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11 January 2013

So you've mastered the nursery slopes... now where?

Our guide to the best resorts for beginners and beyond

Whether you’re new to snowsports, or an old-hand responsible for initiating friends and family into the sport, choosing the right resort for your ability level can be tricky sometimes.

Sure - Revelstoke, Verbier, Chamonix and St Anton might be the resorts that you hear reverently talked about in skiing circles, resorts that play host to bottomless powder days, epic descents on thigh-burning itineraries and legendary après sessions. But does that mean that these resorts are good for skiers and snowboarders venturing beyond the nursery slope for the first time? Not necessarily.

Some ski areas, such Whistler-Blackcomb or Courchevel, can legitimately claim to have it all. That’s ideal if you’ve got a mixed ability group, but there are also plenty of resorts that are particularly well suited to beginner and intermediate skiers.

Whether you’re looking for a great ski school to improve your skills, or just seeking an abundance of confidence-building blue runs, here’s a few of our picks for resorts that are ideal for beginners and intermediates.

Söll accesses 279km of pistes.
La Plagne
La Plagne has plenty of accommodation right on the snow. Photo: Russell Townsend

Söll, Austria
The resort is a large traditional Austrian village and it rarely gets overcrowded. Söll connects with the expansive SkiWelt area, but of the nine villages spread across the area Söll is known and the après-ski “capital”, making it a popular choice with Brits. SkiWelt boasts 279km of pistes, making this Tirolean resort the largest inter-connected area in Austria, with the vast majority of this terrain best suited to intermediate skiers.

Hochzillertal, Austria
In the next valley over from SkiWelt, the Kaltenbach-Hochzillertal area is much less well-known amongst British skiers. Hochzillertal links with the freeride-friendly Hochfügen to serve up 181km of pistes, but the draw here for beginners and intermediates is that there’s plenty of easy terrain at mid-mountain level (1500-1800m), making it a snow-sure choice.

La Plagne, France
There’s a Ski Club Leader in resort to help you find the best spots to test your legs once you’re ready to take on the mountain. And in La Plagne, which consists of ten villages and is linked with Les Arcs to form the Paradiski ski area, there’s plenty of mountain to take on! The upper villages in La Plagne have plenty of ski-in ski-out accommodation and blue runs right on the doorstep, so it’s as good a family resort as you’ll find anywhere.

Vaujany, France
Vaujany is a quiet village with lots of easy slopes. It is also linked to Alpe d’Huez, so when it’s time to stretch the legs and take on longer blue and red runs, they are just a cable car ride away. There’s also a fantastic swimming pool and leisure centre, as well as a new ice rink complex.

Wengen, Switzerland
Sitting in the Jungfrau region amongst the hulking mass of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch mountains, Wengen is a beginners’ paradise. Nursery slopes are located in the middle of the town and trains that link the villages make access to all areas easier for starters. There are plenty of blue runs perfect for cruising once over the first few turns. Wengen also hosts a Ski Club Leader in resort.

Pila, Italy
Pila, a great value ski destination, sits above the town of Aosta (perfect for shopping on an afternoon off). Pila has a good lift system, wide pistes for practicing and offers excellent value for money for a first visit to the snow. There’s some on slope accommodation, or stay down in Aosta for a more ‘Italian’ experience with coffee shops and restaurants galore.

Hemsedal is a beautiful and snow-sure Scandinavian destination. Photo: Hemsedal Tourist Office

Grandvalira, Andorra
The Grandvalira area, which Pas de la Casa and Soldeu are part of, has a mass of facilities for children. There are four nurseries, five snow gardens and a ‘Mickey’ Snow Club. It’s been a popular choice for first-time skiers for a long time now, and with a Ski Club Leader in Soldeu you’ll have someone on hand to show you the best pistes in the area.

Hemsedal, Norway
Like most Scandinavian resorts, the instructors here all speak good English, so there’s no language barriers when it comes to finding first-rate instruction. Despite being at a lower elevation than most resorts in the Alps, Hemsedal has an outstanding snow record and sublime scenery.

Borovets, Bulgaria
There’s a few of reasons that no-frills Bulgarian resorts are popular with British skiers, but the major draw is the price-tag. Budget package holidays make this an attractive destination that’s easy on the wallet. Borovets has a decent snow-record, lively nightlife and it’s just one hour from Sofia, the Bulgarian capital.

Big White
Big White is one of the top family resorts in Canada. Photo: Ben Letham

Big White, Canada
If you’re heading “across the pond” and looking for a quiet resort with ski-in ski-out convenience, look no further than Big White in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The quality of snow is second-to-none, so it’s also a perfect resort in which to cut your teeth if you’re ready to venture off-piste. The resort is laid back and unpretentious and is perfect for families with an excellent crèche and ski school.

Have you discovered any resorts that are perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders? We'd love to hear about in the comments section below!

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