Insider’s Guide: Best Ski Resorts for Beginners

Best Ski Resorts for Beginners
 

Learning a new sport can be challenging, whatever your age is. Skiing for the first time can raise a lot of questions! What equipment do you need? Where do you go? What can you expect? What on earth are ‘salopettes’?! Luckily, our ski-perts at Inghams HQ are on hand to help you with all of these questions and in this Insider’s Guide, we address one question: Where are the best ski resorts for beginners?

When choosing a resort for skiing beginners we look out for the following: the quality of the ski schools in the area, the location and quality/quantity of the beginner ski runs in the area, finding a hotel that is best suited for you, and if you want to sample something else in the area, we’ve fished out a few suggestions for activities and fun things to do.

Before we get started it’s perhaps best you familiarise yourself with some simple lingo and facts as written below... For further information, please see our ‘Guick guide: A-Z Glossary of ski slang and trail talk.

Piste and trail classification

Knowing the piste and slope classification before you clip your skis on, and understanding that it is different in Europe and North America is always a very useful skill to have.

 

Europe Green Easiest
Blue Moderate
Red Intermediate
Black Difficult/ Expert
USA and Canada Green Easiest
Blue Intermediate
Black Most Difficult
 

 

Glossary of terms used in this guide:

Base station: Many resorts have a ‘base station’, which is the main gathering area at the village level where the lowest chair lifts will serve the skiing areas up the mountain.

Chair lift: Quite literally what the name says! Chair lifts vary in size and speed, small 2-person chair lifts might serve the gentler areas of the slope, whereas large 8-person chair lifts will whisk lots of skiers and boarders up the mountain quickly.

Gondola: Fundamentally an enclosed, mini-cabin lift that fits anywhere between 4-8 passengers. Generally much faster than an open chair lift.

Lift pass: Your ticket to access the resort and lifts! These days they sometimes come in the form of a waterproof tag that you have attached to the outside of your clothing, or a contactless card that can be worn inside your glove or sleeve that you simply ‘swipe’ on the barriers to get through. To read more about the different types of lift pass, please check out our other Insider’s Guide: Learn the Lingo: A-Z Glossary of ski slang and trail talk.

Nursery Slopes: Not to be associated with the idea that these are slopes for children only, nursery slopes are gentle slopes allocated to beginners only. Usually out of the way of the passing through ski traffic.

Parallel turns: A technique of skiing that you will be taught during your lessons.

Piste: ‘Piste’ is the French word for a ski run (pronounced like ‘least’). In Europe they are referred to as ‘pistes’, whereas in USA and Canada they prefer the terms slope, trail, run.

Ski bus: A bus that runs very regularly around the resort and exclusive for skiers and boarders who hold lift passes. You can be picked up from any of the numerous pick up points and dropped at the main base station.

 

Cortina d'Ampezzo  -  Alpe d'Huez  -  Flaine  -  Lech  -  Obergurgl  -  Saas-Fee  -  Arosa  -  Arinsal  -  Saariselka  -  Fernie  

Italy

1. Cortina d'Ampezzo
Cortina d'Ampezzo

With nearly half the slopes in Cortina being at an easy/intermediate level it gives skiing beginners and newbies the perfect opportunity to learn in the resort and then advance their skills.

There are several areas across the mountains that are dedicated towards skiing for beginners with easy slopes and slow zones. Exclusive to beginners is the Mietres ski area by the Col Tondo chair lift. This area can be reached by the ski bus since it is at the tip of town but this is where ski lessons gather, and the pistes are serviced by practise lifts which introduce you to the art of safely getting on and off the lifts.

Scattered across the base areas of the mountains are various other practise lifts and the whole resort is well groomed and maintained, and the slopes have been described as ‘near perfect’. Practising outside of the ski school has never been easier with progression slopes that can be found at the Socrepes area, that can be reached by ascending the Col Drusciè cable car, which conveniently leaves from the centre of town.

Cortina d’Ampezzo has even introduced the My Dolomiti Skicard, a rechargeable card that allows you to buy as many (or as few!) lift passes as you wish throughout your trip, which offers you a great opportunity to take things at your own pace.

Ski with us: Inghams offer some fantastic deals for beginners who are looking to sample the snow at Cortina d’Ampezzo, including a free lift pass for one day and a 2-4-1 pre-booked 6 day ski school lessons for adults.

Other activities: Cortina d’Ampezzo sits in the Dolomite National Park and there are some wonderful excursions to be had around the mountains when you want to try something different. For example, try snowshoeing! If you can walk you can snowshoe- change it up from practising those parallel turns!

Inghams recommends:

Sport Hotel Barisetti is an unpretentious hotel in a fantastic ski-in-ski-out location next to the Col Drusciè cable car which services the main base station for the mixed ability pistes and only a 1 minute walk from the ski bus stop that services the ski school areas at the base of Mietres. The hotel also has a small spa with a sauna and steam room, and is a favourite amongst Inghams guests for many years.

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France

2. Alpe d'Huez
Alpe d'Huez

Just above the village of Alpe d’Huez sits what must be the world’s biggest network of green-only and exclusive beginner runs. Practise your skiing and snowboarding in the Les Bergers area and once you have progressed a little and want to try out your new-found skills, jump on board the Marmottes chair lift to sample the next level with some calm blue runs. Have peace of mind knowing you can ski and board at leisure with the fast and busy ski traffic elsewhere on the mountain.

The gentle green pistes are serviced by the Romains chairlift and Tronçon gondola which run from the base stations at ground-level in Alpe d’Huez. Ski school lessons gather in several separate locations in Alpe d’Huez, so make sure you check which area you’re scheduled to assemble in: the main ones are the Les Grandes Rousses base station area/’piste roundabout’, or in the village by the Les Bergers and L’Eclose commercial centres and chairlifts.

Ski with us: We have some great deals that will appeal to beginners with our Inghams Plus offers: not only do we organise your lessons for you but children can ski for free in our selected Chalet Hotels (see below), and adults can enjoy 2-4-1 ski or snowboard hire.

Other activities: Accessed via the second tier of the Tronçon gondola and sitting at 2,700m above the sea is the unique and wonderful Ice Cave! La Grotto de Glace is carved into the glacier, every year the exhibit of sculptures and artwork inside the cave changes. Open to both skiers and pedestrians, it is well worth a visit. Tickets can be bought at the main tourism/lift pass ticket office and are very good value.

Inghams recommends:

Stay with us at our Chalet Hotel Les Cimes, fantastically situated for both beginners and ski enthusiasts alike, the Grande Sure chair lift is just outside of the door and the centre of the resort (where the ski lessons gather) is only a five minute walk away, but it is very easy to simply grab the ski bus.

3. Flaine
Flaine

Flaine is regarded as a fantastic resort for beginners and intermediates with three free ski lifts dotted about the bottom of the mountain, making a pass unnecessary until you want to advance further up the mountain to work on your technique. Arguably the easiest location in the Grande Massif ski area, there is a network of short, easy green slopes and gentle blue runs that lie above the base stations at Flaine and served by short lifts.

The Grande Massif ski area hosts a real mix of different pistes for different levels of ability, and there are two great nursery areas, and once you have mastered some basics and feel like pushing yourself further, there are also excellent and easy blue runs that stretch down into the rest of the resorts of Les Carroz, Morillon and Samoëns.

The Ecole du Ski Francais (ESF or the famous multilingual French Ski School) has two meeting locations in Flaine- Forum (at the base of the Telebenne chair lift) and Forêt which is in the centre of town, the Arâches-la-Frasse street.

Ski with us: We offer 2-4-1 ski and board hire, and free child lift passes and helmet hire. Guests of Inghams can pre-book their lessons with us for an excellent price and receive top-notch tuition.

Other activities: The resort of Flaine was thrust into the future in the early 1960’s by world renowned architects and has become a cornucopia of post-modernist and abstract design (the Bauhaus-style buildings might be a bit of an acquired taste however...). Two of the resorts hotels are now on the French Historical Monuments List so do take the time to have a wonder about the village and see some of the art installations that include the works of Picasso and Dubuffet.

Inghams recommends:

Stay at the Village Club du Soleil- a fantastic hotel that is ski inclusive, so you get your lift pass, equipment hire, lunches/picnics and more for free! The hotel is also just a 4 minutes’ walk away from the nearest ski lift, and has a wellness area with a sauna, steam room and whirlpool.

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Austria

4. Lech
Lech

Definitely the resort for those of you who appreciate the finer things in life, Lech is also a great location for finding your feet in the snow. With excellent nursery slopes at the base of the mountain and an un-crowded, virtually tree-less resort, beginner skiers and boarders can practise fearlessly on these gentle green slopes.

Another little perk for the beginner skier is the lift pass that gives you a few hours, half a day or just a single day access to the lifts so that you can sample the sport before committing to buying a longer-term lift pass. They have also introduced an easy ‘points’ card system which will last a fixed number of journeys on the ski lift throughout the season.

Thanks to Lech catering for those skiers who enjoy a bit of luxury, you can even enjoy the comforts of heated chair lifts! Toasty!

Ski with us: Book your ski hire and lessons with Inghams and children 3-5yrs old get free boots included. We also will arrange for your lessons for you to give you some peace of mind.

Other activities: Perhaps you’re after a quick adrenaline rush that doesn’t require so much knee power? In Lech there is a 1.2 kilometre toboggan run that winds through the forest and is guaranteed to leave the whole family and all of your friends in fits of laughter.

Inghams recommends:

Stay with us at the Hotel Berghof, one of Lech’s leading hotels and packed with Austrian charm. You can even enjoy the benefit of the hotel having its own private chair lift right outside the door! The lift services one of the main base stations at the bottom of the Schlosskopf chair lift, and the beginner lessons gather close to here. At the end of the day when you are tired from skiing and snowboarding, you can come home and relax in the wonderful modern spa with saunas and steam rooms.

5. Obergurgl
Obergurgl

Obergurgl in Austria is another fantastic resort that is beginner-conscious and is much more orientated towards the family skier. Thanks to the wide, treeless slopes and the fact that there are rarely any day visitors to Obergurgl, you can enjoy uncluttered space to practise your turns and gain some confidence, and gradually progress up to the slightly more challenging slopes up the mountain.

Two chair lifts run from the base station at Obergurgl that are free for ski school users, and a further 3 are classified as beginner lifts. You can access the easiest and nicest runs from the Roskartbahn and Festkoglbahn chair lifts, and take the Top Express Gondola over to Hochgurgl for even more beginner-friendly blue runs.

Ski with us: We offer some great, flexible ski lessons for those who are just starting out including a choice of 3/5/6 days of lessons and whether or not you’d like to take them in the morning or afternoon. Also on offer with Inghams is free equipment hire for 1 child when 2 adults pre-book skis and boots.

Other activities: There is an ice skating rink next to the Hotel Enzian in Obergurgl that is well worth a visit if you haven’t had your fill of winter sports for the day! Pay locally and enjoy a bit of family fun.

Inghams recommends:

The Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl is exclusive to Inghams and fantastically located, it boasts of ski-in and ski-out facilities. Right next door to the Hohe Mut and Rosskar ski lifts and with an easy blue run leading right to the front door, getting up in the morning to catch the first lift will be the easiest thing ever! The hotel also has a wonderful heated indoor-outdoor pool complex with saunas, steam room and spa.

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Switzerland

6. Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee

Skiing beginners holidaying in Saas-Fee can enjoy out of the way, secluded nursery slopes serviced by T-bar lifts; these dedicated areas are exclusive for beginners. But one of the delights about the skiing at Saas-Fee is that many of the blue runs could easily be classified as a green run since they are so very gentle and unintimidating.

Whether it’s you, your partner, your friends or your children who are the first-timers, the base areas are easily navigable with clearly marked meeting points for ski-school groups and perfect for meeting your lesson groups and tutors. Once a novice level and looking to improve, beginners can test their skills out further up the mountains on the beautiful blue pistes that ascend from Felskinn 3000m to Morenia 2550m and back into the village.

Ski with us: Guests of Inghams who stay with us in the New Year are treated to a FREE Monday ‘Kick Start’ with a qualified instructor to help you brush up on your skills that may have grown a little rusty over time. Anyone starting completely from scratch can enjoy the ease of being able to book your ski lessons with the rest of your trip, as well as free packed lunches for the day (depending on hotel).

Other activities: Midway up the Allalin gondola sits the world’s highest revolving restaurant. At 3,457m guests who pop in for lunch at the Threes!xty restaurant are treated to 360° views across the summit and surrounding mountains. A welcome break from learning to master those parallel turns.

Inghams recommends:

Stay with us in the family-run Hotel Allalin in Saas-Fee and enjoy free daily packed lunches and use of the heated ski and boot storage room at the Alpin Express Lift so you don’t have to worry about heaving around your heavy skis! The hotel is bright and modern and has a lovely swimming pool for guests to use as well as WiFi throughout.

7. Arosa
Arosa

Thanks to its elevated location, most of the slopes rise up above the tree line so you can expect wide, uncluttered runs at Arosa and Lenzerheide. The area to look out for is Tschuggen, where ski schools gather and thanks to the easy and gentle inclining slopes, the beginners looking to get some practise often gravitate towards this area too.

From the right of the Tschuggen area, towards the Prätschli area you will find plenty more dedicated beginner areas and those not quite so confident on skis can obtain a special pass for the Prätschli drag lift which services the easy novice slopes in the area.

For children, there is the much gentler Kinderland Innerarosa (Kids land at Inner Arosa) which can be accessed by local buses and the Tschuggen-Ost chair lift, as well as the Mickey Mouse Kids Club at resort level next to the ice rink in Arosa. This resort is truly an excellent choice when planning a ski trip with young children.

Ski with us: There is a free ski school offered for children under the age of 17 at various hotels around Arosa, as well as a free lift pass. Inghams can arrange for a full day of lessons for you (5 hours), compared to many resorts that only offer 3 hours of lessons per day.

Other activities: In Arosa (and the neighbouring resort of Lenzerheide) there is a fantastic events schedule which is sure to give you something to do on the days where you don’t fancy skiing! Plenty of events happening every day of the week in the lead up to Christmas and the weeks following it, you’ll never be bored for a second. For example, on New Year’s Day there is the Ski Club Arosa’s annual race day- great fun for competitors and bystanders alike!

Inghams recommends:

Stay with us at the Hotel Sunstar Alpine. Set in a great, central location but still maintaining that feeling of being secluded, this hotel is an 8-10 minute walk (with regular shuttle buses) from the base stations where the ski school gathers and even offers you a free lift pass, as well as free ski school for children up to the age of 17. Also boasts great wellness facilities including an indoor pool, steam room and sauna.

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Andorra

8. Arinsal
Arinsal

The resort of Arinsal in Andorra has been heralded a haven for those who are just starting out with their new sport. Any skiing beginner can benefit from the safe, wide and gentle slopes with allocated areas for families and new skiers. In fact, it is stated that nearly half the people who escape to Andorra for their skiing are beginners!

To access the base station for the skiing area at Arinsal, you need to ascend the main gondola which starts in the centre of Arinsal. From there you will be in the Comallempla area, where ski schools gather and practise on the allocated gentle green slops that do not suffer any through-traffic.

When you feel confident enough to venture further, the resort of Arinsal is superbly linked to two further areas for you to enjoy: Pal and Arcalis where you can work on perfecting your new found skills!

Arinsal is well known to be extremely popular with skiing Britons and so you can take comfort that your lessons will be in English and people in the area will be acquainted with the language. There is also a fantastic après ski culture alive in the area, so after your first day of skiing, celebrate with a glass of wine in a bar overlooking the mountainous scenery.

Ski with us: Guests of Inghams can enjoy ski and snowboard lessons 3 hours a day for 5 days of their stay, at a very good price. Combined with our choice of hotel under ‘Inghams recommends’, we have a deal for you that you cannot miss...

Other activities: When you’re not practising your stops and starts on the easy green runs, Andorra is a duty free country so enjoy a day at leisure and grab some lovely gifts on the cheap while you can.

Inghams recommends:

Stay at the Hotel Princesa Parc and get your ski/snowboard rental, lift pass and a daily packed lunch included in the price of your room. Combined with lessons for the day, what more could you want? The hotel is a 1 minute walk from the main gondola in Arinsal that services the pistes above it and also a short walking distance from the lively town centre.

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Lapland

9. Saariselkä
Saariselkä

If it’s a real winter getaway that you’re looking for then what could be better than the resorts that sit within the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland? Downhill ski resorts in Lapland benefit from guaranteed snow and wide, uncluttered pistes with little through-traffic. Many of the resorts are flood-lit at night due to the dark winter months, so the lifts do not close until later in the evening and you can enjoy the extra time to practise your turns and stops!

The resort of Saariselka is very modest in comparison to other resorts, with only eleven pistes and six ski lifts (and 10km of trail available), but this makes it ideal for skiing beginners to learn and practise away from the maddening crowds. It is a small downhill ski area that is accessed by a five minute bus ride from the centre of town (unusually- buses will also drop you either at the bottom of the slopes, or the top!), with only one black run and a handful of red runs in the resort, the faster skiers and snowboarders tend to look elsewhere for their snow fix.

There is an intimate ski school service provided in Saariselka that will provide excellent instruction in English, and they offer ‘taster’ sessions for those looking to sample something new!

Ski with us: Skiing in Lapland with Inghams has never been easier, or cheaper! We offer our guests the whole package for competitive prices: 7 days lift pass, 7 days of ski/board hire/ 5 days of 1/5hour tuition. For more information see our ‘Ski Extras’

Other activities: The fun in Lapland doesn’t stop when lifts close for the night! Take the once in a lifetime opportunity to go and see the famous Northern Lights that can be seen decorating the skies above the Arctic circle during the dark winter months. Exciting excursions to see the lights are available with Inghams (you could even stay in a glass-roofed igloo for the night!) or are bookable locally.

Inghams recommends:

With the ski bus stopping just outside of the hotel, the Gielas Hotel sits 250m away from the centre of Saariselka and seems like the obvious choice for guests staying in the town with an interest in skiing. We highly recommend the 4.5star deluxe rooms in the hotel that boast of a private sauna and balcony.

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Canada

10. Fernie
Fernie

The country and land around Canada is slightly more on the wild and rugged side compared to the flatter ‘hills’ that make up the Rockies further down south in Colorado and Nevada. With this in mind, Fernie is arguably the most mellow and gentle of the Canadian resorts with the lower mountain above the village having plenty of smooth, wide trails.

The resort has been described as ‘blissfully quiet’ and it is very much a back-to-basics place to pick up the sport. An unpretentious and convenient village serves a great expanse of terrain that caters for a mixture of abilities. There is a brilliant snow record at Fernie too, and ski novices can expect to see soft cushiony powder covering the beginner slopes that span nearly one-third of the terrain here.

Another factor that may appeal to beginners is that many fast and adventurous advanced skiers adhere to the Timber Bowl and the Currie Bowl, which are out of the way from the green and blue slopes found above Fernie village, and in fact- many faster and more adventurous sports people actually prefer the resorts of Banff and Lake Louise over Fernie so you can ski in peace.

Ski with us: Children under the age of 12 can benefit from free equipment and lift pass when one adult pre-books the same. Inghams also offer ‘First Tracks’ early morning tuition for 1.5 hours- great for getting some practise in before the lifts and slopes officially open!

Other activities: When in Canada, do as the Canadians do... so why not take an evening off to watch the Fernie Ghostriders ice hockey team? When the ski season kicks in there are games against the neighbouring towns and resorts almost weekly, and great fun for all to watch.

Inghams recommends:

The Lizard Creek Lodge and Condos is a self-catered accommodation complex that is a favourite with Inghams guests. Unbeatable location right next to the Elk Quad chair lift and lower mountain base station where the ski school gathers, the condominium complex offers a health club, large outdoor heated swimming pool with a whirlpool section.

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