Europe

Family skiing in the Alps | magical pistes for all ages

Mum of two, Susannah Osborne, gives us the low-down on how best to enjoy a ski trip with the whole family in the magical Alps.

Negotiating your way around a six-foot snowman whilst on skis is no mean feat but it’s one that our five-year old daughter fully embraced on our first family ski holiday in the Alps.

Basking in the spring sunshine she weaved her way around all manner of inflatables, from Christmas trees to Mickey Mouse. Her sister meanwhile, declared snow to be ‘too slidey’ and took a little longer to get into the swing. Such is the way with young children. Four years on though, and thankfully things are different.

A ski trip is a wonderful way to bond as family. Watching the kids’ first solo slide down the slopes is a guaranteed tear-jerker and then, as they grow older, following their fearless descents of blue, then red and even black runs is enough to make any mum or dad proud.

These days most resorts cater for children with nursery slopes and child-friendly ski schools but there are some that simply excel at doing it for the kids.

Hit the jackpot with a family-friendly resort and you’ll find magical pistes winding through forests where cartoon characters hide out, on-the-slope farms for petting goats and ponies and, if you’re lucky, even the Milka cow giving out free chocs as you ski past.

But with children in tow what goes on off the piste is just as important as what happens on it and activities that keep everyone entertained are as vital as a mountain and sufficient snow. So here is my guide to family skiing, including where to stay and how to keep the kids happy!

Pila, Italy | a quiet gem for family skiing

Why go? Small but perfectly formed, Pila is highly rated by families, especially those seeking a quieter alternative to the mega resorts of the Alps. It’s snow-sure, tree-lined slopes are well groomed and offer enough skiing for parents wanting to test their legs. Meanwhile, the nursery slopes – also home to a tubing hill and play area – are close to the village centre. The village’s Bibolo and Evolution miniclubs cater for kids from three years of age offering indoor and outdoor fun.

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Hotel Rifugio Camparient

1/4

For slope-side lodgings try Rifugio Camparient, a traditional family-run hotel with spacious room and impeccable service. Little ones are welcomed with open arms, the skiing is just a step away and the nursery slopes are in full view of the hotel’s balcony – an ideal spot for watching the kids make their first turns whilst you kick back with a beer.

What to do with families in Pila

Family fun nearby

Funpark Chacard behind the Aosta-Pila gondola station is must for anyone seeking snowy fun. With sledging and tubing tracks, inflatables and a playground for the youngest visitors, it’s a great place to spend an adrenaline-fuelled hour or two.

Rifugio Camparient

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (57 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.9 / 10
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Mayrhofen, Austria | family resort close to Innsbruck

Why go? Mayrhofen, in the beautiful Ziller Valley, is a charming resort that spreads over two mountains – Ahorn and Penken. A one-hour drive from Innsbruck, it’s an ideal destination for families, thanks to the short transfer time and the vast range of activities on offer. Kinderland Horberg, next to the Horbergbahn cable car, is a nursery area featuring a 69m-long magic carpet and a 180m-long T-bar lift and the beginners’ Fun Ride Ahorn is gentle introduction to skier cross (skiing on a race track). For a dose of nocturnal fun try night skiing from the Floten lift.

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Sporthotel Manni

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A five-minute walk from the main ski lifts, the Sporthotel Manni occupies a prime location in the village centre. Kids will love diving into the steaming, rooftop pool, or for a soothing soak try warmth of the indoor pool which has a 360-view of the Zillertal mountains. You can organise ski hire and ski lesson without even leaving the hotel and after a day on the slopes ravenous little skiers can get their fill at the hotel’s cosy pizzeria.

What to do with families in Mayrhofen

Family fun in Mayrhofen

From horse-drawn sleigh rides to ice skating and torch-lit walks, there’s an endless supply of things to do beyond the slopes. At the Erlebnisbad Mayrhofen Leisure Pool children can splash and swim in the 31C waters, and then slide down the 65m Crazy River on an inflatable ring. Testament to the resort’s family-friendly USP is that the tourist office supplies buggies, so you don’t have to bring your own.

Hotel Manni

Mayrhofen, 0.4 km to Bahnhof Mayrhofen im Zillertal
8.4 Very good (235 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.1 / 10
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Crans Montana, Switzerland | a proven family ski destination for guarenteed fun

Why go? Crans Montana in the Swiss Valais region is a certified ‘family destination’ – a label that guarantees playgrounds, kids entertainment and child-friendly accommodation. At the Jardin des Neiges, youngsters can take their first steps in the snow and BIBIClub and SNOWLIClub offer lessons for three-to-six-year-olds and include a break for biscuits. Older children can work on their technique in the KIDSclub where there’s a limit of six children per instructor.

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Hotel Histellerie du Pas de l'Ours

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This gorgeous bolthole, Hotel Histellerie du Pas de l’Ours, fuses traditional and modern décor to create a stunning mountain retreat. The family suite is decadent and spacious and features a mezzanine bedroom in the rafters – an exciting place for kids to sleep. At the spa everyone – big and small – is treated like royalty; in the children’s area ‘rebel Princesses’ can have a purifying facial and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory treatment involves a chocolate facial, a hot tub and sweet treats!

What to do with families in Crans-Montana

Family fun in Crans-Montana

At Bibi’s house, the resorts’ marmot mascot, welcomes children of all ages into his house on the slopes where there’s entertainment and games and at the snow island on the golf course there’s snow tubing, sledding, and a magic carpet to transport novice skiers and sledgers back to the top. For indoor fun, adventurous kids can scale the 13.5-high climbing wall at the Moubra tennis centre.

Hostellerie du Pas de l'Ours

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (114 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.9 / 10
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Les Gets, France | family skiing close to Geneva

Why go? This pretty, sunny, French resort has chocolate box appeal. Just an hour’s transfer from Geneva – a plus point if you’re travelling with young children – it offers easy access to local slopes and to the large Portes du Soleil ski area. Little skiers will love the Les Indiens, a run flanked by totem poles and wood carvings and on La piste mauve you’ll find the Milka cow handing out chocolate treats. The Grand Cry territory is a native American village, with teepees, face painting and a small children’s farm.

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Chalet Hotel La Marmotte

This cute, chocolate box chalet hotel in the heart of the village looks directly onto the slopes. Mixing traditional and contemporary décor, Chalet Hotel La Marmotte is a cosy place to hole up after a day on the snow. There’s a pool for splashing around in and a kids’ club in school holidays which runs games and craft sessions. Children can dine with their friends at their own special dinner time, when parents have permission to slope off to the bar!

Les Gets family friendly activies

What can you do close by?

Try your hand at ice skating in the town centre, or one of the five secure sledging slopes for children. The village has a little train that links the slopes and the shops and there’s no shortage or places to hole up for hot chocolate. For a change of scene, take the bus to Morzine and swap skiing for splashing at the pool.

La Marmotte - Hôtels-Chalets de Tradition

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (244 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.1 / 10
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Obergurgl, Tirol | Austrian family resort that promises snow

Why go? Obergurgl – the highest parish in Austria – is one of the most snow-sure resorts in Austria, thanks to the glacier that forms part of the resort. This quiet, quaint ski village has gentle slopes and chocolate box appeal and welcomes children with open arms. Snow lovers from three to 13 are catered for at Penguin Bobo’s Kinderclub where you’ll find Bobo himself leading merry bands of little skiers down the slopes. With 112-km of pistes there’s something for everyone here, including beginners who can build confidence on the wide, open lower slopes.

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Hotel Alpina Deluxe

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Hotel Alpina is a four-star family hotel where guests of all ages are made to feel at home. The hotel can organise ski lessons and equipment and winter there’s free child care and an upbeat entertainment programme for the three and overs – think gymnastics, arts and crafts snowball fights and sledging. New this season is a 350m2 indoor play area featuring everything from soft play to an indoor bouldering wall.

Family fun in Obergurgl

What to do with families close by

The ice rink at Hotel Enzian is great for evening entertainment or for daredevils should try the three-km long toboggan run with its 25 thrilling turns. For something completely different, hear to the Alpine Research Centre, which gives a fascinating insight into high Alpine flora and fauna.

Alpina deluxe

Top rated
Obergurgl - Hochgurgl, 0.9 km to Top Quality Skiing
8.9 Excellent (165 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Les Arcs, France | the perfect resort for families of all ages

Why go? Les Arcs is made up of five villages that form part of the Paradiski ski area, a winter wonderland with 600km of linked pistes. Families are given a warm welcome in each of the villages – Peisey-Vallandry, Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950 and Arc 2000. The ski school at Arc 1800 is rated highly by families and the nursery area is in the sunniest setting at the foot of the slopes. Older skiers and daring kids will love ducking in and out of the forest on the blue runs around Vallandry.

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Village Club du Soleil d'Arc 1800

In the heart of the village this ski-in-ski-out hotel has a premium slopes-side location. There are five kids’ clubs including a creche for the youngest guests and a Club Jeunes for the over 11s. Activities on offer include snow games, snowshoe hikes, shows and ski lessons. What’s more there’s a pool and even a private sledging run in the grounds.

Les Arcs for families

What can you do close by?

Try your hand at ski joering at Arc 1950 – skiing whilst being pulled by a horse or go ski over to the Mille8 pool in Arc 1800, where you can swim inside and out, whizz down the slides or float in the lazy river (under sixes go free). The mini snowmobile course at Arc 2000 is mountains of fun. And a visit to the reindeers at Plan Peisey is a must!

Village Club du Soleil d'Arc 1800

7.5 Good (41 reviews)
Very good Cleanliness 8.2 / 10
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Author

Susannah Osborne

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