Learning to ski or a relative beginner? Here are some ski resorts that are great for new-starters and intermediates.
Learning to ski should always be fun. To build up confidence you need a resort that has easy, ego-building runs, great instruction, lots of mountain restaurants for that well-earned hot chocolate and a good choice of après ski spots.
Alpe d’Huez, France
Many of the top French resorts lack a village with character, but make up for it with an extensive ski area. This is true of Alpe d’Huez although you can stay in smaller, more attractive linked bases such as Oz-en-Oisans, or Villard-Reculas. The benefit for beginners is that this resort has one of the best beginner skiing areas, right above the village. Once you have mastered these slopes, there’s a great variety of long, simple runs such as one down to Oz and another to the gondola mid-station above Oz. Right on the slopes are a selection of good restaurants from cafeterias to small mountain huts. These can get crowded but if you venture further afield at Chatelard there’s the Foret de Maronne and the Bergerie is worth trying at Villard-Reculas. Another big plus is that Alpe d’Huez is mainly sunny so you won’t get too cold even if you’re falling over quite a bit! There are several chalets and chalet hotels but most accommodation is 3 and 4 star hotels. Pierre et Vacances also have several apartments. There are dozens of restaurants and good après ski bars too.
Chatel is one of the shortest drives from Calais and is a traditional, pretty village making it an ideal destination for skiing holidays for beginners. It’s also part of the Portes du Soleil linked ski area which means there’s a huge range of pistes to try. The local slopes have good beginner areas a gondola ride away at Super-Chatel and also at Pre-la-Joux. Once you have progressed to red runs, there are many on the Portes du Soleil circuit such as to Les Lindarets and Morgins. There’s also a beginner terrain park for freestylers and boarders, and a choice of five ski and snowboard schools. For accommodation, there’s a good selection of catered and self-catering chalets, apartments and 2 star hotels. For dining, try some of the set menus in hotels such as the Macchi – which offers good value. Other restaurants have local Savoyard specialties: for fish try the Ripaille just out of town. The Tunnel Bar and Avalanche are predominantly a Brit après ski spot whereas The Godille is more French. For lunch head to Plaine Dranse where there is a choice of chalet restaurants.
The Italian side of the Matterhorn (Monte Cervino), Cervinia has a laid back feel, and terrain that is mostly beginner and intermediate. It links to Zermatt (you can just pay a daily supplement) so you could pop over for lunch - but make sure you get back before the connecting lifts close. After Zermatt, Cervinia seems an absolute bargain. The slopes are high, so reliable for snow, and there are very few queues. Beginners should start at Plan Maison and progress to the miles of long cruisey runs that are very ego boosting with lovely views of the Matterhorn. There are about 50 hotels and the same number of restaurants. There are several 4 stars but most are 3 or 2 star. On the mountain, head to the Rifugio Teodulo, right on the border with stunning views and simple but excellent pasta. Many skiers cross over from Zermatt just to get a good espresso.
Crans Montana, Switzerland
This sunny resort is predominantly red runs, so ideal for intermediates wanting to notch up some ski miles. Crans Montana is also deliciously Swiss and cosy with traditional well-run hotels (although some could do with a bit of updating), good and varied food - there’s a Lebanese restaurant as well as classic Swiss and French spots. The resort is big, but there are places to stay at smaller satellite bases such as Aminona and Barzettes. There are 5 star hotels including the new Crans Hotel with chalet-style suites, but a choice of over 50 hotels and apartments means there’s lots of choice in pricing. Once you’re more confident try the 12 km run from Plaine Morte to Les Barzettes stopping for lunch at one of the 20 mountain restaurants. As Crans Montana’s skiing is mostly on south facing slopes the snow is at its best early in the season. From mid-March its best to have a long ski morning and end with lunch before the slopes get slushy.
Taking the whole family skiing? Read our guide to family ski holidays. Or, if you are a group, read our guide to ski holidays for mixed abilities.
P&O Ferries Ski Expert
The Guardian's wintersports correspondent from 1999-2005, Nicky is now the regular ski writer for The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian and ski magazines Daily Mail Ski and Snowboard, and Ski and Board, the magazine of the Ski Club of Great Britain. Her first memories of skiing holidays are sitting on the shoulders of her parents’ ski guide as he zoomed down the slopes - she was just five years old. Her favourite resorts are Chamonix, where she once fell into a crevasse, St Anton where she learned to dance in skiboots and Aspen for its awesome powder snow.