When it comes to skiing, Europe is renowned for the best ski resorts in the world – and it’s also host to some of the finest places to ski with your family. But that said, there’s a lot of choice and it’s not so easy to know which spots are the best fit for a family ski trip.
From atmosphere to non-ski facilities and piste difficulty, there are a lot things to consider. Here, we pick five of our favourite places to go skiing with a family in tow and why they work so well:
Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria
- As picturesque as ski resorts get
- Modern heated lift system with protective shields
- Great off-snow infrastructure
- The Tauern Spa – a magical water world!
The Tauern Spa in Zell am See
Ski resorts don’t often struggle with looking pretty but some are just a cut above and, situated on the edge of a lake and surrounded by wooded, snow-capped peaks, the town of Zell am See is particularly picturesque. It has some great skiing with three areas on one pass – the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier which offers skiing from October until June, Schmittenhohe located above Zell am See where the fun dragon “Schmidolin” lives and plays, and Maiskogel Family Mountain. The latter offers a modest 25km of pistes but it has a modern lift system with heated seats and protective shields, it has plenty of wide open mellow terrain, and also the Maisi Phantasipark which is a fun, ski area with rollers, beginner jumps and banked curves.
Because Zell am See is a town rather than a village, the off-snow infrastructure is second-to-none. As well as all the usual activities such as husky-sledding, ski-dooing, and sleigh rides, Zell am See also plays host to one of our favourite places on earth: the Tauern Spa which is a 20,000 sq m indoor and outdoor water world! There is also a separate Children’s Spa Kidstein with 3 slides, 2 baby pools, water play area, underwater bubble jets, adventure grotto, jungle rain shower and climbing wall.
The town also has a full and diverse calendar of events for all the family from traditional ski hut evenings with live music and dancing to wild animal feeding and from guided torchlight walks to yodelling lessons!
- Lots of beginner and nursery skiing
- Access to 180km of pistes in the wider area
- Quiet slopes and non-touristy charm with friendly locals
- Affordable family prices.
Champoluc may not have a name that resonates throughout the skiing world, perhaps not even throughout its own country’s skiing scene, but the resort sits at one end of the Monterosa ski area which is Italy’s very own Three Valleys and which boasts 180km of pistes.
Despite being one of the three principal resorts in such a large (and diverse) ski area, Champoluc has retained the charm of a traditional Italian mountain village. There are no designer shops in town, nor are there five-star hotels or Michelin-starred eateries. But as a result the slopes are quiet, the lift queues are short and you will hear the voices of as many locals as tourists. It is a lovely, friendly place and prices in the hotels and restaurants are noticeably cheaper than those in similar sized resorts in Austria, France & Switzerland.
Champoluc is largely an intermediate’s paradise but it also plays host to the area’s best nursery slopes and there is a fantastic British Ski School called Ski 2 (which only employs native English speakers).
- Part of world’s largest ski area: The Three Valleys
- Diverse skiing with pistes for all abilities and ages
- Winner of the Family Ski Resort of The Year
- Great variety of bars and restaurants for families (even with a Michelin Star!)
- English-friendly with plenty of off-ski activities to enjoy.
The Black Forest Sledge Run in Meribel
Winner of the 2017 World Snow Award’s Family Resort of the Year, Méribel has been a go-to destination for families for a few decades now. The first thing you will read in any guide to Méribel is about its location at the heart of the Three Valleys – the world’s largest ski area with access to over 600km of piste incorporating world-class resorts such as Courchevel and Val Thorens.
With so many pistes to choose from the skiing is as diverse as it gets, and suits all type of skier, but there are many “zones débutants” – go-slow beginner zones – which are ideal for beginners and children. Méribel is also extremely well-served by English-speaking Ski Schools.
One of the best things about Méribel, however, is its off-snow infrastructure. The Olympic Centre has a swimming pool (with water-slide), an ice rink, a climbing wall and ten-pin bowling. There’s a cinema not too far away too. Further up the hill, why not try out the relatively new 3km toboggan run – Mission Black Forest – that descends almost 500m and with 28 corners? And if that is not enough, you can also go husky-sledding, snow-mobiling or snow-shoeing.
Méribel also has a great selection of restaurants that are ideal for families and kids of all gastronomic tastes. But if you’re feeling fancy there’s even a Michelin Star restaurant at the Hotel Le Kaïla.
- 320km of pistes within the wider area
- Great skiing for all abilities – including learners, kids and children
- A dedicated 25 acre family ski area: Madrisa Land!
- …patrolled by ski bunnies and fancy dress characters.
Known internationally as the ski resort of choice for members of the British Royal Family, Klosters and especially the area of Klosters Dorf has, in fact, retained much of the charm of a traditional Swiss mountain village. The wider area which links up with Davos boasts 320km of slopes, so skiers of all ability will have the range to ski well for the week without a great deal of repetition.
The main draw for families has to be Madrisa Land. The epithet for this part of the ski area is “The Family Mountain” and so you should be well aware of what you are getting! Madrisa Land is an adventure park that spans 25 acres and is located at the top of the gondola from Klosters Dorf to Madrisa. The area boasts a children’s obstacle course, a snow-tubing circuit and ski race courses in Giant Slalom and speed measurement. But that is not the half of it; there are also bouncy castles, trampolines, igloos and a mini skidoo fleet – all patrolled by Ski Bunnies and other fancy-dress characters bouncing about and adding to the fun.
There is a children’s Ski School and childcare available for children aged 0-6 years old in the Stutzli Children’s Club. A comfortable, well-equipped play hut is available free of charge for all children and the Bergrestaurant Saaseralp has a well set-out play corner in the self-service part of the restaurant with, of course, children’s menus and child-sized portions!
Bonus Resort: Big White in B.C. Canada
- 320km of piste within the wider area
- Mellow slopes and skiing on the whole
- Ski-in-ski-out accommodation – convenient and comfortable for families
- Evening scene is fairly family orientated
- Admittedly not in Europe but still worth the effort!
Ski in Ski Out Accommodation in Big White
Ok, admittedly this one’s not quite in Europe. But – if you can stomach the 8hr and 1hr flights from London into Calgary and then Calgary to Kelowna – Big White in British Columbia is also a worthy mention for a family ski trip.
Because it is Canada’s largest ski-in / ski-out village, there is no need for buses or schlepping around carrying three pairs of skis, coaxing young children along with promises of chocolate and fizzy drinks. Step out the front door of your property and you’re on skis!
And the piste map is clear, the pistes are well signposted and, although there are whole areas of double black diamond terrain spread over the mountain, the slopes are pretty mellow on the whole. There’s a regular family-friendly Cruz the Blues event where participants ski all the blue runs in Big White over two days.
There’s a well-staffed and international Ski School with a separate branch of the School just for children – the Big White Kid’s Centre – with lessons for children aged 3 to 12 years old and special initiatives such as Mom / Dad & Me Skiing. For younger children, there is also Tot Town Daycare for children from the age of 18 months.
The fun doesn’t stop in the evenings. There is an open air ice-rink and snow-tubing course down in Happy Valley and Carnival Night runs in the Village Centre Mall every Thursday and Saturday from 6.30pm til 8pm. Activities include games such as Ring Toss, Mini Putt and Basketball Toss and there’s free popcorn and cotton candy, face painting and much more.