Which resort?

7th October 2009, by Chris Gill

Smuggler's Notch in Vermont USA is great for kids

Smuggler's Notch in Vermont USA is great for kids

There’s no such thing as a good resort for families - or a bad one, for that matter. Any resort is worth considering. In principle, a traffic-free resort has considerable attractions - either a purpose-built one such as Flaine or Valmorel or an accidental one like Wengen or Saas-Fee. Of course, the terrain needs to be suitable - and if you’re reading this I presume it’s because your children haven’t yet been skiing. So ideally look for resorts to which we give a high rating for beginners, which means resorts that have not only good nursery slopes but also good easy runs to progress to. But we have had very successful holidays in places that are far from ideal, and which you might be tempted to dismiss.

One is Chamonix; the fragmented nature of the slopes and the isolated valley-bottom location of the main nursery slopes here are real drawbacks, but in the end the success of the week depends much more on what the kids spend their time doing, and with whom. Another non-ideal place is Verbier, where the main difficulty we found was in finding easy ways back to the resort from areas with good long easy runs. My point here is that despite these difficulties we had a great time, and wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Personal favourites

But there is such a thing as a resort that is generally more child-friendly than its rivals, and here I’m listing some personal favourites. Practically all are traffic-free:
Alpbach, Austria Small, pretty, friendly old village with a long tradition of British visitors; nursery slopes are conveniently close to hand, although the main ski area is a short bus-ride away.
Montchavin, France Cars are kept to the fringes of this charming old hamlet on the fringe of the La Plagne skiing; in the centre, nursery slopes merge with orchards and restaurant terraces.
Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont In a land of generally excellent children’s facilities, one of the best, with things like a ‘petting zoo’ and tractor-drawn sleighs to ferry the kids around, as well as excellent special slopes and keen young instructors. Almost car-free.
Valmorel, France The French resort that demonstrated that purpose-built doesn’t have to mean brutally functional. Its pedestrian centre is built in dinky traditional style, while the road that loops around it gives convenient car access to piste-side accommodation. And it has Club Piou Piou: a comprehensive childcare and child tuition centre that is probably the best in the French Alps.
Wengen, Switzerland An old British favourite, full of Victorian hotels and reached only by mountain railway, which is also the main lift up into the skiing. In the heart of the tiny village is a little nursery slope, ideal for those first steps on skis.

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