Discover the best ski resorts and companies that cater to kids of all ages to have a fun and stress-free family ski holiday.
It’s true that even the best-laid skiing plans can backfire, and if you happen to pick a week when the snow is poor or the temperatures plummet there’s not much you can do about it. However, when it comes to skiing, specific needs evolve as children grow older and exactly what sort of holiday you opt for should depend on the age and abilities of your children. By choosing the right resort, accommodation, childcare and tuition, you can make all the difference.
Here are some pointers that will not only give you a better chance of having a successful family holiday but will also give your children an opportunity to learn skills that last a lifetime.
6 months – 5 years
Babies and toddlers: 6 months-2 years
Encouraging children to have fun in the snow from an early age can lay the foundations for enjoyable winter holidays later on. However, an unfamiliar environment, high altitudes and a broken routine can be unsettling for this age group, so careful planning is needed. Specialist tour operators such as Scott Dunn, Powder Byrne, Esprit Ski and Le Ski offer welcoming crèches staffed with English-speaking, qualified nannies in family-friendly accommodation and resorts. At Club Med ski resorts, kids under four stay free.
Pre-school children: 3-5 years
If you are planning to arrange childcare, it’s essential to book places well in advance, as strict rules govern adult-to-child ratios within this age group – and the best options are snapped up early. Check that essential facilities are conveniently in or near your accommodation and make sure that the daily schedule of activities will chime with your child’s interests. Some will enjoy plenty of supervised fun in the snow and perhaps a gentle, carefully planned introduction to skiing, while others may be happier with indoor play. Family specialists such as Meriski and Ski Beat offer crèche or private nanny care in top French resorts, including Méribel, La Plagne, Les Arcs and Val d’Isère.
Young skiers: 6-10 years
At this age, children are more adaptable to new environments but may still find it hard to cope with high altitudes and the physical demands of skiing. A long walk or bus journey to the lifts can be exhausting, so choose accommodation that’s close to the slopes and ski school. Peak Retreats, Family Ski Company, and Ski Famille can help to find friendly, English-speaking instructors to ensure children get off to the best start. Reps can also provide drop-off and pick-up services at ski school, supervised lunches and organised half-day activities, leaving parents free to spend all day on the slopes. Check whether there are other activities available in the resort such as an indoor swimming pool, bowling alleys or iceskating, as a fallback if the weather is poor. Quebec, Canada, is just a six-hour flight away and a brilliant place for kids to learn – Tremblant is famous for its ski school and a host of child-friendly activities.
Tweenies and young teenagers: 11-14 years
Where is cool to ski and who is cool to ski with starts to become an issue with older children. While ski operators offer clubs to children aged up to around 12 years, there are fewer options for older, tricky-to-please teenagers, so it can work best to take a chalet with other families with similar-aged teens. VIP Ski offers a good range of large accommodation suiting big groups. At this age, children can cope with long flights and jet lag so think about heading to family-friendly American resorts such as Steamboat or Jackson Hole. The latter, with two terrain parks, caters particularly well for teenage skiers or snowboarders looking for thrills. Ski Independence and Ski Safari can help organise flights, accommodation and tuition.
Older teenagers: 15-18 years
Whether your offspring are too fast and fearless or they’d rather hang out with their own age group, it can be hard to find a holiday that suits everyone’s needs at this stage. Powder Byrne is the leader in the field when it comes to offering challenging and sociable ski or snowboard sessions designed to appeal to older children, with competent, young instructors on hand to advise on technique. Club Med is one to watch this ski season, as it launches the flagship Val Thorens resort in Les 3 Vallées region of the French Alps, giving teens the freedom to be with their friends and enjoy the slopes as well as lots of après-ski fun. Apartments are a good option for families with older children because you don’t have the space restrictions of a hotel or the lack of privacy of a shared chalet. Erna Low specialises in good value self-drive ski holidays to well-located piste-side apartments in a wide range of resorts in Europe and can help organise ski lessons if needed.
Parents with children in a wide age spectrum face the most difficult challenge finding a family holiday that keeps everyone happy – and this is particularly true when it comes to skiing. Your best chance of success is to choose a ski company that caters well for skiers of all abilities and ages. Both Mark Warner and Neilson offer exclusively-run hotels with clubs for younger children as well as games rooms or large lounges where older children can meet. These are usually within reasonably easy walking distance of resort shops, bars and nightlife, too. If you’d prefer to book independently, choose a resort to suit everyone.
The Austrian resort of Lech and the French resorts of Flaine and La Plagne have a good choice of green and blue runs, plus more challenging red and black options.
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