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Family resorts come in all shapes and sizes; from simple, friendly slopes where sprogs can make their very first turns, through to sprawling mega resorts that have bases covered for kids of all ages. Here are Chris Taine’s picks for the best in the Austrian Tirol

Heading out to the snow with a toddler in tow is an opportunity to look at familiar resorts with fresh eyes – and now, with very different considerations. Not long ago, a parking lot at the base of a lift was enough. Now, there’s a rather more complicated appraisal process; tobogganing slopes, winter hiking paths, family-friendly digs (i.e. with kitchen facilities), cosy huts and cafés in which to warm up, and of course somewhere for Mum and Dad to execute a seamless midday changeover. 

While my own offspring are still more into sliding on a sled than strapping on skis, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been evaluating where we’ll be heading in one, three, or ten years’ time. What I’ve found is that there’s no standard recipe for what makes a good family resorts; the following – though all excellent – each have their own particular strengths and charms. 

Kühtai

Starting small, the appeal of the pint-sized resort of Kühtai is that it’s well… small. That means you’re never far from the rest of the family, wherever you (or they) are in the resort, but Kühtai packs in a surprising amount of variety.

A single road runs east to west through Kühtai, which sits in a broad saddle at 2,020m above sea level, with lifts rising up on both sides of the road. Hotels, apartments and ski lifts are strung out along this road, meaning that most accommodation is either ski-in, ski-out, or at most a few minutes walk from a piste or lift. 

At the more upmarket end of the spectrum, the Hotel Mooshaus (complete with infinity pool) is directly on the main beginner slopes, on the sunny side of the valley. It’s very centrally located, meaning it’s easy to reach the rest of the resort, or make the lunchtime parental switch. The south-facing pistes above the beginner slopes are mostly long, rolling red cruisers, while on the shadier, north-facing slopes there are a mix of steep black groomers, more reds, and some playful off-piste (including the popular dam wall). The area is also an El Dorado for ski touring, with ideal terrain accessed right from the village. This makes it possible to get into the backcountry with even a little bit of time away from the kids – or in the springtime head out for a couple hours even after the lifts have closed.

Kühtai itself has about 2,000 guest beds, meaning that the resort is seldom crowded, and thus an ideal area for children who are taking to skis – or board – for the first time. The snow park – which was used for the 2012 Youth Olympics Games – is obviously a draw for more advanced kids and teenagers, as is the floodlit tobogganing trail.

Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, a resort spread across three pretty Tirolean villages, all of which sit on a sunny plateau above the Upper Inn Valley. While there are still a few rustic farmhouses and bucolic corners to be explored in these villages, overall the resort feels rather purpose-built feel. As a result, it may lack some of the charms and the intimacy of smaller resorts, but makes up for that with an extensive offering for families that is geared to towards almost every age group.

Infrastructure is slick and modern, and high-speed lifts whisk skiers and riders from Serfaus up to the Komperdell area at 1,980m, where there are extensive beginner slopes that accommodate ski school classes in a well designed arena (known as the Kinderschneealm). Across in Fiss and Ladis, there are beginner lifts right in the village.

The resort has made a concerted effort to cater to the buggy-bound too, with winter hiking trails prepared for off-road buggies – with plenty of rest stops with views across the Austrian Alps. This is something genuinely lacking in many resorts – somewhere that you can stretch your legs while babies sleep! Another winner is the ‘young family’ transferable ticket (so Mum and Dad can take turns making turns), which is also something of a rarity.

Where Sefaus-Fiss-Ladis really comes into its own though is with slightly older children – the resort is huge (more than 200km of piste, more than half of which is rated red), so there’s plenty to explore, and a number of themed trails to get young sliders excited. For anyone who’s experienced skiing at one of North America’s more family-oriented resorts this may all feel a little familiar – but for the most part that’s a good thing, with a level of thoughtfulness and attention to detail not often found at such big European resorts.

Tiroler Zugspitz Arena

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Not a single interconnected resort, but six smaller skiing areas, all of which share jaw-dropping views of the 2,962m Zugspitze, which sits on the border of Bavaria (Germany) and the Austrian Tirol.

On the lower slopes of the Zugspitz massif itself is Ehrwald; with access to the Wetterstein and Ehrwalder Alm ski areas. Both catch plenty of sun and consist primarily of confidence-boosting blue pistes. Despite the jagged peaks and imposing rock walls, there are few places in the Alps that are as scenic, but at the same time so ideally suited to beginners and novices.

Across the valley, Lermoos (also known as the Grubigstein ski area) is a better bet for those in search of more challenging slopes, with red pistes covering over 1000m vertical, and a couple of challenging blacks. There are still good beginner slopes right at the base of the mountain though. Yet another option is Berwang – an idyllic Austrian village set in a wide bowl, with plenty of cruisy blue runs, winter hiking paths, and cross-country skiing trails. Overall it’s fairly mellow, but hands down one of the most comfortable ski areas in the Alps for young families.

Much of the accommodation throughout the Tiroler Zugzpitz Arena is geared towards families too, with the Family Hotel Alpenrose (Lermoos), as well as Familotel Kaiserhof (Berwang) and Naturhotel Family Alm (Biberwier), or the ski-in ski-out budget hotel My Tirol (Biberwier).

Alpbachtal & Wildschönau

Whereas Tiroler Zugspitz Arena is not widely known by British skiers, the same cannot be said for Alpbach & Wildschönau, which together make up the ‘Ski-Juwel’ ski region. However, you’ll find a similar vibe – more rustic charm than flashy hotels, laid-back locals, and value for money (in terms of tickets, accommodation and activities) compared to some of the larger alternatives.

 Despite being – in geographical terms – roughly equidistant from flashy Kitzbühel and the sprawling resorts in the Ziller Valley, Wildschönau still feels secluded and well removed mass-market ski tourism. In Auffach, the access point for the main Schatzberg ski area, most of the visitor accommodation consists of private pensions and small hotels that line the quiet main thoroughfare, and a single gondola rises up from the centre of the village.

Some of the accommodation, like the Pension Luzenberg up in Bernau, is directly on the piste. The excellent tobogganing trail, which is accessed from the gondola mid-station, also passes through here. Beginner slopes are also located up at the gondola mid-station, and get plenty of sun, but even more practical are the learning facilities in nearby Niederau (also part of Wildschönau). Here, there are extensive, gentle slopes right at the base of the mountain, easily reached from a number of pensions, apartments and hotels.

Across in Alpbachtal, Inneralpbach is the most practical spot to stay with family. However, when the snow is good, there are excellent ‘baby lifts’ throughout the two valleys, including in Alpbach itself, Reith, Kramsach, Roggenboden and Oberau. These can be fantastic places for kids to get a feel for snow and make their first turns, as they’re well away from the hustle and bustle of the main ski slopes. Lift passes are cheap, and there’s an undeniable nostalgia factor for anyone who grew up skiing at a single lift ski area themselves!

Kitzbühel

The Locals' Project

 

Kitzbühel, despite the reputation of its World Cup racecourse (the famous and feared Streif), is in reality an extensive family resort, with 215 km of pistes and oodles of intermediate terrain. Its medieval town centre is traditional yet cosmopolitan, with sophisticated nightlife and raucous après. But the beginner slopes are just a snowball’s throw away, and this is where the renowned ‘Red Devil’ (Rote Teufel) Ski School has been operating since 1926. Slightly more advanced skiers will feel at home across on the Kitzbüheler Horn, a quiet area where there are plenty of blues and easy reds.

Nearby, the village of Kirchberg is well-suited to families, with accommodation options at a range of price points, somewhat more down-to-earth than glitzy Kitz. It gets a bit more sun too, meaning it’s a nice area to spend time outdoors exploring or sliding in the snow. It has its own beginners lift (Schatzerlift) right in the village too.

One thing to be noted is that despite its glamourous reputation, Kitzbühel actually has some of the best lift ticket discounts for families with children and some good activities away from the slopes, such as the Aquarena.

SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental

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SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental (for the sake of simplicity SkiWelt) is now Austria’s second-largest ski area (after St Anton), encompassing a whopping 284 km of ski pistes, the vast majority of which are wide open groomers perfectly suited to skiers and riders of the intermediate ilk. The area, which is served by 90 lifts, is accessed from a number of villages on all sides of the ski area, all of which provide good access point to the vast domain. As a result, there is a lot of family-oriented accommodation that is close to a modern gondola that takes you up to the higher slopes.

For genuine slopeside accommodation, Brixen im Thale is the best bet, with its access to the Choralpe area as well as the Hohe Salve, but Hopfgarten and Ellmau and Westendorf also have a choice of lodging that qualifies as ski-in, ski-out.

There are nearly 300 on-mountain restaurants, huts and après-ski bars – so no shortage of options for taking a break when skiing with younger kids, and plenty of culinary choices in the villages for those not able to hit the slopes. As you would expect from a large destination resort there are plenty of activities geared towards kids apart from skiing, including floodlit toboggan runs and the Hochbrixen Ice Village. Perhaps the biggest draw though is that for children who are novice or intermediate, they will definitely not run out of terrain to explore.

Read more about Tirol’s top family ski resorts.