When you’re a beginner, the prospect of braving the ski terrain amidst all the seeming “experts” whizzing by you can be downright scary. Not only will the trails look intimidating, but the overall environment – the ski equipment, the ski lifts, and so many other factors can sometimes be off-putting.
The best way to learn to love the sport is to first choose a ski resort that caters to the needs of the beginner. That way, the novice will not be discouraged and will not give up he learns about the sport and as his skills improve.
For a first foray into the world of skiing, you need not go to the most expensive ski resorts or the one with the best trails, as you may not be able to ski along these trails at this point in time. What you should look for are ski resorts that have a lot of beginner (green) slopes and wide nursery runs. The ideal ski resort should also have an excellent ski instruction program, with the teachers speaking English fluently.
Choose a ski resort that offers a good beginning-to-ski package, with a lot of discounts and freebies thrown in. Usually, ski resorts would like to encourage first-time skiers to give it a go and eventually develop a love for the sport. Look for one that specifically caters to the needs of beginners, so that you do not feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, which will likely happen when you’re in the company of a lot of people who are “experts”.
Here is a list of ski resorts for beginners:
– Niederau, Austria: Beginner packages include lift passes, ski instruction and equipment rental.
– Passo Tonale, Italy: This resort offers wide, blue runs that would be an ideal for those who are just starting out and want to develop their self-confidence in the slopes.
– Les Arcs, France: Each of the main villages belonging to the resort has a lot of nursery slopes. It also boasts of an excellent ski school (Vallandry’s New Generation ski school) and a free beginner’s lift.
– Saas Fee, Switzerland: This place has a fine ski school, as well as an excellent nursery area which contains a number of blue and green runs.
– Bansko, Bulgaria: This is where you go to find superb skiing value for your money. It has a good set of beginner slopes with the backdrop of the fabulous mountain that made this a World Heritage Site.
– Arinsal in Andorra: This has plenty of easy and beginner slopes, along with lots of English-speaking ski instructors.
– Other places you should look into would be Tremblant (Canada), Cortina (Italy), Borovets (Bulgaria), Killington (United States), Cervinia (Italy), Yllas (Lapland), Soldeu (Andorra), Poiana Brasov (Romania), Lech (Austria), Tignes (France) and Wengen (Switzerland). The ski resorts found in this area offer excellent ski instruction as well as a wide range of green and blue runs.
When you’re caught between the beginner and the expert level, you find yourself wondering where you can get the best value skiing for intermediate players such as yourself. The criteria for intermediate players would vary vastly when compared to the requirements of the beginners and the experts. Here you are looking for challenge (but not too much) – this would entail searching for powder snow (often off piste) and more advanced well-groomed pistes.
For intermediate skiers, slopes with moderate difficulty are the norm. This would include the United States’ black diamond trails or Europe’s red runs. This is if you aim to progress from being an intermediate skier into a more advanced skiing level. This would allow for more challenge of higher speeds, obstacles (hollows and bumps) and steeper terrain. In addition, you should look for a resort where you have the option to get more practice at the beginner slopes, or, if you want, an opportunity to try the black slope for the first time. Also consider runs with pimple-sized moguls, plus a haven for excellent apres’ ski scene – where you can trade war stories with both the veterans and the beginners.
Look for the blue and the blue-black trails that would really get you into gear and move your skiing abilities up a notch. You will find a number of excellent ski resorts in the United States, Canada, Italy, France, Austria and Switzerland. You can go to Vail, Breckenridge or Steamboat in Colorado, Heavenly and Lake Tahoe in California or on to Canada’s Mont Tremblant and Jasper resorts.
Here are some areas where you can find excellent ski resorts for intermediate skiers:
– Aspen: This is probably where you can find some of the best slopes such as the Big Burn run and the Green Mile run. Aspen also boasts of four mountains, which provide many choices for those looking for more challenge.
– Meribel, France: If you are looking for vertical drops and an extensive skiing network, this would be an excellent choice. Ski the slopes in Combe Vallon, Mottaret, Courchevel, and the blue Pic Noir.
– Davos: With its five mountains, you can surely make a run towards improving your skiing skills here. Look for areas near the Klosters Valley, Weissfluhjoch’s long reds and the run above the Serneus hamlet.
– Whistler, Canada: The two mountains to be found here, Blackcomb and Whister, have a wide range of intermediate terrain. The snow is, more often than not, good, if not excellent. There is the vertical trail down Creekside, the blue Peak to Creek run and the slopes down Blackcomb.
Also included in the list of great intermediate ski resorts are Bad Gastein, Kitzbuhel and Obertauem in Austria, Italy’s the Dolomites, Val d’Isere in France, Wengen in Switzerland and of course, Canada’s Banff Ski resorts.
Here’s to you who are looking for the opportunity to shine as the best and brightest in the world of skiing. No more blue slopes for you. You are off to get your adrenaline rush. The passion would be for slopes that would challenge your skills and bring out all that you know – narrow chutes with four-foot drops, big air, steep pistes, bowls that are above treeline, near vertical runs, off-piste backcountry trails and a whole list of challenges. The thrill is there for the taking.
When you have mastered the blue slopes, it’s time for you to try the challenge of a beyond-double-black run and bring out the daredevil in you.
Here are some resorts that offer ski experiences that can never be called boring:
– Aspen, Colorado: Of course, Aspen tops the list once again. It has a number of mountains which offer acre upon acre of challenging terrain park runs and steeps. Aspen Mountain (aka Ajax) is highly popular for its double black runs, moguls and steeps. Speed through Highland Bowl (with a 48-degree slope) or Go-Go-Gully.
– Jackson Hole: This US ski resort is home to the Cody bowl and Corbett’s Couloir, which, if you are able to survive with skill and panache, will endow you with the right to brag about it to your skiing buddies. Quite a few of the trails are groomed – almost all of them, though, are steep.
– Chamonix, France: Three words – fantastic yet fatal. Its glaciers, crevasses and cliffs have been kknown to claim many lives, so you have to be careful here. Your ski guide will want to test how well you ski before he even brings you to its main runs.
– Whistler, Canada: This is heaven for serious skiers. You can head right off to the tricky trails right after you get off the ski lift. There are also secret entrances to bowls and couloirs, which makes the resort an ideal place if you want to have the slope to yourself. Whistler also boasts of the Diamond, Sapphire, West and Garnet Bowls. There is even a couloir with not one, but two, six-foot staircase drops. Definitely not for the amateur or faint of heart.
– Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado: Its trails are composed of over 50% expert trails. So there is a lot in store for expert skiers here! There are great opportunities for backcountry skiing and skiing in glades and bowls, as well as a terrain park for those wanting the extra challenge.
– Mammoth Mountain, California: Visit here for excellent backcountry trails and terrain parks. The advanced trails are to be found near the mountaintop.
– Verbier, Switzerland: Extreme skiing, here we come This is where you can find a lot of winter competitions, as well as extreme skiing opportunities. With names such as Rock Garden or Stairway to Heaven, you know that the trails here will expect much from you. The resort, as well as the surrounding ones, also offer ski instruction for expert skiers. These are considered some of the best in Europe.