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Christmas Skiing - Your Experiences

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We are currently planning our ski trip for ths Christmas (23/12/2017-30/12/2017) and are in the process of compiling a short list for where to go.

Rather than turn this into another "where to ski at Christmas" post, I'd like to hear your real world experiences of skiing at Christmas and ask the following:

Where did you go?
How much snow was there?
What was the snow quality like?
What was the weather like?
How busy was it?
How 'Christmassy' did the resort feel?
Your overall experience/enjoyment?

Thanks in advance.

Jerv
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Where did you go? Chamonix/Morzine/Champoluc (all many times)
How much snow was there? Too much <-> None
What was the snow quality like? Perfect <-> Crap
What was the weather like? Lovely <-> Awful

These are questions that cannot really be answered in advance. It varies.
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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?
Been to Leysin, Banff, Seefeld and Meiringen over Christmas. Doing Ellmau this year.

On the whole, the snow has been less than great but always skiable. Well worth going if you are tied to holiday times.

Weather has been very mixed. From lovely sunny days through rain to heavy snow. Usually too much warm sunshine and not enough snowing Sad

Christmas week is usually very quiet. I remember skiing virtually on our own some days. The year we went to Meiringen we were still there on New Year's Eve. The Cloggies were piling in. Glad to be leaving the next day wink

Seefeld has a Christmas market and makes a bit of a thing about it. You can also get to Innsbruck easily for more of the same. Banff wasn't very Christmasy. I really can't remember Leysin as it was so long ago. Our hotel did a bit for the kids on Christmas Eve. The hotelier dressed up as Santa and brought a donkey into reception, but the best thing there is
Trychelwoche, Christmas to New Year.

Overall, we love it. Sometimes the skiing isn't great, but we've always made the most of it. I don't think our kids would like a traditional British Christmas having seen the alternative
snowHead
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Lived in Sainte Foy for 10 years. We've had top-to-bottom skiing available on Christmas day every single year. Within that though, there's obviously been a fair bit of variation in snow quality/quantity.

Out of the 10 years, I'd rate 2 years as superb, 4 as good, 2 as poor and one very poor (2015).

The snow-making equipment which has been installed over the past 3 or 4 years has made a big difference, particularly as the past 3 years have had slow starts to the season. This Christmas could have been a total disaster - there was great, natural snow-cover on the upper mountain, but bare ground on the lower mountain. The snow cannons allowed perfectly decent skiing on the home runs, with decent conditions up high and some very enjoyable skiing was had. Chapeau once again to the resort management/pisteurs.

As it's a family-orientated resort, they do work hard (within their budget!) to make it feel Christmassy, with carol singing, santa's grotto and a lot of stuff for kids.


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Thu 11-05-17 11:46; edited 1 time in total
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La Tania 2015 - 18th-25th. Thin cover in places, small stones grinning through on multiple runs. Pistes down to La Tania and Meribel Villages in good condition though, so able to ski low. some Christmas feel but not a huge amount, kids torch lit skiing on Christmas Eve was nice. Weather was blue skies all week. Bit chilly but you could comfortably sit outside for lunch if you kept coat on.

Ski Amade 2016 - 31st Dec to 7th Jan. Pistes in good condition considering lack of snow, mostly man made hardpack. Big dump of snow midweek opened up some off piste options thanks to local knowledge of Scarpa. Felt more Christmassy than La Tania even though I didn't turn up until the New Year Smile Weather was a mix, sunny some days but cloudier when the snow arrived. Blooming cold even when the sun was out.
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Hemsedal, Norway: Plenty of snow, not very busy. Fairly low-key Christmassy. Very cold (down to -25) so couldn't ski on some days. Did other stuff such as forest walks, snowmobile, husky sleighs. Overall an enjoyable holiday, but not really a 'ski holiday'.

La Rosiere (x3): Very Christmassy as we stayed in a British catered chalet. Village decorated and Christmas activities. Snow fantastic one year, OK one year, no snow at all one year. Enjoyable except for the year with no snow, which showed up the lack of snow-making.

Zell am See: Good Christmas atmosphere. Hotel beautifully decorated and excellent Christmas Eve dinner. Town was busy. Snow good and skiing good. Would go there again, but prefer Saalbach.

Saalbach (x10): Saalbach and Hinterglemm very Christmassy, with lights and decorations. Snow variable; some years plenty, some years not so much but situation rescued by the huge snow-making capacity. Last two years have seen poor natural snow, but all of the main slopes and Ski Circus circuit have been open and fairly quiet.
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I've done a lot of Christmas trips - as @under a new name says, the answers to those questions are fairly meaningless, really, as weather varies such a lot year to year. And sometimes when it's great in the east, it's crap in the west. Or vice versa. Sometimes low resorts are much the best because the high ones can be very bleak, windy and cold. And with loads of lifts closed, if there's heavy snow. Lower resorts can mean sheltered skiing in the trees, below the worst of the cloud. Or they can mean depressing vistas of discoloured grassy slopes if it's too warm for snowmaking.

(Treat those "guaranteed snow because of snow-making" claims with a pinch of salt. Not too much salt - it melts the snow).
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@jerv2606, define 'Christmassy'
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Oh come on, @johnE, we know what "Christmassy" means. wink
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La Rosiere Xmas 2012 http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=2185279&highlight=rosiere#2185279 Plenty of fresh snow as it fell heavily on the day of our arrival and was topped up through the week.

Les Arcs week before Xmas and Xmas week, stayed in Arc 2000, in 2013, enough natural snow down to 1800 and really good right up the top. Bits of snowfall on and off thoughout.

Xmas Morzine 2014, dreadful, had to go up to Avoriaz which was very crowded and horrid. La Tania the following NY week, transferred between resorts during Snowmeggedon. Snow still not good after the first couple of days, drove round to Courcheval because they groom their slopes very well.

Missed Xmas 2015, v early 2016 went to La Plagne then on to St Foy mid Jan. By all accounts we arrived at La Plagne just as the first decent snowfall had fallen. Reports for Xmas suggest it was poor at both resorts.

Xmas 2016 Les Arcs, stayed in Vallandry runs kept open with artificial snow, I only bothered to ski 2 days out of the 9 we were there. Snow high up was good, but lesson learnt as I want really access to good natural snow really conveniently or its too much agro! I will not book accommodation that low again at Xmas. Went on to join youngest son in Val D'Isere which I have never seen look so bear of snow at resort level, but the sunbathing was good Laughing Pistes seemed reasonable.

Having skied at Xmas or the New Year or both on many occasions from the 1970`s onwards Xmas has never been a good time to expect great snow at low levels. However I have not skied in Germany or Austria since the 1980`s so my experience of late has all been of France/Switzerland.

In terms of being Christmasy most french resorts have light decorations and make an effort on Xmas Eve, with torch light processions down the slopes, Santa arriving by sleigh, maybe mulled wine/hot chocolate in the town square, often fireworks too!
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johnE wrote:
@jerv2606, define 'Christmassy'

Easy: LHR is staffed by people whose creation myths are not xmas related. Shopping people buy more stuff they don't need. Fat people eat more food than they need.

As several said, past performance is no guarantee of future performance, and keeping your my options as open as possible for as long as possible is the best/ cheapest approach. Throwing money at it works too of course.

I'd not go anywhere which was "christmassy" - I hate all that stuff and the reason I go away is to avoid it.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Book late. Enjoy the best conditions. Might cost a bit more but it's worth it.
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As I was in education my holiday dates were fixed. This meant I had no choice but to ski at Christmas and or Easter. Sometimes I took large groups .

We stuck to the higher French resorts like Les Arcs Val Thorens and Avoriaz and always had enough snow to provide good on piste skiing.

Back in the 70s the tour operators made more of an effort to organize apres ski activities like poubelling and Christmas carol singing.

Later on I was still restricted to education dates but was skiing on my own or with a friend we were happy to leave it till the last minute and make our decision based on the snow reports and forecasts. Hence we discovered the Dolomites. We always got away sometimes booking as late as one day before departure. I always had a back plan which involved driving out to the Tarentaise area and staying where ever we could find a bed.
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 You know it makes sense.
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Quote:

apres ski activities like poubelling

Shocked the mind boggles...
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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You have not lived until you have poubelled back down to Meribel after seeing in the New Year on the mountain.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We've spent several Christmases is Morzine which is lovely and very Christmasy (pretty, decorated, events) but much better if there's snow at village level. The lack of this for the past 2 trips (2015 and 2013) is what's driven us to book this Christmas in Tignes Le Lac.
It probably won't be as Christmassy (not a pretty,mtraditional town), but it'll have snow!
We always book with small chalet companies with UK owners to get a proper Christmas dinner!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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Christmas and New Year in Val d'Isere are lovely. The snow is always good, the town is pretty but, it gets busy.

Hence this year we are going to the Caribbean and going skiing mid Jan.
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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?
Skied at Christmas, and often earlier in December, for 15+ years. Always in one of the higher French resorts, Courchevel, Val d'Isere, Tignes and for the last 10 years in Les Arcs. There has always been plenty of piste skiing available, with at least 80% of the piste map available. In poor snow years the pistes were often hard-packed and scratchy, and the lowest runs relying heavily on artificial snow-making. In good snow years piste conditions were perfect and there was plenty of off-piste available. The weather varies from bitterly cold mid-winter storms, through to balmy sun-bathing on the terrace in your base layers (although that's very unusual). It's impossible to say in advance what the weather and the snow conditions will be like.

Christmas week is quieter than New Year week, and typically I'd expect to see relatively short lift queues at some of the main lifts but nothing too frustrating. Earlier in December most resorts are extremely quiet, and this is a great time to book a last minute trip if the snow conditions are good.

I think most resorts have some Christmas activities, such as the arrival of Santa, torch-lit descents, fireworks, etc, mostly on Christmas Eve. I think the Austrian resorts, especially the year-round villages, have higher profile Christmas festivities than other countries if that's important to you. More generally I love the atmosphere at that time of year as everyone is happy to be back for the start of the ski season, so even the surliest of lifties will crack a smile.

Despite the poor snow conditions in most places for the last three years we'll continue to spend Christmas in the Alps, and will count its as a bonus if conditions are very good at the start of the season. My advice would be to choose one of the higher resorts in whatever country you choose, and if you have the flexibility to get away earlier in December don't discount a last minute trip if the conditions look good.
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I spent a few Christmases in Lech (due to it's snow reliability early season) and there was a vast difference in some years. In the beginning we always had so much snow and beautiful weather but the last two years there was almost no snow. We arrived in 2014 to only two lifts open (so the resort didn't have to offer refunds as technically it was open) - it was utterly dismal. There was one day of snow towards the end of the week but it didn't last long. So one morning skiing for a very expensive week (18 of us). Haven't been back

I don't think I'd travel to a resort for Christmas again after that, unless it was very last minute which you can't really do (or at least in the past you couldn't)
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Only Advice is book late .This year there was a big dump in France in November which prompted a lot of people to make bookings for Xmas /NY. There was no new snowfall until the new year but VT was fully open even still. Anyone who booked a low resort on the strength of this snowfall had a miserable time over Christmas and New Year. We had a lovely Christmas day in VT. Its a normal day apart from the Mass at 6pm in the church. Local choir- very charming.
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@moseyp,
We were in Lech Christmas 2014.
It is not true that just two lifts were open.
You could ski a fair amount in Oberlech, and also in Zürs (to be reached by free skibus)
Also there was a special discount in skipasses.
So please, when contributing to this forum, try to be fair and accurate.

We were also in Lech Christmas 2016. Again no natural snow, but much more artificial slopes than 2014.
This summer new snow installations are added, and also in Warth (virtually no artificial snow up till now). This will greatly enhance the options.
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Quote:

So please, when contributing to this forum, try to be fair and accurate


Excuse me?

22nd December 2014, only lifts open were the lift up to Petersboden, and Petersboden. For several days. That's two lifts @Langerzug

I wasn't talking about Zurs, as you know. We couldn't ski there because the lift wasn't open.

There was a discount on our lift pass, as a result and in twenty years of regularly going to the Arlberg (and Alps) I've never seen discounted lift passes due to lack of open resort, that's how bad it was. In my previous post I didn't say anything about not getting a discount. Don't really see it's relevance, it didn't make the holiday any better
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@Langerzug, @moseyp, seems you are both sort of correct from the sounds of it. Lech itself had two lifts open. However, more skiing was a free bus ride away. Anyway you look at it - it wasn't good.

But relating this back to the OP questions: if you are a relative beginner and/or mostly a piste skier and/or more of a cruiser of the mountains rather than doing gnarly stuff, if you go to most resorts of a decent altitude they will make enough snow for you to have an enjoyable time. A lack of snow will make it less Christmassy but bear in mind it's not that Christmassy anyway. If you think of what Christmas is to many Brits I am not sure you can or want to replicate it. Personally we've used it as a bit of an antidote to Christmas. The recent years have been relatively lean but I wouldn't be surprised to see that trend reversed. It's just the weather isn't it. It's certainly not too busy.
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@Layne, @moseyp, Exact those days we were there too. Open were Schlegelkopf, Petersboden, Kriegerhorn, Weibermahd, Ubungslift Oberlech.
And you could ski in Zürs as well. Yes, by skibus (free), but still it was open and included. They did the best they could
I'm not denying it was poor of course. But still Lech had white dust, you could ski, there was christmas-atmosphere. And lovely sunny.
Not many resorts, throughout the Alps, were so lucky
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@Langerzug, absolutely nothing was open around that area under the Zuger Hochricht, the lifts that you named. It was two lifts - Bergbahnen & Petersboden, and the problem wasn't only the limited area to ski - it was the fact that everyone was stuck to the same few pistes and so it felt unusually crowded even by Lech standards.

St Anton only had three lifts open


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Tue 16-05-17 23:30; edited 1 time in total
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Had a look on my whatsapp and found some photos I sent friends - first one is the piste status the day before we left, second is the 22nd (first day skiing) and third and fourth are 26th & 27th when we had one amazing morning of fresh snow (before our last day!)

Been going to Zurs, Lech & St Anton for a long time, my grandparents were friendly with the Skardarasy family many years back and then my parents continued to ski there when I was young, and by 2014 there was up to 20 of us every year for Christmas so I do have a lot of love for the area, but we wouldn't even think about going back that early in the season again after seven days there without skiing. Especially not with such a large group and lots of small kids




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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
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moseyp wrote:
Been going to Zurs, Lech & St Anton for a long time, my grandparents were friendly with the Skardarasy family many years back and then my parents continued to ski there when I was young, and by 2014 there was up to 20 of us every year for Christmas so I do have a lot of love for the area, but we wouldn't even think about going back that early in the season again after seven days there without skiing. Especially not with such a large group and lots of small kids

Seems a strange decision to make based on one bad trip after many years of good ones.
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Not too busy here at Christmas, even New Year was only really busy over the weekend. Conditions weren't too bad this year, good snow down to 2100m and skiing back to resort on artificial. Last year the snow wasn't quite as good higher but bizarrely better lower. With a glacier always plenty to go at. Usual Christmas type activities in resort. This was taken from 2600m on 3rd January, quiet, good snow.

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 You know it makes sense.
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@Layne, as I said in the previous post we had two bad years, so why does it seem strange? We usually spent Easter in Zurs too, not Christmas, which never gave us a bad holiday
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Jerv, I went to Cortina in the Dolomites, the weather was fantastic with blue skies most days, but cold enough for you to know it was christmas. Although there was no fresh snow on the ground and everything was brown, the pistes were excellent because of the fantastic snow making facilities there. As for crowds, there were vey few, max wait at a lift less than a minute on most days. On Christmas day all the lefties were wearing Santa hats and having fun with the skiers, so a wonderful vibe. Was there from the 23rd to 30th of December and thoroughly enjoyed it.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Where did you go? Wagrain, Ski Amade
How much snow was there? Everything open, some OP available
What was the snow quality like? Mainly fresh
What was the weather like? A mixture of sporadic sun and snow
How busy was it? Quiet but got much busier as we got nearer to new Year
How 'Christmassy' did the resort feel? Very - Massive deciduous tree covered in lanterns right next to hotel.
Your overall experience/enjoyment? 10/10 for resort, skiing and atmosphere.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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@moseyp your screenshot shows piste nr 34 Kriegeralpe-Oberlech-Lech open.
This confirms that Kriegerhornbahn was open. And it was.
Weibermahdbahn is fully north-facing, with artificial snow, and was definitely open.
So was Ubungslift Oberlech, which a recall clearly of going there with my mother, and she not liking it much.

Kriegerhornbahn and Weibermahd are not in the Zuger Hochlicht area, those are Steinmähderbahn and Rotschrofen bahn.

Come to think of it, in the course of that week, before or on 22 December, also Hasensprungbahn was opened

So, in Lech-Oberlech, the following lifts were open:
Schlegelkopf, Bergbahn Oberlech, Petersboden, Kriegerhorn, Weibermahd, Hasensprung, Ubungslift Oberlech.

We were there 21-25 December. Clearly remember snow falling while we got in the taxi to drive us to the airport. Still we had a lovely sunny short family holiday, with limited, but available skiing, at discounted prices. On 23 or 24 December skipass prices were raised to normal highseason level. Felt a bit much at first, but turned out to be the right decision because the masses from surrounding areas without any snow were starting to drop by...


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Wed 17-05-17 9:10; edited 1 time in total
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This is so ridiculous. 34 was open because of Petersboden - hang on I'll show you a photo if I can upload from my phone now. Either you weren't actually there or you're confused about dates but I don't know why you're still arguing such nonsense. I get that people love particular resorts (and don't get me wrong, like I said I love that area), but if someone has a bad holiday there they are entitled to share that experience with others
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@moseyp, the Kriegeralpe part of that piste (exactly until It reaches Petersboden) is the highest part of it, and fully with artificial snow, and almost completely shady during Christmas.
It was open!
You are also denying Hasensprungbahn was open. Whilst I clearly remember it being closed the first day, and opened later that week.
This is not about loving Lech (my love has deteriorated since this season because of the Flexenbahn. but that is another subject)
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This is absurd, I give up!
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@moseyp, Wise decision. You must have been too miserable (still i can imagine!) about the snow to remember clearly.
I've got pictures here (but with persons in it, can't show them in snowheads) with clearly up and running Hasensprung and Weibermahd (and even for my memory remarkably good snowcover up there)
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A quick, more specific, question to throw in here...What are French resorts like for opening on Christmas Day? I assume the lifts at least will be open, but what about restauarants/bars/cafes/shops?

To be even more specific, we will be in Flaine if anyone has experience of Christmas there. I'm not holding out great expectations for the snow (if there is a decent amount that will be a bonus) but would dearly like to avoid cooking a Christmas dinner for 10.
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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!
Ski school for the kids started 15 minutes later on XMas day in La Tania so they could open presents, otherwise like any other day. A few skiing santas etc, but everything open.
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@Ingemar_Skidmark, Everything is open, its like a normal day, you may get santa with a large basket on his back full of sweets skiing about in les carroz (if there is snow?) Restaurants will be busy christmas eve.
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I have never noticed anything different about Xmas day in French resorts from any other day in terms of what is open. Xmas eve seems busier in restaurants than normal for that week but as thats when the French really celebrate Xmas thats hardly surprising.
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