10 Top European Resorts for a Family Ski Holiday
Thinking of taking the family away skiing this year? Winter sports experts, Neilson Holidays, have compiled the top 10 most popular European ski destinations for families. Here, Neilson's Paul Deadman looks at why these resorts are proving to be so popular with parents...
1. Les Deux Alpes, France
This is one of our favourite family resorts as it has so much to offer. The slopes are very family friendly as there are lots of gentle practice slopes surrounding the town, but beginners can head right up to the 3600m glacier without being thrown in at the deep end. You’ll find lots of confidence-building slopes along with some spectacular views. The resort comes alive after the slopes shut with outdoor ice skating and an outdoor pool. There is a nice choice of bars and restaurants which welcome kids where parents can enjoy some fun après. If the weather turns, you can always grab the popcorn and head to the cinema to watch the latest releases.
2. El Tarter, Andorra
El Tarter has become an incredibly popular ski holiday destination for families. It’s a great pick as there’s a massive kiddie’s snowpark with rolling jumps, fun gates to go through and even a giant mouse on skis to chase! Overall it’s a more laid-back resort with a few bars and restaurants; the Neilson Hotel Del Clos is the main pull for families. It has a kids’ clubs for four months to twelve year olds, two large playrooms, a games room with pool table, board games, TV and a DVD player.
3. Zakopane, Poland
You may not have heard of Zakopane – it’s not exactly on the world stage! – but if you’re a family looking for somewhere new or to try skiing for the first time, this could well be it. One bonus of it being not so well-known is that it will be quiet. You won’t have to queue for ages to the sounds of ‘I’m bored’ or ‘my feet are cold’. You’ll be up on the mountain in no time. Particularly as the friendly English-speaking instructors will have the kids up into a snowplough turn in no time. The other advantage of being off the beaten piste is that it won’t cost the earth to take the family skiing. Flights to Krakow and hotels are very reasonably priced, as are the extras you’ll need like lift passes and kit hire.
4. Val Thorens, France
The first ski lifts in Val Thorens didn’t open until 1971, so compared to some resorts, it’s a mere toddler. Although 70s architecture can be visually awkward at times, it was definitely functional, making VT a very well laid out resort. You’re able to ski to and from virtually every property which really cuts down on carrying the kids’ equipment! It’s evolved over the years to become a truly great resort and has won the coveted title of World’s Best Ski Resort three times in the last four years. The snow record is superb thanks to its 2,300m altitude and glacier, the range of accommodation is excellent with everything from five-star hotels to great value apartments, and the selection of other activities is impressive too with plenty of non-skiing activities for families like tobogganing, swimming and snow shoeing.
5. Val d’Isère, France
On the other end of the scale, Val d’Isère as a town has been around for nearly 400 years. It has an eternal Christmas feel as the streets are lined with fir trees adorned with fairy lights. When you’re not enjoying the 300km of hugely varied slopes, you’ll find Val d’Isère offers plenty for families. The Centre Aquasportif with a huge indoor pool, adventure pool, lazy river, water jets and more. The centre also has a massive indoor climbing wall to burn off any excess energy. Or for some kid-free time, take to the wellness area for and relax in the hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, or have a muscle rejuvenating massage. There are also winter holiday classics like ice skating and husky dogs sledging available so families are never short of something to do.
6. Mayrhofen, Austria
The Austrians are very family friendly and so are their resorts. We have about 20% of our bookings to Mayrhofen come from families and it’s no wonder. They offer great childcare in the fantastically named ‘Wuppy’s Wonderland ‘. They take kids from three months right up to seven years old and pack their days full of indoor and outdoor play. While the kids are being well looked after, you can head to one of the many spas for a bit of relaxation, or just hit the slopes and build up to take on the steepest black run in Austria, the 78-degree Harakiri! Or for an afternoon with a difference, take a guided tour of the frozen world beneath the snow to discover incredible ice stalactites, giant ice crystals, frozen waterfalls and even a glacial lake.
7. Chamonix, France
Chamonix may not be famous for its family friendliness, given it’s so jam-packed with adrenaline and extreme activities, but it does have a softer side. Taking an afternoon off the slopes to head out into the wilds of Chamonix with snow shoes is definitely worth it. You’ll get to see a side of this wonderfully picturesque valley you wouldn’t normally see, and the kids love being able to run through the deep snow. Or take a tour by more traditional means and see the resort in a horse-drawn sleigh. Meet Dr Zhivago (not the real one!) in the centre of Chamonix and jump on board.
8. Arinsal, Andorra
One of the main reasons we get so many families travelling with us to Arinsal is that all kids under 16 get a free lift pass with each adult that books a pass. (More money for après!). That’s not all though; most hotels in Arinsal cater nicely for families thanks to larger or interconnecting rooms, special menus for little ones and some great facilities too. There’s also on-mountain childcare right at the base of the 63km ski area so it's easy to pop in and see that the kids are having just as much fun as you, if not more!
9. Tignes, France
Tignes has plenty to offer families on the slopes. There’s a dedicated children’s beginner area on the slopes of Tignes Val Claret with easy-to-use lifts for little ones. Once confidence starts to build, take to the many blue runs around the 300km ski area (nearly 50% are blues). Off the slopes, families with older kids (14+) can spend an evening dining in a yurt in the forest, relaxing with a drink by the fire and then heading back down the mountain on a torch-lit sledge ride. The two main villages of Tignes sit beside an enormous lake (hence one village is called Tignes Le Lac) so as soon as the temperature drops, the lake freezes and you can take to your skates to perform your best Torvill and Dean or Elsa and Anna impressions.
10. Morzine, France
Being a very well-established resort gives you plenty of options when you’re not discovering new pistes in the huge ski area. Once the slopes have closed, hit the snow with a new kind of sledge called Yooner. It’s essentially a short ski with a seat and stick to control where you go. It’s comfortable, light, very easy to use and massive family fun! If it’s a bad weather day, head over to neighbouring Les Gets for some indoor 10-pin bowling. Enjoy some friendly competition to see who really is the family king pin! Or take the kids to an ice hockey match. It’s not something we get to do too much in the UK, but it’s a great evening out. Grab a hot dog and watch the action get heated and the drama unfold on the ice.
To find out more about Europe's best family ski resorts, head to Neilson.co.uk