Planning your first skiing trip can be daunting, as there are often far more things to consider than a typical summer holiday to the beach. But, with a little preparation and some good advice, you will discover that it’s simpler than you might think.
Package vs. DIY
The first question to consider is whether you want to build your own skiing holiday or choose from the myriad of package operators who have been running holidays to the mountains for many years. For a beginner, package holidays are almost always the best way forward – flights, transfers, accommodation, lessons (if needed), kit hire and lift passes may all be included in the deal and arranged by the operator, creating one easy process for booking your holiday. There is also much greater protection if your holiday is cancelled when purchasing a holiday package, for example if your tour operator becomes insolvent.
The Ski Club offers discounts with a range of package tour operators, available via the discounts page of the website. The Ski Club travel service, powered by Ski Solutions, is our direct link to many resorts around the world, and includes a discount for Ski Club members.
However, package tours are not exhaustive. For those looking to save money, it may be a good idea to explore independent travel, as apartments or AirBnBs, especially for groups of friends, can be good value. If booked far enough in advance the cost of lift passes, flights and transfers can all be reduced, saving money on the cost of a package. It can also open up more destinations, so those looking for a ski trip away from popular destinations and packages can create their own adventures to places like Bulgaria or Japan.
Choosing a Resort
There are thousands of resorts across the Alps and around the world to choose from. Every single resort has its own unique qualities, making some suitable for beginners and others better for experienced powder hounds.
If you are looking for great value packages for beginners, Bulgaria and Andorra are often good places to try. Many of the “classic” resorts in traditional alpine countries, such as Meribel, Val d’Isere and Cervinia all offer plenty of greens and wide, gentle blues for beginners to test their legs.
French and Swiss resorts have the added benefit of being easier to get to – less than two hours on the plane to Geneva, followed by around a two-hour transfer time. For those looking to avoid flying, they are also relatively easy to get to via car, coach or train.
Our Resort Guides offer a selection of tools to help you choose the right resort, including highlighting those best for beginners.
When to Go
Tour operators typically offer the best deals early or late in the season, when snow conditions can be less predictable. Snow cover, however, isn’t the most important factor if you are a beginner, and some of the best beginner resorts, such as Tignes, Val d’Isere and Cervinia, are high enough to guarantee enough snow - even during the summer, when some resorts’ glaciers are open for skiing! Spring skiing can be perfect for your first adventure – milder temperatures, longer days and some fantastic festivals & end of season parties available.
As is to be expected, holidays and flights will be much busier around peak weeks such as school holidays, and much more expensive. If you are travelling without children, you have the flexibility to avoid these dates – there are also peak “childless” weeks in late January and early March when those similarly without children head to the mountains.
If, however, you are tied to the school calendar, it is well worth doing your research, as popular resorts can become very crowded. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go there – the big French resorts are designed to handle large volumes of skiers, both on lifts and in ski schools, and will be able to accommodate you in peak weeks. However, the best options may be away from the mainstream, such as in Bulgaria, or to aim for smaller resorts, such as Champuloc or Les Menuires – these smaller resorts will often have good links to a wider ski area, as well as a range of local and private British ski schools.
Preparing for the Mountains
Whilst snowsports are great fun, the mountains are inherently challenging and risky environments. It can be tempting to leave your jacket at home on a warm spring day, but the weather can change quickly in the mountains. Conditions can be different at the top to those down in the valley, and sometimes in ways you may not expect such as a temperature inversion – colder in the valley than up top. It is best to wear several layers, or have these to hand, to offer the best flexibility in all conditions, as well as provide much more warmth. See our clothing guide for advice on layering appropriately.
Drink plenty of water in the mountains, as the temperature and humidity can make you forget how much exercise you are doing!
Take sensible footwear and warm clothes for the evenings. A huge aspect of your ski holiday can be having fun off the snow, at raucous apres-ski, bars or nightclubs, but stilettos and icy paths are not a good idea and you may be stuck outside waiting for a taxi or walking home in bitterly cold conditions.
It is important to remember that skiing and snowboarding are difficult and trying disciplines to learn. You will learn much better and much more if your base fitness is good and you are not suffering from the effects of the night before! See our pages on fitness to help you get in tiptop shape before you travel.
Lift passes are you ticket onto the slops. If booking independently, book early to get the best deals. Ensure your pass covers all the areas you want to ski in, as venturing outside this area can be costly. Beginner tickets, or free-to-access beginner zones may be available but check with your ski school for the most appropriate pass to purchase.