Whether you’re heading to the mountains for the first time, or encouraging a friend or partner to join you in your love of winter sports, choosing the right resort is vital. It could be the difference between a lifelong love affair with the snow, or seeing any chance you have of a family winter holiday each season simply melt away.
The pistes must be quiet, the queues short, the scenery fantastic, the price right…. oh, and there has to be something to do off the slopes too!
It’s a tall order! So to help you find your true match, we have put together our Top Ten Beginner Resorts. Following our advice could keep you out of the divorce courts, possibly even keep the kids quiet too - but we’re not promising anything!
Picture postcard perfect, yet awe inspiring too
The mainly traffic-free village of Wengen sits within the quaint Jungfrau region ski area, and is handily placed between the area’s linked resorts of Mürren and Grindelwald. Its narrow streets, with traditional Swiss chalets and great restaurants, tick the alpine aesthetics box; alongside that, the impressive north face of the Eiger is one of the Alp’s great sights. Many of the region’s 206 km of slopes are long and gentle, opening up lots of terrain once you’ve left the nursery slopes.
The lift system is a little slow and anything but modern, however the Cog railways - which chug skiers around the mountainside - offer stress free access to the pistes. It’s also an exciting side trip for non-skiing kids, as is the train down to the town of Interlaken, with its shops and lakeside hikes.
Inexpensive capital city evenings, alongside slope time days
The ease of access from Ljubljana makes Krvavec a perfect ‘day-time only’ resort. A morning bus, from Ljubljana central train station, will take you the mere 25km to this tiny beginner-perfect ski resort.
Okay, so there are only 30km of piste. But what could be better to persuade an unconvinced partner to take a few ski lessons, than the promise of a palatial hotel, alongside the offer to explore the cellar bars, shops and restaurants of Slovenia’s small and historic capital city?
If on a longer holiday, you can also day trip to the world-renowned beauty of Lake Bled, or tackle one of the country’s other beginner friendly ski resorts, such as Kranjska Gora, or the more advanced resort of Vogel.
Great post-ski kids’ activities
A traditional village, rather than a purpose built concrete carbuncle, Valloire has managed to keep a lot of Alpine charm, while expanding its slopes to a very respectable 150 km, 70 percent of which is above 2,000 metres. Popular with French families, you’ll find the prices for food and drink much more affordable than other more fur clad French resorts.
There’s nothing worse for a beginner than being stuck on a nursery slope in the middle of town, so the two gondolas - which operate from the village centre - make it easy for beginners to gain both altitude and great mountain views.
During school holidays there is daily entertainment in the village square, backed up by an ice rink and cinema. There are child-friendly snowshoe and dogsledding trips, while the ESF run beginner ski lessons and the slope-side crèche is handy for the little ones.
Panorama, B.C., Canada
Keeps both beginners and powder hounds happy
If you plan to head across the Atlantic, Panorama is a fantastic choice for beginners, kids and experts alike. A self-contained resort - built around an area of hot springs (great for a post-ski soak) -Panorama, with its 500cm average snowfall, really does have something for everyone.
The beginner areas are groomed to perfection, and the real time ‘groomed runs’ piste map is brilliant for finding totally flat pistes. The base area runs a series of post-ski kid friendly events, such as pizza making.
A great benefit for mixed-ability groups, is that there’s plenty of options from each chair lift. Choose from a cruisey blue for the beginner, to disappearing into the trees on a double black diamond for the expert. Yet still meet up again at the bottom to ride up together; perfect!
The 3 ½ hour drive from Calgary sounds long, and it is after a long flight, but the scenery through the Banff and Kootenay National Parks in stunning.
Amazing but comes at a price
Courchevel has fine dining, fine shopping, fine hotels and darn fine beginner slopes too, but it’s not one to visit if you have a budget to adhere to.
Home to the rich, if not famous, this is a world class resort, set within the prettiest valley of the 3 Vallées – one of the world’s largest linked ski areas, with 600 km of pistes. It has excellent terrain with a well-designed interlinking lift system.
Courchevel Moriond (aka Courcheval 1650) and the Jardin Alpin area are the best spots for cutting your debutant teeth on. And once off the greens, there are some lovey blues that wind down through the forest to La Tania.
One almost affordable option is British tour operator Pleisure Holidays, who’ve been running snowboard trips to Courchevel for over a decade
Corvara, Alta Badia Valley, Italy
Fantastic food and limestone spires
The beauty of the Dolomites is enough to keep any holidaymaker happy, even if they do end up skiing the same slope area all week. Add to that beauty, the fantastic Italian food and wine on offer, and a week in the Alta Badia valley will kindle a love affair of the mountains within even the most reluctant of beginner!
Corvara, being both part of the large ‘Dolomiti Superski’ linked area and on the long distance circular 40 km Sella Ronda route, is an ideal base within the Alta Badia Valley. While not the best resort for a total beginner, the reds here (which would be blue elsewhere) are great for a second or third week on skis. And if it all gets too much and the toys start flying out of the pram, simply head to one of the many fantastic on-slope restaurants.
Food lovers should head to the area when the Chef's Cup is on. Held over one weekend in January, Italian Michelin star chefs prepare and serve signature lunchtime dishes in mountainside refuges.
Ski the flanks of the Matterhorn on miles of beginner pistes
Cervinia offers easily enough beginner slopes to keep those new to skiing, yet on the move, happy for a week. Linked to the more advanced resort of Zermatt, and boasting fantastic views of the iconic Matterhorn, Cervinia will also keep the more advanced members of a group extremely happy too.
There’s not too much on offer post-slope, but the fine Italian food and inexpensive slope-side wine (a fraction of the price of France and Switzerland) should keep all the adults happy.
The instruction in Italy is of a high quality, and 5 morning lessons here will only set you back £130.
Peaceful beginner’s area, with a classic Swiss village feel.
Saas Fee is not only ideal for beginners, it’s so stunningly beautiful that even non skiers will be happy winding away their days, drinking hot chocolate in the ever revolving high altitude restaurant.
Leaving your car behind you, you’ll reach your hotel by electric golf cart, as the village is traffic-free and totally pedestrian friendly. Old wooden barns, sitting upon large mushroom stones, nestle alongside luxury hotels and great eating establishments.
On the slopes a large beginners’ area is separate from the more advanced slopes, keeping timid beginners well away from speedier intermediates, and it’s possible to get really close to high altitude glaciers without even putting your skis on, using a series of funiculars.
Bend, Oregon, USA
Best for beer loving beginners
Okay, so not the easiest city in the USA to get too, but with 20 local breweries, can any self-respecting beer-loving beginner overlook Bend as an option? Not only does the city of Bend itself have 20 breweries, it has a further seven in the surrounding towns; oh, and did we forget to mention that it’s a $5 shuttle bus ride from the world class resort of Mt Bachelor?
Mt. Bachelor's ‘Ski or Ride in 5’, has been voted the Best Beginner Program in America by the National Ski Areas Association. It’s a series of 5 lessons for complete beginners at the bargain price of $199, and once you graduate, you’re given a free 12-day pass, great if on a longer visit to the area.
Northern Lights and late spring skiing
Finland doesn’t spring to mind for most when booking a skiing holiday, especially for beginners, but it really should. A 20 minute airport transfer is backed up with tons of beginner pistes, and enough non ski activities to keep any reluctant beginner happy.
There’s a good chance to see the Northern lights while on your skis too. Alongside the very good English on-slope instruction, many other activities are also available: these include visiting or sleeping in an ice hotel, taking a dog sled safari, skidooing, taking a sauna or even visiting a traditional Lapp Village.
Levi is open until May, making it a great choice for late spring skiing.