Spending time with your children, breathing the fresh mountain air, doing something you love, and coming together at the end of the day to talk of adventure, trauma and daring – is priceless.
A key factor in ensuring that your family ski holiday runs smoothly is ensuring you get the right resort. Get it wrong and you'll be lugging skis and screaming kids around half the day. But choose your resort wisely, and everything else will fall into place.
Here is our list of family ski resorts where you can be confident to take all your children, whatever their ages, and know there will be plenty to keep them (and you) entertained.
Avoriaz is a sympathetically designed resort, compact and car free, its buildings are wood clad with snowy paths and pistes between them. You and your luggage are transported to the largely ski-in/ski-out accommodation by snowcat or horse-drawn sleigh. Many families love Avoriaz for its safety and convenience. It also has the highest and most snowsure slopes in the Portes du Soleil ski area.
The Village des Enfants is in the heart of the resort, with Disney characters and special slopes to entertain and educate children aged three and older. It is the only truly pedestrianised ski resort in France, and its central nursery and ski school has won many awards over the years. There's a British-run ski school, Avoriaz Alpine Ski School, for older children needing some friendly encouragement. With 650km of lift linked pistes just outside your door and the option to ski over the border in to Switzerland, as well as its five permanent parks, a boardercross and a superpipe, it can’t fail to impress.
Galtür is a family-friendly, snow-assured ski area. The Silvretta ski area stretches across the Austrian – Swiss area between Ischgl and Samnuan with 240 kilometres of piste and a family-sized 40 kilometres of local slopes, named the Silvapark. The Silvapark provides the best conditions for cross country skiing, snowboarding and skiing, it is specially designed to be family-friendly with separate sectors for different ability levels
Galtür is excellent for beginners and early intermediates, with Ischgl 15 minutes down the road on the free ski bus, which is great for intermediates and advanced skiers.
This resort is particularly family friendly with two dedicated children's ski school areas, ski lessons starting at three years and a non-ski kindergarten from two years. Older children can take part in lessons on ski/boarding jumps; night skiing; avalanche awareness; an off-piste ski safari; speed skiing and sessions on snowblades and twin-tips. Every Friday there’s a mini Winter Olympics, with electronic timing, musically accompanied award ceremonies, medals and winner's cups.
TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada
Ski Magazine has voted Tremblant the best ski resort in Eastern North America for the 15th year in a row, and it has just been voted one of the world’s top 25 ski villages by National Geographic 2013. And it's easy to see why. Tremblant is a delightful, traffic-free village in the French-speaking part of Canada. The ski school is highly rated for children’s lessons and good childcare facilities are available. The village is purpose-built in the style of old Québec, with buildings in vibrant colours lining cobbled streets. Plus, as you are in Quebec Province, the attractive village offers a combination of Canadian and French cuisine and some lively après ski.
The mountain offers a great variety of runs, its speciality being great grooming – you’ll find wide, tree lined green, blue and black runs with impeccable corduroy. A heated gondola takes you to the top of the mountain, from where you can drop over the back into the slopes of the North Side.
Off the slopes, the resort pool resembles a woodland lake, Aquaclub La Source is a particularly good indoor/outdoor water theme park and there’s also dog sledding, tubing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, a high ropes course to mention just a few.
SMUGGLERS NOTCH, Vermont, USA
"America's Family Resort" is the slogan of this family friendly purpose-built resort. Some of the biggest and best-known ski resorts in North America try to be recognised as family friendly resorts but none have won more awards or topped more skier polls than Smugglers Notch. It’s hard to pin down what it does so right but it definitely has got it right. There is an enormous "million dollar" child-care centre, ski lessons for tots aged from two-and-a-half, private babysitting and "kids' nights out". Two teen hangouts ban adults, there's family snowmobiling and airboarding (lie-on inflatable sledges). The three big hills have runs for all abilities, from gentle cruising and tree skiing for beginners to daring blacks. As if that isn’t enough, there is an ice rink, an indoor and outdoor heated pool or for the more daring amongst you the ArborTrek Zip Line Canopy Tour, the only one of its kind in Vermont.
This pretty village has long been a favourite with families. They are attracted by the picturesque resort and its small, friendly local ski area. Alpbach is what you imagine an Austrian mountain village to look like, with its traditional wooden chalets set around a church. It’s ideal for children as the sunny nursery slopes are right in the village and there are good ski kindergartens. While the slopes for intermediates aren't extensive, they're good for building confidence and practicing technique, and both the village's ski schools are very child-friendly. For those in the know there's also some good skiing off-piste. If a full day on the slopes is proving too much there is an indoor swimming pool and outdoor ice rinks to entertain.
For families with teenage kids, Obergurgl (Glacier resorts apart), the highest parish in Austria is one of the most snowsure areas in the Alps. It's a small, focused village with friendly Austrian charm with no through-traffic. With easy snowsure slopes, but not so many that the children would get lost on their own. Excellent English is spoken by the ski school instructors and class sizes are kept small - a promising start for pushing teenagers to their limits and ensuring boredom stays at bay.
Children from age three can join the resort’s Bobo Mini Club for outdoor activities or the Bobo kindergarten for indoor fun. Many hotels also offer childcare of one sort or another.
The slopes are generally gentle and well-groomed and suit beginners and intermediates best.
La Plagne, France
There are 10 villages with intermediate cruising runs that together make La Plagne. The different characteristics of the villages make it an ideal destination for all types of families and children, from young tots to energetic teens. There is Belle Plagne (good for youngsters with a children's playground to practise their ski-ing), Plagne 1800 (lots of chalets so great for groups of families) or Montchavin (the village is pretty and traffic-free with confidence-building wooded blue runs). Each village has good ski schools and its own nursery run or two, then there are endless intermediate slopes (225km of them) plus five terrain parks or boardercross courses to keep the more adventurous children and big kids entertained.
If you're looking for an alternative to the tried and tested Alpine holiday, head to Ylläs in Finland. Ylläs combines all the ingredients necessary for a perfect Lapland experience. Guests return year after year to enjoy its stunning unspoiled natural scenery.
The gentle Arctic landscape is ideal for beginners, and the alternative activities, such as exhilarating reindeer, husky and snowmobile safaris as well as snowshoeing, will captivate your children. The skies here are especially clear, ideal for witnessing the magical Northern Lights. The best time to visit is from March to the end of the season - any earlier and either the sun doesn't rise during normal daylight hours or it's February and the resort suffers the same fate as European resorts during the school holidays. Accommodation is not slopeside, but the resort is so quiet and peaceful this isn't an issue.
Wengen is a charming village that sits on a shelf high above the Lauterbrunnen valley, with friendly locals and dramatic scenery reached only by a cog railway. The cog railway rises up through a tunnel in the mountains to emerge at Jungfraujoch, which at 3450m is the highest railway station in Europe. From there, the views of the Aletsch glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are amazing. Although Wengen is famous for the fearsome Lauberhorn downhill course, the longest and one of the toughest on the World Cup circuit, its slopes are best suited to early intermediates, as are those of Grindelwald over the top of the ski area. The majority of runs are gentle blues and reds, ideal for cruising.
The village is charming and relaxed and almost traffic free. The only exceptions are electric hotel vehicles and private taxis. There’s a good nursery slope right in the centre of the village and there are two kindergartens – one takes children from as young as six months. The village centre is home to a good ice rink, with curling as well as skating, and there is a cinema that frequently shows English films.
La Rosière is smaller, quieter and cheaper than the nearby mega-resorts of Les Arcs, Val d’Isère-Tignes and La Plagne. It best suits families and mixed ability groups wanting a relaxed time. The ski area is sunny but gets a lot of snow, and there are splendid panoramic views over the valley to the Les Arcs ski area. The slopes suit intermediates and beginners best and are linked over the top ridge to the snowsure, north-facing pistes of La Thuile in Italy.
Snow has started falling so fingers crossed for a fantastic ski season! Let Bespoke Vacations help you to find the right resort for you…