Last Updated on August 18, 2018 by

If you’re planning to ski Slovakia with kids, we recommend Park Snow Donovaly for stunning landscapes, easy access, powder lines and beer for €2 a pint!

ski slovakia with kids - park snow donovaly

Travel has always been my life, my passion and my everything. So when my daughter came along, I knew travel would become a big part of her life too. Since she was a week old, we’ve brought her on road trips in Iceland, Spain and Oman, and on beach holidays in the Caribbean, Maldives, and Cyprus.

Kaleya has just turned three, so we decided that it was about time she tried her hands at skiing. I’m absolutely shit at skiing (hey I’m from the tropics!), but Alberto is an expert skier. We figured if she didn’t want to ski, we could still have fun in the snow and get enjoy quality time together.

A quick search for ‘family ski resorts’ led us to Park Snow Donovaly in Slovakia, a small-sized ski station great for young families like ours. Within five minutes, we had our budget flights and rental car booked for January, the peak ski season in Europe, and we were ready for our first family ski holiday.

ski slovakia - slovakia with kids - family ski holiday

 

Why Ski Slovakia?

Forget about the same old ski destinations like Austria and France — Slovakia makes a great family ski holiday destination for several reasons: it’s spectacular, yet to be overrun with tourists, easy to get to and it’s really cheap.

The Tatras Mountains are absolutely stunning, and surprisingly free of tourists. We visited a ski town in Poland’s side of the Tatras Mountains last year and swore to return, so this trip was a perfect chance for us to see more of the Tatras and experience a different culture at the same time.

Thanks to budget airline Wizz Air, we nabbed ridiculously cheap flights from Cologne, Germany to Kosice, Slovakia for a mere €30 round trip. Our car rental was also really affordable, at €60 for three days. Once there, we were even more thrilled by the cheap prices — a pint of beer cost €2 in the ski resort, €1 in Kosice town, and a hefty Slavic meal usually cost around €8 to 15 accompanied by live music and plenty of fun.

Though travel guides sometimes file the region under eastern Europe, locals prefer to think of themselves as central Europe, having long since shaken off the iron curtain and invested in lift systems every bit as modern as that of its Alpine neighbours.

ski slovakia - family ski holiday

Where’s Park Snow Donovaly?

Park Snow Donovaly is an easy 2.5-hour drive away from Košice International Airport. The airport is small but modern, well connected to Košice city and several ski stations in Tatras Mountains. The drive is mostly on a highway, flanked by beautiful snow-covered fields and tall mountains in the distance. Once you exit the highway, you’ll notice the roads getting narrower and climbing higher and higher into the Tatras Mountains.

I recommend driving only if you have some experience driving in extreme winter conditions. Rental cars in Slovakia are always equipped with winter tires, but you’ll need to know how to manoeuvre a vehicle in snow to drive around the Tatras Mountains.

Another airport that’s closer to the Tatras Mountains is the Poprad-Tatry Airport, just an hour’s drive from Donovaly. Wizz Air files from London Luton directly to Poprad-Tatry, for prices as low as €65 return.

Search for cheap flights here.

ski slovakia - park snow donovaly - with kids

Why Donovaly is Great for Skiing with Kids:

Park Snow Donovaly is a relatively small ski resort, with 11 km of pistes with 7.4 km of snowmaking. The pistes are divided between two areas: Záhradište is perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers, while Nová hoľa suits intermediate and advanced skiers. Skiers have 2 chairlifts and 14 ski tows available.

The main reason why we chose Park Snow Donovaly for Kaleya’s first ski trip was just how child-friendly it is. SkiResort.info awarded Park Snow Donovaly a top ski resort for families. Donovaly has the second largest children’s ski areas in Europe. The kids’ Funpark is a 10,000-square-meter area located between two ski slopes Záhradište and Nová hoľa. It has 9 Sunkid moving walkways and lots of fun kids-oriented amenities, which allow kids to learn to ski much quicker, while having fun.

Kids can enter the ski play school from the age of 3 (which we really should have signed her up for!). Every day at 12 noon, the Funpack also puts up a “Show on Snow” with lots of games and fun with their mascots Dodo, Lulu, Brumík and the PARK SNOW mouse. Even if your kids doesn’t want to ski, the Funpark is great fun for young kids to just frolic in the snow and play with the wave run and kids’ adventure course.

ski slovakia - slovakia with kids - park snow donovaly

Prices for Skiing with Kids in Slovakia:

The best thing about skiing in Slovakia is that it’s really affordable. In comparison to other ski destinations like Austria or France, Slovakia is cheap to travel and prices are great. Family ski trips in Slovakia are a lot easier on the pocket here, especially if you have a big family.

Kids under 6 can ski for free. Access to the Fun Park only costs between 4-7 euros an hour and a one-day ticket costs 10-15 euros (depending on the season). As for ski school, the price depends on the age of your kid and for how long you’d like them to go for. More information here.

For adults, here are the prices for the ski-passes (vary with the season):

  • 1-day ski pass: 12 – 33 euros
  • 3-day pass: 50 – 76 euros
  • 7-day pass: 101 – 185 euros
  • Skis + boots rentals: 15 – 20 euros/day

Check the full price list here.

ski slovakia - park snow donovaly

ski slovakia

My Advice for Skiing with Kids in Donovaly:

For families with kids as young as Kaleya (3 years old), I would recommend making the Funpark your first stop. It’s the best area for them to get their first footing: it’s relatively flat and the fun amenities there will make them feel more at ease. Our biggest mistake was bringing Kaleya straight to the slopes, and it really threw her into the back seat.

The only ski rental shops in Donovaly are located in the main carpark of the town. You can rent skis, boots and poles for kids as small as two-year-old. From there, you can cross the bridge on skis and – voila – you’ll find yourself on the top of a blue slope. That was the route we took, but Kaleya got pretty scared on the slope and would only ski when she was hanging on to Alberto between his legs. When we finally found our way to the Funpark after walking through thick snow, Kaleya was too tired and cranky to ski.

slovakia with kids - family ski trip

My advice would be to pick up your equipment and drive to the Funpark (as it’s quite a distance away), then start them there. I would also recommend signing up your kid to the ski play school at the Funpark. It’s best to enjoy the experience as a family but leave the teaching to the professional instructors, you do that every day in school so why not skiing?!

From this experience, we learned that family skiing should be about fun and snow play — not about goal setting come what may.

ski slovakia - park snow donovaly

What to Do in Donovaly Beyond Skiing

As Park Snow Donovaly is a relatively small ski station, there are limited options for après-ski options. Most of the action takes place around the two carparks at Záhradište and Nová hoľa. There’s a flood lit toboggan run, a skating rink and several bars. On the top of Záhradište, there’s also dog sledding and a kids’ snow train that you can hop on for some fun with the kids. Close to the Funpark is also a llama farm.

For the non-skiers, be sure to take the cable up to the highest point of Nová hoľa, for wonderful panoramic views of the Low Tatras and the Large Tatras. We did this on our third day, since Kaleya refused to ski. With a bit of luck and good weather, you can see the end of the Western Tatras with the dominant peak Kriváň in all of its glory and majesty. A ride by chairlift is 8 euros.

This region of Slovakia is also well known for their hot springs. Gothal Chalupy Liptovská Osada is a beautiful resort with relaxing hot spring pools and children’s pool, that you can visit for the day. Special 3-hour packages start from 36 euros for 2 persons. It’s 12km away from Park Snow Donovaly, making for a great escape after a day of skiing. Be sure to pack your swimming suits if you plan to come here!

family ski holiday

park snow donovaly

Where to Stay in Donovaly

We splurged and stayed at a luxurious aparthotel housed in the prominent four-star Residence Hotel. And I’m very glad we did, as our apartment was spacious, extremely comfortable, well located and had a spectacular view of the valley. It was just a few minutes’ walk from the main town centre and most ski slopes. The apartment even had boxes of toys for young kids and a baby crib that was perfect for Kaleya.

Our balcony opened up to stunning panoramic views of the mountain peaks, pine forests and ski slopes. The best thing was that it wasn’t even expensive (110 euros/night), considering the quality of the accommodation. Note that the apartment actually looked nicer in reality than in the photos online.

Check the latest rates here.

If you’re looking for something cheaper, check out Penzion Damisport (60 euros/night), a log-cabin style pension that’s part of a ski rental shop. It has the best location for skiing — you literally go downstairs, get your rental skis, cross the road and swish down a blue slope. It’s right in the centre of town, next to the central carpark and steps from restaurants and bars.

Check the latest rates here.

family ski holiday

Where to Eat in Donovaly

After a full day on the hill, you’ll welcome a plate of Slovakian comfort food, invariably heavy on garlic and stodge. Try beef goulash and bryndzové halušky – potato dumplings with goat’s cheese – and settle in for the inevitable food coma. Fortunately, the locals have an effective antidote: Zlaty Bazant, a local pilsner served ice cold at a price that’s as refreshing as the taste.

There are only a handful of restaurants in Donovaly and most of them are located around the Záhradište carpark. Our absolute favorite restaurant in Donovaly was Koliba Goral, a traditional Slovak tavern housed in a wooden log cabin. The mushroom soup served in a massive oven-baked bread was divine, so was the tender beef goulash and halušky. The interior was cozy and atmospheric, and we also enjoyed some live folkloric music there.

Donovalsky Pivovar is the main drinking hole in town, and it’s so conspicuous you won’t miss it. It’s surprisingly modern, tastefully designed to blend in with the traditional stone-walled exterior. The bar has a high roof and cool log-cabin design, and the pub food here is just as good as its frosty beers.

ski slovakia - slovakia with kids


Are you planning a family ski trip to Slovakia? Let me know if you have any questions!


 

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