Having young kids doesn’t have to mean your skiing takes a back seat. Choose a ski resort with the right facilities and you’ll be carving up the slopes all day happy in the knowledge your kids are having just as much fun as you are.
When it comes to ski holidays with childcare, most people pick one of two options. If you need round-the-clock childcare and your kid(s) are under 3, you could choose a tour operator that specialises in family skiing, such as Neilson, Ski Famille, Espirit Ski, Scott Dunn, Inghams, Mark Warner or Crystal Ski, and you’ll get a qualified childcare team to look after your child at the onsite creche, or, if they’re aged 3+, deliver them to ski school, take them to lunch/dinner and return them to your chalet at the end of the day.
Alternatively, the do-it-yourself option for ski holidays with childcare is to choose a resort with a ski creche or kindergarten attached to the ski school. Here you’ll find daycare with indoor and outdoor play areas, supervised lunches and ski lessons for the over 3s. You drop them off and pick them up and it’s a flexible arrangement where you can decide to book half days and ski with them in the afternoons or full days complete with lunch, tea and apres-ski play. Be sure to check the resort websites for up-to-the-moment childcare info and costs.
Here’s a roundup of five of the best resorts for ski holidays with childcare (ages 2-5 years):
1. Village des Enfants in Avoriaz
Children aged 3-5 years from 9 am to 5:30 pm
Children are offered lunch and tea in the Village restaurant and there are various après ski activities adapted to the different age groups. For 32 years the Place Central has played host to the ‘Village des enfants’. Based on the idea of learning through play it has been used as a model in most alpine resorts.
The ski school is run by the ESF and children from 3 can join Piou Piou the big yellow bird at Avoriaz 1800 to learn the basics, become self-sufficient, and discover all the fun of snow. The teaching method is based on the use of games within 25 acres of fenced and controlled pistes that have been specially developed for children (slides and bumps, mini tracks, coloured runs and small jumps). There is a moving carpet and a beginners teleski.
The school is also a childminding centre and a leisure centre where the kids can spend the day and eat their lunch. Lessons are organised so that parents start their own lessons 15 minutes after the children to avoid the stress of trying to be in two places at the same time and give a bit of time to settle the children into their lessons.
Avoriaz itself sits on the doorstep of the Portes du Soleil ski area, which holds plenty of pistes and areas for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, as well as off-piste opportunities for the more daring skiers as well as the Burton Kids Parkway for the little shredders. The car-free town centre offers horse-drawn carriage rides. A real bonus is the water park, Aquariaz, developed by Center Parks, with all the latest aquatic bells and whistles.
2. Club Piou Piou & Nursery in Alpe d’Huez
Children aged 2.5-5 years from 9:15 am to 4:45 pm
Club Piou Piou is for the over 3s and it is an area where little ones are taught the basics of skiing. Run by the internationally renowned ESF with the big yellow bird, Piou Piou and friends. There are two magic carpets, two snow ropes and a games area. Courses are organised over six days and children get a medal at the end of the week.
From 2 and half years old your child can join the team of professionals at the Chalet Des Enfants which caters for young children in both daycare and nursery. This is ideal for kids who don’t wish to ski or who would like to combine skiing and other activities, they can spend time at the new 350m2 daycare centre which offers other activities and educational games. The indoor area has a feel-good factor and is equipped to offer lunches, changing areas and a specific place to hold all children’s personal belongings and shoes.
Alpe d’Huez (1,860-3330m) is a sizeable, modern resort known for its sunny, extensive terrain and spectacular views across the Southern Alps. The efficient lift system whisks skiers up to the vast, high-altitude area of the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domain Ski (250km) with its wide choice of varied runs, well-suited to all levels.
Children aged 2-5 years from 10 am to 3:30 pm
The Ski Kindergarten can be booked for children from 3 to 5 years and is open daily from Sunday to Friday. You can bring your child without prior notice for a half-day in the morning, a half-day in the afternoon or for the full day. Participation is possible on any day.
Certified and child-friendly guides are here to make sure your children will be safe on the skis. They will get to know the skiing sport in a playful way, and will also be informed about safety and behaviour on the slopes in a child-friendly manner. There are four different ability levels for the children’s courses. They begin on Sunday or Monday and last five or six days – those who are already at an advanced level can also take part on a daily basis. If desired, your little ones can also be supervised at lunch time and be provided with a meal. Children get to show off everything they’ve learned at the final ski race and the big prize presentation, held weekly.
There’s also a nursery from 2 years which is open 10 am to 3:30 pm costing €49 for a full day with lunch. It is located on Idalpe, right by the Idalpe Restaurant.
Ischgl has high, snowsure slopes that are perfect for intermediates and served by a state-of-the-art lift system. The traditional chalet-style town with traffic-free centre is known for its raucous apres-ski. Its slopes are linked to Samnaun in Switzerland and is covered by the Silvretta lift pass, which also includes Galtur and Kappl.
Children aged 3-5 years from 9 am to 5:15 pm
The Piou-Piou Clubs in la Croisette and Les Bruyères offer a whole range of children’s packages adapted to their age, open from 9 am to 5:15 pm, with lunch available. The nursery (3-30 months) is located in the Croisette Piou-Piou village only. Medical certificate and pre-booking obligatory.
The ESF mini-club (from 31 months to 5 years old) is available in both villages and highlights include snow discovery on snowshoes, tobogganing, games, orientation circuit, games room and playground – basically all things apart from skiing.
Ski lessons (for ages 3-5yrs) are specially designed to build confidence at an early age run by qualified ESF instructors speaking both French and English. Children must have passed the Piou-Piou level. Lessons are available in blocks of six morning or afternoon sessions. The other half of the day can be spent in the mini club.
Les Menuires, already awarded the Famille Plus Montagne label, was elected “Family Resort of the Year” by the jury of the Telegraph Group’s World Snow Awards at the start of the 2015/2016 season. The resort is also part of the 3 Valleys ski area. With a wide range of slopes for skiers of all abilities, it’s the ideal resort to learn, or improve your skiing.
5. Bobo’s Kinder Club in Obergurgl
Children aged 3-5 years from 9:30 am to 3 pm
Kids from the age of 3 years old can join Bobo’s Kinder Club in the Oetz Valley. The two children’s areas have been specifically built for little skiers making their first attempts on skis. Taught by qualified ski instructors alongside Bobo the penguin, the much-loved children’s ski school mascot. Lessons are in English each week from Sunday till Friday. Kids are encouraged to progress rapidly and advance on to becoming brave, independent skiers.
All-day lessons are available from the age of 4, including supervised lunch breaks and then back to the meeting point in time for their afternoon lesson. There is also a Bobo Taxi on request where children will be picked up and dropped back to an agreed meeting place for an extra cost. Trial lessons are available for BOBO’s Kinder Club on Sunday afternoons 1:30-3 pm.
Obergurgl at the end of the Oetz Valley is the highest and one of the most snow-sure and best skiing areas in Austria. For more than 90 years, the Obergurgl Ski School has been at the heart of the region with over 100 qualified ski instructors and a comprehensive programme that includes all kinds of winter sports for all people at all levels.