Not all resorts are the same. They’ll all have mountains, hotels, chalets, restaurants and other amenities, but they’ll each have them in a different style and ratio.
The skiing, too, will be geared toward different skill levels and tastes. Sometimes this is dictated by the terrain, and sometimes it is by design.
Most resorts try to offer something for everyone, but certain resorts are more tailored to specific levels than others.
This article should help you to choose a resort suitable for beginner skiing.
What to Look For
Ask yourself a few preliminary questions.
- Am I a total beginner, or am I getting more comfortable on skis?
- Do I want to push myself, or am I happy for a while where I am?
- What kind of off-slope activities interest me?
- Is my group all of about the same skill level, or more varied?
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can look through the materials on various resorts and make a short list of your favourites.
Green runs are probably the first thing you want to look for. Don’t stop there, but check them out first.
Runs that have a green rating are considered suitable for total beginners.
They’ll be gentle-sloping, clear of obstructions, wider and – at a well-designed resort – they won’t be crossed by runs frequented by faster-moving advanced skiers.
In most cases they will be located at the bottom of the slopes, near accommodations and amenities.
In short, they will be wide-open, trouble-free runs designed for learning and early practice.
Understand the Percentages
Just because a resort has a high percentage of green or blue runs, doesn’t mean it is best-suited for you.
Always compare the percentages to the total area on offer. Stats can be misleading, as we all know.
Compare 12% of green-rated runs at Avoriaz to 54% at Obergurgl. Sounds like Obergurgl has the most variety for you… but does it?
Avoriaz has 600km of pistes, compared to 112km at Obergurgl.
When that’s factored in, you’re better off at Avoraiz!
Don’t Forget the Blues
As a beginner, you might be intimidated by blue runs – but there’s a good chance you needn’t be.
If you are in good physical condition, have an aptitude for sports in general, or have been skiing a few times and are pretty comfortable on the green runs, then don’t overlook resorts with a wide offering of blue choices – even if they’re light on the green.
St Moritz, Wengen and Saas Fee in Switzerland, Solden and Kitzbühel in Austria, and Cervinia in Italy are all examples of resorts with no listed offering of green runs, but a solid percentage of blue choices available.
If you’re nearing that transition from green ability to blue, you might appreciate the challenge and the upward mobility.
Not everything shows up in the stats, either, so it’s a good idea to read reviews and articles (like this one), so you find out about other factors that might be of interest.
Les Deux Alpes, for example, is among the resorts listed as good for beginners – but it doesn’t top the list for the most green or even blue runs.
It is known as an ‘upside down’ resort. This isn’t an official term, but on first visit, one can easily see what people mean by it. Unlike most resorts, where the gentler slopes are lower down, and the steeper, more advanced slopes higher up, Les Deux Alpes is the opposite.
The gentle slopes are high up, often above the treeline, and then it dips down into steeper, more advanced runs into the valley.
What that means to the beginner is the rare treat of having a wide selection of runs with spectacular, high-mountain views. These panoramas are normally the sole domain of the expert.
If you simply look at the numbers, you’ll miss this kind of thing.
Activities for Down Time
It’s your holiday. You came to a ski resort. You came there to ski. You don’t want to spend any of your valuable time doing other things!
But you should.
Serre Chevalier has the Concept Loisirs amusement park, Solden has a leisure centre with tons of activities for children and adults alike, including all of the usual leisure centre offerings, plus bowling and more.
If you’re more of a hiking or sightseeing kind of person, Wengen, Obergurgl and Chamonix are excellent.
Narrowing Down the List
As you go through thereviews for each resort, make a note of the ones that have key things you like.
Make sure they don’t also have deal-breakers, like super-high prices or a lack of the kind of accommodation you’re looking for.
Once your list is generated, start comparing them, one against another. Keep the one you like best of the two and compare it to the next one.
Top Ten Ski Resorts for Beginners
Alpe d’Huez (France)
Saas Fee (Switzerland)
Val Thorens (France)
Les Deux Alpes (France)