Inspiration - Best Beginner Resorts
Booking a ski holiday for the first time can be an exciting but daunting experience. Following a few key tips will mean learning and progressing quickly and comfortably - in a breathtaking environment.
Before you head off, there are a few things you can do to make the whole thing that much easier. You can get a feel for navigating on skis or a snowboard at one of the many artificial ski slopes across the UK, and prep your muscles by doing some simple pre-ski exercises.
Good clothing is key (especially when you may be taking a few spills!), in particular: warm thermals, decent waterproof jacket, pants and gloves and UV protective goggles or sunglasses. Skis, snowboards and boots can be expensive to buy - so try them out first to see if you like it by hiring them on the mountain.
Also, check that any travel insurance you take out covers skiing - most brokers have special packages for winter sports.
When trying to decide where to go, it can feel like you're faced with an avalanche of choices. And they all seem to offer beginner facilities. In reality, these can vary greatly. You'll want to look for a resort that's good value, has extensive, well-groomed beginner slopes, accommodation close to lifts and ski school - and friendly, English-speaking instructors. Panoramic views, long hours of sunshine and few crowds never hurt anyone either!
We've put together a list of our top 10 magic beginner destinations that will see skiing or boarding morph into a lifetime obsession...
1. Soldeu, Andorra
Well known for its excellent ski school and fluent English-speaking instructors, Soldeu is widely recognised as one of the best resorts in Europe for beginners. Its sunny climate (Soldeu means Sun God) is much loved, and there are many nursery slopes and easy green and blue runs which will help you progress without pushing yourself too hard.
The flat plateaus and rolling hills at Soldeu are a beginner's paradise, and the lively village is one of the most popular in the Andorran Pyrenees. It has a relaxed atmosphere, duty-free bargains and vibrant après-ski. Recent investment has updated old lifts to a modern system, which means you'll have quick access to the slopes.
2. Soll, Austria
A charming, lively Tyrolean Village, Soll offers both beautiful scenery and relatively inexpensive pricing. Take advantage of the good value Learn to Ski lift pass, which saves you paying for lifts and pistes that you won't use. There are several great learner areas, with many gentle slopes to progress on to.
The resort sits in a sunny, protected basin at the foot of the Hohe Salve mountain, and offers a good mix of lively nightlife and family-orientated fun.
3. Mayrhofen, Austria
The Ahorn nursery slopes at Mayrhofen are excellent - high, extensive, sunny and crowd-free. This area is almost entirely devoted to beginners, and usually boasts good snow because of its high altitude. Nestled low in the beautiful Ziller Valley, Mayrhofen is also renowned for its beauty and traditional ambiance - a classic picturesque mountain resort.
There are plenty of runs for intermediate and advanced skiers - so it's a good option for mixed ability groups.
Three airports sit within two hours drive, so ski weekends, snowboard breaks and short ski holidays to Mayrhofen are doable. Innsbruck Airport is just one hours drive away, in good driving conditions, so you can be on the slopes quickly.
4. Les Arcs, France
The free beginners lift at Les Arcs will get you started on your first wobbly turns. Excellent nursery slopes sit directly above each of the resort's main villages, and Arc 1800 hosts sunny, spacious runs. With no less than 7 ski schools, you can take your pick of friendly instructors to help instil confidence.
High altitude usually means good snow conditions - and with a top station of 3,226 m and a glacier, Les Arcs is a good bet for snow cover. If you're feeling confident, you can move on to some gentle blues like Mont Blanc above Arc 1600, and some snow sure easy runs down from Col de la Chal to Arc 2000.
5. Alp d'Huez, France
For a good chance at a sun-kissed ski holiday, head to Alpe d'Huez, where the slogan is ‘L'ile au Soleil' (Island of the Sun). They've got the goods to back up this claim as well - most of the slopes are south-facing, and they boast average figures of 300 days of sunshine a year.
Close to Grenoble airport, so easy to get to, Alp d'Huez is great for beginners. Wide open green nursery slopes sit immediately above the resort, and you can pick up a special beginners lift pass. The gentle slopes will have any first time skier feeling like a champion by the end of their first week in ski school.
6. Tignes, France
Tignes has a laid-back, easy-going atmosphere which suits beginners perfectly. As well as being high and snow sure, the resort has nursery slopes which are right next to most of the accommodation - so you can get there and home easily.
The slopes are wide, quiet and gentle to learn on. A slow chairlift allows beginners to improve with confidence in the early stages away from their ski or snow board schools. Extra points are given for the offer of a women's-only course and 5 free ski lifts for beginners!
7. Bansko, Bulgaria
Bansko offers a relaxed and inexpensive ski holiday in a beautiful World Heritage site. Nestled in the Pirin Mountains, the views are incredible. Recently updated the lift system is excellent, and 65% of the runs are designed for beginners and intermediates. As you progress there is an excellent 16km intermediate run from the top to the bottom of the mountain (2560m to 935m).
With quick lifts, no queues and great prices, Bansko is ideal for your first ski trip.
8. Cortina, Italy
You'll be forgiven for not remembering what your ski instructor just said because you're too busy staring at the breathtaking views over the Dolomites. One of Italy's most beautiful resorts resorts, Cortina boasts majestic views, along with great beginner runs and long gentle cruisers.
The instructors are known for their ability to have fun with kids and adults alike, and Cortina is very child-friendly. Enjoy the superbly groomed runs or just relax with a glass of wine and soak in the scenery.
9. Nendaz, Switzerland
Suited to groups and families alike, Nendaz is an undiscovered jewel for beginner skiers and snowboarders. At the top of Tracouet there are rope pull lifts, magic carpet lifts and a children's snow play area with large inflatable toys. A flat kids area is situated on a frozen lake, which gets long hours of sun.
The resort has a friendly village atmosphere with plenty of non-skiing activities and has been given a special ‘Families Welcome' label by the Fédération Suisse du Tourisme for its family friendly credentials.
10. Saas Fee, Switzerland
Nicknamed ‘The Pearl of The Alps', chocolate box Saas Fee is a great place for a first-time ski trip. The resort sits at the heart of the Saas Valley, surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Switzerland. It boasts a large plateau for beginners right nest to the village, and has lots of flat sunny slopes.
Thanks to its altitude and glacier, it has a long ski season. The idyllic slopes are recocognised as one of Switzerland's more family-friendly ski resorts, and offer plenty of supervised activities for children.
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