The chance to eat real French fondue and go on sled runs down snowy Swiss mountain passes with the family are obvious lures. But thanks to cheaper (and for kids, sometimes even free!) lift tickets than what you find across most of the Rockies, plus affordable lodging options galore, a family ski vacation in Europe is not nearly as pricey as you’d think. Here are the best ski resorts in Europe for families.
1. Arosa Lenzerheide, Switzerland
If it’s good enough for native Swiss son Roger Federer, who built his family chalet in this ski area in the Graubunden region of southeast Switzerland, then certainly Arosa Lenzerheide offers something for the rest of us. Formerly two separate ski areas, the terrains were linked a few years ago, and there are now more than 140 miles of runs to explore. When you’re not skiing, hit the sled runs (all-day passes for kids cost around $7) with the whole gang. Looking for a hotel near Arosa Lenzerheide? Try Hotel Seehof Arosa, which offers free breakfast.
2. Sainte-Foy Tarentaise, France
With an excellent day care center (for kids ages 3 to 11) right at the base of the mountain and a range of catered chalets (let someone else do the cooking and dishes!), in addition to hotel offerings, this small family-focused ski resort is located just down the valley from enormous Val d’Isere. There are ski classes here for children as young as 3 years old. And kids under age 7 get free lift passes with a skiing adult, making it one of the best ski resorts in Europe for families. Consider a stay at the nearby Hotel Le Monal.
3. La Clusaz, France
It’s less than an hour’s drive from the airport in Geneva to this postcard-perfect mountain village in the Haute Savoie region of France. Book a room at La Ferme, an affordable and very cozy ski-in/ski-out hotel on the mountain. Kids under 5 ski free and day passes for kids 14 and under are less than $40 per day.
4. Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, Austria
Kids 9 and under get free lift tickets at this Tirol resort located in one of Austria’s highest areas (and therefore one of the country’s best bets for good snow). Most of the runs here are accessible to beginners, there’s a good variety of mid-range (moderately priced) accommodations, and non-ski activities include tobogganing and ice skating. Consider a stay at Burg Hotel, where all-inclusive packages are available. Guests also enjoy a 15-percent discount on ski rentals.
5. Vialattea, Italy
Fly into Turin (about 1.5 hours away) to access one of Italy’s best ski resorts for families. And for an all-inclusive family vacation that includes rentals, lift passes, food, all-day daycare for kids ages 4 to 10 and more, it’s worth the splurge to stay at the spectacular Club Med Pragelato Vialattea, where you can choose from rooms and suites housed inside charming chalets for your base of operations.