Family Ski Holidays
Everything You Need To Know!
Anything fun and joyful in life can get even better with your loved ones by your side. Skiing is no different.
Enjoying the slopes as a family is a great way to spend quality time together. The thing is to choose the right resort to match what you and your family need – not necessarily the one with the glossiest pictures or the most advertising.
From figuring out what your family wants, to deciding what to pack, which resort best suits you, and where to stay when you get there, a little help can go a long way.
Easier Than Ever Before
Most families need, above all, variety and flexibility. Where once many resorts and travel professionals catered to wealthy singles and couples, or expert skiers who wanted more difficulty, speed, and risk to their runs, most now realise the long-term benefits of catering to families as well – and that means more runs for beginners and intermediates. Diverse terrain surrounding resorts is being used to best advantage, ideal for family members of varying skiing skill levels and experience.
Resorts and providers alike have developed ways to keep the whole family happy and entertained throughout their holiday, making careful consideration of the age and interests of each member. That applies to families with more modest budgets too.
The key lies in carefully considering each member of your family, and then picking the resort that can best meet everyone’s needs. Doing it the other way around can lead to grave disappointment and ruin a holiday, and that means money, time an opportunity wasted.
Some resorts have better facilities for families with infants and toddlers. Others specialise in families with small children who want to learn to ski together. If your children are a little older, there are yet other resorts that would be top of the list. Many of these offer perks and discounts to make your trip even better value.
In order to find the one that’s best for you and your family, begin by getting a clear idea of what it is you’re looking for. Each family is a little different.
Considering Your Family’s Needs
The age and age range of your family members can have a big impact on the type of resort you need to best enjoy yourself.
Infants and Toddlers
Infants and toddlers need constant supervision, so in order to spend a little time together as a couple, either on the slopes or relaxing afterward, you’ll need quality babysitting services.
Some resorts have standard day-care-type facilities, others have kids’ clubs and play rooms, and others get your toddlers out on the slopes with skilled instructors who specialise in teaching little ones.
Hiring a nanny to come along is another option of course, but this brings with it the added cost of travel, food and lodging for another adult.
Getting a better deal at a lower-cost resort still might make this feasible though, even on a tighter budget. In any case, it is another option to consider, and at this point in our planning it’s all about listing the options.
Primary School Children
Older children love playing with the snow, sledging, as well as learning how to ski. If your little ones can stand up on skis, you’ll want a resort with certified ski schools that specialise in children of this age.
Check also for parks, shows or similar events that will add variety and fun to the trip – younger children may not be able to ski as much as older ones and adults can, so keeping them busy and entertained in other ways may be important.
It’s also an advantage to get accommodation adjacent to the training piste; your kids won’t burn all of their energy getting to and from the run, and it’s convenient for snacks, toilet breaks, and even naps.
Teenagers and young adults will want different options for entertainment. Some may want to go ice-skating, tobogganing, or snowshoeing.
Some may want to forego the skis for this trip and try snowboarding. Some will want a cinema or other evening activity too, while others will only leave the slope when the lifts slow to a halt for the night – all they’ll need is a lift ticket and enough food to keep them fuelled up.
Consider which type of teen you have, and choose a resort that suits those needs. A word of caution though, a normally-active teen who has never skied before may love it – or may not.
Even if your Plan A is that they spend every waking hour on the slopes, you should still have some Plan B activities available in case they don’t take to it, need some extra rest, or the weather makes all-day ski sessions impractical. Things like swimming, shopping, sightseeing, cinemas and concerts are excellent backups.
For the adults in the family, there are the slopes themselves and then there are the activities surrounding them. Restaurants, bars, shows, spas, shopping, and simply kicking back in a comfortable room looking at the stunning mountain scenery – each of these may be on your list of wants.
Your family will have more fun if you, too, are enjoying yourself, so don’t forget to consider your own needs as well as theirs.
A family escape may also include grandpa and grandma. If this is the case, make sure that the resort has terrain that suits their skiing style and physical ability. While the swift availability of health care services is important for the whole family, it may be doubly so for older people, so take that into consideration too.
They may be more into watching the little ones than skiing, and that’s another situation for which a chalet next to the training piste is a great value.
Skiing Style and Ability
Skiing style and ability is an issue to consider regardless of the makeup of your family.
If your family ranges widely in age or ability, you’ll need a resort with a wide range of runs too. The majority of runs should be suitable for the majority of your family and there should be room to grow and try more advanced challenges as the holiday moves on.
If you’re all the same level, there are nonetheless still some considerations to be made.
If you’re all beginners, there will need to be a good selection of beginner runs, but keep in mind that we all learn at different rates, so some family members may be ready for the challenges of intermediate or even advanced runs before your holiday is over, so there should be options at hand.
For a family of beginners, half or more of the resort’s offering should be beginner (green) runs.
Likewise, an intermediate or expert family will want to ski a variety of difficulty levels (mostly blue or black runs), practicing skills or enjoying the run on whatever slope best suits them.
Few families are made up entirely of expert skiers, but if you’re lucky enough to be one of them, you’ll have a great deal of variety to choose from, because you can ski anywhere.
Not All Runs Are Equal
Keep in mind that there is more to a run that its colour grading. Green runs are considered good for beginners, but they vary. Some are wide and straight, others more narrow and might have bends and side slopes. Likewise, for blue (intermediate) runs.
The colour designations are approximate, and don’t tell you everything there is to know. Make sure, especially if your family is more to the beginner end of the scale, that the resort you choose has a lot to offer that suits your family’s needs. Most have maps of the runs that give a good idea of what you’d be dealing with.
You will have more fun piloting your kids down a wide, fluffy run than you will trying to guide them through narrow lanes of green terrain.
Skiing is fun, but it’s also a lot of physical exertion, so you’ll want to make sure you have a comfortable place for everyone to rest, recuperate, and unwind between sessions and through the night.
There are several factors that can make the room a hit or a flop – make sure you take each type into consideration.
Types of Accommodation Available
When we mention accommodation, or lodging, we are really lumping together several options. Each one has its benefits and costs, but there will be one that’s right for you and your family. The three main choices are chalets, hotels, and self-catered apartments.
Chalets usually include a large, comfortable lounge area with a fireplace. This sets the mood for hot chocolate and children’s tales of the day, or for a romantic drink by the fire when the little ones are all tucked in. Most chalets are run by hosts, who do the cooking and keep the place clean for you while you hit the slopes. The whole idea is to make you feel as cosy and relaxed as possible.
Loaded with positives, the main drawback of the chalet experience is the cost; it tends to run considerably higher than the other types of accommodations, because it has so much luxury on offer.
Hotels provide the most common type of room, and come in at a lower price (in most cases) than a chalet. Hotel rooms can offer most of what you really need, but lack a private lounge area for the whole family. If your family is small enough, there may be room to sit around together and have fun in the room, but more likely you’ll need to do this in a common lounge area, which is obviously less private, and possibly less kid-friendly.
Whatever you do, don’t go by the sample picture in a brochure; these are often of the newest and best rooms, and not necessarily the one you’ll have. Make sure you know what you’re paying for. Your travel specialist can help with that too.
A nice compromise between those two options is the self-catered apartment. These come in a wide variety of sizes and luxury levels – which means a wide range of prices too – and can include as much or as little space as you want. Unlike the chalet experience, in a self-catering unit you will be responsible for your own cooking and general cleaning up.
This suits many families well anyway, as it allows them to control what the family is eating – especially important if there are allergies or special diets in the family.
Proximity to the Slopes
We’ve mentioned this before, because it is a big one that many people miss their first time out as a family. It’s not easy to hustle a line of kids over slippery terrain in ski boots, hauling skis and poles and whatever else along with them. Add to this the traffic of other skiers, the exertion and irritation that it costs your kids, your nerves, and the overall mood of the group, and you’ll start to see the danger.
Compare that image to one of stepping out of your door, popping into the skis, and drifting a few metres to the base of the lift. You’ll have more noise there while the lifts are running, but it’s a small price to pay for the convenience and saved headaches.
Proximity to Facilities
Along the same lines, consider where your lodgings will be in comparison to other important facilities, like babysitting, restaurants, games rooms, a lounge area – the list goes on.
You won’t likely have everything right on your doorstep, but place yourself close to the important ones, the ones you’ll use over and over again, and you can tolerate a bit of a walk to those you’ll only need once or twice.
Resorts with Options
Family-friendly resorts offer several accommodation options in each category, as close to the base of the resort as possible. Once you know what it is you ideally want, and you have a budget in mind, you can zero in on the best combination of price and amenities for your family.
Family-friendly resorts are pretty easy to spot – if you know what to look for. Keep your eye out for facilities with relatively small, compact centres that combine short transfers, runs and skiable terrain suitable for all members of the family.
They should have a choice of childcare services, family après ski activities, special family packages and discounts (especially for lift passes and equipment for kids), as well as free access to nursery slopes.
Some resorts are world-famous for catering to the needs of families of all types. Here are just a few of the many excellent choices available.
Avoriaz, in the French Alps, has a well-earned reputation as a family-friendly ski destination. It is compact and car-free, with easily-skiable snowy paths with pistes between them.
It’s known for its well-organised ski schools, safety and overall excellent skiing conditions, especially for beginners. Avoriaz offers parents excellent childcare services and an abundance of child-friendly facilities, including the Aquariaz water park with its indoor and outdoor pools.
La Plagne (France)
La Plagne’s diversity, particularly in terms of accommodation, outdoor activities and skiing terrain, is what makes it an excellent family-friendly destination.
Its comfortable atmosphere envelopes little clusters of houses and chalets, scattered in quaint hamlets. La Plagne’s operators have made sure to provide fun activities for children and grownups of all ages.
In the Austrian Alps and the state of Tyrol, Mayrhofen is another excellent option. Its beginner-friendly pistes are designed to provide new skiers with a truly enjoyable experience.
The kids can burn off their endless energy on the aptly-named Funslope while you take a break in the famous White Lounge Igloo, where you can sit back on a deckchair and enjoy your chocolate while marvelling at the view.
There is skiing for everyone though, and you might want to try the Penken Mountain – its intermediate slopes and freestyle features will challenge skiers and entertain viewers.
Again in the French Alps, Meribel is home to the Altiport, which is considered by many to have the best beginner slopes in the Alps. You will also find The Animal Trail Piste, which is ideal for families who love animals and outdoor education.
Kids and grown-ups will learn about the local fauna, including ways to discover and identify tracks out in the snow!
Also popular are the Inuit Piste, an Arctic-themed play area spread out over several pistes, and the Moon Park, equipped with jumps and rollers and designed for adventurous kids who love ski and snowboard jumps.
Once you have a short list of resorts that seem to offer what you’re looking for, take a moment to consider how easy it will be to get there and to move around the resort area.
Resorts that are close to airports, train stations, or major bus routes will make the trip easier (and less expensive). Once there, it will be a load off your mind to focus on enjoyment, rather than shuttling people around, fussing with schedules, or trying to find parking for your hire car. When it comes to family time, your best bet is a compact, easily-navigable area.
Look for ski-in, ski-out lodging, and you won’t be caught waiting at the bottom of the mountain for stragglers to show up. Simply head into your cosy rooms, put the kettle on, and wait in warm comfort.
Make sure each family member knows the room or chalet number too, in case anyone gets separated. Designating a regular meeting place and time is also a common practice for families.
Getting the Best Deals
Once you know where you want to go, and what you want once you get there, make sure you get the best deal possible. Your travel specialist can help you find the best value available – even after any fees are added to the total – and you’ll walk away with a professionally-curated trip for less that you would pay for a self-organised one… and it will probably be much more of what you were looking for.
Either way, watch for family discounts, free lift passes, transportation, evening meals or other amenities that are attractive to you.
Explore outdoor and indoor activities that will supplement your skiing experience: ice skating, leisure centres, climbing walls or aquariums. Ignore flashy deals that you and your family are not likely to use.
Are you using hire equipment? Some deals include it. If you need ski lessons, look for packages that include those too.
Sometimes, striking a good deal with ski schools for the whole family can get tricky. The secret again lies in picking out the right resort, right from the start. Make sure the ski school employs skilled, certified tutors who speak the same language you do.
Any time you can get attractive services added to a package deal, you are likely to save money – so don’t forget to ask.
Last, but not least, is the insurance. You may never need it – we hope you don’t – but it’s a small price to pay for taking care of your family. The right care, quickly and without the need for any further monetary arrangements, can sometimes avoid a lot of trauma.
Packing for Fun and Comfort
Make sure all family members have the right kind of clothing for your skiing advenure. This is another easily-overlooked area, but a cold or wet skier is not a happy skier. Make sure everyone has what they need to be warm and dry, and protected from the sun and wind. Avoid cotton clothing, opting instead for woollens or technical fabrics, like fleeces.
Consider this short checklist to get yourself started:
- Outdoor boots, preferably with a grip sole – avoid wellies
- Warm, waterproof outerwear (coat, trousers)
- Mittens or gloves (mittens tend to be warmer)
- Thermal clothing (socks, pants, underwear, )
- Ski socks (they are different from conventional ones)
- Sunblock (with a high SPF)
- Scarves and hats, preferably made from fleece
- Sunglasses (pretty dark and polarised are good choices)
- Plug adapters for your phones or mobile devices
Depending on your booking arrangements or holiday package, operators may offer some extra services or amenities to make sure your stay proves as smooth as possible, providing baby equipment or other necessities for your children’s care, thus alleviating the cost and hassle of having to carry them with you.
Parents with small children should also bring a backpack, not just for snacks and personal items, but also for having with you a lightweight pair of shoes for the little ones. Ski boots are not the most comfortable footwear, and skiers often need a soft, flexible option at the end of the day.
Little ones will benefit from switching into shoes during breaks and meal times, to give their little feet and ankles a break!
Skis, Boots, Poles, Helmets… Boards?
As for your actual skis and related equipment, if you have skied before, you might know what to get. If you haven’t, the best thing to do is rent your gear, since the hassle and cost of purchasing a new set, even of moderate quality, for the whole family can be overwhelming.
Ski hire companies can also bear some liability for any faulty gear, so they keep their equipment in good working order, and check it regularly. Travelling with your family’s ski equipment can also be a significant burden.
Hiring your equipment can bring a multitude of advantages.
Don’t forget that you won’t be spending twenty-four hours a day on the slopes, and that certain family members need ‘down time’ to recuperate and fuel up emotionally for the next session of fun. Don’t let anyone withdraw completely into the usual digital world, but it’s not a bad idea to budget a little time for social media or video streaming.
Set aside a certain amount of time each day (maybe an hour) for guilt-free, hassle-free down time… it may make things run a little better for everyone. It can also be a great time for the family to post pictures and videos of the trip for those back home.
Involve the Whole Family
Family holidays are always better if each member has a part in planning and designing them. Final decisions may be made by the parents, but as much as possible, include the whole family.
Your children will be more invested in the trip, more excited for it, and they will therefore enjoy it more.
Their input will also ensure that the final package you put together will suit all of you, and truly be what you dreamt it would be: a genuine family holiday.