Ski resort pictures are gorgeous. You’ll find towering, snow covered peaks, with views that go on forever. The skiers and snowboarders all have smiles on their faces, ready to make the leap and conquer an epic run through deep powder. But if you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding, those images that warm the hearts of experienced enthusiasts can be intimidating. I could never do that? Well not yet.
The thing is, while those shots of experts ready to jet down the mountain look great, they don’t reflect everything available at the resort. Everyone has a first day on skis, and good resorts have a system in place to ensure that you want to come back for the second day. A good ski school will help you get on skis or a snowboard for the first time in a comfortable setting. You’ll learn the basics on a more gentle slope and gradually challenge yourself as you improve.
While all resorts have some kind of lessons, several in the U.S. really stand out. They take what can be an intimidating process and make it fun. You’ll work closely with an instructor and fellow beginners to really learn the sport. If you’ve always wondered why those people in the glamour shots have a smile on their face, try the ski schools at these mountains. No matter your age, before long, you’ll have that same grin as you make your way down the slopes.
1. Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek, Colorado, features an excellent program for first-timers to learn the sport together. The Adult First Time Ski Series takes place over three days to help adult skiers go from no experience to being comfortable on the mountain. The package (for skiers only) includes a three-day beginner lift ticket and rental equipment. The group lesson will also introduce you to other skiers in the same boat, while instructors will walk you through everything you need to know—your equipment, the lifts, how to stop and how to make turns. If you’re traveling with an experienced skier, this is a great way to get up to speed over a long weekend and find some skiers of your own ability. If you aren’t staying at the mountain that long, Beaver Creek offers shorter group and private lessons as well. Do you have friends who’ve never skied as well? Take advantage of a private instructor who can teach you and up to five friends all there is to know on the mountain at Beaver Creek.
Vail, Colorado, also has a three-day program for first-timers—the Vail’s 3-D Series. But it’s also available for any level of skier who is looking to improve his or her skills. No matter your skill level, you’ll get three days of lessons for the price of two. The Vail Ski & Snowboard School also offers group and private lessons, with additional perks like on-mountain photography as part of its EpicMix program and dedicated lift-line access.
For women, Vail offers several women-specific programs, which will both help you learn the sport and develop new friendships. The programs are lead by female mountain ambassadors and are a great introduction to the sport. The Women’s Ultimate 4 Ski Lessons feature small groups (a maximum of four women) to allow for customized lessons and more individual attention. The program runs from 12:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., which coordinates with ski school for kids, allowing mom some individual time on the mountain.
3. Park City Mountain Resort
Park City Mountain Resort in Utah is the biggest resort in the United States, meaning there’s a whole lot of area to explore. Its proximity to the Salt Lake City International Airport (about a 40 minute drive) makes this a great destination for a quick weekend trip to maximize time on the slopes. The ski school offers children and teen programs, women-only lessons, small group lessons, and private lessons. If the whole family is new to the sport, consider taking a private family lesson, which gives you the opportunity to stay together as you learn and see everyone’s progress. With any lesson, you’ll be able to skip the lift lines and be able to take advantage of the instructor’s knowledge of the mountain, which features more than 330 runs. For experienced skiers, the Adult Peak to Peak Guided Ski Experience is a great way to help you explore the best of it all.
At Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly, you’ll find a wide array of options for both first- and second-time skiers and snowboarders. Choose a popular morning lesson to get started (either in a group or private) and then spend the rest of the day honing your skills on your own or with your family and friends. Heavenly also as the Ultimate 4 all-day lesson available (as do many of the resorts under the Vail umbrella), in which the group is limited to a maximum of four. In January, as part of Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, Heavenly is offering two lessons for the price of one as part of package—get two consecutive half day lessons (skiing or snowboarding) as well as limited access lift tickets and rental equipment for just $210. And you get the incredible views of Lake Tahoe thrown in for free.
Keystone Resort in Colorado has always been known for putting families first, and Camp Keystone follows in this tradition. The camp features kids ski lessons that are disguised by game-play, beginning with being launched onto the snow down an indoor/outdoor slide. While everyone in the family might ski or snowboard at a different level, the instructor heading up Keystone’s private family lessons (full or half day) customizes tips for every individual in the group—families of up to six members. Of course, ski and snowboard lessons are available for adults as well. Expert instructors will prepare you for the slopes and offer their advice on the best ways to enjoy the mountain—from recommending little-known trails to the best place to enjoy lunch.
At Lake Tahoe, Northstar has a program where kids can learn to ski or ride as young as 3 years old and first-timers from the age of 13 and older can sign up for a specialized full or half day group lesson. Northstar is known for its long groomers and large amount of intermediate terrain—nearly 60 percent of the resort is classified as intermediate. So there are lots of options for first-timers to push themselves once they’ve tackled the beginner runs.
If you’re looking to get your kids on the slopes quickly, the Breck Bombers programs in Breckenridge, Colorado, features recurring lessons on several weekends. Before long, your pint-sized skier or snowboarder will be beating you down the slopes. Kids as young as three years old can get started in the Pee-Wee Bomber program. For first-time adults, private, group, and women-only lessons are available. Looking for something with a social component? The Women & Wine program features a relaxing half-day lesson (at 1:15 p.m. every Wednesday) that’s followed by a complimentary glass of wine to enjoy for après ski. After all, learning those après ski customs are almost as important as what you learn on the slopes.
Originally written for Vail Resorts.