Featured image by Greg Younger
With the festive season firmly behind us and winter in full swing, it can be tempting to pack the bags and jet off into the sun the minute those school bells signal the start of half term. But there’s an alternative to spending your holiday lounging by the pool this winter, and it doesn’t require a post-Christmas crash diet. Hire a car and head for the hills this half term with our guide to some of the best family-friendly European snowsports destinations.
Head to the winter wonderland of Flumserberg
As far as quality snowsports destinations go, few places in the world can rival the Swiss Alps for snow, charm and spectacular scenery. Flumserberg certainly ticks all those boxes, thanks to its perfectly groomed slopes and state-of-the-art facilities.
This popular family friendly resort is little more than an hour’s drive away from Zurich, so hire a car at Zurich Airport and head into the mountains.
Accommodation is easy to come by, with a variety of holiday apartments and family friendly hotels located within close proximity to the slopes. You can even hire certified babysitters should you wish to sample the nightlife in some of the cosy alpine bars.
The mountain terrain, meanwhile, is serviced by lifts and cable cars which help keep queues to a bare minimum. You can enjoy over 70km of beautifully groomed trails and there’s additional fun to be had in the form of dog sled rides, ice skating and sledging.
Italy may not be the first destination that pops into your mind when drawing up a skiing holiday shortlist, but there’s more to ‘the Boot’ than pasta sauce and charming cities. Hire a car on arrival in Italy and head to the delightful mountain resort of La Thuile in the north-western corner of the country.
Whatever your level, you’ll be able to tear it up on over 150km of groomed slopes at this modern complex, renowned for its range of beginner-friendly runs. There’s plenty of fun to be had for advanced skiers as well. And even the daredevils will be happy with some of Europe’s most reasonably priced heli-skiing. Few experiences can compare to that of jumping out of a helicopter into fresh powder snow and untouched terrain.
La Thuile’s most unique selling point, however, is its close proximity to France. So close, in fact, that you can take a lift to the mountain top and ski into the resort of La Rosiere. No passport is required, so you and the family can ski or snowboard over the border for a croissant at lunchtime before nipping back at dinner time for a pizza. La Dolce Vita indeed.
Booking your lift tickets in advance is a great way to cut costs, with each adult ticket entitling you to a free pass for any child under the age of seven.
Les Deux Alpes
The French Alps have long been a favoured snowsports destination, although it can often involve a significant financial outlay. However, thanks to the sheer amount of resorts available, it is possible to enjoy a fantastic and affordable family holiday without sacrificing quality.
Les Deux Alpes is one such destination, featuring stunning views, piles of fresh snow and a wide choice of affordable hotels. The lively village is complete with shops, restaurants and an outdoor ice rink, so there’s plenty to keep the family entertained after a day on the slopes as well.
Family rates are available on the lift passes, providing great value for the 92 runs spread across 225km of marked pistes. And with 53 lifts in operation, you won’t have to worry about those dreaded queues either.
No self-respecting European snowsports guide would be complete without a mention of St Anton, one of the continent’s most famous resorts. As a family destination, it certainly doesn’t fall under the budget category, but it remains immensely popular none the less. So if it’s a family treat you’re after, then book a car hire in Austria and head for the mountains.
St Anton can be found in the Alberg region and is everything you’d want from a picturesque mountain village. World class skiing and snowboarding aside, you can easily spend a day meandering through its cosy streets, visiting the chic boutiques and lively bars and restaurants.
It’s on the slopes, however, where the real fun can be had. Whether you’re strapping into a snowboard for the first time or looking for some adrenaline fuelled off-piste skiing, St Anton won’t let you down. 94 lifts service a mind-boggling 500km of terrain, so it’s best to set aside a good few days to work your way through this winter wonderland.
Home comforts in the Cairngorms
Of course, you don’t have to head to the continent to enjoy some great snowsports activities. Believe it or not, there’s plenty of excellent skiing terrain right on your doorstep. Cairngorm Mountain is the UK’s top snowsports resort, nestled away in the heart of the majestic Scottish Highlands. It’s the perfect place to enjoy great skiing on a budget – whilst getting to explore one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles of course.
Although the weather can be unpredictable, there’s no shortage of great terrain on Cairngorm Mountain. Several lifts service the slopes which feature a variety of runs catering to all abilities. Affordable accommodation can be found in Aviemore; a charming mountain village packed with restaurants, shops and cosy pubs. And it’s just 10 miles from the resort which is easily accessed by car.
So whatever your European destination of choice may be, there’s no shortage of family snowsports fun to be had this half term. Check out our latest car hire deals and hit the slopes on your own schedule.