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Off Piste Ski Sabbatical

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@alice8217, what a wonderful dilemma to find yourself in!

Would be great if you kept a blog/thread going wherever you decide on, so I can dream of a similar sabbatical when I figure out how to save enough money to pay my mortgage and not have to work for the season! Laughing
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Not sure if anyone has mentioned Val d´Isere. There are several small off piste outfits where a solo skier can join up for a few days, ski hard on or near famous off piste routes with either lift access plus a traverse or a modest skin. Excellent bus service from La Daille to Val, then on to Le Fornet, you can access all of Tignes from Val. Or you might explore the Zillertal in Tyrol, Kaltenbach, etc cheaper, friendly, loads of terrain. The mountains are lower then eg Chamonix but because the NE alps are further from the Med they usually do fine. Enjoy.
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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?
jedster wrote:
@boarder2020,
Quote:

Should anyone be skiing that terrain on their own?!

by independent I meant without a guide rather than solo


Is the main Valle blanche route or something like col du tour noir on argentiere basin that serious? I thought they were a bit of a motorway? I guess maybe argentiere is a little quieter without the top lift? Granted you would need crevasse rescue knowledge, but a weekend course would be sufficient assuming you are touring with some experienced people that know what they are doing. I'm going off what I've seen in guidebooks and videos regarding the terrain so maybe they didn't reflect the actual difficulty so much.

I always did wonder about people with no crevasse rescue knowledge assuming they are safe because they have a guide. What's supposed to happen if he falls in?
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boarder2020 wrote:


I always did wonder about people with no crevasse rescue knowledge assuming they are safe because they have a guide. What's supposed to happen if he falls in?


Call the rescue services (PGHM) on tel:+33450531689. They rescued my group once! In Cham main thing is that someone sees you go in and so knows where you are. There are a lot of crevasses on VB and plenty of people fall in each year on the main route! If you’re somewhere more remote then you need to make sure more than one person has a rope/kit and knowledge do a crevasse rescue

Here’s a reminder from the great man!
http://youtube.com/v/Ukhnzlh22qQ
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@boarder2020,

I think the question was about going solo. In general I'd say that was a bad idea for avalanche travel although some people do it.
I agree that provided you are practised in the ropework associated with crevasse rescue and read the terrain then you don't need a guide.

As @BobinCH says, if your guide goes into a crevasse and you don't know what to do then you phone for help. Even then, I suspect guides would generally be able to climb out without needing to be hauled up on a pulley. But guides typically know the terrain well and are cautious when with clients so don't fall in. When I was a young climber I asked an experienced guide if he had ever fallen in a crevasse he said "yes when climbing for myself but with clients never, and I intend to keep it that way".
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jedster wrote:

As @BobinCH says, if your guide goes into a crevasse and you don't know what to do then you phone for help.


as a general rule Chamonix guides will also phone the PGHM if a client falls into a crevasse (you've no idea if the client is injured until you get them out) assuming of course, they can fly and are not on another shout. Very few Chamonix guides have actually rescue someone from a crevasse although they would all be capable of it, I'm quite sure. Of course Chamonix is something of an exception for the efficiency of the rescue services.

Quote:


http://youtube.com/v/nWOTVHhgnIs#t=10

Yesterday afternoon, wonderful day in Chamonix, with childhood friends, a friendly guide, an exceptional day for a beautiful descent of the Vallee Blanche
And yet surprise ... little higher than the Requin refuge, a snow bridge crumbles under my skis and here I am in a few seconds at the bottom of the hole!
Strange and unpleasant feeling to be a few meters from the surface between two walls of ice, blocked by a layer of unstable snow. Impossible to move, my legs are knots and my position is really not comfortable. I think I'm not hurt anywhere .. I'm positive, my friends are behind and saw me disappear into the abyss, my guide is in front and he will come to get me, another guide is not far and will help him in the manip!
The minutes are long but I see the end of the rope with an indefinissable pleasure! I have an efficient and experienced guide, a helmet, a harness, a carabiner screw, but today I know why .. I know that I am very lucky and that the crevasses are not always so indulgent. Thank you to the guide who took the time to come and help .. I love the mountain by its excessive beauty but I never forget that she does what she wants to anyone and no matter when!


and not so happy

http://pistehors.com/23265465/the-death-of-a-guide
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
A couple of years ago we had a couple of days touring on foot on the glacier above Pralognon La Vanoise and the guide, a super bloke, fell into a crevasse. It was not a terrible one but he could not climb out alone as he had broken his arm. We had an experienced group with a couple of ropes. We secured ourselves and tossed down a Rope. There is a simple way to wrap and secure a rope under your shoulders with one if the other is injured. With a bit of hauling from us, but largely his strength, he got out. He would not have been able to tie himself on to his harness. The guide was a stud and led us down to the car park, about 4 hours. I then drove him back. He was adamant he did not want to call out the rescue services. Even the French can be brave.
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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!
Quote:

He was adamant he did not want to call out the rescue services. Even the French can be brave.


and the forms he would have avoided having to fill in! Probably worth a bit of pain for that!
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Do you have to live on mountain?

There are a number of snowheads who live the city life and then travel to the snow with a multi-resort season pass.

Theoretically always great conditions.

Plenty to do off skis.
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Mike Pow wrote:
Do you have to live on mountain?

There are a number of snowheads who live the city life and then travel to the snow with a multi-resort season pass.

Theoretically always great conditions.

Plenty to do off skis.


Live in a grotty, wet town under a layer of winter fog vs waking up to blue skies and a winter wonderland. Of course I exaggerate but if I had the choice there’s no way I’d be choosing town living over the mountains! I mean there’s nothing quite like it is there?
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Ive done seasons in Verbier, Chamonix and Aosta. You seem to have highlighted the pros and cons. Without a car and with plenty of cash Verbier is top. With a car but need to find company for skiing then Chamonix. With a car and a companion then Aosta is my top choice. Its cheap, better weather, coffee and best variety of skiing by far.
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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.
Quote:

With a car and a companion then Aosta is my top choice. Its cheap, better weather, coffee and best variety of skiing by far.


I think that is a sound call but I'd be influenced by the fact my French is preety poor but my Italian awful!
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
BobinCH wrote:
Mike Pow wrote:
Do you have to live on mountain?

There are a number of snowheads who live the city life and then travel to the snow with a multi-resort season pass.

Theoretically always great conditions.

Plenty to do off skis.


Live in a grotty, wet town under a layer of winter fog vs waking up to blue skies and a winter wonderland. Of course I exaggerate but if I had the choice there’s no way I’d be choosing town living over the mountains! I mean there’s nothing quite like it is there?


Depends which grotty, wet town you choose?

And whether you're prepared to ski / tour when the conditions are rubbish.

Living in a town which gives you multiple options may be the go.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Mike Pow wrote:

Depends which grotty, wet town you choose?



Chamonix? La Grave?
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
davidof wrote:
Mike Pow wrote:

Depends which grotty, wet town you choose?



Chamonix? La Grave?


Smile
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Consider Champagny-en-Vanoise. La Plagne is on your doorstep and Les Arcs is achievable without much effort. Both have plenty of lift-served off-piste with a wide range of difficulty.

15-20 minutes down the hill gets you into the 3 Valleys complex - again with a wide range of off-piste options.

And the same time up the hill will get you into Pralognan, the gateway to the Vanoise national park, and endless day and multi-day touring options with a number of refuges to aim for.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I'm one of the Serre Che crew, living there the past 5 or so seasons.

I also have been skiing/snow-boarding La Grave since 97 and know various full-timers there.

I know a handful of mature ski bums who spend two to three months there and return each season and they do not get bored, interesting to note that some of them only have Mon-Fri season passes as they can't be arsed to ski with the crowds at the weekend, not that they are anywhere near the levels that you encounter in Chamonix.

Out of those that I know, most will do some of the more gnarly routes, but not some of the uber routes where you really need the experience of a resident guide.

Many also do not live in LG but in villages above the village, so there will be some networking to be carried out in order to get to meet people, but that usually takes place in the Gondolas and in the lift queue at the bottom and you soon get to know the regular faces.

The last few years I've probably made more trips over to LG on a powder day to find the lift closed, and wished I'd remained in Serre, that said I had one of my best days ever there this past season, but again that was with a guide who just happened to make the call that no one else did.

I think you have to live in LG to really get the most out of it rather than optimistic road trips where you might end up queueing with many others who had the same thought, but it's still a magical place and the sheer scale of it never fails to amaze me.

When we go over there we sometimes are relieved that we are not skiing with some of the Scandi ski bums we know who just are in another league, and we're happy to ski with the second division as it were where pace is not so rapid.

If you do go there and want to explore our side of the Lautaret then PM me
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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?
Thanks so much everyone for all the advice, sorry its taken me so long to reply, work has been a bit mad and I haven't had time to prioritise planning my season. (first world problems)

I'm torn and keep flip flopping between Chamonix Valley and Arlberg region now.
I've taken a good look at all your suggestions, and sticking to my feeling that I need a decent sized base to meet people. I have have some acquaintances in both those regions that can help hook me up with ski buddies.

I've skied in both a good few times, so I know the terrain and vibe is pretty different. I think I feel more excited by the idea of getting more glacial/mountaineering-influenced experience in Chamonix. But I prefer the pace and way of life (and cost) in Austria.

I think it will ultimately come down to practicalities - where I can find an ok apartment now at reasonably short notice, and how many of those contacts materialise into real ski buddies.

Either way, here's to a great winter!
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Hi Alice,
I haven't yet done a full season, but I've spent a lot of time in each of Chamonix, St Anton & Verbier (over 20 weeks in each) & have also visited La Grave & Val D'isere, etc.

I think listening to your requirements (alpinism, back country access, networking with like beings & remote working), it's defo between Chamonix & St Anton for me. Verbier is great in many ways, but ridiculously expensive for a season out and even things like dining out there is just prohibitively pricey tbh.

Chamonix for me, while staying in Argentiere, is probably your best option, by a margin, imho. It has all the back country you need, it has communities to tap into (e.g. UCPA, Ski Club of GB, www.skiclub.co.uk ,etc), & as fixx points out Chamonix town is very remote worker friendly (much better than working from an apartment imho) & very near Gva (~1hr drive) also. You could also finish your season with say a haute route ski tour (Cham to Verbier say) and maybe a Mont Blanc ascent &ski which would be 2 awesome goals to top off your season!!

I'd also seriously consider St Anton though, as their lift infrastructure is much better, their resort's are now (fully)interconnected, and with Warth in particular, there is now loadza of untouched pow & back country days after each & every dump. I'd imagine St Anton, or Lech are remote worker friendly, (research this),but of course you're further from main airports e g. Zurich or Munich.

Finally, re networking with like souls, if in Chamonix, I'd do your Ava course with UCPA to start off your season, & tap into their extensive network of guides, centres, etc. They've a hostel in both Chamonix & Argentiere (with pool), and ,even if you don't stay, they're great outlets.
Also join the SCGB, who have dedicated facebook pages for each of those resorts to help coordinate hiring guides, meet ups, skiing, back country, and whatever else, as well as subsidised guiding from a local guide company,
all really good imho. Also I might be taking some more time myself this winter (Jan & March) both in Cham &/or st Anton, so stay in touch Smile.... pm me your details if you'd like to meet up.

Lastly, & most importantly, good luck & enjoy it!! Smile)

P.s. & don't worry about brexit, 90 day holiday visas or whatever else, cos we're Irish & we didn't vote to leave the EU, so all that kind of rubbish is irrelevant.... thankfully!! Toofy Grin


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Thu 24-10-19 18:22; edited 1 time in total
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Ive done similar thing, and my idea of this changed completely. Maybe I wasnt in luck with the year, but all I had is about 10 proper show falls per season, so there was no sense spending season in the Alps just for offpist skiing, instead I could travel to the Alps from home based on forecast and still have permanent source of income ie job.

One advice, is try to get to know local guides who run guiding business and try to work for them as a assistant (for free of even paying them some little money).

Good luck
Ed
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@alice8217, Lots of good advice above. Cham and Verbier are both fantastic, and would easily fulfill your requirements of loads of off piste with like-minded skiers. You've been to La Grave, so you know what it's like - you can't compare it with the other two, it's really unique, and quite special. I think to spend a whole season there, you'd have to be quite hard-core.
Maybe the best of both worlds is the Serre Chevalier valley. Briancon is a lovely medieval town with a modern extension. There are other towns along the valley are more ski resort-oriented. The vibe is very relaxed, but nearby are la Grave, Puy St Vincent, and great ski touring opportunities in places most people have never heard of, and will never go. There are several SC locals on SH, but from what you've written, I suspect they're a little older than you. On the other hand, if you speak French, and join the local CAF, you might integrate with the locals, and have a truly memorable season.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
A bit of a leftfield suggestion as it doesn't match your criteria exactly but I expect it would probably meet the main goals and in some respects would blow expectations out of the water.
If you've any interest in a snowHeads Golden Ticket, gimme a shout Wink
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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!
horgand wrote:
it's defo between Chamonix & St Anton for me. Verbier is great in many ways, but ridiculously expensive for a season out and even things like dining out there is just prohibitively pricey tbh.



Not so sure St Anton and Chamonix are significantly more expensive than Verbier. Lift pass and beer isn’t. Is the big difference accommodation?
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
BobinCH wrote:
horgand wrote:
it's defo between Chamonix & St Anton for me. Verbier is great in many ways, but ridiculously expensive for a season out and even things like dining out there is just prohibitively pricey tbh.



Not so sure St Anton and Chamonix are significantly more expensive than Verbier. Lift pass and beer isn’t. Is the big difference accommodation?


Accommodation, eating out and general living expenses too imho.

For instance, many years back myself & a ski buddy were doing a ski safari holiday with 4 days each in Verbier & Chamonix. We also both wanted to buy ski gear. On a white out afternoon in Verbier, after a few beers, we very nearly bought in Verbier, but instead waited till Chamonix where we 'saved' at least ~30% v Verbier. Similar for dining out, taxis, etc, etc in my experience.
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
horgand wrote:
BobinCH wrote:
horgand wrote:
it's defo between Chamonix & St Anton for me. Verbier is great in many ways, but ridiculously expensive for a season out and even things like dining out there is just prohibitively pricey tbh.



Not so sure St Anton and Chamonix are significantly more expensive than Verbier. Lift pass and beer isn’t. Is the big difference accommodation?


Accommodation, eating out and general living expenses too imho.

For instance, many years back myself & a ski buddy were doing a ski safari holiday with 4 days each in Verbier & Chamonix. We also both wanted to buy ski gear. On a white out afternoon in Verbier, after a few beers, we very nearly bought in Verbier, but instead waited till Chamonix where we 'saved' at least ~30% v Verbier. Similar for dining out, taxis, etc, etc in my experience.


For sure taxis are very expensive in CH, although not sure what you’d need one for in Verbier, and restaurants are generally more expensive, as staff get paid more but often clothing and white goods are cheaper in CH due to lower VAT. Appreciate it’s a sample of one but a Norrona Lofoten pro jacket bought from the Norrona online store is cheaper in CHF, than Euros or GBP
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
^ GBP/CHF =1.27588
Current exchange-rate sadly makes CH outrageously expensive for Brits.
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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.
Haggis_Trap wrote:
^ GBP/CHF =1.27588
Current exchange-rate sadly makes CH outrageously expensive for Brits.


Except if you’re buying a jacket? Did you miss the factual points above or just choose to ignore them?
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
BobinCH wrote:
Haggis_Trap wrote:
^ GBP/CHF =1.27588
Current exchange-rate sadly makes CH outrageously expensive for Brits.


Except if you’re buying a jacket? Did you miss the factual points above or just choose to ignore them?


Aye - read your post and thought that a £600 jacket was odd-example to prove Verbier wasn't expensive Very Happy

Have lived in CH for reasonable amount of time : though admittedly it was awhile ago!
So let me reply with a few factual points.

Way back in 2007/2008 you used to get almost 2.5CHF to the £1.
Pre-brexit it was still 1.5CHF
Now it is as low as 1.2CHF

Prices in CHF haven't actually changed much over the last 10 years.
However the exchange rate has moved by almost ~50%.

If you are earning CHF then Switzerland isn't expensive. Similarly if you are spending your massive city-bonus then you probably don't care that a main course in Chez-Danny will cost you 40HF wink

Don't get me wrong - Verbier is a fantastic place to ski off piste. One of the best! However for your average Brit (earning decent salary) there is no hiding from the fact that Switzerland is expensive. I really wish that wasn't the case. Blame Joris Bonson and the Brex-shite experiment.... The Swiss very aware the exchange rate is a real problem for their tourist industry. One of my best friends married to Swiss girl with 2x kids - but take their ski holidays in France or Austria because it works out much cheaper for them these days.

For your average 20-something ski-bum wanting to ski for extended period then cost is a major factor : and arguably the only downside of Verbier?
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Haggis_Trap, i’m not arguing that it’s not expensive. I was questioning whether the difference with Chamonix and St Anton is significant and providing some examples of where it’s not. The Norrona jacket is an example that’s easy to compare (and I had recently researched) but take a chip fat fryer if that’s more your thing. White goods are also cheaper in CH due to the VAT. And I suspect 20 something ski bums aren’t regularly lunching at Chez Dany, nor similar establishments in Chamonix or St Anton.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
^ For sure : Chamomix has certainly become gentrified in last 10-20 years.
However the Euro-exchange rate generally much more favorable (or should that be less painful?) for Brits.
Rent and living expenses in France are noticeably cheaper.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
BobinCH wrote:
Haggis_Trap wrote:
^ GBP/CHF =1.27588
Current exchange-rate sadly makes CH outrageously expensive for Brits.


Except if you’re buying a jacket? Did you miss the factual points above or just choose to ignore them?


Except you didn't buy your jacket in Verbier, & the comparison price wasn't from a shop in Chamonix either....yet you seem to be implying that your shopping comparison can be used to compare clothing prices between Verbier & Chamonix... rolling eyes rolling eyes rolling eyes

Did you miss my *anecdotal* story about buying ski gear in Chamonix, for ~30% cheaper , having the day before got prices for similar in Verbier??

Or were you too consumed by your own *facts* regarding shopping elsewhere, to acknowledge actual relevant experience of shopping in Chamonix v Verbier!?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Hi Alice. Stay in Aosta with a car. I’ll be having my third winter there ( tho only 22/2 for five weeks this year) Accommodation/ living is cheap and staying in a town rather than ski resort is overall better. Plenty of other resorts big and small and Cham not far. There’s another SH around thro March. Both go ski touring as much as possible and know quite a few routes already.
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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?
I was in Saas Fee and Saas Grund this summer doing some mountaineering. I imagine the area is a bit cheaper than Verbier (?) but it was considerably more expensive (meals, drinks) than I'm used to in France - ordinary places seemed to be priced like glitzier Megeve prices (more expensive than Chamonix and significantly more expensive than St G / Les C).

One thing that struck me as pricey was that a single lift ticket down from the top to Saas Fee was CHF58...
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horgand wrote:
BobinCH wrote:
Haggis_Trap wrote:
^ GBP/CHF =1.27588
Current exchange-rate sadly makes CH outrageously expensive for Brits.


Except if you’re buying a jacket? Did you miss the factual points above or just choose to ignore them?


Except you didn't buy your jacket in Verbier, & the comparison price wasn't from a shop in Chamonix either....yet you seem to be implying that your shopping comparison can be used to compare clothing prices between Verbier & Chamonix... rolling eyes rolling eyes rolling eyes

Did you miss my *anecdotal* story about buying ski gear in Chamonix, for ~30% cheaper , having the day before got prices for similar in Verbier??

Or were you too consumed by your own *facts* regarding shopping elsewhere, to acknowledge actual relevant experience of shopping in Chamonix v Verbier!?


@horgand, errr yes I did actually buy my last Norrona Lofoten Pro jacket from the Norrona store in Chamonix, which at the time was cheaper in France than in No.1 in Verbier. And am in the market for a new one which is why I’d rechecked the prices with buying it in Switzerland, which is now cheaper. And I did (and will) buy it in a shop rather than online as it’s easier to get repairs. But both places charge rrp which is the same as the Norrona online price. I’m not doubting your anecdotal story. Just recounting my own to challenge the statement that St Anton and Chamonix are « much » cheaper than Verbier. Go to Cham, buy a day pass, get a sandwich and coke at the self in Lognan, have a beer in the Chambre neuf afterwards. The price is identical to do the same in Verbier. Yes cheap accommodation is in more supply, supermarkets are a bit cheaper and restaurants will be a bit cheaper but I don’t think it’s as significant as people assume.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I think St Anton has a lot of plus points here:

1. It gets a LOT of snow. More than anywhere else mentioned other than Lech
2. It has vast amounts of freeride/offpiste terrain at all levels of difficulty - lots of places you can get your powder turns sorted on low angle meadows and progress from there
3. Soooo much skitouring terrain, and even a closed resort just down the valley for no competition no navigation super safe storm day powder skiing
4. Even for the very best and steepest terrain you don't need mountaineering or alpinism skills, and you don't need to deal with glacial travel
5. There's a large seasonnaire community that's easy to break into, and get to know people at all levels of skiing ability
6. Fun apres and nightlife
7. Easy to get to Bregenz, Feldkirch, Innsbruck, even Zurich for a day if you get a little cabin fever
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@bobinch : the cost of a £600 imported jacket converted into CHF or euros is terrible metric...

Much more of relevance to cost of living for a ski bum is rent / supermarket cost / lift pass / price of a beer (etc).

Much as I love skiing in Switzerland there is no hiding from fact exchange rate makes it expensive (especially so Verbier and Zermatt!).
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Haggis_Trap, Fair enough on the jacket comparison. But note that Coop / Migros supermarket in Verbier costs the same as every other one in Switzerland. An equivalent bottle of French wine is cheaper in CH supermarkets due to lower VAT. Lift pass is the same as Chamonix. Price of beer is strangely often cheaper in Verbier!?!? Pub Mont Fort versus Chambre Neuf.

I give you rent is higher, food in restaurants is higher, taxis are extortionate. Don’t even think about paying for medical care.... But find a reasonably priced apt in Verbier village (or cheaper still in Le Châble) mainly self-cater and use happy hours for après-ski and I think it’s doable for an equivalent cost to Cham / St Anton.

And just think, if someone can stop Brexit and the £ shoots up it’ll be a véritable bargain wink
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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!
We're based in Lauterbrunnen and have an apartment for 10 weeks. The recent Top 4 ski pass covers all the Jungfrau - Wengen, Muerren, Grindelwald, Adelboden-Lenk, Saanen Valley - Gstaad etc, and Meiringen, Hasliberg. https://top4.ski/en/ski-areas/
666km for CHF666 for the season, which we reckon is a pretty good deal. Jungfrau all on local trains etc. Others require a car. Off piste varies from steep at Muerren to delightful terrain in other resorts.
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
I used to keep rooms in Engelberg in the noughties, it wasn't the halving of the exchange rate, the Viking invasion or the Powder hyped shermans seeking Drake Nirvana that drove me out of Switzerland it was primarily the food.
Shame as the superlative snow remains.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
I think we can all agree that wherever you choose you will have a totally awesome time. Two points that might be worth considering, to add to everything else (!):

1) They speak perfect French in the Aosta Valley. It's a dual language region, and every school child gets taught 50% in Italian and 50% in French. It doesn't matter if you're speaking to a spotty teenage shelf-stacker in the supermarket, or an old grandma in a cafe, all the locals speak French, which is awesome.

2) Regarding your point in your original post about wanting to become independent in the backcountry - I think this should be a key part of your decision, because it's such a fantastic skill set to acquire. I'm about to spend my third season in Aosta, and the principal reason I'll be there (with my partner), rather than Cham or Verbier (which we will definitely visit several times as they're so close) is that it's absolutely chock full of easily-accessible, non-extreme off piste, both lift-accessed and tourable, of the kind that wouldn't be too intimidating for your first independent adventures, and won't be instantly tracked out by a bunch of death-wish Scandis.

There is a really massive difference between setting off down a world-class couloir that's already been skied feeling safe with a guide, and setting off down a gentle untracked powder slope off the back of a small resort with only your own knowledge of the snowpack and avalanche report and your own map-reading skills to rely on. What I'm trying to say is that while Verbier, Chamonix etc will deliver amazing skiing for sure, you'll probably find yourself replacing guides with more experienced ski buddies, and while you'll certainly experience some epic skiing, you may not really learn as much independence as you might in a smaller, less 'extreme' place, where the buck stops entirely with you.

There are downsides to Aosta of course, and I'm not necessarily saying base yourself there, but when you're at the stage you describe (which I basically am too - maybe a season or so ahead), it's much less intimidating to, say, plan a straightforward tour from Crevacol to Col Serena, than to envisage yourself dropping off the back of the Grands Montets straight onto the Argentiere glacier and touring up the Glacier Amethyste. I'd say go somewhere with lots of options that aren't either too crowded or too extreme, and start slowly. You'll make mistakes, so better to make them where doing so isn't necessarily life-threatening.

The good news is that many of your options are really close to each other. E.g. if you stay in Chamonix, the Aosta Valley is only a tunnel trip away, and Verbier isn't a particularly long drive, so you could experience the best the whole region has to offer quite easily, as well as meeting your more general needs.

In terms of the Arlberg, I think it boils down to whether your aspirations are more in the realm of pure skiing/ski touring, or whether you want to expose yourself to more mountaineering skills, i.e. ropes, glacier travel, etc. For the latter, the Chamonix valley would be where you want to be.

Have an awesome time, and like others have said, if you fancy some not-too-extreme touring in that area, get in touch if you go there and maybe we could hook up. Best of luck with the planning!
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