WHEN it comes to holidays, every parent knows that balancing fun, exciting activities for the kids with some much-needed relaxation for mum and dad can be a challenge. If you’re wondering how to please the whole gang this winter then look no further than a family ski trip to France. With the ski season now in full flow, it’s the perfect time to plan your coolest family holiday yet.
It is worth remembering that not all ski resorts are as family-friendly as others. You’ll want to avoid stag and hen-focused resorts, or destinations that offer fantastic après ski but no childcare facilities. Getting the balance just right is imperative to make sure your holiday goes without a hitch.
When you’re planning your trip, there are a number of factors you’ll want to take into consideration. Childcare, accommodation, food and budget will all come high on the agenda, but don’t forget to consider ski school, atmosphere, transfer times and evening provisions too.
We have chosen our top three family-friendly resorts in France to help make the decision a little easier.
Nestled in the Tarentaise Valley between 2000m and 2700m above sea level, this snow-sure resort is made up of 11 separate “villages” and offers great skiing for all abilities with plenty of wide, gentle blue runs and lots of in-resort activities to keep the little ones amused.
Airport transfers to La Plagne are very manageable – the resort is located three hours from Grenoble and Lyon airports, 2.5 hours from Geneva, and just 1.5 hours from Chambery. With most budget, charter and scheduled services flying in to these airports, you can plan your trip to suit your finances too.
La Plagne is home to a whopping 134 slopes over a sprawling 100km2 - featuring 15 black runs, 30 red, 72 blue and 10 green runs as well as a large off-piste area. The lifts are mostly modern and all villages are ski-in, ski-out so you don’t waste a moment of precious piste-time.
There are 16 nurseries across La Plagne offering a range of childcare options for children of age three months to two years. Once your child is old enough to hit the slopes, the well-renowned Oxygene Ski School offers lessons for all abilities, and the range of nursery slopes are sure to keep your little ones smiling all day long. La Plagne has an assortment of snow gardens with baby tow ropes and several moving carpet lifts.
Where to stay
If you want to hit the piste early and you’re always the last one off the slopes then you won’t be disappointed with Chalet Hotel Christina. You can see the piste right in front of you from the restaurant windows of this large welcoming hotel, lifts are located directly opposite and ski school is just 150 metres away. Decorated with warm wooded panelling and bright fabrics, the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere is a real hit with families.
The hotel offers the complete Mark Warner childcare service, for children from age four months to 12 years which includes a hotel crèche and organisation of ski tuition and children’s clubs with award winning Oxygene Ski School.
Current January prices start at £625 per person for a week including direct flights, resort transfer, 3 course dinner and wine, ski hosting, lift pass collection and evening childcare.
Les Deux Alpes
This picturesque snow-capped village is snuggled up against the largest skiable glacier in Europe, making it a lovely Alpine feel resort with snow-sure slopes. The 200km of pistes are reached by lifts taking skiers to the heady heights of 3600m.
What’s unusual about the runs in Les Deux Alpes is that they’re a little bit topsy-turvy. That is, the lower runs afford intermediate and advanced skiers steeper and more challenging slopes, whereas the wide, gentle slopes of the glacier further up the mountain are more forgiving. The nursery slopes meanwhile are still located at the very foot of the mountain.
The lively and friendly village offers a wealth of après ski activities including an outdoor ice rink and two sport centres. To encourage your little ones to get in the snow spirit, there are four free T-bars in the village, and a kids’ freestyle area – all fabulously located for the kids to find their feet whilst you find a cup of coffee and have a little sit down!
Where to stay
Nestled at the foot of the slopes with a superb view of the mountains, Chalet Hotel Berangere has a large sunny terrace and balconied rooms allowing you to make the most of the sunshine on those good weather days. The sunny hotel is tastefully decorated with a bright and spacious dining room and plenty of seats around the log fire for relaxing. Further re-energising can be done in the sauna, steam room and heated indoor swimming pool.
The hotel has a similar childcare package to La Plagne, with dedicated nannies, age-appropriate children clubs and a wealth of activities on and off the slopes. When they’re not learning to find their snow feet, your kids can enjoy sledging, snowman building, hot chocolate trips, swimming, stories, games and painting. Ski tuition is provided by ESF and your little skiers can be dropped off and collected from ski school by hotel staff and from there bought back to the hotel where lunch and afternoon activities (or return to ski school) all supervised.
Current January prices start at £545 per person for a week including direct flights, resort transfer, 3 course dinner and wine, ski hosting, lift pass collection, spa facilities and evening childcare.
With 300km of slopes, plenty of snow and breath-taking scenery, it is little wonder that Val d’Isere is one of the most popular skiing destinations in France. This charming yet cosmopolitan village manages to seamlessly blend sophistication with a friendly, laid-back atmosphere, with a decent sprinkling of après ski for those with a little more energy.
The nursery slopes at Val d’Isere are located in the centre and to the west in La Daille. Serviced by 7 free-of-charge lifts, beginners can find their feet here without forking out for a ski pass. The Oxygene Ski School are on-hand to help even if you’ve got a nervous child (or partner!) – the “Scaredy Cat” class is specially designed with anxious skiers in mind, and the instructors are highly-trained, friendly and accommodating to all abilities.
Where to stay
Child-friendly Chalet Hotel Le Val d’Isère is located in the heart of the resort near the lifts and ski schools, as well as the shops and restaurants. Beautifully decorated throughout, the hotel has a lovely dining room with stunning views of the town, mountains and the Olympic downhill course.
The Hotel has a cosy bar and lounge, a spacious and sunny crèche and a wide choice of accommodation, from rooms to mini apartments for families. Guests also have access to the heated outdoor pool just alongside the hotel.
Current January prices start at £695 per person for a week including direct flights, resort transfer, 3 course dinner and wine, ski hosting, lift pass collection, spa facilities and evening childcare.
Mark Warner family ski holiday fact file
By choosing a half-board holiday package like those available in Mark Warner’s selection of child friendly chalet hotels, you can make sure you’re not over-spending on food and drink and can take advantage of a host of childcare services.
Mark Warner’s family ski packages include:
Breakfast, high tea, dinner with wine and all meals provided for kids attending kids clubs, you’ll only be buying your own lunch and any additional beverages
Childcare at the hotel is available for children from four months to 12 years
Childcare can be booked before departure – meaning you can travel safe in the knowledge that everything will be ready for you on arrival
Colourful hotel crèches are well-equipped with everything you would expect – from toys and cots to sterilisers and even access to a 24-hour kitchen facility for any late-night feeds
A ‘keyworker nanny system’ that aims to ensure the same nanny will be caring for your child throughout your stay, meaning your child will be greeted by a welcome, familiar face each day
Flexible childcare that can cover the whole or parts of the day, so you can all meet up for lunch, or spend dawn till dusk undisturbed on the slopes, enjoying some retail therapy, having a leisurely lunch, a swim or a massage
Age-appropriate children’s clubs include:
Baby Club (4-11 months), which provides a calm, safe environment with a ratio of two babies to every nanny so your baby will be kept in a comfortable routine.
Toddler Club (1-2 years), as with Baby Club a nanny will take care of your child’s routine of naps and feeds throughout the day and provide plenty of fun and games both indoors and out. It runs from 9am to 5:30pm daily and supervised lunch and High Tea are included.
Mini Club (3-5 years) where outdoor play includes sledging and snowman building and indoor play means face painting and games. Children can be dropped off and collected from ski school. It runs from 9am to 5:30pm daily with supervised lunch and High Tea included.
Kidz Club (6-12 years) is an action-packed club of snow fun and games. Children in morning and afternoon ski school will be dropped off and picked up. Kidz Club runs from 9am to 6.30pm Mon-Fri and until 1pm on Saturdays with supervised lunch and High Tea included.
The crèche operates a free-of-charge drop-in service from 7.30pm to 11pm, where kids can enjoy a DVD and story with their nannies, should you wish to dine as an adult only group
Dedicated kids’ dinnertime at the hotel at 5pm, with a special kid-friendly menu and lots of other children to talk to. If you choose to all dine together later, your children can choose from the adult menu instead