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European resort for a family

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
We are going to a wedding in England in mid-March on American Airline frequent flyer miles and can add a layover to another major European city for free. We're considering going skiing and wondering what area would be best for us. We've never skied in Europe before so any help would be appreciated.

There are 4 of us (me, my wife, my almost 7 year old son and 4.5 year old daughter). I like sking mostly black and double black runs at major US western resorts. My wife is an intermediate skier who likes mostly groomed blue/double blue runs and is starting to explore very mild off piste terrain. My son is a lower intermediate able to ski just about all blue terrain including moguls. My daughter is a beginner and skis mostly all green terrain.

It's very important for my kids and wife to have a good time skiing so I'm willing to sacrifice advanced terrain for a family friendly ski area with good ski schools. We don't need nightlife, apres ski or anything fancy. We'd probably rather go to a less well know area that is still relatively easy to get to from a major city and perhaps a bit less expensive. Is there a ski area in Europe which can best provide what we're looking for?
post #2 of 13
Les Arcs/Bourg Saint Maurice (where I am spending the year with my wife and 4.5 year old daughter) has most of what you are looking for, but it probably is not as convenient to a major airport as you would like. You will likely find a more convenient alternative in the Porte du Soleil region which has close access to Geneva.

I have never skied this region myself, but researched it before coming to Bourg Saint Maurice. Others can probably offer additional alternatives.

Mid-March is a good time in that you are outside the February school holiday period and likely to find better deals and less crowded slopes.

I understand your desire to stay in a less well known resort that offers better prices. I would tend to lean towards a resort that is less well known because of lack of night life as opposed to one that lacks elevation. Unless you are into carrying your daughter's skis for long distances, I would look for accomodation that is at a high enough elevation to usually have decent snow cover that is close to the beginner area/ski school meeting area.

I say this, in part, because after getting a nice cold storm that brought snow down to the valleys in December, we are currently experiencing a storm that is bringing rain to most of the base areas.

If you are planning on putting the kids into ski school for the week anyways and don't want to cook, something to look into is an all-inclusive like Club Med. I think they have upped their prices since being sold to Accor, but I stayed twice at a Copper Mnt, CO (now closed) and once at Chamonix, France Club Med 3+ years ago and found some very good deals available in March. These provide a very good atmosphere for the kids, especially if you pick one of the family clubs. Accomodations tend towards the basic side, but they are often well located to the slopes. Food and instruction can be good, but definitely varies.

One thing that I really liked about the Club Med in Chamonix was how they cooked lunch (with wine) for us in different private lodges on the various Mountains...definitely not something I had experienced in the States.

I have never stayed in a European ski chalet, but these appear to be a good alternative if you don't want to do your own cooking and/or go out to eat all the time. I think it is also the type of experience that will give your ski holidays a feel that you don't ususally find in the States.

Best of luck,

post #3 of 13
Early or late March? Makes a huge difference in what to recommend in respect of base elevation.

Out of Geneva:
Morzine/Avoriaz, Chatel, Torgon are part of the huge Portes du Solei lift system, short drives within an hour. Leysin is close too, small but nice skiing.
Or 1.5 hrs to Verbier which provides some of the world's best and most extensive resort skiing. It's higher in altitude than the aforementioned ones so that could be an added bonus.
All other resorts on the Swiss or French side are further of a drive without providing better family skiing. About 2 hrs into Chamonix via the Col du Forclaz.

Out of Zürich:
Obertoggenburg (Wildhaus), Flumserberge within an hour. Flims/Laax, Engelberg, Obersaxen about 1.5 hrs. Arosa Klosters/Davos, Savognin, Disentis/Sedrun about 2 hrs depending on traffic and road conditions. All of them offer vast family suited terrain.
The famous Arlberg region is about 2.5 hrs away but well worth the drive. Stay at Klösterle/Wald/Dalaas and enter the extended lift system from Stuben. It's got all you'd ever want plus the ski school where you could drop your family for a day is one of the best in the Alps, you could join a class with well advanced skiers to explore the backcountry with.

Munich is an alternative to Zürich but drives into the ski areas are an additional hour.

Lyon or better Grenoble are doable too with access to areas like Serre-Chevalier, Alpe d'Huez and Les Deux Alpes. La Grave is THE expert terrain but definitely no family skiing. There's a shuttle bus system from the airports with the quicker option out of Grenoble. Problem often is getting convenient flight connections in and out, that's why the Swiss options might work better for you.

Best is search on the resorts' web sites for more infos and decide based on snow conditions right before you go.
Have fun and enjoy your first Euro experience.
post #4 of 13
How bout flying into Salzburg and go skiing in Obertauern?
It's about an hour's drive and most hotels provide shuttles.
It's really nice skiing area that has a bit of everything for everyone, including three free timed GS runs, a speedtrap and a boardercross. All of those make great fun for the kids!
post #5 of 13
Okay, paraphrased now, as I just clean wiped a ton of stuff I'd written...

Morzine is in the Portes du Soleil and is good (more like 1.5hrs from Geneva than 1hr though). I skied there a couple of years ago and had a good time. It's a little big as a village though (so often a walk to the lifts). Avoriaz, also part of the PdS is higher up (so better chance of good snow) and is predominantly ski-in/ski-out. Both, being in such a huge area offer skiing for yourself and your family (great chutes and world cup runs to gentle nursery slopes and everything in between). They also both have a British Ski School, I say this due to hit and miss language experiences with ESF ski instructors.

However, my biggest recommendation is Wengen. Especially so if you can fly to Basle (can be done from Geneva/Zurich/Berne too). You can get the train from the airport to Interlakken, where you get a cog railway up to the village (along with everyone else) owing to the village being traffic free, which is surely a good thing with a youngster. It is also picture perfect, and your daughter will forever think of the Alps in its chocolate box form (that is until she's old enough to ski of her own volition and goes to Alpe d'Huez...) Skiing wise it is fantastic, great for intermediates and beginners, but you still get to hit the Lauberhorn, possibly the second most famous world cup run.
post #6 of 13
Second Wengen. It's a very pretty mountain. And quite a bit of lower intermediate skiing. For you, you can just trash their "side of piste" kind of off-piste becasue the terrain is not as dangerous as many other area.

Another option is fly to Innsbruck. There's half a dozen areas big and small you can easily get to from there. I'll however leave the actual resort recommendation for others, since I've not been to all of them. Nor did I know enough about how easy the terrains are.

Seems like in France, lots of lodgings are apartments. But in Austria and Switzerland, I found hotels with half board (breakfast and dinner) quite reasonable. March is outside the peak season so you'll be in luck.
post #7 of 13
Lots of good infos here.

Problem with small resorts is that they will limit your options : many of them wont let you ski above or under the tree line for instance (what you may liken coming from the States). And mid march is not a holiday period, so the big names wont be too crowded.
In France (if you can fly to Lyon of grenoble) I would second the Avoriaz / Morzine option (Chatel is nice but not very convenient). Good skiing for all and pleasant athmosphere.
Among the tarentaise mega resorts, les Arcs is a good bet too, for a family stay (1800 or 1950 villages). Tignes is ugly, Val d'Isère lacks easy gromers to ski back to the base resort, La Plagne is flat.
On the 3V area, Meribel is the brit's favorite = many english speaking instructors. And a rather nice resort. Saint martin the beleville is another option : you're in the 3V but it's still a village.
Small resorts ? I like Sainte Foy. And it's close to the aforementioned mage resorts of the Tarentaise.
Other options : the small resorts close to Grenoble, like Lans en Vercors. Limited alpine skiing compared to the mega resorts, but convenient (a 30minutes drive from the airport), family oriented and quite "authentic".

Any national preference ? (like, do you speak German, French, Italian .. ?)
Because Austria has plenty of what you'e looking for... And Wengen is right on target.

This web site is rather informative. "Best resorts for families"
If you read french, try this.
You may also want to surf some UK tour operator sites. Their rates are hard to beat.
post #8 of 13
Mid of March will be very crowded in the Alps this year for the simple reason, that the Easter weekend is mid of March, with most schools offering a 2week vacation around the Easter weekend!

So you rather book now!

My favorate spot is Lenzerheide/Switzerland, I have two kids (8y and 4y), they have a very good ski-school for kids as well and all the terrain you're looking for for you and your family!

Have fun!
post #9 of 13
second vote for obertauern - i live in England and i pop there for weekend skiing - fly from Stansted , much nicer than heathrow , 1.5 hrs to Salzburg , shuttle up to Obertauern approx 1 hr then a big ski circuit. Lovely Austrian Hospitality and the most snowsure resort in Austria - and that's offical - great schools and some nice easy terrian (not always easy to find in europe)

Hotel Perner is lovely , affordable and ski in and out
post #10 of 13
p.s fly ryanair from stansted or Thomsonfly if your wedding is in the North or midlands of England

They are both budget airlines that you book online - excellent value if you book early enough so don't delay !
post #11 of 13
I know of a really cheap but good Pension in Tweng (less than 10 minutes from Obertauern by bus which is free with the lift ticket), you pay only €31 per night for an adult in halfboard.
Great landlady!!
post #12 of 13
Skiing Swiss and picking a area depends on entry point.
Many, many, many great area of all ski levels found both north and south.
Flumserberg, Stoos, Pizol, Andermatt,Arosa, Davos are all great family areas. My home area is Grindelwald a bit longer to get to but worth the trip. To bad you couldnt extend you time to ski a few extra days.
post #13 of 13

Family trip

Several years ago we took a family ski trip to Wengen in Switzerland. It was fantastic. At the time my kids were 9 and 5. We rented a small chalet. The chalet was very basic and very reasonable. The town does not allow cars. I think it's about 2 hours from Zurich and 1/2 hour from Interlochen.
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