These days more of us – particularly those with young families - are looking for a ski holiday with more than just a big mountain and lots of white stuff to play on. Certainly, if you have young kids, the chances are you’ll want a resort where there’s more to life than just ski school.
And more and more ski resorts are obliging, ramping up the extra-curricular activities to keep all ages entertained off as well as on the slopes. Here, with some help from our friends at Crystal Ski, are ten of the best resorts for family fun.
With the largest beginner area in the country and a huge selection of activities, Ruka is perfect for families. Ruka has been awarded the title of Finland’s best ski resort and it is easy to see why. The skiing is excellent, the pedestrianised village is safe and attractive and the resort has an unmistakeable character.
The slopes are quiet - even late in the afternoon you can take your pick of freshly-groomed runs - and the lifts stay open late.
But most people visit Ruka for the additional activities - you can take your pick from a long list, including snowshoe excursions, husky safaris, snowmobiling, ice climbing, ice-karting and reindeer sleigh rides. Plus… the first time we’ve heard of this: floating down an ice-cold river in a thermal wetsuit – even shooting the rapids!
Norway is great for young families looking for a multi-activity alternative to the Alps. A wonderful family ski resort just 45 minutes from Fagernes airport, Beitostølen has a range of beginner and intermediate-friendly slopes, with immaculate grooming and hardly anyone on them during the week.
If you don’t want to ski the whole time, there’s a big range of other activities, from snowmobiling and dog sledding, to snow tubing.
Après ski isn't top of the agenda in Beitostølen. For many, this is the appeal of the place and families always love the little village. Even the mountain is gentle and incredibly easy to navigate – meaning the kids can fly around on their own without you worrying about them getting lost.
The ski school is superb, with all the instructors speaking fluent English and they’re great at looking after the little ones, taking them inside if it gets a little too cold.
Old wooden buildings nestle next to larger modern structures, creating an atmosphere that’s both relaxed and lively. The ski area is split into four zones, linked by either lifts or buses. with Åre Björnen being home to the most extensive beginners’ area.
Families will love Åre for its super-friendly vibe and fantastic facilities for kids. There are various dedicated children’s areas, themed adventure trails, and of course the chance to meet the resort mascot, Valle the snowman.
There’s plenty to keep you busy off the slopes too – such as a visit to the local Chokladfabrik chocolate factory, or the chance to try snowmobiling on the frozen Lake Åresjön or exploring the Tännsforsen frozen waterfall and ice caves, or whizzing down the mile-long toboggan run. Older kids will enjoy ziplining through the trees and all ages will love visiting a local reindeer farm. Many of the hotels also have wellness facilities, so you can experience Sweden’s famed hot tub and sauna culture.
Picturesque resort in the Wildschönau valley, Niederau has wide nursery slopes and the excellent 1st Wildschönau Ski School, making it perfect for both families and beginners.
For something a little different you could try horse-drawn sleigh rides or snowshoe walks.
But it’s also a mecca for water-lovers! Families after a complete change of scenery should head over to nearby Wörgl for the excellent Wave Water Adventure World, home of the L2, the world’s first double looping water slide, and a modern luxury spa.
Bad Hofgastein/Bad Gastein, Austria
The extensive Gasteinertal ski area is one of the largest in Austria, with superb skiing and boarding - you need almost never take the same piste twice in a week. Nestled in the middle is the attractive town of Bad Gastein, with a bustling centre and excellent amenities - not to mention the famous spa.
Bad Hofgastein is a relatively quiet neighbouring resort, with a relaxed approach to après ski, yet has a bustling pedestrianised centre with cobbled streets and a fantastic choice of bars, restaurants and other amenities - not forgetting to mention its famous spas.
And, a real multi-activity adventure lies in store here. For an adrenalin rush, there’s the chance to try paragliding and zip-wiring or whizz down the 3.5km toboggan run while more gentle family-oriented activities include winter hikes and snowshoe walks, horse-drawn sleigh rides and husky-sled rides, an outdoor ice rink and the chance to have a go at curling or igloo-building.
Water-babies will want to head for one of the two big thermal spa centres: the Felsentherme Spa in Bad Gastein, and the fabulous Alpentherme Spa + ‘Relax World’ in Bad Hofgastein; a number of hotels in the valley also have their own in-house spa and wellness facilities.
Compact and car-free, Avoriaz is a firm family favourite. Its wood-clad buildings blend into the mountain, and pretty much all accommodation is ski-in, ski-out. Set at 1,800m, Avoriaz is the highest part of the huge Portes du Soleil ski area that spans the French-Swiss border with 650km of pistes. The local slopes around Avoriaz normally get some of the best snow.
One key attraction for families has long been the childcare provided in the Village des Enfants, right in the centre of the resort. Its facilities are excellent – a chalet full of activities and special children’s slopes. Off the slopes the Aquariaz water park has indoor and outdoor pools with fun extras such as a river with a gentle variable current and an aquatic halfpipe.
Les 2 Alpes, France
It may be one of the world's biggest resorts – and one of the most snow-sure thanks to its high-altitude glacier slopes (open in summer too), but Les 2 Alpes goes the extra mile for families, too. Children aged 3 and over can discover the joys of snow and sliding sports in the ski schools’ ‘Snow Gardens’.
Away from the slopes, younger kids will love to ride on the ice glider dodgems. Older kids can try a risk-free ski jump with the Big Air Snowbag, ride a winter Segway or mini snowmobile. The resort has a packed programme of family-friendly events, there’s a fantastic tobogganing area and other off-slope activities include horse-drawn sleigh rides, visits to the floodlit ice cave, an open-air ice rink and a swimming pool.
La Plagne, France
This resort is superb for families wanting a huge range of fun activities. Part of the vast Paradiski ski area with Les Arcs, La Plagne has easy access to the slopes, long and wide runs, fun snow parks and pretty tree-lined areas.
The main family hub is Plagne Centre, where you'll find plenty of hotels and chalets to suit all budgets and needs. If you're looking for Crystal Childcare then you need to head to Plagne 1800, where you'll find a Pepi Penguin Nursery (6 months-4 years) and Whizz Kids Club (4-11 years).
The skiing is superb for all abilities but it’s off the ski slopes that La Plagne comes into its own for families. Here’s a sample of what you can do: ride a bob-raft, one-man mono-bob (over 16s only) or the full 120kph three-man bob down the 1.5km bobsleigh run. If you fancy going downhill but not quite so fast then try air rafting or sledging. You can try quad-biking, go zip-lining, take a snowshoe walk or a dog-sled ride, try paragliding, visit the ice grotto, go ice-diving or try ice climbing on La Plagne's very own 24m ice climbing tower
Reliable snow, big mountain skiing, quiet slopes and friendly people - Tremblant offers all the best bits of Canada without the gruelling west coast flight times. It’s seven hours to Montreal and then a short transfer to resort. And this is Quebec, so you get French flair and food to boot.
The family-friendly pedestrian village is colourful and bursting with character – it’s like a Disney-style ski theme park! There’s every type of food you can think of and loads of shops. And everything is close together so no matter where you’re staying, you’re never far from the action.
Off the slopes there are loads of brilliant activities for all ages, including snowshoe walks, snow-biking, tubing, ice skating, ice climbing, dog-sledding, helicopter tours, snowmobiling, ice-fishing, paintballing, sleigh rides, tree walks and an indoor pool complex, right in the village. For something different, catch the bus to the stunning Scandinave Spa - just 15 minutes away and definitely worth taking an afternoon off from skiing.
Passo Tonale, Italy
Passo Tonale, is a high mountain pass linking the regions of Trentino and Lombardy. You’ll find decent skiing, especially for beginners, and few queues - and most hotels are within easy reach of the chairs. It’s not the prettiest resort but is popular with young families.
Beginners benefit from excellent English-speaking ski schools and a multitude of low-gradient pistes starting and finishing a short walk from most accommodation.
And, of course, there are plenty of other activities to try - from spas at most hotels, to dog-sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, snow-tubing or snowmobiling. Passo Tonale also has its own natural ice rink and was the first place in Italy to have a dog sledding school.
To keep the kids entertained, the resort also organises races, illuminated runs, face painting and hot chocolate four times a week.
If you download the Crystal Ski Explorer app (it’s free and available on Apple devices and Android) and select these resorts you’ll see even more info on the activities each place offers. This is a great way for customers to plan ahead and think about what activities they might like to do in resort.
For more details of Crystal Ski family holidays, go to crystalski.co.uk