Family ski resorts: our Christmas ski trip to Passo Tonale, Italy with Crystal Ski Holidays. A review

Passo Tonale

Passo Tonale in Italy is widely regarded as one of the best family ski resorts, when you’re looking for a good value ski resort, and somewhere that caters well for beginners. Crystal Ski Holidays invited us to stay there for a week, over Christmas, to see what we made of the place.

We arrived in Italy with a mixed bunch of ski abilities. Austin and Gwen had only skied once before, in Austria. I’d been on three ski holidays, and would place myself in the ‘nervous intermediate’ category. D skis well, after starting to learn when he was six. So we were looking forward to honing our diverse skills at Passo Tonale. It’s one of Crystal Ski Holiday’s family ski resorts, and they offer ski package holidays there, across 13 hotels.

How to get to Passo Tonale ski resort

Italian Alps as seen from the window of a plane

We had an incredible view of the snowy Alps

Flying off on a family ski holiday only a couple of days before Christmas is possibly the most thrilling experience. The excitement carried us through the early morning flight (6.25am from Gatwick), and the three-hour coach transfer from Verona airport.

At one and a half hours long, the flight was quick and painless. A relay of cheery Crystal staff directed us from the airport exit to our coach, where we met Jess, our key Crystal Ski rep for the week. More coaches were lined up for holidaymakers arriving on different flights – D’s parents, plus his brother and family, were flying from Bristol a couple of hours later, to join us for Christmas.

After our reps had made sure all the families were on board, we set off on the drive, past Austrian-influenced churches, the beautiful Lake Iseo and up narrow, winding mountain roads, whose verges became more snowy the higher we climbed.

Checking in to Passo Tonale, one of Italy’s family ski resorts

Grand Hotel Paradiso, Passo Tonale, Italy

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Paradiso

The Grand Hotel Paradiso was to be our home for the week. It was turnaround day and five coaches had arrived at once, so there was a queue to check in. Rather than waiting, Jess suggested we stash our cases in the luggage room and walk the five minutes into Passo Tonale’s centre. It’s a small place with only 300 inhabitants off-season, but there were plenty of eateries along the resort’s one main road. We chose La Botte, a cosy bar/restaurant with a roaring fire and a 10% discount for people who buy the Crystal Ski Holidays discount card (€5).

Top tip: I’d recommend investing in the Crystal Ski Holidays discount card, as it more than payed for itself, offering lots of discounts in restaurants and bars over the week of our stay.

La Botte

Unwinding in La Botte, Passo Tonale

hot chocolate

We drank loads of hot chocolate when we were in Italy. This was one of my favourites

Several hot chocolates and tasty paninis later, we headed back to explore our hotel room.

Settling in to the Grand Hotel Paradiso

Greeting us in our double deluxe hotel room was the most magnificent view of the setting sun, framed like a painting by our balcony window.

I’ve written a feature about the Grand Hotel Paradiso in Passo Tonale, including a description and video of our bedroom. Do check it out if you’d like to find out more.

sunset over Passo Tonale, Italy

The sunset as seen from our hotel window was beautiful

Our stay included half-board accommodation. After meeting up with the rest of the family, we headed to Paradiso’s restaurant, where a buffet dinner was served an hour earlier than usual (6pm Italian time). This was so the youngsters could have an early night after the journey, and wake up fresh for the piste.

restaurant at Grand Hotel Paradiso, Passo Tonale Italy

We ate breakfast and dinner in Grand Hotel Paradiso’s restaurant

Compared with some Italian ski resorts, Passo Tonale is exceptionally snow-sure. Sixty cm of snow had fallen the week before, and at least eighty cm more fell while we were there. But just in case, the latest snow-making technology was there to give nature a helping hand. There was no need for it while we were there, though.

Girl in the snow at Passo Tonale, Italy

There was plenty of snow when we arrived at Passo Tonale

Crystal Ski kids’ club

Crystal suggested we sign our Pigeons up to their childcare for the week. For our stay, this was the Whizz Kids club. It’s since been renamed the Beanie Bear club, for children between three and eight (a separate club, Pepi Penguins, runs for younger children).

I’ve written a feature about Crystal Ski Holidays’ childcare, which you can read here.

It was a good call. Sammy and her team of childcare staff really looked after our family while we were away, from the welcoming text message before we’d even arrived at the resort, through to the presentation ceremony at the end. Gwen was crowned Whizz Kids Picasso, for her artistic talents, and Austin was named Piste Prince, after he wowed the team with his smooth moves on the blue runs. The staff really ‘got’ our kids, and did everything they could to make the stay a fun, happy time.

Children in Crystal Ski Kids club

The children loved their kids club

This was the first year Passo Tonale offered Crystal Ski Holiday’s specialist childcare. It made all the difference to our trip. The club was based in our Grand Hotel Paradiso, so it was an easy journey, from bed, to breakfast buffet, to club HQ.

We took the children in at 8am, padding along in their ski socks and base layers. After drop-off, the patient staff dressed them in salopettes, jackets, jumpers, ski boots, skis, goggles and helmets, ready for ski school at 9am. The kit all stayed in Whizz Kids HQ and the heated locker room, so we didn’t have to carry it at all, unless we wanted to take the children out skiing ourselves.

Snowball fights at Passo Tonale Italy

There was plenty of scope for snowball fights at Passo Tonale

After ski school ended, at 11am, the staff took the children back to the HQ for a child-friendly hot lunch – like chicken nuggets and vegetables, pizza or spaghetti bolognese. Indoor play, with arts and crafts, brick building or soft play, was usually followed by an outdoor excursion: gondola rides, snowball fights or bum boarding.

Crystal Ski Kids club

The club offered a range of activities, including drawing and crafting

If we’d wanted to, D and I could have taken off for the whole day, skiing from 8am until 5pm, when the club ended. There was even an evening childcare service, for an extra charge, from 7.30 till 9pm. We decided to take advantage of the flexible sign-in, sign-out system, and kept the children with us on the afternoon of Christmas Day. Father Christmas had found us Italy, so there were presents to open! And our son was poorly half-way through, so he didn’t ski on the last few days. But once he was contagion-free, we put him in Whizz Kids just for the afternoon sessions.

Christmas at Passo Tonale

This was our family’s first Christmas out of the UK, so we wanted it to be special. Making sure that we had everything we needed so that Santa’s visit went smoothly was a bit of a challenge. We planned well, though, and I’ve shared my tips on how to plan and pack for a Christmas ski trip here.

Santa did find us in Passo Tonale, and we opened presents in our hotel room before joining the rest of the extended family in the restaurant for breakfast, and a morning of skiing.

The restaurant served the main Christmas meal in the evening. Everyone dressed up for the occasion, and it was exciting to walk up the curved staircase to the restaurant, where the staff greeted us with glasses of franciacorta, a local fizz which tasted a little like cider. The kids were treated to pink grapefruit juice.

Grand Hotel Paradiso in Passo Tonale, Italy

Everyone dressed up for Christmas dinner in Grand Hotel Paradiso’s restaurant

Grand Hotel Paradiso’s Christmas meal was a merry feast. Arranged in a beautiful display were salads with aubergine and grilled vegetables; speck, rocket and orange; couscous, rice or beans. These starters were followed by a choice of main courses, like cannelloni with ricotta, mushroom risotto, pork cheek with apple sauce, and potatoes with rosemary.

It was the desserts that were most impressive. A stomach-groaning range of around thirty different cakes and sweets were lined up to choose from, including panettone: with fruit, pistachio, chocolate or cream; flans, soufflés and mousses in flavours of coffee, chocolate and vanilla; and sponge cake drenched in chocolate. I wish I could have sampled them all…..

Grand Hotel Paradiso

Grand Hotel Paradiso offered several types of pannetone at Christmas

You can read some tips on spending Christmas at a ski resort with kids here.

One of the best ski resorts for beginners? Ski School at Passo Tonale

Beginner runs at Passo Tonale Italy

Passo Tonale was good for beginners

Passo Tonale is blessed with 100 km of ski slopes, including plenty of quiet, wide pistes for beginners. Unsurprisingly, it has one of the busiest ski schools in Europe. I signed up via our helpful Crystal reps for six days of two-hour lessons. On our first day, the Italian ski instructors took the complete beginners off together in one big group, and we ‘intermediates’ – people who could just about do a snowplough, through to those who’d skied black runs – took it in turns to ski down a gentle slope, so the instructors could group us based on our ability.

My group was led by Tiziano, a young local who’d lived in the area all his life. The teaching was excellent. Over the week, we graduated from very gentle slopes, to an easy red and on the last day, we even skied down part of the 3,000m glacier overlooking the town.

Cablecar to glacier at Passo Tonale

A cablecar took us up to the top of the glacier

Skiing and snowy scenes at Passo Tonale Italy

I learnt some new skills in the intermediate class

Ski lessons for kids at Passo Tonale

The children’s ski school followed the same pattern. My daughter was in the group for complete beginners. She learned how to whizz down a very gentle slope without falling, and travel up on the button lift.

Girl on ski lift at Passo Tonale Italy

Our daughter did really well in the kids’ ski classes

My son, who’d already picked up how to snowplough and turn when we were in Austria, went up the mountain on a chairlift with a handful of other slightly older children. If he hadn’t been struck by a bug halfway through our week at Passo Tonale, I have no doubt he’d have been a better skier than me by the end of the week. As it was, I did see him zipping past me on a blue run on his second day, all cool and nonchalent in his bright orange jacket.

In a presentation ceremony on the last day, the ski instructors gave us all booklets showing which skills we’d mastered. The children received medals. My daughter was so proud of hers (as were we!).

girl in snow at Posso Tonale ski resort, Italy

Our daughter was proud of her medal

If you want to read more about Passo Tonale and the Pontedilegno-Tonale ski area, I’ve written more about it in this feature.

Passo Tonale: one of the best family ski resorts?

Travelling to Passo Tonale with Crystal Ski Holidays was loads of fun, and hassle-free. Because of all the services Crystal offered to families, D and I could enjoy ourselves without having to worry too much about keeping the children happy.

Although we didn’t pay for this trip, we’d definitely book to go away with Crystal, to Passo Tonale or another of their family ski resorts. Both children adored the kids’ club, and were genuinely clamouring to go back. If our son hadn’t been unwell we’d have put the children into a couple of evening sessions, too. Then we could have taken advantage of Passo Tonale’s night skiing, or Crystal’s evening trip to sample local food and drink in a monastery.

As it was, the extra help from Crystal meant that Austin’s bug was nowhere near as tricky to manage as usual. Let’s face it, those of us with young children are familiar with holidays where someone or other is ill. If that holiday’s still a fun, happy time, despite the lurgy, then someone’s doing something right.

Did we enjoy our ski trip?

Our verdict? Passo Tonale is brilliant, and people on family ski holidays there would find slopes to suit skiers of all levels. Crystal’s Kids club was a huge hit with the children – and it gave me and D a chance to relax, and unwind our way onto the slopes.

I put together some tips and hacks for spending Christmas at a ski resort with kids here.

If you’d like to read more about our time at Passo Tonale, check out my post on the Grand Hotel Paradiso. There’s more on Crystal’s Kids Club here and on Passo Tonale and the Pontedilegno-Tonale ski area here. And here’s a video with some highlights from our trip.

Check out these other posts I’ve written about Passo Tonale:

  • Whizz Kids club
    Crystal Ski Kids Club at Passo Tonale, Italy

Before we hit the slopes, we tried a family ski lesson at the Snozone, an indoor ski centre in Milton Keynes. Read about it here.

Family ski holidays to Passo Tonale, and other family ski resorts, are available on the Crystal Ski website. We were sent to the resort on a press trip for the purpose of this post. All views are my own.

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Passo Tonale


  • Nichola - Globalmouse
    January 8, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Oh what a fab ski holiday Nell. We actually stayed on Lake Iseo once so that brought back memories, I’d love to ski in Italy. The kids club looked amazing and what a beautiful resort. We’re only just back from skiing but you’ve got me wanting to head back again! Looks like the perfect family ski trip.

    • Nell
      January 8, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      It was great, Nichola. You’d enjoy skiing in Italy, I’m sure. x

  • Jenny - TraveLynn Family
    January 8, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Oh I am so jealous of your ski trip! So, you were actually there for Christmas? How magical! I cannot wait to take my boys skiing. Think next year is the year! I wonder if I still have my ski legs though… #MondayEscapes

    • Nell
      January 8, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      Oh, I bet skiing will all come back to you! Yes, we were there for Christmas – a special time.

  • Leona
    January 8, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve never been skiing but would love to go

    And if I don’t like skiing there always hot chocholate

    • Nell
      January 8, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      Yes, and the gluwein’s pretty nice too, even if you haven’t been skiing!

  • Oh wow Nell! What a resort and those views… incredible! My hubby and I used to go skiing regular before having kids but we’ve now not been for about 7 years;( My youngest is now 3.5 year old so I think a ski holiday next winter is definitely doable. I cannot wait and I will keep Passo Tonale in mind because the kids clubs etc sound fab for little ones.

    • Nell
      January 8, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Sounds as though your family’s the perfect age! x

  • Baby Loves Travel
    January 8, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    This sounds like a great place for a family ski holiday. I’m hoping to get my lo on skis in the Spring… #MondayEscapes

    • Nell
      January 8, 2018 at 8:45 pm

      Spring’s a great time for it!

  • Megan - TMK
    January 8, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    I can’t resist skiing posts! Looks fabulous and you all did so well. The weather looked like it was great. Thanks for making me look at yet another resort 😉 #mondayescapes

    • Nell
      January 8, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      Megan, do consider Passo Tonale. It’s a fab place – the glacier was incredible.

  • Plutonium Sox
    January 8, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    This sounds amazing Nell, I’d love to learn to ski. I like the sound of the kids club too so that they can learn to ski with friends and not in the same lesson as me and show me up!

    • Nell
      January 8, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      Haha yes – I think learning to ski is a bit like learning to drive. There are very few families where it works for the parents to be the teachers!

  • Nicky @ Go Live Young
    January 8, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    Sounds like an amazing ski trip Nell. Can’t wait for ours in February #MondayEscapes

    • Nell
      January 8, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      I’ll look forward to reading about it!

  • Claire at Tin Box Traveller
    January 8, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    What a brilliant way to spend Christmas. It sounds like the kids had a blast. I love the variety of things for them to do during the day and the options to give you time on the slopes. I’ve skied once and would be apprehensive about going with the kids unless I knew that we’d all get lots out of it like this!

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      It really was a good way to keep everyone happy. I’d definitely recommend it for your gang – they’re a good age for it.

  • Helen Wills
    January 8, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    I loved following your holiday on Instagram Nell – it looked so beautiful, and I’m especially envious because we’re not skiing this year. I’ll definitely consider this for our next booking.

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      They’re a great company to go with, Helen x

  • susanna
    January 9, 2018 at 9:48 am

    We haven’t been skiing as a family for ages! The thought of combining Italy with skiing is too tempting. I must go next year.

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      You definitely should, Susanna!

  • Penny Alexander
    January 9, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Loved following your trip Nell, and so good to hear how it can work for all abilities as I am really keen to try as a family after my solo experiences! Agree it is the BEST time to escape just before Christmas.

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      It was a good way to set us up for winter. Nice blast of blue skies!

  • Annabel
    January 9, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    Love the video! Your daughter looks like a natural! I did my first ever skiing in Italy, I’d love to go back. The resort sounds brilliant and the kids club sounds great fun. Am now very tempted, my little one is only 3 though so I think we might leave it another year or so….

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:36 pm

      There was a four year-old out skiing with Whizz Kids, so I think they can start quite young. The teachers were excellent – really nice.

  • MrsS
    January 9, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    I absolutely loved to follow your trip. It looked so magical and to spend Christmas day out on the slopes…how fab is that? With three little ones, I would definitely consider this trip it sounds amazing and so family friendly !

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:37 pm

      It really took the burden off us, and with three kids I bet you’d find that even more.

  • Sarah Christie
    January 10, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    Ah it looks just amazing Nell, The views and sunset look breathtaking and I know the boys would love skiing, me? I would love watching and enjoying the views thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes x

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:40 pm

      They did a wicked hot chocolate, which I bet you’d love!

  • Gretta Schifano
    January 11, 2018 at 8:55 am

    It sounds like a great trip Nell. So sorry that your son was ill, but the fact that you are so positive about the holiday despite this speaks volumes!

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:44 pm

      Yes, you rarely seem to get a hitch-free break when young kids are involved. But this one was fun nevertheless.

  • Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
    January 13, 2018 at 7:16 am

    This sounds great and you were clearly very well looked after by Crystal. Whizz Kids looks like. Lot of fun and great that they get them outdoors in he afternoons too! It’s so helpful to have (fun) child care available so you can do some skiing as well. The scenery is stunning too!

    • Nell
      January 13, 2018 at 4:52 pm

      It was spectacular, especially up on the glacier. VERY cold though!

  • Daisy - Dais Like These
    January 13, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    What a fab way to spend Christmas! I really loved following your trip.
    I need to read more posts like this because I have never been but my husband is desperate to get back on the slopes!

    • Nell
      January 14, 2018 at 6:41 pm

      Oh, you’d love it, Daisy. It’s not as easy to learn when you’re an adult as it is when you’re a child, but I bet you’d be great.

  • Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)
    January 15, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    What a magical Christmas trip, Nell. It must have been so special having a properly White Christmas and even more exciting for the kids to learn how to ski too. I learnt to snowboard in Banff with Crystal but we haven’t been skiing with the kids yet. They’d love it! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 at 2:11 pm

      And thank you for hosting x

  • Corey | fifi + hop
    January 15, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    I bet being there for Christmas was cosy and magical. Guaranteed snow! We just had our first ski trip of the year yesterday, but to a small, local mountain. Nothing like this – sounds like an amazing spot that cater well to kids – a deal breaker these days! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      Yes, it really helped, especially as ours are so young.

  • Kerri-Ann
    January 30, 2018 at 8:54 am

    What a glorious trip, it makes me so excited for our first trip if we ever get round to booking one, definitely on our bucket list of family holidays. Thank you for joining in #SnapshotsandScenes – this months goes live on Thursday

    • Nell
      January 31, 2018 at 8:47 pm

      Thanks for having me!

  • Mel
    January 30, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    Oh wow, Nell. It looks like you had an amazing trip to Italy! Your photos are absolutely beautiful and congratulations to the children for their medals. Looks like Crystal Ski really went above and beyond to give you the trip of a lifetime! Thanks for joining in with #SnapshotsandScenes. I hope you can join us again on Thursday.

    • Nell
      January 31, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      Thanks. We were so proud of the kids!

  • jenny
    January 31, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Wow that looks so amazing and what a grand family adventure. I have always wanted to take my kids skiing but hubby is so against snow and skis hahaha I don’t think it will ever happen for us sadly. But love to see other enjoying it. #snapshots&scenes

    • Nell
      January 31, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      Aw, that’s a shame!

  • scots2travel
    February 1, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    The snow, cable-cars and hot chocolates look fantastic. Can’t imagine spending Christmas away but it looks like it worked for you

    • Nell
      February 4, 2018 at 6:32 pm

      Christmas away was different – not something I’d want to do every year, but it was lovely to have all that snow.

  • Claire
    October 5, 2018 at 11:21 am

    First of all thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful information. Actually, I was planning to go on a ski holiday with my family and I was concerned about my daughter as she is just 5 years old. This is a really helpful guide.


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