Best Ski Resorts for Families in the Alps
At their best, 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.
But you have to choose your resort carefully – 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. So here’s ten of the best family-friendly ski resorts in the Alps 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.
Flaine, Grand Massif, France
This is a resort for families who rank convenience and value for money above charm. For most of the season it’s high enough to be reliably snowy, but not so high to be unpleasantly cold, and its ski area is large enough to challenge an improving young skier with new runs every day, but not so big that you have to buy a very expensive ski pass. And whilst it’s an excellent place for complete beginners to learn to ski with good ski schools and two nursery slope areas that are free to use, it also has some genuinely steep pistes and off-piste within easy reach of the resort centre, so even time pressed-parents can have fun. Plus Flaine is easy to get to (quick transfers from Geneva airport or a relatively short drive from the UK or Northern Europe), and once you’re there, it’s mostly car-free and wonderfully compact and convenient, with plenty of slope-side accommodation. Of course there is a drawback – Flaine is one of the ugliest ski-resorts in the world – but that’s unlikely to trouble your children, and even aesthetically-inclined parents might find this a price worth paying for a stress-free holiday.
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Alpbach, Ski Juwel, Austria
In complete contrast to Flaine, 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. The resort is linked by lift to Auffach and by bus to Reith, Niederau and Oberau as part of the Ski Juwel area, so there is plenty to explore, although there are not many challenges for experts. The village’s ski schools are very child-friendly. Small 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. Neither the village nor the mountains are very high, but most of the skiing is north or east facing and there is plenty of artificial snow-making, so unless you go very early or late in the season you should be okay.
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Les Menuires, Les 3 Vallées, France
Les Menuires is the best value and most family-friendly of the resorts that form the 3 Valleys, the world’s largest ski area. Architecturally, the centre of Les Menuires is a strange mix of tower-blocks and modernist buildings crisscrossed by lifts and pistes, but it’s very convenient. Some of its suburbs, like Reberty, have been built in a more tradiitional chalet-style and are much better looking. Wherever you are, you won’t be more than a few metres from the slopes, so it’s easy to get going in the mornings. Beginners are especially well catered for with a good choice of ski schools, free nursery slopes and easy blue and green runs to progress onto, but there is plenty of skiing for all standards, including experts, both locally and in the wider 3 Valleys ski area. At 1850m, Les Menuires is pretty much snowsure from Christmas through to Easter, but in really warm conditions, there is also the reassurance of having Val Thorens, Europe’s highest ski resort, just up the road and easily reached on skis. And when children need a break from skiing, there is plenty to do and see, including toboggan runs, a rollercoaster and weekly firework displays.
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Obergurgl, Ötztal, Austria
Obergurgl is both a charming, traditional Austrian village and one of the highest and most reliably snowy ski resorts in Europe. At 1930m above sea level, this is the highest parish in Austria, with parish records dating back to the 14th century. The village is linked by lift to the modern purpose-built satellite resort of Hochgurgl, and together they form a medium-sized ski area (‘Gurgl’) that’s big enough for most families who come here for a week. Stronger skiers who want more slopes can take advantage of the Ötztal ski pass which includes a bus link to nearby Solden, another high-altitude resort which is slightly larger but less child-friendly. 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 3-star or 4-star hotels, although there are some chalets and self-catered apartments. Considering how high the resort is, Obergurl is easy to get to, with Innsbruck airport just 95km away.
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Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil, France
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 are good English-speaking ski schools for older kids needing a challenge or friendly encouragement. Accommodation is mostly in apartments, although there are chalets in the surrounding villages. And getting to Avoriaz is easy whether you come by car, train or plane, despite the last leg of the journey usually being completed by cable car, which for children just adds to the excitement.
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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 an enormous 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. Stronger skiers who want to be tested will face only the occasional challenge on the local slopes, so will need the full area ski pass that includes Zermatt, on the other side of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. You can get over there by lift and piste but it’s too long a journey to do every day, so Cervinia best suits those who actually enjoy skiing on easy motorway-like pistes. At over 2000m, the resort is reliably snowsure from Christmas through to Easter. It’s a long drive from the airport so using a specialist airport transfer service is advised.
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Les Arcs, Paradiski, France
Bad weather can ruin a family ski holiday, and Les Arcs is probably the most weather-proof ski resort in the Alps. If it’s warm, you can stay high, skiing in the high open snowsure bowl above Arc 1950 and Arc 2000 where lifts go up to 3226m; but if there is a blizzard or flat light, you can keep to the trees that surround Villaroger, Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Vallandry and Plan Peisey. And there is more of the same across the valley in lift-linked La Plagne (see below) so you’re never going to run out of new slopes to explore. Families who can’t afford to eat out in mountain restaurants everyday will appreciate the high quality picnic areas in Les Arcs with free toilets, wi-fi, indoor shelters and wonderful views. All the villages have convenient and affordable slope-side accommodation, and all of them are either mostly or entirely car-free. And even the most sceptical teenager will enjoy the adrenaline-rush of the ultra-fast zipline that plunges down the mountain above Arc 2000. Les Arcs is easy to get to, especially by train (there is a TGV station below the resort and connected to it by funicular railway).
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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 foot of the slopes. Getting to Laax from Zurich airport by train or bus takes about two hours, but there are also quicker private transfers which can be surprisingly affordable when the cost is spread across multiple family members.
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La Plagne, Paradiski, France
A vast expanse of intermediate cruising runs connecting 11 different villages makes La Plagne an ideal destination for all types of 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 multi-family groups) or Les Coches (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 several terrain parks and boardercross courses, and some fearsome off-piste that can be explored with a guide to keep more adventurous children entertained. And if that’s not enough, you can buy a Paradiski Pass or day extension, and hop on the Vanoise Express Cable Car to explore Les Arcs, which has a ski area that is almost as big as La Plagne’s.
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La Rosiere, Espace San Bernardo, France
Situated high in the French Alps, La Rosiere promises snow and sunshine, two useful ingredients in a successful family ski holiday. According to the locals the resort was created because ski instructors working across the valley in Les Arcs kept noticing how this spot frequently received fresh snowfalls that missed all the established French resorts, despite facing south and often being bathed in sunshine. And because it was built after the other high-altitude French resorts, La Rosiere’s architects learnt from the mistakes of the past and designed a resort that’s easy on the eye and nice to wander around. Even the large apartment complexes are constructed in an attractive chalet style with plenty of wood and slate, and the apartments inside tend to be genuinely family-sized rather than mere shoeboxes. The ski area, shared with La Thuile in Italy, was expanded in 2018 and is now big enough for most families for a week, but not so large that a family ski pass breaks the bank. And whilst the whole of La Rosiere is child-friendly, special mention should go to the suburb of Les Eucherts which is almost entirely traffic-free with plenty of convenient slope-side accommodation. Older teenagers and trendy parents might grumble that La Rosiere’s nightlife is nothing to boast about, and if the sunshine is too strong the pistes might be a bit icy in the morning and slushy by the late afternoon, but overall this is a great family ski resort.
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And one resort that is not in the Alps, which families should also consider
Baqueira / Beret, Spain
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, because Baqueira is in the Pyrenees although its altitude, the size of its ski area, the variety of its runs and its snow record are all what you would expect of a top Alpine resort. But before you admonish us for including it in this list, ask yourself what foreign language do your children learn at school? If the answer is Spanish, then coming to Baqueira is a great way to improve it and experience Spanish culture whilst enjoying a ski holiday. By local standards, the resort is expensive, but Euro for Euro it tends to be a little cheaper than comparable resorts in the Alps, and that helps family budgets. Spanish ski hours (the slopes tend to be deserted when the lifts first open) can also be a better fit with how teenagers like to spend their holidays. So think creatively about what you really want from an Alpine family holiday, and you might find yourself heading south to the Baqueira instead.
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