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Top 10 ski villages in the Alps for families

We select the Alps’ best little ski villages with big mountain access, ideal for families who are ready to tackle the slopes.

Published 19 Apr 2021, 08:11 BST
A small Swiss resort that lives for skiing, La Tzoumaz offers superb-value-for-money accommodation and tranquil village ...

A small Swiss resort that lives for skiing, La Tzoumaz offers superb-value-for-money accommodation and tranquil village vibes.

Photograph by La Tzoumaz

1. Grimentz, Switzerland

With a prime spot in the Valais, but far less visited than the region’s other resorts such as Verbier, Crans-Montana and Zermatt, Grimentz is known for its traditional chalets and lift-accessed off-piste skiing. Home to several ski schools, it caters to all levels, with activities including tobogganing, open-air ice skating and swimming in the municipal pool. Over a third of the lift-linked Grimentz-Zinal ski area’s 70 miles of pistes suit beginners. Relatively high and snow-sure, this quiet spot is a good bet for an Easter trip with small children.
Closest airport: Geneva, 2.5h. 
How do to it: mountainheaven.co.uk

2. Ellmau, Austria

With an excellent ski school and nursery slopes near the village centre, Ellmau is perfect for first-time skiers. It may be part of Austria’s largest ski area — the 176-mile SkiWelt — but this little village feels like a rural retreat, with clusters of wooden chalet-style hotels centred around its onion-domed church. Families love the all-mod-cons Kaiserbad leisure centre, with its indoor and outdoor pools, waterslides, a climbing wall and tennis courts.
Closest airport: Innsbruck or Salzburg, 1h.
How to do it: inghams.co.uk

3. La Tzoumaz, Switzerland

A small Swiss resort that lives for skiing, La Tzoumaz offers superb-value-for-money accommodation and tranquil village vibes, with fast lift access to all that Verbier’s Four Valleys area has to offer. La Tzoumaz’s season runs from December to late April, and with a special ski lift for children, natural ice rink, heated swimming pool and the longest floodlit sledge run in Western Switzerland (six miles), it’s a family gem.
Closest airport: Geneva, 2.5h.
How to do it: verbier.ch

Belle Plagne is a popular spot with families, thanks to its car-free centre, snow-sure altitude, tobogganing runs, and ski-in, ski-out accommodation.

Photograph by Belle Plagne

4. Champoluc, Italy

This lesser-known Italian resort offers easy access to the mammoth Monterosa ski area in the Aosta Valley. With great value slope-side restaurants, and lifts within staggering distance of most hotels, pretty tree-lined Champoluc is a winner with families. There’s ice skating, a toboggan run, cross-country, a village spa, and wellness centre, and for die-hard family members, comparatively affordable heli-skiing.
Closest airport: Turin, 1h 30m.
How to do it: espritski.com

5. Belle Plagne, France

With all the facilities of La Plagne, but on a smaller scale, Belle Plagne is a popular spot with families, thanks to its car-free centre, snow-sure altitude, tobogganing runs, and ski-in, ski-out accommodation. A quiet base from which to explore the 265 miles of the Paradiski ski area’s pistes, most facilities — ski-hire shops, supermarkets, cafes and boulangeries — are located on a single wide strip, and because much of the local accommodation is self-catering, it’s well set up for families who prefer to dictate their own menus and mealtimes. 
Closest airport: Geneva, 2.5h
How to do it: pierreetvacances.com

Read more: Exploring France’s small but beautiful ski resorts

6. La Tania, France

A quieter, cheaper alternative to the mega resorts of the Three Valleys, La Tania is set smack between Courchevel and Méribel, with easy access to both resorts. Family friendly, this small, traffic-free resort has mostly ski-in, ski-out accommodation built in the traditional Alpine style. A gondola whisks skiers and boarders up to the big stuff, while beginners can tackle the drag lift to perfect their turns before tackling the rest of the pistes, which total 370 miles.
Closest airport: Geneva, 2h.
How to do it: skifrance.co.uk

Surrounded by the wild, supersize topography of the Vercors massif, Villard de Lans has earned the name Little Canada.

Photograph by Hotel Le Val Lachard

7. Obergurgl Austria 

Austria's highest parish, Obergurgl is revered for its towering peaks, excellent snow record, and long season. With skiing directly from the pedestrianised village centre, it’s quick and easy to get up the mountain. A frequent, free ski bus shuttles out to hotels in the surrounding Ötz Valley, although the majority of accommodation is in half-board, slope-side hotels. The well-regarded ski school has 16 nursery slopes, and Obergurgl’s BOBO’s Ski Club and Kinder Club kindergarten provide a fun way to access the mountains for beginners and non-skiing children. Including neighbouring Hochgurgl, there are 70 miles of linked piste, including gentle and intermediate runs.
Closest airport: Innsbruck, 1h 30m.
How to do it: crystalski.co.uk

8. Villards de Lans, France

Surrounded by the wild, supersize topography of the Vercors massif, Villard de Lans has earned the name Little Canada. Set at the foot of craggy Grande Moucherolle mountain, this friendly village comes with traditional turn-of-the-century architecture, and the combined Villard-Corrençon ski area offering up to 78 miles of pistes. Accommodation can be rustic and characterful, with some hotels converted farm buildings or family home-style catered chalets.
Closest airport: Lyon, 2h.
How to do it: vallachard.com

9. Morgins, Switzerland

Set on the Swiss side of the vast Portes du Soleil ski region, the pretty mountain village of Morgins is a great place to avoid the crowds. A total of 370 miles of ski terrain spanning the Swiss and French Alps is accessible under one lift pass, so there’s excellent choice for skiers and snowboarders of every level. Lift-linked to neighbouring resorts, families can enjoy a vast range of winter sports activities while avoiding bustling town centres.
Closest airport: Geneva 1.5h.
How to do it: regiondentsdumidi.ch

10. Tiroler Zugspitz Arena

With gentle runs, good ski schools and reasonable prices, plus a smorgasbord of additional snowy activities including tobogganing, sleigh rides, igloo building and ice skating, this lesser-known corner of the Austrian Tirol on the German border is a boon for families. Not the preserve of big tour operators, Tiroler Zugspitz Arena is very much a quiet, local spot offering a very respectable 65 miles of slopes served by fast, modern lifts or connected by free local buses.
Closest airport: Innsbruck, 1h.
How to do it: snowtrex.co.uk

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the European ski season. For the latest advice, visit gov.uk

Published in the Winter Sports 2020 guide, distributed with the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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