By Admin on 22 August 2017
Skiing is a holiday experience like no other, especially for kids. If you’re planning a family get-away to the slopes this year, the following line-up of ski resorts will help you choose the perfect destination, whether you’re travelling on a budget, or looking to splurge on the holiday of a lifetime.
Find your ideal family ski destination:
Australia (June to October, best month: August)
New Zealand (June to October, best month: August)
Switzerland (November to April, best month: March)
Japan (December to April, best month: February
USA (November to April, best month: February
Canada (November to April, best month: February)
Photo credit: Ski Granby Ranch
Australian ski resorts tend to be more expensive than those in Europe or North America due to the shorter season, but holidaying in Australia does allow you to save money on airfare, visas and other overseas travel costs.
Top tip #1: Invest in ski school for your kids
Eileen Gunn, long-time skier and founder of FamiliesGo, suggests putting kids in ski school, even if you’re an awesome skier yourself. “Knowing how to ski and how to teach someone to ski are two different skills, and the instructors will be able to do it in a more fun and effective way than you will,” she says.
“For younger kids a half day class is a good option, as they get too cold and tired in a full day, but by age seven or eight my daughter could handle and benefitted from a full day class. If you’re going with a group or have a few kids you might compare the cost of hiring a private instructor for your group vs. putting your kids in group lessons.
With just one child a private lesson is a little intense and they’ll have more fun and learn better with a group. But if you have your own group, getting your own instructor might not cost much more than the group lessons and might be better in terms of allowing you to have the same instructor for a few days.”
Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort
As one of Australia’s smaller ski resorts, Mount Baw Baw is a great budget option for families with young children. It has 30 hectares of downhill terrain as well as 10 kilometres of cross country ski trails and snow play areas with activities like husky dog sledding and snowshoeing. Family accommodation options include the Altitude and Snowgum Apartments or the Edski Lodge which can accommodate up to 36 people.
“Thredbo Ski Resort” by Enoch Lau is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Although Thredbo certainly isn’t cheap, with a bit of advance planning you can generally find good deals on a self-catering basis. The resort has Australia’s longest runs and terrain parks to suit all levels, including a beginner area for kids. Along with skiing, tobogganing and snowboarding opportunities, there’s also an indoor sports centre with a warm pool, water slide and fully equipped gym.
If you’re looking for a luxurious ski resort to enjoy with the whole family then Perisher is your best bet. As Australia’s largest ski resort, it has over 1200 hectares of terrain and 50 ski lifts, as well as a variety of accommodation options from hotels to self-contained apartments. Families can enjoy activities like tobogganing or night skiing, and ski lessons are offered for kids of all ages.
“Treble Cone’s view over Lake Wanaka” by TrebleCone1 is licensed under CC BY 3.0
If you want to enjoy world-class terrain parks without venturing too far from Australia, New Zealand has some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, and while its resorts aren’t as luxurious as those in popular ski areas in Europe or North America, the ski experience itself is unparalleled.
Top tip #2: How to keep the family happy and healthy
Writer, mother and founder of Brave Ski Mom Kristen Lummis says the key to keeping everyone happy on a ski holiday is three-fold: drink water, don’t get exhausted and eat well.
“Skiing at high altitudes can be challenging,” she says. “Families need to be diligent about drinking water. It really helps to stay hydrated. If time isn’t an issue, it’s also helpful to stop for one day at a middle altitude before heading to the highest heights.”
Lummis says self-catering accommodation can really help when it comes to eating well. “If you’re able to book a condo you can stock up on healthy food for some of your meals, and you’ll also have more room to relax and spread out, which can make a vacation more restful for everyone.”
She also suggests giving kids a chance to choose some of the activities. “It can be really easy for enthusiastic ski parents to push their kids very hard,” she says.
“As parents, we love skiing and we want our offspring to love skiing as well, but if we push them too quickly, they can either become scared or just decide they don’t like being out in the snow. So set aside some time to let your kids plan the agenda.
Follow them on children’s trails through the woods, slide with them on a tubing hill or have ice cream. Soon enough your kids will be skiing faster than you are, so enjoy your holiday and the time together. Every moment is precious.”
Mount Dobson doesn’t have all the frills many larger ski resorts do, but if you’re looking for a place to enjoy the snow and introduce your kids to skiing or snowboarding it’s an excellent option. The area is rarely overcrowded and has a large learner’s slope with all-day sun. Tickets and passes are more affordable than in many other areas, and a number of cosy and surprisingly inexpensive cottages, lodges and holiday homes are located nearby.
Treble Cone was voted as New Zealand’s best ski resort two years in a row thanks to its natural terrain and stunning views of the Southern Alps and Lake Wanaka. Beginner terrain is limited, but certified guides can help you navigate the slopes and private or group ski lessons are available for kids. Although Treble Cone doesn’t provide on-mountain accommodation, there are a number of great mid-range accommodation options available just a short 30-minute shuttle ride away in Wanaka.
Cardrona Alpine Resort
“Captains Basin View at Cadrona Skifield” by André Richard Chalmers is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Located in New Zealand’s South Island, Cardrona Alpine Resort has some of the region’s most reliable snow conditions and is a popular destination for families with kids thanks to its excellent childcare services, beginner-friendly terrain and fun family atmosphere. Accommodation is available on the slopes, but if you don’t mind a bit of a commute, you can also enjoy some of the luxury B&Bs and 4-star resorts in the nearby towns of Wanaka and Queensland.
Switzerland is the ultimate ski destination, complete with charming mountain villages, picturesque views and of course, the iconic Swiss Alps. Although it’s also a notoriously expensive place to ski, it doesn’t have to be unaffordable if you avoid the major resorts and book your accommodation in advance.
Top tips #3 and 4: How to save money and avoid altitude sickness
To save money on ski trips, Rebecca Cohen, outdoor lifestyle expert, mother and avid skier suggests avoiding peak seasons. “Major holidays are the most expensive and crowded times to ski. Think about a long weekend at an off-peak time to save on airfare and long lines,” she says.
“If you have equipment, travel with your boots and rent skis or snowboards at your destination to preserve comfort but also have convenience. I also like a condo for skiing with kids, as it’s more relaxing to eat at home after a long day on the slopes.”
To keep everyone happy and healthy while skiing, she also says it’s important to think about altitude before leaving. “Start drinking eight glasses of water a day a week before you go,” she says.
“Drink a litre of water before you get on the plane and a litre when you land. You want to be drinking water consistently to avoid altitude sickness like nausea, light-headedness or headaches – think of it as avoiding a bad hangover.”
La Tzoumaz is part of the Four Valleys ski area but enjoys a longer than usual ski season thanks to its North-facing slopes. It’s smaller than better-known resorts in the same area such as Verbier and Veysonnaz, but fortunately this also means that it’s less crowded and more reasonably priced. Along with its gorgeous vistas, it also has a natural ice rink, heated swimming pool and variety of accommodation options suited to families on a budget including B&Bs and guesthouses.
“Morning in Saas Fee Switzerland” by Copernicus is licensed under CC BY 2.5
Known as “the pearl of the Alps” Saas-Fee is a picturesque traffic-free village in the Valais region. It’s the perfect destination for families with its flat sunny slopes and variety of child-centric activities such as ice skating, sledging, afternoon disco fun and even a dedicated kid’s ski park. Accommodation costs range from modest to pricey with options like holiday rentals, hotels and chalets.
Zermatt is one of the most well-known resorts in the world, and it’s about as luxurious as skiing can get. It has over 240 kilometres of marked ski runs as well as plenty of off-piste terrain, but it’s also known for its excellent off-slope amenities such as a tantalising choice of on-mountain restaurants, 5-star accommodation and wide range of attractions for kids and adults such as indoor climbing, Scottish or Bavarian curling, sledging and ice skating.
Photo credit: Monarch/Eli Reichman
Skiing in Japan is bound to be a memorable experience for the whole family as the country is known for its high-quality snow, gorgeous mountainous terrain and hot springs or ‘onsens.’
“Japan is consistently the place we look to for a family ski holiday,” says ex-ski instructor Matthew Perkins. “It's got an amazing culture and delicious food, and the powder skiing is unlike anything you'll ever experience in Australia. Plus flights are affordable and it's relatively close to Australia with a huge variety of places you can ski.”
Top tips #5 and 6: Aim for ski in ski out accommodation and take your own boots
One tip he shares is to look for resorts that have accommodation at the bottom of or even halfway up the lifts. “This saves a huge amount of effort walking up to the lifts, which especially with younger children can mean lugging their gear too - all whilst in ski boots,” he says.
Photo credit: Ski Instructor, Matthew Perkins
Also, when thinking of what gear to bring along, Perkins suggests leaving your own skis at home. “The terrain locally in Australia is generally quite different to overseas, especially when chasing powder like in Japan. Ski rental isn't that expensive, and will be better suited to the local terrain.”
“Boots on the other hand are a mandatory to take,” he adds. “Hire boots are never a perfect fit for your feet and with all the money you invest in getting overseas, a few hundred on a good set of boots and a proper boot fit can change the whole experience.”
Kamui Ski Links
Kamui Ski Links is a great little budget resort located in the Hokkaido ski area just 30 minutes from Asahikawa City. It’s generally not very busy and has nine groomed courses for both beginners and more advanced riders. Off-piste riding is also permitted. While there’s no accommodation at Kamui itself, the resort’s close proximity to Asahikawa makes it easy to find hotels that match your budget, and staying in town will also give you a chance to take in some Japanese culture in your downtime.
Kiroro Ski Resort
“Kiroro Snow World” by SnowHoliday is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Kiroro tends to be less crowded than the neighbouring resorts of Rusutsu and Niseko, but it still gets plenty of snow and is a great family destination. Along with skiing and snowboarding, kids can enjoy activities like segway and snowmobile rides. Since the resort is remote, accommodation is limited to the Mountain Hotel and Hotel Piano, both of which are conveniently located and reasonably priced.
If you’re looking for a luxurious ski getaway, Niseko won’t disappoint. It’s one of Japan’s largest and best-known ski resorts with everything from fine dining and day spas to snowmobiling and horse riding. There are plenty of groomed runs suitable for families and beginners, and it’s one of the few resorts in Japan where ski lessons are offered in English. Accommodation options include luxury apartments, boutique lodges, 5-star hotels or even traditional Japanese pensions.
Photo credit: Winter Park, Colorado
Skiing in the US is all about the deep powder and varied ski terrain. While the mountains may not be as rugged as those in countries like Switzerland or Austria, this actually makes it the perfect place to introduce kids to skiing for the first time.
“The US, and Colorado in particular, is an excellent destination for family ski trips for a couple reasons,” says Jennifer Rudolph, ski-enthusiast and communications director for Colorado Ski.
“The snow conditions are consistent with lots of snow, many powder days and coverage that lasts all season long. There is also a vast spectrum of resorts to choose from, from world class premiere resorts to individually unique resorts located off the beaten path, and access to US resorts is easy from nearly every destination in the world.”
Top tip #7: Choosing a family friendly ski resort
When it comes to choosing a family friendly ski resort, Rudolph says there are three things to look for: kids programs, beginner and intermediate terrain, and ski in/ski out accommodation.
“Truly family friendly resorts include things like day-care, teen programs and parent's night out programs. Also make sure the resort has plenty of terrain to serve all of the family's skiing abilities. You don’t want to be faced with all expert terrain when half the family is still learning to stop.”
She points out that while it might be a bit more expensive, ski-in/ski-out accommodation can save families the hassle of hauling gear back and forth to the slopes each day.
“The best way to save money when planning a family ski vacation is to look for packages that include all the components of the trip; airfare, hotel, lessons, rentals, and lift tickets,” she adds. “Resorts are able to leverage partnerships with hotels and airlines and put together compelling vacation packages that can save families money.”
Red Lodge Mountain
“Red Lodge Palisades” by Elkman is licensed under CC BY 4.0
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a family ski holiday without the huge price tag, you should consider visiting Red Lodge Mountain in Montana. It’s a simple no-frills resort with a fun family-friendly atmosphere and over 1,600 acres of skiable terrain. The town of Red Lodge also has plenty of low-key eateries and shops, as well as some quaint country-style motels, hotels and lodges.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
As Idaho’s largest ski resort, Schweitzer has 2900 acres of ski terrain including the Terrain Garden, which is tailored to younger riders. Families can also go on guided snowmobile tours to take in the sights and enjoy activities such as tubing and zip lining or swimming in the heated pool. On-mountain accommodation is available, but you can also choose from well-known brands such as Holiday Inn or Best Western in the nearby town of Sandpoint.
Beaver Creek Ski Resort
Beaver Creek is a cosy yet luxurious ski resort tucked away in the magnificent Colorado Mountains. Families can enjoy private ski lessons individualised to suit each member’s abilities and there are plenty of other activities to keep everyone entertained, including ice skating, tubing and themed events. Beaver Creek Village also has gourmet restaurants and family-style eateries, spas, shops and accommodation to suit any budget, from charming cabins to luxury lodges.
Photo credit: Buttermilk/Jeremy Swanson
Canada is a skier’s paradise complete with impressive mountains, abundant snow and friendly laidback atmosphere. Its resorts are also notably less crowded, which means fewer long lines and plenty of fresh tracks to enjoy.
Top tips #8 and 9: Start off small and let the kids go at their own pace
Ski-enthusiast and founder of Snow Mamas Amber Johnson grew up skiing in the Canadian Rockies and points out that not all ski resorts are created equal for families.
“When my kids were younger, our favourite resorts were often the smaller ones because it's easier to get around and they also tend to be less expensive to learn,” she says. “As my kids have grown older, we do a mix of small and large resorts because they all have a lot to offer.”
When researching a resort, she suggests checking what amenities are offered specifically for kids. “Most resorts offer ski school, but an indicator if they're really family-friend is to look for things like on-site childcare, even if you don't need it.”
“I also look into what kind of area activities are offered off the slopes like tubing, alpine coaster, sleigh rides or movie nights. Some of our favourite ski holiday memories are made off the slopes.”
Johnson says she and her family frequently opt to stay in condos or apartments rather than hotels, as this ensures that healthy meals can be eaten at least part of the time.
“Listen to your family's needs,” she advises. “A hot chocolate break is almost always welcome and don't overdo it if tired legs need a break. Now that my kids are nine and eleven they love skiing, but it was touch-and-go in those early years. I'm so glad I went easy on them and let them fall in love with the sport at their own pace.”
White Water Ski Resort
White Water is a super laidback, no-frills ski resort located near the picturesque city of Nelson in British Columbia. What it lacks in luxury facilities it makes up for in plentiful dry snow and excellent ski terrain suited to beginners, intermediates and the more advanced. There are a few pubs and cafes on the mountain and accommodation can be found just 15 minutes away in Nelson, where you can choose from a number of quaint budget inns and motels.
Lake Louise Ski Resort
Lake Louise Ski Resort is known for its stunning views and family-friendly terrain. You can try some cross-country skiing as a family or take advantage of the free mountain tours offered by local volunteers. Although there’s no on-mountain accommodation, there are plenty of options to choose from just a few kilometres away in the village of Lake Louise, whether you’re looking for a luxury lodge with all the trimmings or a cosy self-catering chalet.
“Whistler Village” by Mogodore is licensed under CC BY 3.0
As the biggest ski resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb is popular with skiers from all over the world, and keen skier and entrepreneur Rebecca Collett notes that while she has skied in Australia, New Zealand and Europe, Whistler keeps calling her back.
“Whistler is the best ski resort in North America and even when they have a ‘bad season’ it’s still amazing,” she says. “Their adaptive program is incredible – it opens up the thrill of skiing to people of all ages with disabilities.”
Sure enough, with over 8,170 acres of terrain and 200 marked trails, Whistler has something to please any type of skier or snowboarder. Kids can also enjoy play areas like the Magic Castle or Tree Fort and go ice skating or zip lining, and Whistler Village has everything you might need, from shops and restaurants to 5-star hotels, lodges and condos.
When planning a ski trip with kids, Collett suggests making sure age appropriate ski lessons will be available. “My nephew had never seen snow before, so he was a complete novice before he had snowboarding lessons,” she says. “He was thrilled that Whistler offered exclusive lessons for teenagers and that he would be in a group with other first timers.”
Photo credit main image: Winter Park, Colorado
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