Skiing In Europe : The Top Family Destinations
What is it that makes a ski resort “family friendly?” The best offer excellent group and private instruction geared towards children of all ages, plus dedicated teaching areas on the slopes. Ski resorts and towns can also be family friendly off the slopes.
There should be a variety of family entertainment options for evenings, nights, and non-ski days. There should also be a wide variety of reasonably priced family restaurants, and ideally, lodging that caters to families, such as condos with multiple bedrooms and a kitchen for eating breakfast in, a touch many families appreciate. A key factor in making a family ski holiday effortless is the resort which is selected – get it wrong and you’ll be lugging three sets of skis and screaming kids around for half the day, frantically trying to remember why you’d shelled out so much cash. Pick your resort wisely and everything else will fall into place.
Here’s our choice of ten of the best family-friendly ski resorts in Europe to help you choose your next family ski holiday – whether you’ve got younger kids or older teens, there’s a dream holiday out there with your family’s name on it. The choice of selecting either a large or small resort depends on your personal preferences. Some parents seek intimate, straightforward, kid-friendly ski resorts while others favour the endless possibilities of vast resorts. Family-friendly hotels are considered an important factor for choosing a destination. Hotels should only call themselves family-friendly when the needs of families are truly being accomodated. Geniunely child-friendly hotels offer children’s menus and buffets, daily activities for kids, centrally located extensive playrooms, nurseries, babysitting, and much more.
Val d’Isere is considered by many to be the world’s premier ski resort, and in truth it is hard to find anything to criticise at this stunning Alpine location. A much sought-after resort often associated with the well-heeled set, behind all its glitz and glamour there is some serious skiing to be done at Val d’Isere.
The resort offers 300 km of slopes, an updated terrain park, and an excellent range of terrain. The resort also flows into the Tignes slopes and offers some of the best views of the Alps. The valley offers groomed trails as well as endless possibilities off the map. Advanced skiers will find love at first tracks.
Ski-Lesson.com Ski School in Val d’Isère: All their fully French-qualified Mountain Professionals speak fluent English. They provide you with private and group quality ski lessons on piste and off-piste. With their experience, they offer you the best of themselves for the best of your holidays. A new sports centre opened three seasons ago with two pools, sauna, steam, gym and climbing wall. Some of the best pistes Europe has to offer, especially on the higher ground.
• Guaranteed snow courtesy of the La Grande Motta
• The resort is a traditional, picturesque Alpine town,
especially at the beginning and end of the season.
• Excellent variety of top-quality ski guides and multilingual
• Although placed at the higher price range, Val d’isere
still offers a plentiful supply of cheaper basic apartments,
making it accessible to all.
Les Menuires (Resort within the Three Valleys): One of the two major resorts in the ‘third valley’, Les Menuires mixes Trois Vallées access with modern ski resort infrastructure and is a perfect choice for families. Out of the three Valley resorts, Les Menuires is the cheapest, yet this does not detract from its skiing, with Les Menuires ski area boasting 77 pistes and 33 ski lifts. Les Menuires is a central component of one of the largest and most popular skiing areas in the world. It is a cheaper alternative to those who want to ski in the three valleys but can’t afford the high prices of a resort such as Val d’Isere. Les Menuires makes a special effort to accomodate families. Attractions off the slopes include a snow castle for beginners, a toboggan run, snowmobiling for children, and a huge leisure swimming pool complex with an indoor fun park which includes trampolines, bouncy castles and a ball pool.
Les Menuires has excellently-designed facilities for all levels of skiers on the slopes. Beginners and families are especially well catered for at this affordable alternative to the more glamorous resorts.
Les Deux ALPES: Situated in the south-east of France, Les Deux Alpes is the largest ski resort in the Dauphine region. A superb resort for families, groups and all standards of skier or boarder. Excellent beginner slopes near the resort and on the glacier make it a great place to learn whilst enjoying the stunning mountain views. Intermediates have plenty of variety while experts should hire a guide and test their free-riding ability on the legendary off-piste runs of La Grave. No matter what your skiing level is, Les Deux Alpes is a key destination for the ease of location and budget, and the availability of slopes to challenge every level of skier. Since it is a glacial resort, Les Deux Alpes has a superb snow record.
Families in Les Deux Alpes will enjoy the access to much of the accommodation from the slopes. Lifts leave many parts of the resort and access the many green slopes that are located just above Les Deux Alpes. There are good facilities including leisure activities both indoor and outdoor and generally, Les Deux Alpes is a large resort with many amenities such as snowmobiling and skating. You can take a one or two seater snowmobile out on the trails with a guide, following a 15km trail that climbs to 2500m above the resort with wonderful views. Alternatively, you could have a glide on the resort’s open air ice rink, free for all 6 day lift pass holders.
Skiing in Lech is rarely a cheap option but it is unquestionably one of the best resorts in Europe. The resort combines great snowfall with traditional atmosphere, good facilities and a number of high quality independent accommodation providers.The main nursery slopes are in Oberlech and this traffic-free satellite of the main resort is a great base if you have a family of beginners. A word of warning however , if you start exploring far and wide the piste map can be confusing! Booking a guide may be money well spent for skiers who want to get the most from this stunning area. Perfect for families and couples, with an uncompromising commitment to quality. The predominantly wealthy clientele can enjoy refined high life but there’s also good quality 2- and 3- star accommodation in this quiet corner of Austria’s best ski region.
The exclusive ski resorts Lech shares a linked ski area that’s part of the mighty Arlberg ski domain. Excellent snow-sure skiing and abundant top quality hotels, including great ski-in ski-out accommodation at Oberlech ensures that around 70% of guests return year after year.
Obergurgl is the second oldest ski area in Austria, and celebrated its centenary in 2011. It is also one of the most snowsure winter resorts in the Alps, with skiing for all abilities, a fast modern lift system and no queues. The modern high speed chairlifts are all covered for shelter, which is important, as the ski area is exposed above the tree line and wind can be an issue. Accommodation is mainly in 3-star and 4-star hotels, with a handful of chalets. Obergurgl is an excellent area for beginners, timid intermediates and families, and is generally queue and crowd-free.
Reporters have found that the instruction is ‘exceptionally good’, progression ‘genuine’ and the standard of teaching ‘very high’; ‘superb’ for children. Obergurgl is a small, traditional, quaint ski resort situated at the head of the Otzal Valley. It is linked to the smaller resort Hochgurgl, and due to its high location, is almost guaranteed snow throughout the whole season. Obergurgl is a popular, family orientated resort, and many holiday makers return year after year. The centre of the resort has a friendly, buzzing atmosphere, with the restaurants, bars, spa, ski shops and hotels all located in close proximity, creating a real community essence, and all easily accessible.
Overall, the resort offers a traditional family ski holiday within a picturesque and unspoilt resort. As the resort is compact, many hotels here are situated close to the lifts making your skiing experience extremely convenient and stress free. As well as being a family resort, Obergurgl is a perfect place to learn to ski, and beginners thrive here with the help of the excellent on-site ski school.
Ellmau is ideal for those with younger children who are keen to get some serious skiing in while the kids are in ski school or kindergarten. There is an excellent crèche in the village and wide nursery slopes close to the centre. There is also direct access from the village to over 250km of piste, meaning parents can ski to their hearts’ content and still be back to meet the kids at lunchtime. There’s a good variety of bars and restaurants, but the nearby resort of Soll is where the real partying takes place, leaving Ellmau, in comparison, blissfully peaceful. Skiing above Ellmau is ideal for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. The skiing in Ellmau itself almost all takes place beneath the tree-line, a great feature for families and together with the gentle skiing in Ellmau, the resort is a good option for families.
Often overlooked in the past , Italy is now coming into its own as a family ski holiday destination. With flights into Innsbruck, transfers into Italy are smooth and uncomplicated, and generally under two hours in duration. The skiing in Italy offers families the complete range of slopes, from the tricky challenging black runs to forgiving open bowls and picturesque tree-lined routes to wild and un-tamed off-piste opportunities. Whether in ski school or skiing with friends and family, everyone can find slopes to suit their individual ability.
Selva val Gardena
One of the most popular resorts in Italy, Selva val Gardena, is set in the stunning Dolomites mountain range. This resort has no shortage of charm and warmth, and the mountains themselves seem to have an enchanting character all of their own. For sheer beauty it is hard to find another resort to match it, and when coupled with the extent of the skiing in the Dolomites, over 1,200km of well-groomed slopes, it is clear why Selva is a popular choice with ski families, many returning year after year.
Selva Val Gardena prides itself on the enthusiastic, genuine and traditionally Italian welcome it gives to skiing families. One of the ski tour routes is specifically designed for children, incorporating several obstacle courses and fantastic ski play areas. Children will feel at home here, with as much to do off as on the slopes. Selva Val Gardena enjoys the best of Italian and Austrian tradition, perfect for family skiing holidays.
Saas Fee ski resort has one of Europe’s highest ski areas – starting at almost the altitude that many other famous ski areas top out, yet still managing to offer a massive vertical above, topped by a glacier ski area open almost year round. Surrounded by thirteen 4,000m+ peaks the scenery is spectacular and the village relatively peaceful, as cars were banned from here the day a road first reached the resort in 1951. The village and its gentle nursery slopes form a great environment for families. The kids’ fun park proves a great introduction for children.
Several hotels have an in-house kindergarten. There’s a day care centre for children from 18 months to six years and there’s also a babysitting service. Child-friendly operators Esprit and Family Ski Company both have chalet hotels here. There is certainly no question of lack of snow at the beginning or end of the season and there is a free lift pass for accompanied children under 9. Saas Fee is a perfect place to learn to ski. The large nursery slope area at the edge of the village is as snowsure as you will find anywhere in the Alps and its wide gentle slopes inspire confidence. It is excellently located close to village restaurants making it easy, for example, to enjoy lunch in any of the many nearby restaurants straight after lessons.
St. Moritz is a classic Alpine village, in a stunning location, surrounded by a huge and exciting ski region. St. Moritz is a resort where you can have a wonderful family holiday with exceptional facilities for all ages. For families with young children the best solution is one of the five star hotels, most of which have their own superb nurseries and provide every imaginable service.
Ski school classes are available from age four and up.
There’s also an extra discount on lift tickets when families buy their passes of five days or more for the same duration at the same time, but you are advised to check this before you book.
In winter the lake is used for eccentric activities including horse and greyhound racing, show jumping, polo, golf and even cricket. And there’s a whole mountain (Muottas Muragl) set aside for other activities. The upper Engadin is superb for walking and cross-country skiing, which is very popular here.
Bansko is considered Bulgaria’s top ski resort, boasting some of the best and most modern skiing facilities in Easten European. During recent years a multi-million Euro investment in this brand new skiing area has reaped dividends, with Bansko becoming a hugely promising and up-and-coming location capable of matching more established resorts in Western Europe. It is currently one of the most popular destinations for those looking for a more modestly-priced ski holiday.
A UNESCO world heritage site, it has been developed since the turn of the millennium into a superbly well equipped and ever-expanding skiing area with excellent snow conditions and great facilities.
With 56km of well-groomed pisted runs, 80% of which covered by spraying snow canons, there is plenty of powder to explore. There are lots of nice, gentle slopes for beginners (your children) to try out such as Stara Pista, Todorka and Plato which all feature beautiful views, whilst there are a number of international ski and snowboard competition trails for the adults to try if they fancy themselves as experts.
For families who love to ski but who may not be able to afford a more expensive family ski holiday, Bansko offers a cheaper option which still provides great facilities. There is also a noted ski school with a great reputation which can provide lessons for the kids.