The French Alps
Au Coeur du Village Hotel interior
au coeur du village hotel bedroom
Au Coeur du Village Hotel restaurant
Luxury family ski holidays? Yep. Many feel they have to put their skiing holidays on hold while their children are very small, but there really is no need. Most ski resorts are geared up for children of all ages – even if yours aren’t yet old enough to ski, many resorts have nurseries and crèches – or you can choose a hotel or chalet with its own private childcare. There’s also more to snow than simply skiing –what child doesn’t love to go sledging or build a snowman? And don’t forget that the Alps aren’t just for Christmas – most resorts are open during July and August and have a host of activities for children, when resorts are uncrowded and luxury family hotels.
Altapura hotel Val Thorens
Luxurious and stylish surroundings in a snow-sure resort
The self-styled “Highest Ski Palace in Europe,” Altapura hotel Val Thorens is the place to go for families who really love to ski –situated at 2,300 metres, you can’t really get much more snow-sure than here. While oozing luxury, it is also effortlessly informal – reception staff wear cosy jumpers instead...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Ski / Family-friendly Spa / See this Hotel & Book »
Au Coeur du Village Hotel
A stylish and grown-up hotel designed very much with families in mind.
Sitting right in the centre of La Clusaz, opposite the main lifts, Au Coeur de Village Hotel is the only five-star hotel in the resort and has truly been designed with families in mind. Ski-lodge style, both in design and its relaxed ambience, there is plenty of natural wood and stone in the open-plan bar and living...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Ski / Family-friendly Spa / See this Hotel & Book »
VIP Club Bellevarde Val d’Isere
VIP Club Bellevarde, Val d'Isere is a relaxed and informal, child-friendly chalet with doses of luxury and great service.
VIP Club Bellevarde in Val d'Isere offers friendly, chalet-style hosting with hotel-style luxuries and an impressive childcare scheme; this stylish and comfy timber and stone ski-in, ski-out chalet is ideal, especially for those with children too young to ski who want English-speaking...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Ski / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Hotel & Book »
Hotel de Charme Les Airelles, Courchevel
A magical hotel with incredible service to delight both parents and children.
Chocolate-box pretty, the Hotel de Charme Les Airelles in Courchevel has sculpted wooden balconies and traditional alpine exterior paintwork. It is a spacious yet intimate and decadent hotel in one of the world’s most famous ski...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Spa / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Hotel & Book »
Chalet de La Marine, Val Thorens
Almost everyone’s favourite place for lunch in Val Thorens, this wooden chalet on the Dalles slope is two restaurants in one – downstairs serves good quality sandwiches, pizzas and burgers for those who simply want a quick bite before heading back out to the slopes, while upstairs it’s all about fine-dining and a long, leisurely lunch. There’s also a yurt,which is very popular with the kids. Inside the chalet, there’s an open fireplace and sheepskin rugs. Outside sits a sunny terrace with music and DJs in the afternoon. The eclectic menu includes everything from oysters or onion soup for starters and anything from a traditional pot au feu to wok-fried prawns for main courses, plus an excellent dessert buffet.
La Grande Ourse, Val d’Isere
Next to the Brussel’s Hotel when coming from the slopes; +33 (0) 4 79 06 00 19
The oldest restaurant in resort dating back to 1936, La Grande Ourse has a cosy interior with a fireplace as well as a terrace, which is fabulous in all weathers – if it’s snowing the staff switch the heaters on and you can bundle yourself up in cushions and blankets; if it’s sunny, you can simply stretch out and enjoy the view. The sunloungers are a great place to cuddle up with a skied-out child and enjoy a hot chocolate or vin chaud. The menu is a mix of French and Alpine dishes – there is also a reasonably-priced wine-list including red and rosé wines from the owners’ Lise and Jean’s own vineyard in the Rhone Valley.
Chalet de Pierres, Courchevel
Le Jardin Alpin, Piste de Verdons, BP 31, 73122 Courchevel Cedex
Placed at the base of the Verdon’s Run, there’s no chance of your children getting bored after lunch at Chalet de Pierres as the restaurant has its own ice rink outside to keep them amused while you finish your coffee or vin chaud. The restaurant has both intimate corners and large wooden tables inside. There is a huge terrace and a mezzanine with fabulous views, too. Waiters and waitresses dressed in berets, waistcoats and knickerbockers serve traditional French food as well as Savoyard specialities – the dessert buffet is particularly special. On Wednesdays there is music and free vin chaud from 5pm.
Au Chalet de Lac, La Clusaz
Les Confins, lieu dit “Leythet,” 74220
Au Chalet de Lac suits all weathers – enjoy its cosy wooden interior on colder days or bask on one of the sunny lakeside terraces. During the summer, kids can amuse themselves watching people whizz across the lake on a zip wire. The menu is made up primarily of traditional alpine dishes and the “assiettes gourmands” (large tasting platters of local specialities) are particularly good, as is the house aperitif of fresh raspberry kir. The resident dog always goes down well with the kids and, after lunch during the summer, you can cross to the other side of the lake for pony trekking, trampolines and crazy golf. Or you can take the zip wire if you prefer.
Obviously the main reason to go to the French Alps is to ski, but there are plenty of other activities available for both children and adults in winter and summer alike. Children are typically accepted into group ski lessons from the age of three, as long as they are out of nappies during the day, though some children will be more ready to ski at this age than others.
During summer months activities vary from resort to resort, but typically include mountain biking, hiking, swimming, summer luge, tennis and crazy golf. In both winter and summer most resorts run a full programme of children’s activities for a wide range of ages and many also have a crèche for babies.
Junior ski schools
Most resorts have a dedicated and protected “jardin de neige” for small children with a “magic carpet” (conveyor belt) to get them up the slope. Most also have safe sledging areas away from the pistes and other activities on offer can include horse-drawn carriage rides, swimming in both indoor and (super-heated) outdoor pools, ice skating and there are often free outdoor events for families especially around Christmas and New Year.
All resorts have a well-equipped medical centre which should usually be your first port of call – if you are going with an “ordinary” illness rather than an emergency, first thing in the morning is usually the best time to go before the ski injuries start coming in. There are also several hospitals in the valley across the region including Chambery (+33 4 79 96 50 50) and Moutiers (+33 4 79 09 60 60.). If you or your child has an accident on the slopes, you will generally find that a pisteur or ski instructor will stop to help but, if no-one is around, put your skis in an X shape on the slope above the injured person and call the emergency number on the piste map. The general emergency number is 112.
When to go
The winter season varies from place to place but typically runs from mid-December till mid-April. Some resorts are open from early December into May. The most popular time for skiing for those with school-aged children is February and New Year, when the snow is likely to be good but resorts are crowded and accommodation prices are high. If you are not tied to school holidays, January can be a good time to go when resorts are uncrowded and accommodation is around one quarter of the price of February, or mid-March (after the French school holidays) when the weather will be warmer – ideal if you have little ones trying skiing for the first time. The summer season usually lasts the duration of the French school holidays – July and August.