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Skiing in Europe

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hello again everyone. Once again, you guys have provided some amazing information, and it is really helpful! After reviewing some of your recommendations and things about each location, I have made a shortlist about what we are considering based on our skill levels and preferences. For many of these places, I am not very well informed though, so more help would always be appreciated. Also, I will be narrowing down to one or two soon, and eventually choosing our trip! So here it is:

Paradiski: Les Arcs, 1950 (if we can afford) or 2000. I know a bit more about the general area than the actual skiing, so if someone could provide more info on off-piste/ski-route type options, and pistes from advanced to beginner.

3 Valleys: St Martin De Belleville or Val Thorens. St Martin de Belleville offers the charm we would like for our one big European trip, but looks isolated, and in a bad year seems like very bad snow reliability. Val Thorens, while more crowded and not as nice, has great snow reliability and direct access to some great skiing. I've researched skiing a bit more here, but have hardly researched specifically about the villages (especially Val Thorens) so help here would be appreciated.

L'Espace Killy: Not Sure I have the least knowledge about this area, but does seem to offer some good terrain. Need most info here.

Arlberg: Lech/surrounding area (Oberlech, Zurs??) know a bit more about skiing here than the actual villages and accommodation options. Is oberlech a higher elevation version (possibly better snowsure) or not worth it? Can the queues be terrible out of the village to St Anton area on gondola connections? etc, etc


Thanks, everyone! This is my list for now, but I still need plenty of advice, I'm probably going to take an easy direct flight to Paris and the TGV from there if I go to 3V/Les Arcs, unsure about transport for the others.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
KeetnaWilson,
It sounds like your thoughts are progressing well.
If you travel by train from Paris you would travel to Moutiers for the 3 Valleys, or to Bourg St Maurice for Les Arcs or Espace Killy. Remember to make sure you book the correct Moutiers (Salins), as there are a few in France! wink
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
As Arctic Roll says Les Arcs is good and most of the blacks are un-groomed, which means, lots of moguls. The top of the resort is like a bowl, which you can ski into and around then you have the runs down the mountain to the lower resorts. Lots of runs to choose from, and they link very well, but it can get a bit samey over two weeks.

It is linked to La Plagne which is another great resort for linking many different routes together to get you out and back to your hotel without skiing the same run twice, however the link can be a bit tenuous sometimes as its low down but it works.

Les Arc 1950 is a beautifully put together village that was supposedly modelled on Whistler. It is definitely a ski in / ski out, and some of the apartments there are huge and have mini kitchens in if you want to stay in sometimes, but the food is great, as are the spas.

Here are some pictures of our Les Arcs trip from last year (the year my wife finally agreed to wear a helmet), which might give you an idea of the resort and the pistes.

https://houghton.smugmug.com/Sports/Les-Arc-March-2016/

and here are some pics of La Plagne

https://houghton.smugmug.com/Sports/Belle-Plagne-March-2015/i-GnMr4sD

You will see that we skied them in March, this was because its between the school half term and Easter, so a lot cheaper, but its also towards the end of the season.

Zermatt is excellent too, and it effectively has three different skiing areas that are fairly well linked up. And you can also ski over to Cervina, which has long cruise blues and reds (and then about 4 chair lifts to get you back up again). Its fairly iconic too, but we found that after a week it was well explored. More pics.

https://houghton.smugmug.com/Sports/Ski-Trips/i-wJFCLm6

https://houghton.smugmug.com/Sports/Zermatt-29th-30th-March-2012/i-pZvmHSQ

Val D'Isere and Tignes are nice, lots of height and also two very good runs (lots more, but we liked two in particular), La Face, which is the old Olympic run, and considered one of the best in Europe. (here is Graham Bell skiing it
http://youtube.com/v/80hu9ppSt1w ) and also the run down from the Glacier to Val Claret, but lots more to do, we really liked it.

https://houghton.smugmug.com/Sports/Val-dIsere-2017/i-26HF5jr

Having said all of the above, I think your best bet might be the three valleys, a massive area and in Val Thorens you have a very high resort, so snow sure. Unfortunately its one of the areas that we have yet to visit snowHead
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@KeetnaWilson, there is a thread on the Snow Reports section which details Arc area and I believe the SH who updates it regularly takes visiting SHs out and about
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Saint Martin may look isolated on the piste map, but it really isn’t. The lifts up are fast, as are the connections..(a good skier can be in Meribel by 9.30am, if she gets the 9am lift out of St M. The piste maps are not topographically accurate, though there is a 3D one on the 3v app that may help you get a bette sense of it. Big plus to st M also the vast area above midstation down the side of Jerusalem which is very accessible off piste, with the “liberty ride” run down the right side as you look up.

Espace Killy...very snow sure and loads of skiing. Val D’isere is just below the tree line, so has more sheltered skiing on a bad weather day, but not as much as the 3V. It’s an attractive big resort, though very commercial. Has more architectural charm and the sense of being a real place than VT (there was a mountain village there once). Big and busy though. Runs down to the resort are not very intermediate/beginner friendly (the blue runs down to town from the Solaise side are hard for an intermediate). Up high though there are lovely cruisey blues and reds. The links over to Tignes are easy. Tignes...a bit like Val Thorens...purpose built, a bit ugly. There are two main bases. Le Lac and Lavachet are on one side of the lake, which I think has a bit more charm than Val Claret.
You will find the the 3v vs EK “which is better” debate is hotly contested on this forum if members are given half a chance Very Happy . I personally fall into the 3V camp....just cos I think there is more variety..
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Lech is much quieter than St.Anton. Few queues.
It is not worth it to choose Oberlech for being higher/more snow sure. Oberlech is just a slightly higher hotel-satellite of Lech, carfree, great for kids. Lech proper also has many hotels close to the lifts and pistes, with a lot ski-in/out + the bonus of the shops and old village at walking distance.
Should you prefer a real 'old world' feel (with modern facilities of course) Lech (dates back to 14th century) and Austria in general is the place to go.
Les Arcs and many French resorts are modern 20th century constructions.
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your friends might be interested in this video also snowHead


http://youtube.com/v/OSmW2FjR-a4
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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!
@KeetnaWilson, I can't comment on the Arlberg but I have extensive experience of the 3V's and many weeks in both the Paradiski and the EK.

For your group's requirements, this is my view:
EK has the best guided off-piste early season but less lift-scoped off-piste. It's a tough area for intermediates. VDI's green runs would be blue anywhere else and many of their pistes are under graded as a marketing exercise.

Paradiski can suit everyone but is more disjointed than the 3V's. The lift system has more bottlenecks than the 3V's and you'll have to make a call as to who is more important in your party - the intermediates or the advanced - to decide where to stay. For me, La Plagne favours the intermediates and Les Arcs the advanced. Plenty of lift-scoped off-piste in Les Arcs but it gets tracked quickly. Staying in La Plagne could work for the advanced skiers because there are fewer people skiing off-piste but you kinda need to know where to go. Arc 1950 will absolutely not give you any flavour of European skiing ambiance. Don't get me wrong, I've been there and it's very pleasant but it's not France.

3V's offers everything for everyone but I don't agree with your location options. It very much depends on exactly when you go but this would be my recommendation:
Pre-Xmas/Xmas week - Courchevel
New Year/1st week Jan - Meribel/Mottaret
I've posted many times on here that early season, the best snow is at the Courchevel end of the 3V's. Everybody assumes that because VT is higher, it has better snow but that is only true in a good snow year with benign wind. It's rare. Most years, VT is heavily wind blown (producing icy pistes) and bloody cold early season. It's a particularly unpleasant place for intermediates. VT is the best place to be in the 3V's in Spring, not early season. St Martin is indeed a pretty village but is also pretty isolated. It's not a percentage choice.

For Courchevel, Xmas week is definitely quieter than New Year/1st week of Jan. Courchevel attracts a lot of Russians to celebrate their Orthodox New Year so it's better to be a little further away if it's January. Meribel/Mottaret gives you the option to ski either Courchevel or Val Thorens if the conditions suit without the evening over-crowding.

Wherever you stay, make the effort to go to La Masse as that almost always has the absolute best snow early season. The advanced skiers can ski Lac de Lou from there to VT which is a pretty safe itinerary.
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@Raceplate, For the OP, I would have thought that Val Thoren’s soul-destroying ugliness should be enough to exclude it regardless of its snow record.
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Les Arcs, 1950 v 2000. 1950 is a far more modern 'village' with good apartments clustered around an attractive shopping/dining centre. 2000 is a brutal 1970's development. The apartments have to be better looking out, but will be smaller and decrepit compared to 1950. Both are limited in scope compared to your alternatives.

3V. Both St. Martin and ValT are bigger than 1950/2000 in Les Arcs, much bigger in Val T's case. It's very high (for Europe) and can be very bleak in bad weather. A week or two later, and I'd choose St.M. For your date window, it is more of a gamble, but the French are very good at snow making and management and I doubt you'd need to download.

EK - i do have bias here, it's an amazing area for intermediate/expert skiers. Tignes consists of smaller villages similar to Les Arcs. Val is a much larger town with something for everybody. Yes, it is commercial, it is more expensive, but you'll never be bored.
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In defence of Arcs 2000, one of the best chalet holidays I've ever had was there, and the standard of the accommodation was okay (and, needless to say, it was ski-in ski-out). On the other hand, like so many French, purpose-built ski villages, it was fairly soulless with nothing to do outside the chalet in the evenings, except for a few quite expensive restaurants and a very over-priced and uninspiring bar.
It's a while since I was in St Martin de Belleville, but I used to stay there regularly. I remember it as a well-located and relatively attractive village, which had the advantage of involving a beautiful, long run down at the end of every day - as opposed to having to get up high in the mid-afternoon, so as not to be "stranded" too low down for getting back to one's accommodation in VT. On the other hand, there was zilch to do in the evenings, except for a fairly nice (in a relaxing way) piano bar.
This will sound predictable, coming from an Austrophile, but it would seem a shame for someone coming so far on a one-off ski trip to Europe to spend their time in an ugly French ski station, such as VT, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Tignes, etc. There are plenty of beautiful, traditional and romantic old ski towns and villages to choose from, and those further east tend to have a lower snow line and are less prone to the warming effect of the westerly winds blowing across the Gulf Stream.
The following article, written for the benefit of North American skiers looking to visit Europe, is about 12 years old, but many of the comments are still pertinent: https://www.budgettravel.com/article/0411_SkiVillage_32
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
@Raceplate, For the OP, I would have thought that Val Thoren’s soul-destroying ugliness should be enough to exclude it regardless of its snow record.

Slightly harsh Laughing

I think VT's improved a lot in the last couple of years or so due to the new 5* hotels and the new ClubMed building. Doesn't make it an oil painting though and it never will be.

In fairness, neither is the rest of the 3V's. Courchevel has bits that are equivalent to Aspen's billionaires' row and bits that are off a council estate.

If you want chocolate box, Meribel wins hands down. St Martin, Le Praz and my home ville La Tania, also qualify but not on the same scale.
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tatmanstours wrote:
... it would seem a shame for someone coming so far on a one-off ski trip to Europe to spend their time in an ugly French ski station, such as VT, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Tignes, etc..


+1
If ambience/prettiness is the top priority, the entire shortlist would change. Austria and Switzerland would definitely be higher up the list.

Val d’isere comes closest and with the train link at BSM, a good compromise for a first trip.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Ok, sorry for going off track from my original question, but some in my group are having concerns about how much snow will actually be there. How reliable is it that there will be enough snow to ski off of groomed trails and not just be relying on snowmaking? Is it possible that there won't be very much snow and how has it been in the past few years? Also, for specific resorts which resorts are better and more reliable (not just looking for villages, but entire areas like 3 valleys, arlberg, espace killy, etc)?
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@ALQ, I don’t imagine that prettiness is the top priority, but surely it has to be a factor in the OPs situation?
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Espace killy is a good choice. Its generally considered one of the more snowsure places in Europe, plus it has a glacier. Snowfall history for the entire month of December:
2017 - 270cm
2016 - 25cm
2015 - 22cm
2014 - 31cm
2013 - 42cm
What does that actually mean? Generally enough natural snow for piste skiing. Perhaps a little man made needed for the lower slopes back into villages. Off piste not great coverage and lots of rocks unless you get lucky with an epic start to the season like this year.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
KeetnaWilson wrote:
Ok, sorry for going off track from my original question, but some in my group are having concerns about how much snow will actually be there. How reliable is it that there will be enough snow to ski off of groomed trails and not just be relying on snowmaking? Is it possible that there won't be very much snow and how has it been in the past few years? Also, for specific resorts which resorts are better and more reliable (not just looking for villages, but entire areas like 3 valleys, arlberg, espace killy, etc)?

It's not reliable at Xmas anywhere in Europe without a glacier. In the 3V's, this year is epic, 2015 was ok but the other years have been thin. You'll likely be skiing 90% on piste in the 3V's at Xmas but you can rely on that 90% because the snowmaking is outstanding. If you want "guaranteed" off-piste, you should come from late January onwards but dodge the school holidays.

If you want off-piste at Xmas, Val d'Isere is fairly reliable (but the good stuff is only with a guide - expensive), Tignes on the glacier (boring, bleak) or else go to one of the high resorts in Suisses (Zermatt/Verbier/Saas Fee) or Austria. I've never been but I think Obergurgl is reliable.

The French Alps are on top of igneous rock - slate mostly - so you need a decent snow depth to ski safely off-piste without fear of hitting something nasty under the surface. The Austrian Alps are largely on top of pastureland so you can get away with a lower snow depth. Not sure about the Swiss Alps but they have super high altitude on their side so it's less relevant.
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@foxtrotzulu, Yes, it was mentioned as important, but it seems early season snow depth is a higher priority, along with mileage and travel. While it might be lovely for the OP’s group to walk around a chocolate box village, I doubt it would make up for disappointing skiing.
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@KeetnaWilson, I suggest you ask the off piste members of your group to come on here and discuss their requirements with the gnarly gang. I’m surprised they expect decent off piste so early in the season.
Also, go online and check out images or google maps for a close up of the areas in your short list. Have a look at the quaint Austrian and Swiss villages too; I’m sure you’ll like them.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
The Swiss glaciers are *not* a good bet for early season off-piste, as it takes time for the snow bridges to form over the crevasses. Take a look at altaskis posts on the Zermatt thread for the take of a disappointed American!

Nowhere in Europe is reliable for off-piste in December.
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ALQ wrote:
@foxtrotzulu, Yes, it was mentioned as important, but it seems early season snow depth is a higher priority, along with mileage and travel. While it might be lovely for the OP’s group to walk around a chocolate box village, I doubt it would make up for disappointing skiing.


@KeeynaWilson, Ideally it would be good to stay at a resort you can live and sleep low (c. 1200m) and can ski hign in order to meet the groups’s varying expectations. The choice of dates is the limiting factor here. Issue with higher resorts is they are rocky and need a lot of snow to fill in the off piste and may not quite ready by that time, and also you may not have the best weather as this is when it snows. But nonone knows what will happen a year out.
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@KeetnaWilson, is this the kind of thing your friends were hoping for?


http://youtube.com/v/pg2uX1N5UeA
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@Gämsbock, actually, as Altaskis pointed out at least twice in that thread, he is not an American. I agree with your point, however (and essentially made the same above when I observed about someone's (very good) short list, that Zermatt would be on the bottom of the list in my view for a December trip).
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@mr. mike, sorry, I missed that. Reading back I only see that he (she?!) mentions spending most of their skiing life in North America. I do think their posts are useful. I reckon it's obvious to anyone who has skied off-piste in Zermatt or indeed on any European glacier that December is not the time to go there for off-piste. But this is somewhat at odds with the way it is marketed/reported, in that it is often considered a good bet early season, and I can see why they felt that this was less than clear.

KeetnaWilson if you are interested:
http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/search.php?search_author=altaski8

KeetnaWilson, I feel like the Eeyore of this thread. I don't wish to sound discouraging, but I don't like to read about people being disappointed with a ski holiday, especially a big, long distance, special trip like you are planning. Christmas week (the Sat-Sat week containing 25th December) is generally not too busy, and if the snow is good or you are happy with artificial then it can be a good week. New Year week (the Sat-Sat week containing 1st January) is a different ballgame. It's not just the queues, but the business of the slopes and the pressure/attitude that comes with everyone paying top dollar to be there. Some resorts have a better lift infrastructure and are better at managing the queues... in my experience this just means the slopes are even busier. Again, if you are used to and fine with queues, busy pistes and piste skiing then fine - I see reports on here every year from people who are used to these things and do have a great time despite them. As said above, Val'D / Tignes are a better bet than most for early season off-piste (and December is early season), but it is still quite a risk. I'm not saying don't come... just make sure that everyone in your party comes with their eyes open for what to expect and with the attitude to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed.
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@Gämsbock,

From that thread:

"@Brothergrimm
I live in Europe so Alta is not a convenient option or useful comparison."

Agree with your assessment for sure though. Shame the OP can't travel in March (although I came from NA last year and March was a disappointment). Had a nice "ski vacation" in Annecy and Lyon!
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Go to Verbier, Switzerland.

Or Chamonix, France.

Everywhere else will feel like a disappointment after deep US snow.
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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.
As always, ignore @Whitegold, he's from Barcelona.
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If your coming for a long trip I’d take on two resorts ..
A French mega resort, it just has to be done.. and an Austrian/Swiss/Italian traditional postcard type place.. as you have seen there are loads to choose from of both types..

5 days in each or a week if you can push it. Fly to Paris so you can do the tourist bit.. as in go the Louvre, look at the Mona Lisa and say,, bloody hell thats small!.....

Also go in early March if you can
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Don't be too discouraged by @Gämsbock,

Yes despite Zermatts very high altitude there is rarely off piste in early December as the topography is particularly rocky, and because of its inneralpine location it has significantly less snowfall than other regions.

I have skied for many years 1st week of December. In Tignes there will be invariably enough snow in November that classic off piste routes like North Face of Borsat, Chardonnay etc etc are absolutely skiable. Defo best with a guide

Would be concerned about Verbier in bad snow year.. haven't been but have seen in previous (early) Decembers that most lifts to access good stuff closed. That may not apply to Christmas though

My tuppence worth recommendation probably Val d'Isere
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I honestly think Val d'Isere is your best bet and ticks all your boxes. There will be snow, but if there's not much they have excellent snowmaking capabilities. Plenty to do for non-skiers, excellent beginner/improver area and enough challenging terrain for expert skiers. The main town is attractive (ok not chocolate box but the old part of town is nice) and there is ski in/out accommodation. The Espace Killy is also vast and well-linked with easily enough slopes to keep you happy for a week or so.

Oh and the apres is awesome Toofy Grin
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@KeetnaWilson, as always, lots of great advice from snowHeads, with different opinions on different areas. Would you consider renting a vehicle (or two) for your group? The reason I ask is that if I were travelling that far for a largely pre-January ski trip in Europe, I'd want breadth of experience and also to have contingency options to access the best snow.

With transport and within about half an hour drive (or local taxi to lift base) it's quite easy to access Paradiski and Espace Killy from a fixed base. That gives close on 1000kms of piste, plus great off-piste possibilities, depending on snow conditions. The base could be, for example, Bourg St Maurice. That gives direct funicular rail access to Arcs 1600 and into the massive Paradiski area. It is about 35 mins drive from Tignes les Brevieres or Tignes Les Boisses, giving access to the exhilarating Espace Killy.
Other bases include St Foye Tarentaise, which has a smallish but very enjoyable ski area of its own, very good if conditions closed-in and poor visibility higher up. It is 20 minutes driv from Tignes (EK) and 10 minutes from Villaroger (PDSki).
Also, with a vehicle, the La Rosiere/La Thuile area is accessible in about 20-30 minutes. A nice change, with Italian atmosphere and food over the border in La Thuile.
I believe there's a lift pass (Ski a La Carte I think) that allows you to change area day by day and get charged based on what you use, so you can have a day off without wasting lift pass money.

I've done this a few times, with a mixed group. It takes more effort than jumping out of your hotel/apartment onto the snow, but you have more choice and 'insurance' against poor snow. Also, in Bourg St Maurice, you'd stay in a proper town, with decent supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, bars, all a bit better value than up in mainly soulless purpose built mountain villages.

You'll know better than me, but driving around a few different areas in one break is fairly normal in N. America, eg Colorado, Lake Tahoe. Why not the same in France, as the distances are far less?
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@PeakyB, Actually for us, we rarely drive around multiple areas during a ski holiday. We usually stay at places like Big Sky, Whistler, Sun Peaks, and don't prefer the Summit County and Tahoe areas. They get more crowds, less snow (if we had chosen Utah or Colorado this year for January we'd be mountain biking not skiing) and are hardly bigger than Big Sky and places in British Columbia. We usually have a car, but only use it once or twice in the actual resorts, maybe driving outside of the base for dinner or something. Generally, we only stay for about 7 days of skiing no never really feel like we need to branch out. It is a good point that it would give more reliability that we'll have snow, but skiing for around a week and don't need the extra size. I will consider it though. Thanks.
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Thanks for all the continuing comments everyone! I'm going to try to keep narrowing down my list so that we can really get a feel for what we want. So, here's what I've decided.

L'Espace Killy: Val d'Isere - as long as we can get near the slope at the village (ski in/out?), as while I have seen things saying runs can be trickier here, the beginners/intermediates in our group are reasonably experienced, and should be able to do any european blue (am i correct in saying this translates to between a north american green and blue?). Pros are it's a good size (not the biggest, but seems large), seems quite snowsure along with Tignes. Cons are almost all off-piste seems to require a guide, not really a 'skiroute' type infrastructure.

Arlberg: Lech - Part of the large Arlberg area, seems to be the quieter side?, Pros include a nice village (compared to Val Thorens or that sort), off piste 'skiroute' system and connections to other areas if expert skiers aren't satisfied, good snow reliabilty? Cons are no car-free village, and seems to sprawl, we'd have to be careful to get accommodation with good access to the slopes

3 Valleys: This is the one place I'm very unsure about which village to choose. Val Thorens offers high elevation for snow reliability, St Martin de Belleville offers great charm with decent access, Meribel offers a bit less charm but a central village with access across 3V, Courchevel offers a large valley and (maybe) the best snow reliability outside of Val Thorens? They all have big cons though, Val Thorens is all above the tree line, and quite ugly, St Martin de Belleville is isolated and low elevation, Meribel is sprawling and crowded, Courchevel is not very french and feels like it might be posh and such. 3 Valleys though is obviously huge and offers much variety even if it gets little snow.

Other areas we are considering are Paradiski and maybe others, but likely these are the main 3. We're spending about a week, and probably not getting a car. I'd love to hear more feedback about the specifics, thanks everyone!
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There's loads of "ski routes" in Tignes /Val d'Isere - these are Naturide runs - but these are on steep rocky terrain so many may not be opened in December

There's also lots of off-piste routes where route finding is easy, you could do it easy with a guidebook, but maybe safer with a guide. This is European style off-piste which is not avalanche controlled. Avalanche controlled "ski routes / Naturides" or whatever the local terminology can offer some great fun skiing, but get tracked out and mogulled very fast and really are glorified pistes

If you are coming to all this expense and there's a group of advanced skiers surely it's a no-brainer to get a guide and do the real stuff??!

If you want slopeside accommodation in Val d'Isere better book early
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@peanuthead, If we got a guide and did those off-piste, would we also need avalanche gear?
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Yes but guide will usually be able to give you that (probably not Avi bag)
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
peanuthead wrote:
Don't be too discouraged by @Gämsbock,

Would be concerned about Verbier in bad snow year.. haven't been but have seen in previous (early) Decembers that most lifts to access good stuff closed. That may not apply to Christmas though


This is misguided. IMHO Verbier is one of the best resorts anywhere in the Alps for providing good skiing in a low snow year. The comparison with Chamonix last year was stark. In addition, the Attelas couloirs, Tortin, Col des Mines, Vallon D’Arbi are all accessible early in the season from the Funispace lift which typically opens in November. Go to the Verbier thread for pictures
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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!
@KeetnaWilson,

Espace Killy not the biggest but it’s huge! I found it much more ‘connected’ than Arlberg and easier to cover the whole area. IMO Val D’I is more laid back / fun than Lech, but would choose St Anton if choosing Arlberg and many people here will agree this resort will be mega fun, great varied skiing and cater for everyone.

Beginners will be fine if the euro blues. St Anton blues have a reputation of being harder but there is the easier and sunnier Rendl side which is quite great for beginners / intermediates and well connected with the base station.

Ski in/out is a premium anywhere and will obviously add to price (unless staying in a high purpose built resort). Euro resorts tend to have very good ski locker facilities at the bottom of the lift and common practice to leave skis there and walk to accommodaation which is never too far.

Can I ask what you expect from the ski routes you seem to be pinning some of your decision marking on? As a general observation, these runs are always neglected, sometimes heavily moggled and rocky, and not very popular due to terrain (and not patrolled?). We tend to either stick to well prepared, some some very challenging runs, use off-piste to the side but outside of marked runs (which is officially ‘out of bounds’) or go-properly off-piste. Off-piste is very accessible but AVI gear and training is a must - as is a guide - You could easily end up in the wrong place at the wrong time (sometimes within view or a piste or lift) if off-piste on your own.

The other big issue to consider is travel insurance (opening can of worms) which generally will not cover anyone who is skiing away from a marked piste without a guide (as this is considered ‘out of bounds’. There are exceptions available to us in the UK but probably for you too get cover from the US.

My final point is your group will have an amazing time at any of the big resorts in Europe (in no order): Killy, Arlberg, Zermatt, 3V, Verbier, Chamonix... They are all unique and have pros and cons - but at the end of the day you would be completely happy and have a memorable Euro skiing experience if you were magically transported to any of these. As you are going in December you must accept to ski whatever is in front of you and the weather - you’ll have a blast Very Happy
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@KeetnaWilson,

You asked about euro grading. This is what I've found.

--green = nearly flat, beginners or connecting pistes;
--blue = (also green in Italy) advanced beginners (doable on 3rd day on skies for those of moderate athletic ability) and some fun cruising runs for intermediate and advanced skiers; many are also horizontal-ish connecting pistes or cat tracks that have some exposure.

--red = can range from skiable by intermediates with soft snow to single black diamond if icy/windblown/bumped up. To me, this is the widest variation, but generally will be steep-ish. I think intermediates can ski the majority of European red runs.

--black = surprisingly few of these, percentage wise. They can be wide, steep, fun groomers that are often ungroomed; suitable for confident intermediates, or gnarly narrow ungroomed bump runs. But again, there aren't all that many, and often the better alternative is to find some "sidecountry" as@Ozboy notes above or open bowl areas. To give you an idea about black runs, ESF instructors take kids on them all the time. My daughter, who is 9, can ski many blacks if she's following me or an instructor, and she's hardly what I would call an expert.


I'd also second travel insurance and make sure that it (or your US insurer) covers skiing (you may also be able to buy a la carte at the ski stations). Health care is universal in Europe, but it isn't free. If you have to get taken down by a ski patroller it will be hundreds of euros, then there's the exam/xray etc.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
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Once again, thanks for everyone's replies. As I am trying to ask questions from my group I'll have a few random specific ones. Which resort of my short list would you trust best for snow during Christmas (I understand most if not all have almost complete snowmaking, I want to know about natural snow). I know it is likely there will be very little, but where would you expect to find the most?
Espace Killy (Val D'Isere, Tignes)
3V (Val Thorens, Meribel)
Arlberg (Lech)

Thanks.
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