Family friendly ski resorts

With quiet slopes, plenty of fun activities and cheaper prices than the big-name resorts – even in school holidays – these small ski areas are ideal for young families

Morillon, Grand Massif, France

Loved by generations of French families, this Savoyard village is one of several resorts to have won the French government's "Famille Plus" label for excellent children's facilities. A "village des enfants" takes care of those aged six months to 10 years, and there's lots of extra entertainment laid on, such as torch-lit ski descents, dog-sledding and ice-skating. The four other resorts of the Flaine area, with 77 lifts, are accessible, there's a shuttle bus to Cluses, which has a swimming pool, and it's only 35 minutes from Geneva.
Le Buet has ski-in, ski-out self-catering apartments. Peak Retreats (0844 576 0170) has a week for £476 for a family of four, including premium FlexiPlus Eurotunnel with a car. Availability includes the two main Easter weeks (starting 27 March and 3 April).

Gréolières Les Neiges, Provence, France

Hotel Le Foulon, Alpes Maritime France
Photograph: Charles Vyse Photograph: Charles Vyse/PR

Few Brits have heard of this resort. It's not very high, accommodation is limited, and almost everyone who skis here is local, but that means it's more friendly than many Alpine resorts, and empty on weekdays. As long as you're not after hardcore skiing, it's a great option for beginners, with a chairlift, 26km of pistes, and runs with views of the Mediterranean and Corsica. The warmer weather here is better for tots, but there's powder there now, and some years it gets 2.5m of snowfall. If snow is scant, a handful of other resorts are within driving distance, including Isola 2000. Restaurants are cheap, and the hotel Le Foulon is a beautiful property surrounded by forest, with antique beds and a restaurant. Drive here from Nice to take advantage of out-of-season flight fares.
Le Foulon (+33 4 93 24 41 38). €490 B&B per week for a family of four sharing a suite with fold-out beds for kids, or €770 in two rooms.

• This item was amended on 18 January 2010. The original sub-heading named the resort as Le Foulon. This has been corrected.

Aussois, Maurienne Valley, France

Village of Aussois, Maurienne Valley, France
Photograph: Alamy Photograph: Alamy

"France at eastern European prices" is how the operator Peak Retreats refers to Aussois – lift passes here are £107 per week, compared with £219 for the Three Valleys, just a few miles away. The areas aren't linked, but take reassurance that this resort is next to some serious mountains, and its Dent Parrachée tops out at 3,697m. You can ski over to La Norma and Valfréjus, too. Aussois is a pretty village of stone and slate houses, with a Tuesday food market (yummy bilberry tarts) and a cheap public creche (from €15 for a half day) – it also has the "famille plus" award. If your kids don't take to snow ploughing, try snow-shoe wildlife safaris, walking with donkeys, dog-sledding or tubing (sledging on inflatables). Le Flocon d'Argent has ski-in, ski out apartments with a pool, and costs £399 for a family of four staying in a two-bedroom self-catering apartment, including premium FlexiPlus Eurotunnel with a car, through Peak Retreats (0844 576 0170). including 27 March and 3 April, with a small amount of availability for February half term.

Les Houches, Chamonix Valley, France

Another "famille plus" resort, Les Houches is a small town in the Chamonix valley, and much more low-key and family friendly than its intimidating neighbour, which is full of die-hard off-pisters. Afternoons can be spent at the husky dog park, goat farm, mountain railways and a tree-top adventure playground. Specialist operator Tots To Travel offers the Etoile des Beaux Arts, which sleeps seven in three rooms (plus two babies in cots) and has a huge 50m sq terrace. An extra bonus: the master bedroom has an enclosed patio, so you can stay in bed while watching the kids build a snowman.
Availability includes weeks starting 27 March and 3 April, for £1,165, and 10 April for £695. 0845 269 4126, Fly to Geneva or drive.

Puy-St-Vincent, Hautes Alpes, France

Leaving older kids to ski a few runs by themselves isn't a problem here; the pistes are safe and lead back to the resort centre and all accommodation. Guidebooks frequently cite it as one of Europe's top family resorts, thanks to the British creche, two ski schools and great snow record, and yet only one British tour operator – Snowbizz – goes there. Snow scooter hire and a cinema should counteract any whingey spells.
Two-bed apartments £2,980 for the week starting 14 February, or £2,172 starting 28 March for a family of four, including return flights from Gatwick, Stansted or Manchester and transfers. Accommodation only for a six-bed apartment is £1,750 and £950 for same dates. 01778 341455,

Lungau, Salzburgerland, Austria

Learning to ski in a blizzard is no fun, so try traditional St Martin in Lungau, a region renowned for receiving record amounts of annual sunshine. At 3,000m, the local mountains and better-known Obertauern (ski-able via Grosseck) should have plenty of the frosty stuff, too. Chalet Zirbe is part of the St Martin Chalets, one of Europe's first energy self-sufficient eco-villages (boasting a veg-oil system), which has a natural outdoor pool and barbecue, tobogganing and snowshoeing.
Sleeps eight, still available all March and April, including Easter for £676 per week. Fly to Salzburg or Klagenfurt.

Nassfeld, Carinthia, Austria

Kinderhotels, a brilliant chain of family specific hotels throughout Austria, has Easter availability at the Hubertushof hotel, suitable for kids up to 18, with tennis courts, winter playground, swimming pool, cinema and discos plus a wellness centre for parents. Nassfeld is great for beginners with lots of easy tree runs and a snow park for learning tricks. There are loads of activities, including natural ice-skating and cross-country skiing on lake Brennsee.
00 43 4254 4411, Apartments £91 per adult per night half-board, £23 per child, including activities.

Adelboden, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

Dog sledding in the snow
Photograph: Thinkstock/Getty Photograph: Thinkstock/Getty

As a treat for style-conscious families, The Cambrian is that rare thing, a boutique hotel that doesn't turn its nose up at kids. Alongside the hip bar, a restaurant doing "new Alpine cuisine" (classics made trendy), there are two games rooms with Wiis, Playstations, snooker table and board games, plus kids' DVDs, two pools, a weekly kids' activity day, free sledges and, for any gourmands in waiting, regular kids' cooking and "mocktail" mixing classes. Adelboden has an abundance of family bakeries, cheese shops and hillsides covered with the sort of real estate that would make Heidi swoon. Extra curricular programming includes a traditional sledding race on 14 February, an "Easter bunny" jumping competition on Easter weekend, and a "jib" academy for teens on 28 March.
From £1,454 for two kids and two adults for three nights half board. Or book a week through Kuoni, departing 13 February, for £6,313 for a family of four (two adults, two teenagers), including flights, transfers and B&B, or £4,873 departing 3 April.

Vemdalen, Sweden

This small, quiet ski area makes up for its diminutive size with that super-friendly, personal service typical of Scandinavian ski resorts. It has a large dedicated kids' area, a creche for three- to eight-year-olds in a wooden cabin, a jolly ski school taught by perfect-English speakers and lots of extra activities, including kiddie-friendly evening entertainment such as discos and film screenings several times a week. For adults, the ski school motto is "it's never too late to learn", plus there's floodlit skiing and two fun parks for the more experienced.
Seven nights self-catering in the Ski Lodge Apartments costs £599pp departing 14 February, including return flights from Heathrow and transfers with Neilson (0844 879 8155).

Selva, Dolomites, Italy

Italians are renowned for their enthusiastic welcome for kids, but because Italian families tend to take along a granny to do the honours, some resorts aren't so hot on childcare. In Selva, though, even those as young as four months are cared for through the Casa Bimbo childcare service. There are several playgrounds, ice skating, snow-shoeing, indoor climbing and a choice of ski schools in the three linked villages of the Val Gardena area.
Esprit Ski (01252 618300) has catered availability at Chalet Wiesenheim departing 28 March, £819 per adult per week, £245 per child, including flights from Gatwick (or Manchester for a supplement). A 7 February departure is £1,599 for a family of four.

Smugglers' Notch, Vermont, USA

"America's Family Resort" is the slogan of this purpose-built Vermont vacationland, and with all the accolades awarded to it by guidebooks and ski magazines, plus an enormous "million dollar" child-care centre, ski lessons for tots aged from two-and-a-half, private babysitting and "kids' nights out", it's hard to argue against that. Two teen hangouts ban adults, there's family snowmobiling and airboarding (lie-on inflatable sledges). The three big hills have runs for all abilities, from gentle cruising and tree skiing for beginners to one called "the Black Hole".

W&O Travel (0845 277 3399). A week including BA flights from Heathrow to Boston, car rental, a self-catering apartment, lift-passes and daily lessons is £1,699 per adult, £1,349 per child departing 13 February, or £899 per adult, £719 per child departing 29 March.

Big White, British Columbia, Canada

OK, it's not a small resort, but the family facilities in Big White would be enough to make expert skiers jealous (except they have the average 7m of annual snowfall and amazing terrain to keep them happy). The Kids' Centre is a big playground with lots of open runs, free helmets for nippers and a kitchen doing food they won't spit out. Snow tubing, ice skating, night skiing and mini-snowmobiles are all available.
Frontier Ski (020-8776 8709) has a week departing 27 March for £3,001 for a family of four sharing a one-bed condo including transfers and flights with Air Canada.


Gemma Bowes

The GuardianTramp

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