In December, besides the whole Christmas atmosphere, the snow is fresh and fluffy, and opportunities for fun are better than ever up on the slopes.
The key lies in finding a destination that will meet your unique blend of dreams and budget!
The following resorts are great for family-orientated skiing holidays with guaranteed skiing conditions even in early December – mainly due to their high-level altitude – and famed for their infrastructure, amenities and piste variety.
La Plagne, up in the Tarentaise Valley is part of the renowned Paradiski’s ski area, attracts more than 2 million visitors each winter. Consisting of 11 alpine mini-resorts of varying character and different altitude, the whole resort lies between 3,250 and 1,250 metres, with the Montchavin being the starting point.
The area stands as the norm of a French Alps resort: great views of the Tarentaise Valley and its picturesque villages, gentle slopes – ideal for less experienced skiers and children-, excellent snow coverage and decent transportation, even in heavy winter have given La Plagne a seat among the most popular ski resorts in Europe.
As mentioned, La Plagne is an intermediate’s haven. This does not mean that experienced skiers are condemned to boredom, as they can explore vast areas of off-piste that will challenge their skills, including two black pistes with a vertical drop of 800 metres.
Lift network, after some recent upgrading works, is better than ever, but overcrowding during high-season does make things slower, especially on the beginners’ and intermediate pistes.
Most slopes in the central bowl rise above the bulk of the tree line. Outside the bowl, slopes open up at the top but end down into woodland – which is great if the elements are harsher than usual.
Note also that the classification of the runs is a bit… underrated. Some of them are surely more challenging than expected by their rating, so be careful out there and ask more experienced skiers or locals before picking storming a run.
La Plagne has nice play areas for all ages, including a relatively new family fun run, water-slides, big airbags, toboggan runs and a Chrono speed timed run. There are a large number of ski schools and guides available, and a good number of them are remarkably experienced in a wide range of disabilities.
Checkout specialist operators such as Ski Famille for their Christmas ski holiday deals.
True, La Plagne itself is not French Alps most beautiful spot, but it offers numerous amenities and excellent bus service taking you to all surrounding resorts, which means you can opt for recreation joints in other villages too.
Accommodation though is pretty decent within La Plagne, where you may expect the typical selection of well-serviced apartments, hotels and chalets.
Being so fragmented, La Plagne is short on nightlife options and après experiences. Food in the area is exceptional, especially if you are keen on French kitchen and Alpine specialities.
If you are a devoted vegetarian, things will be kind of tricky. You will have options of course, but still, the best dishes have meat as their main ingredient. If you are a vegan, you are heading to a storm! Their fondue is by far their best delicacy, always accompanied with local wine.
The resort lies right at the heart of the Portes du Soleil, only an hour and a half from Geneva airport, offering easy access to high-altitude skiing areas. Set in the commune of Morzine with unforgettable views of the Dents du Midi, Dents Blanches and surrounding mountains, the resort is quite easy to get around by skiing, on foot or by horse-drawn sledge.
If you do plan to do so, pick the time of the dusk, at least for some part of the route – the place gets even more picturesque by night with all the twinkling lights around it.
There is 650-700 km of pistes in Morzine and Les Gets stretching right into Switzerland, guaranteeing excellent snow coverage from the first days of December, with an average of about 8m of snowfall per season. Note that there are several beautiful runs drawn between the trees and pistes, suitable for all levels.
Best of all, Avoriaz was voted the best family orientated resort in 2013 at the London snow awards – and for many good reasons, of whom ski and snowboard learning schools and sessions usually come first. In fact, snowboarding can be learned from as early as three years old. There are two snow parks to learn tricks and have fun and ski passes are free for the under 5’s.
Some schools not only teach children to ski but also offer an array of fascinating activities for those who don’t wish to ski all day, including painting and other artistic pursuits. For parents with toddlers, there is a nursery where they can nap when needed.
Note that ski passes for up to 16 years old can be combined with the family pass – contrary to many other resorts that limit this privilege for kids of up to 12 years old.
Accommodation will hardly be an issue, even in late December. There is a wide range of apartments located right on the slopes, making it possible to ski in and out of them! Traditional wooden chalets are also in abundance. If you prefer, depending on your budget, you may pick one of the family orientated hotels.
Food in France seldom falls short to a gastronomical delight – and Avoriaz is no exception to the rule. Do remember to sample the traditional Savoyard cuisine, famed for its delicacies with mountain goat cheese, potatoes, pasta and sausages. If the children disdain gourmet dishes and prefer the usual fast-food junk, you will find a variety of takeaway pizzas and a Tex Mex available.
One of the highest resorts in the Alps, nestled in the Valle d’Aosta, Cervinia is quaint little village situated at 2050m, dominating a ski area that rises to 3480m. You can even marvel the Matterhorn, and the views are as stupendous as would be expected.
Note that the nearest airport is Verona which is 1 hour and 45 minutes away, so transportation will hardly be an issue.
At such high-altitude reliable snow is a sure thing from early December. Cervinia has the advantage of being much cheaper than any other resort in neighbouring Switzerland and allows you to ski right into the prestigious slopes of Zermatt.
Skiing here is most suited to beginners and intermediates, with excellent nursery slopes for the kids. Still, advanced skiers can find some rather challenging runs down to Valtourneche.
Locals adore children and are known as very charming and friendly people. There are several ski schools for kids and grown-ups, whose instructors are reputed as kind, helpful and patient.
Being situated at such high-altitude, the resort has a great natural ice rink, ideal for families to try out their skating skills. There is even a bowling alley to while away an evening.
You will find a variety of family hotels to choose from and they are, in fact, a far better idea than self-catering: staying at a hotel means Mum and Dad can have a nice break too, especially after coming home exhausted off the slopes, faced with the prospect of cooking dinner and sorting out chores. Most of them have an indoor pool – which is always fantastic news for those aching muscles.
Although self-catering is cheaper than staying in a hotel, the supermarkets are expensive in Italy, and you will have to buy all sorts of non-edible necessities, even if you are only there for a short time. So, it is worth taking these pros and cons into consideration.
Eating out is far cheaper than in next-door Switzerland and in no way disappointing. There are restaurants to suit all budgets. Daily pasta, delicious cheese fondue or pizzas as well as traditional Italian cuisine will cate for your palates yet unfulfilled dreams. For the wine connoisseurs, there are some amazing varieties to enjoy with your evening meal.
A traditional village in the Oztal Alps in the municipality of Solden, Obergurgl settles at the end of the valley at an altitude of almost 2000m. Stretching very close to the Italian border, the resort is around 90 minutes from the Innsbruck airport. The village breathes a laid-back, friendly atmosphere and is well-known as serene and car-free, and rather safe for children of all ages.
Obergurgl is linked to Hochgurgl, which is the highest ski resort in Austria. The two are connected by a 3.6 km gondola ride that takes no more than 10 minutes. So, although Obergurgl is more suited to beginners and intermediates, advanced skiers will find such challenges as the 8 km black run of Wurmkogl.
The area has gained a reputation as the most snow-sure resort in Europe with crowd-free pistes, powder runs and no queuing especially in December. Lifts set off right from the village.
Obergurgl is particularly popular with British families who return year after year. There is a new children’s area for beginners, and the youngsters can run around freely without fear in this traffic-free quiet village. Children up to 8 years old get free ski passes.
Obergurgl is scarcely an expensive resort – at least for those who do not wish to be so! There is a good selection of chalets, apartments and hotels in this quiet area, designed mostly for families with children and couples.
It should be noted that all the restaurants in this resort are integrated into hotels. Still, there is an array of food on hand options, from pizzas, cheese fondue or goulash and schnitzel (for a more traditional Tyrolean fare).
Breathe in crystal clear mountain air on this sunny plateau between 1845-2869m above sea-level, high above the Rhone valley. The whole area, including the Great Aletsch Glacier and forest, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its river of ice and 4000m peaks of Valais.
It is a stunning location and not that well-known outside of Switzerland. It is 3 hours from Zurich airport, about 2½ hours from Milan Malpensa or just 45 minutes from the Sion airport.
The Aletsch Arena includes Riederap, Bettermeralp and Fiesch-Eggishorn, all linked by 104 km of exceptionally well-groomed pistes. At such a high-altitude, snow is a sure thing.
What we love most about it is that you can just step out of your accommodation and glide straight onto the slopes. The ski areas are spread out all around the glacier featuring a diversity that leaves no one disappointed. The longest is a marathon 4.6 km. Skiers can enjoy all the pistes with just one ski pass that is also valid on all cableways and lifts.
A tunnel takes advanced skiers to the jagged Bettmehorn as well as other steep mountains, which appeal mostly to snowboarders and the more daring skiers. One of the most popular runs is a breath-taking 12 km long run from the Eggishorn, lined with a mesmerising scenery from top to bottom.
Children will enjoy arriving at their destination by tram and being taken by snowmobile to their hotel or chalet. Riederalp has been named as the best ski school for children in the Alps.
There is also an amazing beginner’s area with kid’s races and a playground, a children’s club, terrain parks and plenty of other fun activities, like ice skating.
Accommodation in Aletsch Arena caters for every taste, with service and amenities renowned as “family friendly” both in hotels or guest houses and apartments.
Plenty of Valais culinary delights await you as well as delicious, heart-warming soups or seasonal salads. Savour as many different Swiss specialities as possible and top it all off with home-made apple strudel.
Should you want to try something uniquely different, just head off to the Kittiala airport in Finland, which is only 15 minutes away from the best ski resort in the country – a truly magical wonderland, engulfed by the genuine north pole ambience and steeped with the celebrated Northern Lights.
Levi is located 170 km from the Arctic Circle, and you will definitely find snow here as early as November. The village is lively and family friendly and a popular resort for locals.
Ah, don’t forget extra thermal underwear! The temperature here often drops as low as -17C!
The pistes at Levi are loved by experts and beginners alike. While a relatively small resort, it encompasses several great runs and offers a whole new experience for skiers and snowboarders – including a 6-seater bubble chair lifts boast with heated seats!
Levi has two snow parks with an array of outdoor activities aside from skiing and snowboarding, such as husky tours, reindeer rides or even ice-fishing! There is a handful of places you can see couple skiing with such variety of fun!
There are hotels, cottages, self-catering cabins, even an ice hotel which is created from about 20 million kilos of snow and a further 350,000 kilos of ice!
There is a restaurant, a bar and a chapel carved out of ice, themed each year on a different subject. This year’s style features the “Game of Thrones” series, with a life-sized iron throne with swords, a Hall of Faces and a white walker. Surely not for everyone, but hard to ignore.
There is a vast variety, from fast food to five-star menus, but the best gig is a unique reindeer feast, offering all sorts of delicacies (sausages, roasts, sautéed meat with a side salad of wild mushrooms) and is often described as a genuinely unforgettable experience.
The Sami people used to build overnight shelters of birch and peat called kammis, and the Kammi Restaurant has all the flavours of this age-old tradition with open fires and candle-light.