Top Ten European Ski Resorts

Category:   Ski Holidays

Learning to ski is a great way to spend a winter holiday in Europe. With the right resort and good instruction you'll be flying down the slopes within days of arrival -and best of all you'll take home a skill that will last a lifetime. (It's a bit like learning to ride a bike, except the falls are a lot softer.) Children make great pupils too, and will have great fun learning the ropes - giving parents a solid morning or afternoon time out from the little ones!

Make the right choice of destination for your first ski trip and it could be the start of a lifetime's addiction to this healthy and exhilarating sport! So if you've got the winter gear and are ready to roll, here are 10 ideal resorts in which to learn how to ski while still having a great holiday.

Cortina, Italy
Just because you're learning to ski doesn't mean you can't enjoy Europe's very best slopes. Case in point is Cortina, pride of Italy's resort offerings. It offers astounding scenery and majestic views over the Dolomites. There are very good beginner slopes and plenty of long, gentle gradient cruise runs, just what recent ski school graduates need. Another plus in Cortina's favour is that the instructors are skilled with kids and jittery adults.

Wengen, Switzerland
Wengen takes pride in having one of Europe's best known and most highly regarded ski schools. That means you learn faster, have more fun in the process, and pick up the right technique from the start. Wenger is positioned under the awesome north face of the Eiger, which has long held magnetic fascination for Alpinists. The learner slopes are right in the heart of the village and there are lots of long, gentle runs to move onto when one's confidence allows. The only negatives are that with a relatively low altitude snowfall can be unreliable, and the après ski scene is a little subdued, so youngsters in a group will need to make their own party.

Kranjska, Slovenia
For those wanting something a little different from their ski learning experience the pretty town of Kranjska Gora might be the answer. Slovenia's top resort is close to the both the Italy and Austrian border, at the foot of the Julien Alps. The resort is small and unpretentious, and the runs long and undemanding making Kranjska an ideal destination for beginners and those wanting to get off the beaten track. Slovenia is also more affordable than its more affluent neighbours so ski costs are markedly cheaper.

Lech, Austria
Lech is for those that want to learn in style, at one of Europe's most chic and expensive resorts. The price barrier has preserved Lech as a classic alpine resort with a small village atmosphere despite plenty of lively nightlife. The ski schools are excellent with experienced, English-speaking instructors and plenty of suitable runs for the learner skier. The position of the slopes also maximizes chances of snow cover and sunshine - perfect conditions to seduce a rookie. The snow season is also one of the longest in Europe, and at either end of the ski season 'Snow Crystal' weeks mean ski passes are halved in price.

Poiana Brasov, Romania
Looking for great value and uncluttered slopes? Go east! The former eastern Europe republics have some excellent and underrated ski resorts that are rapidly catching on in popularity. Good value means beginner skiers can try out the sports without breaking the bank. Poiana Brasov has two nursery areas, and the sport's friendliest instructors. There is plenty to do in the area as well, such as a trip to Dracula's castle.

Gurgl-Obergurgl, Austria
Despite its cumbersome name, the resort of Gurgl-Obergurgl is great for beginners and intermediates, with some of Europe's most reliable snow, and a small village atmosphere that is undeniably charming. This resort gets a very high rate of returning skiers which is generally a good sign. The nightlife is quiet though, and the more experienced skiers in the party will quickly run out of challenges.

Soldeu, Andorra
Andorra is one of the most popular places for learner skiers wanting to master the sports in a low-profile, good value environment before hitting the slopes in Europe's more fashionable destinations. Soldeu has sacrificed challenge and variety in favour of abundant beginner and intermediate slopes. The ski schools are decent and the weather and nightlife both reliable and cheerful. Andorra offers the additional draw of being a duty-free shopping destination with simply the cheapest shopping on the continent.

Chatel, France
Chatel is part of the Portes du Soleil in France, the world's biggest ski area. That means there are plenty of runs for skiers of all abilities. Access is convenient and cheap given the resorts close proximity to Geneva airport, and can even be driven to via Calais. There are plenty of beginner's slopes and well regarded ski instructors too. A big plus of this area is the range of accommodation, including chalets for rent right on the slopes, close to the ski lifts.

Bansko, Bulgaria
Beautiful Bankso attracts budget-conscious skiers who like a bargain and relaxing skiing conditions that are perfect for the first-time skier. The lift system is excellent and the green slopes, to which beginners graduate after a few days, have gentle runs of up to 16km in length. In total 65% of the ski runs are for beginners and intermediates. The town itself was founded in the 10th century so has plenty of history and interesting attractions to explore. Don't expect sophisticated dining and entertainment options though, this is a more down-to-earth scene.

Glenshee, Scotland
Glenshee boasts the largest ski lift system in the UK, and its 36 runs are ideal for beginners and intermediates. The top of the Cairnwell Chairlift offers the best panorama of the Cairngorms to be seen from any Scottish ski area. The resort is conveniently situated, but snow cover can be unreliable and the slopes congested with day-trippers.

General Tips:
- Get some lessons before you leave. Snow domes such as the Chill Factore in Manchester provide a realistic preview of the real thing.
- Try to get a beginner's package with your booking which includes lessons, gear rental and a lift pass if needed.
- Rent gear to start with - find out how much you like skiing before spending money on expensive equipment.
- Get insurance that covers ski-specific injuries.
- Make sure your accommodation is conveniently located to the nursery slopes and ski school.
- When someone goes skiing, you don't say 'break a leg!'

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