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Good Holiday Ideas | May 22, 2024

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Welcome to our Wonder World

Welcome to our Wonder World
  • On 4 December 2014

Skiers young and old line up to start a beginner course at Alpbach in Austria’s  Ski Jewel area  – one of the Alps’ best learning and skiing areas.

And this could be you – if you have always longed to take the leap and learn then now is the time – with the Euro on the floor and everything in Austria cheaper than in Britain.

Here is our Complete guide for ski beginners, written by two experts – John Hill, Editor of the Good Ski Guide (Britain’s biggest and longest running ski title) and Chris Exall from the International Ski Teachers Federation…

First the skiing you see on TV World Cup races is nothing at all like what actual leisure skiers do. The TV race athletes are akin to Formula One Grand Prix professionals whereas a ensure skier is more like a Sunday drive in the country.

Skiing isn’t a sport you can teach yourself. Putting a set of skis on at the top of a ski run before you’ve had expert tuition will take you no further than casualty hospital, so you must take ski lessons – from professional ski teachers. And never your friends..

Do get some general tips from your skiing friends, but your first steps on skis should be taken with someone trained to help you get the best out of the sport. Husbands, wives and partners – take note. If you want to enjoy your ski holiday. Teaching your beloved to ski will only allow a divorce lawyer to buy a new Ferrari.

In Britain, you are never far from a snow centre or artificial ski slope, and most will offer you a taster lesson or a series of lessons at a low price. Or for those in the north there is good ski teaching at ski resorts in the Scottish Highlands.

Very first thing you will learn is how to carry your equipment, put your boots on and the basics of sliding and steering.

Skiing is about balancing when you’re on the move and an artificial ski slope is a perfect place to learn how to stay upright. Spending a few hours at a ski centre will save you a day or two learning the basics in a ski resort. And give you confidence and a head’s start on complete virgins. Again do remember that skiing on an artificial slope or ski centre only gives you an idea, or feel, for the real thing.

Skiers, once they have mastered it, rarely use a tour operator — and go independently – but for first timers there is a case for making your first ski holiday with a tour firm as they offer beginner packages where you can hire boots, skis and poles – and you will be joining others going to ski school, which is generally a fun experience. So where do you go on holiday to learn?

Or if you have a friend or relative who is expert and knows a favourite resort – it is Ok to go with him and book your own lessons – though you would still be joining others in a group lesson, but that’s fun, and you often meet people who become friends, and sometimes very close friends – I met my wife of 40 years on the piste in Aviemore.

SCOTLAND is the nearest real ski learning destination if you live north of Manchester or Leeds, and you are guaranteed excellent teaching in any of their five resorts; however the cost is usually much more than a package to the Alps. And Scottish winter weather can be highly unpredictable. And if you do go just shrug off the natives, who wind you up for being English – they love us really.

When you get to your Alpine resort you should make sure that your instructor speaks good English. Many popular destinations employ British staff in their ski schools and these days, all fully qualified ski teachers need to speak a second language.

The major ski countries in Europe are France, biggest and highest mountains and the world’s No 1 ski nation, followed by Austria, then Italy and Switzerland. All have good ski teaching, and whist France only gives ski teachers a badge after a two-year university course, instructors don’t always have fluent English.

Austria has long been a favourite destination for ski beginners. It’s where you find a combination of great accommodation, top-class skiing, excellent caring ski schools, picture-postcard villages and the special hearty welcome the Austrians call Gemütlichkeit.

Of course you have to pick the right resort. I would be more than happy to spend your money on your behalf by sending you to some of the most expensive ski resorts in the world, but price does not reflect the experience you will have as a novice.

Choose Lech or Zürs and you’ll find some of the world’s finest ski terrain, with plush luxury hotels and posh restaurants to match. It’s the area where Austrian ski instructors learn their craft, so your instructor will be top drawer, though all of this comes at a huge cost.

However other top-notch resorts are far more geared to expert skiers and, as a beginner, you might be paying for terrain and ski lifts you will never see in your first week of skiing. If you do go to a large resort, before buying a lift pass, see whether you need to buy a ski lift ticket for the entire area. Your first few days will be spent skiing close to home and you can pay a supplement if your instructor takes you further afield.

Many British skiers spend their first days on skis in Austria’s favourite family ski areas such as the Kitzbüheler Alps (friendly resorts such as Westendorf and Kirchberg), linked to the famous Skiwelt lift circuit, Austria’s largest, covering Soll and nine villages and 200km of tree-lined slopes.

Next door is the Wildschonau, with Niederau being the top destination for novices. There’s enough terrain to keep more advanced friends busy and you can easily meet in the village centre for lunch. Wildschonau resorts are linked to picture-postcard neighbour Alpbach, a long-standing favourite with English skiers with great beginners’ slopes and chocolate-box architecture. And good prices too.

These areas are all u in the Tirol, under an hour’s drive from gateway airport of Innsbruck, whereas in the east is the Sound of Music city of Salzburg, and this region has also a grew many resorts, including learning resorts. Try picturesque Zell am See-Kaprun area, just an hour from Salzburg, where you not only have excellent schools but a great tourist town – on a frozen lake – and a multitude of things to do after skiing.

Italy has some of the finest ski areas in the world, in particular the Dolomites, also known as Sud Tirol, and there teaching is good too, though from Austrian-speaking teachers, as the area was once owned by the Austro-Hungarian empire. Good resorts include Selva, Val Gardena, and smaller neighbour San Cassiano.

Switzerland has undoubtedly the best quality ski resorts, always reliable, always high class, and always very expensive (ordinary Swiss mortals ski in France or austria!!) But if money is no object we would recommend stylish Crans Montana, where the learning slopes are among the best in the world – as they are totally unintimidating and perfect for learners.

Two very good learning areas you could try are Andorra, a tax haven twixt France and Spain, where most ski teachers are either British or colonial (Aussies, kiwis, Canadians and Bulgaria in eastern Europe, which offers the world’s lowest-cost budget ski holidays from around £600 for a week half-board and where apres ski costs a tenth of major Alpine areas – bottle of gin or vodka for £4, very large vodka and tonic about £3.50, or £1.50 for a huge glass of vodka alone.

The states? What about skiing in Canada or America we are often asked by readers – and we surprise them for revealing that the USA – and in particular Canada, whilst a great holiday and ski experience for good skiers, is not deal for people learning – because the costs of air travel and onward transport to the resorts, combined with high prices in resorts – for hotels, eating out and then the swingeingly expensive ski passes – often treble those of Europe. And whilst you get good teaching, learners have to overcome the challenge of 12-hour trek to ski areas, and performing on skis whilst fighting jet-lag, make North America a no-go – despite all the lavish publicity.