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France v Austria

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
What do they say abour variety - the spice of life? Or is that jagatee?

@johnE, It's probably also an age thing, as well as a walk of life thing. I've actually often been glad that B&B owners and their middle-aged/elderly guests have sometimes spoken so little English that I have been forced to dust off my school French from a very long time ago and hold a conversation (for one thing it gives me a welcome opportunity to show off to Mrs tt that I'm not completely useless Little Angel and that she would be up a creek without a paddle if she didn't have such a gifted husband to interpret for her) .
Despite having expressed a preference for Austrian ski resorts (not that I haven't also enjoyed my French ski holidays - many fond memories of the 3Vs, Paradiski, Serre Chevalier, etc., but on balance....), I consider myself a Francophile. My conversational French is much better than my German, despite spending so much time now in Austria. Experience has taught me that anyone who is under a certain age, and may be presumed to have had a decent education,is likely to speak pretty fluent English, and that applies to many, if not most, European nationals. In fact in Saalbach, which is a pretty cosmopolitan place during the ski season, it is quite normal to hear young people from a variety of different countries conversing in English, even though none has English as a first language. For some reason it's always struck me as amusing, as it does when several minutes into a conversation with a foreigner, I am asked which country I am from. I think that, when drawing a comparison with their counterparts in the UK, one has to bear in mind that English seems to have become established as the lingua franca of the modern world, and that, generally speaking, there is neither the same degree of incentive nor the same encouragement or pressure for English speakers to learn a foreign language. I would concede that I should probably have said "older French...." in my previous comment.
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Quote:

I just searched Google Images for "Les Contamines restaurant Roselette" and came up with a picture I posted on Snowheads years ago - the power of big data!!


plat du jour in the Roselette is fantastic value for money - excellent quality at a very reasonable price. Only problem is that we quite often like to lunch late and it is often sold out. As you suggest - no lack of authentic alpine character there!
Equally Auberge de Colombaz is wonderful in terms of food and character.

All that said - the fact that more Austrian ski resorts are traditional villages than French ski resorts does mean that on average Austria has more character.

The one argument in this thread that I thought was truly overreaching was the idea that Austrian lift systems are better than French ones. The big French ski areas have the best lift systems in the world in my experience.
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Quote:

the idea that Austrian lift systems are better than French ones. The big French ski areas have the best lift systems in the world in my experience

@jedster, that's been my experience too, although not all major French resorts have invested well in recent years. Personally I find the EK lift system copes very well.

However, I've heard many impartial commentators wax lyrical about the massive investment and improvement in Austrian lift systems during the last decade.

What do snowHeads think?
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Austria all the way. The ball handling was just superb and such a convincing result.
France Vs Austria
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jedster wrote:


The one argument in this thread that I thought was truly overreaching was the idea that Austrian lift systems are better than French ones. The big French ski areas have the best lift systems in the world in my experience.


I'm probably not the best person to answer as my idea of a good lift system is lots of old slow two man non-detachable chairs that no one wants to use, and just like every other generalisation in this thread there is more variation within than between countries...

But my general impression is that Austria is more willing to spend more money updating and upgrading lifts (and getting rid of drags) and technology to high speed chairs/covers/heated seats/snazzy cable cars/etc as a matter of priority (possibly because it is much harder to build new lifts here due to environmental regs?). For example Stubai just dropped €68 million on a new cable car. The free wifi is nice, but the fact it's tri-cable (longest of that sort in the Alps, as well as the biggest single lift investment in the world) and so can run safely in 130 km/h winds is the special bit (they reckon this will save them 10-15 down days per year).

I haven't skied much in France, and what I have was mostly in the PdS, but I recall a greater proportion of old lifts and especially small cramped egg-shaped bubbles.
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clarky999 wrote:
I'm probably not the best person to answer as my idea of a good lift system is lots of old slow two man non-detachable chairs that no one wants to use

Haha! I was chatting last week with a regular Tirol visitor who was having a good whinge about the state of the lifts in Axamer Lizum “old and slow and something out of the 70s...” while I was thinking “cool, won’t be any competition there then”!

I think it can almost go too far the other way as well. Ischgl has a superb, modern lift system but it is so well connected that it takes no effort to get anywhere but leaves a feeling of not having been anywhere. I almost missed the 4.45pm panic of wondering if we would actually make it back!
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Give me a detachable 8 with headrests and cushions and automatic bars any day.

Sorry, don't see the romance in sitting on a poky hard plastic lawn chair while swinging to and fro, stopping every five minutes because a beginner dropped a pole after getting whacked in the rear because the liftie had a hangover and couldn't be bothered to leave the warming hut...
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Quote:

(and getting rid of drags)

I skied in Soelden a few years back and that had the highest proportion of drag lifts, mainly T bars, that I have seen outside of Chile. I don't see them as a problem
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I avoid drag lifts like the plague. Try as I might it hurts my knees and quads, and I'd rather have the option of zoning out or looking at the scenery.
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@Pasigal, I zone out more on drags than chairs. Unless you are on a more sociable Tbar there is no one to talk to so you just dream. I agree the scenery is a bit better at altitude than ground level.
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Lift systems are best evaluated when compared to beds in resort. The best way of telling if you re going to be queuing for hours during your holidays us by looking at the uplift per hour compared to beds in resort.
France is usually quite bad at this as the high altitude resorts had a business model of rebuilding parts of high rise Sheffield on the side of big hills at 1800m and higher. The result of this are generally crowded pistes and lifts and the larger resorts. If you re a fan of Sheffield circa 1965 architecture then the French mega resorts will be right up your street.
There are some great resorts though. Megeve, Chatel, St Gervais, Risoul and Serre Che. Generally, as a rule of thumb, the further south you go in the French Alps, the less bastardised the mountains become. Although L2A and Isola break this rule.
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@cameronphillips2000, As soon as you said this "Lift systems are best evaluated when compared to beds in resort. The best way of telling if you re going to be queuing for hours during your holidays us by looking at the uplift per hour compared to beds in resort. " I thought yes that is St Anton
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Some of us like a bit of Brutalism. ( posted from a 1960’s Sheffield building)
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
La Plagne Aime 2000 "The Ship"

Not everybody's cup of tea but it has a certain presence
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
What is worse brutal grooming or brutal architecture Toofy Grin Laughing snowHead
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Regarding lift quality is hard to keep up isn't as most major resorts are continuously upgrading.

As a tall bloke I do appreciate the upgrades!!

Worst lift I ever remember was R2D2 in Argentiere. Crushed I was.
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@Layne, your ship does remind me of this
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Pasigal wrote:
Give me a detachable 8 with headrests and cushions and automatic bars any day.

Sorry, don't see the romance in sitting on a poky hard plastic lawn chair while swinging to and fro, stopping every five minutes because a beginner dropped a pole after getting whacked in the rear because the liftie had a hangover and couldn't be bothered to leave the warming hut...


Lees people on the lift = less people skiing the snow at the top of it wink
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clarky999 wrote:
Pasigal wrote:
Give me a detachable 8 with headrests and cushions and automatic bars any day.

Sorry, don't see the romance in sitting on a poky hard plastic lawn chair while swinging to and fro, stopping every five minutes because a beginner dropped a pole after getting whacked in the rear because the liftie had a hangover and couldn't be bothered to leave the warming hut...


Lees people on the lift = less people skiing the snow at the top of it wink


True...though detachable 8s should be used mostly as people movers to get crowds out of low spots. Les Saisies has installed two in the past two years, one to get the mobs out of the "valley of death" to the top of Bisanne, where they have 15 or so runs to choose from, and the other to open up the Belambra area, which has perhaps the most spectacular views of the Mont Blanc massif in all of France.

Regarding French brutalist ski architecture, I understand the context, but I don't like it at all. Still, it has an honesty about it that faux-Alpine architecture doesn't, and certainly better views!
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Quote:


Quote:

the idea that Austrian lift systems are better than French ones. The big French ski areas have the best lift systems in the world in my experience

@jedster, that's been my experience too, although not all major French resorts have invested well in recent years. Personally I find the EK lift system copes very well.

However, I've heard many impartial commentators wax lyrical about the massive investment and improvement in Austrian lift systems during the last decade.

What do snowHeads think?

@intermediate, I can't personally comment, as I haven't skied in France for quite a while; besides I think that we're particularly spoilt here in the Ski Circus, which won an award a few years back for Best European Development and was acknowledged to have the highest proportion of fast lifts of any major resort in the world. However M. Vanat says in his excellent report:
"Ski resorts have never ceased to improve. With more than EUR 7 billion
spent since the year 2000, Austrian operators have been massively
investing, showing the most updated lift infrastructure of the industry. To
some extent, or when measured to other countries’ standards, the
infrastructure in some places even tends to be luxurious, with equipment
such as 8-seater detachable chairlifts with heated seats, bubbles and
underground parking. It is worth noting that the economic sustainability of
such a high level of investment is still difficult to demonstrate, when more
than 50% of revenues have been reinvested for several consecutive years. "
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Quote:

Still, it has an honesty about it that faux-Alpine architecture doesn't

I found Les Menuires particularly honest; in fact honesty shone though out its every pore. Possibly the second most honest that I've visited was La Plagne, much of which is so honest that it is by far the most visited ski resort in the world. From what I've heard the third most honest is probably between Arcs 1800, Flaine (which I've never visited) and Alpe D'Huez - but I'm sure that there must be a few others vying for that coveted bronze medal.
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@tatmanstours,
Quote:

I found Les Menuires particularly honest; in fact honesty shone though out its every pore. Possibly the second most honest that I've visited was La Plagne
Haha. Totally agreed. That said, I spent Christmas in Lech once and the level of twee-ness (with the decorations an'all) reached emetic heights. wink


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Wed 15-11-17 17:18; edited 1 time in total
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tatmanstours wrote:
Quote:

Still, it has an honesty about it that faux-Alpine architecture doesn't

I found Les Menuires particularly honest; in fact honesty shone though out its every pore. Possibly the second most honest that I've visited was La Plagne, much of which is so honest that it is by far the most visited ski resort in the world. From what I've heard the third most honest is probably between Arcs 1800, Flaine (which I've never visited) and Alpe D'Huez - but I'm sure that there must be a few others vying for that coveted bronze medal.


Ha! To be brutally honest, Avoriaz...
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@tatmanstours, thanks, the M. Vanat report has a lot of clout. With that amount of lift investment, I'm amazed the Austrians have any cash left for cigarettes!
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@intermediate, In our neck of the woods a hell of a lot of money is being invested in the next few years - new lift to Zell am See, new Kohlmaisgipfelbahn, new reservoir and snow-making on the Viehhofen run, new lift from Viehhofen up to Schoenleiten, new Zwoelferkogelbahn...and goodness knows what else. However the Austrians can carry on smoking - it's their visitors paying (indirectly).
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Been to France once - Deux Alpes - and unlikely to go back. Soulless.

Austria is my preference, but most of us only have preferences, though I believe that:

Austria has the best lifts - Been to Saalbach, Ischgl amongst others. Can't see how you'd beat them. Huge amount spent in investment
Austria and Italy have the best snow making - because they've had to in the past
Austrian food is good enough up the mountain and not too expensive (it's been really good in the hotels I've stayed in though I've treated myself)
Austria is not the best for ski in ski out, though you can if you are selective (Obergurgl)
Austria can suffer from height and maybe poorer snow though there's the "further east has a lower freezing level" point
Austria is getting bigger and bigger ski areas - ones like Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Fieberbrunn-Leogang-(Zell am See) - but I've skied happily in Obergurgl for a week

I quite like Austria
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Smoking in Austria: I've seen it drop quite considerably over the last 5 years. It may be a lot to do with fewer Russians?

Speaking the language: Don't speak German, but that is not a problem at all in Austria - luckily for us almost everyone speaks English.
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Austria is finally having a total no smoking policy like we have here in the UK from May 2018
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The other thing I'm not too keen on in France is the old lady cleaning the the urinal with a toothbrooth, whilst you're using it - when you've just come in from the cold.
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The French also very keen on their dogs and don't generally clean up the dog mess, which always kind of ruins the snow around resort, if you ask me
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On a positive note, the brutal inner city architecture of some French resorts is sometimes given the authentic look by being splattered with graffiti
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buchanan101 wrote:
Been to France once - Deux Alpes - and unlikely to go back. Soulless.

Austria is my preference, but most of us only have preferences, though I believe that:

Austria has the best lifts - Been to Saalbach, Ischgl amongst others. Can't see how you'd beat them. Huge amount spent in investment
Austria and Italy have the best snow making - because they've had to in the past
Austrian food is good enough up the mountain and not too expensive (it's been really good in the hotels I've stayed in though I've treated myself)
Austria is not the best for ski in ski out, though you can if you are selective (Obergurgl)
Austria can suffer from height and maybe poorer snow though there's the "further east has a lower freezing level" point
Austria is getting bigger and bigger ski areas - ones like Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Fieberbrunn-Leogang-(Zell am See) - but I've skied happily in Obergurgl for a week

I quite like Austria


The things in bold amuse me, especially coming from an 'Austrophile' - Austria gets the MOST snow in the Alps, and arguably the best quality (lighter and drier) being further from the ocean and Nordstaus often coming in colder than storms from the west. Altitude only matters relative to the same geographical location - see Niseko.

------

If we really want to generalise:

- Austria gets the most snow, has the longest season and has the best beer
- France has the highest mountains, longest descents and best wine
- Italy has the best food (and in parts, e.g. Dolomites, the best grooming)
- Depending on which part of Switzerland you go to you get a blend of all the above but pay for the privilege
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Quote:

Austria is not the best for ski in ski out, though you can if you are selective (Obergurgl)

@buchanan101, Plenty of ski-in ski-out accommodation in Saalbach - as you say, it's just a question of being selective and doing a bit of research. Snowheads should always be able to find well-located accommodation, as there is a wealth of information to be found on this excellent forum.
Quote:

Austria can suffer from height and maybe poorer snow though there's the "further east has a lower freezing level" point

This has been debated since time immemorial, and I'm yet to be convinced that the "suffering from height" is a valid point. As you suggest, the snowline is much lower as you go further east - further from the ocean, different weather system, etc. Sometimes the best conditions are to be found in Austria, sometimes elsewhere. Last year there was plenty of skiing in mid-December in our area (which manages to provide decent skiing between the beginning of December and the second week of April), whereas I could almost hear the howls of anguish from some of the higher French resorts. The worst conditions I've ever encountered were in hot weather in Verbier, Courchevel and ADH. It's tempting for people to go skiing to a certain resort during a bad week and blame it on the height, without really knowing what conditions were like in other parts of the Alps. Orientation of slopes may be more important than height. No doubt the debate will continue.
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This seems to settle it

http://www.skiresort.info/best-ski-resorts/europe/
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The Val D pisteurs 2 years ago were amazingly friendly, they had a hello and a smile for everyone. For a big resort they really had gone out of their way with training to make guests feel welcome.
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clarky999 wrote:
- Austria gets the most snow, has the longest season and has the best beer
- France has the highest mountains, longest descents and best wine
- Italy has the best food (and in parts, e.g. Dolomites, the best grooming)
- Depending on which part of Switzerland you go to you get a blend of all the above but pay for the privilege

I know you're generalising, but personally I think Italy has the best wine, although I guess you can still argue that even in France, there's no such thing as a bad second bottle wink You can't get massive tiramisu to go with it in France, either. Or have change from €3.
Italy also has some massive descents too – check out Kronplatz just over the border, some very long runs there.
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But which sauce to have on the Germknödel ?

Its a while since I had one but was it Honnig, Sauce Anglais or something else.
Its a long time since I've had the "messed up pancakes" as well, the kids loved em, but their not kids anymore.
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@buchanan101,
Quote:

Been to France once - Deux Alpes - and unlikely to go back. Soulless.


Yes, if my one and only visit to France had been L2A I might not return either. Thankfully, after L2A, the only way is up, IMO. snowHead
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@DrLawn,
Quote:

But which sauce to have on the Germknödel ?

Daddies brown?
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Quote:

I know you're generalising, but personally I think Italy has the best wine

Glad we've moved onto another aspect for comparison. The nicest and best value wine I've yet encountered (in Austria) is an extremely moreish, full-bodied Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, sold in Hofer for EUR 2.40 a bottle. Brought a boot full back to England. However their cheaper dinner wines are surprisingly drinkable. I saw a chap loading his trolley in Hofer with big, 2 litre plastic bottles for 2 euros each. When I questioned him, he said that he has a small hotel, and that his guests, whose package includes wine with dinner, get this quite reasonable one. On the strength of his assurances that it was wasn't undrinkable muck, I bought a few bottles, and hey presto, Mrs tt can't get enough of the stuff. It really is a quite inoffensive and quaffable dinner wine. That works out as the equivalent of 67p for a normal 75cl bottle!
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