Some say skiing is incredibly meditative. They might suggest that it’s about finding that balance between your body, the mountain, your skis, and life in general. Others take a less esoteric view. For them, the thrill of whizzing down a powder mountain slope on two pieces of laminated plastic is, in itself, a rush worth traveling for.
What everyone shares, however, is the experience of learning to ski; strapping on the gear and learning the moves that very first time. If you’re planning to join the 10 million Americans who ski as a pastime, you could do worse than to start your journey at one of these resorts or schools.
Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the best place to learn to ski. But before you embark on your next travel getaway, here are a few quick tips on preparing a ski trip for beginners.
Advice on Preparing Ski Trips for Beginners
- Here’s what everyone forgets: Get in shape during the summer. Skiing is a physical activity and can be exhausting. You’ll also be at altitude, which makes harder work of seemingly ordinary exercise.
- Don’t be tempted to buy new gear. There’s the chance that you simply won’t take to skiing. And if that happens, you may find yourself way out of pocket. Chances are you know someone who has some gear they can loan you.
- If not, you can just rent it. Most resorts will have a rental option, and the experts there will help you choose the right equipment anyway. If you happen to like the experience, you can splash out on your own.
- That said, it’s a good idea to always plan for carrying around a backpack. This is for some drinking water and food or additional clothing. The weather changes quickly in the mountains, and you don’t want to get caught out there unprepared.
- It’s not a good idea to let your friend be your teacher. Skiing is fun but needs proper instruction. So if you can, sign up for some lessons from a qualified instructor. Even a group lesson will be a better option than your niece, even if she has been skiing since she was seven.
Great – that’s the basic pre-planning sorted. Let’s get there.
The Best Ski Resorts for Beginners in the US
Winter Park, Colorado
Winter Park is rated by many as one of the best ski resorts in Colorado for beginners. It offers several easy runs into the valley, with chair lifts, wide slopes and designated slow/beginner areas. It’s essentially what you’re looking for.
Vail Ski Resort, Colorado
Vail offers a bigger mountain that may look a bit much for a beginner. But learners can find several areas here to navigate. In fact, one of the trails is named Overeasy, which is encouraging. Easily some of the best skiing in Colorado for beginners.
Buttermilk Ski Area, Colorado
Buttermilk is widely regarded as another of the best colorado ski resorts for beginners and families. The green and blue runs are wide, and early risers will benefit from beautiful fresh slopes and a pick of instructors. Many will agree that Buttermilk is a great starting point for those new to Aspen, and a beginner skiing in Colorado would do well to start here.
Snow King Mountain Resort, Wyoming
It’s not primarily known as a ski resort for beginners (the starter options, while present, are limited here). But if you’re feeling confident, you could try the intermediate trails via the Big Cougar chairlift.
Beware that the more advanced trails are not for first-timers. It’s worth noting, though, that the day ticket to the resort is cheaper than other options in the area (Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee), so it may be a worthwhile trade-off for absolute first-timers.
Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho
The fun-sounding Musical Chairs lift is where you want to start to access the beginner areas of Schweitzer. The trails around the base are pretty much reserved for beginners, making up 10% of the entire terrain. One of Schweitzer’s appeals is that it’s uncrowded and relatively quiet – perfect for a quiet, sedate wipeout experience.
Sun Valley Resort, Idaho
Dollar Mountain and Bald Mountain are the ideal beginner and intermediate spots, respectively. The Sun Valley Ski School can be found on Dollar, while Olympic Lane on Baldy is a huge visitor favorite, making Sun Valley top of any list of best beginner ski resorts.
Big Sky Resort, Montana
Big Sky has a reputation as a big skier destination, So it’s not among top of mind for skiing resorts for beginners. But there’s more than a square mile of beginner turf to enjoy. There are many awesome beginner trails at Big Sky. Among them, the starter Lone Wolf and the classic Mr. K are worth checking out.
Powder Mountain, Utah
It’s always a plus when the actual drive up is as awesome as the destination itself. This is one of Powder Mountain’s plusses: There are several bases to stop, park, and take photos on your way up the mountain. The resort also limits itself to 2000 visitors per day, so it’s unlikely to be overcrowded.
Mammoth Mountain, California
For the thrill of skiing an active volcano, the aptly-named Mammoth Mountain is a top pick. It has a massive selection of 150 runs to choose from.
Beginners will want to seek out the “cute” sounding ones, though, like Sesame Street and Pumpkin. The caveat at Mammoth is that weather can be extreme here, so take the best care and advice from the staff and locals when it comes to that backpack.
Deer Valley, Utah
The Wide West trail at Deer Valley is a separate area designated and highly recommended for beginners. It is a relatively short trail that has no obstacles to be concerned about.
Alternatively, there is a ski area in Deer Crest that can be accessed by the Jordanelle Express gondola. For those up to a longer excursion, there’s the Success trail from the top of Bald Eagle Mountain, and also Sunset and Sunset West trails to explore.
Park City Mountain, Utah
Park City Mountain is another huge resort, offering around 11 square miles and almost 350 runs of ski action. There are two designated “green” level areas, inside which all the trails are flat, wide and well-groomed. Start at the obviously-named First Time, and if you’re a natural you can try the really long Home Run. There are a number of diversions off Home Run too if you fancy a side-jaunt.
The Best Ski Schools for Beginners (and Kids)
It may be useful to know what some of the ski schools at ski resorts have on offer for beginners, especially for those with young children. Here are some options to consider.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Haymeadow Park is the largest dedicated learning area of all the ski resorts in Colorado for beginners. The staff will offer the fourth day of lessons free if your kids can’t ski the age-appropriate run after three days. That’s confidence.
Smugglers Notch, Vermont
Snow Sport University is designed for kids from as young as two! The school has been awarded numerous awards and accolades, and will also take adults who don’t mind having lots of fun.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Instructors will take groups with kids as young as two and a half, so that’s a major plus for young families. You can also benefit from, the “signature 5” option, which limits any group lesson to five people.
Park City Mountain, Utah
The reputation of this ski school is well-earned. The family ski lesson option will accommodate different ages and skill levels. There are also special programs on offer for more advanced skiers. Look into the Ski Academy, Ski College, and various youth and kids options, which start from three and a half years of age.
The best place to ski for beginners is ultimately the place that feels most comfortable. Hopefully, some of the options above have piqued your interest. You may find a zen experience or just a great new thrill. Either way, you’ll never know until you try.