When one imagines the European Alps, images of seasoned skiers carving expert lines through fresh powder come to mind. But you don't have to be a pro to enjoy winter sports in this part of the world. Nestled amidst these towering peaks and sprawling valleys are Europe's best ski resorts for beginners.
Europe, with its rich tapestry of cultures and landscapes, has some fantastic options in terms of beginner-friendly ski resorts. Gentle slopes, top-notch instruction, and relaxed atmospheres make for a thrilling yet welcoming introduction to skiing.
In this article, we delve into the enchanting alpine wonderlands that cater to the budding skier. These ski resorts also boast more challenging slopes allowing progression and keeping more advanced skiers entertained.
From the undulating terrains of France, to the picturesque villages of Switzerland, or the lesser-known but equally inviting slopes of Bulgaria, let's dive in to the top beginner ski resorts in Europe;
Best Ski Resorts For Beginners In Europe - 9 Top Locations
1. Tignes, France
Tignes is one of the premier ski destinations in France and is a part of the Espace Killy ski area, which it shares with the neighboring resort of Val d'Isère. It has a high-altitude setting, which makes it one of the most snow-sure resorts in the Alps. The resort spans altitudes from 1,550m in Les Brévières to 3,450m at the Grande Motte glacier.
Tignes is made up of several villages or bases, including Tignes Le Lac, Tignes Val Claret, Tignes Le Lavachet, Tignes 1800, and Tignes Les Brévières. Each has its own character and range of accommodations perfect for ski holidays such as those offered by Alpine Elements.
While Tignes is often noted for its challenging slopes and off-piste opportunities, it also caters to beginners. This makes it a great choice foir a group or family vacation where there are people of varying levels of experience.
Both Tignes Le Lac and Tignes Val Claret have dedicated beginner areas known as "Zones Débutants." These areas have gentle slopes and magic carpet lifts, which are ideal for those new to skiing. A nice option here is that you can buy a special beginner lift pass, which gives access to the beginner areas at a reduced cost.
After mastering the beginner zones, there are several longer blue runs to progress to. It’s worth mentioning that people usually find the blue runs in Tignes a little more challenging than blue runs in other resorts. It's a good idea to take a lesson or be guided when you first attempt these runs.
2. Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Nestled in the Saas Valley in the Swiss Alps, Saas-Fee is often referred to as the "Pearl of the Alps". The village is about 2.5 hours drive from Geneva and lies at an elevation of 1,800 meters, while its slopes reach up to 3,600 meters.
Saas-Fee has a number of blue runs (the European color-coding for beginner-friendly slopes) at the lower part of the mountain. These are perfect for new skiers to build confidence. There are also several ski schools offering courses and private lessons for beginners.
As one of the highest resorts in the Alps, Saas-Fee often has snow even when other lower resorts are struggling. A appealing feature of this ski resort is a glacier, which allows for summer skiing. Beyond the beginner runs, Saas-Fee provides intermediate and advanced slopes, so there's room for progression as you build your skills.
The village itself is car-free, which gives it a peaceful, relaxed ambiance. This is an ideal destination for families with young children who might be first-time skiers.
3. Les Getz, France
Les Gets, located in the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps, is a popular ski resort destination, especially for families and beginners. It is part of the Portes du Soleil ski area, one of the largest linked ski areas in the world. Here you will find a wide selection of green and blue pistes, perfect for beginners. These slopes are wide, gentle, and well-maintained.
The resort has multiple ski schools that offer lessons tailored for beginners. They have experienced instructors, most of whom who speak more than one language. The resort's layout makes it easy for beginners to move between and stick to the beginner areas without inadvertently ending up on a more dangerous slope.
Les Getz has earned the reputation of being a great pick for families. There's a focus on activities and facilities for children including kid-friendly ski zones. Beginners who want to take a break from skiing have a variety of options like snowshoeing, tobogganing, and ice-skating.
In addition,, the village of Les Gets itself is delightful. It retains a traditional Savoyard charm with its wooden chalets and vibrant atmosphere. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore.
Mrykdalen is a relatively young ski resort opened in 2003) located in Norway. Over the past few years, it has been gaining popularity among both locals and tourists. It is situated in the western part of Norway, roughly a 2-hour drive from Bergen which, according to the Norway Tourism Board, is one of the country's top 10 destinations. it is accessible for weekend trips or even day trips from the city.
Myrkdalen boasts a diverse range of runs, including a substantial number of beginner and intermediate slopes. The resort benefits from consistent snowfall, often resulting in excellent snow conditions throughout the winter season.
The main hotel, Myrkdalen Hotel, offers direct ski-in/ski-out access. The resort also has several restaurants, bars, and equipment rental shops. There are designated children's areas and activities, which makes it a popular choice for families with kids who are new to skiing.
Given its family-friendly focus, this resort often has a slower pace on the slopes. This is beneficial if you are starting out as you can learn without feeling pressured or overwhelmed by faster skiers. Compared to some of the larger Alpine resorts, Myrkdalen tends to be less crowded, especially during off-peak times.
5. Wengen, Switzerland
Wengen is a traditional Swiss mountain village located in the Bernese Oberland region and is known for its breathtaking views, charming atmosphere, and access to some of the best skiing in the Jungfrau region. This resort is part of a substantial ski area, which also includes Grindelwald and Mürren, it is known as the "Jungfrau Top Ski Region."
One of Wengen's standout features is the unparalleled view it offers of the iconic trio of Swiss mountains: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. The village is car-free. Visitors typically arrive via a scenic train ride from Lauterbrunnen below. This is an activity in itself and makes for the most beautiful introduction to the area.
The Jungfrau region as a whole leans more towards intermediate and advanced skiing. Still,Wengen offers several nursery slopes right in the village, making it easy for beginners to access. These forgiving slopes combined with the iconic mountains in the background make is a lovely spot for beginners to learn and experience alpine skiing.
6. Les Arcs, France
Les Arcs is a major ski resort in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, part of the expansive Paradiski ski area. Les Arcs boasts a long ski season and generally good snow conditions due to its high-altitude areas.
The double-decker Vanoise Express cable car connects Les Arcs with La Plagne, creating the vast Paradiski area. This massive area is one of the largest ski areas in the world with over 425 km of slopes.
Les Arcs itself is divided into multiple centres, primarily Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950, and Arc 2000. Each has its own character and vibe, but all are connected by pistes and lifts. Each of the main villages in Les Arcs has its own beginner areas, known as 'ski tranquille' zones. These areas offer gentle slopes and are separate from the more advanced runs, providing a safe environment for beginners.
Several ski schools offer group and private lessons for beginners. The wide blue runs, especially in the Arc 2000 area, are a great place to build confidence once you have mastered the basics. Numerous rental shops spread across the villages provide all variety of gear for hire. If you need a break from skiing can explore other activities like snowshoeing, sledging, and even ice-skating.
In the skiing community, Les Arcs is known for its advanced terrain. It has some challenging black runs and off-piste opportunities. While this doesn't directly impact beginners, it's good to be aware that the resort attracts a wide range of skill levels.
7. Val Thorens, France
Val Thorens is situated in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps. It's one of the three main resorts in the Trois Vallées ski area, alongside Courchevel and Méribel. At 2,300 meters, Val Thorens holds the title of the highest ski resort in Europe. Due to its impressive infrastructure and offerings, Val Thorens has won several awards, including being named the World's Best Ski Resort on multiple occasions.
Val Thorens has made notable efforts to cater to beginners. The resort boasts "Easy Parks" and "Fun Slopes," which are especially for newcomers These areas ensure beginners can practice in a fun yet safe environment. Like other major French resorts, Val Thorens is home to several ski schools and offer tailored lessons for beginners, ensuring a structured and safe introduction to skiing or snowboarding.
Due to its popularity, this resort can get very busy. Be prepared for crowds, especially during peak times on the beginner slopes. The high altitude can be a challenge for some. It's crucial to be aware of altitude sickness symptoms and to acclimatize slowly if you're not used to such heights.
8. Borovets, Bulgaria
Borovets is the oldest and one of the most popular ski resorts in Bulgaria. Nestled in the Rila Mountains, at the foot of Mount Musala (the Balkans' highest peak), Borovets offers a more affordable option compared to most other beginner-friendly ski resorts in Europe. In addition. The cultural experiences Bulgaria offers can add extra dimensions to a ski holiday.
Borovets Ski Resort is located about 70 km from the capital city, Sofia. It is easily accessible for international visitors flying into Sofia Airport. The resort altitude starts at 1,300 meters, going up to just over 2,500 meters at its highest ski points.
The ski area is divided into three main zones: the lower, central part of the resort (beginner slopes), the Yastrebets area, and the Markudjik area.
The quality of instruction at the ski schools is generally good, and lessons are typically much cheaper compared to Western European ski resorts. Gear rental is also more budget-friendly. For those who want to try something different, Borovets offers night skiing and even biathlon training.
Like many ski resorts, Borovets can become crowded during school holidays and peak winter weekends. The resort has steadily been expanding its infrastructure to deal with higher demand. As this resort is at a lower altitude, the snow conditions can be a bit more variable than higher-altitude Alpine resorts. It's always a good idea to check the snow report if you're planning to visit in the shoulder season.
9. Cortina, Italy
Cortina d'Ampezzo, commonly referred to as Cortina, is one of Italy's most iconic ski destinations. It's located in the heart of the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its breathtaking mountain landscapes.
Cortina is situated in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The resort town is renowned for its stylish atmosphere, luxury shopping, and fine dining scene, earning it the nickname "the Queen of the Dolomites." Given its luxurious reputation, can be pricier than some other ski destinations in terms of accommodation and dining
Cortina is part of the Dolomiti Superski area, one of the world's largest ski networks, it gained international fame in 1956 when it hosted the Winter Olympics. There are roughly 1,200 km of slopes in this area. Within Cortina itself, the ski terrain is divided mainly among the Tofane, Faloria-Cristallo-Mietres, and Socrepes areas.
Several areas in Cortina cater to beginners. For instance, Socrepes has gentle slopes perfect for newcomers. As there are multiple slopes catering for a variety of skill levels, It's always crucial to check the piste map and ensure you're on a slope that you can handle.
One of the perks of learning to ski in Cortina is the unparalleled beauty of the Dolomites surrounding you. Even if you're on the ‘easy’ slopes, you'll be treated to some of the most stunning mountain vistas in the world. You can also take time off from skiing to go shopping or relax with a day at the spa.