Beginner ski locations: 9 of the best
The best hidden gem ski resorts that won't break the bank
There’s a first time for everything, and if it’s your first time strapping planks (or a board) to your feet and throwing yourself down a mountain, you’ll want to get it right.
We’ve found the best places to pop your skiing cherry – from big resorts on big mountains to hidden gems where you wouldn’t expect to find them. And if you’ve put off booking your first trip because you’d rather not sell an organ to finance it, here’s some good news: there’s plenty of value out there if you know where to look…
You get two holidays for the price of one in Innsbruck. Not only are the nearby resorts pretty, good value and great for learners, but this historic city has plenty going on in its own right. Better yet, there are loads of ski resorts to choose from, including Nordkette, which is virtually in the city itself, Kühtai, where they filmed Channel 4 series ‘The Jump’, and small but friendly Muttereralm. The latter’s great for beginners and families, and really good value, too.
Courchevel 1650, France
We know what you’re thinking: why are we featuring celeb-magnet super-resort Courchevel in a roundup of great-value ski resorts? Because there’s Courchevel and then there’s *Courchevel* – actually, there’s four of them. ‘Courchevel 1850‘ is the super-posh one you’re thinking of, but ‘Courchevel 1650‘ (Moriond), ‘Courchevel’ 1550 (Village) and ‘Courchevel 1300‘ (Le Praz) all offer access to the same, massive Trois Vallées ski area – and a taste of the high life – but with prices that won’t make you (and your credit card) cry. Chilled out Moriond, also known as 1650, is our pick for beginners.
If you’re looking for a charming, picture-postcard resort, Tignes probably isn’t for you – it’s a modern(ish), purpose-built resort and looks like it, too. If, on the other hand, you’re more interested in reliable snow, a vast ski area (which it shares with swanky neighbour Val d’Isere) and better value, you’ll find it here. It’s so big, there’s plenty to keep everyone from absolute beginners to expert freeskiers happy.
We’ll forgive you if you haven’t heard of Vogel before – and even if you weren’t aware you could ski in Slovenia in the first place – but if you’re looking for something different (and relatively cheap) from a ski holiday, it’s well worth consideration. For starters, its position overlooking Lake Bohinj is stunning, while the relatively small number of lifts and runs makes it easy to navigate if you’re a newbie or prefer to keep things simple.
Sainte Foy Tarentaise, France
Once known as a sleepy traditional town with beautiful surroundings, Sainte Foy has gained a reputation in recent years as a paradise for lovers of powder and backcountry skiing. If you’re thinking: ‘hold your horses – I can barely ski in the first place’, bear with us. Sainte Foy’s chilled-out pace, friendly atmosphere and good infrastructure mean it’s also a great place to learn the ropes, and better value than the high-profile resorts (including Val d’Isere and Les Arcs) down the road.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Given skiing’s downhill World Cup is a regular visitor to Cortina, you’d be forgiven for thinking beginners would be out of their depth on its slopes. In fact, it’s one of the best places in Europe to learn, thanks to quiet pistes, fantastic views of the Dolomites and a healthy dose of breezy, distinctively Italian charm to go with the mountain air.
The compact resort-village of Nendaz has long lived in the shadow of its glitzy neighbour, Verbier, and in many ways it still does. But if it’s value for money and approachable skiing you’re after, you won’t mind a bit. Nendaz is a traditional Valais village, with a good infrastructure in its own right and a justified reputation as a family friendly resort – plus easy connection to the wider Four Valleys region if you’re feeling adventurous. The spectacular views over the Rhone Valley should distract you from those big sticks (or that board) on your feet if you’re a first-timer…
Not only does this typical Norwegian mountain town have some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Scandinavia, but there’s plenty to do when you’re not tackling the slopes, which makes it the perfect resort for those who don’t want to ski from morning to evening everyday. You can try cross-country skiing, go dog-sledding, hire a snowmobile or just kick back and enjoy the scenery. Experienced skiers might find it a bit limited, but their loss is everyone else’s gain.
Veteran skiers can be a bit sniffy about the tiny principality of Andorra, but there’s been enough investment in recent years to mean the joke’s now on those who continue to overlook it. Plenty of that money’s gone on turning it into a beginner’s paradise, with a top ski school and gentle lower slopes. And if you get board of the pistes, hit the tax-free shopping in the nearby capital, Andorra La Vella and bring back some bargains to go with your new-found skills on the piste.