Best ski resorts for beginners in Europe & North America

Best ski resorts for beginners in Europe & North America

Going on your first ever ski holiday can seem like a daunting task. From accommodation and equipment to lift passes and tuition, there’s a lot more to book and plan compared to your usual holiday. It’s all worth it though. 

Aside from the unbeatable thrill of flying down a ski slope, skiing holidays offer so much. Enjoy breathtaking mountain views and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Indulge in delicious hearty food without the guilt because you’ll be burning off the calories all day. Experience the mad fun of apres ski – where it’s totally normal to dance on the table at 3pm wearing ski boots and goggles. Or for those seeking relaxation, find a hot tub, pool or spa to find peace and calm in the mountains.

What to consider when choosing a ski resort for beginners

Whether you’re booking your first every ski holiday, or you have a beginner skier or snowboarder in your group, there are a few factors to consider when choosing a ski resort for beginners:

  1. Wide-open, gentle slopes. Having the space to be able to practise those long turns is essential. Ensure there are a good proportion of green and blue slopes for beginners to learn in a safe and forgiving area.
  2. Top quality ski and snowboard tuition. If you are a beginner skier or snowboarder then you’ll need good quality ski tuition. Check the ski schools before booking and ensure they have friendly English-speaking ski instructors.
  3. Modern ski lifts. Ski lifts can be daunting to first-time skiers or snowboarders – especially the dreaded drag lift. Having a gondola into the ski area is a great option – or failing that then a modern chair lift which slows down to let you on (not the kind that fly round and whack you in the back of the legs!).
  4. Availability of non-skiing activities. It’s a good idea to make sure the resort caters for non-skiers, just in case you don’t find your skiing legs, or you just fancy a couple of days off. Most ski resorts offer a whole range of amazing winter activities, from snowshoeing to ice skating.
  5. Go off-peak. Try to avoid going at the busiest times of year – mainly school holidays. Quieter slopes are a lot more welcoming for skiing beginners and there will be less groups of ski school kids to navigate round.

Slope difficulty ratings

For those new to skiing, it’s helpful to understand how slopes are rated for difficulty. It’s a coloured system and it varies slightly from continent to continent:

Europe 

Green: Beginner

Blue: Easy

Red: Intermediate

Black: Expert

North America

Green circle: Easy

Blue square: Intermediate

Black diamond: Advanced

Double black diamond: Expert

Triple black diamond: Extreme expert


Best ski resorts for beginners in Europe

Alpe D’Huez, France

A very popular French resort, Alpe D’Huez is part of the Grand Domaine ski area. With its south-facing position, it has a reputation for having the most days of sunshine out of all European resorts. Not only does that mean longer days of skiing, the excellent weather is also one of the reasons it’s so perfect for beginners.

Alpe D’Huez is great for all levels and abilities. But beginners can benefit from one of the largest nursery slope areas in the Alps. The resort also has an efficient lift system which can zip you to the top of the slopes in no time at all. For some beautiful views, head to Pic Blanc at 3300m where you can see Mont Blanc on a clear day.

The village of Huez itself is an authentic, friendly ski town with an impressive range of shops, bars and cafes. There is also a wide range of restaurants with some good affordable options.

Alpe D'Huez

Resort profile

Ski area: 250km

Runs: 31% green, 28% blue, 25% red, 16% black

Lifts: 62

Nearest airport: Grenoble

Transfer time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Benefit from lots of sunshine (no guarantees though!)
  • Short transfer time from airport
  • Authentic village with a friendly atmosphere

Three Valleys, France

The Three Valleys actually encompasses three ski resorts: Courchevel, Meribel, and Val Thorens. All three are fantastic options for beginners due to the sheer expanse and variety of skiing on offer. This is what makes the Three Valleys a great choice for groups with a range of skiing abilities. 

The three resorts are interlinked – so whichever resort you stay in, you can still access all three ski areas. Val Thorens is probably better suited to young adults looking for more of a party scene. Meribel is a popular destination for families and also quite a lively resort. Courchevel is widely regarded as the playground of the rich and famous, with a heavy Russian clientele and more Michelin stars than any other resort in the world.

Val Thorens

Resort profile

Ski area: 600km

Runs: 16% green, 40% blue, 34% red, 10% black

Lifts: 183

Nearest airport: Chambery

Transfer time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Largest ski area in the world
  • Fantastic apres and lively nightlife
  • Snowsure conditions – Val Thorens is the highest resort in Europe

Les Deux Alpes, France

Les Deux Alpes is formed of two mountain villages (hence the name) and comprises a large glacier. Luckily for beginners, there are a number of easy green and blue runs situated right on the glacier. So even beginners can benefit from guaranteed snow and stunning views. Plus, you can easily descend from the glacier via gondola.

Another resort that is good for all abilities, Les Deux Alpes offers a wide range of pistes. If your group features some more advanced skiers, then they will be pleased to know that Les Deux Alpes is home to the largest snowpark in Europe. Skiing aside, there is a lively nightlife with plenty of bars and restaurants to try. 

Les Deux Alpes

Resort profile

Ski area: 200km

Runs: 17% green, 47% blue, 23% red, 13% black

Lifts: 51

Nearest airport: Grenoble

Transfer time: 2 hours

Highlights: 

  • Accessible pistes with easy access lifts
  • High altitude glacier skiing
  • Good nursery slopes for beginners

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, Austria

Affectionately known as ‘The Diamond in the Alps’, the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl ski area is located in Tyrol. It is a secluded ski village with a selection of excellent accommodation. With a high altitude, you can benefit from good snow conditions late into the season.

The Gurgl ski area is made of wide open pistes which are perfect for beginners. Add to that the excellent ski schools and sun-drenched slopes, and it’s easy to see why the Gurgl area is such a popular ski resort with beginners. There is also a modern lift system and lifts are almost always queue-free.

For a real treat, head to the Top Mountain Star restaurant in Hochgurgl. Here you can enjoy breathtaking views over both the Alps and the Dolomites. In terms of apres, a visit to The Nederhutte in Obergurgl is an absolute must for guaranteed fun.

Resort profile

Ski area: 112km

Runs: 32% blue, 50% red, 18% black

Lifts: 25

Nearest airport: Innsbruck

Transfer time: 1 hour 45 minutes 

Highlights: 

  • Wide open slopes
  • High quality ski schools
  • Good weather and snow conditions from November to April

Lech, Austria

Lech holds a worldwide reputation and is known as an exclusive, high-end resort. This makes it a good option for those looking for a little luxury. As a traditional village, Lech brings a lot of charm and a homely, welcoming atmosphere.

The slopes are very easily accessible, with an abundance of ski-in ski-out accommodation. Lech has a good snow record and pistes are groomed regularly. Tough terrain is limited, so it’s not a popular place for advanced skiers – but this makes it great for beginners. The ski resort has great facilities and excellent restaurants. The apres ski is a more sophisticated affair – think ice bars and champagne instead of beer-guzzling and table dancing.

Lech Ski Resort

Resort profile

Ski area: 276km

Runs: 25% blue, 52% red, 22% black

Lifts: 86

Nearest airport: X

Transfer time: X hours

Highlights: 

  • Picturesque ski resort
  • A high-end, luxury ski holiday for those with the budget
  • Regularly groomed pistes

Mayrhofen, Austria

Mayrhofen is situated in Tyrol and is part of the Mount Penken ski area – one of the largest and most diverse in Austria. It is an attractive village that is well-suited to families and offers a traditional rustic charm. With a very lively nightlife, it is particularly popular with the British. 

There are plenty of wide, gentle runs for beginners to find the ski legs, especially in the Ahorn area. Beginners do just need to make sure that they steer clear of the Harakiri piste – Austria’s steepest ski slope at a hair-raising 78% gradient!

Resort profile

Ski area: 142km

Runs:  31% blue, 49% red, 20% black

Lifts: 59

Nearest airport: Innsbruck

Transfer time: 1 hour

Highlights: 

  • Plenty of gentle runs
  • Short transfer time
  • Lively nightlife

Saas-Fee, Switzerland

Saas-Fee is a stunning ski resort, known as ‘The Pearl of the Alps. It benefits from one of the largest glacier ski areas in the Alps, making it a snowsure ski resort. Saas-Fee is a fantastic ski destination with its combination of high altitude, long ski runs and great snow record.

There is a large beginner’s ski area in the resort, which is covered by a cheap pass. The village itself is picturesque and quant, with an inviting swiss charm. It is full of character and the perfect place to relax in a cosy bar with a gluhwein.

Saas Fee

Resort profile

Ski area: 100km

Runs: 20% blue, 60% red, 20% black

Lifts: 22

Nearest airport: Zurich

Transfer time: 3 hours

Highlights: 

  • Truly stunning ski resort
  • Large and accessible beginner’s ski area
  • Glacier skiing offers snowsure conditions

Arinsal, Andorra

Arinsal in Andorra is generally considered to be a fantastic resort for beginners. With wide slopes and beautiful tree-lined runs, it’s a great place to find your ski legs. Plus, there is an award-winning British ski school that offers excellent ski and snowboard tuition.

It’s a relatively small resort, which means it’s a lot less daunting for beginners. Another great advantage of skiing in Andorra is the virtually tax-free status of the country – making it fantastic value for money. It’s a great resort for families too, as there is a popular on-mountain creche.

Resort profile

Ski area: 63km

Runs: 16% green, 36% blue, 39% red, 9% black

Lifts: 40

Nearest airport: Toulouse

Transfer time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Award-winning ski school
  • Great value for money
  • Variety of wide, gentle slopes

Livigno, Italy

Livigno is a traditional ski village with an enchanting rustic charm that’s located close to the Swiss border. Yet the ski area itself offers modern ski lifts and well-kept pistes. It’s a great resort for beginners, with dedicated areas and lifts for beginners accessible from the village. 

There are great ski schools with fun and patient instructors, as well as wide slopes which are perfect for building confidence. Livigno’s high altitude means guaranteed snow for the whole season.

Livigno has accommodation to suit all budgets and its duty-free status is excellent news for shoppers. With around 150 bars to choose from (yes, really!), Livigno has a fantastic apres offering.

Livigno

Resort profile

Ski area: 115km

Runs: 26% blue, 57% red, 17% black

Lifts: 32

Nearest airport: Innsbruck

Transfer time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Dedicated areas and lifts for beginners
  • Duty free status
  • Extensive apres offering

Bovorets, Bulgaria

Bovorets was Bulgari’s first ski resort. Located in the forest-covered Rila mountains, this woodland setting makes it a truly beautiful place to ski. It is a modern ski resort with good weather and a family-friendly feel.

Skiing is generally geared towards beginners and intermediates. There is a selection of nursery slopes with straightforward terrain, perfect for learning the ropes. In terms of apres, there are plenty of bars and clubs, making it a lively resort. It’s also fantastic value for money when compared to the more well-known ski resorts of France and Austria.

Resort profile

Ski area: 58km

Runs: 41% blue, 50% red, 9% black

Lifts: 18

Nearest airport: Sofia

Transfer time: 1 hour

Highlights: 

  • Good budget option
  • Beautiful tree-lined runs
  • Family-friendly feel

Jasná, Slovakia

Slovakia may not be the first country you think of when considering a European ski holiday. But Slovakia’s top ski resort, Jasná, offers beautiful landscapes and easy access. It may not be the highest ski resort, but a lot of recent investment in infrastructure and snowmaking helps ensure good snow conditions. There are plenty of wide gentle slopes for beginners and families.

Jasná is a cheap resort, making it extremely budget-friendly. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it will be tired and rundown. Quite the opposite – there is a speedy lift system and wonderfully stocked ski rental shops. Apres is more limited than other European ski resorts but that makes it perfect for those who don’t like the raucous partying that is so often associated with apres.

Jasna

Resort profile

Ski area: 46km

Runs: 43% blue, 40% red, 17% black

Lifts: 27

Nearest airport: Poprad

Transfer time: 40 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Excellent value for money
  • Very short transfer time
  • Beautiful landscapes and scenic runs

Best ski resorts for beginners in North America

Tremblant, Canada

Located in the Quebec province, Tremblant offers very versatile terrain to skiers and snowboarders. There is an excellent beginner’s area on the edge of the village and the many long winding runs are perfect for practising.

The town itself comprises cobbled streets and quaint, colourful houses. IT’s a lively village that’s popular with families and offers a good selection of restaurants. Just be wary that Tremblant is excruciatingly cold in midwinter.

Tremblant Ski Resort

Resort profile

Ski area: 82km

Runs: 22% beginner, 30% intermediate, 48% advanced

Lifts: 11

Nearest airport: Montreal-Trudeau

Transfer time: 1 hours 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Excellent beginner’s area
  • Plenty of long winding slopes
  • Quaint, lively town

Lake Louise, Canada

One of the largest ski resorts in North America, Lake Louise offers stunning scenery and varied terrain. It has previously been voted the number one ski resort in Canada and it’s easy to see why. Compared to the lively resorts of Europe, Lake Louise is comparatively peaceful with enchanting views and beautiful tree-lined runs. If you’d prefer to stay somewhere a little less peaceful then the lively resort of Banff is 45 minutes away.

Lake Lousie has a good beginner area at the base of the mountain, while the long gentle runs and mellow slopes are perfect for finding your ski legs. If there are advanced skiers in your group then there is plenty on offer for them too, as the resort is great for all abilities. 

Lake Louise Ski

Resort profile

Ski area: 139km

Runs: 25% beginner, 45% intermediate, 30% advanced

Lifts: 10

Nearest airport: Calgary

Transfer time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Expansive ski area
  • Stunning scenery
  • Gentle slopes and long cruising runs

Whistler, Canada

One of the most famous ski resorts in Canada, Whistler offers world-class skiing and snowboarding. It has a fantastic range of skiing for every ability, including plenty of easy green and blue slopes for beginners. It is worth noting though, that due to its understandable popularity, Whistler is quite an expensive and busy resort.

The village itself has a friendly atmosphere and provides extensive shopping and restaurants. As a pedestrian-only village, everything is within walking distance. For apres-ski, there is an impressive array of bars and clubs within Whistler. 

Whistler

Resort profile

Ski area: 200km

Runs: 20% beginner, 55% intermediate, 25% advanced

Lifts: 37

Nearest airport: Vancouver

Transfer time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • World-class skiing and snowboarding
  • Plenty of green and blue slopes
  • Friendly, lively village

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Steamboat Springs is a charming western ski town with an impressive Olympian heritage. Here you’ll find a cowboy flare and friendly, inviting locals. It’s an authentic town with modern amenities, more indie than luxury. The ski resort is a little off the beaten track but is still super accessible and would make the perfect stop on a ski road trip in the US. 

Steamboat Springs is known for its ‘Champagne powder’ – snow so light and fluffy that it tickles your nose like Champagne bubbles. There are a good selection of perfect beginner slopes and beautiful tree-lined runs. Skiing aside, there are plenty of other outdoor activities, from the hot springs to a range of snowsports.

Steamboat Springs

Resort profile

Ski area: 165km

Runs: 14% beginner, 42% intermediate, 44% advanced

Lifts: 18

Nearest airport: Yampa Valley

Transfer time: 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Authentic, welcoming, indie town
  • The resort of champagne powder – light, fluffy snow
  • Perfect beginner runs

Sugarloaf, Maine 

The Sugarloaf ski resort is located in Maine, within the New England ski region. It’s a well-developed resort with fantastic snow-making, which ensures good snow reliability from November through to April. Visitors can enjoy incredible panoramic views across Canada, New Hampshire and Vermont from the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain. In the town itself, there are lots of other activities on offer – from various snowsports to art galleries and an anti-gravity centre.

The ski area offers plenty of options for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. There is a fantastic area of terrain for beginners at the foot of the mountain, as well as some nice long blues which are perfect for practising. Beginners can also benefit from excellent ski schools – any kids will love being transported via a snowmobile sled!

Resort profile

Ski area: 87km

Runs: 23% beginner, 34% intermediate, 43% advanced

Lifts: 12

Nearest airport: Portland Airport

Transfer time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Huge range of runs to choose from
  • Beautiful panoramic views
  • Great terrain for beginners at the foot of the mountain

Killington, Vermont

As the biggest ski area and longest ski season in the east, Vermont’s Killington is understandably a popular ski resort. Killington offers some of the highest and most varied mountain terrain in the New England ski region. This makes it particularly well suited to skiing groups of varying abilities.

Killington offers good beginner skiing, with gentle groomers and learning areas. Skiing aside, you’ll find an impressive number of winter activities. These include scenic gondola rides, snowshoeing, snowmobile tours, bike rentals, and a tubing park. 

Killington Vermont

Resort profile

Ski area: 117km

Runs: 17% beginner, 40% intermediate, 43% advanced

Lifts: 22

Nearest airport: Rutland

Transfer time: 30 minutes

Highlights: 

  • Expansive ski area with varied terrain
  • Gentle groomers and good learning areas for beginners
  • Good range of non-skiing activities

There are plenty of other excellent resorts for beginners and it would be impossible to include them all. But I’d love to hear if you’ve got any suggestions – leave a comment on get in touch on social media.

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