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Skiing in Europe

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
The great advantage of Europe over North America is charm and mega miles

France has little charm in mega miles resort with the exception of the small hamlet off shoots of VT and La Plagne. - montchavin is cute.

If you insist on France then Espace Killy is widely regarded as the best ski area in the world for decent skiers.

Austria and Switzerland are going to give you far more ambience and Christmassy feel.

The Dolomites is best of all but we keep that quiet for Snowheads. Off piste is limited at Christmas usually though.

If it were me I'd go to Lech. As charming as it gets and part of a ski area that's huge and varied. St Anton is a Mecca for advanced skiers with some amazing off piste itineries
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@cameronphillips2000, How much snow does Lech get up to Christmas in December. Is it substantially more, less or the same as a place like Espace Killy or Val Thorens?
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@KeetnaWilson, all these resorts have good snow records but no-one can tell how much snow will fall anywhere next December. They are vast and high. Austria has lower elevations on paper but are more northern. Too much snow can also be an issue as we’ve experienced this season.

I agree with @cameronphillips2000, if you want charm then Austria / Switzerland is better than the French purpose built resorts. Killy gives you best of both. Think your group should not worry about snow cover so much (as your shortlist is good for that if we get a good/normal December) and think more about style of village, ambience, access from US and cost if that’s a factor.

If you decide CH or AT then getting a flight into Zurich is a good optin. From there you can get a train to either Zermatt or St Anton. Incidently the train to Zermatt was cutoff last week due to exceptionally too much snow!! The train to St Anton drops you in the middle of the village and from there you can get a Taxi to Lech.
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I’ve skied both though Europe much more than North America. Have skied Utah resorts and Jackson Hole so know those areas.
Hard to explain the differences but in my experience –
US is a little easier as the customer service is better and of course language is the same. Never been a problem in Europe saying that.
In my experience on the slopes isn’t massively different. Pistes are pistes. Off piste I’ve done better in US for snow, snow quality is often better for longer there I think. Counter that with epic lift-accessed high mountain off piste in Europe in eg Chamonix or Val dIsere that you can’t easily get in US. Tree line goes higher in US (Rockies) than Europe so less open mountain to ski there which can be a good or bad thing depending on weather.
Visually the European resort mountains look much more rugged and fiercer imo, many of the US ski area though big and high look like big rounded hills.
Have been accosted by ski patrol in US for ducking ropes to go off piste (have to read disclaimers at gates etc), nothing similar in Europe. US also grades its runs as harder than in Europe so watch that. Europe is worse for narrow cat tracks linking pistes, can be terribly crowded at end of day. Threat of litigation seems much higher in US, in France it’s more of a ‘it’s on your head’ risk attitude to where you go.
Seems Americans often ski a long weekend rather than a week which is normal in Europe. Most of the American resorts you stay away from the slopes in the nearest town and travel up, though there are a few lodgings on site. Europe the village/town tends to be right where the lifts are with all amenities easily walkable.
Prettyness of resorts is different, old European alpine villages are often pure picturebook but I also like the wild west or ranchy look of some Rockies ski towns. Cultural differences are all good.
Apres ski is better in Europe by far. Not sure they even have it in US.
Mountain huts/restaurants are pretty similar in quality, US customer service is invariably better though but within Europe I think Austria is way better than France for example. Like how US resorts provide free drinking water fountains too. People sit out in the sun more in Europe.
More of a sense of being looked after by resort in US and look after yourself in Europe.
I skied with quite a lot of Americans in Chamonix over a season there and you could see it was an eye-opener for most of them. Take the Aguille du Midi cable car at Cham and watch folks teetering down the arête for Vallee Blanche run, just won’t see/experience that in US lower 48 anyway.
In US you also won’t see drunk Germans dancing in their ski boots at 3pm to Roy Chubby Browns version of Smokey’s Alice and yelling the punchline, not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.
More of a holiday party vibe in Europe and more drinking on the slopes than US I think which is more we’re here to ski/board. Perhaps as they’re there for 2 or 3 days rather than 6.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Klammertime,
Quote:

Mountain huts/restaurants are pretty similar in quality


I strongly disagree. On mountain dining in France, CH and (especially) Italy anyway often a massively better experience than in e.g., Utah.
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under a new name wrote:
@Klammertime,
Quote:

Mountain huts/restaurants are pretty similar in quality


I strongly disagree. On mountain dining in France, CH and (especially) Italy anyway often a massively better experience than in e.g., Utah.


Fair enough, probably not the right person to review that fine dining aspect, tends to be a plate of spag bol and a beer lunch for me!
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Despite this year being exceptional I think the whole plan to travel from an area which usually has pretty good early season snow cover to Europe at Xmas/New Year is folly if you are going book in advance and actually care about snow quality and variety of terrain. If you're content with groomers and man made snow if necessary then have at it. Europe is a far safer bet at Easter time.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Despite this year being exceptional I think the whole plan to travel from an area which usually has pretty good early season snow cover to Europe at Xmas/New Year is folly if you are going book in advance and actually care about snow quality and variety of terrain. If you're content with groomers and man made snow if necessary then have at it. Europe is a far safer bet at Easter time.
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OK, so I'm going to be contentious, but I gave up skiing in France some years ago, especially during the main holidays. I just didn't like the French attitude. After skiing in Vail and Heavenly, Italy and then Verbier, we switched to Italy/Switzerland. I have met a number of Americans who also didn't like skiing in France because of the culture. The feeling seemed to be 'Why is it OK for them to elbow everyone else in queues but when I do the same, I get shouted at?'. I talked about this to a French acquaintance and his view was that some of this is definitely down to the sort of people who are there in the main holidays: a particular hatred seemed to be felt by locals for Parisians.

This is undoubtedly going to attract strong contradiction but my own experience is real and our decision to switch family holidays to Italy or Switzerland based on genuine feelings about how we were treated in France. Our kids were treated brialliantly by their Italian instructors, in marked contrast to the ESF. Conversely, I've met Americans who have been quite robust and not intimidated by French queuing practice and attitude. If that characterises the OP's group then fine. But it's a point worth making.
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My problem skiing in France is the boorish attitude and behaviour of many British people.
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Having skied in Europe for 20 years and America and Canada for 10 years the main differences for me are:

Lifts: America hardly have any at all (unless its one of the bigger resorts). When they do have lines with more than a couple on minutes wait they manage the lines and lifts in that all chairs are filled to capacity. Singles make up the numbers to fill the lifts so everyone gets up the hill faster. Europe especially France don't care how long you wait as they have already taken your money for your lift pass. The number of times I have been stood in a lift queue seeing 6 man chars going up either empty or with 1 or 2 people on. Standing in a lift Queue in Europe is just a scrum!! stepping on skis, pushing....nightmare.

Paste's: America are very quiet Europe much busier.

Resorts: America are small in comparison to the vast European resorts. But you will sertainly get more miles in, in America due to the empty runs and no lift Queues.

Restaurants: Take your pic, some good some bad both sides of the pond. One certainty though, in France they will bend you over and rob you of everything you have (I've been charged 13 Euros for a pint).

Vibe: Love America and love Austria and Italy.

Snow: America measured in feet Europe measured in centimetres.

Given the choice I'd go America every time.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
KeetnaWilson wrote:
@cameronphillips2000, How much snow does Lech get up to Christmas in December. Is it substantially more, less or the same as a place like Espace Killy or Val Thorens?


That's a good question. The Arlberg has one of the highest snowfalls in the Alps but snow is not guaranteed, but then not many places are. Snow making is fantastic in Europe now though, particularly the Dolomites.

France has some huge linked areas but do a websearch on Les Menuires and images and it will give you a flavour of French high altitude resorts. They really are souless.

The other problem with the high French resort is they are mostly above the treeline and, if it's bleak winter weather it gets very bleak.

If you're coming to Europe at Christmas you want romance and that means Switzerland or Austria. Zermatt is amazing for charm and skiing but ferociously expensive. You also get to ski over in to Italy.
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North America does not do this....

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/ski/resort-guides/Ski-Kitzbuhel-resort-guide/

or this...

https://luxeadventuretraveler.com/civetta-ski-resort/ ( The scenery)

or this

https://www.piste-maps.co.uk/France/ThreeValleys

or this http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-crowds-of-skiers-queue-for-a-chair-lift-at-the-ski-resort-of-val-disere-2548294.html
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Agree with the above post apart from don't rely on staying in Zermatt and being able to cross in to Italy. The link is often closed with the slightest hint of wind (I was in Cervinia last week and it didn't open once). If you get stuck on the "wrong side" its about a 5 or 6 hour road trip to get back......and you know that isn't going to be cheap.
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Gyro wrote:
Agree with the above post apart from don't rely on staying in Zermatt and being able to cross in to Italy. The link is often closed with the slightest hint of wind (I was in Cervinia last week and it didn't open once). If you get stuck on the "wrong side" its about a 5 or 6 hour road trip to get back......and you know that isn't going to be cheap.


Last week was a bit exceptional with most of Cervinia shut. I think you'd.be unlucky on a typical week trip not.to get over the border. The link is open far more open than it is closed during the season.
There are also some large looked areas in Austria that are not as high as Albert but being further East tend to get food snow cover. They are also bit more charming and quaint.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@Gyro, I cannot imagine that the operators don't behave as Monterosa do - if there's a threat of wind that'll close links they make it patently clear and the do their very best to get everyone back in the own valleys before they have to shut. If there's a real possiblity they won't open the links. But it doesn't happen that often.

Last week was an extremely unusual week for Alpine weather and can't be used as a reference.
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Gyro wrote:
Lifts: America hardly have any at all (unless its one of the bigger resorts).


I guess you omitted the word "queues" from your post, I think you'll find most US resorts do actualy have lifts.... wink
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LaForet wrote:
OK, so I'm going to be contentious, but I gave up skiing in France some years ago, especially during the main holidays. I just didn't like the French attitude. After skiing in Vail and Heavenly, Italy and then Verbier, we switched to Italy/Switzerland. I have met a number of Americans who also didn't like skiing in France because of the culture. The feeling seemed to be 'Why is it OK for them to elbow everyone else in queues but when I do the same, I get shouted at?'. I talked about this to a French acquaintance and his view was that some of this is definitely down to the sort of people who are there in the main holidays: a particular hatred seemed to be felt by locals for Parisians.

This is undoubtedly going to attract strong contradiction but my own experience is real and our decision to switch family holidays to Italy or Switzerland based on genuine feelings about how we were treated in France. Our kids were treated brialliantly by their Italian instructors, in marked contrast to the ESF. Conversely, I've met Americans who have been quite robust and not intimidated by French queuing practice and attitude. If that characterises the OP's group then fine. But it's a point worth making.


We live in France, quite happily, so will disagree somewhat but admit that queuing behavior is atrocious.

But on the other hand, I love the French attitude toward skiing, which is basically "go for it." One thing about France is that it's definitely a different culture than the US or Britain, and the differences tend to manifest themselves more strongly than, say, an American or Briton might feel in Austria or Germany.

Part of that is the language barrier. French people -- for the most part -- will cut no slack if you don't even try to speak French, even if they speak English. They are also a bit self conscious about their English; my suspicion is that is due to the perfectionist attitude that the schools drill into students. However, the big resorts in France, and even the mid sized ones, are bi- or tri-lingual. They also tend to be reserved and wary of talking to strangers.

I suspect that if the OP and friends go into the adventure with open minds they'll enjoy themselves wherever they go.
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Hurtle wrote:
My problem skiing in France is the boorish attitude and behaviour of many British people.


Absolutely this. I generally find if you are polite and friendly to resort staff in France, they are the same to you. There are just as many rude people of other nationalities pushing and shoving in queues.

BTW the photo of that queue in Val d'Isere is NOT the norm at all. The only two biggish queues you generally get in the EK is for the Olympique gondola (easily avoided) and Lanches chair in Tignes (also easily avoidable).
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To be fair to France there are some magical resorts, with charm, St Gervais, Megeve, Serre Che to name a few.
The problem is that the mega lifts systems tend to be around the purpose built resorts which have tend to have hundreds of rabbit hutch apartments attracting a younger and noisier clientel. Remember my first experience of a purpose built The church resorts and was surprised to see litter and graffiti at 6000 feet amongst comcrete tower blocks. There are classier places high up like Belle Payne and VT has mved upmarket but once in the lift queues the slopes you're likely to be fighting for a space on a chair lift with a go!it stained, hungover student rather than a member of a Royal family.
For the last two years, the snow has been lean at the 3V at Christmas and New Year so everyone converged on the highest part, VT with obvious consequences.

Don't get me wrong, I was a drunken student once and8 of us crammed in an apartment in Avoriaz was living the dream but If you re travelling a long way, and want a magical fairytale Christmas then the big French resorts aren't for you.

If you as got ski largest ski areas in the world but a season epic pass in the states and then do the 3V, Paradiski! Espace Killly for free. Pick a week out of French holiday time and you'll wear your bases away with the mileage you'll ski
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Alastair Pink wrote:
Gyro wrote:
Lifts: America hardly have any at all (unless its one of the bigger resorts).


I guess you omitted the word "queues" from your post, I think you'll find most US resorts do actualy have lifts.... wink


Well spotted Very Happy I did indeed
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@KeetnaWilson, for historical snowfall records, see data from websites such as...
https://www.onthesnow.co.uk/search/?searchTerm=historical snowfall


If I were booking in advance of December for a Christmas trip I'd go Espace Killy. snowHead
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I adore Canada, mainly for the service culture. Went to Vail once but the lies about non-consecutive lesson discounts, the mountain food only being pizza and burgers, and the incredibly boorish behavior from someone in my chalet (I was alone so sharing) ruined it for me. Tired of French arrogance in teaching or queuing. Andorra is good enough and saves me plane tickets. Never been to CH or AT. I want to enjoy my short but expensive holiday. If I wanted to challenge myself with 9-5 technical skiing I’m sure France would be back on the shortlist.
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Quote:

Never been to CH or AT.

Shocked Shocked Shocked
@Orange200, I'm almost envious of you for all that future enjoyment you have in store! Smile
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I did think carefully about posting my critique of French queuing in the main holidays, and ESF teaching generally, but it may have come across a bit strongly, and 'French attitude' is probably a mis-assignment: any queue is going to be from various nationalities. I'd been happy skiing in France in the quiet weeks, but in the school holidays with the family, it just got so tedious in terms of the amount of queueing we had to do and the free-for-all jostling. After a few years, we decided to try Italy and Switzerland and never went back to France. Yes, these would have been in the large, mainstream resorts and probably worse case scenarios given the usual mix you get anywhere on busy school holiday periods.

I'd mentioned this to US colleagues and some said they'd found the difference in US vs French queuing a shock. So my warning was to be aware of this and prepared. For many people, it's not a big issue, but it might be for some. It doesn't make the French into Bad People and I found that outside of the queuing, the French have always been very friendly (although I do try and speak French as much as my limited ability allows).
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Never skied America. But met lots of Americans in European ski resorts and lots of Europeans who have been to America

Invariably Americans I've met here have been blown away by their experience and are adamant there's nothing like it in US

Vice versa most Europeans also praise their American experience very highly

Go figure
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Clearly nowhere perfect and faraway hills green
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Think I'd love US customer service... until time comes to tip Evil or Very Mad

People praise Austrian customer service. Which is fine till they charge you 6 euros for jug of tap water Puzzled
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peanuthead wrote:
Never skied America. But met lots of Americans in European ski resorts and lots of Europeans who have been to America

Invariably Americans I've met here have been blown away by their experience and are adamant there's nothing like it in US

Vice versa most Europeans also praise their American experience very highly

Go figure


There's nothing much to figure - people used to one type of skiing experience like it when they encounter a new different skiing experience (better in some aspects, worse in other aspects). Madeye-Smiley
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My 2c regarding lifts, there's a higher density of lifts at the bigger European resorts, so if one's got a big line then you can just head somewhere else on another lift, where in Canadian resorts (sorry never skied in US) there's often just 1 lift per area of the mountain, so if you land in a huge line you're stuck. HOWEVER, the density of skier on the actual runs is far greater in Europe. So the trade off is shorter lines for busier hills Smile More 'charm' in Europe, wilder in Canada.
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@denfinella, where would you recommend for first week april 2018 in austria - anywhere on that list that you might not ordinarily recommend, on the basis of this years snow?
apologies if this is way off topic - i cant seemt o search effectively or navigate on this forum... any tips on that too!
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@sarahklt, I'm flattered your specifically asking me but I'm certainly no expert, and I'm sure other SH's will be able to give better advice.

Anecdotally I think there's plenty of snow across most of the Alps at the moment. But April's still 4 weeks away and a lot could still change if it turns mild (or worse, mild and wet) for a couple of weeks, especially for low resorts. And ice and slush on lower or sunny slopes is quite likely in April, even if there's lots of snow about. What are your criteria, apart from it being in Austria?

The best way to get lots of replies to your question is probably just to create a new topic in the "Piste" section (or "Resort Reviews" section), but you should get some replies here too.

P.S. my list you're referring to on page 1 was referring to ski areas with reliable Christmas snow, so I'd probably disregard it as you're going at the other end of the season.
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thanks @denfinella i will try starting a new post - criteria is to find something cheeeeeeep - austria because we are comfortable there having done 7 x feb half terms in Gerlos with our usual half term buddies but would be flying solo if we go again at easter - we are family of 5, two tween boys who are of course better than us and an intermediate daughter - zero requirement for apres other than decent food.
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@sarahklt, no prob! Probably a matter of finding somewhere with a cheap package deal then, or a cheap combination of flight + transfer + accommodation if you go DIY.

If you can find somewhere with a reasonable amount of skiing above 2000 metres or so, even better.
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