Insider’s Guide: Best ski resorts for beginners

Best Ski Resorts for Beginners

Finding a ski holiday for the first time can be very daunting. There are so many options it can be almost impossible to tell what the right choice is for you. Going to the right resort can make or break your enjoyment of the sport. To help you along the right path, here is our list of the best ski resorts for beginners.

Confused by any of the terms used on this page? Head to our Quick Start guide at the end of the page…

 

The best ski resorts for beginners

Alpe d’Huez, France

Alpe d'Huez

Immediately above Alpe d’Huez is a fantastic snow bowl of easy green runs and wide-open pistes. They offer the perfect conditions for first-timers or those trying to build up confidence. Once you have progressed from the basics and have begun to move up to the next level, you can take the Marmottes chairlift where you can enjoy calm blue runs.

Ski schools meet in several locations around Alpe d’Huez. The main ones start near the Les Grandes Rousses base station, or in the village by the Les Bergers and L’Eclose commercial centres and charlifts. No matter where you’re staying, there’s bound to be a meet up point near you.

Other activities:

A must see when staying in Alpe d’Huez 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 change. Open to both skiers and pedestrians, it is well worth a visit and is accessed via the second tier of the Tronçon gondola.

Other activities include an ice-skating rink, a swimming pool, snowmobiling, tobogganing, and even a chance to sky dive from Alpe d’Huez’s own Altiport. There’s plenty do to beyond learning to ski or snowboard!

Inghams recommends:

Stay with us at our Chalet Hotel Les Cimes, fantastically situated for beginners and ski enthusiasts alike. The Grande Sure chair lift is just around the corner and the centre of the resort (where most of the ski lessons meet) is only a five-minute walk away.

Find out more about Alpe d’Huez >

 

Arinsal, Andorra

Arinsal

Arinsal has been proclaimed a sanctuary for beginners. It’s where visitors come to start their new obsession with winter sports. Beginners greatly benefit from the wide, gentle slopes – there is even an allocated area for families and new skiers.

Ascend the main gondola in the centre of Arinsal and you will be taken to the Comallempla area. This is where the ski schools gather to practice on green slopes allocated exclusively for beginners. You won’t have to worry about any other skiers rushing past as you learn.

When you’re feeling confident enough to venture further, travel over to the connected areas of Pal and Arcalis to perfect your new skills!

Other activities:

Andorra is a duty free country so take the opportunity to grab some gifts on the cheap while you’re there. There is also a full programme of apres-ski events including quiz evenings.

Inghams recommends:

When you stay at the Hotel Princesa Parc you get your equipment hire, lift pass and daily packed lunch included in the price of your room. It also offers excellent spa facilities such as a hydro-massage pool and a Turkish bath!

Find out more about Arinsal >

 

Avoriaz, France

Avoriaz

Avoriaz sits at the heart of the Portes du Soleil ski area. This traffic-free resort is perfect for beginners. The nursery slope is so close it almost runs through the town. And with multiple ski schools around the resort, it couldn’t be more convenient for beginners.

The runs around resort are gentle and wide and no matter which direction you ski there is the option to ski a lovely blue run. The wide Proclou run down to Super-Morzine is especially good run for beginners. You can easily get a gondola back up rather than continuing across to Morzine. Le Lil Stash beginners snow park runs alongside, if you start feeling courageous enough to try a jump by the end of the week.

Other activities:

As the resort is traffic-free, there are horse-drawn sleighs everywhere. Grabbing a trip from one end of Avoriaz to the other is great fun! There is also a swimming pool and a small ice rink in the middle of town, and a two-lane bowling alley and arcade in a complex on Place des Dromonts, which is a great way to spend an evening!

Ingham’s recommends:

Stay in the L’Amara Apartments, recently built luxury apartments; they combine a modern feel with traditional comforts. They are virtually ski in/ski out with free use of the swimming pool, sauna, steam room, whirlpool and fitness room – perfect for beginners.

Find out more about Avoriaz >

 

Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

Cortina d'Ampezzo

Cortina offers one of the best beginner areas in the Dolomites. Those new to the sport will discover the perfect blend of easy slopes, breath-taking views and Italian tradition.

The Socrepes area, which can be reached by the Col Druscie cable car in the centre of town or by bus, has fantastic nursery slopes. Socrepes is also the meeting point for most of the ski schools. Interestingly, the Cortina ski school was the first to open in Italy, and since then they have been providing excellent ski and boarding lessons for all ages.

Other activities:

Cortina offers a range of non-ski activities to suit any mood. You may want to try another exciting winter sport such as snow-kiting. Alternatively, get your adrenaline pumping with climbing, or maybe just have an afternoon off to visit a museum or gallery.

Inghams recommends:

Sport Hotel Barisetti is a favourite with Ingham’s guests. It is located in an ideal location opposite the Col Druscie cable car and is only 1-minute from the bus stop. It’s especially convenient for beginner skiers going to ski school each morning. Facilities also include a bar, tavern, a games room and a small spa.

Find out more about Cortina d’Ampezzo >

 

Flaine, France

Flaine

Flaine is regarded as a fantastic resort for beginners. With three free ski lifts dotted around the bottom of the mountain, you can get a lot of practice in before you’re ready to purchase a lift pass and progress up the mountain.

Around the base station in Flaine there is a network of short, easy green slopes and gentle blue runs. This is arguably the easiest part of the Grande Massif ski area. Once you have mastered the basics there are some excellent, easy blue runs, which you can ski down to Les Carroz, Morillon and Samoëns.

ESF is the main ski school in Flaine. They have two meeting points – Forum, at the base of the Telebenne chair lift, and Forêt in the centre of the town.

Other activities:

Have you ever wanted to release your inner rally driver? The Flaine Ice Driving School lets you experience first-hand the thrill of racing a car on the snow. Courses range from short introductions to several days in length. This can be an excellent way to spend an afternoon off the slopes.

Inghams recommends:

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

Find out more about Flaine >

 

Lake Louise, Canada

Lake Louise

Known for its spectacular scenery and situated next to the beautiful lake of the same name is the resort of Lake Louise. Beginners can enjoy this huge area of opens pistes, giving plenty of opportunity to learn to ski on wide-open slopes.

Beginners can explore everything the Lake Louise ski area has to offer as green runs descend the mountain from every chair lift. It is also a great resort for children to learn to ski. Located at the base station is the Minute Maid Wilderness Adventure Park, the perfect place for little beginners to practice their new skills.

Other activities:

Having a ride with a pack of huskies on the outback nature trails makes for a perfect family break from the excitement of skiing. Dog sledging is the perfect activity for exploring and enjoying the beautiful Canadian scenery. The rush of cold air on your face is exhilarating, and the kids are sure to love it!

Inghams recommends:

Stay with us at the Fairmont Chateau and enjoy incredible views of the frozen lake and surrounding peaks. This hotel offers an excellent standard of accommodation with an indoor pool, hot tub and distinguished spa facilities. Relax in style as you recover from a tiring day learning to ski.

Find out more about Lake Louise >

 

Obergurgl, Austria

Obergurgl

Obergurgl is a fantastic, high resort where the focus is on beginners and family skiers. The wide, treeless slopes are perfect to practice your turns and gain confidence before heading further up the mountain for slightly more challenging runs.

There are two beginner areas, one in the village centre near the Rosskar chair lift and the other at the bottom of the village by the Festkogel chair lift. There is a big variety of slopes to practice on. You can even take the Top Express Gondola over to Hochgurgl for more beginner-friendly blue runs.

The Obergurgl ski school has an excellent reputation and all its instructors speak English. Use of two chair lifts from the base station at Obergurgl is included free with ski school tuition.

Other activities:

Have a go a snowshoeing! It’s a lot of fun and you can enjoy the mountain hikes and take in the terrific scenery in deep, unscathed snow. Also in Obergurgl, is an ice-skating rink and an indoor golf park, which is great for an afternoon of family-fun.

Inghams recommends:

The Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl is exclusive to Inghams and fantastically located - an easy blue leads right to the front door. With the Hohe Mut and Rosskar ski lifts, right next door, getting onto the slopes in the morning couldn’t be easier. The hotel also has a wonderful heated indoor-outdoor pool complex with saunas, steam room and spa.

Find out more about Obergurgl >

 

Saas-Fee, Switzerland

Saas-Fee

Known as “the Pearl of the Alps”, Saas-Fee is a beautiful beginner-friendly resort, where many of the blue runs could easily be classified as green they are so gentle. Tucked away at the far end of the village are secluded nursery slopes, ideal for first time skiers and snowboarders.

However, don’t feel you have to stay on the nursery slopes for long. Once you’ve built up your confidence you can test your skills on the smooth blue runs from the top of Felskinn to Morenia and back to Saas-Fee. Confident beginners may want to accept the challenge of the Allain glacier. With friendly red runs, it may be the perfect end to a week’s adventure.

Other activities:

Saas-Fee hosts a number of sporting events throughout the winter, including the Ice Climbing World Cup and the Downhill Glacier Bike Race, which bring bustle and excitement to the resort.

Midway up the Allalin gondola, at 3,457m, is the world’s highest revolving restaurant. The Threes!xty restaurant treats guests to 360° views across the surrounding mountains while they enjoy lunch.

Inghams recommends

Stay with us in the family-run Hotel Allalin, recently voted as one of Tripadvisor’s Top 25 hotels in Switzerland. The Allalin is an attractive hotel with a lovely swimming pool. Guests can enjoy free packed lunches, and use of the heated ski and boot storage room at the Alpin Express Lift - you don’t have to worry about carrying your heavy skis around!

Find out more about Saas-Fee >

 

Wengen, Switzerland

Wengen

Wengen spoils visitors with its beautiful scenery. Learn to ski in an exquisite, traffic free village perched high on the mountain, overlooking a stunning valley. There is a large nursery slope in the centre of the village, making it ultra-convenient for getting to your lessons in the morning.

Once you have grasped the basics, head up the Mannlichen cable car, which takes you from the village centre to the top of the mountain for lots of cruisy blues. For confident beginners there is the option to take the mountain railway to Kleine Schiedigg, with a fantastic range of slopes with spectacular views.

Other activities:

As if the scenery wasn’t remarkable enough, you can also take the opportunity to go on a scenic helicopter tour to admire 360° views. If that’s not for you, Wengen offers a range of non-ski activities including curling, sledging and ice-skating.

Inghams recommends:

For beginners, there is no hotel more convenient than the Hotel Sunstar Alpine, located just opposite the nursery slope in the centre of the village. A fantastic hotel with a spacious indoor pool - it is the place to stay in Wengen.

Find out more about Wengen >

 

Whistler, Canada

Whistler.jpg

Whistler is renowned as the best resort in North America, and deservedly so. For those who have never skied before, it is a brilliant place to start. There are nearly 50 easy and gentle slopes around the resort providing a wide variety of slopes to practice on.

You can head up the Whistler Village Gondola or the Fitzsimmons Express to the Olympic Station. This is the easiest and calmest part of the mountain as it is made almost entirely of green runs and marked slow zones. It is the perfect place to build your confidence before moving onto blue runs, of which there are over 100 across Whistler and Blackcomb.

You’ll be spoilt for choice!

Other activities:

Fly high through the trees at 100kmph as you experience one of the world’s most spectacular ziplines! Embark on an exhilarating snowmobile adventure through the snowy woods. Or enjoy a great day out at the Whistler Blackcomb tube park and enjoy over 1000ft of sliding fun. With everything Whistler has to offer you’ll never want to leave.

Inghams recommends:

Situated in the heart of the village, Crystal Lodge & Suites is the perfect place to stay, and only 200m away from the ski lifts! One of Whistler’s most popular properties, it also offers three restaurants, an outdoor heated pool and an outdoor hot tub.

Find out more about Whistler >

 

Quick Start Guide

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.

EuropeGreenEasiest
BlueModerate
RedIntermediate
BlackDifficult/ Expert
USA and CanadaGreenEasiest
BlueIntermediate
BlackMost 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.

Read our full A-Z Glossary of ski terms >

 

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