12 Ski Resorts for Adult Beginners
Last winter I took a lesson and skied a couple of days at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, and that was the first time I’d been up on skis in over a decade. While I still have a long ways to go, skiing was easier than I remember, and it got me excited about getting back into the sport and pushing myself this winter.
That said, learning to ski as an adult can be very intimidating. I for one, am terrified about accidentally ending up on a black diamond, and there is no way I can keep up with my friends. The lift ticket and equipment rental sticker shock can also be a deterrent, especially if you have a family.
However, if you find the right mountain with a good ski school and plenty of beginner-friendly terrain, you might just end up with a new favorite winter hobby.
Here’s 12 of the best beginner-friendly ski resorts for you grown-ups to consider this winter.
Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort (Lee’s Canyon) – Nevada
Last winter was the first time I got up on skis in over a decade. Living in the Las Vegas desert I figured I’d have to drive hours to find the nearest snow. Wrong. The Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort (now named Lee’s Canyon) is just 50 miles from Fremont Street and gets 240 inches on average every year. Weekday lift tickets are as little as $44 or $82 with an equipment rental, and they offer complimentary coaching at the top of the bunny hill. Plus, there’s no better way to burn off that Vegas hangover than being in that fresh mountain air.
Alta Ski Area – Salt Lake City, Utah
After comparing all of the mountains near Salt Lake (and there are MANY), I decided that the infamous Alta is where I’ll be skiing this winter….and I couldn’t be more stoked. Despite its reputation for being a more advanced mountain, it turns out Alta has a ton to offer beginners like myself. Over 25% of the runs are green, and 40% are blue – so there is a lot of room to grow. Plus Alta’s powder is considered some of the best anywhere with a ridiculous 500+ inches on average per year. Lessons are cheaper than some of the other nearby resorts such as Park City and Deer Valley, and staying at the lift-side mountain lodges, you can get a real taste of Alta’s enduring ski culture. On a final note – and I have nothing against the snowboarders out there, but – you’re only going to find ski bunnies at Alta as it’s a skiers-only mountain. For many beginners who are feeling intimidated, this factor might add a little extra appeal for skiing at Alta.
Schweitzer – Sandpoint, Idaho
Voted by Ski Magazine as “The Best Kept Secret in North America,” Schweitzer in Northern Idaho is one of the largest ski resorts in the country. Fewer crowds than many other big resorts, a down-to-earth vibe, and a dedicated beginner zone make this a great mountain for beginning adult skiers. Those looking for lessons should consider their 3-day beginner package that includes 3 group lessons, 3 lift tickets, and Rossignol equipment rentals for $159. Considering lift tickets at many resorts out west are over $100, this is a smokin’ deal. Nearby Standpoint is also one of Idaho’s coolest small towns, with plenty of tasty restaurants and watering holes where you can warm up at the end of the day.
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If you ask me, one of the best parts about skiing is the big mountain views, but at many resorts, us beginners get jipped. We get stuck on the lower half of the mountain where the easier terrain is located, and the only views we get are that of the lodge. Not so at June Mountain, the sister resort of Mammoth. Here 80% of the slopes are suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers, and the best terrain for us newbies is actually located on the upper half of the mountain. This means you can take the lift all the way to the top, affording views of Mono Lake and the Sierras, and still have plenty of options for getting down safely. The affordable June Mountain also doesn’t attract the crowds that Mammoth sees, so chances are you’ll have a run or two all to yourself.
Big Bear – Bear Valley, CA
If you live in So Cal, your options for skiing are pretty limited. Luckily Big Bear – one of the only ski resorts accessible to LA day trippers – is a great place to learn. Adult group lessons including rentals and a lift ticket are a reasonable $115. And with El Nino predicted to hit the southern end of the golden state hard, fingers are crossed that Bear Valley is going to have a killer snow year. To make the most of your time up there, you might also consider renting a vacation cabin. Airbnb has quite a few affordable options, including some right on Big Bear Lake, and if you sign up for Airbnb using this link, you’ll get $20 off your first stay.
Photo: Bushrat Steve
Mt. Bachelor – Bend, Oregon
This has gotta be one of the best deals in the country. Mt. Bachelor’s Ski or Ride in 5 Program is designed to get rookies carving down the mountain in five days. For $199, adults get 5 days of lessons, lift tickets, and rentals. And get this. Upon completion you are handed 12 free days of skiing and a 50% discount on a season pass for the following year. The only caveat is the program only allows those who are completely new to snow sports. Mt. Bachelor is located just 30 minutes from Bend. If it were me, after skiing I’d head to town for a $5 soak in the turkish baths at the McMenamins St. Francis school, followed by a tasty beer at the McMenamin’s O’Kanes Bar which is known to rock Grateful Dead bootlegs all night long (probably not much of a surprise for those of you who have been following this bearfooter for a bit 🙂 )
Photo: Robert Shea
The Summit at Snoqualmie – Washington
Seattleites! Skip the bar on Friday night and head to Snoqualmie for one of the adult-only, evening lesson programs that spans 6-8 weeks starting in January. The cost ranges from $210-240 depending on which base area you choose, not including lift tickets and equipment. This program is suitable for all levels. For first timers, they also offer a special $149 deal that includes three lessons, lift tickets, and rentals where by the end you will confidently be able to tackle the green runs and maybe even a few blues.
Sun Valley Ski Resort – Idaho
Sun Valley’s Dollar Mountain is where I first skied as a kid before taking my 10+ year hiatus. It’s a small, three-lift hill with enough gentle and intermediate terrain where you can get comfortable before advancing to the famous trails at Bald Mountain on the other side of town. While Sun Valley’s lift tickets are on the expensive side, a day pass gets you access to the slopes at both both Dollar and Bald Mountain. If after a day or two, you decide that skiing just isn’t for you, Sun Valley is an epicenter some of Idaho’s best winter activities so you won’t be left in the dust. Instead you can soak in some hot springs, hit up the nordic trails towards Galena summit, or snowmobile through the Sawtooths at Smiley Creek.
Pizza wedging your way down the hill? No need to worry about rippers and shredders whizzing by you at lightening speeds at Colorado’s Copper Mountain where the green runs are on the complete opposite side of the mountain as the black diamonds. As the 6th largest ski resort in Colorado, 49% of its 142 runs fall into the beginner to intermediate category. It sees less traffic than nearby Vail and Breckenridge, and it’s also cheaper. Like many of the other resorts here, they have a total newbie program – 3 days of lessons, rentals, and lift tickets for $199 that comes with a season pass at the end. They also have a Women’s Wednesdays program where ladies of all levels split up into small teams with instructors and have a chance to work on their skills in a supportive environment. This program with a season pass runs $779.
Snowy Range Ski Resort – Laramie, Wyoming
A private lesson is one of the most efficient ways to excel, build confidence, and improve your form, but private lessons at some resorts run $500 for a few hours – a deal breaker for 99% of us. But here at this smallish Snowy Range Wyoming mountain, you can get a two hour one-on-one for $137 with each additional hour only costing $50. The nearby Vee Bar Guest Ranch on the Laramie River also offers reasonably priced ski packages paired with accommodations in western style, riverside cabins. If you stay there don’t miss the outdoor hot tub where you can stargaze and rest those tired muscles at the end of the day.
Whitefish Mountain Resort – Montana
Sitting on the edge of Glacier National Park, Whitefish sits in the heart of the Rockies, and the ski resort has big mountain views to match. From the Whitefish Mountain Resort chairlifts, you can see the peaks of the park, Flathead Lake, and all the way into Canada. Lack of lift lines means that fresh snow stays fresh for days, and you can have the long groomers much to yourself. Whitefish has both men’s and women’s-only group full-day programs that span 8 sessions throughout the winter for $375 + lift tickets. This program is a great opportunity to build new friendships while working your way up to those blues.
Photo: S Richards Photography
Angel Fire Resort – New Mexico
While Taos, New Mexico gets rave reviews, it’s not the best mountain for beginners. Its greens and blues are considered steeper than most mountains, so unless you are prepared to bomb down the hill, you may want to look elsewhere. Fortunately there’s another option nearby. Angel Fire Resort, just 24 miles east of Taos, offers far more beginner runs and has reasonably priced early bird (9am) private lessons. Night skiing is also available on the easier slopes, and at $24 it’s a great deal. At the end of the day, you can shack up on site, or head down into Taos where you can stay at one of the adobe-style hotels.
Photo: K. Todd Storch
Hopefully this post gives some of you beginners and intermediate skiers a few ideas of where you might be able to work on your skills this winter!
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