The Best Last-Minute Ski Destinations for the Whole Family
Ski holidays make for a perfect winter breakaway
Hands down, Whitstler Blackcomb is one of the very best ski destinations for families. The season here runs from November to April, and with reliably deep powder and stunning scenery, there’s a reason skiers return again and again. With two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, side-by-side there is enough terrain for multiple lifetimes – the perfect reason to bring your kids while they’re young and start exploring early. On the slopes, there are specially-designed family zones, the Whistler Kids Snow School, an enchanted tree fort and magic castle, while in the resort you’ll find a free outdoor skating rink, Tube Park and Fire & Ice Show to keep smiles on everyone’s faces after the pistes close for the day. Everything you need is close at hand in Whistler meaning less planning and more time for skiing. Pedestrian-only paths go right to the ski lifts, while in-resort transit options mean it’s easy to get from A to B without needing a car – not to mention kids 12 and under ride for free on the transit system.
Down in Whistler Village centre there’s an abundance of hotels and apartments to suit all group sizes and budgets. The Sundial is a boutique hotel that sits right in the heart of the village, and with suites for up to six guests it is perfect for families while being extremely close to the lifts and everything else you could need. If you prefer somewhere a bit quieter, then it might be worth looking at nearby Creekside. Here, Nita Lake Lodge is far enough from the hustle and bustle to feel like a real escape, but just 500 metres from the Creekside gondola and a short walk or shuttle ride from Whistler Village. For ski-in/ski-out lodging look no further than Kadenwood Bellevue. In it’s own ski-in/ski-out neighbourhood, this luxury chalet sleeping 13 people has slopes just minutes from the door and a private gondola, so you can bring all your family together in one unforgettable setting.
While flocks of Brits head across the channel to the Alps each year, for some reason few venture west to hit the slopes of the Pyrenees. While ski resorts in the Pyrenees are never going to compete in terms of scale or variety, what these mountains might lack in quantity compared to the Alps, they more than make up for in quality. On the border with Spain, they make for a perfect destination to try something off-piste (both literally and metaphorically). For those who like their skiing sunny, Baqueira Beret in the Spanish Pyrenees has an extensive network of linked pistes that stretch up to 2,610m. Baqueira’s skiing is as extensive as it is varied with easy greens, tricky black runs, superb off-piste powder, near vertical couloirs and mogul runs to test even the the most experienced skier. The southern latitude of these mountains, close to the Mediterranean, means they tend to be sunnier than the Alps and have an hour more daylight too so you can make the most of every minute.
There are plenty of other activities on offer here, such as dog sledding and cross-country skiing on the plateau at Beret, and Baqueira is known for its great food with much more than just your usual raclette and fondue offering. Combine good food with a good night's sleep at the five-star La Pleta. A cosy hotel just a few metres from the Esquirós chairlift, its location is ideal, whilst its restaurants boast a wide and varied gastronomic offering, with everything from Catalan cuisine to sushi, and the hotel’s spa has a heated pool. For accommodation right at the foot of the slopes, the idyllic Montarto spa hotel is the place to be. It first opened its doors in 1972, and has been meticulously refurbished, offering guests a more comfortable stay without losing the wonderful, mountain lodge character it’s so famous for.
In the shadow of the iconic Matterhorn, Zermatt is a must-try ski destination and, ranking fourth among the highest ski resorts in the world, its high altitude location makes it perfect for a last-minute getaway. With one of the world’s highest cable cars at Klein Matterhorn, which takes you up to almost 4,000m, even if you’re going at the end of the ski season this reliable resort almost always has plenty of snow. Zermatt is best suited to intermediate and advanced skiers, although there is also plenty of easier terrain especially on the glacier. If skiing and snowboarding aren’t really your thing, there are winter hiking and snowshoeing routes throughout the resort. When your legs begin to ache, sit back and relax on one of the many sun-trap terraced mountain restaurants, or head down into the village for gourmet restaurants, boutique shopping and some of the best après-ski around. For something a bit different, we recommend dedicating one day of your holiday to visiting Gornergrat – not by car but on the highest outdoor rack railway in Europe. Transporting guests directly from Zermatt station, this is a 33-minute train journey like no other, climbing 1,484 metres to the summit.
There are lots of different types of accommodation at the foot of the Matterhorn, from luxurious to traditional, and even sustainable. The CERVO Mountain Resort is a five-star hotel with social and ecological responsibility as its core. Its 54 rooms, extensive spa and restaurants and bars (ranging from modern Italian, to traditional, to hyper-local cuisine) all use sustainable energy supplies and natural production of hot water and heat to make tourism here as eco-conscious as possible. Perched on a rock high above the centre of Zermatt, The Omnia is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional mountain lodge with 30 rooms including 12 suites, plus a library and restaurant, a lounge bar and a wellness centre. If self-catering is more your thing, Chalet Pollux is a three-storey luxury chalet accessed via a lift inside the mountain.