People of all ages take up skiing for a myriad of different reasons; perhaps good friends are seasoned skiers and they want to be part of the fun, they fancy a fresh challenge or they just want to experience the thrill of the mountains for themselves. Whatever your motivation for taking to the snow and learning to ski, focusing your search on a few of the more beginner-friendly resorts and bearing in mind the few handy pointers below will start you off on the right foot to ‘Ski God’ status.
Morzine/Les Gets, France
Morzine and Les Gets are two neighbouring resorts in the Portes du Soleil ski area in France, and they’re just outstanding for learners. Morzine offers a toddler ski garden at the foot of the slopes and a handy caterpillar track on the Pleney plateau which make life easy for beginners of all ages learning the ropes. These facilities, coupled with the plethora of gentle runs on the Les Gets side, means that the area works really well for people starting out on skis. There’s a lively nightlife scene here too, especially in Morzine, so adult beginners keen to enjoy a few beers off the slopes have a good range of bars to choose from.
These two resorts both sit under 1.5 hours from Geneva airport making access wonderfully easy. You can book a packaged self-catered chalet holiday to either of these resorts which includes flights and airport transfers, or you can buy flights separately and go independently.
This is also a popular resort for those looking to drive to their destination, as Morzine and Les Gets are both within a nine or ten hour drive from the Calais ferry port.
Both Morzine and les Gets have a good range of ski schools offering different courses for different ages and levels. The Ecole de Ski Français remain a popular choice, and good international ski schools for comparison include BASSMorzine (British Alpine Ski School),The Snow Institute and Freedom2Ski.
To master the basics on the Morzine side, spend time on the nursery slope then try the run under the Belevedere chairlift at the top of the Pleney plateau. Once you’re happy there, you can progress to the long blue run snaking back to the base of the Pleney lift – piste D then piste B. On the Les Gets side, there’s a lovely green run at the top of the Chavannes Express chairlift to practise on. You’ll find another brilliant green run in the Les Gets bowl to the left of the Rosta chairlift. From there you can also try the blue pistes in the area.
Obergurgl may not win many awards for charm or prettiness but for learner skiers taking to the snow for the first time it’s brilliant. The village’s altitude is 1930 metres so the snow coverage is generally excellent all season long, and even on peak dates the queues for the chairlifts to get up the mountain aren’t too bad at all. Although the après-ski is good, it doesn’t run late so Obergurl is generally peaceful and quiet, making it a great resort choice for families with children.
If you’re looking for the easy option when getting to your resort there’s a decent range of UK tour operators running properties with flights and transfers included in Obergurgl, and the most common arrival point is Innsbruck airport. Alternative airports in the area are Zurich or Friedrichshafen, but Innsbruck is the most convenient due to its proximity to Obergurgl.
The Obergurgl Ski Schoolhas been a popular choice for beginner skiers for decades now as they have a wealth of experience and an impressive qualified staff of trained teachers. They can boast a workforce of 115 instructors and offer a diverse range of courses and classes to suit everyone.Adult and child classes run all week long, but complete beginners must start on the Sunday or Monday of arrival. If the children are already at an intermediate levelthen they can start classes on any day.
Some of the best beginner runs in Obergurgl include piste 15 under the Steinmannbahn chairlift which flows down into piste 6 under the HoheMutBahn 1 gondola, and piste 5 under the Festkoglbahn gondola. Once you’ve found your ski legs and are comfortable on the gentler blue runs, try your hand at the more challenging red runs to put your new skills to the test.
Saas Fee, Switzerland
Saas Fee is a pretty Swiss resort boasting a rapid lift system, excellent snow coverage, oodles of charm and outstanding beginner slopes. It’s a traditional mountain town with a completely car-free town centre and a wide range of non-ski activities to enjoy, so it’s great for families bringing children to the Alps. Saas Fee is by no means a large resort but the nightlife certainly packs a punch, so it also works well for thirsty adult beginners as well. It’s a strong all-rounder, sitting at a very respectable altitude of 1770 metres offering decent snow coverage from mid-November to the end of April.
Saas Fee has a decent number of packaged chalet and hotel options to choose from for those keen to make life nice and easy. Skiers on package holidays generally arrive into Geneva and hop on their transfer coach to Visp (about 2 hours away) before switching coaches at Visp for the last leg of the journey (about 1 hour). Independent travellers can either do the same thing on public transport or fly into Zurich, though it’s a little further away.
One very good ski school option is the Saas Fee Ski School, which runs children’s ski lessons from children aged three and upwards, adults’ ski lessons for all levels and snowboard classes too. Private lessons as well as group classes are available across all disciplines and for all ages and levels, a most comprehensive service indeed! It’s always worth checking ahead to confirm when lessons will be held.
Saas Fee caters very well to beginner skiers and there’s a truly wonderful nursery area sitting at the edge of the village offering a gentle undulation ideal for learners mastering their first turns. With regard to progression on to slightly steeper terrain, you can choose any of the cruisy blue pistes located in the Morenia and Felskinn mountain peaks. The blue pistes heading up towards the Hannig area are also well worth a look.
The Best of the rest
Although these resorts are all renowned for their facilities for skiing beginners, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Other notable resorts that cater well to learnersareSoldeu in Andorra, PassoTonale in Italy, Courchevel in France and La Rosiere, also in France. These resorts all offer outstanding nursery slopes with good scope for progression, and highly skilled and well reputed ski schools offering an excellent range of tuition to meet all requirements.
Parents with children
It can be a stressful time for any parent; leaving their child in the care of otherswhen being taught to ski. From crèche and nursery to primary school and beyond, it’s not something any parent takes to readily and ski school is no different. Aside from popping a mid-morning snack into your child’s pocket before packing them off to ski school, there’s a couple of things worth considering before you wave them off onto the slopes with their instructor.
For added peace of mind it’s a good idea to scope out the resort’s nursery slopes in advance and make sure you’re happy with it all. Chat to the instructors upon arrival if the chance arises and learn a little about the programmes they teach. You can be pretty sure they’ll be well used to concerned parents and should be perfectly patient in explaining their work if they’re able.
If you can’t resist the urge to ski over to the nursery slopes to try and spot your child busy in lessons, then whatever you do don’t let them see you! Nothing distracts young skiers more than the sight of Mum or Dad on the brow of the hill, and in many cases once a parent has been spotted by the young skier concentration is lost, the tears start flowing and that’s lesson over for the day!
It’s not the done thing at normal school, and ski school is no different in that respect. It’s better, if possible, to let them ski with their new peers in peace and tell you all about it at the end of the lesson. And if things are going well, why not suggest a family ski together at the end of the week so you can see their progress for yourself!
Teen and adult beginners
Slow and steady wins the race. You may think you’re the next Herman Maier or Franz Klammer but the chances are that if you’re taking to the slopes for the first time the reality is rather different! If you’re in morning lessons, keep an eye out for a run or two you’re most comfortable on (a green or gentle blue perhaps) that you can go back and practise on after lunch. There’s no substitute for taking your own good time to master each new technique before progressing on to more advanced techniques. You’ll have to find a balance between throwing yourself into your newfound sport, and basic self preservation!
There is a wide range of resorts suited to those looking to learn how to ski, so now all that’s left is choosing the perfect place to hit the slopes and you’ll be cutting through the snow like a pro in no time!
Rosie Percy is a freelance writer who writes to share her travel tips for those about to hop on a plane for their next holiday. Rosie currently lives in Brighton.