Winter is here!
For all the snow bunnies and little daredevils in your family, that means just one thing – time to hit the slopes! We’ve put together some of the top family-friendly ski resort destinations to help you plan your wintry adventure to the mountains. Whether it’s a short-haul trip to Japan or South Korea, or a vacation further afield to Europe or North America, there are endless options out there over the holidays!
Japan is undoubtedly one of the world’s best destinations for a ski holiday. There are slopes to suit all abilities, multiple resorts to choose from, as well as steaming onsen to relax those tired muscles at the end of the day and, the best bit, it’s an easy flight from Hong Kong! To reach some of the best powder (and countless blue sky days), the resorts of Niseko and Tomamu are a safe family-friendly bet (from Hong Kong, fly direct to Sapporo), but you could also consider Hakuba, near the city of Nagano (and easily reached from Tokyo).
With an average of 15 metres of snow per year, Niseko has been called one of the world’s snowiest alpine resorts, and its hotels and ski runs regularly get voted “Best in Japan” at the World Ski Awards. The region of Niseko includes four ski resorts, Niseko Hanazono, Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Niseko Annupuri Ski Area, which can all be accessed using the one lift pass. Older children will enjoy the night skiing in Niseko, with lifts open until 9pm. Need more reasons to visit? Here are some of our top accommodation picks.
There are a few essentials to look for when it comes to family-friendly accommodation in Niseko. Space to make everyone comfortable, close proximity to the ski lifts and easy dining options (no one wants to trudge too far in the cold after a day on the slopes!) are all high on the agenda. J-Sekka ticks all the boxes! It is located in the heart of Hirafu Village, just a five-minute walk to the Ace Family Quad Lift. There are spacious luxury apartments, including duplex and triplex suites for families and groups travelling together. You won’t be cluttering your room with your ski-gear either as guests can take advantage of the in-house ski lounge and locker facility. During your stay, you’ll also have direct access to plenty of restaurants and services (including Japanese sports massages) and in-room dining for those evenings where you want to relax in the comfort of your luxury suite.
10% discount for stays during February and March 2020 when you quote “Sassy.”
Ministry Of Villas
There’s something special about having your own private space. Whether it’s just for your family or if you’ve gathered a group of friends for a ski vacation, a private villa or chalet can be the perfect option. Ministry of Villas has a range of options, from simple two-bedroom to lavish six-bedroom accommodations. Villas are available both in Niseko and Hakuba.
Ministry Of Villas, various locations, www.ministryofvillas.com
This ski-in, ski-out resort is a favourite amongst powder-loving families. Opt for interconnecting rooms (with a king room connecting directly to a twin) and in the evening indulge in the onsen (which is also family-friendly).
Sassy Mama tip: Check out the Niseko Kid’s Club. It offers full and half-day daycare for kids 12 months to 6-years old. The staff are multilingual early childhood educators, so you can rest assured your little ones are in good hands while you hit the slopes!
Tomamu is a smaller, more boutique family-friendly option, just 90-minutes from Sapporo Airport. As well as fantastic runs and trails to suit all abilities, there are also a host of other winter activities to keep the kids entertained. Head out on a snowmobile, snowshoeing or dog-sledding, or visit the stunning Ice Village. When things get a bit too cold, head indoors to the heated wave pool!
Hakuba is one of the most easily accessible ski resorts in Japan and became famous as one of the locations for the 1998 Winter Olympics. With over 11 metres of snowfall a year, plenty of accommodation and dining options as well as English-speaking staff, it’s easy to see why this is such a popular winter destination.
In the valley, there are nine resorts and 135 lifts which give you access to over 200 runs, so you’re bound to find those suited to your ability. The resorts are connected by a shuttle bus and can all be accessed on the same lift ticket.
Happo One is a great place for families to base themselves. The snow is exceptional and with Evergreen Outdoor Centre offering private and group lessons for children and parents alike, your little ones will be well looked after on the slopes. The slopes are beginner and intermediate-friendly, with a few steeper black runs for the more advanced skiers. Neighbouring resorts of Cortina and Iwatake are good resorts for parents and older children looking to access off-piste.
For accommodation, you could consider the Double Black Hotel, nestled in the Wadano forest and 10 minutes from the Happo One ski area. It’s a great, affordable option for families with older children. The reasonable 3-star hotel includes a Japanese Onsen to relax in post-skiing and a cosy bar with hearty food and snacks. For larger budgets, try the family-friendly La Neige Higashikan, approx. $2,200 per person.
Looking for an alternative to a Japan ski holiday? South Korea launched onto our radar after the 2018 Winter Olympics. You won’t find the huge expansive resorts of elsewhere around the world, but you will find many smaller, beginner slopes, ideal for introducing snow sports to your kids.
Just 90 minutes from Seoul (you can even take the subway to get there!), this beautiful valley resort offers wide panoramic views as you take to the slopes. There are six lifts servicing the resort’s 10 slopes and beginners are very well catered for. There’s an onsite ski school to brush up (or learn) your skills and onsite accommodation.
This resort has been named South Korea’s Best Ski Resort five times so you can guarantee it is worth checking out. There’s more to this family-friendly ski resort than the mountain. You’ll also find a bowling alley, karaoke and arcade games to keep the kids occupied off the slopes. For the ski bunnies, there are 28 ski slopes to suit all abilities.
To get to Yong Pyong you can drive or take a shuttle (seasonal). It’s 200km away from Seoul.
Harbin, China is an area made up of multiple ski resorts with Yabuli being the largest and most famous. Located in the Heilongjiang province, the resort is generally quiet with large, sweeping runs, perfect for beginners and intermediates. If you are travelling with younger children, Club Med is ideal as it offers the “Petit Club Med”, a crèche facility aimed at children (aged 2 to 4), available in its Yabuli property. In addition to childcare, the Club Med package includes food, group lessons, ski passes, ski hire and other leisure and evening activities.
A visit to the Harbin Ice Festival is a great day out for the children, consisting of the snow sculptures show on Sun Island, ice activities on the Songhua River, the Ice Lantern Show in Zhaolin Park and the Ice & Snow World to the west of Sun Island.
From Hong Kong, you’ll need to fly first to Shanghai or Beijing, then connect to Harbin Taiping International Airport. From there, it is about a two-hour drive.
Verbier, Swiss Alps
Verbier provides access to the huge expanse of the “4 Valleys” ski area and is a great resort choice for families. The terrain is varied, perfect for older children and parents alike looking to improve. There are a number of excellent ski schools and courses including European Snowsport and The Warren Smith Ski Academy.
Your family will appreciate a true chalet experience after a hard day’s skiing and Ski Armadillo in Verbier offers just that. With a selection of premium chalets, Ski Armadillo provides exceptional service, dining and a very reasonable package price that includes half-board accommodation, a driver and afternoon tea and cake.
From Hong Kong, fly direct to Zurich followed by a scenic two-hour drive, or fly to Geneva which is a slightly closer, 90-minute drive.
The Dolomiti Superski region encompasses 12 resorts featuring 1,200km of pistes, over 5,000 vertical feet of terrain and seriously impressive scenery. The region includes the welcoming atmosphere of the Ampezzo region to the Dolomiti di Sesto and Alta Badia and the towering peaks of the Val de Fassa and Val Gardena. Dolomite Mountains, a tailor-made adventure company, designs itineraries for active families and classic ski holidays, ensuring you make the most of your stay in this fabulous region.
Fly to Milan from Hong Kong, followed by a four-hour drive to the Dolomites.
Lech has fantastic early season skiing in December due to the region’s microclimate. Lech neighbours the fun-loving resort of St. Anton and, with its picturesque alpine charm, is a great option for families who enjoy cruising the blue and red runs. For more challenging skiing and families with older children, try the slopes of St. Anton, a short bus ride away. Adventurous families can try the “The White Ring” – a circuit linking Lech, Zürs, Zug and Oberlech with over 22km of piste.
Fly from Hong Kong to either Munich, Germany or Zurich, Switzerland. From either, it is a 2.5 to 3-hour drive to the ski resort.
With direct Hong Kong to Vancouver flights and a two-hour transfer to the resort, Whistler is an easy, exciting family-friendly option for your winter ski break. The three main centres are traffic-free and the chalet-style apartments on the hillsides give it a charming ambience. The PEAK 2 PEAK gondola, spanning Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, offers easy access to both mountains in 11 minutes. There is a designated “Family Zone” and a beginner snow park where teenagers can practice their first tricks. The Whistler resort offers childcare and camps including Whistler Kids for babies aged 18 to 48 months, should you fancy a morning ski child-free.
Read more: Christmas Travel For Hong Kong Families
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on 4, December 2014 and was updated by Jess Mizzi on 15, November 2019.
Featured image courtesy of Getty, image 1 courtesy of Club Med, image 2 courtesy of J-Sekka Suites, image 3 courtesy of Club Med, image 4 courtesy of Elysian, image 5 courtesy of Club Med, image 6 courtesy of Verbier via Instagram, image 7 courtesy of Dolomiti Superski, image 8 courtesy of Lech, image 9 courtesy of Whistler.
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