val d'isere

Family Skiing Holidays for the Non-skiiers

I think the skiing holiday tribe can be separated into three groups – the die-hard skier, the reluctant skier and the non-skier who goes along for the company.  I am definitely in the ski-so-long-as-its-not-too-hard category.  Mr. N, however, absolutely loves skiing and he wants our children to be good skiers.  Our compromise is that I will put on an enthusiastic facade in front of the children but will sneak way after morning skiing.

Let’s check out some family ski resorts which have good lessons for the children, excellent ski areas and other activities for non-skiers and half-hearted skiers.

Val d’Isere, France

Val d’Isère is an excellent choice for skiers and non-skiers.  The town has numerous restaurants, spas and shops for the adults.  For children, there is also a town ice rink, a town pool complex and a sledding hill.  Most of the restaurants are accessible for non-skiers.

Ski Schools – Oxygene and Progression have excellent English-speaking teachers for children.  Oxygene even has a program where they will take your children to ski school in the morning and the afternoon and also provide lunch.

We have been to Val d’Isere with the children and Scott Dunn twice now.  We liked it so much we are now going back for a third time in February.  Why mess with a good thing?!

val d'isere

La Clusasz, France

The resort contains restaurants, spas, an aqua-centre with indoor and outdoor pools and an ice rink.  You can also explore the mountains by snow shoe, cross country ski or horse and carriage.  The really brave can paraglide in the mountains.

snow shoeing

In-town activities include arts and crafts classes, a cinema and a ski museum.  The weekly market sells local specialities such as sausages, cheese and liqueur.

The beautiful medieval town of Annecy is only 30 minutes away.  The non-skiers in your group can jump on a bus and go into the city to eat, shop and sight-see.

Are, Sweden

You can try snowmobiling, dog- and reindeer-sledding, snowshoeing, as well as windsurfing and ice-fishing on the lake.  It has the longest zip-line park in Europe.  You can visit a farm that breeds reindeer and moose. Other excursions include taking a trip to a frozen waterfall or ice hotel.  You can also enjoy Sweden’s famous hot tub and sauna culture.

Arebjornen has lots of wide blue trails for children.  The staff speak excellent English.

husky sled-dogs

Crested Butte, USA

Crested Butte, in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, is very child-friendly.  For young skiers, the resort has a winding kids trails in the Painter Boy area. There is also a ski-through bear cave and US Forest Service lodge,  In town, the resort’s main street Elk Avenue is charming.  There is a gold-mining building for interactive and educational play.

Fon non-skiers, there are sleigh rides, dog sleds and snow cat driving.  You can go ice fishing at Blue Mesa Reservoir and horse-back riding in the snow. The resort’s Adventure Park features a tubing hill, rock climbing, bungee trampolines and mini-golf.  There is also guided zipline tour with 5 ziplines.  There are guided backcountry snowshoe tours.  Relax at the 11000 square foot Elevation Spa.  Cultural entertainment includes a local theatre, performing arts center and children’s museum.

And, did I mention the skiing??

Breckenridge, Colorado

This former gold-mining town has lots of facilities, including a swimming pool, cinema, shops and even an art gallery.  With over 200 stores on the main street, you can shop to your hearts content.  If the altitude gets to you, there is an oxygen bar where you can have coffee and a side of oxygen.

The ski area is huge: four interconnected mountains offer a total of 2,000 skiable acres. Snow-boarders also love it for its specialist park and half-pipe.

Non-skiing activities include snow-shoeing and snow-mobiling, as well as hot-air balloon flights, dog-sled rides and gold mine visits. Compared to other North American resorts Breckenridge is pretty lively, containing a good selection of bars and over 75 restaurants.

If you’re travelling with children, you should take the charming sleigh ride through miles of snowy forest in one of the red, handcrafted sleighs belonging to Breckenridge Sleigh Rides located a little ways outside of the main town.  This area also has a fun tubing hill.

The ski school is excellent and very gentle with the children.

NB:  Some of our party had serious altitude sickness at this resort.  One child was given an oxygen tank for use in the hotel for the duration of the week by the local clinic.

Park City, Utah

This ski area is composed of Deer Valley, The Canyons, and Park City.  The terrain is good for every level of skier (including members of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Olympic team, who train at Park City). The bustling Old West town is good for restaurants, galleries, and shopping. The Kimball Art Center is a gallery space and site for classes and workshops in photography, ceramics, and more.  The historic Egyptian Theatre shows local theatre. Every January, the town is inundated with visitors to Sundance. For outdoor pursuits, there’s winter fly-fishing, dogsledding, or even bobsledding on the 2002 Winter Olympic track.

Kitzbühel, Austria

Kitzbühel, located in the Austrian Tyrol region, dates back to the 14th century.   It’s origins as a medieval market town is still apparent.  For the non-skiers there are walking trails, sleigh rides and ice skating.  The Aquarena is a swimming, spa and fitness center which also has a children’s pool and 2 water slides.   Non-strenous activities include shopping, restaurants and people-watching.  It’s also close to Innsbruck and Salzburg for daytrips.

ski slope in austria

Cortina d’Empezzo, Italy

This resort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a former Olympic host city, has plenty for both skiers and non-skiers.

Bobsleigh, snowrafting, ice-climbing, zip-wiring, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, shopping, lunching and people-watching.

You can try the K-Track, a special kit that can transform any mountain bike into a snowbike. Cortina has multiple schools that teach novices how to “snowkite”, or use the K-track, during their visit.

Cortina has lots of culture, regularly scheduled sporting events and excellent restaurants.  For example, in December, visitors can experience the city’s traditional European Christmas Market, complete with mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. In January, the city hosts the Nordic Skiing World Cup and the Women’s Alpine Ski World Cup.  Also in January, there is Ice Art, the International Festival of Snow Sculpture, where artists transform huge blocks of ice into sculptures.

Banff, British Columbia, Canada

Banff is excellent for skiers with three areas, Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise.

lake louise

Banff has all the infrastructure of a mountain town such as good restaurants, shopping and a cinema.  For non-skiers, you can explore the mountains by ice-walking, snow-shoeing or hiking trails.  An easier alternative would be a gondola ride.  You know which one I’d pick!

You can take a wildlife safari to see elk, wolves, coyote and the occasional cougar in Banff National Park. Or, just relax and soak in the natural hot springs.  Calgary is just 90 minutes away by car if you miss the big city.

coyote in the snow

Hope you have gotten some good ideas for skiing for the family!

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