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Can a family of skiers and non-skiers have Christmas fun in the snow in Italy?
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Q We are a mixed group - two parents with 10-year-old twins and, possibly, an 80-year-old granny, too - who would like to spend Christmas week in Italy, meeting up with friends of ours, their three-year-old and baby. They live in northern Italy, and we would all like to travel to a region that has snow, with access to some ski slopes but also with activities for non-skiers - only two of our party ski (intermediate level). We don't have a generous budget, but appreciate that it is an expensive time of year. Self-catering would be the preferred option, but we would consider a more inclusive package.

Q We are a mixed group - two parents with 10-year-old twins and, possibly, an 80-year-old granny, too - who would like to spend Christmas week in Italy, meeting up with friends of ours, their three-year-old and baby. They live in northern Italy, and we would all like to travel to a region that has snow, with access to some ski slopes but also with activities for non-skiers - only two of our party ski (intermediate level). We don't have a generous budget, but appreciate that it is an expensive time of year. Self-catering would be the preferred option, but we would consider a more inclusive package.

F Mackenzie, Weymouth

A More and more non-skiing families are spending winter holidays at ski resorts. There has also been a matching increase in the amount of activities available to non-skiers. Some are obvious - sleigh rides, ice-skating - but look around, and you can find ice-climbing, ski-biking, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

Unfortunately, Italy is probably the least geared up for these new activities - the most exciting tend to be in French or US resorts, such as Courchevel or Vail. On the plus side, though, Italian resorts are generally very child-friendly, and if you choose the right spot, you'll have easy access to places of cultural interest for the adults to do a spot of wintry sightseeing

If it's guaranteed snow you're after, you'll need to aim high - over 1,500m - as Christmas is still early in the season on the lower Alps. But you may find that the choice of self-catering accommodation is a little limited in the higher resorts, as they often concentrate on hotels and guesthouses.

I've got two suggestions. The first is the resort of Selva in the Val Gardena, 1,500m up in the Dolomites. It's an attractive, busy, typically Alpine village below the tree-line (so you get an eyeful of lovely scenery), and is bang in the middle of the Sella Ronda ski circuit, which will easily keep your two intermediate skiers busy for a week. Plus, if the twins want to take lessons, Selva's nursery slopes are very high, which helps with snow coverage. Ski and Boarders Factory (00 39 0471 795156; www.ski-factory.it) offers six half-day children's lessons for €172 (£119) per child, while the two tinies can stay in the attached kindergarten.

Selva is very popular with families, and has a fair bit on offer for non-skiers other than tobogganing, sleigh rides and snowshoe-hikes. It has been famous for its woodcarvers since medieval times, and has over 80 shops. At Erse (00 39 047 179 5288; www.erseshop.com) and others you'll find a selection of hand-carved bowls, ornaments and toys for the children's Christmas stocking.

If you fancy a spa treatment, the nearby village of Ortisei has two pools with attached steam baths and therapy rooms. You will also be only a three-hour train journey from Venice, which is empty, unsmelly, and mistily romantic at this time of year.

Selva's tourist office (00 39 0471 79 51 22; www.val-gardena.com) offers a list of self-catering apartments for rent. This includes the two-star Apartments Galina (00 39 0471 794100; www.rolbox.it/galina), which has two apartments in a private house 1km from the village centre and 150m from the skibus (which departs every 10 minutes during daylight). The smaller, with two double bedrooms, costs €800 (£554) for a week from 20 December; the larger, with two doubles and a bunk-bed room, costs €950 (£658) per week. Selva is served by many airports with direct flights from Britain: in descending order of closeness, Verona, Brescia, Treviso, Venice, Bergamo, Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate. FlyBe (0870 889 0908; www.flybe.com) offers return fares from Southampton, relatively close to you, to Bergamo for £210 return, departing on 20 December.

Secondly, you might like to consider the resort of Breuil-Cervinia (00 39 0166 944411; www.breuil-cervinia.it) - linked with the car-free resort of Zermatt, just over the border in Switzerland. With a base elevation of 2,000m, it's very high - just beneath the Matterhorn, in fact - which gives it the best snow record of any resort in the Italian Alps, and has miles of easy-cruising slopes for the two intermediates in your party.

It's much smaller than Selva, and correspondingly quieter, though you'll still find indoor tennis, bowling and ice-skating on offer. Buy a day's lift-pass and the whole group can take the cable car to go duty-free shopping in Zermatt, making the most of some spectacular views on the way. It's also a good base for day trips into the history-laden Aosta Valley below; if you're keen on history, this is stuffed to the gills with medieval castles.

The town of Châtillon is only 17km away, and again has some beautiful medieval buildings, along with a theatre and some charming piazzas.

Accommodation in Cervinia is mostly limited to large, modern blocks of apartments, or hotels. Interhome (020-8891 1299; www.interhome.co.uk) has a two-room apartment sleeping five (four in one bedroom, one on a sofa-bed in the living-room) in the Residence Grand' Ourse, a mere 150m from the chair-lifts. This will cost £739 for Christmas week.

Snowfinders (01858 466888; www.snowfinders.com) offers two studio apartments for four at the two-star La Pineta, at around £1,000 per apartment during Christmas week. Though it costs more, there's a greater choice of hotels. Iglu (020-8544 6356; www.igluski.com) offers two triple rooms and one twin room at the central, three-star Hotel Breuil for seven nights from 21 December, priced at £534 per person half-board, plus £39 for the baby. You can access Cervinia via Milan or Turin.

You could cut costs by driving to the Alps. SeaFrance has a 21 December return ferry crossing, Dover-Calais, for one car and five passengers for £250. Driving time will be approximately 10 hours to Cervinia, and 11 hours to Selva from Calais. Or use Eurotunnel (08705 353535; www3.eurotunnel.com), which has a 20 December, 2pm long-stay return fare for £308 for one car. You should allow around £60 for motorway tolls, plus the cost of the petrol.

Send your family travel questions to SF Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS. Or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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