Family ski holidays: what to look for in a family ski resort. How to make your family ski trip fun!

Family ski holidays: what to look for in a family ski resort. How to make your family ski trip fun!

Family ski holidays can be the most memorable of trips. You can’t beat the exhilaration of whizzing down glistening slopes together, then crunching through fluffy white snow to an awaiting cup of steaming, thick hot chocolate. But ski holidays with kids can also be hard work. Over the years, we’ve learned what works, and what doesn’t. Here are our tips on ski holidays for beginners. Turn your time on the piste into the best holiday yet!

Where are the best ski resorts?

With family-friendly ski resorts spread across the globe, this is a tricky question to answer. Our skiing has been confined to Europe so far, but I’ve heard that north America’s ski resorts are outstanding. Ski breaks are available in some surprising places: a good friend recently went skiing in Lebanon. Australia’s best places to ski are a good option if you want to go during the UK’s summer months. But for family friendly skiing in the Alps, Scandinavia or elsewhere in Europe, check out this post on the best family ski resorts Europe, by A Bavarian Sojourn. Even if you don’t go with one of Emma’s suggestions, it’ll give you some ideas on what to consider.

Look for a variety of slopes, with plenty of easy runs for the beginners

Passo Tonale

Families come in all shapes and sizes, with lots of different needs to juggle. A five-year old’s unlikely to spend a long day on the slopes without at least a few grumbles. But a ten year-old novice can soon outflank a 40-something. Especially if they started to ski later in life (ahem….I put my hand up here!). And your family might have a resident ski expert or two, who likes to tackle black runs. But the best ski resorts for kids might not be the same places you used to ski as a child-free twenty-something. It’s important to check that your resort has enough variety to meet everyone’s needs.

If it’s your first time skiing, you might prefer a resort with plenty of low-gradient pistes. Ideally these could start and finish a short walk from the ski resort’s accommodation. Nobody wants to wear themselves out tramping in heavy boots to the green slopes, before they’ve even started skiing. Some ski resorts offer lifts and gondolas directly from the accommodation up to the beginner slopes, which is almost as easy as a ski-in, ski-out hotel.

What sort of accommodation works best for family ski holidays?

Anyone who travels with kids knows it’s important to create a home from home while you’re away. Whether you’re going for a ski chalet holiday, or staying in a hotel or self-catering apartment, your ski accommodation needs to be comfortable and cosy, so you can relax and unwind after a day on the piste.

Family chalet ski holidays

Although so far we’ve only stayed in hotels, my friend swears by ski chalet accommodation when he goes on a ski holiday with kids. He likes the fact that you have the place all to yourselves. So your children – and those of your family or friends, if you go as a big goup – can relax in your own family ski chalet, without worrying that those shrieks of excitement are disturbing the childless couple in the next room.

If you’re looking for a bit of luxury, plenty of resorts offer catered ski chalets. These luxury ski chalets include the services of a chef, so you don’t have to worry about cooking your meals. Just like in a hotel, but with added privacy.

Ski hotels

Ski hotels can be warm and convivial. They often come with bonus features, like swimming pools, spas and restaurants, that make them attractive for family ski holidays. The best ski hotels make  logistics a little easier, too. Some have heated boot rooms, with your own allocated locker where you can stash all your skis, poles and helmet at the end of the day. You may even be able to find a hotel with on-site ski hire, so you don’t have to lug your equipment around town.

Myrkdalen

The restaurants at Myrkdalen, Norway looked directly out onto the slopes.

We’ve stayed in some notable ski hotels over the years. The restaurants and cafes in Myrkdalen Hotel, near Voss in west Norway, looked out directly onto the ski slopes. So parents of older children could sit with a glass of wine while their kids skiied safely, in clear sight. The spa at Puradies in Saalfelden Leogang, Austria, had three saunas and a steam room, all with panoramic views of the mountains. It was a blissful way to ease those aching ski muscles. And Passo Tonale’s Grand Hotel Paradiso, in Italy, offered on-site childcare, which made the mornings very easy. We just took the children downstairs in their thermals, and the childcare staff got them kitted out ready for their lessons – without us having to drag grumbling kids out into the cold.

Self catering

We’re yet to try self catering accommodation with the kids, but I’ve heard it’s a good budget option. Do you have any tips on how to find the best self-catering ski holidays?

Should we book kids’ clubs and ski lessons?

Kids’ clubs aren’t for everyone. But until the children get their ski legs, it’s difficult to spend much time together on the slopes. So if you’re going to choose childcare on any family holiday, a family ski holiday would be the one to go for.

Lots of ski operators offer all-inclusive family ski holidays with childcare. We tried out one of these ski packages on the invitation of Crystal Ski. The childcare was a huge hit, both with the kids, and me and D. Austin and Gwen spent two hours every morning in ski school. Then the childcare staff took them back to the hotel for a hot lunch. In the afternoon, they spent time doing arts and crafts, brick building or in soft play. If the weather allowed, the children all went out again, on gondola rides, to have snowball fights or go bum boarding.

Passo Tonale

Childcare in Passo Tonale, Italy, involved snowball fights and bum boarding in the afternoon.

This childcare was only for children aged eight and under, so if you have older children, or if you just want to stay together on the trip, you could consider group lessons, or private tuition. Most resorts offer ski school instruction, and lots of ski schools end the week with a nice little awards ceremony for the kids.

When the Austrian resort of Saalfelden Leogang invited our family to stay, they arranged private tuition for the kids. In just three days, kids’ instructor Atu progressed our two from complete beginners, to children who could do a slow slalom down the nursery slopes. Meanwhile, D and I were left in the capable hands of Roly, a ski guide. He took us off to pistes that challenged us at our own pace. We’d occasionally all meet up, for hot chocolates, vins chauds, or lunches at one of the resorts mountain huts. It was a nice, personalised way to learn (although not the cheapest option, by any means).

Good food and drink

At ski resorts you can usually find crowd-pleasing meals for all the family: winter warmers, served with a hot drink and – depending on which country you’re in – lashings of cheese. My favourite is raclette, an Alpine mountain recipe featuring melted cheese, potatoes, cured meats and a smattering of vegetables if you’re lucky.

But it’s worth double-checking a resort’s restaurants, to see what’s on offer. Some resorts have a wide range of eateries serving hearty lunches, and early evening meals. Other only begin to serve dinner later in the evening. So if your children are used to going to bed at around 7.30ish, it might be tricky to find somewhere that serves evening meals early enough for your family.

What to take skiing

If it’s your first time skiing, it’s worth putting together a list of the items you’ll need. It will look something like this:

  • Suncream with a high SPF. It’s very easy to burn when you’re high up in the mountains. Pack miniatures, so you can slip them into your children’s pockets for re-application over the day.
  • Sunblock for lips
  • Warm ski jackets. Unless you’re feeling super-flush, you only need one jacket each. People wear their daytime ski jackets everywhere, even to the bars at night.
  • Salopettes. You might want to consider taking a spare pair if you’re skiing for a whole week, as you’ll be wearing these all day.
  • Thermal layers, for legs and tops. Wool, or a high-grade polymer, is best. You’ll need to pre-warn any wriggly kids that they have to put these on before going outside. Mine hated layers when they were little!
  • Warm jumpers.
  • Invest in a good pair of children’s ski goggles. Don’t forget your own! We love our Electric anti-fogging goggles.
  • Sunglasses. You’ll need these as well as goggles, unless you want to sit in a piste-side cafe at lunchtime with your goggles on. Don’t be tempted to replace goggles with sunnies when you’re on the slopes. They’ll just fall off.
  • Hand warmers. You can buy gel packets that warm up when you snap them. These are great for slipping into kids’ pockets, for when their hands get cold.
  • Decent gloves – ski gloves and wollen gloves. On all the family ski trips we’ve been on, the children have ended up with chilly fingers. A way to help prevent this is to double layer, with a warm woollen layer topped by a good set of waterproof ski gloves.
  • Warm ski socks. These are specially designed to be long enough to ride over ski boots. This stops the boots from rubbing.

Everything else, you can hire at the resort – skis, boots, poles, helmets etc.

Skicircus

It’s my first time skiing. How long should we go for?

Ski holidays with children are often a week in length. But short ski breaks can be an attractive alternative. Children sometimes find it hard to ski every day for a whole week. So long weekend ski trips can be better value for money, and more manageable. If you do find yourself going for a whole week, one of my top first-time skiing tips is to let yourselves have a non-ski day, mid way through, to avoid burnout.

Festive Fun and non-ski activities

Of course, if you’re a family of ravenous ski hounds, you’ll all want to be out on the piste, all day every day. But the chances are, one or more of you might want some variety. Whether it’s a day off to rest beginners’ achey legs, or an afternoon with the kids to give them a break from the slopes, it’s good to make sure there are non-ski activities at the resort, so the family can mix it up a bit.

Ski resorts often offer activities for non-ski winter family holidays. These range from dog-sledding to cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. I’ve posted here about some exciting things you might like to try on family snow holidays. Do go over and have a look.

When is the best time for family ski holidays?

winter

Christmas ski holidays can be a lovely chance to celebrate together as a family. When else are you guaranteed snow for the big day? We spent a special family Christmas last year in Passo Tonale. There were ten of us – Granny and Grandad, D’s brother and his family, plus the four of us. Our hotel laid on a Christmas Eve Italian feast, with bollicine, a local sparkling wine, and five different kinds of panettone.

If you fancy seeing in the next year in style, New Year skiing can be a lot of fun, and there are always plenty of new year ski deals. Spring skiing is also worth looking at when you’re on a budget. By the afternoon, the snow’s often a little slushy in some of the lower lying resorts, so ski package holidays are cheaper. But beginners, and children, might only have enough stamina to ski in the morning, so it doesn’t matter that conditions aren’t perfect in the afternoons.

How to save money on a ski trip with the family

Last-minute ski holidays can save you money, when you find a good-value package to a family-friendly resort. But travelling last-minute, or at the end of the ski season, can save you money in other ways.

Lots of people buy new ski gear for their kids, who only wear it for a week or a fortnight. So at the end of the ski season you’ll find tons of barely-worn kids’ ski clothes for sale online, at a fraction of the regular price.

With the strength of the Euro against the GB pound at the moment, all-inclusive family ski holidays, where you pay a one-off price that includes your meals, can help avoid any unpleasant surprises when you have to buy food in a ski resort that turns out to be more expensive than anticipated. If you do choose self-catering as an option, though, packing a sandwich for lunch can help save money.

Cheap family ski holidays aren’t easy to come by. The cost of tuition and hiring all the gear means that it’s likely to cost more than a sunshine holiday. But if you ski regularly, you can save a little by re-using your salopettes and jackets rather than buying new ones for each season. You could even invest in your own ski boots and helmets (although you might want to wait until the kids have stopped growing before you splash out, otherwise it’s not a good investment).

Do you have any tips for making family ski trips fun?

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family ski resort

This post may contain compensated links. All views are my own.

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50 Comments

  1. September 19, 2017 / 9:08 am

    I bet you cannot wait for your family ski holiday! I can’t wait till my boys are old enough – think we have a couple more years to wait. Your tips are fab – I can imagine that variety is key, especially with little ones. #familytraveltips

    • Nell
      Author
      September 19, 2017 / 8:41 pm

      I think we’ve hit optimum age for them to learn now. You’re right, I’m so excited.

  2. September 19, 2017 / 11:26 am

    Sounds like a great resort. I can’t wait to take my kids skiing in a few years time, it’s such a magical experience. #familytraveltips

    • Nell
      Author
      September 19, 2017 / 8:42 pm

      Good times ahead!

  3. September 19, 2017 / 12:10 pm

    Okay, I’m still waiting to give skiing a go. I think my time is coming! #familytraveltips

    • Nell
      Author
      September 19, 2017 / 8:46 pm

      You should!

  4. September 19, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    I love the idea of the kids’ club taking them to ski school as well – as a distinct novice, if I went with my daughter we’d both need lessons so trying to sort her and myself out at the same time is probably a recipe for disaster. I do think I should make a start sooner rather than later otherwise she’ll have outstripped me by lesson 3!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 19, 2017 / 8:49 pm

      I’m sure my two will be better than me by the end of this trip, Cathy….

  5. September 19, 2017 / 2:08 pm

    This looks like a really great hotel! Italy is supposed to be amazing to ski, I am sure you will love it. We tend to go to Austria or Switzerland. As the rest of my family are super skiers, I tend to look for places where I will have things to do as well (spas, towns close by to visit etc.) not to mention the accommodation is really important. I want the whole ski chalet thing, open fires, really cosy etc. etc. Now, I must look at booking our spring trip! 😀 #familytraveltips

    • Nell
      Author
      September 19, 2017 / 8:50 pm

      I haven’t skiied in Italy yet, either – only Austria and France. It’ll be interesting to compare the different places. I like the sound of cosy open fires!

  6. September 19, 2017 / 8:49 pm

    Wow! This resort looks incredible!! I have never been on a ski holiday but my husband is really desperate to go! The rooms look gorgeous -and so does the swimming pool! I love that there are all the extra activities available like dog sledding and face painting for the kids. Cant wait to follow your trip!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 19, 2017 / 9:03 pm

      Thanks Katy. I do want to give the dog sledding a try!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 20, 2017 / 8:28 pm

      I rather suspect we will, Claire! x

  7. September 20, 2017 / 8:55 am

    You’ve got me excited about skiing now! Counting down the months til I see snow #familytraveltips

    • Nell
      Author
      September 20, 2017 / 8:29 pm

      It’s exciting, isn’t it?

  8. September 21, 2017 / 8:31 am

    Great tips. I’ve never been skiing but this would be useful if we do

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 6:50 pm

      Thanks x

  9. September 21, 2017 / 9:46 am

    I didnt learn to ski as a child and it’s almost impossible now so I would need (very patient) tuition too! I’d love to take the kids – my little speed demon daughter would absolutely love it. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 6:51 pm

      Never too late, Katy! Still time for you to learn… xx

  10. September 21, 2017 / 11:01 am

    So you may be winning me over – I certainly like the look of the food, hotels and rooms – and I think my son would love it. As long as I can stay curled up by a log fire, I think I’m in!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 6:59 pm

      I’m sure they’d let you do that!

  11. September 21, 2017 / 11:33 am

    This place looks fab. My boys are far better than me at skiing now! And they have no fear #farawayfiles

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:03 pm

      Mine will no doubt overtake me soon, too….

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:07 pm

      I know. Don’t they look amazing?

  12. September 21, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    This looks like it ticks all the boxes for a family ski trip. The resort sounds ideal, the hotel looks gorgeous and with everything so close, that makes for a happy holiday.
    We never did ski as a family as our son skied on a school trip and wasn’t that keen to go again! Hubby and I learned to ski a couple of years ago and it was a fantastic experience. Always hear good things about Crystal Ski – hope you have a brilliant time.

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:08 pm

      Ah yes, I remember reading about your ski trip. Sounds as though it was a big success. It’s always more difficult to learn when you start later, but I’m determined to improve!

  13. September 21, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    Ha! My teenager’s class in Copenhagen has been there the past two years and it’s my middle teen’s turn this January! They loved it – when there was snow! Sending wintery wishes for clumps of fresh stuff for your tour of Passo Tonale! Enjoy! #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:14 pm

      ooh yes, let’s hope so! I’ve been told it’s very snow-sure, so fingers crossed.

  14. September 22, 2017 / 5:39 am

    Ahhhh, I am not into ski resorts at all but after seeing this I feel like I have been missing out. The facilities of this place look incredible (way better than my apartment). Plus, I like the non-skiing activities. Looks like an experience to add to my bucket list. #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:15 pm

      Yes, there’s so much more to the place than skiing.

  15. September 22, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    Oh I am jealous, I would really like to go on a skiing holiday – I went many moons ago. I like the mix of all that you’ve mentioned. I just have to wait a bit until the baby is older perhaps…

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:26 pm

      The time will fly by…..

  16. September 22, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    I would love to take my girls here! The scenery is breathtaking! It’s great how the team look after little ones so well and all the facilities are conveniently placed too.

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:26 pm

      I know. Sounds as though it’s going to be a great service.

  17. September 23, 2017 / 10:01 pm

    We haven’t been on a ski holiday with our boys yet, but at 6 & 3 we are hoping to take them soon. We loved skiing before kids so cannot wait to get back on the slopes! Great guide Nell

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:27 pm

      Thanks Lisa x

  18. September 24, 2017 / 9:42 am

    I really hadn’t realised there is so much to think about and that there is so much on offer for families who enjoy skiing. What an excellent resource

    • Nell
      Author
      September 24, 2017 / 7:27 pm

      Thanks Zena x

  19. October 2, 2017 / 10:50 am

    Ooh that swimming pool and hot tub, I want to get in!! Some great tips here, thank you. Particularly useful for us to know that the age for the kids clubs is under 4’s then -11’s. That would make me put off going until next year when both kids would be in the same club, would be great for them to learn together. Hopefully hubby will be mended enough to ski by next year too! Thanks for linking up to #familytraveltips
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      October 2, 2017 / 1:51 pm

      I hope you do get to go skiing some time, Nat. I’d be really interested to hear what you make of it!

  20. November 12, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    I love skiing in Italy and the food on the slopes and the bombardinos! Have also introduced our boys to the snow and skiing since they were very little – January this year we all had a blast with Esprit in Tignes – can’t rave enough about: https://zenbabytravel.com/2017/01/24/esprit-ski-holidays/ Will keep an eye on your travels with Crystalski at Passo Tonale, thanks for sharing Nell!

    • Nell
      Author
      November 14, 2017 / 12:48 pm

      Ooh, I’ve heard good things about Tignes. I’ll have a look!

  21. November 21, 2018 / 8:36 pm

    This is such a useful post Nell. I might do the double glove trick on the school run tomorrow, it was freezing today! And 5 types of panatone, I’d be tempted to visit Passo Tonale just for that!

    • Nell
      Author
      November 26, 2018 / 11:10 am

      We felt very spoilt. And full!

  22. November 26, 2018 / 3:54 pm

    This is so helpful, Nell! I’ve never been skiing but we thought this year we might give it a go! The tip about the hand warmers also might be good for our winter in Prague too! I’ve pinned it for later.

    • Nell
      Author
      November 27, 2018 / 9:51 am

      Yes, I think those hand warmers are good even for the chillier days here in the UK….

  23. December 9, 2018 / 1:11 pm

    I used to love skiing as a kid and my one dream is to get my hubby and the kids on a trip with me. I know the kids would love it – just need to convince the husband. Love your tips Nell!

    • Nell
      Author
      December 11, 2018 / 12:33 pm

      Thanks, Lauretta! Good luck with persuading your husband 🙂

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