Learning to ski is a fun and exciting experience. Not only will you learn a whole new range of skills, but you’ll be taking in some incredibly beautiful scenery while you’re doing it. But before you start looking at ski trips abroad, it might be worth taking a few lessons in the UK first, which will take you through the basics and give you more confidence to tackle the slopes.
Which are the best indoor ski slopes in the UK?
There are lots of indoor slopes all over the UK where you can have a few lessons with qualified instructors on real snow. Here are some for you to check out:
- The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead: This centre offers everything you need for a great indoor winter sports experience. Using the latest snow cannon technology to create an authentic alpine experience, the vast slope is over 30-metres wide and 160-metres long. Beginner skiers can head to the 100-metre long lesson slope, which is the largest of its kind in the UK. There will be plenty of space for you to practice as you learn the basics. And the on-site snow school is accredited by the British Association of Snowsport Instructors, so you’ll be in good hands.
- Chill Factore, Manchester: There are four main areas, including a 40-metre long beginners’ slope, and a winter wonderland for young children to enjoy the snow. There are classes for beginners, and once you’re feeling more confident, you can check out the 180-metre long main slope, which is one of the longest real snow indoor slopes in the country. And if you want something a little different after a few hours’ skiing, you can go on the 60-metre luge slide or tackle the 12-metre indoor climbing wall.
- Snow Factor, Braehead: A great place to try skiing in Scotland, this centre boasts a whopping 200-metre main slope which is covered with 1,700 tonnes of fresh snow. There is also a separate section for beginners, and after you’re done on the slopes you can head to the bar for a drink while listening to live music performances, or you might bump into some of the players from the local Braehead Clan ice hockey team.
Which are the best dry ski slopes in the UK?
There are also lots of dry ski slopes where you’ll learn on a special material which behaves like snow:
- Ski and Snowboard Centre, Cardiff: Book on to a group lesson which is designed for those who haven't been skiing before. It includes an induction to equipment, static exercises, walking, climbing and sliding on skis. These sessions are 15 mins longer than their other group lessons to give you time to learn about and understand all the equipment you use when you ski. Then you can take your new skills onto the 100m outdoor dry slope to practice what you’ve learnt.
- Ski Rossendale (The Hill), Lancashire: The most popular dry ski slope in the North West has a 200m main slope, and ski lessons suited for everyone from age five upwards. They offer taster sessions for beginners to get you going before you start on a beginner’s course (50-minutes sessions). Their highly qualified and experienced instructors will take you through all the stages for an exciting and memorable experience.
- Snowtrax, Dorset: This dry ski slope in Christchurch offers 45-minute group ski lessons, which are a great way to learn with other beginner skiers. You’ll start with a short safety briefing before heading out onto the slopes, and they offer a special reduced rate for block bookings. You can even give your little ones their first taste of skiing too with Alpine Tots skiing fun for two and three year olds, with simple sliding and gliding exercises to introduce them to the slopes.
There are unfortunately only a handful of actual snow resorts in the UK, such as the Nevis Range, Glenshee, and Cairngorm Mountain, which are all in the Scottish Highlands. The unpredictable British weather makes it a little difficult to plan a ski staycation, so why not head a little further afield to some of Europe’s most picturesque spots to show off your new skills?
Where can beginners go skiing in Europe?
There are hundreds of ski resorts in Europe, but not all of them are suitable for beginners. If you haven’t had any lessons before, you’ll need a resort which offers quality tuition and easy, confidence-boosting slopes. Here are some of the most beginner-friendly resorts for the perfect first ski trip:
- Niederau, Austria: This pretty little resort is great for families, with a fantastic learning area with miles of easy runs to progress to. Their excellent English-speaking ski school offers free ski tuition for children when adults pre-book lessons. And there are also lots of non-ski activities like sleigh rides and snow tubing.
- Alpe d’Huez, France: One of the sunniest resorts in the Alps with over 300-blue-sky days a year, beginner skiers can have lessons at the well-regarded ski school where you can learn all the basics. As you improve, you can head higher up the mountain onto fantastic wide and gentle runs, with spectacular surroundings for you to enjoy.
- Passo Tonale, Italy: With over 100 English-speaking instructors and a multitude of quiet, easy runs close to the hotels, this resort is one of the most popular places in Italy for learning to ski. Within a few days, beginners will be ready to progress across the valley to the glacier, or down to Ponte di Legno's steeper slopes.
If you are planning to go abroad for your first ski trip, it’s important to check your luggage allowance if you’re flying. Sometimes you’ll need to pay extra to fly with ski equipment, so it will probably be easier to hire equipment at your resort. Otherwise, roll your clothes to save on space, and stuff socks into your shoes, and put goggles or toiletries into your ski helmet to make sure there’s no wasted space. Pack heavy items as carry-on so you can keep your checked-in luggage under the weight limit, and wear bulky items such as your ski jacket so you can save some much-needed space in your suitcase.
And don’t forget these ski holiday travel essentials too:
- Tickets, passport, local currency
- Flight/train/coach/ferry transfer details
- Resort/accommodation/ski hire information
- Passport photos (check if needed for your lift pass)
- Travel insurance (which covers winter sports)
- Deep heat (for aching muscles)
- Mobile phone, charger
- Travel adapters
What do I need to drive in Europe?
If you’re planning on driving to your ski resort, remember to take your driving license and a Sat Nav or directions (or use the GPS on your phone) so you know where you’re going. There are also a number of other requirements which you might not be aware of when driving in Europe, so take a look at our checklist to avoid getting a hefty fine:
- Valid driving license
- National Insurance number
- Proof of vehicle insurance
- V5C certificate (log book)
- Passport (proof of ID)
- Travel insurance documents
- European Breakdown Cover (policy and documents)
In many European countries, it's compulsory to have certain equipment with you too. It does vary according to which country you’re travelling to, but usually it includes some or all of the following:
- Warning triangle (compulsory in most countries)
- Reflective jackets (one for each passenger)
- Snow chains (or winter tyres)
- Headlamp beam deflectors stickers
- First aid kit
- GB car sticker
- Spare tyre (and tools)
Before you travel, ensure your vehicle tax and MOT are valid and up-to-date. And give your car a thorough check over to reduce the risk of breaking down (check brakes, fuel, oil, tyres, coolant, electrics, screen wash etc). You can also buy a Euro Travel Kit which will include most of the essentials needed to drive in European countries (listed above).
If you’re hiring a car rather than taking your own, most firms will usually provide all the necessary safety equipment, but it’s the driver's responsibility to make sure everything’s on board before you drive off.