A family ski trip with children is all about choosing the right resort. These European family ski resorts have it all.
A great holiday on the slopes needs so much more than just snow when you’re travelling with little ones. From excellent ski schools and childcare, to family-friendly hotels and restaurants, look to one of these five resorts for a child-approved and parent-pleasing Alpine break.
Upmarket Lech in the Arlberg region has been attracting well-heeled families for generations. Less glitzy than the likes of St. Moritz and Verbier, this understated Austrian resort has long been a favourite of royalty. There’s no doubt that the town’s price tag reflects its clientele, but in return you’ll have access to some of the finest skiing in Austria.
Here, there are plenty of beginner’s slopes, and the truly excellent ski schools make it perfect for those new to the sport. Plus, children under eight ski for free – a big perk in a pricey resort. Younger children (aged three to six) can join the Kinder Club for whole or half days of private or group activities and ski lessons, which can be booked at one of the many ski schools. Lech Ski School is a good place to start.
A local snow park complete with hair-raising jumps and challenging runs for more experienced teens helps make Lech a great option for those with older children, too. Elsewhere, a thrilling 1.2 km toboggan runs through the forest from Oberlech to Lech (grab your toboggans from the Bergbahn Oberlech station), while non-skiing activities include a very impressive sports centre where kids can play tennis, scale the indoor climbing wall or visit the bowling alley.
And let’s not forget the fantastic Austrian food; children (and parents) will be thrilled to see a plate of apple strudel waiting for them at the end of their ski lesson. Lastly, while the après scene is not as lively as neighbouring St Anton, it’s just the right vibe for families.
Securing peace of mind that your little ones are happy while you are on the other side of a valley is important – so good childcare really counts, and Courchevel is one of the best.
With an abundance of top-notch hotels offering in-house kids’ clubs and creches, as well as catered chalets boasting all the equipment needed for travelling with little ones, visiting with children is made easy here. There are a number of excellent nanny companies including Meri Nannies who will look after children as young as a few months old, and take older children to and from ski lessons and the many activities Courchevel has on offer – allowing mum and dad to enjoy a pre-kids kind of skiing holiday. Skiiing aside, we recommend a family trip to Aquamotion, Europe’s largest water park in the mountains with an indoor and outdoor lagoon, a 25 metre pool, jumping pool, toddler play area and a wild river.
Another bonus here is the wonderful Village des Enfants – the largest enclosed, children’s only ski area in the world. This five-hectare area has an ESF ski school, magic carpets, tree-lined runs, ice tunnels, cartoon characters and a snow garden. It’s open until 2PM and offers an on-site lunch club, for hungry kids post-morning ski.
With so many stunning resorts, it can be hard to choose where to ski in Switzerland, but Arosa is one of the best if you’re visiting with children. With an indoor fun park, ice skating rink and day care centre, it’s been given the ‘Family Destination’ seal of approval from the Swiss Tourism Association.
One of the resort’s biggest plus points is the free ski school. Children aged up to 17 who spend at least two nights in one of the participating hotels during their winter holiday can enjoy a free group lesson every day, encouraging youngsters to get to grips with the sport, and the Swiss Ski and Snowboard School Arosa (SSSA) is one of the best you can find in the Alps.
As far as adult-worthy skiing goes, it couldn’t get much better either: there are plenty of cruisey blues and wide red runs making it an ideal spot for those who are new(ish) to the sport, a large section of nursery slopes for complete beginners, as well as three super-fun toboggan runs. More advanced skiers will not be disappointed either, thanks to several very challenging runs – try the Black Diamond if you’re brave enough.
Another plus here is the many family-friendly mountain restaurants such as Alp Arosa, where you can just pop in. No booking required. Just what you need when tired little people need to stop for lunch a bit early.
Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Italy is known as a family-friendly destination, and its ski resorts are just as welcoming. The stunning Dolomites are peppered with wonderful villages but one of the best – and most stylish – is Cortina d’Ampezzo. Nicknamed ‘Queen of the Dolomites’, it gained its reputation as one of Europe’s finest ski resorts after hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics.
Just a two-hour transfer from Venice, this beautiful town with cobbled streets and retro-chic appeal is suitably parent-pleasing while also offering plenty for younger visitors. It’s an excellent place for beginners to ski thanks to good nursery slopes and plenty of wide, gentle runs, found on the lower parts of the Pomedes sector. There’s also the Baby Socrepes area for children, plenty of super-easy runs, and a nearby snow park for older children looking for some fun. Ski schools here are great, too, we love the Cristallo-Cortina Ski & Snowboard School who have amazing English-speaking instructors providing both group and private lessons. Book early as their services are in demand.
Aside from skiing, you’ll find ice skating, husky-sleigh rides, snow shoeing, a playground and an indoor climbing centre. But food is one of the real highlights of a trip to the Dolomites, and Cortina is home to some of the best mountain restaurants in the world. Lunch is a big deal here, so click off your skis and join Italian families for a long feast of pizza and pasta at fantastic spots such as El Camineto.
Val d’Isère, France
A two-hour transfer from Chambray airport, Val d’Isère is one of the highest resorts in Europe and one of the ten largest ski areas in the world. But it’s not the height or the size that draws families back to this beautiful French town time and time again, it’s the family-friendly set up that it’s perfected.
With fantastic children’s ski schools across accessible nursery slopes; wide, gentle runs at Col de l’Iseran; Slow Zones; a children’s sledging slope; a kids’ area in the Aquasportif leisure complex; and the Val Kids mini ski area, this resort has rightly been awarded a ‘Family Plus’ label by the French National Tourist Board.
Children aged six months to 13-years-old can sign up to the Holiday Village for fun activities ranging from sledging and snowboarding to football and ping pong, and the Ecole du ski Francais (ESF) offers private lessons to children aged three to 12 using the French national ski programme, ensuring that levels and progression will be consistent if your kids have already started to ski with ESF in another resort.
Off the slopes there is a great atmosphere in Val d’Isère, with plenty of family-friendly restaurants on the mountain (try L’Etincelle) and throughout the pretty, pedestrianised town. The buzzy après scene is also worth checking out, so be sure to book your babysitter for the evening. Speak to local nanny agency Jelly and Ice Cream who have a team of qualified staff to help with all your childcare needs.
These are the names to know for the perfect family ski holiday
- Carrier for wow-factor ski holidays where every detail is thought of.
- Powder Byrne covering specialised luxury family ski holidays since 1985, for trips to France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
- VIP Ski Chalets for amazing catered chalets in some of France’s best resorts, offering childcare and a full concierge service.
- Ski Famille is an award-winning family travel company with in-chalet childcare.
- Fish and Pips, family-friendly travel experts with hotels and chalets in top resorts.
- Ski Solutions, tailor-made holidays all over Europe and the USA.
- Hip Hideouts, for the ultimate chalets in Val d’Isère.