Courchevel vs Vail?

Old Sep 11th, 2003, 04:59 AM
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Courchevel vs Vail?

Hi,
We are a group of 8 persons that are planning to go to ski next 17th of January for a week.
We have been in Vail, so we decided to go to Courchevel to visit a new place for us, but after reading some posts that talks about the icy and lack of snow in Courchevel, we now have doubts about going there.
The ski and after ski in Vail is excellent and we don?t want to be in Courchevel thinking about how good was Vail. If you were us, Would you try Vail again or you would choose Courchevel?

Is the snow conditions in mid January in Courchevel as good as Vail?

Would you choose another ski resort?

We are intermediate skiers.

Thanks.
OswHitti is offline  
Old Sep 11th, 2003, 01:46 PM
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Let me start with a disclaimer: I haven't skied at either Vail or Courchevel, so I can't compare the two locations specifically. But I have skied at other Colorado ski areas, get about 20 days of skiing in at my local New England areas each year, and have also skied for the last several years at various locations in the Alps. So if you don't mind a bit of a generic answer . . .

First, Courchevel is part of the Trois Vallees, arguably the largest "ski area" in the world and also one of the most snow-sure. Virtually every major ski area in North America could be fit into the Trois Vallees with room to spare and there's always good snow somewhere. The largest N.A. area - Whistler/Blackcomb - has about 200 trails. The Trois Vallees have about 200 LIFTS.

The snowfall in the Alps is typically somewhat later than in North America, so mid-January is sort of early season, but otherwise there is no reason to be concerned generally about ice (in New England we go looking for ice!) or lack of snow - recognizing that all areas can suffer in bad snow years. We always book our trips to Europe later in the year - this year (ski year, that is) we'll be in Meribel, also in the Trois Vallees, the first week in March. Early March usually is the maximum snow depth in the Alps, and has longer days and better weather for sitting around outside, about which more below.

With regard to the skiing, Europe is as different from N.A. as night is from day. First, it's mostly above tree line and while there are marked and groomed routes down the mountain (pistes) you can go whereever your abilities take you. I don't ski much off-piste myself, and as intermediates you probably won't either, but just knowing you can somehow makes things different. There's also no "out-of-bounds" and no closing time - if you want to spend the early evening at one of the on-mountain cafes and then ski back down in the moonlight it's up to you. In short, you're assumed to be a responsible adult and allowed to look out for yourself - how refreshing.

Also, skiing in Europe is more than just pounding as much vertical as you can in a day. You ski a run or two, stop for a little schnapps, soak up some sun, then head out to check out the runs in that little valley over there on the map, stumble into another interesting restaurant on the way, stop for a little more schnapps . . . well, you get the idea. You'll also find hikers and sightseers using the lifts and slopes as well - everyone just adapts and gets along. It has a much different feel to it, and skiing back home pales in comparison, IMHO.

By now you've probably figured out that I'm recommending you go to Courchevel, or somewhere else in Europe, to see what it's all about. I've come to regard all of my skiing at home as just a warmup for my annual trip to Europe and I honestly would not trade my Europe trip for a FREE week at any American resort.

If you want something that's absolutely snow-sure look at Zermatt or its less glitzy and less pricey Italian neighbor Cervinia. They ski on the glacier all year round there (the two resorts are linked and share one ski pass).

There's a very knowledgable individual who posts as JohnBMW730 (or something like that) who I hope will see this and jump in with his thoughts on European skiing.
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Old Sep 11th, 2003, 03:11 PM
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For us, living in the midwest, the easy travel to Colorado, Utah, or California makes US skiing an easy choice as compared to long flights and jet lag.

Vail is great, and we have found that the whole mountain is open by mid-January. I'd recommend going to Beaver Creek, which is never crowded, for the weekend and Martin Luther King Day. Sometimes, Vail can be a mob scene.

I'd also recommend the Park City, Utah area. There are three mountains (Park City, The Canyons and Deer Valley) within 10 minutes, and the town is fun.
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Old Sep 11th, 2003, 03:35 PM
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Another place to consider is Cortina ,Italy. We went the last week of January 2003. Great skiing, wonderful food and plenty of snow with access to great scenic runs! very lively apres ski! They also said it was a so so year in terms of snow. The only place it was an issue was the trail that lead directly into the town. We have also skiied in Austria - St Anton & Lech. We loved Lech but overall preferred Cortina.
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Old Sep 11th, 2003, 11:54 PM
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First, for Courchevel, read "Trois Vallees". As FlyFish says, the area is so huge that you will always get snow somewhere in the system. And if you buy the full lift pass, you can ski practically anywhere in it. Research the whole area..
US or Europe? Nothing kills jet lag as well as skiing, and personally I don't find the 10 hour flight a big deal. The important differernces are:
- booze. We all ski better after a few glasses of wine. And a midmorning mix of caffeine and alcohol beats hell out of a diet Coke. But:
- queues. American resorts understand them: European armies train their special forces in lift queues. Few things are sneakier than a crocodile of children in a French lift queue.
- language. The absolute, overwhelming, majority of skiers in the Trois Vallees are French. Many workers' English is excellent: but not everyone's.
- scale. Sad truth is, nowhere in the US that I've found can hold a candle to the 3 vallees for choice and variety of runs.
- ease. I'm as intermediate as they come. But for all that Americans groom their pistes (do you call them trails?)as well as they look after their teeth, I find skiing in France a LOT less threatening. God didn't design us to ski: personally I notice that a lot more in the US than in France.
- food. Sorry, but the choice between eating in the US and eating in France is a no-brainer.

On balance, I'd go (and do go) for the 3 vallees every time.
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Old Sep 12th, 2003, 12:37 AM
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OswHitti
Courchevel is a fantastic ski resort,
and in mid January you will have it all for yourselves, there are no european holydays as there is much more demand
for Feb and March.
You will always have snow in courchevel in January , some years more than others.
Snow conditions, January is time for fresh snow, so your chances of having good quality are high.
My suggestion for an Alternative resort will be without any doubt Val DÌsere.
Certanly the best resort in Europe.
(And I do know Zermatt, Saas Fee, Verbier, Lech, St morizt, Cortina,
and many others)
I have never ski in Vail so I cannot compare.
Someone mentioned Whistler, which I know, beautiful place , but skiwise I find much better Courchevel or Val D'Isere.
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Old Sep 12th, 2003, 06:55 AM
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Skiing in Europe, my *favorite* topic! You have gotten some great advice already...I agree with FlyFish's explanation of Europe vs. Colorado. My husband skied every year in Colorado since he was 6 (Aspen, Vail, etc). The last 3 years, we have skied in two huge lift-linked areas (Dolomiti and Portes du Soleil). He says the snow in Colorado is great - fluffy and light. He has experienced good conditions in Colorado most of the time (sucked only twice). He also says lift lines are organized.

Skiing in Europe has advantages that appeal to us more. Resorts and towns are lift-linked, so you ski from town to town and from country to country. In the US all the lifts in a resort, all the restaurants, and many of the accomodations are owned by *one* company. In Europe they are independently-owned. And skiing is as much about cruising to another town, having a coffee, cruising some more, having a beer, enjoying the scenery, having a long lunch, tan, cruise, beer, as it is about skiing.

About the skiing - My husband (expert)usually skies in the offpiste right next to the piste, while I (low interm.) ski in the actual groomed pistes. Also, lift lines can be considered "aggressive" by Americans (but possibly not in Jan). When we skied with my in-laws last year, we had to wait for them all the time!

If you just want to ski, stay in Colorado. If you want more than just skiing, go to Courchevel.
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Old Sep 12th, 2003, 07:41 AM
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...and now that I gave my opinion, I would like to question others for recommendations for a resort with:
1. extensive terrain, with plenty for intermediates
2. good snow in mid-March
3. not too expensive.
4. We don't care for apres-ski, we usually hit the sauna, jacuzzi, have a nice dinner, and go to sleep.
5. Not an ugly resort

Also, besides Cervinia, any other recommended resorts in Italy?
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Old Sep 12th, 2003, 10:24 AM
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ttt
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Old Sep 12th, 2003, 11:01 AM
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Mariarosa, check out the Serre Chevalier ski domaine in the Hautes Alpes. There are several small villages along a valley of a few miles. Briancon, which brags of more days of sunshine than any other town in France, is the largest town in the area. We stayed there at the Auberge du Prorel, literally right across the street from the ski station, which links the whole valley. It is not one of those purpose-build concrete monoliths; the area is traditional and charming. It is the home of Luc Alphand, who was an Olympic skier in the 90ies. I don't ski, but we had a family ski vacation there in March 2000, and we fell in love with the place. It is not terribly far from the Mediterranean, so early skiing is not guaranteed, although the year after we were there, this area and Italy (border only few miles away) got the Xmas snow that year. Not many Americans go there, so you can go all day and not hear any English spoken. It is reasonable, also. And the traditional food is the hearty fare of the region: tartiflette, fondue, raclette, etc.

This area will probably become much better known, alas, w/in next 2 yrs., because it is not all that far away (perhaps 70-80 mi?) from Turenne, site of next winter Olympics. Go before it's discovered!
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Old Sep 13th, 2003, 09:23 AM
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Hey grandmere! What did your grandchildren think of the skiing at Serre? Serre does look good, but there isn't a lot of information on it. Is Briancon the most convenient location in Serre, or would a different village be better situated for touring?
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Old Sep 14th, 2003, 05:25 PM
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Hey flyfish thanks for the plug! I am just one guy who has found a group of friends that love to ski different areas every year...if possible.

OswHitti: Flyfish and Mariarosa have described Euro vs N. America pretty well! I have skied Vail and I think it is one of the Best resorts in America! If you want "Pure trail skiing, great conditions, modern lifts,GREAT SNOWMAKING.. yadda, yadda....BUT....If you want to have a SKI-ADVENTURE than you have to try Europe at least once!
Yeah, you might hit a bad snow year..there have been many....you will love the lift lines! (Bring friends to lock arms with!) Just find a great Package deals with Hotel, Lifts and Meals!! Then ski with the Europeans! ENJOY the SKIING, but "suck up" the atmosphere even MORE! Have a "five course meal" at 10,000 feet! Drop a few 'schnapps' to get the ski legs going! Take a Tandem paraglide off the Mountain! Enjoy the sauna and steam rooms.....sans shorts of course! Walk the villages that have been around when Vail was Indian Country!, eat some 'MILKA' chocolate, have a French HOt chocolate with real CHOCOLATE!....Do you get the picture! It is not so much about the skiing as it is about "THE SKI LIFE"!!
John
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Old Sep 14th, 2003, 05:39 PM
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To Mariarosa:

I really loved LECH, Austria. It has a rep for glitz, but I found it very charming!!. I stayed at Egon Zimmermans Hotel (He was the 1960 Olympic Downhill Gold Medal winner) We had a Package ( I know I keep talking about 'packages' but it is the way to go if you are watching the Euros!) That was 12000 AS. I think it was $600 for Hotel, Half-Pensionne, and Lift tix (1999). The area runs busses from Zurich to Lech for $55 R/T! You have the beautiful slopes of Lech, Zurs, St. Christoff and the Expert slopes/Party town of St. Anton just down the valley!! I would go back in a heartbeat!

Another favorite was the Italian resort of "Courmyeur" on the French border! Another gem, intermediate slopes, nice people and that wonderful Italian food!!
John
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Old Sep 14th, 2003, 07:09 PM
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Hi, Mariarosa!

My only grandchild is a 10 mo. old baby girl, and she was only a twinkle in her parents' eye at the time of our trip! My 20ies/30ies-something son, daughter, and son-in-law loved Serre Che, as it is called. Try http://www.goski.com/rfr/serre.htm for some additional information.
I'd stay in Briancon if you want to do any touring, which is what my husband and I did on the days that we didn't meet the "kids" on the slopes for lunch, etc. The villages along the valley are very close to Briancon, so you really couldn't go wrong either way. It's just that the old town of Briancon is such a charming place to be, and we could walk there from our hotel, which couldn't have been more convenient to the slopes. It did not, however, have a jacuzzi or sauna. You can probably find a hotel that does, but in general, this is a traditional Alpine ski area-- not much glitz, except that the ski facilities are top notch.

You can also ski over to Italy from this area. They didn't; just ran out of time during this 1 week trip, and didn't even get to the far end of the SC valley.

You mentioned that your husband is an expert skier; he might like the challenge of La Meije in La Grave (about 30-40 min.car drive from Briancon), which is known for its treachery, all off-piste. Must have a guide; I hired one for our two guys the day they went there, and I spent the day worrying about whether their skiing was up to level needed for this mountain! I guess it was the experience of a lifetime. They looked shell-shocked when they entered our hotel bar that evening as we eagerly awaited their return! And the stories have taken on a life of their own since then, as you might imagine!
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Old Sep 15th, 2003, 03:47 PM
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grandmere - you should be called 'recently grandmere'! I asked my husband about "La Grave" and he has heard of it, so it definitely has a mythical quality to it. I don't know if I feel comfortable letting him 'loose' with a guide. :-0

John (bmw) - Lech, huh? I always thought of Lech as glitzy, I must research it more! We usually book directly with the hotel, with whom did you book your package?
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