Beginner's guide to downhill skiing in Ontario
When you’re new to winter sports, it can be tough to know where to start.
The best ski resorts in Ontario make it easy with flexible teaching lessons for all ages and skill levels, equipment rental services, programs for skiers with special needs and a variety of ski packages.
Many of Ontario’s ski resorts also offer special camps and lesson programs for kids, tweens and teens during school break holidays.
It can be daunting to look up at towering ski hills and imagine travelling down them at dizzying speeds, but with a little guidance and instructions you’ll soon be looking at them with anticipation.
Before you head to a ski resort, make sure you’re well prepared. Most ski resorts recommend that beginner skiers book lessons ahead of time. Some lessons will include ski equipment rental and tickets for the ski lifts as part of their beginner packages, so it’s good to know what’s covered and what you still need before you arrive.
What do I need for downhill skiing?
The air gets cold up on the ski hills. And in between ski runs, downhill skiers spend time sitting on the chairlift that takes you up the ski hill, meaning you’re not moving around that much to help stay warm. Make sure you wear the right clothing and bring all the essentials to avoid cold fingers and toes. Consider these items:
- down winter coat or jacket with a hood that will fit over your helmet
- thermal long underwear (made of wool, synthetic material or silk, but not cotton)
- fleece or wool top
- ski or snow pants
- gloves or mittens
- ski socks
- ski helmet (not mandatory but highly recommended)
- ski goggles
- balaclava or neck warmer
- extra clothing and gloves
Many ski resorts will have ski equipment available for rental, such as skis, boots and poles. Check with the ski resort ahead of time if you’re planning to rent equipment from them. Finally, bring water to stay hydrated and some money to buy hot chocolate or energy-boosting snacks while warming up in the chalet.
Ontario ski resorts for beginners
There are a variety of beginner-friendly ski resorts located in Ontario that offer lessons for skiers of all skill levels, ages and abilities. Find the place that best suits your learning needs.
Central Ontario and Muskoka
Horseshoe Valley Ski Resort in Barrie boasts 29 downhill ski runs and the longest beginner carpet in Ontario. Experienced instructors are available to give daily individual lessons and teach beginner skiers of all ages. For an additional fee, a friend or family member can join a private lesson for twice the fun. Note that rental ski equipment and lift tickets must be purchased separately. Book lessons online in advance.
Location: 1101 Horseshoe Valley Road West, Barrie
Snow Valley Ski Resort offers downhill skiing lessons for everyone, whether it’s your first time on the slopes or you’re a veteran looking to brush up on your skills. Check out their Learn to Ski packages, which include lessons for new skiers of all ages, ski equipment and helmet rental, and timed tickets for lift access. Call the ski resort at 705-721-7669, ext. 274, to book a private beginner lesson.
Location: 2632 Vespra Valley Road, Minesing
Located along Georgian Bay, Blue Mountain offers ski lessons in a variety of formats, including daily and multi-week programs. People of all ages and abilities can attend a Snow School class that best fits their needs, whether it’s one-on-one instructions or larger group lessons. Kids will love the Kids Daily Lessons for fun instruction tailored to their skill level.
Over 36 slopes ranging from bunny hills to advanced runs make this a popular ski destination. Located in Coldwater, just north of Barrie, the family-owned resort offers beginner packages that include group lessons (divided by ages 6–12 and 13+), ski equipment rental and access to lifts for the beginner ski hills. All downhill skiing lessons are taught by instructors certified by the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance. Packages and lessons must be booked online in advance.
Location: 24 Mount St. Louis Road West, Coldwater
In the heart of Muskoka, Hidden Valley Ski Resort is a great place for beginners of all ages. Trained snow instructors will guide you through all the steps you’ll need to learn. Private lessons include tickets with lift access, but any required ski equipment will need to be rented separately. Book private lessons ahead of time—although drop-ins are welcome, availability cannot be guaranteed. Parent and toddler 1-hour private lessons are available for parents who want to continue helping their child ski after the lesson.
Location: 1655 Hidden Valley Road, Huntsville
Holiday camps for kids, private camps, and group and private lessons offer comfortable learning or relearning to guests of all ages and skill levels. Emphasis is on skill development, safety and fun.
Experience the ski hills in beautiful Oak Ridges Moraine at the Lakeridge Ski Resort. Approximately a 1.5-hour drive north of Toronto, this resort offers winter skiing fun for everyone, including beginners. Private and semi-private ski lessons are taught by certified instructors and run for seven weeks, ensuring skiers of all ages and skill levels are thoroughly trained before hitting the slopes on their own. Check out the Holiday and March Break camp programs for kids who want to ski all day and make new friends. To register for lessons, email email@example.com with your completed Lesson Registration Form.
Location: 790 Chalk Lake Road, Uxbridge
This boutique resort has it all—great accommodations, upscale dining, a relaxing spa, a winery next door and a ski and snowboard hill. Plus, it’s just a 45-minute drive north of Toronto. The easy rider trail and magic carpet conveyor belt back to the top of the hill are designed for both new and learner skiers and snowboarders. Check online for daily lessons.
Location: 793522 Mono 3rd Line, Mono
At Chicopee, skiing lessons are taught by trained instructors who focus on promoting skill in the sport and nurturing a passion for skiing. Groups are divided by age and ability, so both child and adult beginners get the best instruction for their current level. All participants receive a post-lesson progress report, so they know which beginner hills to try with confidence. Book a session online in advance or join one of their drop-in lessons by checking in at Guest Services. Both sessions come with ski equipment rental and a lift ticket valid for the entire day.
Location: 396 Morrison Road, Kitchener
Glen Eden in Kelso Conservation Area offers lessons for every step along the way, from core beginner programs to academy programs for experienced skiers. In addition, private lessons are available with one-on-one instruction. See the Snow School Group Program for full information.
Location: 5234 Kelso Road, Milton
Just a 45-minute drive west of Ottawa in Mississippi Mills, Mount Pakenham is the perfect day trip ski excursion from the capital. Lesson plan and school trip dates are booking up quickly for the upcoming season. There are also flexible evening and weekend programs like the parents and tots sessions or lessons for adult night owls.
Location: 577 Ski Hill Road, Pakenham
Calabogie Peaks is home to the highest ski hill and most varied terrain in Ontario, but don’t let that deter you. This all-season resort heats up in winter with amazing snow-based adventures, including alpine skiing. Kids and adult lessons with both group and private options will help get you in on the action.
Location: 30 Barrett Chute Road, Calabogie
With year-round adventures including treetop trekking, mountain biking and snowtubing, Boler Mountain is also a great spot to pick up the basics of downhill skiing with a variety of learning programs for kids and adults.
Location: 689 Griffith Street, London
Located in Uxbridge, about a 1-hour drive north of Toronto, Dagmar features a Family Learning Centre offering specialized lessons for kids and families, plus various holiday camps and packages.
Location: 1220 Lake Ridge Road, Uxbridge
Mount Jamieson offers a selection of programs for beginners. In addition to the holiday break camp, group lessons and a progressive ski camp for kids of all ages, adults can book private lessons. There’s even a unique women’s alpine camp providing women with a fun and encouraging learning experience.
Location: 5050 Kamiskotia Road, Timmins
Find a learn-to-ski or learn-to-snowboard program that fits your skill level and schedule at Searchmont Resort, a popular ski destination with 26 runs that include dedicated beginner trails.
Location: 103 Searchmont Resort Road, Searchmont
One of Ontario’s most urban ski experiences, Laurentian Ski Hill is conveniently located within minutes of downtown North Bay with parking and ticket sales at both the top and bottom of the hill. Lessons, rentals and the beginner hill are located at the upper lodge.
Location: 15 Janey Ave, North Bay
Take full advantage of Northeastern Ontario’s splendid winter weather with special ski camps, multi-day snow school and group or private learn-to-ski sessions. You can even arrange a family lesson.
Location: 1800 Loch Lomond Road, Thunder Bay
One of the most popular skiing destinations along Lake Superior’s north shore, Mount Baldy features 1.6 kilometres of beginner terrain. Sign up for a private, 1-hour ski lesson online (lessons are divided between ages 6 and under and ages 7 and up).
Certified instructors will tailor their instructions based on your skill level and help you work towards your goal, whether it’s downhill skiing for the first time or polishing a particular skill. If you want to learn with family, friends or a partner, private group lessons are also available. Lessons come with full-day use of a lift ticket and ski rental equipment.
Location: 375 Mount Baldy Road, Shuniah
Accessible and adaptive programs
A growing number of ski properties are committed to sharing the joy of winter sports with guests who require special assistance. Innovative programs, such as CADS Ontario, are designed to remove barriers and help foster the potential in everyone, focusing on ability, not disability.
Adaptive ski lessons at Blue Mountain Resort are designed for guests with disabilities or in need of special accommodations and are taught by a certified instructor. Classes can be booked by calling 1-833-583-BLUE.
Stay on the slopes at resort accommodations
Now that you’re out enjoying the winter season, try your hand at other snow adventures like snow tubing, snowshoeing or fat biking. Many of Ontario’s ski resorts, including Hockley Valley Resort, Blue Mountain Resort, Horseshoe Resort, Calabogie Peaks and Searchmont Resort offer a variety of activities and mountainside accommodations from suites to chalets, so you can literally stay and play all day.
Check the Ontario Snow Resorts Association for more great Ontario ski resorts and for the most up-to-date snow conditions at ski hills across the province. So, what are you waiting for? Head to the hills to embrace winter fun!
For more snow-based adventures, check out these other exciting snow activities:
Last updated: December 31, 2022