Here’s our pick of the best ski resorts for families. Kids of all ages will have the skiing holiday of a lifetime.
Big does not necessarily mean better when it comes to ski resorts. To find a resort that suits skiers of mixed abilities and has something to do for non-skiers too you need to think of location, variety and value for money. Here are four of my favourites:
St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria
If ever a resort had something for everyone it is St. Anton. The skiing is some of the best in the world, with challenging runs, lots of off piste, a huge variety for intermediates and good ski and board schools. The town with its onion-domed church and low-rise chalet hotels has combined tradition with the trimmings of modern innovation. The resort is steeped in history, documented in the Alpine Museum where there is also a stunning restaurant. There’s something for every budget too: chalet hotels and self-catering apartments to top hotels such as the Alte Post and Schwarzer Adler (founded in 1570). The après ski is legendary from the Krazy Kanguruh to the Mooserwirt, but there are also piano bars and quiet hotel bars. You can even ski over to Lech and Zurs on the same ski pass. As for restaurants, both on and off the mountain you are spoilt for choice. At night you can even take a horse-drawn carriage to Ferwall, a rustic refuge, and feast on venison and kaiserschmarrn, a deliciously different kind of pancake. Off the slopes there is a luxury well-being centre with a swimming pool, and several saunas. A new sports centre has a climbing wall, tennis and squash courts, there’s a curling rink and one of the best toboggan runs in the mountains. And there are lots of shops.
Reached by cog railway from the valley of Lauterbrunnen, Wengen is that picture perfect Swiss resort. It has some of the most stunning views in the Alps with the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains forming a backdrop. The train continues to Kleine Scheidegg where Wengen’s slopes meet those of Grindelwald, and through the Eiger up to the Junfraujoch which at 3450m is the highest railway station in Europe. There’s an ice palace at the top, restaurant and views of the Aletsch glacier. Non-skiers and skiers can easily meet up for lunch and there is a rail pass for pedestrians. Don’t miss the Junfrau Hotel at Wengenalp with spectacular views of the three main mountains. Another nice ski area is at Mannlichen - reached by cablecar. Many of the 25 or so hotels have been around for years and are comfortable 4 stars, most with small pools or spa facilities. There are few chalets or self-catering unless you stay in Lauterbrunnen. Wengen is pleasant to wander around with shops and tea shops and easy access to the nearby resorts of Murren and Grindelwald.
This is a lively, large and well-linked area, great for groups of mixed abilities and part of the Skicircus, one of the biggest ski areas east of Innsbruck. There are two separate villages Saalbach and Hinterglemm, both traditional villages 2½ miles apart. Saalbach is the party town with the more expensive hotels, while Hinterglemm is better value with a greater choice of accommodation. There are more high speed chairlifts here than anywhere else in the world, so you can literally ski until you drop. There’s even a floodlift terrain park, a favourite with teenagers. If you want to tackle the Skicircus, start in an anti-clockwise direction, stopping for lunch at one of the 40 restaurants which are mostly rustic huts with good food, a lively ambience and easy to find. Apres ski is extremely lively and most bars on the route home get packed early. Several have music or live bands and it often all ends at an old cowshed, the Bauer’s Schi-alm. If you fancy tea dancing try the Backstattstall. For non-skiers there are excursions to nearby Salzburg.
Chamonix may be classed as a top international resort, but there are many smaller resorts such as La Flegere and Le Brevent which are linked to it, along with Le Tour which is ideal for beginners and the better known area of Argentiere. Courmayeur, through the Mont Blanc tunnel, is also now included in the 6-day lift pass and there are regular buses. There’s also lots for non-skiers to do including taking the cable up to the Aiguille du Midi with its stunning views of Mont Blanc and the world’s highest cafetaria at 3842 metres. The 10½ mile run back down is possible for skiers at intermediate level. It does have a rather hairy start but the views of seracs (huge chunks of ice) and crevasses are incredible. On the mountain, cosy lunch spots are few. Great for food and accessible to non skiers is the Grand Hotel at Montenvers railway station reached by train or the end of the Vallee Blanche run. Off the slopes, the pedestrianised town centre has lots of shops, bars and restaurants ranging from good value to gourmet. Accommodation is varied from hotels to apartments and chalets - both luxury and no frills. There’s even a youth hostel. There’s a good sports centre with swimming, and ice skating and lots of cross country skiing too.
Thinking out the journey? Read our handy guides to driving to a ski holiday in France.
P&O Ferries Ski Expert
The Guardian's wintersports correspondent from 1999-2005, Nicky is now the regular ski writer for The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian and ski magazines Daily Mail Ski and Snowboard, and Ski and Board, the magazine of the Ski Club of Great Britain. Her first memories of skiing holidays are sitting on the shoulders of her parents’ ski guide as he zoomed down the slopes - she was just five years old. Her favourite resorts are Chamonix, where she once fell into a crevasse, St Anton where she learned to dance in skiboots and Aspen for its awesome powder snow.