Best Family Ski Resorts 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 our choice 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.
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 unliklely to trouble your children, and even aesthetically-inclined parents might find this a price worth paying for a stress-free holiday. Ultimate Ski Guide to Flaine >
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, including some good off-piste for those who hire a guide. The village’s ski schools are very child-friendly. 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. Neither the village nor the mountains are very high, but most of the skiing is North and East facing and there is plenty of articicial snow-making, so unless you go very early or late in the season you should be okay. 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 sunny playground for beginners, although outside of the protected zones you do have to watch out for skiers returning from the slopes above at sometimes dangerously high speeds. And higher up, there’s a good range of blues for confident youngsters to progress to as well as tougher red and black runs, including the famous 16km long Sarenne, plus an unthreatening terrain park near the bottom of the slopes with gentle rollers and jumps. There are plenty of self-catering apartments and some hotels and chalets. Getting to Alpe d’Huez is easy, especially if you can get a flight to Grenoble which is just 105km away. 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, linked by lift to Hochgurgl, and by bus to the much larger Solden ski-area, 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 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. Ultimate Ski Guide to Laax >
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 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 several terrain parks and boardercross courses, and some fearsome off-piste that can be expored 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. Ultimate Ski Guide to La Plagne >
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-altitide 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. Ultimate Ski Guide to La Rosiere >
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, because Baqueira is not actually in the Alps although its altitiude, the size of its ski area, the varienty of its runs and its snow record are all respectable by Alpine standards. But before you admonish us for a basic geographical error, 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 at least consider that the one that’s right for you might actually be located in the Pyrenees. Ultimate Ski Guide to Baqueira Beret >