10 Notable Ski Resorts for Beginners

Learn how to ski at these beginner-friendly resorts from Sapphire Valley in North Carolina to the Sullivan County Catskills in New York.

Tom Cohen @tomcophoto for Big Sky Resort
Tom Cohen @tomcophoto for Big Sky Resort

Skiing can be intimidating. Especially when everyone in your gaggle throws around terms like "double black diamonds" and "slaloming." Freestyle skiing with its jumps and tricks? No thanks. Is hand-holding skiing an option? In all seriousness though, a growing number of resorts cater to adults with little-to-no experience on piste (that’s ski speak for marked trails). Ahead, a collection of resorts that have a wealth of offerings for newcomers to skiing and snowboarding: Here you'll find plenty of green (easy) runs, teachers that won’t laugh at you when you’re struggling to pizza (break) or french fry (hold ‘em parallel as you glide downhill) your skis, and top-notch terrain that’s well groomed and free of bumps and obstacles.

Big Sky Resort in Big Sky, MT

Big Sky Resort also deserves another moniker: Big Mountains Resort. So sprawling is Big Sky, in fact, that the resort offers 2,300 acres of just beginner and intermediate terrain alone. What that means for you: Skiing for more than three days without ever skiing the same run twice. Plus, you’ll have plenty of elbow room to carve and cruise with more than an acre per skier on average. If you need extra guidance, swing by the new “Terrain-based Learning” area, an innovative method to teach skiing through manicured snow features to control speed and body position. Lessons start at $295 for a full day and this winter guests can look forward to riding the recently unveiled Lone Peak Tram up to the summit of Lone Mountain, with views of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, and Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. When you’re ready to hang up your long johns for the day, the resort has four hotels and a smattering of vacation rentals to choose from for lodging, so you can pick what best suits your group.

Courtesy of Vail Resorts

Beaver Creek Resort in Beaver Creek, CO

We’ll be honest: Not all Colorado slopes are kind to newbies. But Beaver Creek is home to the most dedicated learning terrain in the Centennial state, making it a great destination for people just learning how to ski or snowboard. What’s particularly cool about Beaver Creek Resort is its recently created McCoy Park that’s brimming with beginner (and intermediate) terrain that mimics the setting of advanced trails high up on the peak. Search adult ski and snowboard lessons online to reserve an experience tailored to your needs, whether that’s a private full-day lesson for $1,251 or a half-day group lesson for first-time skiers for $207. Food-lovers in your group will also rejoice in Beaver Creek’s three Michelin Recommended restaurants in the new and esteemed MICHELIN Guide Colorado. Make a reservation at Mirabelle, Splendido at the Chateau, and WYLD, and after you’re done feasting, save the gang from accounting stress by reimbursing whoever paid the bill directly from your mobile device with Zelle®. Our hotel recs: The Pines Lodge, A RockResort, The Osprey, A RockResort , and Trappers Cabin.

Elm Creative

Marquette Mountain in Marquette County, MI

Founded in the 1950s, beginners will relish gentle green trails here like Weasel Gulch and Ridge. If even the greens feel a little daunting, you can book a private, semi-private, or group lesson without endless swarms of skiers and boarders breathing down your balaclava. Along with fewer crowds, we also love that snow bunnies can feast on views of Lake Superior as they cruise down the trails. Private and semi-private lessons are quite affordable here, starting at $50 for a one-hour semi-private and going up to $140 for a two-hour private. Prefer to catch your thrills without the drop? There’s plenty of cross-country skiing here, too. Note: The resort doesn’t offer lodging, so book a vacation rental or check into a luxury or rustic cabin at the base of the mountain with Rippling River Resort, where you’ll definitely want to soak your sore calves in the year-round outdoor hot tub.

Courtesy of Vail Resorts

Park City Mountain in Park City, UT

Celebrating its 60th year this season, you’ll conquer green runs, learn techniques for navigating trees, and nail that whole “pizza/french fry” thing at Park City Mountain with adult lessons starting at $209. As the largest ski resort in the country, special events this season include a 60th Anniversary party in mid-January with a concert and drone show and QUEERSKI in February with a Pride Parade and après-ski meetups. Located in Canyons Village, post up at Waldorf Astoria Park City, the only luxury property with slope-side access to the mountain and be sure to book your lessons with talented instructors ASAP. Whatever downhill terrain you cruise, don’t skip town without checking out the new cabins at Red Pine Gondola, which take you from the Canyons Village base area to mid-mountain near Red Pine Lodge. It’s quite the ride thanks to floor-to ceiling windows. Worth mentioning: Park City Mountain has adaptive lessons to help people with physical, cognitive, and visual disabilities get on the trails.

Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association

Holiday Mountain in Monticello, NY

The Borscht Belt’s peaks will have you slaloming in no time to easy-peasy runs, with tougher trails aplenty for more experienced skiers in your group. Still, Holiday Mountain once billed itself as “where great skiers begin,” a tagline that remains true years after its founding in 1957. Currently, Holiday Mountain has a newly upgraded learning center outfitted with a magic carpet lift for beginners. When you’re ready to hop on the lift, Holiday Mountain has two cruisy Green trails, Benson’s Glade and Kroeger Pass, named after a couple of the mountain’s founders. Lift tickets start at $55 and a beginner package is a steal here at $185 for a lift ticket, equipment rental, and a one-and-a-half hour group lesson (weekends only). And when we say “double fun,” we really mean it: Come nightfall, you can still ski here thanks to all trails having lighting for night skiing. To keep the good times rolling into the wee hours stay at Resorts World Catskills, where you can test Lady Luck at the casino and hotel, just an eight-minute drive away from the mountain. The hotel features numerous restaurants to suit every taste.

Tourism Santa Fe

Ski Santa Fe in Santa Fe, NM

Fluffy slopes await in the Land of Enchantment, where the ski school and terrain park are ideal havens for learning the ABCs of skiing and snowboarding on corduroy trails. The ski area at Ski Santa Fe has seven ski lifts with 86 trails of varying difficulty, so while beginners learn how to ski, more experienced folks can challenge themselves. Strap on your bindings and orient yourself to the world of skiing and snowboarding with the half-day “never-ever package” which costs $210 and includes a beginner lift ticket, equipment rentals, and a three-hour group lesson. You can grab grub or an après-ski tipple at on-site dining establishments La Casa Café, Totemoff’s Bar & Grill, or Terrace Grill, though we recommend heading the 16 miles back to downtown Santa Fe, where dining options abound. Or stay at Ten Thousand Waves, a lovely mountain hot springs spa with lodging accommodations about half an hour from the slopes where booking a hot tub room is mandatory for your aching quads.

Mountain Creek

Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ

We had no idea that some 167 acres of skiable trails on four peaks were less than 50 miles away from the George Washington Bridge. It may have the region's highest vertical summit of 1,040 feet, but it’s a beginner’s paradise thanks to “terrain-based learning” lessons to help newbies master foundational skills. Book a private lesson ($400 for two hours) if you feel you really need 1:1 help or swoop down the hills during night skiing when you feel you’re ready to experience the mountains in a whole new way. Adaptive skiing is also on offer here for people of various ability and mobility levels with The Adaptive Sports Program, a non-profit organization in partnership with Helen Hayes Hospital. You can bed down at Mountain Creek, or catch ZZZs at Crystal Springs Resort, just a few minutes away and complete with a glorious spa, indoor pool, and pickleball courts. P.S. Did you know you can also ski indoors in the Garden State? At Big SNOW American Dream in East Rutherford, shred the faux snow at North America’s only year-round indoor ski and snow resort. Tucked into the Meadowlands Sports Complex, the 180,000 square-foot ski area has semi-private lessons for $300 for two hours, a great way to get comfortable on your skis.

Travel South Dakota

Skip the aptly named Holy Terror and Inferno runs here in favor of the Little Phil, Gold Run, and Millsite green trails if you’re new to skiing or riding. With five lifts to reach almost 30 trails, you won’t have to worry about being cramped in this northern Black Hills destination near the gold rush town of Deadwood. At Terry Peak, you’ll want to enroll in the ski school’s private or group lessons if you’re entirely new to skiing with private lessons starting at $99 for an hour. There are also the two-hour Green Package for beginners only ($119) and "Ladies Day," on Thursday, with two hours of female-led coaching with groups arranged by ability (from $249). When you’re done carving snow, head to the Nevada Gulch or Stewart day lodges, where you can drink and dine to your heart’s content. There are no overnight accommodations here, so go the rental route. Or, stay at Spearfish Canyon Lodge, about 20 minutes away, where you can warm up by a fireplace in its lobby or Berry Patch Cabin, if you’re in the market for two-bedroom digs.

Jeremiah Watt/Utah Office of Tourism

Nordic Valley in Eden, UT

The name may sound intimidating, but Nordic Valley is a beginner’s dream. Located an hour north of Salt Lake City, near the town of Ogden, Nordic Valley Ski Resort is a budget-friendly gem (lift tickets start at $21 and two-hour adult lessons start at $89). It’s also superb for beginner skiers and riders thanks to its excellent ski school and fewer crowds. This ski season, Nordic Valley is cutting two new trails on the Nordic Express terrain and opening a warming yurt so you can get cozy between runs. Note: Nordic Valley has no lodging on-site but you can stay in a vacation rental in Eden or Ogden, or nearby hotels like Wolf Creek Resort or the Alaskan Inn.

Jackson County Tourism Development Authority

Sapphire Valley Ski Resort in Jackson County, NC

The Blue Ridge Mountains’ Sapphire Valley proves an ideal place for novices to catch thrills, first on the learning slope, which has a "moving carpet" lift before advancing to the lifts. Private lessons for skiing and snowboarding are a bargain here (from $40 per person), but we’d point you towards the Ski School, where knowledgeable instructors get you on piste ($25 per person for skiing and $30 for snowboarding) in groups of up to seven people. FYI: Guests must have a lift ticket and equipment before proceeding to Ski School, which together cost $95 for adults. For your accommodations, Sapphire Valley will help you and your posse find a private vacation rental at this link, or the Fairway Forest Resort in Sapphire is right by the slopes and has indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs.

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