When I look back at my first attempts at skiing, I wonder how I ever made it past the snowplow. I was on long, straight heavy metal skis, wore borrowed boy’s lace-up leather boots, Stephen Bradley hadn’t invented grooming yet, the teacher was my boyfriend and the rope tow at Loveland nearly shaved the skin off my fingers. The only thing good about it was the price: $3.
Now beginner skiers and snowboarders can rent late-model gender-specific equipment, choose their professional instructor, see their skiing or riding selves on video, practice on manicured slopes dedicated just to them and even ride their own lifts.
Back in the day, ski resorts were an intimidating place for newcomers. Now, Colorado resorts get it. They strive to make it easy and fun to learn. In most cases, ski/ride schools, rental shops and ticket desks are in the same building. Larger resorts have ambassadors who can give you directions and even help with the process.
Here is a look at Colorado’s best ski areas and resorts for beginners.
The Colorado Gems
Smaller areas, where runs funnel to a single small base, make learning less intimidating for snow bunnies. There’s less walking, little parking hassle, fewer people on runs and in lines, and less confusion as to where to go for rentals, lessons and lunch. Colorado Ski Country packages these areas together as Colorado Gems — Arapahoe Basin, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn, Ski Cooper, Solvista and Sunlight. You can buy a Gems card that offers adult, child and senior discounts on lift tickets all year (with a few exceptions), making the commitment to learn less damaging to your bank account. ShopColoradoSki.com; (303) 837-9731
One of four separate mountains of Aspen Skiing Co., Buttermilk is Colorado’s legendary bunny slope. Its wide, gently rolling slopes are buffed like golf course greens for classic beginner real estate. Learn here, then head three miles into Aspen to party with the experts. They’ll never know! aspensnowmass.com; (800) 525-6200
Instead of being confined to the bottom of the mountain, beginners can ride to the highest peaks to take in spectacular views only experts enjoy and still get their lessons. Ute Park in Prospect Bowl is the most scenic outdoor classroom in ski country. tellurideskiresort.com.com; (800) 778-8581
Copper’s naturally divided terrain — less steep as you ski from east to west — gives beginners an area all to themselves for learning and practicing. Nearly a quarter of all Copper’s acreage is green-circle terrain based out of Union Creek on the west side. Here you’ll find a day lodge with food, tickets, rentals and lessons. coppercolorado.com; (866) 841-2481
For little beginners, Beaver Creek installed the Buckaroo Express Gondola. The children’s gondola gives kids a warm, dry ride and easy access to the excellent teaching terrain in the mellow Haymeadow area. The gondola’s ride time is less than four minutes. beavercreek.com; (800) 842-8062
Learn alongside your kids in the Family Adventure Clinic. This afternoon session customizes lessons for the level-2 and above skiers and snowboarders in your family. The Prospect area is perfect for practicing and even has its own kids-style map for little ones. skicb.com; (800) 810-7669
Colorado native Claudia Carbone is an award-winning ski and travel journalist and the author of the book “Women Ski.” She writes for local, national and international publications.