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Best Beginner Ski Resorts

Updated 10.19.22

There’s always a first time for everything, and with skiing or snowboarding, your first day on the mountain should be nothing short of monumental. Whether you make your skiing debut on the slopes of famous ski resorts, or discovering off-the-beaten path ski destinations, finding the best resort to practice your skills for your first time can make all the difference.

What makes a ski resort good for beginners?  Lots of beginner terrain, affordable prices, and tons of snow!  Affordability is particularly important for beginners, because no one wants to spend $250 on a lift ticket to spend the day on the bunny hill.  TripOutside has evaluated the best North American ski resorts and scrutinized factors like skiable acres, beginner terrain, costs, and amount of snowfall to determine the absolute best resorts for newbies.  Below is our roundup of the best North American ski resorts for beginners!  

The Resorts

Powder Mountain, Utah

Known as the secret Pow Mow of Utah, Powder Mountain is a lesser known ski destination that has beginner trails sprawled across the mountain. Powder Mountain boasts a vast terrain – 8464 acres of it – which means there is plenty of space to practice your new skills without worrying about knocking other people out.

Beginner Terrain

An incredible 25% of trails are dedicated to beginners, and with so much terrain, that translates to over 2,000 acres!  Beginners to skiing have a number of trail options around the resort. Those just starting out can enjoy the groomed trails near the Powder Mountain Lodge. This ski mountain is marked by long groomed runs which can be accessed by the Hidden Lake Express from all 3 bases of Powder Mountain. Take the Sunrise Poma lift to shorter groomed trails including East 40, Burtonwood, and the scenic Sunrise trail – all are ideal places where you can practice your moves.

Mountain Stats

Powder Mountain isn’t just a hotspot for beginners.  When you feel ready to take on the blues, you will find another 3,400 acres to play around on.  If you’re ready to hop on some more challenging trails, do some warm ups at the Dilly Dalley Alley trails.

In total, Powder features 150 runs serviced by 9 lifts including the high-speed Hidden Lake Express.  Add in a summit elevation of 9400 feet and the longest run coming in at an astounding 3.5 miles, Powder is an all-around great place for your next ski trip.  Last but not least, Powder Mountain lives up to its name with an average snowfall of 500 inches, pow days are extreme.

Affordability

HometoGo calculates Utah’s Powder Mountain as one of the best when it comes to budget friendly ski resorts. With average daily ski rental coming in at only $40, lift ticket prices of $135 and accommodation prices of only $105 (avg price/person/night), Powder’s $280 price tag is significantly lower than other similar ski resorts.

Where to Rent Gear

You can rent your ski gear right at the mountain at reasonable rates to stretch your budget even more.

Palisades Tahoe, California

Palisades Tahoe

It’s nearly impossible to ignore the call of Lake Tahoe and it’s famous ski resorts. Palisades Tahoe (formerly called Squaw Valley) is the perfect resort for beginners and experienced skiers alike – an enormous, world-class ski resort overlooking the gorgeous shores of the ultra clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe.  Palisade’s well-known intermediate runs take center stage at the resort, but because of the vastness of the resort, there is a sizable amount of terrain where beginners can enjoy as much pow as they want.

Beginner Terrain

Just because it’s tagged as the “experts’ ski destination” doesn’t mean beginners can’t enjoy the combined slopes of Palisades Tahoe (Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows resorts combined in 2012). Across the two mountains are 6000 fantastic acres of skiable terrain – 25% of which is easy, green trails marked by groomed runs and gorgeous Lake Tahoe views. The action begins in the mid and upper mountain.

Palisades Tahoe may boast whopping stats for experienced skiers – summit elevation of 9050 feet, and 2850 vertical drop – but it’s also home to 1,500 acres of green runs. Short, easy slopes ideal for skiers of all ages can be accessed by Belmont, Links, and Bailey’s Beach lifts. Hop on the Emigrant chairlift to reach the longer, exceptionally groomed trails stretching up to 3.2 miles. The beginner and family-friendly areas of SnoVentures, Big Blue, and the Blue Room Zone have gentle slopes and safe-to-navigate routes perfect for both learning adults and children.

Mountain Stats

Palisades Tahoe is the second largest ski resort in Tahoe after Heavenly, boasting 6200 acres, 270 runs and 43 ski lifts.  Snowfall averages 450 inches per year, earning this ski destination a place in the Top 10 resorts with great pow days in Northern America. 

Affordability 

Low ski rental and accommodation prices make Palisades an attractive place for those looking for an affordable ski vacation.  Ski rentals average $50, and accommodations come in at $118 (average price/person/night). Add in a $195 lift ticket with access to both Palisades Tahoe and Alpine Meadows and your daily total of $363 makes Palisades Tahoe one of the lower priced California ski resorts.

Where to Rent Gear

Get great value and convenience with top notch ski and snowboard rental with delivery with Black Tie Ski Rental Delivery, and save 10% by booking on TripOutside. Black Tie offers stellar service in addition to delivery and slopeside assistance!  If you’re looking for great after-sales service, you can trust this shop – they deliver your gear straight to your door for free!

Lake Louise Ski Resort, Alberta Canada

One of Alberta’s top ski destinations, Lake Louise Ski Resort is Canada’s largest ski area with 4200 acres of skiable terrain. Among its 145 runs, 25% are ideal for beginners.  The resort is located inside the majestic Banff National Park, with winter offering up the same spectacular scenery without the crowds.

Beginner Terrain

The green trails aren’t hard to find – 1,050 acres of the Lake Louise terrain is earmarked for those who are learning to ski and snowboard. After learning the basics at a ski or snowboard lesson, practice your new skills on one of the longest beginner runs in North America – a whopping 5 miles!

Start at the Magic Carpet run for well-groomed trails perfect for learning against the gorgeous backdrop of Banff National Park.  Transition to Rock Isle Road afterwards- a green trail with a slow transition from gentle runs to semi-challenging turns. Pika at Lake Louis is located on the more remote back side of the mountain – a perfect choice if you want to put your new skiing skills to the test. Cascade is another family favorite – new skiers will love the quality groomed trails where you can harness your turns and jumps!

Mountain Stats

When you’re done with the green trails, you will be pleased to discover another 1900 acres of intermediate terrain.  Challenge yourself on these blue trails that dominate 45% of the resort. With a summit elevation of 8652 feet, and vertical drop of 3251 feet, Lake Louise is an ideal ski resort to get into skiing or snowboarding.

Affordability

Lake Louise pow days come with a bonus – affordability!  Ski rentals start at $46, accommodation at $72 (average/person/night), and lift tickets at $93. For only a total of $227, you may be able to squeeze out a couple extra days!

Where to Rent Gear

Looking for a ski shop that goes the extra mile? Black Tie Ski Delivery in Lake Louise is famous for their delivery services free of charge! They feature affordable, premium ski and snowboard rental with stellar customer service.

Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana

Whitefish Ski Resort

Whitefish Mountain Resort is a large ski resort in northern Montana, 35 miles west of Glacier National Park and 7 miles from the town of Whitefish.  It is one of the most affordable ski resorts in the West, with lift tickets only $89.   It’s 3,000 acres features 111 marked trails and lots of bowl and tree skiing.  The resort is easy to access via Glacier Park International Airport just 18 miles away in Kalispell, which is served by major airlines like Delta, United, Frontier and more.

Beginner Terrain

Almost half of the mountain is dedicated to beginner and intermediate trails, which equates to a whopping 1,470 acres.  The resort’s average of 320 inches of snow annually means there’s plenty of pow to play in.

Mountain Stats

Whitefish boasts a vast 3,000 acres of terrain (one of the largest resorts in the U.S.!), 4 terrain parks, 12 chairlifts plus a conveyer carpet and 2 T-bars.

Affordability

Whitefish lift tickets are only $89, with discounts for purchasing multi-day tickets in advance.  Whitefish also offers a free S.N.O.W Bus that runs daily in the winter, making it easy and inexpensive to take advantage of everything the resort and town has to offer without having to worry about driving.

Where to Rent Gear

Skip the lines at the ski shop and have your gear delivered free of charge!  Black Tie Ski Delivery in Whitefish is famous for their convenient, affordable, premium ski and snowboard rental with stellar customer service.

Afton Alps Ski Resort, Minnesota

afton alps ski resort

If you live in the Midwest and are a beginner skier or snowboarder, taking advantage of a resort nearer to home is smart.  You will save money on lift tickets, transportation and accommodation, which means you can spend the day on the bunny hill guilt-free!  Afton Alps is located just outside of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, and is the largest Vail-owned resort in the Midwest.  Minnesota skiing is perfect for beginners with the gentle slopes, ample snow and lack of crowds.  With nearly 300 skiable acres, beginners will have plenty of terrain to practice on.  Afton also has the added benefit of hosting night skiing – a great way to extend the day and get more runs in!

Beginner Terrain

Over 200 acres of Afton Alps is dedicated to beginner (34%) and intermediate (37%) runs, making it a great place to take up the sport.

Mountain Stats

While Afton Alps is smaller in terrain and vertical than resorts in the Rockies, that also makes it a great place to learn.  Afton has converted thousands of first time skiers and riders into lifelong enthusiasts.  With 48 trails, 4 terrain parks, 18 chairlifts and night skiing opportunities, Afton is one of the Midwest’s most sought after ski destinations.

Affordability

With lift tickets starting at just $50 (non-holiday), and reasonable accommodation prices in the St. Croix River Valley, Afton Alps may be the most affordable ski trip you take.

Where to Rent Gear

Rent your ski gear right at the resort at great rates!

Mount Snow, Vermont

Mount Snow is located in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont, making it the closest big mountain to many of the Northeast’s largest metro areas – just 2.5 hours from Boston and 4 hours from New York City.  The resort’s 601 acres is spread across four mountains and features 82% beginner and intermediate runs.

Beginner Terrain

Almost 500 acres of terrain are dedicated to beginner and intermediate runs at Mount Snow.  The resort also offers a Mountain Tour provided by the resort’s own Mountain Hosts.  The tour will accommodate your ability level, and help familiarize you with the mountain, lifts and runs quickly.

Mountain Stats

Mount Snow will impress with their 19 lifts, 10 terrain parks and tree terrain available on all four mountain faces.  Average snowfall of 150 inches is augmented with snowmaking on 83% of the terrain.

Affordability

With lift tickets starting at $90 (non-holiday) and plentiful options for dining and accommodations right at the mountain, Mount Snow makes a Northeast ski trip affordable.

Where to Rent Gear

Save even more money by renting your ski and snowboard gear online in advance from the resort’s top rated ski shops, and picking it up easily at the base of the resort when you arrive!

Ski Resources

When you have finished your day on the slopes, nothing beats relaxing at a fun après ski spot.  Check out our top recommendations for après ski at North America’s best ski resorts!

Wondering what to bring for your first time skiing or snowboarding?  Check out our Ultimate Packing List for your next ski trip.

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