February half-term falls right in the middle of the ski season and the good news for families with school-age children is that it’s the best time to go. Many resorts will have fresh snow, slopes should be in peak condition and the days will be longer and warmer than they are now.
On the downside, most resorts will be very busy and prices are higher than during Easter, although by early April the conditions are usually worsening.
Some schools will start half-term on February 9 but others won’t start until the following week. Operators have priced both as peak season but the first week is up to £200 more expensive than the second.
Operators say both sell quickly, but we have found a selection of packages to suit families with kids of all ages and mixed abilities, all of which were still available when Travel Weekly went to press.
Best for young beginners
Where?La Rosiere, France
Why? It’s motto “the resort where children are royalty” says it all. The runs at resort level are easy greens and blues and wide, gentle pistes allow children to explore the mountain at an earlier stage in their learning than in many other resorts. Also the lifts are gentle to ease children into their new sport.
What else? La Rosiere is linked by ski lifts to the Italian resort of La Thuile, where experienced skiers in the party will find steeper, more challenging runs, including some good off-piste skiing. The larger and more demanding resort of Les Arcs is close enough for day trips.
Sample package: Esprit Ski, one of only a handful of tour operators to provide its own ski lessons for children, recommends the Chalet Camelia, which costs from £3,440 for a family of four departing on February 11 including flights and transfers.
Best for budget
Why? You might not know how to say it (try ‘bocking’) but you should certainly start promoting this resort to families on a budget because it offers some of the cheapest skiing available. It has access to four ski areas, the biggest of which is Vogel. There’s not enough terrain for serious skiers or boarders, but it’s enough for families taking their first ski holiday.
What else? Kids up to the age of five get a free lift pass and if two adults and one child buy ski and boot hire and a lift pass or lessons, a second child gets the same for free. Off the slopes there’s child-friendly entertainment from ice skating to snowshoe-walking and rides in horse-drawn carriages.
Sample package: Thomson Ski has seven-night packages to the four-star Hotel Kristal for £1,536 for a family of four including flights and transfers and departing on February 10.
Best for luxury
Where?Val d’Isere, France
Why? This is one of the world’s top ski resorts with extensive on and off-piste skiing. The resort is famed for its lively après-ski but has a sophisticated edge with some excellent gourmet restaurants, including many located close enough to the slopes for slap-up lunches. There are also some chilled out piano bars, chic boutiques, designer shops and more luxury chalets than any other European resort.
What else? The high altitude almost guarantees great ski conditions and the modern lift takes skiers and boarders rapidly up the mountain. For families who want to take a break from the slopes there’s husky sledding, horse-riding, ice-carting and snowmobiling.
Sample package: Neilson recommends the four-star Hotel Christiania, which is centrally located with an indoor swimming pool, sauna and fitness room and a lounge with an open fireplace, a plush bar and restaurant with à la carte dining. Unfortunately luxury comes at a high price, which in this case is £1,580 per person for seven nights including flights and transfers, departing on February 10/11 – there’s no discount for children.
Best for long haul
Why? At just under 10 hours’ flying time from the UK it’s a fair old trek for a week, . There’s a nursery for children aged two months to six years, children’s ski lessons from three years (at least a year earlier than most European resorts), and a children’s play area on the slopes with Indian teepee villages, a Whippersnapper Cowboy Fort and a Hibernating Bear Cave.
What else? Free lift passes for children under four and a range of non-skiing activities including ski biking, snowshoe tours, tubing, dog sledding, orienteering, trampolining, ice skating and snowmobiling.
Sample package:Crystal Ski has seven nights’ self-catering in the three-star East Vail Condos from £2,744 for a family of four departing on February 17. The price includes flights and either car hire or transfers.
Best for teenagers
Why? It’s perfect for adrenaline-seeking teens, on and off the slopes. Young boarders can blow off some steam in Snowboard Alley and show-off to their peers on the World Cup downhill run. For après-ski there’s ice-go-karting, snowmobiling (drivers must be 17 or over) or husky sledding.
What else? This is Lapland’s most cosmopolitan resort and there is a good choice of bars and restaurants with everything in walking distance. Plus there’s a health spa where mum and dad can get some rest and relaxation.
Sample package: Inghams has seven nights at the four-star Hotel Levitunturi, which has a swimming pool, indoor tennis and golf simulator, games room and Internet cafe, from £2,896 for a family of four departing on February 18 including flights and transfers.