January is Learn to Ski Month, so there’s no better time to start thinking about where you’d like to experience your first ski vacation. We’ve compiled a list of North America’s best resorts for first timers thanks to their specialized learning programs, state-of-the-art facilities, accessibility and unique beginner experiences. After a lesson or two with one of the highly trained instructors at the top ski and snowboard schools listed below, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying years of wintertime bliss.
Buttermilk offers excellent green runs for Level 2 and 3 beginners, and the base area’s magic carpet and beginner lifts deliver skiers and snowboarders to a gentle, dedicated learning zone for first-timers. Kids and parents alike will be impressed with Buttermilk’s new Hideout Children’s Center. This innovative 7,500-square-foot facility features custom-designed play features like a playroom and lookout tower and will inspire a love of mountain adventure in children.
Few resorts can boast beginner trails that yield views of Colorado’s famed 14,000-plus-foot peaks, so one of the highlights of learning to ski at Buttermilk is the chance to see Pyramid Peak from the Cliffhouse Lodge. Beginners at Buttermilk can even ski or snowboard next to the world-famous 22-foot-high, 500-foot-long X Games Superpipe and the monstrous jumps that make up the Slopestyle Course.
Where to stay: For ski in ski out access to Buttermilk’s beginner-friendly slopes and convenience to the Hideout, an award-winning children’s ski school facility, stay at the Inn at Aspen.
2) Aspen Snowmass
Kids love learning at Snowmass thanks to the gentle beginner areas, like Fanny Hill and Elk Camp, ski school characters and state-of-the-art facilities. The Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center is a 25,000-square-foot, forest-themed facility that provides a basecamp for hot chocolate breaks, lunch, playtime, arts and crafts and childcare. The little ones tend to learn quickly, and before long they will be able to make turns and stop. Then it’s time to head up the lifts and explore Snowmass’ uber-fun beginner tree trails.
Aspen Snowmass’ Beginner’s Magic makes learning to ski a comfortable and enjoyable experience for adults, too. Knowledgeable rental staff members fit you with proper, comfortable equipment, and there’s an after-skiing shoe service so you don’t have to walk around in your ski boots when you’re done with your lesson. Atop the Elk Camp Gondola at Elk Camp Meadows, professional instructors will teach you the fundamental techniques, how to operate your equipment and mountain awareness—all while you enjoy spectacular alpine views.
Schlepping ski gear and walking in ski boots can be one of the most challenging—and frustrating—aspects when learning to ski. Beginners love Snowmass because 95 percent of the resort’s lodging is located slopeside—it’s easy to get on and off the slopes.
Where to stay: For a convenient ski in ski out location, tons of services and amenities and easy access to ski-school meeting areas, book your stay at Crestwood Condominiums.
3) Heavenly, California
Located on the shores of Lake Tahoe, this relatively low elevation resort is a great place to learn how to ski. The gentle slopes, easy access, and world-class ski school allow for beginners young and old to master America’s favorite winter pastime.
Accessed from the top of the Heavenly Gondola, the green run, Easy Street is a great place for any beginner to get started. From there look to the Olympic Downhill (a blue run) as the next logical step. From the California Base area, beginners will be pleased to find 3 lifts (Patsy, Groove, and Powderbowl Express) that access beginner terrain. Maggie’s is a must for its gentle but lengthy slope.
Where to stay: Stay close to the base area and rid yourself of a daily commute with the kids by booking a room at the Forest Suites Resort at Heavenly Village
4) Steamboat Springs, Colorado
A big part of skiing is enjoying mountain culture; downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado provides a true Western experience that first-timers won’t soon forget. Even if you don’t fall in love with skiing immediately, you will fall in love with Steamboat’s gorgeous Rocky Mountain views and idyllic cowboy atmosphere.
There’s no shortage of crème-de-la-crème professional ski instructors at Steamboat. The Steamboat SnowSports School is comprised of certified Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors, winter Olympians, national team members and more than 550 instructors trained in the latest on-snow teaching techniques.
Steamboat offers excellent programs for all ages, including adaptive learning, and beginner areas feature magic carpets and gentle, flat slopes with a seven to 10 percent grade. The resort has gone to great lengths to enhance the beginner experience by implementing terrain shaping, a new trend in the industry that helps first-timers learn how to control their speed and make turns with snow features. The gentle-grade slopes have small hills and banks that will naturally turn the beginner’s skis or board and help them slow down.
Steamboat understands that adults learning to ski have different needs than children and offers two adult-learning zones: the Promenade and Ski Time Square.
Where to stay: For slopeside location and high-touch hotel amenities and services, make The Steamboat Grand your beginner basecamp.
5) Beaver Creek, Colorado
Beaver Creek’s Ski and Snowboard School enjoys a reputation of one of North America’s top learning programs thanks to their video analysis program as well as a world-class, slopeside children’s beginner facility, The Ranch, which features a dedicated learning area with a dedicated gondola. Children’s ski and snowboard instructors are hand-selected for their patience and personality. The resort even customizes the learning terrain to facilitate the correct body movements.
When it’s time to leave the learning zone and explore Beaver Creek’s high-alpine green slopes, you can also rest assured that you’re in good hands when learning to ski. Beaver Creek is the recipient of the National Ski Area Association’s Best Overall Safety Award.
Where to stay: For easy access to ski school and the beginner gondola, plus five-star hotel services and amenities, nothing can compete with Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.
6) Big Sky Resort, Montana
Combine spectacular mountain scenery and 882 acres of beginner skiing with next to no crowds and you’ve got a first-timer’s paradise. Montana’s Big Sky Resort base area offers a magic carpet and poma lift for smoothing out the basics under the tutelage a certified Professional Ski Instructor.
Once you’ve nailed down stopping and turning, Big Sky’s Explorer Lift offers access to meandering, confidence-building green runs. Beginners can even ski to the base of the 11,166-foot Lone Peak and experience the mountain’s grandeur up close and personal.
Big Sky Resort has one of Ski Country’s largest inventory of ski in ski out condos, lodges and homes, making it the perfect destination for beginners looking to make their first ski vacation simple.
Where to stay: For full-service hotel experience and incredible access to the slopes, the Huntley Lodge is a top-of-mind-choice.
7) Deer Valley Resort, Utah
From its complimentary ski valet and parking shuttle to plush lodges and world-class on-mountain restaurants, Deer Valley Resort is all about personalized attention for every guest.
So it should come as little surprise that the resort goes above and beyond to make beginners feel comfortable when learning. Nearly 30 percent of Deer Valley’s perfectly manicured slopes are green runs. Every green run is marked “slow skiing” and the resort limits the number of lift tickets sold daily, so beginners don’t have to worry about crowds of more advanced skiers zooming by.
Deer Valley ski school instructors provide an incredible, customized experience in both their acclaimed private lessons and “Max 4” lessons, which never exceed four people, so you can learn the basics at your own pace.
Where to stay: If you have children learning to ski, being close to the ski-school center is key and why we recommend the St. Regis Deer Valley, which just a quick funicular ride away from Snow Park Lodge.
8) Copper Mountain, Colorado
Offering a designated learning area with gentle slopes, a magic carpet and beginner lift, Copper Mountain provides a private, divided setting for beginners. The learning area is ideally situated between the East Village and Center Village base areas, which makes it easy to access on foot no matter where you’re staying. The Copper Ski & Ride School provides private and group lessons for any age, ability level or interest.
Copper Mountain is one of the world’s best destinations for beginner freestyle skiers or snowboarders, too. Woodward, Copper’s acclaimed freestyle programs and training facility, which includes indoor ramps, foam pits and trampolines, provide beginners with a safe and confidence-building setting and highly knowledgeable instructors. Many of these instructors have even coached Olympic freestyle and X Games athletes.
When it’s time to leave the learning area and head up the chairlift to explore Copper’s green trails, beginners can do so comfortably, as the resort’s black, blue and green runs are naturally divided, which means beginners have a zone all to themselves. The Union Creek, Kokomo and Lumberjack chairlifts exclusively access green runs. Beginners can even ski or snowboard at elevations around 12,000 feet from the Rendevous chairlift and enjoy green trails all the way back to the base village.
Where to stay: Make it a cinch to get to ski school in the morning and stay in the Mill Club, which sits perched above Center Village and is close to the nearby ski school meetup location.
9) Okemo, Vermont
Renowned as a family favorite of East Coast skiers, Okemo offers a lot for beginners to love. Okemo is accessible from several major Eastern hubs, including Boston and New York City.
The new Jackson Gore Base Area lodge offers a Learning Center and beginner-friendly trails. Once the basics have been ticked off, beginners can enjoy 32 percent of Okemo’s terrain. Beginner skiers can even experience one of Okemo’s newest updates: a heated, six-person bubble chairlift will keep the New England cold out while transporting skiers to the Summit Lodge, where there are many green runs to enjoy.
Where to stay: Offering unrivaled beginner skiing access, the Jackson Gore Village is a prime-time spot. Plus, the property offers an indoor pool, hot tub and water slide.
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