Planning your first ski holiday, or travelling with first-time skiers in tow? There are a few things you'll want to look out for when it comes to choosing the best ski resorts for beginners. Perfectly-groomed nursery slopes, excellent ski schools, plenty of gentle green pistes and lots of off slope activities are a good start—beginners' ski holidays invariably involve a day or two's rest, and you won't want to get bored, or worse still, have bored kids on your hands.
You'll also want to look for a place where the lift passes aren't astronomically expensive, where the slopes aren't too crowded and where there's a decent après ski scene. If you're in a mixed ability group with beginners over the age of 18 (fellow university students, perhaps) the best way to spend time together will be at après.
Bearing all these factors in mind, our travel experts at Snow Magazine have compiled this list of the best European ski resorts for beginners, which runs the gamut from big name resorts to hidden gems.
Alpe d’Huez, France
Nearest airport: Grenoble
Transfer time: 1 hour 15 minutes
One of France’s best ski resorts for beginners, Alpe d’Huez (which is just a short hop from the equally fantastic Les Deux Alpes) is perched at 1,869 metres above sea level, in the centre of a network of slopes – including a fantastic selection of nursery slopes, split into four areas - which extend from below the resort up to the side of the Pic Blanc glacier at 3,300 metres.
Alpe d’Huez is a resort with plenty of pistes for beginner skiers – its 131 slopes include 41 green runs and 34 blue runs, which is why it’s so popular with first timers looking to test their ski legs on gentle nursery slopes before progressing to more challenging ones.
The resort has some of the French Alps' largest beginner areas, one of which you'll find at the Les Bergers end of the village, near to the DMC gondola. You'll also find one of France’s biggest ESF ski schools, where there are over 200 instructors on hand to offer ski lessons in everything from skiing to snow touring. Lessons can also be booked with Masterclass, which has English speaking ski school instructors.
Beginners who progress quickly during their ski holidays will find plenty of terrain to test themselves on; Alpe d’Huez is connected to the resorts of Oz, Vaujany and Auris. An insider tip: keep an eye out for announcements relating to the long-awaited lift connection between Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes.
Nearest airport: Geneva
Transfer time: 90 minutes
A snow-sure winter playground with 600 kilometres of slopes (courtesy of the Portes du Soleil, which Avoriaz is part of), which can be explored using one lift pass, Avoriaz is a family-friendly ski in ski out resort which is especially popular with beginners.
Its position, on a sun-drenched plateau above the neighbouring village of Morzine, means it’s also one of France’s best options for those who prefer a slightly warmer ski holiday – a major bonus for beginners braving the nursery slopes for the first time. This lively resort’s extensive beginners’ area includes nursery slopes in the village itself, along with a network of green-listed slopes which connect Avoriaz to Morzine.
It’s also one of France’s most family friendly ski resorts – the centre of Avoriaz is car-free, and horse drawn carriages are the preferred mode of transport. And let’s face it – how many people can say they’ve rocked up to their ski school lesson in a horse-drawn carriage?
Finally, make sure you take the time to admire the architecture when walking around the resort. Avoriaz - like many other French resorts - was built during the ski resort boom of the 1960s, but a much different approach was taken to its design. Buildings were (and still are) clad in red cedarwood tiles, and many have geometry-inspired designs intended to reflect the surrounding mountains.
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Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy
Nearest airport: Venice
Transfer time: 2 hours
Known as the Queen of the Dolomites, Cortina D’Ampezzo (or Cortina for short) is a brilliant resort for beginners, whether the priority is a large network of nursery slopes, great ski schools or a wide selection of post-skiing activities, ranging from snow tubing to ice skating and sleigh rides.
The three ski areas are linked by a network of fast, modern lifts and there’s a large number of gentle runs for beginners and intermediates, although our favourite ones are the wide blue slopes above Socrepes, reached by a number of high-speed chairlifts.
There’s a lot going on in the resort right now, too. The recent flurry of improvements started just before the 2021 Alpine Ski World Championships, and has been initiated with the 2026 Winter Olympics in mind – the resort will co-host the event with Rome.
By 2022 a new gondola will link the Tofana and Cinque Torri areas, and other new lifts include the recently opened Tofana-Freccia nel Cielo gondola, which connects the town centre to the slopes of Col Druscié, and a new chairlift in the Ra Valles area. A top tip for selfie fans? The resort has some of the best viewpoints in the Italian Alps, including the Lagazuoi viewpoint (2,800 metres above sea level) and the Tofana di Rozes viewpoint (3,225 metres above sea level).
Nearest airport: Geneva
Transfer time: 2 hours and 40mins
One of Switzerland’s best ski resorts when it comes to snow cover, Saas-Fee is a beautiful, lively resort which is known for its stunning scenery, excellent ski school (the one in Saas-Fee even runs its own ski academy for teenagers) and a backdrop of 18 4,000-metre peaks.
It’s also one of Europe’s prettiest ski destinations – a resort town which started life as a farming community, and where you’ll still see barns of cows hunkering down for the winter. Its north-facing slopes ensure brilliant snow cover, and its relatively small ski area, comprising 100 kilometres of runs served by 22 lifts, is perfect for beginners and intermediates (advanced skiers will admittedly cover most of the ski area in a matter of days).
The upper slopes on the glacier area are perfect for beginners and intermediates (even the ones marked red, which we suspect would have a blue ranking in other ski resorts), although it’s worth noting that the blue pistes running back to the resort are on the narrow side, so nervous beginners weary of venturing beyond the nursery slopes might prefer to get back to base by hopping on one of the lifts which connect the main resort with the glacier area.
After a day on the slopes, consider braving the resort's 11-kilometre toboggan run, which streaks from from Kreuzboden to Saas-Grund. It's also worth noting the resort's great accessibility - choose to fly into Geneva, Zürich, Basel or Milan.
Nearest airport: Chambery
Transfer time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Part of the enormous Trois Vallées ski area (home to some of the best European resorts for everyone from families through to solos), Meribel is the ideal ski resort for winter sports fans of all abilities – beginners on first ski holidays are especially well catered for here, although the easy access to nearby resorts such as Val Thorens and Courchevel means there’s plenty of terrain to challenge more experienced skiers.
There’s a slick network of fast, modern lifts (great news for anyone keen to avoid drag lifts) and a brilliant range of lift passes on offer, too. Some of the best green runs are found around Meribel's Altiport area, accessed via the Morel chair which departs from the Meribel village of Altiport 1600.
We also recommend the dedicated beginners’ area in Meribel Mottaret, accessed via the Plattières gondola. The majority of the slopes in Meribel itself are blue, although there are plenty of enjoyable reds for beginners who progress quickly. Our favourites include the Gypaete piste, which was added in 2019 - get there using the Cherferie chairlift.
Another aspect which makes Meribel the ideal beginner ski holiday destination is the weather – wedged into a steep-sided valley, the resort enjoys a sheltered position which reduces the risk of sessions being cut short due to inclement weather.
Skiing aside, if you visit in summer, consider checking out Meribel’s high altitude, 18-hole golf course – it’s one of the most beautiful golf courses in the Alps and is famous for both its undulating terrain and uninterrupted views down to the valley floor as well as of the surrounding mountains.
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Nearest airport: Bern
Transfer time: 1 hour
One fantastic perk about holidays in Wengen is the ridiculously short transfer time – you’ll be just an hour’s drive from Bern’s international airport. Around 30 per cent of the slopes in Wengen are suitable for beginners, and that’s in addition to the miles of beginner-friendly pistes in the wider Grindelwald area, which Wengen is part of.
It’s got the feel of a traditional village and is wonderfully rustic – access to Wengen is via cog wheel railway (passengers arriving by car will need to leave their wheels at the Lauterbrunnen station) and the resort’s only vehicles are a handful of private taxis and the electric vehicles used by some hotels.
Getting to the resort’s main ski area involves a five-minute gondola ride (one which comes with a backdrop of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains) and the small beginners’ area in the centre of the resort is perfect for those testing out their ski legs for the first time. Younger beginners will love the Männlichen Children's Paradise area (keep an eye out for the super-sized wooden cow), next to the Männlichen gondola. For older beginners, there’s the Kleine Scheidegg, reached via the Wengernalpbahn mountain railway.
Most visitors to Wengen stay in hotels rather than self-catering apartments (possibly because its car-free status makes it trickier to lug supplies up the mountain), although there are fantastic options for all budgets, ranging from the wonderful Hotel Bernerhof, which dates back to 1908, to the luxurious Beausite Park Hotel, a four-star property which offers direct access to the main nursery slope, along with stunning views of the Jungfrau, one of the most beautiful summits of the Bernese Alps.
La Plagne, France
Nearest airport: Chambery
Transfer time: 90 minutes
This brilliant ski resort, with its ultra-modern ski lifts, beautiful tree lined runs and diverse range of accommodation, turned 60 in 2021, and despite its staggering expansion over the past decade – the resort now includes 11 villages – it’s remained both incredibly beginner-friendly and family-friendly.
There’s a large number of slope-side properties and several excellent ski schools, including a branch of Oxygene, which has 14 dedicated snowboard schools in France. Beginner-friendly areas include the Buffalo Park (why can’t more European ski resorts have a Colorado-themed beginners’ area and such an Instagram-able selection of picture-perfect beginner slopes?), and the resort also has an abundance of wide, forgiving blue runs ideal for beginners perfecting their parallel turns during ski lessons.
Look out for the five beginner-friendly Coolski zones (beginner ski areas dotted throughout the resort), our favourite of which is in Plagne Bellecôte. Beginners can buy dedicated Coolski passes and hire a Coolski bib to let other skiers know that they’re learning the ropes. Once they’re ready to progress, they can tackle the wider Paradiski area, which La Plagne shares with Les Arcs.
A great base for beginners is the Plagne Bellecôte, connected to the main resort by a free bus, as well as a gondola. You'll find it right at the bottom of some wonderfully easy-going blues and greens, right next to the toddler-friendly Jardin des Neiges fun zone. Quieter than the main resort and with fewer hotels, Plagne Bellecôte is perfect for self-caterers and has brilliant amenities, ranging from a cinema and slope-side ice rink to a supermarket and plenty of places to hire your kit.
Les Gets, France
Nearest airport: Geneva
Transfer time: 1 hour
In recent years, Les Gets, which currently has 68 slopes serviced by 50 lifts as well as a brilliant ESF ski school (it's particularly well known for its wide range of courses), has morphed into one of Europe’s best beginner ski resorts. This is thanks to transformations of places such as the Chavannes ski area, where the Chavannes gondola was upgraded and new beginner slopes were added, and the Espace des Mappys, where magic carpets and a tow rope offer easy access to four beginner-friendly pistes, all within easy reach of some of Les Gets’ best ski in, ski out accommodation.
For tots taking to the slopes for the very first time, there’s the colourful Le Jardin des Neiges, designed for children aged three to five. Once they’ve mastered the basics, beginners can explore the wider Portes du Soleil area, comprising 12 French and Swiss resorts and over 600 kilometres of slopes, including plenty of terrain for more advanced skiers.
Les Gets is also the perfect ski resort for tired learners who fancy slipping off the ski boots for a few hours. We recommend a session on one of the resort’s electric snowmobiles, although we’re equally excited about the resort’s five fantastic toboggan runs. Despite its smaller size, Les Gets has a brilliantly diverse selection of hotels, self-catering apartments and catered chalets. In recent years, a number of Airbnb properties have popped up in this lively resort, too.
Nearest airport: Innsbruck
Transfer time: 50 minutes
Söll is a quiet ski resort known for its scenic, easy slopes and its relaxed atmosphere. Nestled in Austria’s enormous SkiWelt domain, it’s regarded as one of Austria’s best destinations for beginners, and we see it as one of the best ski resorts in Austria.
It’s the perfect ski resort for anyone keen to explore this legendary region, which has over 279 kilometres of pistes, most which of which are best suited to beginners and intermediates. Regarded as the unofficial capital of the SkiWelt region, it’s known for its brilliant value (especially when it comes to accommodation) and alpine charm – you’ll find an onion-domed church in its pretty village centre.
The slopes are a kilometre away, but a free ski bus will whisk you there in seconds, and it’s certainly one of the most spectacular places to ski, thanks to a jagged backdrop of the Kitzbüheler and Zillertal Alps. The Hexenwiese ski area is a great option for beginners – it’s free to use and just a few metres away from the resort’s ski schools.
For toddlers, there’s the Kinderland Kornkammer, designed for children aged one and over. Finally, if you love to cram a night skiing session or two into your ski holidays, you're in luck - stay in Söll and you'll have easy access to Austria's largest night skiing area: SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental. Head there to carve up 10 kilometres of slopes under Austria's star-spangled skies, before warming up in a slope-side mountain hut.
La Rosiere, France
Nearest airport: Chambery
Transfer time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
One of France’s best beginner resorts - and indeed one of France's best ski resorts full stop - La Rosiere is a quiet resort perfectly suited to anyone embarking on their first ski trip - rowdy bars are few and far between, and it's especially popular with families, who often chose to base themselves in the tiny satellite village of Les Eucherts, just a 15-minute walk from La Rosiere's centre.
A small ski resort which is expanding at a rapid rate of knots, La Rosiere is a family-friendly ski holiday destination linked to the Italian resort of La Thuile, as well as the wider Espace San Bernardo ski area.
Although there’s no such thing as guaranteed snow, its south-facing slopes are famed for providing an abundance of the white stuff as well as being particularly sunny, although on warmer days conditions can deteriorate quickly.
Not that this is a problem – simply hop over to La Thuile’s north-facing slopes for a couple of hours (although nervous beginners on their first ski holiday might need a little assistance on the steeper sections of the slopes above this pretty Italian resort). The wide, gentle Perdrix and Tétras blue slopes are two of our favourite beginner and intermediate-friendly slopes.
If you’re travelling with kids, consider checking out the Club Med La Rosiere, a ski in, ski out hotel which opened in 2020. Located just above La Rosiere village, this gorgeous property, which offers easy access to La Rosiere’s most gentle slopes as well as its tougher ones, is an all-inclusive affair – everything from food and drink to ski school lessons is included. Our one gripe? La Rosiere has a higher number of drag lifts than other European resorts, but increased investment means they're slowly being replaced by faster, more modern ski lifts.
Les Menuires, France
Nearest airport: Chambery
Transfer time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
Les Menuires can't really be called a hidden gem—after all, it's part of one of the world's largest lift-linked ski areas—but it is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbours in the Trois Vallées. And yet, with its wide variety of pistes, plentiful ski and snowboard school places, and relatively inexpensive accommodation options, this is a great all-round ski resort, and one of the best ski resorts for beginners anywhere in France, if not Europe.
Located in the same valley as Val Thorens, one of the most snow sure ski resorts in the world, Les Menuires is a great place to sniff out a bargain ski holiday package for early or late season travel. Accommodation tends to cost less down here than up in VT, and while you'll have to take lifts to get up to the most snow sure slopes, if it's your first ski holiday, that may provide a welcome break. There are plenty of green and blue runs in Les Menuires itself, and things like equipment hire, individual ski and snowboard lessons, or group lessons for kids are more reasonably priced than in some of the Trois Vallées more expensive enclaves.
The village of Les Menuires itself is more practical than pretty—access to the slopes is excellent with tons of ski in, ski out accommodation options, but the 1970s buildings aren't about to win any design awards. There are plenty of excellent restaurants and bars, however, and the Discotheque Le Leeberty is a classic of the genre. If the beginners in your group are children, fear not—Les Menuires also ticks many of the boxes that make ski resorts great for families, with lots of off snow entertainment, including a swimming pool with water jets and a current to play in.
If you're on your first ever ski holiday, Les Menuires is an option you shouldn't ignore. You can read our full review of the resort here.
Nearest airport: Turin
Transfer time: 1 hour and 35 minutes
The assertion that a ski resort at the foot of one of the steepest mountains in Europe is a great spot for beginner skiing might seem strange, but hear us out. Cervinia, on the Italian side of the Matterhorn, has a ton of massive, wide, motorway pistes. The entire ski area is snow sure, because it's so high. It's relatively inexpensive (especially compared to Zermatt, over on the Swiss side of the mountain), and unlike many resorts in such elevated alpine locations, access is easy, with Turin airport just over an hour and a half away. All of these things make it a great place for beginner skiers to cut their teeth.
When you add in the delights of Italian food, and the relatively inexpensive prices of Italian accommodation, ski schools, equipment hire and other extras, you have one of the best ski resorts for beginners anywhere in Europe.
Skiing in Cervinia dates back to the early days of the sport—because of its proximity to the Matterhorn, people were coming on mountain holidays before alpine skiing was even invented. The oldest part of the resort, down in Val Tournenche, is a warren of small streets and old wooden barns which date back to medieval times. At the very start or end of the season, skiing down here at 1,400m sometimes relies on artificial snow, but the connections up to the main base station, 2,050m up, is fast and straightforward. Cervinia itself is mostly more modern, but what it lacks in chocolate box prettiness, it makes up for in terms of practicality.
Access to the mountain, including the easy slopes, is super straightforward, and the sheer number of runs means the skiing is excellent whatever your level. Expert skiers in a mixed ability group may want to shell out for the area lift pass, which allows you to cross over to Zermatt, but for anyone else, the Cervinia lift pass will offer more than enough to keep you entertained for a week.
Off the slopes, there's plenty to do too, including a lively après scene, all of which makes Cervinia a popular choice when it comes to ski holidays for beginners, and one of the best ski resorts in Italy overall.
Read our full resort review of Cervinia here.