As you, my first trip to Europe was in my second season of skiing, and we skied beautiful picturesque, Lech-Zurs in Austria. Since then we have skied Zermatt in Switzerland and have just returned from an unreal trip to the L'Espace Killy, in Tignes-Val D'Isere in France. (later on in the next few weeks, will post a TR of the visit there of a 12 year old expert and his Dad who tags along for the ride)
You will get great advice on this forum as you already have above. We got the same from folks here, and all our trips were/are shaped quite a bit based on the counsel on these pages. In return, have posted detailed Trip Reports on our visits to Lech-Zurs and Zermatt-Cervinia - you can find them easily searching the site.
Questions you need to/should answer which might help refine the responses are (a) where in Switzerland you will be (sorry, just read you are in LUCERNE, middle of the country kind of) and (b) how far are you willing to travel and (c) for what duration? For instance, Lech-Zurs in Austria is closer to Zurich, than Zermatt is. Verbier in Switzerland is very close to Geneva. The Trois Vallees, or Paradiski or L'espace Killy and others are not too far from Geneva (within 3 hours drive, give or take 30 minutes) , as is Chamonix (all France). The Engedin (think St. Moritz) is not too far from Zurich.
Chamonix is not known for beginner skiers, and a lot of boot-packing, busing etc and not exactly known for piste skiing.
Zermatt has long piste runs (it has the vertical), as do Lech Zurs, but Zermatt ski-in/ski-out is basically non-existent (yes there are perhaps two places with that access), get ready to walk in ski boots with skis on your shoulder in Zermatt, that is the realistic situation. Lech-Zurs and L'Espace Killy (Tignes/Val D'Isere) are replete with ski-in/ski-out options.
In our experience, we have never skied a place like Tignes-Val D'Isere, it was unbelievable, landscape and vistas similar to Lech-Zurs, but bigger, badder, and just unreal terrain, variety, length, and steep, everything is steeper than most other places; and other skiers who know the surrounding areas said L'espace Killy Blues are Reds in Trois Vallees etc (hearsay note, but common refrain); Zermatt-Cervinia not even close, but that is one person's opinion. The 12 year old is pretty open-minded and usually likes the idea of skiing a new place each year if we can, logistics and finances permitting, but he did quietly say on the one lift ride on final day afternoon with Pops, "Dad, we should come back here next year" Yes, Tignes-Val D'Isere is that good !
Note I will add before anyone gets bent out of shape, Cervinia's piste runs are an intermediate-heaven, we loved grooving on them, you can feel like Ted Ligety on them anytime and right under the might Matterhorn. And noting you are in Lucerne, Zermatt is definitely not that far, basically 3 hours by train (two trains, one big, one smaller) or less by car, and probably wise to check it out as you are so close, and Saas-Fe is along the same valley in the lower part which you ascend to get to Zermatt at the end under the Matterhorn, so you can ski 3 areas in a week or so, Zermatt, Cervinia and Saas-Fe and all are world-famous so to speak
Amusing sidebar: In Zurich airport, (We were in transit) on return trip son sat next to this gentleman who saw his Tignes sweatshirt and started chatting with him about skiing in Tignes, and how marvelous Tignes-Val D'Isere was etc. Well, Dad joined the conversation, gentleman was guiding some folks around Tignes-Val D'Isere all spring and perhaps longer. This gentleman turned out to be one of the originals, one of the greats of American and global free-skiing, he is Dan Egan. Very gracious to a young 12 year old and his old man! Dan Egan loves Tignes-Val D'Isere...and his views jive with ours, and he's only been skiing there for 30 odd years
Just an intermediate's Experiential input.
Customary preliminary pictures from Tignes-Val D'Isere all last week:
1. Dawn on Day 3, last Monday,from our most cozy room (at Hotel de la Vanoise) balcony in Tignes Val Claret (totally ski-in/ski-out, lifts out the backdoor or ski to from back door):
2. One of those you can see forever views - on-piste as that is relevant to original query, on the border-top of Tignes-Val D'Isere, looking in the direction of Val D'Isere to the left above skiing duo who became great pals on mountain, one lives there, the other visiting, and neither had a language in common and became fast friends :
Edited by dustyfog - 4/13/15 at 5:29pm