Seven small ski resorts for families

Newsroom Family skiing Seven small ski resorts for families

Small ski resorts focus on the essentials of skiing: well-groomed slopes, affordable lift passes and a family-friendly atmosphere.

Big-name resorts boast vast ski areas that undoubtedly look impressive on paper, but even experts in the best shape of their life would struggle to cover this much terrain on one ski holiday. There is a tendency to gravitate towards huge ski regions with their hundreds of kilometres of piste, pricey mega resorts, large outdoor events and top-notch international advertising campaigns.

While small ski resorts may lack the huge variety of terrain, in reality only a portion of vast areas are ever used. Instead, smaller resorts focus on the essentials of skiing: well-groomed slopes, affordable lift passes, and a family-friendly atmosphere.

On the whole, small ski areas offer good value for money with affordable lift tickets, accommodation, and dining out at restaurants or mountain huts. Attractive discounts for children, families or other groups are offered and sometimes kids ski for free.

Many skiers, particularly families, appreciate the convenience of small ski resorts. Short distances between accommodation and the lifts is a major advantage. In small resorts, runs end directly in the villages and all the amenities are within short walking distances, so there is no need to get in the car. Regular visitors also appreciate the more personal approach and they often get to know their waiters, receptionists, and lift assistants by name.

Seven small ski resorts

1. Montgenevre, France

Smaller resorts don’t necessarily mean smaller ski areas: Montgenevre, on the Italian border, is one of France’s smallest resorts and is directly linked to the Milky Way ski domain. The Milky Way combines a whopping 400 kilometres of pistes. The resort’s ski slopes are set between 1800-2590m offering wooded and hilly terrain. The resort is known for its diversity of slopes for all levels: Families enjoy the large beginner area at the base of the resort, while seasoned skiers can stretch their legs on the 50 red and black runs. Most of the village has been pedestrianised and the village retains its pretty old-world charm. See Montgenevre website

Good snow conditions in Montgenevre, France
Montgenevre, France. Credit Montgenevre

2. Elm, Switzerland

Elm, located in Eastern Switzerland, has a reputation for its friendly, laid-back atmosphere. It boasts 35 kilometres of well-groomed slopes. Beginners, families and intermediates can enjoy the 14 slopes and 7 lifts with a vertical of 1277m. The mountain is known for its rustic ski huts, toboggan run and large children’s area on the Ämpächli. There’s also a terrain park for freestylers.

3. St. Jakob im Defreggental, Austria

Far from the bustle of big-name resorts, St. Jakob im Defreggental in the Tyrol is a small resort where many local families go to enjoy peace and quiet. Skiing is best suited to beginners and intermediates with 23km of slopes and 7 lifts between 1400-2525m. The snowpark and race track are popular with youngsters. Cosy mountain huts serve traditional local food.

4. Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

Nestled in the Julian Alps, Kranjska Gora’s 20km of slopes stretch between 807-1282m. The vast majority of slopes are best suited to easy and intermediate skiers. The village offers a lovely festive atmosphere. Bars in the village offer open fires where you can warm up with mulled wine and listen to live music.

Skiing in Slovenia  © Mitjamavsar

5. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

This alpine town in Bavaria has plenty of charm both on and off the slopes. Skiers will find 60km of ski slopes as well as a glacial ski area, offering reliable snow conditions. Garmisch hosts the annual New Year’s ski jumping.The Zugspitze at 2962m is Germany’s highest peak. The Partnach Gorge transforms any walk into an adventure.

6. Sierra Nevada, Spain

The Sierra Nevada ski area is one of the best in Southern Europe.  The high-altitude ski area features 102km and 30 lifts stretching between 2100-3282m. The ski season runs from December to April. The skiing is split into four areas that are all linked and easily accessible. The nursery slopes are a gondola ride away at the mid-station. Intermediates and advanced skiers will find challenging terrain up at 33000m.  One of the best points is that there’s plenty of sun but there’s also plenty of snow thanks to the high altitude.

Sierra Nevada ski resort in Spain
Sierra Nevada, Spain. Photo: © Shutterstock

7. La Mongie, French Pyrenees

This Pyrenean resort has skiing up to 2877m on the Pic du Midi de Bigorre. The observatory on the summit is a must for the views. Skiing is particularly good for families and intermediates, but there’s also challenging off-piste. La Mongie is made up of 1970s architecture, but for a prettier, more authentic mountain village, visit neighbouring resort of Bareges. The Pyrenees is cheaper than the Alps.

Younger crowds may find smaller resorts less attractive. Après-ski can be limited but most small resorts do have a couple of late-night bars and even a disco.



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