We'd really like to try skiing over the feb half term but as we're all novices would need somewhere that could provide all equipment as well as lessons. It would also be good if we didn't have to do self-catering as I imagine we would be pretty knackered at the end of each day and wouldn't fancy cooking/shopping etc. As a family of 5 though I imagine this would cost a pretty penny.
Can you get all inclusive deals for the budget conscious at that time of year?
Not that I'm aware of. You are right that self-catering is a recipe for disaster if you are novices and have got kids with you.
If you want real all inclusive then look at clubmed and Mark warner. Otherwise any ski operator can put together a package for you with ski hire etc etc. Feb half-term is THE most expensive week to go, apart from Christmas/new year. Some of the the resorts in eastern Europe can be cheaper.
Probably your best option for accommodation is an aparthotel. You won't get maid service and the rooms will be basic, but you can opt into halfboard at the hotel part of it, and often use of the pool etc will be included. Key things to look out for are proximity to ski school meeting point, does where you are staying have a boot room? Also, choose your resort carefully. Lift passes are getting really pricey, and if you are beginners then you don't need 100s of km of slopes. A smaller resort, with a cheaper lift pass, would be better.
Also bear in mind ski school hours. France is mostly morning only, which is great once you are competent, but somewhere like Austria where all-day ski school is more common might suit you better.
I would get a few brochures, and then maybe think about booking directly.
We've always done self catering and it's been fine - as long as you are happy to do easy meals, pasta, rice etc. You can easily eat out a couple of nights and then slope back for an early night if you are knackered! How old are the DC? That also makes a difference , plus how sociable you are likely to want to be!
I went to Bulgaria a couple of years back, not half term but very very cheap. Stayed in hotel Dafovska in Pamporovo which is a beginners resort, hotel was great, family room was like a suite with living room and separate bedroom. It was halfboard and the food was great. We booked beginners packages with tuition, equipment hire and lift pass included, I'm not a beginner skiier so went snowboarding instead and took my own skis so I could swap too. We had great snow when we were there in mid March but it can be a bit hit and miss I believe.