When it comes to learning to snowboard, there's certainly nothing worse than being thrown in at the deep end, scared shitless and scarred for life. It's not exactly the easiest sport to master - there's something a bit unnatural about strapping yourself onto a plank and sliding sideways down a mountain.
But get it right at the start and you'll be hooked for life.
All resorts are different so if you're just starting out, you can forget about the apres scene, the beautiful scenery or the great restaurants. What you need is a resort that will allow you to progress at a steady rate with top instructors taking you on progressively more difficult slopes. And some resorts are better at that than others.
Get it right at the start and you'll be hooked for life.
Luckily for you, we've compiled a list of the top 10 resorts to get you off the mark and get you as addicted to snowboarding as we are.
Les Arcs, France
Les Arcs has always been a firm favourite with us Brits, and it's no surprise. With nearly 50 beginner pistes and easy access to and from all the villages, it is an ideal resort if you're thinking about strapping in for the first time.
Plenty of lifts are free to use and these serve an array of blue runs which are mainly wide and pretty quiet. Handily, many of the easier runs to learn on are situated in and around the villages of 2000 and 1950 and there's also 'ski tranquille' zones dotted around the resort so you won't be cut up by any locals as you go.
All in all, Les Arcs deserves it's place as one of the top beginner resorts in the world. It's mega family-friendly and caters for just about everyone, whether you're a complete newbie or a seasoned pro. Luckily for the beginners out there, about 60% of the resort is perfect to learn the ropes whilst the other 40% will be rideable after a few week's practice.
Arinsal in Andorra often goes overlooked by more seasoned snowboarders, but that can only be a good thing if you’re just starting out.
Blessed with great snow and some pretty chill terrain, Arinsal is busy enough in the evenings and quiet enough on the slopes, so you can get your head down and get those turns in! The majority of the resort is aimed at beginners and intermediates so there’s plenty of room for progression too.
Friendly English-speaking instructors make it all the more enjoyable and if you want to experience some tougher terrain by the end of the week, the nearby resort of Pal is a great place to move on to.
Stratton Mountain, Vermont
Vermont’s very own Stratton Mountain might not be the tallest peak around but it offers up a respectable 2000+ feet of vertical and, more importantly, some awesome beginner trails.
Almost half the trails available are devoted to the humble novice and this makes for a huge variety of runs to keep your day interesting.
The main draw for Stratton’s beginners is the protected learning centre and, once those knees are getting the hang of it, you can hit the top-to-bottom West Meadow trail. For those who fancy a bit of danger, there’s a progressive park setup too, so you can start small and dream big.
It may not be the prettiest resort in the world, but there's no denying Avoriaz is one the hottest places to learn the ride. With 650km of piste at your fingertips, Avoriaz and the Portes du Soleil area have to be on the list of places to shred.
The nursery slopes are right next to the resort centre and the park is nearby if you're part of a bigger group with some experienced guys. Many of the gentler runs can be easily lapped with a decent lift system in place too.
Whilst the resort is not solely dedicated to beginners, it's a good introduction to the Portes du Soleil area which can keep you coming back for years.
Saas Fee, Switzerland
The Swiss resort of Saas Fee has backed snowboarding since the very beginning and as a result, the setup here is very good for side-sliders.
The nursery slopes are situated close to the resort but also out of the way of busy runs so you'll never have a problem avoiding people. From these gentle runs, it's a simple step up to a series of open blues and a few gentle red runs.
Additionally, if you don't think you'll progress on to the steeper stuff you can simply buy a beginners pass, giving you access to plenty of easy-going terrain that'll keep you happy for days.
The majority of beginners will find themselves around the base of Peak 9 in this world-class resort. With six lifts and a couple of magic carpets, there is everything you need to get the basics down before heading onto bigger and steeper runs.
Breckenridge is also renowned as having some of the best instructors in the country so there is no doubt you’ll be moving along at a steady speed before your trip is up.
Moreover, the runs here are generally long so if you’re a bit unsure about using a chair lift, don’t worry – they are few and far between. At the end of the day, jump on the famous Four O’Clock green run at the bottom of Peak 8 and it’ll take you all the way down to the town ready for a well-deserved drink.
La Rosiere, France
The French resort of La Rosiere is good for beginners looking for quiet slopes and a friendly atmosphere. It’s not as big as the nearby Les Arcs or La Plagne but that doesn’t mean to say it fails to deliver on the snowboarding front.
If anything, the quieter slopes and experienced schools are the perfect place to learn to snowboard, with 80% of the pistes ideal for beginners and intermediates. Plus, there are a few free lifts around for real beginners who don’t want to shell out all their hard-earned wedge on a lift pass for the whole mountain.
As one of Europe’s premier snowboard destinations, Mayrhofen has an abundance of schools and a cable car will take you directly from the town to the beginner slopes and bring you home at the end of the day.
Whilst you won’t be blasting down Austria’s steepest piste (Harakiri has a gradient of 78%!) anytime soon, there are plenty of runs to keep you occupied for a week. If you fancy yourself as the next Jamie Nicholls, there’s also a world-class park for you to grab some airtime in.
Snow is never a problem here either, as the resort boasts 147 snow cannons to keep the pistes nice and white so you can keep riding late into the season.
Whistler is one of the snowboard resorts on every snowboarders bucket list. With over 200 trails spread across 8000 acres, it’s the biggest resort in Canada and boasts a silly amount of space to learn the basics.
One of the biggest draws for beginners visiting Whistler is the fact you can ride almost the whole mountain, from top to bottom, on green and blue runs so you don’t feel like you’re contained in just one area. This ‘whole mountain’ experience will do wonders for your confidence and with a bit of practice, you’ll be moving onto steeper terrain before you know it.
Unlike Europe, the ski patrol out here really do crack down on dangerous skiers and snowboarders, so there’s no danger of out of control teenagers cutting you up and ruining your day.
The popular resort of Courchevel, located in the Three Valleys, is home to 11 free lifts for beginners spread across each of the resort villages so you are guaranteed to find a safe place to learn. The best two villages to hone your skills are Moriond 1650 and Courchevel 1850 which both have dedicated nursery slopes as well as long winding green runs for you to aim for after a couple of days.
Once you start getting the hang of standing up and moving forward, the Three Valleys is arguably the best place in the world to get in some mileage and progress onto steeper terrain and, fortunately for beginners, Courchevel prides itself on just how well they groom their pistes.
Although it’s one of the more expensive resorts around, for the variety of runs and the quality of the snow, it’s totally worth it.
Alpe d'Huez, France
The extensive green runs directly above the Alpe d"huez resort are great for beginners who want a variety of slopes to learn the fundamentals without being stuck in a dedicated nursery area. Be warned though, these slopes can get busy towards the end of the day as they form a through-way for people heading home.
There are two free lifts for you to ride and once you’ve got the hang of it, there’s a special lift pass available that gives you access to a series of recommended beginner pistes.
The only disadvantage of this resort is the south facing slopes late in the season losing a lot of snow quickly, but there’s more than enough terrain here to keep you occupied elsewhere.