Family ski trips (Part 2): The best ski resorts in Europe for families

In Part 1 of the “Family ski trips” blog series, we talked about family ski trips from a generic sense. What to look for, what to avoid, lessons learned, and more. You heard from parents who have done trips like this many times before, and they’ve done them successfully. If you have not read that blog post yet, it might be a good place to start. Click this link to read “Family ski trips (Part 1): Tips and lessons learned from parents who have done it successfully”.

Europe as a ski destination

In Part 2 of this series, I’d like to turn our attention to ski destinations in Europe. What are the best ski resorts in Europe for families and why? Europe as a ski destination continues to become more and more popular for family getaways during the winter. Families pursuing this are looking to trade in their Disney passes for ski lift tickets.

It’s not just because of the amazing skiing and epic scenery that destinations in the European Alps have to offer. Skiing in Europe brings a fuller, more cultural experience than many other destinations you might take your family during the winter.

I was lucky enough to sit down with the National Director of Sales for global ski and adventure specialist Alpine Adventures to weigh in on this subject. We (Journey Bound) have partnered with Alpine Adventures to help design custom ski vacations for our clients. They have become such a valuable resource for us and other like-minded travel agencies in the adventure travel space. This is primarily because of their deep knowledge of ski destinations worldwide and the relationships they’ve formed with their suppliers.

This gives us the confidence that you’ll receive the best rates and the highest quality across the board (accommodations, equipment rentals, lift tickets, transportation, lessons, and guides). All this means for you is more value and a better ski vacation. What more can you ask for!

Let’s dive into the interview to find out what global ski specialist Alpine Adventures has to say about the best ski resorts in Europe for families.

Why should families put Europe on their destination ski trip bucket list?

European ski trips are not only about the skiing. They’re about the full experience. For families, this can be a great opportunity for kids to be around other cultures. This means parents can sneak in a bit of education on their trip!

A lot of families will put the kids in ski school. They can do a group lesson where their kids will get to interact with kids from other countries, or a private lesson with a local instructor. They’ll get the cultural exposure either way!

Many families will also extend their vacation while they are making the long trip. This way, they can have a pre or post in a city like Zurich, Munich, or Geneva. In places like this, they’ll have a chance to immerse themselves in the local culture by way of food or hidden gems, or experience things like art galleries, museums, and architecture.

When is the best time to go to Europe, in terms of ski conditions and crowds?

For a balance of ski conditions and crowds, March is a great bet. The conditions will typically be either sunny and blue bird or snowing and powder. As far as crowds, March keeps you clear of the Festive holidays in December and January, as well as the European school holidays that typically take place in February.

Depending on how much snow they get throughout the season, some resorts even hold great conditions through April. This is when you can really get the best deals and avoid the crowds. You just have to be prepared for spring conditions.

Which resorts/areas get the most consistent snow year after year?

There’s a difference between most snowfall and most consistent conditions. This is because some resorts that might not get the most snowfall are situated such that when they do get snow, it sticks around and stays in good shape. So, my answers kind of combine consistent snowfall and consistent conditions.

Some of the best ski resorts in Europe for consistent snow and conditions are going to be Val d’Isere, Tignes, and Val Thorens in France; Zermatt in Switzerland; and Lech Zurs in Austria.

Val d’Isere and Tignes make up the Espace Killy ski area, which is known to have some of the most reliable conditions in the Alps. Add two small glaciers to its high elevation and it makes for a long season, with year-round skiing possible.

Val Thorens is the highest resort in Europe and it also has two small glaciers. Combine these factors with the north-facing slopes and you’ll have a great chance for good snow almost all season.

Zermatt is another high elevation area with glacial skiing that stretches across three northern facing mountains. Once they get snow, it holds well and makes for a longer season than most in Europe.

Lech Zurs is the only resort on this list that does not reach glacial elevation levels. That being said, these slopes reside in the snowiest major ski area in the Alps, so conditions are often fantastic.

I will say, however, that weather and snowfall are never 100% guaranteed. Many resorts in Europe can have great, consistent snow and conditions at any time. Certain times of the year may be better than others and certain years can bring more snow than others. This is the nature of the sport!

Ski Schools for Kids

Ski school can make or break a family ski trip. In regards to ski school, what are the best ski resorts in Europe for families?

Courchevel in France has the best ski school for kids. It’s in a league by itself. They actually have what they call the Children’s Village, which is an entire section of slopes only accessible to children and their instructors. This is much larger than the standard “bunny slope”, and offers nearly 125 acres of slopes for kids that are learning to ski with a wide variety of fun terrain.

Another great kid friendly ski school worth mentioning is at Avoriaz, which is also in France. They have a children’s village of their own, which they call “Village des Enfants”.

At these resorts, are there any hotels in particular that have the best ski school for kids?

None of the hotels at Courchevel have their own ski schools. Most ski resort hotels in Europe don’t. One that comes to mind in particular is Club Med in Cervinia, Italy. For most resorts throughout Europe, there will be a number of great ski schools to choose from on the mountain.

Family Friendly Accommodations

Which resorts have the most family friendly hotels in terms of room arrangement, amenities, and service?

Family friendly hotels can actually be found at most European ski destinations, although one of my top recommendations is Courchevel. Since they have so many 5-star hotels, there are a lot of options that cater to families of any kind, and offer great amenities for kids.

Sometimes the parents need a date night without the kids. Do any resorts offer babysitting or nannying services?

Most 4-star and 5-star ski hotel concierges can help arrange a babysitter for guests. Some have babysitting staff on site, but most are partnered with a company that will let the parents “interview” the babysitter beforehand. This way, mom and/or dad are comfortable with the person who will be watching over their kids while they have a night out.

What about families looking for ski-in/ski-out luxury home or condo accommodations. Which resorts should they consider going to?

Ski-in/ski-out is not the typical setup in Europe, unlike the US. This is usually found in purpose built resorts, many of which are in France. With that being said, destinations like Les Trois Vallees are going to offer the most ski-in/ski-out lodging options. Les Trois Vallees is in France and consists of a number of ski resorts. In particular, Courchevel, Val Thorens, and Meribel would be the ones to look at for ski-in/ski-out lodging.

Family friendly ski towns and non-skiing activities

Being walking distance to other activities can be crucial when traveling with a family. What are the best ski towns in Europe for families?

Zermatt is one of the best ski towns for families. It’s such a walkable, charming village. They don’t allow any outside cars, only locals and electric taxis. This makes it very pedestrian and family friendly, and it offers plenty of activities and dining options within walking distance.

What non-skiing related activities should families look out for in Europe?

Tobogganing or sledging (typically known as sledding in the US) is actually really popular in Europe. In many places, it will happen right on the slopes. Some high altitude destinations also have glacier ice palaces, which are incredibly unique and worth visiting with the family. A couple that come to mind in Switzerland are Zermatt, as well as Jungfraujoch, which can be accessed if you are skiing in Wengen, Murren, or Grindelwald.

Crowd Avoidance

Many families can only travel during school vacations. Where can you go to avoid the crowds during peak times?

It’s pretty difficult to avoid crowds during peak dates, as everyone has the same idea, unfortunately. Most destinations will sell out well in advance, so it is important to plan far ahead.

The best way to avoid large crowds at the resort itself is to perhaps try destinations that are a bit smaller, or less well-known. For example, Wengen or Murren in Switzerland, or Cervinia in Italy. Cervinia is actually connected with Zermatt and lies on the Italian side of the Matterhorn. While each of these ski areas are pretty substantial and offer great terrain and amazing scenery, the towns themselves are smaller than other destinations, so the crowds won’t be quite as large.

Travel Logistics

Flying a family to Europe from the US can seem overwhelming. What are the most airport accessible ski resorts in Europe?

Geneva and Zurich are going to be the easiest airports to access many of the best ski resorts in Europe for families, including Switzerland, France, and Austria. Between the two airports, they offer plenty of nonstop flights, and they are easy to navigate. They also have easy transport options, whether you want a private transfer or if you want to take the train. The train actually departs right from both airports, so they’re incredibly convenient.

Is there anything else to think about that might take stress off of the travel logistics?

Yes, and this can be especially helpful for family ski trips to Europe. There are a number of luggage shipping service companies out there like Ship Skis or Luggage Free. Both of these are offered from the US to many international destinations. This helps relieve the stress of dealing with luggage as well as trying to keep track of all family members. At a minimum, you can do this for ski equipment (skis, boots, and snowboards), which can be incredibly difficult to lug around with a young family.

Switzerland also offers a number of great luggage shipping products, which can be paired with rail. This will range from a product where you check your luggage at your home airport, and they’ll send it right to your destination, to products that will ship from a train station to your final address. This way, you don’t have to worry about it when you’re traveling by train.

Taking everything into account

Considering all factors, what are the 3 best ski resorts in Europe for families?

Courchevel, France is one of the top destinations for families, especially for luxury travelers. Between the kid friendly ski school and the Children’s Village, the plethora of family friendly 5-star accommodation options, and the proximity for flying into Geneva, this has to be at the top of the list.

Wengen, Switzerland is another, and is also within close proximity for flying into Geneva. It’s a bit more limited on beginner or “bunny slopes”, but it offers a number of activities for families off the slopes. I mentioned this previously, but it has the glacier ice palace at Jungfraujoch, which is spectacular. It’s also close to Interlaken, which can offer a number of additional activities to explore.

Avoriaz, France is also one of the best ski resorts in Europe for families. It has a fantastic ski school for kids, their own version of a children’s village called “Village des Enfants”, and is under 2 hours from the Geneva airport. Off the slopes it has a number of outdoor activities including dog sledding, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, and ice skating. It also has a very unique indoor aquatic center that’s great for families!

There’s still time to take your family on a ski vacation for the 2019/20 ski season. Planning a ski vacation is overwhelming and time consuming. Let us take care of the details for you. You’ll get a custom ski package and take your best ski holiday yet. Contact us today to start planning!