Austria’s Best Beginner Ski Resorts: Solden, Obergurgl, Kirchberg, Lech, Mayrhofen
France’s Best Beginner Ski Resorts: La Rosiere, Les 2 Alpes, La Plagne, Morzine, Meribel
Italy’s Best Beginner Ski Resorts: Livigno, Val Gardena, Bardonecchia, Corvara, Folgarida
Switzerland’s Best Beginner Ski Resorts :Crans Montana, Grindelwald, Davos, Villars, Nendaz
The Best Ski Resorts for Beginners in Europe – How to Start Skiing on the Right Foot
So you’ve decided to make the jump and take up skiing – that’s amazing! You’re about to open the door to a whole new world, and we’re sure you’ll fall in love with the mountains.
But with 600 resorts in the Alps, where’s the best place to go to learn to ski?
We’ve created this little guide to our top ten beginner resorts, all of which offer something fun and enjoyable for those ready to make their first turns on the slopes.
Statistically, you learn more about skiing in your first week than you will in the rest of your winter holidays added together—going from zero to hero is definitely a thing!
Of course, learning anything new can be tough. There’s so much to think about as a beginner, lots to take in and oh yes, all this whilst on holiday!
Almost as important as getting good quality professional ski lessons – picking a ski resort which is best for beginners can be the difference between loving or loathing your new winter sport.
Below, we’ll help you find the perfect beginner-friendly ski resort for you, but first, here’s a quick introduction to ski trails which will help you find your way around the mountain, and understand the guide below.
Pistes in Europe are categorised by how difficult they are using four colours:
Green – These are the easiest slopes. They have a very gentle gradient, meaning you shouldn’t pick up too much speed. You will see lots of lessons and kids on green runs, as they are ideal for your first time on skis or a snowboard. Some green runs are easy routes that link up different areas of the mountain. So they may be narrow roads that get quite busy at peak times.
Blue – Blue runs are the ones you should head for once you have found your snow legs. They do vary in difficulty around all ski resorts, but are generally a bit steeper than a green and a lot more fun.
Red – Reds are much steeper than blues and more difficult. They are usually quite long, so if you do find yourself on a red and out of your depth, it won’t be a pleasant experience to get to the bottom. So I suggest you avoid them until you are comfortable on a blue.
Black – If you are reading this because all this information is new to you, you should not be anywhere near a black run! Black runs are very steep and usually have large bumps called moguls and/or ice, making life quite difficult.
Do keep in mind that not all ski areas use green runs in their grading system – it’s very common for Austrian resorts to have three grades: Blue for easy, Red for intermediate, Black for expert. Some Swiss and Italian resorts use the same model as well.
Other tips you might find helpful include: How to Dress for Skiing, Thing to Know Before Your First Ski Trip, and How to Choose the Best Ski Lessons!
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The Best Beginner Ski Resorts in France
La Rosiere is a bit of a diamond in the rough, woefully overlooked by many. It’s a beautiful, purpose-built Savoyard ski resort with 160km of varied runs.
Sitting all the way up at 1850m with a top lift reaching an altitude of 2800m it’s snow-sure, but it also benefits from a southern aspect, so expect lots of sunny days – perfect for learning!
New skiers will scarcely have to go out of the village to learn, and with a beginner’s area just a couple minutes walk from the town centre. There’s plenty for those starting off to do without going too far – venturing up the Roches Noires lift will give you access to everything you need.
The majority of the runs here on the lower ski slopes are gentle blues. So, with a large beginner;s area right in town and lots of blues on the slopes above, progression is easy and fast.
These easier runs are fairly well separated from the steeper terrain up higher so the speed-demons tend not to be in the same area as those who are finding their feet and the beginner slopes rarely, if ever, feel crowded.
All these aspects make La Rosiere an amazing place to learn to ski, and one of the best family ski resorts in all of the Alps with plenty of pretty chalet-style buildings and a quaint village atmosphere.
Les 2 Alpes
Les 2 Alpes is a town that sits in a valley below some of the best high-altitude skiing in France. But, what it also has is a massive learner area right at the foot of the slopes.
The beginner’s ski area basically stretches the entirety of the way along the resort, so no matter where you’re staying you’re never far from the nursery slopes.
This is great for progression, and the high situation of the town means that there’s almost always plenty of fresh snow at resort level. Ski schools meet all along here in the mornings and afternoons, and it really is the perfect place to learn.
Once you’ve mastered the snowplough you can then head up on either the Bell Etoile or Village 1800 chair-lifts which will drop you off at the top of Demoiselles – a brilliant, long green piste which will take you all the way back down to the valley floor.
Higher up, at the mid-station, the fun continues. From here you can access a large network of long green runs as well as some tasty blues, like Bellecombe 1, which make Les 2 Alpes one of the best places to learn to ski in France – especially for those who enjoy a drink after a good day on the mountain.
With some great nightclubs and plenty of slope-side bars, including the famous slopeside Umbrella Bar, Les 2 Alpes is the perfect choice for those looking to balance great skiing with great nightlife, and is also a great choice for groups of skiers with mixed ability levels.
With a wealth of low-gradient, wide, cruisey pistes, La Plagne is an excellent choice for beginners who still want to cover some territory and explore the mountain and it’s been featured on many “Best Resorts for Beginners” lists.
La Plagne also offers a low-cost ‘Cool Ski Pass’ option for those learning to ski for the first time, so you don’t end up spending tons of money on a lift pass that accesses more terrain than you can manage.
La Plagne also makes our list because of its ski schools, notably one of the biggest and best ESF franchises in France who are renowned for their quality and their great children’s ski kindergarten.
The vast number of runs at La Plagne makes it a dream for beginners looking to progress – there are a lot of easy blues in the bowls above the resorts.
There’s also an abundance of technical steeps and faster runs up high which attract the experts, meaning most of the blues here are left to the learners.
This is a key element in a good beginners’ ski resort, and La Plagne has it in spades, making it one of our top picks.
Morzine may have a reputation as a bit of a party town, and the bars can certainly get busy, but up on the slopes, finding a quiet corner for yourself is much easier!
There’s a beginner’s area at the top of the Pléney gondola which takes you up to the ski area from the centre of Morzine itself. These nursery slopes even have a magic carpet/travelator so you don’t have to worry about getting on and off ski-lifts until you’ve found your feet.
Once you progress past the bunny hills, you’ll find that the Morzine-Les Gets ski area is not only huge, but is also full of wide, gentle pistes which are ideal for people learning to ski – not to mention the fantastic ski and snowboard schools in the area.
One excellent area is the Super Morzine area on the slopes just beneath the first chairlift, which takes you to the easy Zore & Tetras runs which are generally nice and quiet.
Meribel has two designated beginner ski areas with free lifts which allow you to learn and progress in a comfortable beginner environment. You can find one of these areas in the Altiport area of Meribel (the Ski Cool Zone) and the other in the centre of Meribel Mottaret (the Zen Zone).
The Zen Zone in Mottaret has free magic carpet and drag lifts, and the Combes chairlift serves a great easy green run known as Little Himalaya.
In Meribel there’s a free magic carpet lift at the Rond-Point and the quiet and safe slopes of the P’tit Moon fun zone are great for children and adults alike to practice.
Up at the Altiport you can use the Altiport and Fontanyl lifts free of charge.
Once you have mastered the nursery slopes and want to explore a bit more of the mountain, there some fantastic tree-lined green runs to enjoy.
Above Meribel, the green Blanchot starts all the way up at the Saulire Express gondola mid-station lift and leads back through the Altiport area, so you can play around there or continue along the Foret run back into Meribel.
Combine the above with brilliant lift systems, a large number of green and blue runs, fantastic British and international ski schools and instructors – and, of course, the beauty and charm of Meribel itself – and it’s clear why Meribel is a fantastic place to enjoy the snow for the first time.
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The Best Beginner Ski Resorts in Austria
The list of brilliant beginner pistes in Solden is a long one – almost as long as the legendary blue #38: add it to your agenda for an end of week 9km cruise from the sky high 3370m peak of the Schwarze Schneid. (Keep in mind that in Austria there are no green pistes, so blues are the easiest runs.)
There are plenty of shorter runs to warm up on before the big descent – we could spend all day doing the rounds on the web of scenic blues at Giggijoch.
If the #38 leaves you craving more, there’s a slightly longer all-blue route from Schwarze Schneid, linking #33 and #30 and conveniently stopping at the Hühnersteign for a well-deserved hot chocolate or a potent ‘Cabin Coffee’.
If you’re after ski lessons in Solden you’ll be in good hands with a wealth of amazing ski schools ready to help you set the foundations for a lifetime of fun, including Snowlines Ski and Snowboard School and Vacancia Ski und Snowboardschule.
Without a doubt, one of the best beginner resorts in Austria is the family-friendly Obergurgl.
While neighbouring Hochurgl arguably has more beginner-friendly terrain, the quiet atmosphere of Obergurgl is just what new skiers need to stay relaxed and loose when venturing out for the first time and, Hochgurgl is just a short (free) bus ride away.
The quietness of the resort also helps to keep the slopes fairly uncrowded, which is always a bonus.
A good selection of long blues as well as a large beginner ski area are what set Obergurgl apart from some other resorts in terms of beginner-suitability.
Despite the altitude and vertical, a lot of the inclines here are relatively gentle and steady, making progression a dream as almost the entire Obergurgl-Hochgurgl ski area can be explored on easy slopes.
The quaint and beautiful village of Kirchberg is nestled just down the valley from the world-famous Kitzbuhel but is by no means playing second fiddle.
This scenic little resort has lift links offering access to the entire Kitzbuhel ski area, and enjoys all of its infrastructure — that being one of the best ski lift systems in the world.
When it comes to skiing, you’ll be heading up on the older Fleckalmbahn lift or the faster and more modern Maierlbahn lift and learning on the up at altitude instead of at resort level – giving you beautiful views of the valley below to spoil you all day long.
From the large and gentle beginner ski area, you’ll be treated to a network of manageable, long blues, making Kirchberg a brilliant place to make your first turns and beginners will quickly gain confidence on the rolling slopes of the 26, 16, 27, 28 and 29 runs
Lech is a beautiful, small, village that takes up a corner of the large Arlberg ski area. It’s the type of place that makes you slow down and truly appreciate your mountain surroundings.
The locals, whose families have been there for generations, have sustainability and the environment at the front of their minds so the resort hasn’t been overdeveloped, and you’ll never feel overcrowded while staying – or skiing – in Lech.
Set in the next valley to St Anton, the village of Lech is quiet and family-focused and with such great skiing for all levels available in the Arlberg on offer, everyone will love it.
Lech offers up a lovely, large nursery area, as well as access to a large, snowy bowl populated almost exclusively by long, rolling blues. Beginners will particularly enjoy almost all of the runs accessed by the Weibermahd, Schelgelkopf and Petersboden lifts.
For a true introduction to the mountains, and to skiing, Lech is no doubt one of the best choices you can make if you’re looking for a great beginner resort – after all the Arlberg is the birthplace of ski lessons with the modern methods of skiing and ski schools developed here by Austrian pioneer Hannes Schneider in the early 1920s.
With the resort witting down at 630m above sea level, even the beginners on Mayrhofen will be learning up on the mountain, which is a fantastic way to get the full mountain experience, even as a beginner.
To get up to the lovely beginner’s area on the Ahorn Mountain, you’ll take the Ahornbahn cable car, which is also how you’ll get back down to the village at the end of a great day’s skiing.
You’ll soon be able to graduate to skiing on the lovely big blue pistes of both the Ahorn and the neighbouring Penken area.
Most of the blue trails on the Penken are lovely and sun-soaked, the #20 – which faces East for a nice, sunny morning run – is a beautifully long, looping trail that will take you to the bottom of the Horbergbahn gondola.
Still, the Ahorn section is the most beginner friendly of the two areas and in addition to the ski schools’ children’s kindergartens, you’ll find a host of gently winding blues which are perfect for building up your confidence without pushing you out of your comfort zone. Try the 1a, which will give you both spectacular views and plenty of space to practice your turns.
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The Best Beginner Ski Resorts in Italy
Nestled in the valley between the Mottolino and Carosello ski areas, Livigno’s location is the reason for its tax-free status; a couple of centuries ago the tax collectors couldn’t be bothered getting across the snowy mountain passes, so they declared Livigno tax-exempt!
You don’t have far to go from the shops to the nursery slopes in Livigno, with the main beginner’s area located just outside the village.
You won’t have to set foot on a lift for your first turns, but there are some very beginner-friendly lifts available at lift 18 (Doss) and lift 17 (San Rocco).
Lift 18 has a magic carpet / travelator-style lift as well as a small drag lift, whilst Lift 17 has a chairlift and a drag lift.
Once you progress past the bunny slopes, you’ll find an almost-endless amount of gorgeous blue slopes to help take you to the next level (keep in mind that Livigno doesn’t use green runs in its grading system, so blues are the easiest).
One gem of a run to enjoy once you’ve got your ski legs is a meandering 7km long descent from The Mottolino area.
Val Gardena is actually three villages set along the Gardena Valley, the most famous of which is Selva Gardena. You can stay in any of the three, and all are equally charming, but Selva is best placed for access to the ski area.
It’s part of the Dolomiti Superski, a world-famous network of 12 skiing areas and 1,200kms of slopes that can be accessed with a single pass. As a beginner this probably won’t help you much, but it does make it a great choice for groups of mixed-ability.
So it’s no wonder that Val Gardena was named Italy’s Best Ski Resort in 2017 by the World Ski Awards.
Beginners will find lots of easy slopes around the towns, with Selva having one of the largest drag-accessed nursery areas of any resort. This makes it perfect for learners, and the landscape — which gets steeper with altitude — is perfect for progressing into the mountains.
Ortisei, the main town of Val Gardena, set beneath the distinct Alpe di Siusi area. The plateau on the Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) is a very good area for beginners. The easy slopes around Compaccio (Compatsch) are ideal. The cable car lift from Siusi allo Sciliar (Seis am Schlern) comes here. In addition to easy slopes, there are also two ski schools with practice areas. There is another practice area at the Ludy tow lift.
Bardonecchia is one of the most snow-sure resorts in Italy, but also offers up great on-the-slopes value, a friendly, welcoming town, and plenty of reasonably priced accommodation options. Its great rail link also makes it an attractive option for environmentally-conscious skiers.
On top of the above that, Bardonecchia also features a great learner’s area, plenty of gentle blues for progression, a play area for children under-five right next to the baby ski lift in Campo Smith and a choice of ski schools who run classes for very young children.
Bardonecchia is also one of the most affordable resorts in the Alps, and as such is perfect for larger groups of families. You won’t be able to appreciate everything mega-resorts and huge ski areas have to offer on your first ski trip, so heading somewhere more reasonably priced is the best way to get bang for your buck. And when it comes to that, few ski resorts top Bardonecchia.
Part of the Alta Badia plateau (a well-known softie of a ski area) over 50% of Corvara’s groomers are blues, with an enormous 70km of them to ease you into the sport.
You’ll find the gentle Sodlisia just above the village, a favourite for mastering the art on before moving onto the sea of interconnected blues to the left of it.
The juiciest perk of having so much friendly terrain is the variety – whether you discover a penchant for open expanses (like those from Pralongia) or tranquil tree-lined descents (as you ski towards San Cassiano and La Villa).
For lessons, Corvara Ski School makes use of a safe zone close by the Costes da L’Ega camp and their Skikinderland takes expert care of tots over three so they can concentrate on having fun whilst they find their feet on the snow.
A quiet resort – but one that’s seen a lot of recent investment in its lift infrastructure – about half of all the pistes in Folgarida are suitable for beginners.
Flogardia is the perfect ski resort for a family’s first ski holiday – the Family Park area at the top of Malghet Aut is a fantastic place to get your bearings on the mountain, there’s even a snow-tubing area where you can give your legs a break while the kids entertain themselves.
As the beginner’s ski area is up at altitude you get both great views and great snow conditions. Lower down, Azzura is a brilliantly gentle 3km long run to bring you back down to resort level (top tip, the trees help shelter it on bad weather days so it’s the best place to be.
On top of all this, kids aged 8 and under ski for free in Folgardia, this amazing value – along with the two children’s ski kindergarten’s run by the local ski schools – make it one of our tops picks for most family-friendly ski resorts in the Alps. (Check out this list of ski resorts where kids ski for free.)
Once you start to progress you can also use the fantastic link connections to Madonna di Campiglio – top tip: make the most of the nice, wide blue pistes in the Groste area.
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The Best Beginner Ski Resorts in Switzerland
There are a lot of nice Swiss resorts for beginners to enjoy, but Crans Montana’s ‘Snow Island’ beginner’s area is a golf course in the summertime. The fact that golf courses aren’t usually known for their steep inclines should give you an idea of just how gentle the slopes here are.
New skiers will love using the magic carpet to get to grips on the snow without having to master a chairlift, and it’s located just a couple of metres away from a snack bar with lovely deckchairs, as well as snow-tubing and sledding area when you’re ready for a break.
There’s a second beginner’s area accessible via the gondola from Montana; the ‘Discovery Area’ – home to another gentle snow garden with a magic carpet lift and a gentle blue piste that’s separated from the rest of the ski area so new skiers have it all to themselves.
Overall, the pistes in Crans Montana are generally quiet and well-groomed with a full 40% of trails graded as blue runs. There are lovely slopes to progress on in the Cry d’Err, La Toula and Petit Bonvin areas, and off the slopes you’ll be able to enjoy over 150 shops, 70 restaurants, a plethora of bars and clubs, a cinema and even a casino!
If you’re going to go on your first ski trip, you might as well go to one of the most stunning regions in the Alps – it’s difficult not to be awe-struck by the views of the legendary Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains that surround the resort.
There are several great areas to learn to ski in Grindelwald including the Bodmi area just above resort level which features a drag lift, some fun zones for the little ones and is even floodlit a few times a week, so you can get in some extra practice if you fancy it.
To soak up the best views, and truly experience what the mountains have to offer, the beginner’s area up on the Kleine Scheidegg is where you’ll want to be. Accessed from grindelwald via the Cog Railway, the Beginner’s Park Kleine Scheidegg features a covered magic carpet and a couple of drag lifts.
There are also a lot of long, beautiful, gentle blue slopes down from Kleine Scheidegg – over Alpiglen and Brandegg – and down to Grindelwald.
If you’re feeling nervous about trying these slopes straight from the beginner’s area, heading over to the Oberjoch area to enjoy the special ‘Slow Slope’ is an ideal way to bridge the gap between the two.
The Männlichen area easily accessible from Grindelwald and Wengen via cable car also had a couple of small lifts, a magic carpet, and the Kinderparadies Männlichen, a dedicated area for kids to learn how to ski.
All told, over 30% of Grindelwald’s pistes are graded as easy.
The Bolgen nursery slopes at the foot of the Jakobshorn is where you’ll make your first steps on snow, but Davos has made graduating on to bigger terrain easier than almost anywhere else in the Alps.
“Slow Mountain” is the first dedicated ‘slow and easy’ mountain in Europe. Also known as Schatzalp, this area is set aside from the rest of the ski area so beginners can go at their own pace without speed demons buzzing past them every few seconds.
The lovely blue runs on Slow Mountain are mainly just above the treeline – so you can soak up the sun while you learn – and they all link up to bring you back down to resort level through the trees on the gentle #7 piste.
Over on Rinerhorn, kids will enjoy Children’s Land, which has some nice easy slopes as well as a fun run through a ‘witch’s forest’!
Like Davos above, Villars also has some extra-easy groomers to help you transition from the bunny slopes to the more difficult slopes.
Start out by lapping the drag lift on the short bunny slope in the village before taking the mountain train up to the Bretaye area.
Once you’re up the mountain in Bretaye, you’ll arrive at the bottom of the drag lifts which many of the local ski schools use as a meeting point for their group ski lessons. These drag serve a bowl of cruisy blue runs which will really help you to find your feet on ever-so-slightly steeper and longer pistes.
Once you’ve mastered these you can then head further afield to explore the rest of the region, including a lovely blue run from Croix des Chaux and a sweepingly long run down through the Col de Soud to take you back to Villars at the end of the day.
Although accessing the same legendary terrain as Verbier, beginners are in for a real treat in Nendaz. The learner’s zone at the Tracouet Lake has recently been revamped with wide runs, brand new magic carpets and special lifts for the little ones.
The Tracouet zone is also nice and high up so the snow is almost always in perfect condition, and there’s an area for children to amuse themselves by snow-tubing after their ski lessons are done for the day.
The Siviez area is also home to some nice gentle terrain, including a mini-slalom served by a drag lift.
Once you’re ready to head out a bit further you can enjoy the gentle blue pistes of the Veysonnaz and Thyon areas which are all part of the same lift pass.
Hopefully, you’ve not got a good idea of where you’d like to head for your first ski holiday. Don’t forget that in order to lay the foundations for a lifetime of fun in the mountains you will definitely want to book yourself some ski lessons!