Where Green Is Golden — Ski Areas for Beginners
We all gotta start somewhere.
Just as nobody has sprung fully formed from the womb, every skier and snowboarder — no matter how adept he or she is now — had to begin from scratch, making tentative early attempts to learn the sport.
Many of these birthing grounds are little mom-and-pop ski hills, small operations that serve the great purpose of introducing newbies to the fun of sliding down a snow-covered slope but often lack the infrastructure and/or terrain to fully engage the fledgling, who really wants to extend its wings.
And that’s where the big-mountain resorts can work their magic.
Though many of these winter playgrounds can be a bit intimidating to a first-time skier or snowboarder, they often have extensive areas set aside solely for beginners to perfect the rudiments of the sport. And they can give the newbies the feeling that if they can master these green trails, the sky’s the limit.
The following are six such big-mountain resorts that are perfect for beginners to stretch their legs.
With Lone Peak towering more that 3,600 feet above the base area, Montana’s Big Sky resort gives one the feeling that this is an expert’s playground. But one lift ride to the south provides access to Andesite Mountain and the Southern Comfort lift and its trio of long (more than 6,000 linear feet each) and lovely green cruisers.
For years, Tahoe locals sneeringly called this Truckee-area resort “Flatstar”, but Northstar’s relatively gentle terrain — many of the blue runs can be successfully ridden by a confident beginner — is conducive to first timers. And it has a well-deserved reputation as a great place for kids to learn the ropes.
Ajax Mountain and Snowmass are the lodestones for most people who venture to Colorado’s Aspen resort, but one the four separate mountains, Buttermilk, is made for newbies: More than one-third (35 percent) of its terrain is rated beginner and there’s a mountain-top lift (West Buttermilk Express) that serves a handful of long green runs.
This Park City, Utah, resort is world renowned for it grooming, and nearly one-third of Deer Valley’s daily grooming schedule is dedicated to its 28 green trails. Homeward Bound, off the Sterling express lift, and Ontario, off the Quincey express lift, are super long and super fun.
With the biggest vertical drop in Vermont (2,200 feet), Okemo also has the longest green trail around, the Mountain Road, which meanders for 4.5 miles from the summit to the base area and is served by one one high-speed lift (Sunburst Six). The resort also has designated 40 of its 123 trails as green.
This northern Colorado resort has an extensive learning area at the base, served by three chairlifts. But although only 14 percent of its terrain is rated beginner, Steamboat does have one of the greatest green runs around: the 3-mile-long Why Not trail that winds its way down from the top of the Stagecoach Gondola back to the base.