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Skiing in Europe February 2007

Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 04:09 PM
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Skiing in Europe February 2007

I would like to thank all that reply in advance as I have spent the last few months looking into this and I am thoroughly confused on when and where to go. Please see my questions below, I have chosen to include some background info as it appears that with so many options in Europe what you are looking for and how one skis are critical to choosing where to go:

First some background:

I'm 31 and will be traveling with my girlfriend who is also 31. She is a big fan of European cities and culture, I have never been to Europe. She is an advanced intermediate skier who prefers "easy blacks" and I would consider myself an advanced skier as I ski 30+ days a year. I primarily like to ski bumps and terrain (I have listed a few as a frame of reference) like the kind you find on Chair 22 at Mammoth, Goat's eye at Sunshine Village, alpine chair at copper mtn, etc, etc. I do not ski out of bounds very often but am willing to hike to terrain like the ridge at Taos, etc.

Now for the questions:

1) The snow: What is the snow in Europe really like at the better spots? Europeans I have shared lifts with here tell me there's no comparison between the alps and a good day in the high sierra or the rockies, and my research seems to indicate the same... What can I expect? Is it comparable to tahoe's sierra cement? Is it like a bad day at the always icy Keystone Colo? or can it be epic?

2) The terrain: Trying to figure out the sprawling layout of european resorts is rather confusing, so I must ask the forum, where can I find some good inbounds thrills and bumps? I will most certainly hire a guide to ski "off piste" one day but I would like to spend most of my time away from avy danger, on advanced inbounds terrain.

3) The culture: I am going to Europe for the 1st time to see Europe (ending the trip with 4 days/3 nights in Paris) -- I can start the trip anywhere based on the responses to these questions--- This will not be a 7-8 day skiing only trip, but of course I'd like to score 3-4 days of great skiing, and it would be nice to stay in a true european ski village/town that doesn't remind me at all of my character-less home spots.

Where should I go????????

Thank you all so much for your input.
nedlog is offline  
Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 05:50 PM
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To give you my frame of reference: I have skied Copper, Vail, Breckenridge Alta, Park City, Sundance and many New England areas. I "grew up" on skies in the Allgaeu alps in Germany.

(1) Snow conditions are generally , I repeat generally, more like New England than the Rockies. Afterall, the mountains get mostly maritimne snow, and most of the alpine ski areas are at a lower altitude than the ones I mentioned above. For example, the base of Copper, Keytstone and Breckenridge is not much lower than the top of the highest German mountain, the Zugspitze. I have experienced great snow conditions in February and I have been relegated to glacier skiing in February because of the "February Thaw".

(2) Generally, the ski pistes of European ski areas are quite dissimilar than the ones I quoted. They are more open, less "classified" by runs. Most of the pistes, during the rest of the year, are primarily grazing land for working farms. So they are not carved out for skiing purposes, although you, obviously, will find pipes and bumps.

(3) The European runs are less groomed, so you will find bumps in nearly every ski area. But you may find them on runs that are signed as "intermediate" or as "difficult", very much depending on snow conditions.

(4) Skking in Europe is much more relaxed. The aim is not to be the first and last one on the lift and get as many runs in as possible, but to enjoy yourself, perhaps with a stop at the top of the mountainfor for a relaxed drink or meal.

(5) The French ski resorts are more similar to ours, the German and Austrian ones are less so.

Places I liked: In Germany the Allgaeu (Oberstdorf, Kleine Walsertal),the area a around Berchtesgaden and Garmisch Partenkirchen; in Austria Saalbach-Hinterklemm, Kitzbuehel, Zell am See, Vorarlberg (Austria; In Switzerland ermatt and Arosa and although I have been there only in the summer, the Berner Oberland -- Grindelwald, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen. And again, there are places in the Italian Dolomites I have visited in the summer that loooked like and have good reputations as great ski areas - - like the valleys close to Bolzano (Val di Gardena, etc.) and the atrea around Cortina d' Ampezzo.

I am sure others on this board will have their own favorites, places that I have never skied.

Althouigfh I h
treplow is offline  
Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 07:04 PM
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Thank you very much for your reply Treplow

I am very pleased to here that there will be plenty of trails with bumps.

I have skied in New Zealand and it seems like the trails are marked in Europe same as there. I think the best plan is to ski with a guide on Day 1 and learn the area that way.

Th relaxed atmosphere of skiing in Europe is something I look forward to experiencing, its one of the reasons I want to make sure to go a resort that has some character to it.

With that in mind, and the fact that my trip will end in Paris, I have been looking mainly at the resorts in France and Switzerland. Of those I CANNOT decide between the following, if you could help me choose it would be greatly appreciated.

1) Zermatt
2) Val d'Isère
3) Chamonix
4) Courchevel
5) Val Thorens
6) Champéry

Thanks again.


nedlog is offline  
Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 09:22 PM
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nedlog,

I am a pretty advanced skier. My favorite ski areas in Europe are:

1. Verbier in the western part of Switzerland.

2. Cortina d' Ampezzo in Northern Italy.

I have also skied in Innsbruck, Ischgl, Zermatt, Engelberg and Kitzbuehel.

The reason I like these two ski areas the best is because they are extremely large and I feel challenged when I ski there. They are also large enough that I don't get bored in a week of skiing.

In answer to your questions:

1. snow - I have experienced the best snow early in the year, January. When I have skied in March it has not been good. The runs were mostly groomed.

2. While I was in Verbier I skied with people who had been there before & were able to take us all over the 4 Valleys. We averaged about 20,000 verticle feet per day, maxing out at 26,000 on one day. When I was in Cortina we hired a guide, Georgio, to take us on the Sellaronda - a 22 mile circuit. I loved it! We skied our pants off that day! And the wild horse ride was not to be missed!!!



Verbier is a tiny village. It might be what you are looking for in a ski resort. Cortina is the Aspen of Europe! If I had $1 for every mink coat I saw I could have retired by now! I am still trying to get my SO to buy me a mink coat so I can fit in the next time I go to Cortina!

I hope I answered some of your questions.

Next year we are going skiing in Andorra. So watch for my trip report sometime in FEB!
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 10:49 PM
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The most important thing to know about skiing in Europe in Februray is that it's the most expensive month of the season as it's the little darling's schools holidays.

So not only is it expensive, the pistes are crowded with little kids who can ski far better than you can & make you know it.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 06:30 AM
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Thanks for the replies.

Verbier sounds interesting, I'll definitely look into that one some more.

Zermatt gets a lot of publicity and has solid reviews in magazines, etc. but it does not appear to have much support on this board.....why is this?

Thanks again.

nedlog is offline  
Old Jul 24th, 2006, 07:30 AM
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Well I have skied every major resort in the USA probably. East coast skiing,lmao, nothing anywhere like it, I have not seen any blue ice in Europe resorts yet.And cold wow, nothing like Stowe on a cold day. Huge lift lines, ice everywhere and colder than cold.

The light powder of Steamboat is unique and that seems to be the only place with it.

So the differences between Colorado and the ALPS. My thoughts so I am sure others will disagree but here goes.

1-Well as amazing of a view the rockies are the Alps blow them away with beauty.(sound of music, rent the DVD)

2-Apre ski is sick in Europe, so the atmosphere is better in Europe. We cant hang with them when it comes to day drinking.

3-Most on slope restuarants have watress service, no standing on line with ski boots. Foods better also in Europe

4-Lift tickets about 30 dollars a day cheaper in Europe of course depending on the Euro

5-Slopes are marked with numbers not trail names, so USA is better for that. But its not a big deal.

6- Not much grooming, so not much difference between a green,blue or Black in Europe. They use red.

7-Moguls are more common in Europe but nothing like Prima in Vail or regulator in Utah. The double blacks are not really found in Europe as much as Colorado, or I should say slopes as diffucult. Granted I havent done the Italian Alps yet.

8-Lift sytems, nothing like the lifts in Austria, Ischgl and St Anton are so precise and organized and modern and comfortable. Swiss lifts are a little older and Ciccerone can give you great thoughts on them.

9-The snow, I usually go mid March and have had great luck, have never seen real ice, always had lots of snow, which in March turns to slush. February should be amazing.

Kitzbuel, nice village, conditions are questionable

Davos- to me ugly non euro looking village, expensive, 30 dollars for a pizza pie.

St anton- love that place, great snow, nice village, fun place. Great lifts.Lots of mountains close by to ski. Going back for the 7th time in March.

Ischgl- Great mountain, nice village

St Moritz- Yuck, Aspen,Vail mentallity, looks like a small city.

Zermatt- Great apres ski, expensive, cog railways are a pain. 3 gondalas to get to top. If conditions arent great long lift lines to get to top.Bottoms of mountain sometimes has no snow.

Val d'Isère- best skiing, no apres ski, been years since i have been there.

I am actually going back to skixmas time with the family and I am also looking for a new place. I might try Germany.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 07:32 AM
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Zermatt is fantastic. I have been there lots of times including the last two years. There are no cars in the town and its very traditional. A problem for you may be that it is quite a long way - 4 hrs approx by train from Geneva. There are 3 main areas and some say that the connections aren't too good. But the resort is one of the best and doesn't have the queues. An alternative traditional resort is St Anton but it is low down and does tend to have queues. Zermatt is relatively expensive. You can ski over to Cervinia (Italy) from there.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 07:50 AM
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I wonder why nobody mentions Flims/Laax, Berner Oberland (Grindelwald etc.), Zillertal...

There are far more good skiing areas in any Alpine country in Europe than just the dozen or so resorts with big PR departments that were mentioned here...
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 08:16 AM
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Thank you all for your replies.

The more and more I read, it seems like ValDisere is the spot for great skiing and great snow, how is the village there? Does it have some charm & character?

Zermatt is hard to decide on...sounds like bad snow could equal memories of long lines and high prices.

I do not need to begin my trip in geneva, i just need to end up in paris, geneva seemed like a great city (especially for a europe 1st timer) centrally located in ski country. I may be just as happy beginning my trip in Zurich, Lyon, Milan, etc I don't know. Living in CA, I currently drive 4.5 hours almost every weekend to ski for 2-3 days at a time, so a long train ride to the slopes will not phase me at all.

I am willing to go anywhere...just looking for a ski hill that has good terrain, good ambiance, and my best chance for good snow.

Thank you all again for your comments.

ps - the BEST scenery without question in North America exists in Banff, AB, no place in California, Utah, Colo, New Mexico, or BC can hang in my opinion.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 08:51 AM
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Generally French resorts have all the charm of a road accident.

If you want charm then go to Austria
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 09:48 AM
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Check out www.ski-europe.com.

I'm also planning a ski trip in Europe.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 10:11 AM
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If you want a charming French resort, easy to reach resort from Geneva, go to Megeve. I don't know if the runs are challenging enough for you, but the skiing area is very large. (www.megeve.com). Runs are green - blue - red - black. Megeve does not have so many black runs. I've been to Val d'Isere, and though the skiing is more challenging there, I much prefer the village of Megeve. It's not that high, but we have always had great snow in February.

As someone mentioned, February is the top month for skiing. The week of Feb. 18 will be particularly crowded, since the Parisiens are on holiday, as are most of Europe. The best hotels are fully booked already.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 11:41 AM
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The Serre Chevalier ski domaine in the Hautes Alpes is a traditional ski area that does have lots of charm that the purpose-built resorts in France greatly lack. Briancon, is the main town, and it has a fortified old town section that is very interesting and picturesque. You will find very few Americans there (the few English speaking people we saw there were Brits), and it is not glitzy at all. It is a very large area ( 10 or 12 lift linked villages along a valley) and is the home of Luc Alphand, former Olympic skier.

www.serrechevalier.com
www.briancon.com
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Old Jul 25th, 2006, 05:23 PM
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So I take it that ValDisere, despite its high marks for terrain and snow quality is a bad call due to the village having no charm and being an eyesore. Is this the case?

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Old Jul 25th, 2006, 10:22 PM
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Val d'Isere is a high altitude result therefore it didn't exist until the 1960's - which means that there's a lot of very brutal architecture & charm was way down on the list of "things to have".

I understand it's better than it was, but it certainly won't have the charm of a typical Austrian resort
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Old Jul 25th, 2006, 11:32 PM
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for a ski discussion forum which is Europe centric, check out snowheads.com
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Old Jul 25th, 2006, 11:35 PM
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I hated skiing the Jungfrau, Wengen had to take crowded trains to get to the slopes, incredibly long runs and very beautiful but so different from a typical American resort.
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Old Jul 26th, 2006, 12:13 AM
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I live in a skiing resort in Italy & every year there's less & less snow in the alps so even in February this could be a problem so my advice would be to only consider a high altitude resort.
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Old Jul 26th, 2006, 12:23 AM
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I live in the Alps and not such high altitude and last year there was an incredible amount of snow, maybe not in Italy.
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