Top 10 Ski Resorts For Beginners – Our Recommendations

Wide sweeping ski slopes in Andorra

Well, that’s Christmas and New Year done and dusted. Thoughts now move on to our next adventure as we start to get ready for our annual skiing trip. This year we’re returning to the other side of the pond, we’re off to New England. We got a great deal with Virgin holidays, despite the fact we’re going over the peak half-term week. The kids are no longer beginners, they are getting quite adventurous now, and I thought it was about time they spent some time on the slopes with dad. Somewhere not too difficult, but somewhere that non-skiing mum won’t be too bored either. Cal’s had a bit of a tough year, with continuing health issues, so a nice hotel with leisure facilities, adjacent to tax-free shopping, and with flights from our local airport, is just what the doctor ordered!

Collecting icicles in Austria
Collecting icicles in Austria

All of which got me reminiscing about the very first time I went skiing, back in 1978. A group of us had been away on holidays for the past couple of summers, and started musing about where to go the following year. In a moment of youthful impertinence, I suggested that perhaps we should do a winter trip instead and try skiing. After all, we used to go ice skating every weekend at Altrincham ice rink, so if you can ice skate, you can ski, right? To my amazement, everyone thought it was a great idea, and left me to make the arrangements.

And so, in the middle of a freezing January, we arrived at our rented bungalow in Aviemore, following a nightmare 24 hour journey through snow and freezing fog. I won’t bore you with every detail of our first time ‘on the slopes,’ but it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. The road to the ski runs was closed due to bad weather (Aviemore is about 10 miles from Cairngorm, no ski-in, ski-out luxury here…), so we took our first tentative turns on the dry slope, and I still have the scars to prove it! The mountain was shut most of the week, so the only snow we got to ski on was the dusting on top of the dry slope. It was rubbish. Little wonder that of the 6 beginners that made the trip, only 1 actually persisted with skiing in later life.

Of course, we’re all wiser with hindsight, so where would I have planned to go for a beginners’ ski trip nowadays? Well, with apologies to the Scottish Tourist Board, it wouldn’t be Scotland (unless you live close to the slopes, which is a different matter). Europe has literally hundreds of ski resorts to choose from, so how to choose one for complete beginners?

A few suggestions follow, but they all have similar criteria for inclusion.

  • They need to have ‘nursery slopes’ (runs to learn on) close to your accommodation – there’s nothing more dispiriting than long walks or packed bus trips from hotels to the slopes, and back again.
  • They need an extensive range of easy slopes for when you progress on to the mountain itself.
  • A good ski school that can communicate in English is a must (especially for children).
  • There needs to be plenty of non-skiing activities, just in case you decide skiing isn’t your bag.
  • And finally, there should be decent apres-ski. After all, skiing is not just about the skiing. Ask any skier!

    Paul's Apres Ski
    Paul’s Apres Ski

So here’s my list, it’s not exhaustive, they’re in country order rather than order of preference, and I’ve not been to all of them myself, but they would certainly be on my short list if I had to start all over again…

  1. Arinsal, Andorra.

Small, pretty resort in the Pyrenees, with wide open easy pistes into the village, and a good English speaking ski school. It doesn’t attract the speed freaks or tipsy revellers that neighbouring Pas de la Casa does. Great for a first ski holiday on a budget.

Wide sweeping ski slopes in Andorra
Wide sweeping ski slopes in Andorra
  1. Obergurgl, Austria.

Nursery slopes next to hotels. Good apres ski. Uncrowded slopes through the week. English speaking ski school. We went there last year, and our kids really came on well. Toby could hardly stand upright on his skis at the start of the week, but was managing blues and reds by the end. Hugo was doing blacks, and actually wore the (Irish) ski instructor out to tears on the last day!

Obergurgl, Austria Ski Resort, great for beginners
Obergurgl, Austria Ski Resort
  1. Alpbach, Austria.

One of the prettiest resorts anywhere. Traditional Tyrolean charm, lots of nice walks and good hotels with leisure facilities for non-skiers. Easy tree-lined runs for beginners. Short transfers from the airport.

It’s always worth looking at the resort’s webcams. Alpbach’s are fantastic!

  1. Les Arcs, France.

Arc 1800 is probably best for beginners, as the slopes adjacent to the accommodations are all easy and ski-in, ski-out. Les Arcs is well known for its excellent, progressive ski school, and whilst the resorts (as in much of France) are purpose-built and a bit lacking in charm, the apres ski and facilities are excellent. If you want a bit more charm (at higher cost), try Arc 1950.

Les Arcs, France ski resort
Les Arcs, France ski resort

5. Alpe d’Huez, France.

Huge beginners areas adjacent to the resort, excellent ski school. It is high and snow sure, and the town itself is quite large with plenty to see and do apart from skiing.

Alpe d'Huez, France
Alpe d’Huez, France
  1. Bardonecchia, Italy.

This is a good sized town, not purpose built, and has an authentic lived-in feel to it. The best ski accommodation is just outside the town in Campo Smith, next to the lifts. There are plenty of nursery areas, and tree lined green and blue runs for when you’re ready to take to the mountain proper. The food, both on and off the mountain, is as you would expect in Italy, fantastic, and plentiful. Don’t forget a grappa or bombardino at the end of the day!

  1. Passo Tonale, Italy.

High and snow sure, with runs radiating out from the long village. Most of the runs into the village are easy,  wide and sunny. Quite a large village, and much of the apres ski tends to be hotel based, although there are plenty of bars dotted about.

Italian Skiing for beginners
Italian Skiing
  1. Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

High and snow sure, surrounded by a spectacular amphitheatre of 4000 metre peaks and glaciers. The town itself is car free, you get to the lifts by small electric powered buses, or even a novelty train. The beginners runs are extensive, and once you’ve progressed to the mountain, there are long wide blue runs to bring you back to the village. Great apres ski, and plenty of non-skiing activities to keep you entertained, including a long toboggan run, a glacier that you can have a tour through, and the world’s highest revolving restaurant with spectacular 360 degree views!

Saas-Fee as the sun comes up
Saas-Fee as the sun comes up
  1. Norway (most resorts, but especially Hemsedal, Geilo, Beitostolen, Trysil etc.).

A bit of a wild card this, but many Scandinavian resorts are particularly good for families first time skiing. Don’t worry too much about the lack of daylight in these northern climes, they are experts in floodlighting the runs. Night skiing is brilliant, you can see every lump and bump in the snow. A ski lift up a silent mountainside with the moon overhead is magical. The ski schools are fantastic and they all probably speak better English than you do! The only downside is the price of booze, but if you take your full allowance of duty-free (Norway isn’t in the EU), it shouldn’t be too bad.

Skiing for beginners in Trysil, Norway
Trysil, Norway
  1. Lapland.

Again, a bit of a wild card, but if you want to take the kids to see Santa, or want to see the Northern Lights, then why not combine it with a first time ski trip? Out of season (i.e. after Christmas), the costs come right down. Like Norway, the daylight is limited – but see above about floodlit slopes. It can be very cold (but a dry cold, -30C here doesn’t feel nearly as bad as it sounds…). The runs are mostly gentle, English is widely spoken, and the accommodation is top notch. Plenty of snow related non-ski adventures await, like snowmobiling, dog sledding, or ice fishing. Again, booze is a bit more expensive, but not prohibitively so.

Northern Lights in Lapland
Northern Lights in Lapland

Remember, I haven’t been to all of these places, so please do plenty of your own research. Good luck, and welcome to a lifetime of skiing fun!

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Top 10 Ski Resorts for Beginners - Our Recommendations
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27 Replies to “Top 10 Ski Resorts For Beginners – Our Recommendations”

  1. I think I would actually enjoy skiing. Never done it before, and I’m not the best ice-skater either, but I really like dry slopes. Haven’t done that in a long while!
    Rochelle recently posted…15 lessons I have learnt raising a boyMy Profile

    1. Maybe you should give it a go Rochelle? My boys far prefer real snow to dry slopes, you might be the same!

  2. Such a useful post for a family like us that have never been skiing. I know my kids would love it but I have a back problem that would probably prevent me from taking part so it’s good to know that there are non-skiing options as well. There are some great places to choose from here! 🙂

    1. Thank you Sharon. I don’t ski either, due to my back and heart problems, that’s why we always consider the non-skiing too.

  3. We have actually been thinking of heading over in Jan next year so I will have to keep this post!
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…What is my blog really all about?My Profile

    1. Oh yes, please do! I hope it helps you x

  4. I am not a beginner in skiing but started in school and later started again with lessons in Ruka (Finnish Lapland) it’s a great place to start. Wonderful English speaking instructors and the resort is fantastic. The resort itself is small but has good restaurants and bars. We started there and went on to ski in France Chamonix and Italy. We recently returned to Ruka where the non skier/ snow boarder can enjoy plenty of fun activities. If your not sure renting skis for the afternoon or day is easy and the nursery slopes have free magic carpet lifts ….perfect for a taste of the slopes without paying for a weeks lessons, hire and passes. Main slopes are limited and quite short for the more advanced but still a lot of fun!

    1. Thanks for your reply Sam. We’ve never been to Ruka personally, so really value your first-hand input.

  5. I’ve never been skiing in fact I have never tried however I absolutely love snow and anything wintery so those pictures make me want to go just for that it looks absolutely beautiful , have a fantastic holiday 🙂 x

    1. Thank you Cheryl, I hope you get chance to give it a go someday x

  6. I’ve been to 2, 3, 4, 6, 8. Would love to go to Norway one day! X

    1. Wow you’e doing well Hayley! I’m sure you’d love Norway. Are you skiing this year?

      1. Yep – we’re going back to Flaine at Easter (we both repped there years ago) and find it really goo at the end of the season. I’d also add it to this list as it’s a really good family resort and great for beginners. #eatsleepblogRT x

        1. Brilliant, have a great time!

  7. I need to bookmark this post as we plan on going skiing next year! Great resorts
    #EatSleepBlogRT
    Helen @Talking_Mums recently posted…To the man in beige trousersMy Profile

    1. That’s great Helen, glad you found it helpful. You might want to pin it to keep?

  8. This makes me depressed to live in the states- as if I need much more of a reason for that right about now…
    #eastsleepblogrt

    1. Oh no Kristin, we are skiing in the States this year! There are great European resorts but you’ve got plenty of fabulous places to ski too.

  9. I’ve never been skiing. Partly because I was raised in Hawai’i and partly because I’ve still not mastered walking on my own two feet without falling. #EatSleepBlogRT

    1. I guess there’s not much skiing in Hawaii!

  10. Some lovely places to check out in here! But I have never been skiing!!!! #EatSleepBlogRT

    1. Well there’s a first time for everything…! If you do fancy trying, we are happy to advise.

  11. Petite Pudding says: Reply

    I have never been skiing – well at least not on snow! I have had a go on the dry slopes and I have to say that I am not sure it was for me! Perhaps sitting at the bottom of the slopes with a hot chocolate and a good book whilst the kids wear themselves out might be the way forward…. #eatsleepblogrt
    Petite Pudding recently posted…Never Underestimate The Baby ColdMy Profile

  12. Some fab resorts, I love skiing as a kid especially in Meribelle! Thanks for joining in with #TuesdayTreasures xxx
    RachelSwirl recently posted…#LivingArrows – Siblings That Share 4/52 (2017)My Profile

  13. Woooow !
    Great post ! I love skiing….Really Arinsal, Andorra is a great for a first ski holiday on a budget. Awesome plan for next adventure as start to get ready for annual skiing. Bookmarking your post because of we plan on going skiing next year! Great thanks for Amazing resorts!
    ——–Andrew

  14. Such a useful post! I’ve been to Obergurgl, Austria. We went as a family when I was 15 in the summer holidays and spent it hiking. Such a stunning part of the world.

  15. […] hope you enjoy our ski series posts – next one is coming […]

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