them there. Of course, they cover all the big names, but if authentic, charming and off-the-beaten-track resorts are more your thing, Peak Retreats offer those too. And their choice of accommodation is almost as wide ranging, covering everything from good value apartments to luxury family hotels.
Of course, not everyone wants to ski on family ski holidays and almost nobody wants to ski all the time. So you’ll also find a wide range of alternative activities at all Peak Retreats’ resorts. Plus many hold the coveted Famille Plus label which is just about the highest honour France can bestow when it comes to family skiing.
Fuss-free travel is another Peak Retreats’ specialty. Families driving to the mountains can look forward to a free upgrade to Eurotunnel’s premium FlexiPlus option on most dates, as well as a wide range of resorts an easy drive from Calais. Travel by ferry is also available. Or for those who prefer the train, Peak Retreats can book Eurostar combined with fast French TGV trains to get you closer to your destination. And naturally all the finest and snowiest parts of France are yours for the choosing, which brings us neatly to Isère.
Isère family ski holidays in the Oisans massif
Even if you can’t pinpoint Isère on a map, you’ll almost certainly recognise its two largest resorts: Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alpes. Both are renowned for their lofty summits, challenging glaciers and remarkable vertical descents.
Les 2 Alpes: some of the best high altitude skiing in Europe
Les 2 Alpes has to be one of the most famous Isère resorts, mainly due to its incredible high altitude skiing. Over 70% of the slopes here sit at 2000m or higher, and you can ski down 2,300m without taking a single lift. So with all this prestige, you might be surprised to find out that Les 2 Alpes is also remarkably family-friendly. There’s even a dedicated freestyle area here for under 10s, as well as an excellent Kids Park with banked turns and jumps.
Why Peak Retreats recommends Les 2 Alpes for family ski holidays?
- One of Isère’s Famille Plus resorts, Les 2 Alpes offers a creche, day nursery and childcare for kids aged from 6 months to 4 years.
- Les Deux Alpes Ski School can be pre-booked on family breaks with Peak Retreats. This is a real bonus, especially during French school holidays.
- If older kids are keen to learn something aside from skiing, what about mushing? Beginner sledge-driving courses are a wonderful way to see snowy Les 2 Alpes.
- Les 2 Alpes magnificent Grotte de Glace sits at 3,200m. It’s open all winter for magical ice cave exploring.
- Guided snowshoeing hikes are another great way for families to see this beautiful winter landscape.
- This is also the resort for baby’s first ski break. ESF Baby Snow lets parents share the fun of skiing with kids as soon as they’re able to stand. Basically it’s a snowboard with handlebars, and designed for first time skiers aged between one and fours years.
- Sledging is free for everyone at Les 2 Alpes. There’s even an area set aside just for kids ages from two to six years.
- Peak Retreats offers a wide choice of family-friendly accommodation here. Choose from self-catering apartments and chalets like four-star Les Clarines and new hotels such as Basecamp Lodge Les Deux Alpes.
Alpe d’Huez: south-facing, ski-in-ski-out and the world’s longest black run
Legendary Alpe d’Huez is another Isère resort with a reputation for exceptional high altitude skiing. It’s well-deserved. The resort itself sits at a height of 1,860m, enjoys a south facing position and seems at first glance to be purpose built. Contrary to that impression it’s actually over 100 years old and most modern development was only started in the 1960s. That’s good news for families, because ski-in-ski-out is another Alpe d’Huez trademark and the choice of accommodation is outstanding.
What makes family ski holidays such easy good fun at Alpe d’Huez
- South facing Alpe d’Huez can enjoy up to eight hours of sunshine a day in the depths of December.
- Another Famille Plus resort, childcare is available here from 6 months to 4 years.
- Ski lessons start from age three at Alpe d’Huez and snowboarding from age eight. It’s easy to pre-book lessons with Peak Retreats as part of your family ski holiday.
- Alpe d’Huez has several snow parks, including one of the largest in the French Alps. Older kids will like the video shoot system set up where they can see their jumps on the big screen and share them on social.
- Fun family activities here range from sledging and dog sledding to mountain coasters and even snowy laser games.
- Alpe d’Huez is every bit a first rate European resort. You’ll find no fewer than 45 restaurants here, many of them family-friendly. Shopping is fun and, if you want cosy bars, this is the resort for those too.
- Luxury is the key to Peak Retreats’ accommodation in Alpe d’Huez. Residences like Daria-I Nor are sleek, modern and also family-friendly, there’s a choice of excellent hotels and self-catering apartments such as new L’Eclose mix convenience with absolute comfort.
Ski the enormous Grand Domaine, glide home to the sweetest villages
The term, ‘best of all worlds’ could have been coined for Isère. If you need proof, come ski the massive Grand Domaine ski area and base your family holiday in Auris-en-Oisans, Oz-en-Oisans or Vaujany.
Low-key Auris-en-Oisans is a good choice for families with younger children as Peak Retreats offers group ski-lessons from age three. Plus, Les Marmottes kids club provides childcare from 18 months. But don’t let the peaceful atmosphere deceive you, Auris has several good family restaurants and friendly bars. If you want something more lively, Alpe d’Huez is nearby. And even off the slopes, there’s plenty to do, from riding E-Fat snow scooters to the fun of a free sledging area.
Neighbouring Oz-en-Oisans is livelier than Auris, but its most notable features are the views which keep you company as you ski. Best of the best has to be the descent from Dôme des Rousses as the sun goes down. Quite possibly one of the finest sunset skiing experiences in Isère. Younger snow enthusiasts can look forward to learning how to mush. The dog teams are real, only the sledges are scaled-down to kid size. And if you’re thinking once in a lifetime experience, you are not wrong.
Vaujany: family ski holidays with extra Alpine village charm
A perfect resort for family ski holidays, Vaujany has all the charm of a traditional Alpine village. Only this village comes with direct links to the enormous Grand Domaine ski area. In fact, it’s quicker to reach the pistes from here than from much busier Alpe d’Huez. So if the thought of less queueing for lifts sounds like bliss, Vaujany is well worth considering.
More reasons we like Vaujany for family ski holidays
- Not totally surprising to find that pretty Vaujany is also a Famille Plus resort. Childcare is exceptionally high standard and starts from just six months.
- Although it’s one of the smaller Isère resorts, Vaujany has a superb leisure centre. Kids will love the indoor pool with slides and a waterfall. For more serious swimmers, there’s also a 25m lap pool.
- If you haven’t tried snowshoeing before, we can highly recommend it. The well marked trails round Vaujany are a great place to start.
- The leisure centre also features an Olympic size ice rink where you can give eisstock a go. What’s eisstock? It’s pétanque, only on ice, and yes, it’s as much fun as it sounds.
- Ski lessons for children start from age three at the Vaujany ESF ski school. Kids learn to snowboard from six years and all lessons can be pre-booked with Peak Retreats ski school on family ski holidays
- Peak Retreats offer a choice of self-catering apartments in Vaujany. They range from Residence Le Saphir to more traditional chalet-style properties like Les Edelweiss, and sleep up to 10 guests. Ideal for families, every one is close to lifts and cable cars, childcare and the centre of Vaujany.
Authentic French resorts worth seeking out in the Vercors massif
The Villard-Corrençon ski area is the largest and highest in Isère’s dramatic Vercors Massif. Despite those assets, it’s still a relatively unknown area which is ideal if you want great skiing without too many other skiers.
Although the lively village of Villard de Lans is only 35km from Grenoble Airport, it’s overlooked by the highest Vercors’ peaks, good news for keen downhill skiers. As well as a stunning location, there’s an amazing range of activities here. Children can try anything from tobogganing to snow-tubing at Colline des Bains snow park. You can book ski lessons in advance through Peak Retreats. And if you want unforgettable, hop on to a sleigh pulled by Nordic Dogs and make one of the best family holiday memories.
Peaceful and authentic Alpine village
Villard de Lans’ neighbour Corrençon shares the same fantastic skiing and facilities, but it couldn’t be more of a typical French mountain village. Think pretty church, glorious mountains, sweet chalets, heaps of snow and not a high rise in sight.
Stunning views over Grenoble
Chamrousse is a bit of an Isère legend as it hosted all the Alpine skiing events during the 1968 Winter Olympics. These days it’s just as well known for stunning, panoramic views of Grenoble and of the surrounding massifs. Older kids will like the snow park here for its great jumps and the recent addition of a thrilling, two kilometre long zipline.
One of the best terrain parks in Isère
For varied skiing and untamed freeriding in the Pra Valleys, Les 7 Laux is an excellent base. It features one of the best terrain parks in Isère and you can expect older kids to be extra excited by the 723m Wiz Luge mountain coaster. Younger ones will love the incredibly well designed playpark which has everything from tunnels and mazes to a safe sledging area.