Michael Brabin

Michael Brabin

14 January 2013.

Category: Crystal Awards, Inspiration, Ski Archive

Crystal Ski Awards: Best beginner & intermediate ski resorts

As we continue with our Crystal Ski Awards, as voted for by our customers (read the first award’s post ‘best skiing resorts for Families‘), we now look at the best places for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, plus which is the best ski school if you’re looking to improve your technique or are new to the world of skiing.

For those of you who don’t know a ski pole from a snowboard then I’ll quickly run through some technical bits and bobs. I use the term “nursery slopes/area” to refer to the section where complete beginners start out, very gentle runs and cordoned off so you don’t have other people flying past.

Run difficulty starts with green runs which are nice and easy, then you get blue runs and you start picking up speed, red runs can be pretty scary and are for the more accomplished skiers – we’ll avoid black runs altogether for now as they’ll only hurt.

Best ski resorts for beginners

Learning to ski can be pretty nerve-racking. That’s why this category is so important. Below are the 5 best place to learn – determined by what our customers have told us.

Ruka - voted as Crystal's best resort for beginners
Ruka in Finland – voted as Crystal’s best resort for beginners
  • 1st place – Ruka, Finland

Probably not the first place you’d think of to learn to ski but the great quality of snow and incredible grooming (which makes it perfectly flat so it’s nice and easy to learn on) is already a good start. Couple that with excellent instructors, many of which are from the UK but the Finnish possibly speak better English, a brand new beginners area with 3 magic carpet lifts (again easy for first timers) and dedicated beginner classes for Crystal customers means group sizes are never large and you’re learning with equally as uncoordinated people from the UK.

The whole layout of the resort is ideal for beginners and if the worst happens and it turns out skiing isn’t for you it doesn’t matter as you can go dog sledding, snowmobiling, go for a reindeer safaris, go ice karting, ice fishing or even visit Santa Claus!

Learning to ski need not break the bank. Chamrousse gives everyone a free lift pass; great for those dipping their toe in for the first time. Plus there’s great value self catering apartments.  But it’s not just about value, Chamrousse also offers a great ski area for beginner skiers with the resort surrounded by comfortable green and blue runs as wells as some more challenging runs further afield for if you have higher levels of skiers with you.

Bulgaria has a higher proportion of our guests choosing to learn to ski here than any other country and with learn to ski packages from £129pp (including lift pass, rental and lessons – at time of publishing) we’re not surprised. Pamporovo is a paradise for beginners, a large majority of the slopes are green, the ski school is totally focused towards teaching people who’ve never stood on skis (or snowboard) before, it has two nursery areas – one at the top and one at the bottom. This helps to give a bit of variety and ensures you’re learning on good snow. Then, when you’ve built a little confidence, you’ve got a 6km green run to really hone your skills. Pamporovo has got some great nightlife too, so you’ll get the full ski experience with great après (and drinks from £1 per pint).

Like Bulgaria, Slovenia proves popular for beginners too – again it’s a lot to do with the easy slopes and great value. But Slovenia also prides itself for having a very high standard of hotels serving great food – all of which score highly from our customer’s feedback. Kranjska Gora is Slovenia’s largest ski area and ideally suited for beginners, all the slopes are very close, if not on the doorstep of virtually all hotels in resort. It has a good nursery ski area in the centre of the resort and the entire ski area is compact which is great for kids as they can potter off without you worrying about them getting lost. The ski school runs for 2 hours – so you can take a bit of time off the slopes in the afternoon or keep practising.

  • 5th place – Bohinj, Slovenia

Another Slovenian resort makes the list! Like Kranjska Gora there are plenty of reasons to pick this as the place to learn, but the one thing that really sets Bohinj apart is the stunning scenery, set high in the Triglav National Park, overlooking Lake Bohinj – the view can be admired from a number of mountain restaurants and cafes, perfect for a pit stop to refuel.

Best ski resorts for intermediates

You’ve mastered greens and blues and you’re starting to get confident at reds, where should you go? Here’s what Crystal customers think.

Lake Louise - voted the best resort for intermediates

Possibly the most beautiful spot to stay in from  our vast array of ski resorts. Lake Louise is in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. But not only is it one of the most spectacular places on the planet it also has phenomenal skiing – Lake Louise Mountain really is a great all-rounder, but for intermediate cruising it would be hard to beat the quality of snow and incredible views. As it’s Canada you get the usual friendly welcome from every lifty, queues are pretty much nonexistent and it’s rare to find the slopes busy by European standards. Plus if you ever tire of skiing Lake Louise (which is difficult) then your lift pass will also work on Sunshine Village ski resort nearby which could be a separate holiday in itself.

Schladming nicely fills the gap between complete beginners and seasoned pros both on and off the slopes. On the mountain are a range of blue runs to learn the basics or get your legs back in the game, whilst there are enough blacks to push limits and abilities. Where Schladming really excels is in the red run stakes. There is a whole plethora of intermediate slopes to choose from and covering four different linked peaks means plenty of scope for exploring. Big enough to try something new on a daily basis, but small enough not to get too far from home when legs start getting tired. And après wise there is a nice atmosphere giving you a great taste of the Austrian après scene.

Canada and the USA sometimes get pigeonholed as for experts only which couldn’t be further from the truth, they do get huge amounts of snow which is great for off-piste style powder skiing but it’s also great for perfectly maintained green, blue and black (the North American equivalent of a red) runs. Breck (as it’s affectionately known) is one of the best for this with its 155 runs a mix of tree lined cruisers and some alpine bowls that aren’t very steep making it easy for intermediates to jump into the powder too. Plus for those that like to ski as much as humanly possible your lift pass will work at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin all of which are 45mins drive away and each offers another huge ski area to explore.

St Sorlin was a popular resort for Crystal customers due to the huge ski area (it’s larger than Tignes and Val d’Isere!) made up predominantly of green, blue and red runs. It’s not all easy. Some of the red runs got your blood pumping and adrenaline racing, however this isn’t one for experts looking to do crazy black runs. Unfortunately the past tense is for a reason and this is an area we no longer offer, but the Paradiski area is a great alternative with resorts like Les Arcs and La Plagne really good choices.

  • 5th place – Pila, Italy

Part of Pila’s charm is the large number of pretty tree lined runs. The resort also holds the snow better and means you don’t get flat light (usually means you feel more confident and can therefore go quicker). A huge number of the slopes are north or north-east facing too, again great for maintaining snow quality and when you’ve got 4km red runs like the originally named “piste number 9” it means that you can fly down it in record breaking, Chemmy Alcott time. With over 30 runs you’ve got plenty of choice in Pila itself but you can visit neighbouring resorts, if you want to explore.

Best ski resorts for adult ski school

Whether you’re starting out or looking to improve – these are what our customers said were the best ski schools last year.

Pamporovo - voted the best resort ski school (for adults)

Pamporovo in Bulgaria – voted the best resort ski school (for adults)

Pamporovo gets a second mention and this time for its exceptional ski school focused on teaching people the basics. Great for some refresher courses too.

Another great Bulgarian resort and we’re unsurprised to see it make another top 5 given the high level of ski tuition. Borovets has made a bit of a name for itself as a party town too – so if you want fun in the night time as well as the day then this is a great choice.

You can find more information about skiing in Bulgaria here.

A few of you may be surprised not to see any Andorran resorts elsewhere on this blog post – it’s an ideal place for beginners and intermediates and well known for its fantastic ski school. Small groups, impeccable English and fun instructors has made Arinsal’s ski school hugely popular. In addition, the uncrowded, wide open pistes are perfect for skiers and snowboarders to improve.

  • 4th place – Bohinj, Slovenia

Bohinj also claims a second mention thanks to a high quality ski school led by multilingual instructors, a great ski area, great hotels and great prices.

There is one thing that the small ski resorts do extremely well, ski school. And Kirchdorf is no exception. This resort is totally geared up to look after first timers and intermediates, it’s not going to break any records for the largest ski area but with 32 beginner and 37 intermediate runs there is a fair amount to get around and with nearby St Johann and the Kitzbuheler Horn all covered on the Schneewinkle lift pass, there is plenty of scope to advance and ski more than one resort in a week.

Do you agree with how our customers voted?

We really appreciate all the feedback we receive so why not leave us a comment or talk to us on Facebook.

More Crystal Awards to follow over the coming weeks.

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