With so many ski resorts out there, where do you even begin when planning a fun-filled, family-friendly ski holiday? Linda Law shares her favourite destinations for the perfect snowy getaway for you and your brood this winter.
Yabuli is the largest ski resort in the Harbin area of Northeast China. With 35km of long, sweeping runs (perfect for beginners and intermediates) a stay with the family at the new all-inclusive Club Med is a must. Everything is included in your stay here: that means the food and drinks within the resort’s many gourmet and speciality restaurants, group ski lessons, ski passes, ski hire and other leisure and evening activities. Parents can indulge and unwind with the many spa treatments on offer by L’Occitane, while kids aged two and older exhaust themselves in the various, professionally run, kids clubs.
While you are in Yabuli be sure to explore the picturesque Harbin Ice Festival which is made up of three theme parks. This is a great day out for the kids if they need a rest day from the slopes.
When it comes to winter in China, Club Med, Yabuli is your passport to a stress-free family holiday.
A family ski holiday to Japan will always be remembered for its bottomless powder, delicious local cuisine and breath-taking scenery. For extra fun-filled action, Tokyo Disneyland is also at your fingertips and can easily be added onto your trip for an unforgettable adventure.
Voted one of the top 10 ski resorts in the world, Niseko in Hokkaido is perfect for a family ski holiday with the kids – especially if you’re seeking extensive English-speaking ski lessons and English-speaking staff. Niseko contains four connecting resorts (Hanazono, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri) that can all be skied on using one lift pass, meaning there are a huge number of ski runs and activities to choose from. Shuttle buses run between all four resorts and if you wish to eat out at the many amazing restaurants sans kids, there are a range of independent babysitting and day-care services in Niseko (in addition to those which the individual resorts already offer). EdVenture Winter Camps for kids aged 4-14 is another reason to pack the bags and head to Niseko this winter.
Hakuba is another fantastic option for families. Located outside the city of Nagano, Hakuba has 11 different resorts connected by a free shuttle bus – so you have more terrain to explore than you could possibly imagine. Most accommodation options are less than a 10-minute walk to the lifts. Evergreen Ski School offers private and group lessons for all ages. High quality instructors ensure your children are taken care of on the slopes, and they will be skiing better than you in no time! For the more adventurous families there are powder lessons to take advantage of, or why not go off-piste with a guide? In addition to slopes for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers, snowmobiling and snowshoe tours can be arranged through the serene forests of Hakuba. After a long day out in the cold, how about relaxing in the hot springs?
Be sure to take a day trip to the nearby Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park for a great rest day that the whole family can enjoy. It is the only place in the world where you can see wild monkeys bathing in natural volcanic hot springs.
Yongpyong, South Korea
South Korea is a great option for beginner skiers as the resorts here are smaller and often less crowded. The best Korean ski resorts are only a few hours’ drive from Seoul and are easily explored as a day trip. One such resort is Yongpyong Resort located within Pyeongchang, the host city of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Only a two-hour drive from Seoul, Yongpyong is the biggest ski resort in Korea. With 28 slopes catering to beginners, intermediates and advanced levels, it offers the best variety of terrain. For those looking to explore the area further, Alpensia is a perfect family-friendly resort located just five minutes drive away. This resort has six different slopes, including one reserved exclusively for snowboarders – its high-speed lift system (that can transport up to 3,000 skiers per hour) is sure to impress!
Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
Just a two-hour drive from Vancouver lies a big and beautiful two-mountain resort: Whistler Blackcomb. The Peak 2 Peak gondola spans the two mountains and offers easy access to more than 200 marked runs. With the longest run being 11km long (wow!) and yearly snowfall averaging a tremendous 11.64 metres, Whistler is a family-friendly option for those who love action-packed skiing. Should you fancy a morning (or two) skiing kid-free, there is plenty of childcare options, as well as kids’ camps including Whistler Kids which offers childcare for children aged 18 months to five years. There are also designated “Family Zone” areas throughout the resort, including Tree Fort on Whistler Mountain and Magic Castle on Blackcomb, which feature a beginner terrain park for daredevils to practice their new tricks and an ice skating area to give the skis a rest. There’s also the Coca-Cola tube park where the kids can cruise full speed down a tubing hill. With access to many babysitting and nanny-on-call services, you and your hubby can enjoy a date-night with incredible food and wine at the Araxi Restaurant and Oyster Bar.
Verbier is part of the French-speaking “4 Vallées,” a huge connected network of 410km of runs and 89 lifts, all covered by one single lift pass. The sun is often shining and the views of the surrounding peaks are simply stunning. Only a two-hour drive from Zurich and a one and a half hour drive from Geneva, it is an easily accessible resort choice for families. The terrain is varied and caters for all ages and abilities and there are a number of excellent ski schools to choose from, with the largest being Ecole Suisse de Ski. Head to the areas of Les Esserts or Les Moulins if you are skiing with really young kids or total beginners as here you will find the longest magic carpet in Switzerland for parents who wish to accompany their kids on foot whilst they learn. From the top of Savoleyres, take a special 10km toboggan run down; pack your swimmers for the indoor swimming pool at the Sports Center; or go dog-sledding near Les Ruinettes – the list is endless for kid-friendly fun! Be sure to stay at the hottest hotel in Verbier, the new W Hotel, winner of the 2016 World’s Best Ski Hotel award. Après-Ski is not usually a big part of any family ski holiday, however in Verbier it’s different. Le Farinet is the “it” spot for après-ski entertainment with a cocktail lounge and happy hour running daily between 4pm and 5pm, a live band every evening – the bonus is kids are welcome!
BIO – Linda Law is a travel consultant at Flight Centre Hong Kong. www.flightcentre.com.hk.
This article appeared in Playtimes December/January Issue 2017/2018.