Family skiing holidays are something to be cherished – spending time with your children in the fresh air of the mountains, all doing something you love and coming together at the end of the day to tell tales of daring do and obstacles overcome is priceless.
A key factor in making a family ski holiday effortless is the resort you go to - get it wrong and you'll be lugging three sets of skis and screaming kids around half the day, frantically trying to remember why you'd shelled out so much cash. But 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 young tots or older teens, there's a dream holiday out there with your family's name on.
Alpbach in the Tirol is one of the prettiest villages in Austria and has long been a favourite with British families - the resort is compact, full of charm and sunny nursery slopes sit right next to it. While the slopes for intermediates aren't extensive, they're good for building confidence and practicing technique on, and both the village's ski schools are very child-friendly. For those in the know there's also some good skiing off-piste. Welcoming pensions and chalet-style hotels dominate the accommodation - some, such as Der Berghof, are as close as 20 metres from the nursery slopes. If a full day on the slopes is proving too much for the little ones there is an indoor swimming pool and outdoor ice rinks to entertain. Getting there: Innsbruck, the closest airport, is 50km away. Munich and Salzburg are 150km away. Ultimate Ski Guide to Alpbach >
Spreading out immediately above Alpe d'Huez is a vast bowl of easy green runs, served by the fast DMC gondola. It's a veritable playground for beginners, but just watch out for the sometimes dangerously fast passing traffic from the slopes above. There's a good range of blues for confident youngsters to progress to, plus an unthreatening terrain park near the bottom of the slopes with gentle rollers and jumps. There are plenty of self-catering apartments and more hotels than you'd expect, but perhaps the best option for families is the ski-in, ski-out Club Med Alpe d'huez La Sarenne. Getting there: Grenoble is the closest (and quietest) airport, 105km away. Lyon and Geneva are 150km 210km away respectively.Ultimate Ski Guide to Alpe d'Huez >
Avoriaz may not be the prettiest of resorts, but it's certainly one of the most functional and striking. A car-free collection of towering self-catering apartments perched on a cliff, accommodation is ski-in, ski-out and horse-drawn sleighs are the only vehicles on the snow-covered roads. 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. There's a British-run ski school, Avoriaz Alpine Ski School, for older kids needing a challenge or friendly encouragement. Accommodation is mostly in apartments - there are a few small chalets if you're seeking a comfortable alternative. Getting there: Geneva is the closest airport, about two hours or 90km away. Ultimate Ski Guide to Avoriaz >
Which child wouldn't love skiing around the sunny, easy slopes, lunching on pizza and, with a bit of encouragement, making it from top to bottom of the mountain by the end of the week? Cervinia isn't a big resort, but for ease, pick a hotel near the nursery slopes close to the village centre. From these, progression to the gentle blue runs at Plan Maison then the cruising reds at Valtournenche is a realistic and satisfying achievement for any beginner. There are kindergartens both in resort and at Plan Maison. Getting there: Turin is the nearest airport and approximately two hours (120km) away. Geneva is 2 hours 45 minutes (185km). Ultimate Ski Guide to Cervinia >
For families with teenage kids, Obergurgl, the highest parish in Austria, is a good option. It's a small, focused village with friendly Austrian charm and snowsure slopes, but not so many that the kids 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. Most of the accommodation is in three- or four-star hotels - if you're travelling with younger children particularly, book with Esprit in one of their large chalets and take advantage of their extensive childcare options. Getting there: Innsbruck is the closest airport, 95km away. Ultimate Ski Guide to Obergurgl >
The car-free village of Saas-Fee in Valais is a perfect choice for young children and families - it's a rural haven perfect for just strolling around and relaxing in. Saas Fee is also a great destination for those with older kids - it has two terrain parks, one, a truly world-class set up, with a huge halfpipe and interesting features like a gondola roof job; the other, aimed at beginners with entry level jumps, rails and lines, near the nursery slopes. Choose your accommodation carefully - the majority of the lifts leave from the southern end of the village, and the large nursery slopes are also at this end. Getting there: Sion airport, served by SnowJet, and Geneva are 75km and 225km away respectively. The nearest train station is Brig, and regular buses run to and from the station to Saas-Fee. Ultimate Ski Guide to Saas-Fee >
Young families will love the extensive beginner slopes at Crap Sogn Gion, high above Laax, and the excellent ski school with fluent English-speaking instructors. For families with older kids, they'll no doubt be wowed by the five impressive terrain parks, and if you time your visit right, you could catch one of the big international freestyle competitions the resort hosts - bound to help the brownie points with the teenagers. For maximum convenience, stay in an apartment at the RocksResort, striking modern blocks that opened a year ago and are right at the foot of the slopes. Getting there: Zurich is the closest airport. A seamless train and bus transfer from Zurich takes about two hours. Ultimate Ski Guide to Laax >
A vast expanse of intermediate cruising runs spread out above the 10 villages that together make La Plagne, and the different characters of the bases make it an ideal destination for all types of families and children, from young tots to energetic teens. Most Brits stay in Belle Plagne (good for youngsters with a children's playground for tots to learn in), Plagne 1800 (lots of chalets so best for groups of families) or Montchavin (the village is pretty and traffic-free, and there are confidence-building wooded blue runs leading to it). 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. Getting there: Chambery is the closest airport, 120km away. Or take the train to either Aime or Bourg St Maurice at the bottom of the valley. Ultimate Ski Guide to La Plagne >
Puy St Vincent is a couple of purpose-built stations plus an old village. Most of the accommodation, which is mainly self-catering, is in low-rise apartment blocks at the bottom of the slopes in the larger of the two stations, 1600. Tree-lined slopes sit immediately above the resort and are good for intermediates wanting a challenge, while beginners can find their feet in two nursery slope areas. The childcare facilities in resort are excellent, with both ski schools (the ESF and the International school) running kindergartens. The choice of tour operator can make or break a family skiing holiday so choose with care. Snowbizz, who have operated solely to Puy St Vincent since 1986, is a safe bet if you want a well-thought out and convenient family holiday. All the details have been taken care of, from Sunday flights (less hectic than Saturdays) to a full suite of childcare options from six months to 11 years. Getting there: Turin is the nearest airport, approximately two and half hours away.
If you're looking for an alternative to the tried and tested Alpine holiday, head to Ylläs in Finland. The gentle Arctic landscape is ideal for beginners, and the alternative activities, such as husky-sledding, reindeer sleigh rides and snowshoeing, will enchant young children. 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. Getting there: Kittilä airport is 50km away.
Author: Rebecca Miles