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If you’re wanting to learn how to ski but didn’t grow up shredding the slopes, it can feel overwhelming to plan a beginner-friendly winter ski trip. The good news is that there are actually several beautiful ski resorts for beginners scattered all over the United States! We created this comprehensive list to share some of the most picturesque, fun, and safe ski resorts for first timers in the United States and Canada.

Ski Resorts for Beginners in North America

With wide open trails, Steamboat Springs (pictured) is one of the best ski resorts for beginners in Colorado.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall (Flickr CC)

1. Steamboat Springs, Colorado

  • Location: Steamboat Springs, CO
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Steamboat Grand Hotel
  • Highlights: Early opening date (November 15, 2019), wide open trails that are perfect for all levels

Located just under 3 hours from Denver, Steamboat Springs is a charming, picturesque ski resort with over 165 runs. Among those, there are several bunny hills and green trails that are perfect for beginners to ski through. With a full ski school, learning area, and a beautiful lodge, it’s one of the best and most beautiful ski resorts for beginners in Colorado.

Aside from being beginner-friendly and in a gorgeous setting, Steamboat Springs is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Reviewers of all experience levels call it “one of the most underrated ski resorts in all of Colorado” and a “home away from home for skiing.”

Why it’s awesome for beginners: Steamboat Springs has a fantastic environment for beginner skiers – wide, open, easy ski runs, tons of lessons and guides available, and a discounted, comprehensive 2-day learn to ski package deal that includes gear rentals, lessons, and lift tickets.

Photo Credit: Jack Heddon (Flickr CC)

2. Sugarloaf, Maine

  • Location: Carrabassett Valley, 74 miles from Augusta, Maine
  • Accommodation available? Yes, Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel is the on-site lodge
  • Highlights: Above tree-line slopes mean wide, obstacle-free skiing, and there are a wide array of easy trails to practice on

For East Coast dwellers looking for a beginner-friendly skiing destination, Sugarloaf Mountain is the perfect spot. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, 2.5 hours from Portland, Sugarloaf’s trails cascade down the side of the 2nd highest mountain in Maine. Because it’s located above the tree line and there’s a huge variety of terrain, Sugarloaf is one of the most ideal ski resorts for beginners on the East Coast.

Around 20 of Sugarloaf’s 160+ trails have a green rating, meaning there’s a wide variety of beginner-friendly terrain. On top of that, if you’re interested in trying your hand at cross-country skiing, there are over 100 km of Nordic trails at the resort for that. With private and group lessons, rentals, and a full-service hotel on-site, a winter getaway to Sugarloaf Mountain is the perfect way to learn to ski.

Why it’s awesome for beginners: Sugarloaf Resort is a great beginner-friendly ski resort because most of the trails are located above the tree line, meaning there are fewer dangerous obstacles on the slopes and the views are outstanding. It’s actually the only ski resort on the East Coast where you can find this! They’ve got a great 3-day beginner package deals starting at $150, including rentals, lessons, and lift tickets for all 3 days (plus a free lift ticket voucher to come back!).

Photo Credit: Andrew Benson (Flickr CC)

3. Canaan Valley, West Virginia

  • Location: Canaan Valley, WV (3 hour drive from Washington, DC)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, Canaan Valley Resort
  • Highlights: 20% of all runs are beginner runs, tubing park for people who don’t want to ski

While there are several fabulous ski resorts near Washington, DC, we’ve decided to start our list with Canaan Valley because it’s a beloved, well-rounded option for all levels of skiers in the East Coast region. With 48 ski and snowboard trails with a vertical drop of 850 feet, Canaan Valley Resort draws in new and repeat visitors from all over the East Coast year after year.

Complete with a year-round resort, as well as a spa, fitness center, and several dining options, Canaan Valley Resort is a perfect spot to enjoy winter in West Virginia. Skiers of all levels can hit their variety of trails and terrain, and nearby city dwellers can take advantage of the economic season passes.

Why it’s awesome for beginners: If you’ve never skied before, there are plenty of options to rent gear and take lessons at Canaan Valley. Around 20% of the ski trails are suitable for beginner skiers, and when you get tired, you can hit the tubing slopes instead!

Photo Credit: Carl Hancock (Flickr CC)

4. Wintergreen, Virginia

  • Location: Nellysford, VA
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Wintergreen Resort
  • Highlights: The Discover Ski Package is a great deal on ski rentals, lift tickets, and lessons for first-time skiers (and snowboarders!)

If you’re a beginner skier looking for a fairly accessible set of slopes in a comfortable resort setting, Wintergreen is one of the most accessible ski resorts for beginners for skiing near Washington, DC. Located in Nellysford, Virginia, Wintergreen Resort is a small, family-friendly ski resort located in the scenic, peaceful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Aside from beautiful trails carved into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Wintergreen Resort also offers night skiing, a different, interesting alternative to your average daytime slopes. On the premises, there are several ski trails, a large lodge with a few restaurants, and a spa.

Why it’s awesome for beginners: With daily group classes, ski and snowboard rentals, and a wide variety of easy to intermediate slopes, Wintergreen Resort is a fantastic ski resort for beginners that’s not too far from Washington, DC. Their Discover Ski/Snowboard programs include three days of rentals, classes, and lift tickets at very affordable rates.

Photo Credit: InSapphoWeTrust (Flickr CC)

5. Park City Mountain Resort, Utah

  • Location: Park City, UT (33 miles from Salt Lake City)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at the Park City Mountain Resort
  • Highlights: As the largest ski resort in the United States, Park City has a ton of varied trails for less experienced skiers to learn on

With 341 runs, Park City Mountain Resort is the largest ski and snowboarding resort in the country. And while yearly vacationers flock to Park City for some epic, adrenaline-inducing slope time, it’s also a great place for less experienced skiers to learn the ropes.

Trails at the resort are groomed every night to ensure excellent snow conditions, meaning you’ll have a smooth ride basically all of the time. Many of the trails tend to be on the longer side, so you won’t have to constantly ride up the lifts between runs.

Why it’s awesome for beginners: Besides being the largest and most well-known ski resort in Utah, Park City was built to be family friendly and cater to all levels. There are plenty of opportunities to take lessons (even if you’re a first-time skier), rent gear, and enjoy apres-ski by the slopes in this picturesque and fun ski resort.

6. Whistler, British Columbia (Canada)

  • Location: Whistler, BC, 1.5 hours from Vancouver
  • Accommodation available? Yes, Whistler Blackcomb Resort
  • Highlights: Biggest ski resort in North America, with stunning views and a huge variety in terrain

If you thought Park City was big, wait until you hear about Whistler. As the biggest ski area in North America, Whistler’s resort area actually spans two mountains (Whistler and Blackcomb). There are so many runs at Whistler that you could ski for several days without having to repeat any trails.

For people who get bored easily, Whistler is a playground. Aside from skiing and snowboarding, there’s a town and an extensive resort area to explore. With its huge variety and well-staffed learning center, Whistler is great for beginners, but is also ideal for any skill level.

Why it’s awesome for beginners: In addition to having the typical beginner amenities, like lessons and gear rentals, Whistler’s large resort area is composted of many different varieties of ski conditions and terrain. This means you can learn how to ski in a diverse set of conditions, prepping you for lots of different scenarios in your ski journey.

Photo Credit: Doug Letterman (Flickr CC)

7. Northstar, California

  • Location: Lake Tahoe on Northern California side
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Northstar California Resort
  • Highlights: Fun, family-friendly resort atmosphere with options for tubing and ice skating in scenic Lake Tahoe

At Northstar California Resort, which is located in the gorgeous Lake Tahoe, beginners have a lot of options. Accessible from both San Francisco and Los Angeles within a day’s drive, there’s so much to love about this big, family-friendly resort.

While there’s a smaller percentage of beginner ski trails (13%, to be exact), the fun, vibrant atmosphere makes up for it. Visitors to Northstar will also ski on top of an extinct volcano, which is pretty freaking cool. Plus, while you’re not skiing, you can take advantage of the hotel’s many amenities, like an outdoor skating rink, tubing, and a spa.

Why it’s awesome for beginners: Northstar has beginner lessons and rentals and a friendly easy area to learn to ski. Moreover, it’s a resort you can grow into, with plenty of intermediate trails for when you’re ready to level up. Additionally there are opportunities to go tubing and ice skating on the resort grounds when you’re ready to leave the slopes for the day.

Photo Credit: Erik Jaeger (Flickr CC)

8. Stowe, Vermont

  • Location: Stowe, VT (1 hour drive from Burlington)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, The Lodge at Spruce Peak
  • Highlights: Beautiful ski resort in Vermont that spans two mountain peaks

Stowe, Vermont is a year round destination that we think is best to visit during ski season. Why? Because this beautiful, forested mountain area is one of the most picturesque ski resorts on the East Coast. Not only is Stowe one of the most beloved ski resorts in the Northeast region, it is also accessible from major cities like New York City and Boston.

While there are a good number of ski resorts in Vermont, Stowe is one of our favorites for beginners because of its smaller crowds. Additionally, Stowe Ski Resort is located on the tallest mountain in Vermont (can anyone say bragging rights?).

Why it’s awesome for beginners: Crowds are few, condos are many, and it’s just really pretty in Stowe. Plus, they’ve got ~16% of beginner trails across two mountains, which you can pair with lessons and gear rentals throughout the winter.

9. Breckenridge, Colorado

  • Location: Breckenridge, CO (2 hours from Denver)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at multiple resorts and lodges in town
  • Highlights: Tallest summit on our list with tons to do for tourists, as it’s one of the most popular ski resorts in the country

With its towering 13,000 ft summit, Breckenridge Resort’s incredible 187 runs constitute one of the most visited ski resorts in the United States. It’s for good reason – the slopes here are very well-maintained and they’ve got a fantastic infrastructure for handling the many skiers that come their way.

(Pro tip – go in March or April for smaller crowds and lower hotel prices.)

Why it’s awesome for beginners: Who wouldn’t want to say they skied on a 13,000 foot mountain? Breckenridge markets itself as a family-friendly resort open to all levels, and it delivers with tons of lessons (private and group), gear rentals, and other resort amenities for when you’re ready for apres-ski.

Photo Credit: Ryan Van Veen (Flickr CC)

10. Schweitzer, Idaho

  • Location: Sandpoint, ID (1.5 hours from Spokane)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at the Schweitzer Resort
  • Highlights: Both downhill and cross-country trails are available in this mid-size, scenic resort close to the Canadian border

Most people don’t think of Idaho as a prime skiing destination, but Schweitzer will certainly prove this belief untrue. Schweitzer Resort is a family-friendly ski resort that’s perfect for first-time skiers. In addition to 92 downhill trails, there are over 32 km of Nordic trails where you can try your hand at cross-country skiing (trust us, it’s harder than it looks!).

Overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, Schweitzer is close to the Canadian border and a bit more off-the-beaten-path than many of the ski resorts in the Pacific Northwest. However, if you make the trek here, amazing views and great powder will greet you.

Why it’s awesome for beginners: Of Schweitzer’s 92 trails, 20% are suitable for beginner skiers. Plus, it’s a lot less crowded than some of the more popular resorts on the West Coast and near the Pacific Northwest.

Photo Credit: Mt. Bachelor Resort
  • Highlights: Ski down a freakin’ volcano down a variety of beginner-friendly terrain, plus a beloved lesson program
  • On the side of a shield volcano lies Mt. Bachelor Resort, a favorite in Oregon and the entire Pacific Northwest. Aside from its picturesque location, the resort consists of 101 runs, including freestyle terrains and smoother trails. For skiers of all levels, this means there’s quite a bit of variance between trails, offering something to all skill levels and a great place to grow your skills.

    Why it’s awesome for beginners: The resort boasts a fantastic, affordable beginner lesson program for first-time and less seasoned skiers. Additionally, you can tell your friends you went skiing on a volcano…and there aren’t many places in the United States where you can do that!

    Photo Credit: K. Todd Storch (Flickr CC)

    12. Angel Fire, New Mexico

    • Location: Angel Fire, NM (3 hours from Albuquerque)
    • Accommodation available? Yes, at Angel Fire Resort or a hotel in nearby Angel Fire
    • Highlights: Beginner-friendly mountain resort with over 20% beginner trails near Albuquerque that’s less crowded than the more famous Taos

    Located not far from the Santa Fe, NM area, Angel Fire is a smaller ski resort than its big and famous neighbor, Taos. However, don’t knock this little gem before you learn more – it’s actually one of the most beloved ski resorts for beginners in the Southwest region. Because it’s lesser known than some of its nearby counterparts, you’ll escape huge crowds and find easy, leisurely slopes for learning.

    In the winter, Angel Fire has an extensive snow-making capacity, which offers fresh powdered snow every day. Much of the resort consists of very accommodating and easy beginner to intermediate runs, and is family-friendly.

    Why it’s awesome for beginners: With its ski school for beginners and three levels of all-in-one beginner packages, Angel Fire is a great beginner-friendly ski resort that’s a great alternative to the more intimidating Taos. 21% of the 81 trails are considered beginner runs, which means you’ll have a lot of opportunities to practice your new skills!

    Photo Credit: Thisisbossi (Flickr CC)

    13. Liberty Mountain, Pennsylvania

    • Location: Fairfield, PA (1.5 hours from Baltimore; 2.5 hours from Philadelphia)
    • Accommodation available? Yes, at Liberty Mountain Resort
    • Highlights: 35% of trails are beginner-friendly, great 3X deal that’s suitable for beginners at a number of nearby resorts

    Clocking in at just 1.5 hours from the Baltimore, MD area, Liberty Mountain Resort is the closest ski resort to the capital city on our list. With fantastic ski packages and resources for beginners, Liberty Mountain Resort is a fantastic place to learn to ski among friends and family. Because it’s so close to many cities on the East Coast, you can take a day trip to the resort or stay the night at the resort’s beautiful lodge.

    Aside from being the most convenient ski resort to access from DC, they also have fantastic specials to encourage you to return over and over again. One of its most popular offerings is the 3X deal, which is a steep discount on lift passes and (optional) rentals for one price. What’s even better is that this 3X deal is good for many different resorts, including a few on this list.

    Why it’s awesome for beginners: As do the others on this list, Liberty Mountain does offer beginner lessons, rentals, and packages, so don’t sweat it if this is your first time on the slopes! The resort will make sure you’re in good hands to learn how to ski or snowboard with ease.

    Photo Credit: Brian (Flickr CC)

    14. Snow King Mountain, Wyoming

    • Location: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
    • Accommodation available? Yes, Snow King Resort Hotel, or for a less expensive option, Town Square Condo
    • Highlights: This smaller ski resort often gets overshadowed by nearby Jackson Hole, but they’ve got fewer crowds and decent beginner ski packages

    Situated a short 20 minute drive from Jackson Hole, Snow King Mountain is a cozy local ski resort that sits in the backyard of the Grand Tetons. This park is especially friendly to beginners and has great deals on its lift passes and rentals.Snow King Mountain offers a $90 “Big King Pass.” This gets you unlimited access to the ski slopes, snow tubing areas, and the Cowboy Coaster. 

    Why it’s awesome for beginners: The park’s longest run is a beginner-friendly slope that begins above the treeline and gently sweeps its way throughout the entire park. Although this is a smaller ski park compared to some of the others on this list, it is less crowded, given you more room and less obstacles to maneuver around.

    15. Crystal Mountain, Michigan

    • Location: Thompsonville, MI (3.5 hour drive from Detroit, MI)
    • Accommodation available? Yes, in the Crystal Mountain Resort
    • Highlights: One of the hidden gems of the Midwest, Crystal Mountain has 24% beginner runs with several lighted trails for night skiing

    Skiing at Crystal Mountain is a real treat for Midwesterners who don’t want to stray too far from home. Here, you’ll find a whopping 58 trails on Crystal Mountain Resort’s grounds, ranging from beginner-friendly bunny hills to monster black diamonds. Plus, it’s one of the most accessible ski resorts near Detroit and Chicago.

    When you think of a winter getaway, you probably think of something close to what Crystal Mountain Resort offers. They’ve got hotel rooms and cabins for rent that are suitable for any number of people, plus tons of amenities outside of skiing/snowboarding, like a spa, fitness center, pool, shopping, and dining.

    Why it’s awesome for beginners: Day and night skiing make Crystal Mountain a fabulous choice for beginner skiers. Because nearly 1/4 of their trails are beginner-friendly, there’s a lot of diversity in terrain and slopes that are accessible to you!

    Photo Credit: Pat O’Malley (Flickr CC)

    16. Lake Louise, Alberta (Canada)

    • Location: 2 hour drive from Calgary, AB, Canada
    • Accommodation available? Yes, in nearby Banff, Canmore, or at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
    • Highlights: Lake Louise was voted the #1 ski resort in Canada and has over 25 beginner slopes…need we say more?

    The Canadian Rockies are some of the most picturesque mountains in the world. Located in Banff National Park in Alberta, Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the easiest places for a beginner to plan a ski trip. With over 25 beginner slopes, lessons and rentals at your disposal, and some of the most epic views ever, it’s one of our favorites on this list despite being one of the more expensive options.

    While the most famous resort in the area is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, there are lots of nearby hotels and accommodations in the area. You can stay in nearby Canmore and drive in to save on accommodation or in nearby Banff itself to be close to the action.

    Why it’s awesome for beginners: This Ski resort is especially friendly for beginners because it offers a whole mountain side filled with green slopes! Over 25% of its runs are beginner friendly. The ski resort offers lessons geared toward skiers of all skill levels, and the mountain views are some of the most outstanding in the world.

    Photo Credit: Zach Dischner (Flickr CC)

    17. Big Sky, Montana

    • Location: Big Sky, MT (1 hour from Bozeman, MT)
    • Accommodation available? Yes, the closest is Huntley Lodge
    • Highlights: Less crowded option close to Yellowstone, with several beginner runes to choose from; large variety of slopes and terrains in a stunning remote location

    Pair your next trip to Yellowstone National Park with a quick ski detour to nearby Big Sky, Montana. Shuttles operate daily back and forth between the national park and the Big Sky Resort. These ski slopes are perfect for beginners with 317 total runs, 15% of which are classified as easy. 

    Big Sky’s remote location and stunning views attract visitors from all over the United States. While there are beginner packages, they’re a bit more expensive than some of the other ski resorts on this list. Smaller crowds and wide slopes make this a great environment for learning and leveling up your skills over time.

    Why it’s awesome for beginners: Since it spans two different mountains, there is a large variety in runs, snow conditions, and landscape, offering you more chances to find what works for you. Additionally, the park has a beginner run that is mostly above the treeline, offering you fresh snow and less obstacles to navigate.

    Additional Ski Resources

    What to Bring on a Ski Trip

    • Waterproof outerwear – Possibly the most critical pieces of clothing for your ski trip packing list is durable, waterproof outerwear. Burton and Helly Hansen are famous ski brands for having best-in-class clothing that will keep you warm in the coldest, snowiest conditions. Click here to shop ski jackets and compare prices.
    • Thermal layers – Thermal baselayers are absolutely critical for a smooth skiing experience, as these will keep you warm and dry underneath your outerwear. The best kinds of thermal baselayers are made of Merino wool, which is moisture-wicking and comfortable. Our favorite brand of thermal layers is SmartWool – their tops and leggings are soft, lightweight, but warm and durable for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing. Click here to shop thermal tops and leggings and compare prices.
    • Ski goggles – No ski trip packing list would be complete without a pair of fog-resistant ski goggles, especially if you’re going somewhere that makes artificial snow. Ski slopes often have snow blowing into the air several times a day and it can be hard to keep freezing snowflakes out of your eyes, even during clear days. We use and recommend these ski goggles. However, you can shop ski goggles and compare reviews/prices here.

    For our complete skiing gear list and recommendations, head to our complete ski trip packing guide!

    Related Articles on Skiing for Beginners


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    Kay Rodriguez is the Chicago-based travel writer and photographer behind Jetfarer and Skyline Adventurer. When she's not blogging furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, or paddling in a new city.

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