Heading to the slopes

With summer holidays over and autumn fast approaching, it is that time of year when travellers start thinking about snow, slopes and skiing. Don’t be put off if you have never been skiing before, we have selected our top five ski resorts with bags of facilities for beginners, so give it a go. Matt English reports.

Banff, Canada

Banff200Ski through stunning forests
Banff is a picturesque town situated high in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. There are three ski resorts within Banff National Park, Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, all offer ideal conditions and amenities for newbies. There are miles of gentle green and blue runs, surrounded by breathtaking scenery so beautiful that Banff was awarded a world heritage status. Norquay is the smallest area of the three, with its quiet, wooded slopes and is ideal for that first day warm-up. Lake Louise has an abundance of natural snow and also possesses Canada’s largest snow-making system. It is a friendly mountain with an easy run from every chairlift making it ideal for wobbly beginners.

Top Tip: Banff is home to over 1000 elk, so be vigilant not to plough straight into one of them. They are extremely common in the area and you might even see them wandering the streets.

Aspen, Colorado, USA

Aspen200Celebrity spot in Aspen
Creative Commons/Zach Dischner
Favoured by the celebrities for its idyllic location in the Rockies and its luxurious slopes, you don’t have to splash the cash in the world famous ski resort of Aspen. Aspen can be enjoyed on a shoestring budget and is also perfect for beginners with Buttermilk Mountain and Aspen Highlands boasting a vast number of green and blue slopes. The ski school at the resort is one of the best in the world and perfect for getting to grip with the pistes. Beginners flock to Buttermilk Mountain due to lack of traffic and the ease of the slopes from the top of the hill to the bottom. Travellers to this Colorado resort can also purchase an Independence pass which will provide them with scenic tours and take them to points of interest and landmarks.

Top Tip: For travellers partial to a few beverages, a visit to the Aspen Brewing Company would be highly recommended. What better way to warm up after a long day of skiing than to sample Aspen’s local beer?

Soldeu, Andorra

Soldeu200Beginners will love the moving carpet lift
Creative Commons / borkur.net
Soldeu comes alive in the winter as a thriving ski town and is one of the best beginners resorts in Europe. This is part of the largest ski area in the Pyrenees, the Grand Valira. Soldeu’s unpretentious atmosphere and large, mostly gentle slopes, make it an ideal destination for rookie skiers. A moving carpet lift will elevate beginners to the mid-mountain range, from which there are plenty of easy runs. The pièce de résistance has to be the highly rated ski school. Run by an Englishman, Soldeu boasts excellent English-speaking instructors that will ease you through your first skiing experience and have you on the more challenging slopes in no time.

Top Tip: Andorra is duty free, which means cheap prices, so if you’re feeling in the mood to party, make the most of the lively nightlife.

Les Arcs, France

LesArcs200Les Arcs has plenty of beginners' slopes
Creative Commons / rockside
Situated in Savoie, in the Tarentaise valley town of Bourg-Saint Maurice, Les Arcs is a ski resort fully accustomed for the needs of beginners. The resort has five areas; Bourg-Saint Maurice, Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950 and Arc 2000. They are situated at an altitude ranging from 810 to 3225 metres, although skiing is mostly possible above 1200 metres. Les Arcs has nursery slopes that lie above the main villages of the resort and is home to the award winning New Generation ski school, currently run by Brits. Off piste opportunities are numerous in Les Arcs and acquiring a guide for tours of the area is a must. Les Arcs offers some of the most extensive skiing in the world with a lift link to La Plagne, which forms the vast Paradiski area offering uninterrupted skiing, perfect to get away from it all.

Top Tip: Les Arcs can be reached in eight hours simply by boarding a Eurostar from London St. Pancras.

Cortina, Italy

Cortina200Ideal for stylish post-ski action.
Creative Commons / rachel_thecat
Known as the Pearl of the Dolomites, Cortina is one of the top Italian ski resorts and boasts stunning scenery, rivalling that of any in the world. There is a typically Italian ambience about the place, with hotels, shops and eateries exuding lots of style. Should travellers want to swap their skis for a more conventional pair of walking shoes, there are plenty of other activities to get involved with. Many people visit Cortina purely to be seen, not just to ski, so if you’re itching to get onto the slopes there should be every opportunity, and without too many crowds. The resort is renowned for being the 1956 winter Olympics venue and was also the location for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

Top Tip: Be armed with your camera when sunset comes around. The peaks put on a colour display, turning every shade of mauve, pink and purple.

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