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THE BEST FAMILY SKI RESORTS IN EUROPE AND AMERICA

These top resorts in Europe and America go above and beyond to make the kids mountain converts for life


For those of us who love nothing more than a week in the mountains, knee-deep in powder, the idea of taking kids along for the ride can be daunting: What if they don't like skiing? What if it's too cold? Will I spend the week in the resort and not get a chance to head up on a gondola?

The key is finding a resort that caters to children's every need, with resort-based activities, excellent ski schools, plenty of easy slopes and indoor activities for when the temperatures drop.


If you're thinking of booking a family holiday to the mountains, these are the best family ski resorts in Europe and America - and they need to be on your list.

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Avoriaz
France


One of a handful of French resorts that have banned cars from its centre, Avoriaz is a beautiful mountain village where you'll wake up to the sight of horse-drawn carriages trundling past your window. Kids love jumping on for a ride and for just 7 Euros, they can enjoy a trip through town. Wrap up warm and opt for a longer, scenic ride for 15 Euros as a great way to get your bearings when you arrive in resort.


Avoriaz is actually a part of the famous Morzine, which offers parents plenty of facilities, aprés ski and excellent skiing, but by basing yourself in the slightly quieter village here, you'll find plenty to occupy the children for the best of both worlds. The skiing here is perfect for beginners, with nursery slopes and gentle blue and green runs aplenty.

In the centre of town, the Eccles and Dromonts pistes were designed for beginners and can be accessed by gentle drag lifts - perfect for finding your snow feet.


The relatively modern resort was designed with the 'younger generation' in mind and focal points include Aquariaz (FREE for under 2s), a tropical aqua park that promises balmy 30C water throughout. Take a swim surrounded by lush, rainforest vegetation, float down the bubbling jungle river or relax in the whirlpools. There are also slides, waterfalls and jungle vine swings. If learning to ski isn't enough for your curious children, they can also learn to scuba dive here - sign them up and they'll be able to boast that they learned to dive 1800m ABOVE sea level.


If they're over 16 and already comfortable in a scuba mask, even beginner divers can take a real leap of faith by heading outdoors to dive under the ice with a professional instructor.


If that sounds a little too terrifying, stick to terra firma with an Avokart experience (right), where you take to the slopes on a tricycle or enjoy a 3hr dog sled ride with a pack of gorgeous huskies.


Hire a sledge (including some seriously cute ones with baby seats) as a fun activity that also doubles up as an ideal transport device in place of a pushchair - you'll bump into plenty of parents dragging sleeping children around resort in their sledges throughout the week.

Fly direct to Geneva or Chambery or take the ski train



La Plagne
France


La Plagne is actually a collection of mini-resorts, from Plagne Aime 2000, which sits at (you guessed it...) 2,000m altitude, down to the beautiful Savoyard village of Champagny-en-Vanoise, which sits at a comparitively lowly 1,200m.

Spanning roughly 20km in total, it's no surprise that La Plagne offers plenty in the way of facilities, experiences and care options for children of all ages.


When it comes to skiing, there's 425km of runs available, with 70% of them above 2000m. That means it's relatively snow-sure and there's a piste for everybody, no matter your ability. in fact, it's possible to cross the WHOLE ski area using only blue runs, which means you'll never find yourself stranded or having to tackle a late-afternoon red run just to make it back to resort - perfect when you've got kids in tow.


Speaking of the resort, La Plagne is car-free, which is one less thing for parents to worry about, and there are activities galore throughout the area.


For the older kids (10+), don't miss the chance to try ice climbing in Champagny-en-Vanoise, where a specially designed ice tower (left) provides a safe learning environment. There are also snowshoeing expeditions with guides who'll talk you through the local flora and point out the animal tracks left behind on the mountain, and for those with a stronger constitution, zip wires are open all year round (weather permitting) and there's nothing more exhilarating than flying through the air with Mont Blanc in the background. The wires start Aime 2000 and run 600m down to Plagne Centre.


Thrill-seekers aged 16+ will no doubt want to head for Plagne 1800, where the Olympic Bobsleigh Track is open for business. Choose between the 4-person bob or the solo speed luge, which hits 90km/h. Or, for the real speed freaks, take a ride with a bobsleigh captain, who'll top out at over 120km/h through the 19 twists and turns.


For the younger children, playgrounds are dotted throughout the resorts, where kids can let loose, enjoy the snow and breathe in some of that famous mountain air. Kids from 2 up can enjoy Husky Rides starting from various villages in the La Plagne area, or ditch the dogs and take on the Superluge Derby at Oxygène, La Plagne's ski school centre. It's a 5km long course that descends nearly 500m in total.


When the cold weather gets too much, there are four cinemas - the biggest being Plagne Centre's Ecrin Cinema, two Bowling Alleys, Plagne Aime's Amusement Arcade and no less than THREE Swimming Pools, including the beautiful Magic Pool at Plagne Bellecôte, an outdoor heated pool where you can gaze at the mountains while 30C water keeps you warm. Even better, it's FREE for kids under 5 and a reasonable 5,50€ for those up to 14 years old.

Fly direct to Geneva or Chambery



Geilo
Norway


Despite being the most successful Winter Olympics country in history with nearly 150 gold medals in its possession, Norway has always lagged behind its rivals when it comes to ski tourism in Europe. Not any more!


Slap-bang in the centre of Southern Norway, Geilo offers four kid-friendly ski areas, each offering fun activities to help ease youngsters onto the slopes. It's at these designated zones you'll find the numerous ski schools, where teachers take classes through the basics of mountain skills, while also encouraging them to join in with ski races, discos and woodland adventures.

There are various classes, from straight-up ski lessons down to snow play for those who are too young to strap on a pair of skis. And take a good look at your kids' instructors as you never know who's taking class - it was in Geilo that Queen Sonja of Norway gained her ski instructor certificate.


The Trollklubben Childcare Center can be booked for a more traditional nursery experience, with professional childminders on hand to take the kids while you ski, meet up with friends or enjoy some of the gorgeous restaurants in the town.


Other activities including ice fishing, horse riding, sleigh rides, dog-sledding, Fatbike rentals, snowshoeing and the chance to meet wolves! And if you fancy a little self-torture, there are ice baths and a spa available for you to dip and relax.


The resort of Geilo was created after the completion of the scenic Bergen-Oslo rail line on which it sits, meaning it's easily accessible from either city - ideal for groups who want to get to the mountain with minimal fuss.

Fly to Bergen or Oslo for a roughly 3hr train transfer



Courchevel
France


Courchevel has long been a Mecca for ski-lovers thanks to its forgiving pistes and lively aprés ski, but it also gained a reputation as a flashy resort for the nouveau riche, with five-star hotels and pricey chalets popping up all over the tree-lined mountain.


Thankfully, that influx of money has been well spent on Aquamotion (below left), a new, circa-£60 million spa and indoor water park that includes water slides, indoor surfing, plenty of pools and relaxation areas. If a Centre Parcs with added skiing sounds like a winning combination, this is the place for you.


Elsewhere, Moriond Racing provides high-octane toboggan racing with a 3km track consisting of eight tunnels and a switchback known as the 'Double Serpent'. Kids over 110cm can ride, with those over 125cm allowed to take to the track without an adult.


The Forum Building is the perfect place for days when the weather's too much outside. A bowling alley and ice skating rink are both under cover there, and the rink is often empty thanks to the fact it's particularly badly advertised. That being said, the crowds turn up en masse for the local ice hockey matches and if you get a chance to watch a local mountain derby, it'll be a feisty affair - keep an eye out for a visit from local rivals Meribel.


But what about the skiing? Hop on the Arondiaz Gondola from Courchevel Moriond 1650 and make your way up to Western Park, a Western-themed snow park for first time skiers. Mellow slopes and 'magic carpet' lifts provide the perfect environment for kids to take their first turns on the snow and there's even a huge, Native American teepee in the centre for them to explore during their breaks.


Courchevel has numerous designated ZEN Areas dotted around its five villages that promise easy slopes and FREE lifts - which means you won't have to fork out for a lift pass only to discover your children aren't as keen on skiing as you hoped. The biggest of these is at Courchevel 1850, which boasts five free lifts and 5-6 green pistes that all head straight back to the resort.


If your kids are a little more advanced, they might fancy a trip to the Family Park. Up here there are plenty of big kickers where you can watch experienced skiers and boarders throwing themselves into the sky with reckless abandon. If they're inspired by what they see, there's an air bag at the bottom of the park - think a huge, partially-inflated bouncy castle beneath a big jump - where skiers of any ability can try their hand at big tricks knowing there's a soft landing when it all goes wrong.

There's also a skier cross track (a little like a BMX track, with rollers and big, angled corners) and an area with ice castles and sculptures.

Fly direct to Chambery or Geneva and take a 2-3hr transfer



Arinsal
Andorra


Andorra's rise to prominence in the past decade has been largely due to the fact that it offers fantastic value for money against the traditional resorts of France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria, which makes it a perfect option for larger family groups.


Nursery in Arinsal costs a very reasonable €207 for five full days in the high season, which won't be matched elsewhere in Europe, and if your children are over 3, ski schools start out at €179 for 5 days (3hrs per day), which means there'll be plenty of time for you to enjoy the slopes while the kids are occupied and happy. What's more, all children under 6 receive FREE lift passes, so even if they're competent skiers at a young age, Arinsal won't break the bank.


There's plenty more to keep them occupied, too. Head to El Planell for sledging and tubing in its own, designated area, and both El Planell and Arinsal offer Ski Bikes for hire at €22 for one hour. There's also a circuit set aside for snowmobiles, which you can hire with a full UK driving license and for a truly memorable experience, take to the skies in a mountain Helicopter ride and see the resort from above.


The Princess Park Hotel offers 10-pin bowling and a games room (with its own bar to help the parents unwind after a long day on the slopes) and also a Welness Centre with relaxing pools, saunas, a steam room and jacuzzi.

Fly via Madrid or Palma de Mallorca to Andorra-La Seu Airport (LEU), or fly direct to Barcelona, Girona or Toulouse and take a 2-3hr transfer



La Rosiere
France


Located close to the Italian border, La Rosiere has kid-friendly holidays wrapped up, with a childcare service that integrates with ski lessons, meaning they'll take care of the handover and look after your children outside of their learning time on the slopes.


From Sunday to Friday, Les Galopins (aged 3-12) takes kids on snow-filled adventures including sledging, snowman building and wintry walks, as well as indoor activities such as puppetry workshops, colouring and board games. The care providers all speak English and are happy to work around nap times for the youngest class members, so you can ski in peace knowing your children are having the best time. For children over 18 months, a special Baby Club takes place in a well-appointed nursery in La Rosiere Centre. You can choose between half days and full days and can also benefit from a family discount if you've more than one child in your group.


For the over threes, you'll want to introduce them to the thrill of skiing, and ski schools offer Piou Piou Lessons where toddlers are gently encouraged to forge their first snowploughs. All of La Rosiere's lower slopes are family orientated and designed with children and beginner skiers in mind, meaning you and your children can feel safe, with space to practise.


The Petit St Bernard Trail at the top of the Lièvre Blanc ski lift provides a fun learning environment for children, encouraging them to ski through tunnels and around obstacles.


The Petit St Bernerd Funcross below the Plan du Repos chairlift is aimed at more competent skiers who can handle a red-run, and older kids who've conquered the mountain can spend the day trying out new tricks in the Snowpark de la Poletta.

There are also two safe areas specially marked out for tobogganing - the Squirrels toboggan area located near the Galopins Leisure Club in the resort center for beginners, and the Petit St Bernard toboggan area for older children who want to pick up some speed.


Elsewhere, there's an Xtreme Luge Track, an Indoor Climbing Wall, Ten-Pin Bowling and a covered Ice Rink at Les Eucherts, Dog Sledding trips and even a library for when the kids need a little down-time.


But if you're heading to La Rosiere with children, we recommend a family trip to enjoy a Fondue under Igloo (above left). You'll be led on a short snowshoe hike by torchlight until you reach the igloo, which is made using ancient Inuit techniques. Here, you'll be invited to enjoy the finest of all Savoyard traditions - lashings of melted, gooey cheese.



Valmorel
France


Valmorel welcomes children from the age of 3 years old to the Club kindergarten. For toddlers (under 3 years old), the Tourist Office can put you in touch with baby-sitters who can look after your children directly in your accommodation.

Valmorel is definitely a family resort with a laid-back atmosphere, pedestrianised centre and a great ski area to enjoy together.

The youngest children, from age 18 months, can join the Piou Piou Nursery (+33 (0)4 79 09 81 86) in the resort centre, which has a good reputation. From three years old children here can have their first ski lessons, if they want them, in the snow garden.

Children aged six and up can join the ski school which again is highly regarded and offers lessons following the standard French national testing regime according to the age and stage of the child.



Zell am See
Austria


The beautiful medieval town of Zell am See is set around a picturesque lake in the shadow of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier. It's also just over an hour from Salzburg, making it one of the quickest transfers on our list - perfect for when you've got tired kids in tow.


Your children will feel as though they've woken up in a fairytale in this traffic free, picture-postcard resort and they'll love the gentle slopes on offer at Schüttdorf and Schmittental, the two designated beginners' areas, where English-speaking ski schools are of a very high standard. The Schmitten's dragon offers activities for all ages including a kid's slope, Dragon Park and Dragon Tunnel and the Schmidolin Fan Club is free for children aged between 4 and 12. Over in Schüttdorf there are moving carpets and fun characters for children to interact with.


Once they progress beyond the nursery slopes, a ride on the City Xpress gondola is an easy link to the wider mountain, where plenty of other easy runs are available.


Down in resort, there's a leisure centre with swimming pool, indoor tennis and squash, curling, horse riding and tobogganing experiences on offer, all within an easy walk through the village.


Family holidays needn't all be about kids' activities, of course, and one thing we've always loved about Austria is that their aprés ski takes place right from the last lift. You can pick the kids up from ski school, head straight to the bar and enjoy a drink and a dance, and still be back at the chalet in time for bath and bedtime stories. It's a much more civilised way to aprés than in France, where clubs routinely open until the early hours of the morning and means that groups of parents and non-parents can holiday together without the frequent schedule clashes.

Fly to Salzburg for a 90 minute transfer



Skiwelt Wilder Kaiser - Brixental
Austria


Is this really one resort? Well, technically it is - and it's won plenty of awards for its modern design and family-friendly offerings. Like so many others on this list, it's acrtually a collection of villages and towns, but the SkiWelt area covers a lot of ground, including the towns of Brixen im Thale, Ellmau, Going, Hopfgarten, Itter, Kelchsau, Scheffau, Söll and Westendorf.


With that in mind, it's probably no surprise that there are 22 ski schools to choose from, catering for kids as young as two. Once they've picked up the basics, youngsters will want to take on the Skiparcours Hans im Glück (right), an assault-course style slope that'll test their newfound skills.


There are THREE floodlit toboggan courses at Ellmau and Söll, and dotted around the mountain are various Public Exercise Meadows, where the lifts are free and the slopes gentle - perfect for first timers.


We all know that lift passes can be pricey (especially when you're not sure if the kids will take to skiing or not), so Skiwelt Wilder Kaiser - Brixental generously hands them out like sweets. If one parent purchases a SkiWelt ski pass valid for at least 3 days, all children from the same family under the age of 15 (born 2008-2017) receive a free ski pass for the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental, for use during the same time period. That could be a huge saving for larger families.


With free passes in hand, head over to the Scheffau south slope, slope no. 66 to take on a giant slalom on the brilliant Ski Movie Route - an ingenious idea that sees cameras rolling all day, every day. Give it your best shot, and when you reach the bottom you'll see your time on a digital scoreboard AND get to watch your run back on the screen.


Off the pistes, there are four fun parks at Söll, Ellmau and Westendorf and plenty of childcare options at various points both in the valley and top stations.

Plus, if the kids are feeling adventurous, they can take on the new Raven's Rallye, a treasure hunt criss cross through SkiWelt Söll, leading up to a reward in the Raven's Nest. The witches need your help to find the ravens that have flown away. If you can find all 5 stations, you will receive part of the witches treasure. You will get the treasure map that you need for this rallye at the box offices in Söll or in the Raven's nest shop.


We recommend staying in Söll to make the best use of the facilities on offer.

Fly direct to Innsbruck and take the train to Söll via Wörgl.



Steamboat
USA


When it comes to family holidays, cost is always a key factor and for that reason, many European skiers ignore the USA due to the comparatively pricey (and long) flights, but there's plenty to be said for a trip to the other side of the pond - not least the fact that everything is that little bit easier when there's no language barrier.


And, let's be honest, the Americans know how to do tourism. Steamboat Ski Resort in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, certainly deserves your attention.


The Rough Rider Basin gives kids the chance to ski through a mini western scene, with teepees, a general store and even a mini sheriff's office to explore. There's a saloon, too, but there's no moonshine on offer for the parents, unfortunately.


There's also four terrain parks, with the smallest - Lil' Rodeo - catering to the entry-level riders and Mavericks providing the 70ft kickers that should only be attempted by seasoned mountain experts.


With 4% of the mountain given over to beginners, there's plenty of terrain available for the kids to ski (and it's named in the most American way ever, with lifts called the Thunderhead Express and runs called Right-O-Way, Sundial to Broadway and Why Not?)


Off the pistes, there's sleigh rides, tubing, snowmobiling and who could resist the chance to go horseback riding in the Rocky Mountains?


If you're travelling all that way, it makes sense to plan your trip to coincide with one of the brilliant family-friendly events that take place in Steamboat each year.

The Cowboy Downhill (left) - held in January - is the most American thing you're ever likely to witness at a ski resort. Cowboys and Cowgirls blast their way down a slalom course before lassoing a person and saddling an actual horse. Yee haw!


In February, the town fills up for the annual Winter Carnival. It's a riot of mountain-based fun and over the course of a week you'll get to see Steamboat's skiing high school band (unsurprisingly the only one of its kind!), ski jumping, races and huge firework displays over the mountains. There's even a tradition called the Lighted Man, which sees a skier race down the pistes with fireworks strapped to his body. Yep, God Bless the USA.

If that all sounds a little too high octane, there's relaxation to be had, too. The area is known as Steamboat Springs for a very good reason - the place is built top bubbling, heat-filled goodness and Strawberry Park Hot Springs is where American nature shows off to its visitors. Beautiful, stone-built 'pools' make use of the geothermal springs that heat water up to 38C. Head there to relax, unwind and enjoy the gorgeous views of the canyon as the naturally hot water bubbles around you.


We won't hide from the fact that lift passes in the USA are notoriously expensive (Steamboat's are around $1,500 for five days of skiing, though kids tickets are much cheaper), but don't rule Steamboat out - there's a hog killin' time to be had in them there mountains

Fly to Denver for a 3hr transfer



Engelberg
Switzerland


Engelberg sits roughly in the centre of Switzerland, in the Uri Alps mountain range. Like most Swiss resorts, it's beautiful, and enjoys a long history as a ski resort. In fact, it's believed to have been formed around the beautiful Benedictine Abbey in 1122 and became a tourist destination in the mid 19th Century.


The town hosts a round of the ski jumping World Cup each year and is the proud home of a number of Alpine World Champions, including 2022 gold medallist, alpine skier Michelle Gisin.


If your kids want to follow in those hallowed ski tracks, they'll probably want to start at the Klostermatte beginners' area next to the Bruni lift. It offers two ski lifts, a large magic carpet and a ski kindergarten.

The Yeti Park behind the Engelberg-Ritstis cable car has two magic carpets and a rope lift and provides a safe space for children to ski, board, sledge or slide in the snow.


Once they've progressed to the mountain, the Gerschnialp area has three ski lifts with easy slopes that are perfect for beginners and offer a chance for the whole family to ski together and advanced beginners can progress to the Üntertrübsee and Älplerseil ski lifts, where runs are a little trickier without being too terrifying for youngsters.

Sledging has its place here, too - three runs in total, one of which was the 1934 two-man bobsleigh world championship track at Gerschialp. The others, at Brunni and Fürenalp, are gentler descents.


There's plenty of fun to be had atop Titlis, the iconic 3,238 metre peak that towers over Engelberg. The Titlis Rotair - a cable car that gently spins to give you a 360 degree view of the valley - is perhaps the most palatable of the lot. The Titlis Cliff Walk is a firm NO from us, but your kids might fancy the feeling of impending doom that comes from strolling 500m in the air across a rickety-looking bridge.


The Ice Flyer chairlift whisks riders over the huge glacier, allowing them to peer down into the vast, icy blue crevices below. It's worth a trip, if only to reach the snow park at the top, where tubing and other activities are on offer and a My First Snow Experience puts beginners on the white stuff for the first time. For those who want to see more of the glacier, a walk through the glacier cave is a must.


Engelberg also gets bonus points for its innovative scheme to make the journey to resort a part of the experience. Take the Globi carriage on the Zentralbahn train from Lucerne, where Globi (above right), a bird-like character, meets the children and provides books for the journey. He also encourages them to look out of the window during the train ride to solve a riddle and win a prize. To solve the puzzle, you need the Globi brochure, which is available directly from the Globi Express or from the train staff, a valid ticket and something to write with.

Fly to Lucerne and catch the Globi Express to resort




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