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Two unenthusiastic first time skiers - which resort?

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Two unenthusiastic first time skiers - which resort?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi Snowheads,

I have been skiing with my family for a number of years and we have been lucky enough to visit Europe, Canada. USA.
I come back and regale my best friend with stories and photos and tell her what great fun it is. She has never wanted to
ski before preferring her sunny holidays. However she has just turned 50 and being a 'you should try everything once'
person has decided that she and her husband would like to come with us next year.

The trip wll probably be just the four of us - two couples. I'd really like them to thoroughly enjoy it and want to go again but
we dont know where to take them. We are thinking somewhere traditional with a nice ambiance, a good hotel as my friend does
like a bit of comfort and luxury and preferably minimal queues/distance to lifts. Also, good private tuition for the two of them would be
a must. We are going to try a week in Europe - first thoughts being Wengen or Cortina.

Any suggestions gratefully received!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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A spa town somewhere so there is something for them to do other than skiing? Bad Hofgastein / Bad Gastein spring to mind, but there are plenty of others. There's usually some nice hotels around the spa towns as well.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
or a largish, pretty Austrian ski tow such as Kitzbuhel or Zell Am See, preferably a bit later in the season when the weather's a bit warmer.
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Yes, good suggestions. I have been to Zell before but didnt find the skiing great for beginners.

A spa town is a good idea - will look into Bad Hofgastein and Kitzbuhel. Smile
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I wouldn't recommend Cortina - not very convenient, and unenthusiastic beginners will not appreciate having to trek to slopes. I've not been to Kitzbuhel but my sister went there several times, because she had friends with a place there, and though she liked the town she found trekking to the slopes a bit of a pain.

The key will be to find really good instruction which need not necessarily mean private lessons. For beginners, learning in a small group can be a lot of fun and feels a bit less pressured. The British Alpine Ski School is just one of a number of ski schools which offers small group learning - see their website for suggestions.

In France, one good venue would be Megeve, an upmarket destination with an attractive, traffic-free town centre. But again, depending on where you stay, it can be a bit of a trek to get to the start of the skiing. That's always one of the dilemmas. If you are in an attractive town such as Kitzbuhel, Innsbruck or Megeve you are not likely to have the most "ski in/out" convenience.

I agree it makes sense to go later in the season when it's not likely to be so cold - but check local and other relevant holiday dates carefully (e.g. German dates for Austria, Belgian dates for France, Dutch dates for both). If lack of lift queues is a real priority (and it certainly is for me) many places will be quietest in January and certainly in France (which is what I know about) some resorts regularly have much bigger queues than others. I expect the same is true of Italy and Austria.

Zell am See does sound a good spot for older beginners - another upmarket place, without the rowdier element which probably wouldn't appeal to your friends. Any resort with "lively apres ski" as one of its selling points might be better avoided. wink

The scenery in the Italian Dolomites is magnificent and some of the resorts there are suitable for beginners (some not, so need to choose carefully. I've not skied in Wengen. It does have beautiful scenery and some very keen advocates but reports on SHs about it are mixed, especially for beginners.

Finally, have a look at classicski.co.uk who run holidays, fairly upmarket ones, for "mature skiers". I have met some people on their holidays in Les Saisies, where they use the Calgary Hotel, which is very nice - pool/spa etc. Very, very, close to slopes, lifts and ski school meeting place. Les Saisies is an ideal resort for beginners but there is some pleasantly challenging skiing around the wider ski area, which is quite big. In LS in late January/early February you would encounter very few lift queues. At 50 your friend would probably feel quite sprightly compared to some of the classic ski guests though they are often pretty good skiers.
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I know I'm hugely biased, but I'd actually suggest Val d'Isere. Lovely town (except La Daille) with plenty to see and do, and a nice ambience. Very good nursery slopes, and lots of various ski schools and instruction available. Plenty of greens up the mountain and they can download back to town. Also wonderful big mountain scenery and easy lift access.
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Hmmm...... Not sure about Val d'Isere. Too big and too brash and the need to download at the end of the day. Many other rsorts are much cosier.
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I think Wengen would be perfect. I went there as an unenthusiastic beginner just before my 50th birthday and have returned every year since then!
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I'd recommend San Cassiano, could fly to/from Venice and have a day or two in Venice to round off the holiday.....
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My immediate reaction is don't do it!!

You won't be able to ski together
At that age they will learn very slowly and they will be more likely to sustain an injury
You won't be able to ski as much as you would if you went away without them
They will blame you if they hate it (or if they injure themselves) and your friendship will suffer

Will this immediate reaction to your photos soon wear off?
Try to put them off.
Take them to a dry slope so they know what they are letting themselves in for

My real name is Whitegold
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kitenski wrote:
I'd recommend San Cassiano, could fly to/from Venice and have a day or two in Venice to round off the holiday.....


^ +1, or more generally the Alta Badia region of the Dolomites - Colfosco and Corvara also have plenty of good beginner slopes.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Lech/Oberlech
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Quote:

My immediate reaction is don't do it!!


There's an argument for that if your own skiing is of particular importance to you - you might resent the amount of time you have to spend with them. I must be a bit masochistic but have taken friends on "introductory" sort of sessions in both sailing and skiing. And spent a lot of time on ski slopes, in particular, with people who are slow learners/scared/poorly coordinated/ etc etc.

It depends on your relationship. If you are good friends, I'd definitely go for it. It's part of friendship to try new things together, and good for your friend for wanting to give it a go. It can be very satisfying taking a newcomer carefully round the slopes, making sure they're OK, judging when you need to suggest stopping for a drink, or just packing up for the day. Whether they are 4 or 54. But not, of course, if you're going to be feeling bored and wishing you were whizzing down a red slope.

And if they are good friends, and have any kind of sense, they won't blame you if they don't take to it, or even if they are injured. If they'd do that they're not worth having as friends. wink
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The most important thing imo is not to skimp on instruction. Book the best one-to-one or one-to-two private instruction, cos if you don't do this they wont come again.

I guess that really good accessible mountain restaurants would be a high priority, since this would sell the main benefit of skiing for many, i.e. joining chocolat chaud breaks with lunch breaks! Also, the private instructor could deliver them.

My Mrs does not ski because of a bad "learning to ski" experience, and I would love to get her to ski enough to at least enjoy some great eating experiences in the mountains. She no longer comes with us on ski trips, not because she wouldn't enjoy the atmosphere in the mountains, but because she feels completely left out by the tales at the dinner table about that day's experiences.

On the same subject, it would be worth establishing whether they have a particular aversion to heights, particularly on chair lifts, since this might have a bearing on what type of resort you choose.
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Ray Zorro wrote:
My immediate reaction is don't do it!!

You won't be able to ski together
At that age they will learn very slowly and they will be more likely to sustain an injury
You won't be able to ski as much as you would if you went away without them
They will blame you if they hate it (or if they injure themselves) and your friendship will suffer

Will this immediate reaction to your photos soon wear off?
Try to put them off.
Take them to a dry slope so they know what they are letting themselves in for

My real name is Whitegold


Laughing

Alistair Pink makes a good suggestion IMHO.

Also, Madonna di Campiglio - nice town, some great spa hotels, close enough to the slopes not to become a drag, plenty of beginner options that are not too distant from the more challenging stuff, great ambience and plenty of great Italian style and service.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Pick your spot carefully in Zermatt. You can't go wrong with that.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
Hmmm...... Not sure about Val d'Isere. Too big and too brash and the need to download at the end of the day. Many other rsorts are much cosier.


I don't see why downloading is such an issue, it would be the case for beginners in many resorts. I wouldn't call it 'brash' either, it's a lot nicer than many other French ski towns or purpose-built concrete jungles.

Austrian towns are very pretty but a lot of them lack the convenience the OP is looking for.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
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I don't see downloading as an issue either (there are world class resorts where everybody downloads) but I do think there are lots of nicer towns than Val D'Isere. It IS purpose-built, of course (given its altitude that really goes without saying) but not as bad as some purpose-built resorts.

Being able to ski down to the "village" easily from different directions is quite nice, though and can make for a cosier all-round experience. Having some trees and nice old chalets is good too, and there are plenty of places in France, as well as Austria and Italy, where that is possible.

I also find Val D'Isere extremely expensive and overall I think it would appeal more to a younger crowd. One of my quarrels with Val D'I is that the majority of people you hear around you seem to be speaking English. Evil or Very Mad The chat of Italian or French families is probably no more edifying, but it creates more of a holiday atmosphere. wink
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IMV conveniance is not to be underestimated. The people described could be very easily put off by a long walk in ski boots carrying skis.

We all don't really notice it because we are so keen to ski and we are used to it. When I first started I would have walked anywhere to get on my skis but to someone who isn't that keen it could be a big issue.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Jennyski,
It is always difficult to know what will suit who and how as diferent people jsut take to different places. I have been with in laws who did not particularly enjoy Zermatt as non skiers because they just found it a bit claustrophobic even though the actual setting is very attractive.

Likewise with my own parents as non skiers they actually found Avoriaz better than Wengen as the cable car down to Morzine gave them more variety these are not particularly reactions that I would have anticipated.

As far as convenience goes this is very much the specific attribute of accommodation rather than the general attribute of a resort. The most 'convenient' resorts often have ski in ski out stuff that is hideously inconvenient for beginners. And most 'inconvenient' resorts have at least some very well situated accommodation. If youare going to a hotel it is also worth pointing out that many decent hotels often have very reliable shuttle busses that take you directly to the lifts. Some also have arrangements where you can change and store boots and skis in a shop directly next to the lift, avoiding any awkward tramping about but allowing a delightfully secluded spot to live in.

As far as being not to busy is concerned when you go is almost as important as where. Going to the not so fashionable resorts in March is usually fairly quiet whilst giving a very good chance of pleasant weather and good snow.

Although I don't like making generalisatins about countries and their skiing for hotels I have generally found you get a bit more luxury at any particular price point in Austria than in France or Switzerland if your friends are keen on the comfort and luxury side of things (though I slightly prefer French hotel food).
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I tried this with my best friend a couple of years back. Every winter when I went off skiing she was rather bemused about my willingness to be somewhere cold and to be doing something over than loafing around on holiday. But she always loved the photos when I got back. She had a series of lessons at the Snowdome and seemed to be getting on OK. However, after the holiday (short break in Ski Welt) she has no desire to try skiing again. She loved the mountains, the views, the food and the ambience but didn't like skiing. She said it was terrifying and too much like hard work. But she's glad she tried. I think there are basically two sorts of people in the world, people who 'get' winter sports and people who never will. Good luck!
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Quote:

too much like hard work

another important point. some people who have never thought of skiing, or who really don't like the idea of being cold, have nonetheless been prepared to make a bit of effort - for example walking, cycling, swimming, sailing and understand their bodies to the degree necessary to understand that learning to ski is hard work physically. Doesn't mean you need to be super-fit or a very sporty, but you do need to make a bit of effort, put up with a bit of discomfort and not be a complete slob. Complete slobs who are 20 can get away with it. 50 year old complete slobs probably ought to think again. wink

I wouldn't take a friend who would be averse to putting on walking boots and a good waterproof and pushing themselves up a few hills.
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I don't get this. If they're not enthusiastic about giving it a go what's the point?
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Obergurgl in Austria for skiing convenience, great scenery, gentle slopes, nice hotels and good restaurants

Also agree with the Alta Badia suggestion.

Not sure about Wengen. Great place but some beginners find the progression from the nursery slopes difficult, not enjoying the angular blue from Kleine Scheidegg down to Arven or the runs below Wengernalp
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Saas Fee. Nice town, nice hotels, nice scenery, cable cars, funicular, all that. Best to download at the end of the day but where's the hardship in that?
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Quote:

If they're not enthusiastic about giving it a go what's the point?


they might have learnt in their half century of experience that sometimes trying something new even when you feel a bit wary and cautious about it can be well worth while. I think older people who are ready to try something new, even if it is not immediately appealing should be encouraged, not abandoned.
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I would recommend taking them somewhere that is setup for skiing rather than a town with a bus that takes them to the ski slope. Immerse them totally in the skiing. Go high and snow sure with ski in/out convenience and stunning views. Ignore "pretty villages" they can be a pain. And choose a place with no lift queues. In my mind a traditional ski resort is high and purpose built.

Not so convinced about private ski lessons. To me one of the best bits about learning to ski was the beginners lessons, lots of people in the same boat falling over and having fun together. Much more sociable than any lessons since.

So my primary recommendation would be Courchevel
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pam w wrote:

they might have learnt in their half century of experience that sometimes trying something new even when you feel a bit wary and cautious about it can be well worth while. I think older people who are ready to try something new, even if it is not immediately appealing should be encouraged, not abandoned.


'Wary and cautious' does not mean the same as 'unenthusiastic'. I was 'wary and cautious' the first time I drove a car but I was far from unenthusiastic about learning.

It's nothing to do with age and everything to do with attitude. If they're really unenthusiastic as opposed to a bit nervous about the whole thing then I really don't see the point however old they are.
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johnE wrote:
Not so convinced about private ski lessons. To me one of the best bits about learning to ski was the beginners lessons, lots of people in the same boat falling over and having fun together. Much more sociable than any lessons since

Agree with this. A beginner I met at a hotel in Tignes had private lessons. With just her and the instructor all she could see was that he could do everything perfectly and she could do not anything. She gave up.
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Quote:

In France, one good venue would be Megeve, an upmarket destination with an attractive, traffic-free town centre. But again, depending on where you stay, it can be a bit of a trek to get to the start of the skiing. That's always one of the dilemmas. If you are in an attractive town such as Kitzbuhel, Innsbruck or Megeve you are not likely to have the most "ski in/out" convenience.

In particular, I'd recommend Simon Butler Skiing. The Chalet d'Antoine is the more up-market of their two hotels. The unique feature of their holidays is the built-in tuition by native English-speaking instructors at a very good price. These are not exactly private lessons, but everyone is placed in a smallish group at the right level. This way, your friends will be taken care of while you have lessons appropriate to you, all meeting up at the same place for lunch. It is a 10-minute bus ride or 10-minute walk to the lifts (depending on which hill you go to) but you will be escorted on the first day. Evenings are very convivial, with the instructors joining you for excellent evening meals prepared by a Dorchester-trained chef. I've been going with groups of varying sizes for 20 years (for the avoidance of doubt, I have no financial interest! wink)
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Lech if the royals can make it down with farmer turns. .. lovely hotels fairly snow sure, just don't offer to pay for all.
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I would never recommend a large resort for beginners of any age, even somewhere as scenic as Zermatt.

I have been to plenty of big resorts with decent size groups that have included the odd beginner or two. It easy to get carried away by your enthusiasm at the end of the day, talking about the far flung places you have been, all the slopes you have skied and so on. It is very easy for beginners to feel left out of the conversation, if they are going to spend most of their week poddling around beginners slopes.

If you want people to get enthusiastic, they need to have some feeling of achievement at the end of the week and feel part of the experience. I started in a small Italian resort. I was in my mid twenties, very fit, keen to learn and at the end of a two week holiday I had skied almost all of the runs in the resort. Fifty year old beginners are not likely to achieve that in one week or even two, but they will still get a greater feeling of achievement in a smaller resort in my view.

I think it is far better for someone to have skied say twenty per cent or more of a small resort at the end of their first week, rather than five per cent or less of one of the big resorts.
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Quote:

Fifty year old beginners are not likely to achieve that in one week or even two, but they will still get a greater feeling of achievement in a smaller resort in my view.

I strongly agree with this - somewhere where you can, under your own steam, visit a variety of mountain restaurants and bars, and get different viewpoints and feel you have really TRAVELLED is much more satisfying.
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I'd second Obergurgl as an ideal first time resort - especially if you stay at the Edelweiss & Gurgl. This is the gold standard of ski hotels which I now compare all my ski holidays to; lovely food, rooms and spa, and you can literally step out of the boot room to the lift. It also has two of the best huts I've ever been to - the Nederhutte (great bands for all ages) and Hohe Mut Alm (which is the perfect mountain restaurant). The village is also upmarket, small and charming. I'd definitely recommend it to couples or more mature skiers.
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Another vote for Saas-Fee. Excellent nursery slopes in the village, and then an amazing confidence building long blue run higher up (Langfluh). Admittedly that's served by the world's longest T-bar!

And it's a lovely resort - we went there for our honeymoon, aand didn't regret it.
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When I met my now wife 8 years ago she was in her late 40's and had only ever done beach holidays whereas I had only ever done a couple of beach holidays and spent all my spare time skiing or traipsing around hills and mountains.
After we had been together a while the subject of holidays came up and rather than do seperate holidays we both agreed to try each others favourite.
We were lucky in that our friends of a similar age also said that they would like to try skiing and would come with us.
We went to Selva (after several indoor lessons at Castleford) and had such a fantastic time that we now ski 2 or 3 times a year and have just come back from a brilliant trip to Whistler.
The nursery area at Selva is one of the best I have come across with several lifts and different areas of slope and it is in the village which is always a bonus for learners and whilst lift served progression is problematic for an early beginner we usualy took a taxi to the Plan De Gralba area most days which is a great area of blue runs to progress on.
The scenery is simply stunning and the town being close to Austria benefits from Italian ambience and Germanic apres.
The beginners really benefitted from the time spent at Castleford and if possible I would always recommend some lessons before the first trip as progression is much faster.
By the way we married 2 years ago in Jamaica so I guess that you could say that I found that I quite enjoy beach holidays.
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Lech
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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Courmayeur should be on your list - pretty village, spa nearby, great food, not overly long transfer
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nbt, but Courmayeur has very limited terrain for beginners.
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and a bit of a schlep to the slopes - the OP specifically wants to avoid that.
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