Never have there been more options in ski resorts for ways to have fun and be entertained off the slopes.
For skiing families, this is doubly important. Some children won’t want to ski all week, but many families will also have non-skiing relatives with them – grandparents and uncles and aunts, invaluable for babysitting duties – and they need to have plenty to do, too.
Some resorts are better than others at the non-skiing fun list. Perhaps a surprise choice is the architecturally unappealing French resort of Avoriaz, part of the extensive cross-border Portes du Soleil region. It has won awards as a family-friendly destination. For a start, it is genuinely car-free, so offers a pleasant environment for those not hitting the slopes. Everything – shops, bars, restaurants – is reached by foot or horse-drawn sleigh.
The Aquariaz waterpark has a sub-tropical atmosphere and boasts a waterfall and a series of pools, water-jets and slides. There are even currents to float you along and, for the adventurous, a water half-pipe with a 10m drop. Water gym sessions are held regularly. It’s the only place we know that features properly organised snowball fights, as well as Sumo wrestling on snow.
A loyal British following returns to Alpe d’Huez each year. It isn’t pretty, but it has a vibrant nightlife and prices substantially lower than more fashionable resorts. Top venues include O’Sharkeys, Smithy’s, The Crowded House and Freeride. And now it also has a Folie Douce, where you might catch the outrageous Kelly Starlight hosting a cabaret show.
The Austrian village of Ellmau, part of the SkiWelt area of nine interlinked villages, has traditional charm. A bonus for non-skiers is the brand new 10-seater gondola Hartkaiserbahn – you can take a scenic ride to the top, to the height of 1,530 metres.
Ellmau also has horse-drawn sleighs, a leisurely way of taking in the spectacular scenery, as well as curling and tobogganing. The Kaiserbad leisure centre has indoor and outdoor pools, saunas and steamrooms, indoor tennis and squash and a climbing wall.
The medieval town of Kitzbühel, with its elegant pedestrianised centre of smart shops and lovely bars and restaurants, is also within easy reach by bus or car.
The acclaimed Alpine capital of après-ski, this Tirolean resort boasts some legendary partying, at bars such as the Trofana Alm, Kuhstall and Schatzi’s (famous for its mini-dirndl-clad girls dancing on the bar). It even has a Pacha. British babysitting firm Merinannies, which employs local girls, operates here, so babysitting is easy to arrange. But book well in advance, especially at peak times.
From mountain huts that rock by the piste to clubs in town, this is one of the world’s top ski destinations for nightlife as well as for fabulous slopes (it’s proud of its claim to be the ‘cradle of skiing’). On the mountain, skiers and boarders are drawn to bars such as Mooserwirt, the Krazy Kangaruh, the Griabli and the Senn Hutte. Intown, the Kandahar, run by Brit Jonathan Verney, and the Funky Chicken are popular. Merinannies also operates here.
Another maybe-not-so-obvious choice is the ultra-smart Swiss resort of St Moritz, twice host of the Winter Olympics. Despite its expensive and sophisticated image, there are plenty of non-skiing possibilities here for youngsters and adults. For a start, there are the designer shops of the highest shopping street in Europe, the Via Serlas. You can watch World Cup polo on snow, as well as cricket matches on the lake.
A visit to one of the grande-dame hotels here is a diversion in itself, even if only to take tea. There is a rack railway to get up the mountain, as well as other fabulously scenic rail trips available from the town’s station, the UNESCO-listed red train for one.
For a peaceful day out, snowshoeing is a good bet. For those of a more frenetic bent, however, the opportunity to ride the Olympic bobsleigh run, with a professional driver, should satisfy your thrill-seeking side. Speeds of up to 80mph can be reached during the 75-second run of adrenaline-fuelled excitement.
One of the main ski resorts with the largest ski area - you'll have your pick of the sun, scenic location, exciting terrain and a booming nightlife (when you get the occasional night off, that is). With a new complex built at the foot of the main Médran gondola, you'll be able to find an array of shops and restaurants.
Youngsters could have trouble packing in all the activities that Breckenridge, Colorado, has to offer without ever going near the slopes. They could snowshoe, go snowmobiling, take dog-sled rides, have a trip in a hot-air balloon – and even visit a gold mine. The town itself, one of America’s liveliest resorts, and quick and easy to reach from Denver, has loads of shops, a cinema, swimming pool and even an art gallery.
The third largest ski resort in the United States which comprises of three sections: Blue Sky Basin, The Front-Side and the Back Bowls. It's a great resort suitable for everybody because of it's open terrain with all types of trails. Vail Village is actually modelled on a Bavarian village so has a lot of pedestrianised streets. With a variety of restaurants and bars, there's definitely some family friendly opportunities. The adventure ridge in Vail is an option for activities for kids of all ages.
The elegant and attractive ski town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, in the Italian Dolomites, is bursting with non-ski attractions. You can try horse-riding in the snow, indoor tennis, tobogganing, ice skating, ice hockey, curling and even ice disco dancing! Until the end of January, the bobsleigh run is open for rides with a driver and brakeman.
A duty-free enclave in Lombardy (which means shopping for watches and perfume is a major activity), Livigno claims to have more bars than any other ski resort in the world – 150 at the last count. Among the most popular are Kuhstall, Mikey’s Pub, Gulliver Pub, the Echo Pub and, for cocktails, Jpioca. You will manage to visit only a fraction,even withdetermined effort. The tourist office has a list of recommended babysitting agencies.