Heading to the slopes as a family can be just as joyful whether the kids are just learning, or as one of the last holidays that older teens find it acceptable to go on with their parents.
The ski resort needs of families naturally varies according to children’s ages and family ability, but it makes life easier, especially when ski school is involved, to stay in a compact, car-free place with slopes on the doorstep or close by.
That doesn’t rule out après ski – families with teenagers will find plenty to keep them entertained in resorts with facilities like terrain parks and après activities such as snowmobiling, as well as bars and clubs.
The popularity of family travel during school holidays does put prices up, but looking to lesser-known resorts at popular times like half-term, or considering the less-popular Christmas and Easter weeks, helps families to budget.
While last-minute offers can deliver, families seeking large chalets for example, or who are set on one of the popular British favoured French resorts such as Val d’Isère or Méribel, will do well to book well in advance to get what they want.
Good value can also be found by looking to Italy or Austria, or further afield to North America and Scandinavia where slopes can be quieter. If only France will do, lesser-known, lower-altitude destinations will deliver lower prices.
Here’s our pick of the best 11 resorts to suit all kinds of families, for everyone from tots to teens to parents, along with holidays available this season.
Unless stated otherwise, prices are per person, based on two sharing a double or twin room, half-board for seven nights, including flights and transfers.
Best for little ’uns
If taking young children to the Alps a short transfer and low-risk environment is preferable. Obergurgl’s traditional village is set around a fine church, there’s no through traffic, and the ambience is essentially family friendly. It is popular with Britons and many families return every winter, for the low-key atmosphere, traditional hotels and scattering of chalets.
Set at 1,930m, Obergurgl happily obliges with guaranteed snow cover at village level. The ski area is ideal for beginners and improving intermediates and is linked by lift to higher Hochgurgl. The more advanced will find challenging runs in nearby Vent and Sölden, both of which are covered by an Obergurgl lift pass, and excellent off piste to explore.
There’s a small selection of ski schools in Obergurgl and most of the instructors speak good English. British family tour operator Esprit runs its own classes for children, and also provides child care for ages between 17 weeks and 12 years. Weekly lesson packages are available for children aged three to 12 years, priced from £249; while six full days of child care costs from £349.
Where to stay
Chalet Alpenblume is 200m from the nearest piste, and also close to the Festkogl gondola. From £939 with Esprit.
Best for pounding pistes as a family
It’s not difficult to find low-cost ski holidays in Austria, if you’re prepared to compromise on either the quality or quantity of the slopes. There are dozens of small villages with loads of charm, but limited terrain and lift systems. However, Söll has plenty to offer – the extensive SkiWelt area of largely intermediate pistes, plus lots of budget places to stay.
The traditional Tirolean village with its onion-domed church is set in the middle of a wide valley. The slopes are a kilometre away and best reached by ski bus. If the SkiWelt’s 284km aren’t enough for keen piste-bashing families, the region is directly linked (by a short bus ride) through Westendorf and Kirchberg to Kitzbühel.
This adds another 54 lifts and 179km to the tally, though on a separate lift pass. In town, the Hochsöll gondola takes kids and adults up to the 4km Moon toboggan run, which is floodlit until 10.30pm Wednesday to Saturday evenings.
Söll was once most well-known for its raucous nightlife, and best suits those who come to attack the slopes with gusto or to party – or both. But the resort is increasingly popular with families too. There's plenty of suitable accommodation, and still enough good-natured après-ski to keep adults and teens happy.
Where to stay
The Hotel Tyrol is one of Söll's top hotels, a short walk from the village centre and opposite a bus stop. From £642, with i-ski.co.uk.
Best for an easy life
Les Gets, France
With its village-based nursery slopes, pedestrian-friendly centre and road train shuttle between the main slopes and separate Mont Chery ski area, this village in the giant Portes du Soleil ski area makes an ideal base for families. The region has oodles of groomed runs – 286 of them, to be exact – linked by 196 lifts.
There's a huge choice of accommodation, including child-friendly chalets with nannies, and Les Gets itself is a pleasing mixture of old Savoyard chalets and more modern wood-and-stone buildings constructed in keeping with their Alpine surroundings. Child-friendly activities in the village include skating, farm tours and tenpin bowling. Les Sources des Chéry is a new swimming pool and spa complex that has opened for winter 2019/20, and there’s also a cinema and the Musique Méchanique Museum, with around 750 exhibits including music boxes, clocks and and self-playing pianos.
Les Gets is set at a rather modest 1,172m altitude, which means snow cover is not necessarily reliable at village level throughout the season. However, there are more nursery slopes up the mountain at Chavannes, and the American Indian themed Grand Cry fun park is also here.
Les Gets shares a 120km local ski area with Morzine, and the British snow-sports schools BASS, Les Gets Snowsports and Mint Snowboarding operate here. Kindergartens include Les Fripouilles, which caters for children from six months to four years.
Where to stay
A five-minuete walk from the pistes, Chalet Monet sleeps up to 22 and has family suites with separate bedrooms and a shared bathroom and an in-house playroom. From £579 with Ski Famille. Full child care available.
Best for a massive ski area
La Tania, France
With its car-free location at 1,350m in the trees below Courchevel in the 600km Trois Vallées (3V) ski area, La Tania is a good-value, family-friendly base from which to explore the slopes of its Trois Vallées neighbours. A large gondola from the village gives easy access to the slopes of both Courchevel and Méribel for those who want to explore further afield.
The resort was built for the 1992 Winter Olympics, and is about the lowest altitude purpose-built French resort there is. Its wood-clad buildings sit comfortably in a pretty woodland setting – quite a contrast to the bleakness of many French ski stations. It’s on the road between Courchevel Le Praz (1300) and Méribel; the Courchevel resorts are linked by an efficient and frequent free bus service.
Long runs lined with trees that give visibility and protection in bad weather lead down from the top of the gondola to the quiet village, where there is a nursery area with a free lift. While the resort is is car-free, families with little ones need to be wary of people speeding down the final part of the main piste towards the gondola.
There are family-friendly pizzerias and traditional French restaurants in the village, and the Bouc Blanc at the top of the La Tania gondola is the cheapest decent mountain restaurant in Courchevel, serving tasty, reliable food. It has a big terrace and two wood-clad dining rooms with a rustic feel.
Where to stay
Le Ski has four family-friendly chalets in La Tania, with child care and a creche available. MarMau has great views and is two minutes walk from slopes and shops. Notable for its flexibility, it has 10 bedrooms sleeping up to 23 in a mix of twin, triple and family rooms. From £779 with Le Ski.
Best for learning the ropes
Absolute beginners don’t need the complexity of a large resort, so a novice’s visit to this Tirolean chocolate-box with oodles of atmosphere – it regularly wins prizes as the prettiest village in Austria – should result in a lifetime of piste enthusiasm. Alpbach has a special relationship with the British that began more than 50 years ago when a Major Billy Patterson came here on leave and enjoyed the pistes and the pubs. He told his army friends and they told others. Thousands of Britons have since learnt the basics here, and many return year after year. It’s also great value for money – prices are low, even by Austrian standards.
A single nursery slope in the village centre is ideal for practising after lessons, but the main ski area is a five-minute bus, then a gondola, away. Of the three ski schools in the resort, Alpbach‑Inner Alpbach is the original learning establishment, while Alpbach Aktiv and Skischule Alpbachtal also have fine reputations. During the resort’s dedicated family weeks at Easter, under-15s get a free lift pass.
Alpbach’s ski area is linked to that of Auffach in the neighbouring Wildschönau valley to form the Ski Juwel ski area. But Alpbach itself, a 40-minute drive from Innsbruck airport, has remained remarkably unchanged over the years. The only difference is that intermediates who might otherwise have moved on now have the incentive to return to explore the respectable 109km of pistes served by 45 lifts in the two valleys.
Where to stay
Close to the nursery slopes and ski bus stop, the four-star superior Romantik-Hotel Böglerhof dates back to the 15th century and is lovingly run by the third generation of the Duftner family. Guests can enjoy free wine tasting in the old cellar bar and a weekly fondue night and torchlight walk. From £821 with Iglu Ski.
Best for adventurous intermediates
La Rosière, France
The original La Rosière resort (now known as La Rosière Centre) was developed in the 1960s and 70s at the start of the road to the Petit St Bernard pass to Italy, which is closed in winter. Newer development has been concentrated at Les Eucherts, around one kilometre away and linked by a pretty, snow-covered path that is floodlit at night and makes a lovely walk.
Both parts of the resort feature low-rise, chalet-style buildings of wood and stone and have fast lifts into the slopes. They are popular with families because they have good beginner areas and longer easy runs to progress to, and there’s a fun run for kids with St Bernard dog-themed obstacles to ski through and around in La Rosière Centre.
For those wanting to explore further afield, La Rosière’s slopes are linked to La Thuile in Italy to form the 152km Espace San Bernardo. Both sides have some very wide, easy runs that are delightful cruises; La Rosière’s local slopes are more interesting for advanced intermediates because there is a network of red pistes and lots of easily accessible off piste high on the La Rosière side, served by two fast chairlifts.
Where to stay
Contemporary and spacious, Les Cimes Blancs apartments are ski-in/ski-out, sleep from two to 10 people and are 300m from the resort centre. There's also a shared swimming pool and spa. From £573, self-catering, with Skiworld.
Best for off-slope entertainment
Åre is Sweden’s biggest downhill resort, with three separate ski areas strung out beside a frozen lake, and a ski season that goes on well into April thanks to the long hours of sunlight and warmer temperatures later in the season. It’s popular with families who love the off‑slope activities including dog or reindeer sled rides, tobogganing, snowmobiling, skating, curling and ice fishing. During the ski season EasyJet flies to Östersund, about an hour’s drive away, avoiding a change in Stockholm and making it quicker to reach this far-northern resort.
In general, Åre’s slopes suit beginners and intermediates – most of the runs are green and blue, set among trees on the lower part of the mountain. The main ski area is above town, while Björnen (a dedicated ski area for kids) and Duved are along the valley.
A special piste map highlights fun things and areas of slopes for children, and those aged seven and under get a free lift pass so long as they wear a helmet. The dinky town centre is made up of pretty, coloured wooden buildings and some larger modern additions. Families often take their children to the lively après sessions as the lifts close, so expect to be dancing next to six year olds – as well as resort mascot Valle the Snowman, who pops up all over Åre to keep children entertained.
While there are few piste challenges for experts, the terrain park in the main ski area has red and black lines of varied kickers, plus a mix of rails, boxes and fatpipes to suit all levels. It’s also open at night, illuminated with colourful LED lighting. There’s another main park with beginner and intermediate features, and a couple of children’s parks in Björnen.
Where to stay
The spacious and modern Bear apartments are at Åre’s Björnen base area, close to where the ski school meets as well as shops, bars and restaurants. From £625, self-catering in a three-bedroom apartment, based on two adults and two children sharing including lift pass, with Ski Safari.
Best for North American adventuring
Winter Park, Colorado, USA
Winter Park may lack the glamour of better-known Colorado resorts such as Breckenridge and Vail, but the absence of weekday lift queues (weekends tend to be busier due to visitors from nearby Denver) will appeal to families. As will the growing range of good-value accommodation around the lift base and the facilities for beginners.
The Sorensen Park beginner zone at the base of the mountain has gentle slopes and magic carpet lifts, while the Discovery Park at mid-mountain is the jewel in the crown. This 25-acre dedicated beginner area is served by two chairlifts, and as well as a nursery area it has longer green runs to progress to, and an adventure trail through the trees.
Winter Park is the snowiest of all major Colorado resorts, receiving around 8m annually. If children aren’t yet ready to enjoy the powder, the resort's child-care facilities are first-rate. The Winter Park Ski & Ride School offers daycare facilities for youngsters aged two months to six years, and is the meeting point for children's classes.
The lift base makes an ideal place for families to stay, with easy access to the slopes and a number of family-friendly restaurants, as well as a handful of bars and shops. Nightlife is quiet. Off-slope activities for children include tubing and ice skating. The town of Winter Park, a bus ride away, lacks the usual shops and restaurants found in most resorts, and is a less convenient place to stay.
Where to stay
The Zephyr Mountain Lodge condos offer the best blend of flexibility and convenience for families. Just a few steps from the lifts and base area amenities, the condos come with a fully equipped kitchen, as well as access to hot tubs and fitness room. From £1,550 with Ski Solutions.
Best for spectacular scenery
Wengen might have been designed for families. The village is essentially car-free (with the exception of taxis), and at its heart there’s a snow-covered meadow that serves as a combined playground and gentle nursery slope. It shares a ski area with Grindelwald, and most of the slopes are above its neighbour – lovely long red and blue runs under the towering north face of the Eiger.
The village sits on a sunny shelf and is made up of a mix of small chalets and bigger, more institutional-looking hotels. The main way up the mountain is a cog railway that is easy to use, and also gives access to the village from Lauterbrunnen down in the valley. The Jungfrau region lift pass covers the slopes of neighbouring Mürren as well as Wengen and Grindelwald. While Switzerland is generally expensive, lift-passes are free for the under-sixes and reduced for children aged up to 19.
There are plenty of family-friendly activities on offer, including 50km of toboggan runs. The most obvious of these is the 4.5km run from Wengernalp down to the train station in town, but there are also long runs from the top of the mountain going in the opposite direction towards Grindelwald. In the middle of the village there’s indoor curling and outdoor skating.
Where to stay
The four-star Hotel Silberhorn is in a convenient position by the cog railway station, with the nursery slopes not far away. There are outstanding views from the south-facing rooms, a playroom and spa that’s open for children until 5pm. From £999 with Inghams.
Best for the best of two worlds
Ste Foy Tarentaise, France
Ste Foy is an attractive, good value resort developed since 1990 at the foot of what started life as a cult off-piste mountain. It remains excellent for experts but is very good for families too, since a fourth chairlift was built and more blue and red runs created higher up the mountain.
A cluster of chalets and chalet-style apartment blocks, all built in the traditional Savoyard style of wood and stone has expanded regularly, and there is a particularly wide choice of self-catering apartments. The resort is popular with British families, many of whom have bought properties here. There is a beginner slope plus a separate nursery area right in the village, on either side of the main chairlift, both served by moving carpet lifts that are free to use. Beginners can progress from here on to a long, winding blue run path served by the chairlift, a fast quad.
As well as the long blue, this chairlift also accesses a red and another blue run. Two further successive slow chairs go to the top of the mountain, from where experts can access both more challenging pistes and off-piste runs, such as a pretty run to the old village of Le Monal. Tours are offered by the ski school and mountain guides. Alternatively to the top lift, a fast six-person chair to one side of the resort opens up more intermediate pistes.
Keen intermediates will cover Ste Foy’s 40km in a day or less, but if need be it’s easy to visit other nearby resorts including Val d’Isère-Tignes, Les Arcs and La Rosière , all less than 25-minutes drive away. A six-day Ste Foy lift pass entitles holders to a discounted day pass in each of them. La Plagne, about an hour’s drive away, is also covered by the discount.
Where to stay
Première Neige’s luxurious and centrally located Peak chalet has eight bedrooms, a huge sunny living/dining room with views across the valley and direct access on to the slopes via a short path. It also has a hot tub, steam room, sauna, gym and massage room. From £1,100 with Première Neige, not including flights and transfers. Private nannies and babysitting can be arranged by the Première Neige concierge service.
Best for hitting terrain parks
Livigno is a remote village strung out along 10 kilometres of mountain road that comes to a full stop in winter at a heady 1,816 metres, close to the Swiss border – not for nothing is it nicknamed Little Tibet. One of the most inaccessible resorts in Europe, it takes the best part of three hours to get there from Innsbruck, and even longer from Italian hub airports. It’s worth the long journey, though, not only for the quality of its terrain parks but for its low prices and reliable snow cover.
The ski area is great for beginners and low intermediates – and parents who'd rather leave the terrain park to their kids – with terrain on both the Mottolino and Costaccia/Carosello sides of the valley. The main park is on Mottolino, with kickers for all abilities and a superpipe. There are also rails, as well as an airbag for perfecting tricks. The second main park is at Carosello, and is geared more towards intermediates.
It also has a large airbag, rails and tabletops, plus a boardercross course. Two more parks – Amerikan, near the Carosello gondola, and Del Sole, close to the centre of town – are aimed towards beginners and children. Cable Park, a fifth park on the Costaccia side, features a wide range of rails, boxes and jumps of varying difficulty. A dedicated cable tow pulls riders through the park, making tricks easier.
Livigno suits those on a tight budget, since it has a special tax status that dates back to Napoleonic times. There’s no VAT, which makes drinks, petrol and consumer goods some of the cheapest in Europe. Many of the old wooden houses in the traffic-free village centre have been converted into atmospheric bars, restaurants and clubs, sitting beside shops stacked with fashion items, electronic goods, drink and tobacco.
Where to stay
Ski back to the door of the family-run Hotel Garni Francescato. A B&B with just 13 rooms sleeping two to four, there's also a relaxing bar. From £439 B&B, with Neilson.