There is nothing like seeing your child whizzing down their first nursery slope. Staggering how, in such a short space of time, they crack it – low centre of gravity and no fear seems to be a winning combination.
The pleasures of a family ski trip can be immense, and with more and more resorts and specialist tour operators gearing up to families with excellent childcare, now is the perfect time to start planning your trip.
December and January offer almost guaranteed snow but both months can be bitterly cold, especially for little ones who aren’t particularly active. Easter breaks offer warmer climates but often poorer snow conditions, particularly on the nursery slopes – unless you opt to stay in a high-altitude resort. For young children, look for a short transfer time between airport and resort, and childcare, ski schools and slopes that are close to your accommodation. It’s also worth checking out ski school times – afternoons are always warmer. Older children, with endless energy, will appreciate a good selection of après-ski activities.
Your options for accommodation include catered chalets, hotels or apartments. While catered breaks can appear to be a pricier option, they are certainly the most relaxing – do you really want to take to the kitchen after a hard day on the slopes? Plus, with a soft drink costing upwards of £4 at some of the more expensive resorts, the catered or even fully-inclusive deals available offer comparatively excellent value for money.
In the French Alps, Les Gets is a family favourite, having won numerous awards for its excellent childcare and junior skiing facilities. The slopes around Les Gets are fairly gentle, making it a great choice for children and beginners alike. Don’t be put off if you’re a competent skier yourself though: access to the Portes du Soleil ski area opens up a wealth of challenging runs – parents can wax their skis and nip across to Switzerland for lunch, before collecting the children for tea and cakes at the end of the day. For après-ski, you’ll find an outdoor ice rink, tobogganing, and dog sledding. Ski Famille has eight fabulous chalets in Les Gets. A week in the stylish ski in/ski out Chalet Mouflon, complete with its roof-top hot tub, costs from £795 per adult and £690 for children aged two to 12 years on a half-board basis, including ferry crossing or airport transfers, and five days of childcare is included in the cost.
Also in Les Gets, try the VIP Ski’s brand-new Altitude Lodge, located right on the piste to provide the ultimate in ski-in/ski-out convenience. With five family bedrooms, the lodge offers full catering, maid service, and a family room that’s packed full of games. Nannies are also available for full and half days between 8am–8pm. Seven nights in a family room costs from £2,542.
For a truly prestigious French resort, you can find little better than Courchevel. Part of the Trois Vallées region
of France, Courchevel is a skier’s paradise boasting 117 downhill runs for skiers of all abilities. Situated in the upmarket Courchevel 1850 resort is the delightfully chic and sporty hotel Le Strato. With a modest number of rooms, the hotel has a friendly, family atmosphere. The piste-side ski room has its own champagne bar and on your return you can indulge in a range of blissful treatments at their Sport Chic Spa. A week in a duplex suite costs from £18,460, half board.
Obergurgl, Austria, is another much-loved family resort. This Tyrolean village, at the end of the Ötz Valley, benefits from having a superb snow record (quantity and quality), as a result of its high altitude, as well as a wide range of runs. Après-ski includes curling, night skiing and a weekly ski show with fireworks.
With skiing virtually to the door and the children’s ski area less than a minute’s walk away, try the Chalet Verwall with Esprit. With separate sleeping areas and a small kitchenette in every suite,
the chalet combines both convenience and privacy. From £1,219 per adult and £1,097 per child for half board, including flights (but excluding childcare) for a week.
Grindelwald, Switzerland is simply stunning – conjure up an image in your mind of the perfect chocolate-box Swiss village and you’re there. A great resort for beginners, whatever the age, with long, gentle, tree-lined runs. Intermediate skiers are well catered for with a mixed terrain, and although there is a lack of black runs, there is ample opportunity for expert skiers to go off-piste.
The superb Hotel Schweizerhof with Powder Byrne offers a choice of hotel room or apartment, as well as a variety of children’s programmes. The resort has traditional après-ski options, but with three restaurants and superb facilities at the hotel (swimming pool, wellness centre and children’s room) you might not want to venture far. A one-week stay in a family room costs from £4,558, including half board, flights and transfers.
A new resort for Powder Byrne this season is the fabulous Rocksresort, Laax, offering sleek modern design in family-friendly self-catering apartments with doorstep ski convenience, breakfast and full Powder Byrne resort service. From £3,592 for a family of four to stay for a week.
If you’re travelling with another family, the Tivoli Lodge, Davos, Switzerland sleeps 12 and is in a private location, yet it is ski in/ski out and close to the centre of the village. Perfect for families with young children, the chalet has an indoor multi-storey soft-play gym, as well as a home cinema. For the grown-ups, there’s a spa complex with an indoor pool and sauna. One week costs from £2,230 per person (based on 12 sharing) and this includes children’s lunch and supper every day, champagne each night as well as a chauffeur-driven 4x4 in resort. Flights are not included, but can be arranged by The Oxford Ski Company.
For an effortlessly stylish resort, the pick of some of the best restaurants in the Alps and a little of la dolce vita, head to the famous Italian resort of Courmayeur. Over half of the ski runs in the resort are red, so it’s a great resort for intermediate skiers. Advanced skiers can experience the Vallèe Blanche descent into Chamonix, France – incredible off-piste skiing combined with breathtaking scenery. The pretty Cristallo is a gorgeous chalet-hotel in Courmayeur, nestled between shops, bars and restaurants, and just a few minutes’ walk from the cable car. Mark Warner offers family breaks during school holidays (over-sevens only) for a week, including half board, flights and transfers, from £1,095 per adult and £1,035 per child.
Across the pond, head to Whistler, which has been voted the best ski resort in North America for eight years in a row and a firm family favourite. Snow-covered mountains provide a spectacular backdrop to the pretty pedestrian-only Whistler Village, lined with shops and restaurants. With over 200 pistes, you’ll have to stay a while to see it all, and there really is a wealth of runs to suit all capabilities. Stay at the Four Seasons Resort with Scott Dunn for a little luxury. As your children delight in the child-sized bath robes and slippers, tuck into the fabulous children’s menu and take part in the children’s programmes, you can indulge in the world-class spa. Prices start from £4,000 per adult and £1,000 per child on a B&B basis for ten nights, including return flights with BA to Vancouver airport and private transfers.
For a mix of ski and other winter activities, try Winter Park in the Colorado Mountains. This unspoilt village has sleigh rides, ice skating and dog-sleddding. Stay at the luxe Zephyr Mountain Lodge Hotel & Condos with Inghams. From £928 per person in a two-room apartment for seven nights, including flights to Denver.
Check out Junior's article Chic ski resorts in our Ski & activity section.
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