You might wonder how you can find the ideal resort for all the family – after all, if you have a toddler who wants to make snowballs all day and a partner who is looking forward to full days of black-run skiing, it is quite a demand. But the reality is that family ski facilities get better every year, so it is possible to please the whole family. You just need to keep a few essentials in mind.
First, you’ll want to minimise transfer time between the airport and the resort and, once there, you’ll want snow pretty well guaranteed on the nursery slopes as well as good childcare options. Many operators offer a crèche for babies; private nannies are expensive, but can be arranged in most resorts, and ski schools also offer childcare sessions. For the most detailed resort information and up-to-date snow reports, whet your appetite at www.skiclub.co.uk, the site of the Ski Club of Great Britain. Also bear in mind that in the Eurozone, the exchange rate is still so weak that eating out can blow your budget, especially in fancier French resorts where a coffee on the mountain can cost £5, so an all-inclusive package can offer the best value.
When it comes to choosing accommodation, there are catered chalets, hotels or apartments: different types of ski resorts work well for different age groups. Some of the quieter resorts of the Austrian Tirol are great for families with babies. Serfaus, for example, is a pretty village only an hour’s drive from Innsbruck airport with a crèche at the bottom of the cable car station that takes babies from three months to children aged five, and costs €9.50 an hour. The children’s mascot is Murmli the marmot and there is a Murmlipark with mini-skidoos, a bouncy castle, a toboggan run and an igloo. The four-star Familienhotel Furgler can supply all your baby needs (monitor, baby bath, changing mat, potty, bottle warmer and night light) and costs from €1,005 per person (children €240–€570) for seven nights in January, including half board and adult lift passes.
The Austrians like their animal mascots and in St Johann in Tirol, a chocolate-box village an hour from Salzburg, the children’s ski school is run by Bobo, a giant penguin, and offers a mix of skiing and indoor activities. Skiing here is fairly gentle, so it’s a good place for the whole family to learn. A week at the luxurious Sporthotel Austria through Direct Ski costs £1,757 for two adults, a child and an infant in a family room in January.
If you’re looking for a big resort with lots to do, try Alpe d’Huez in France. A high resort with plenty of varied slopes, it is famed for its sunshine and huge ski area. There is also a ski kindergarten and excellent beginner slopes. Neilson’s Chalet Le Lac Blanc I is directly on the slopes with the lift only 70 metres from the front door. Sleeping 14, this is perfect for a group of families. Prices start from £549 per person in January for a week’s chalet board, including flights and transfers.
When you have children of different ages, some of the less flashy resorts offer quite a lot of variety. Ski Famille has introduced three high-quality chalets this season in Reberty Village, near the French Les Trois Vallées resorts of Les Menuires. Reberty has the same high altitude and massive ski area as its neighbours but is smaller, quieter and cheaper. Spacious Chalet Eva sleeps 21 and is under a minute’s walk from the slopes. A week in December costs £530 for adults, £460 for children (aged two to 12) and £250 for infants. This includes five days of childcare, half board and Channel crossings or Geneva airport transfers.
Another quieter resort in the Three Valleys is the old farming village of Saint-Martin de Belleville, at the same altitude as Méribel and with access to an enormous ski area. The Alpine Club offers family-friendly accommodation in the village at La Ferme de Belleville, where English nannies look after the children and everything can be supplied for babies (at extra cost). The chalet itself is a 400-year-old Savoyard farmhouse with stone walls, timber beams, log fires and furry throws. It sleeps up to 13 and costs from £795 per adult for a week in January, including half board and private minibus transport to the slopes.
And then there’s Scott Dunn. If you want the last word in luxury (and have unlimited funds) you could stay at Chalet Aurea in Courchevel 1850; it sleeps ten and has an indoor swimming pool, sunken jacuzzi and steam room. The lavish sitting room has a huge fireplace and a balcony that runs the length of the building. The chalet comes with private chef, chalet hosts and a driver at your beck-and-call. There is also Laurent-Perrier Champagne on six evenings, bathrobes and daily English newspapers. A Scott Dunn nanny can be arranged at extra cost. The chalet costs from £2,547 per adult per week, including business class flights and private transfers.
The resort of Flims in Switzerland was originally a spa resort, and is now a low-key, friendly ski resort that is just perfect for families. With its ease of accessibility, it is also a feasible destination for a long weekend on the slopes. The ski areas are an evenly balanced mix of easy, medium and harder slopes. Powder Byrne has a number of hotel options here, one of which is the Schweizerhof – a grand hotel that oozes timeless charm and is located in the centre of Flims Waldhaus. With an indoor swimming pool overlooking the snowy slopes, it is the perfect setting for your family ski break. A seven-night stay in January, including half board, flights and transfers, costs £3,794 for a family of four.
Meanwhile, the trend towards superior chalets for families is almost the norm these days with some of the smaller operators offering surprisingly good value for luxury chalets. Ted Bentley specialises in the resort of Nendaz, part of the Swiss Les Quatre Vallées network that includes Verbier. The company has just added a new chalet to its collection, Petit Nid, which boasts an outdoor hot tub and sweeping views across the Rhône valley. All Ted Bentley chalets offer luxuries such as bathrobes, champagne on arrival and Wi-Fi, with superb cuisine and decent wines rather than simply the local plonk. The skiing is superb and good for all levels, and Switzerland is actually cheaper than France this year due to the exchange rate. The Ted Bentley chalet collection is family friendly: a nanny can be provided for £510 for six full days, and baby equipment can also be supplied. A week in January in Petit Nid costs from £630 per person, with £100 discount for children under nine.
If skiing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, then travel to the fairy-tale Scandinavian resorts, which offer plently of activities away from the ski runs. Geilo in Norway has a beautiful pine forest setting, twinkling fairy lights, log fires and wooden cabins, and offers a choice of cross-country or downhill skiing, as well as reindeer safaris, tobogganing and husky sledding. The luxurious Dr Holms Hotel offers a swimming pool, spa, wine cellar (with tastings) and a cosy lounge bar with a roaring fire. Headwater’s seven-night Winter Discovery in Geilo holiday at Dr Holms Hotel starts at £1,167 per adult and £829 per child, departing in January and including four-star accommodation, breakfast and evening meals, flights, transfers, a ski pass for the week and equipment hire.
Across the Atlantic, the US and Canada offer vast dumps of snow and super-friendly ski instruction that will have children progressing in leaps and bounds. Whistler is hosting some of the Winter Olympics in 2010, so go in January, the first week of March or in April if you want to avoid Olympic mania in February and mid March. Whistler would suit older children or those who can already ski – the tuition is so good that you’ll soon be able to ski together as a family on the long, wide-open runs.
Elegant Resorts offers the fancy Four Seasons in Whistler, close to the ski school and featuring a luxurious spa. If you’ve got teenagers, the hotel has a Teen Concierge – a group of local teens (respectable ones) employed to show children around the resort. Seven nights costs from £1,885 per adult and from £1,235 per child sharing a room in January, including flights from Heathrow and private car transfers.
In the US, you shouldn’t miss Beaver Creek in Colorado. It is the perfect size for families with younger children and has winter activities as well as skiing. Just down the road from the fabulous Vail ski runs, this adorable resort has an ice-skating rink in the centre of the town as well as an extensive choice of shops and restaurants. The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa is ideally located with its ski-in ski-out position at the base of Beaver Creek mountain (and overlooking the skating rink). It has a heated pool and the Camp Hyatt children’s programme offers craft activities and photo safaris as well as a babysitting service. Seven nights in a mountain view room sleeping four costs from £1,065 per person (including flights) through Crystal Ski.
Check out Chic ski resorts in the Ski & activity section.
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