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Serfaus/Fiss a safe bet at Christmas?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi, I'm a long time lurker and I'm looking for a bit of reassurance/advice having just reserved a hotel in Fiss for Christmas week, 23rd-30th December this year. I need to pay the deposit, but I'm suddenly wavering a bit based on a couple of reviews and comments I've seen.

I originally settled on it because:

- It's a bit off the beaten track (for Brits at least).
- The reviews everywhere seemed so overwhelmingly good.
- The area looks big, varied and perfect for our mixed abilities group.
- The villages are higher, at 1400m, than most Austrian resorts - notably 400m higher than Saalbach, which I was also looking at but ruled out for being too low at Christmas.
- The skiing goes up to 2800m, with a lot above 2000m.
- Got a decent deal at a hotel (Hotel Lasinga), which I saw very well reviewed on here (Mike Pow?).
- Other things, like good scenery, great infrastructure, charming villages, easy transfers...

But then I did more research on conditions at SFL over the past few Christmases, and I've seen more reviews, and now I'm concerned about snow cover and the number of runs that will be open.

Last year was obviously particularly bad and conditions didn't sound good during Christmas week. But even the year before, someone mentioned the resort reaching just 50% of slopes open at New Year, runs to resort being closed, and variable snow conditions.

I've also seen reports about how it gets so much less snow than Lech and the Arlberg a couple of valleys over, and how 'it just needs more of the white stuff from above'. This concerns me all the more because we were at Lech in 2008 for New Year week and weren't all that impressed by snow conditions or the state of the pistes even there, and it was mostly open and there was snow down to village level...

Then there's mention here and there of busy pistes, which would be made worse by piste closures.

Thing is, we are trying a skiing Christmas for the first time, and it seems quite important that there should be plenty of snow given the investment.

So I'm just interested in any reports from ski trips to SFL at that time of year. If the likelihood is a brown village, and only a fraction of short slopes open up high, I wonder if it's worth it? Or if we should scour Lech for an affordable deal and just try to go back there.

Thanks all...
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Hi there,

We are going to Serfaus over New Year and had the same questions to ask.

However, after research I am totally happy that there will be plenty skiing to be had. 2015 was a very slow start to the winter season due to the lack of snow but if you look at this youtube clip recorded before Christmas last year you can see that there is plenty of snow higher up the mountain and strips of man-made snow all the way down to the village (12 mins 21 & 12 mins 40) :-


http://youtube.com/v/TOE6SwX_PT8

Also from ski resort info :-

Worth knowing

Artificial snow-making
1250 Snow cannons
80 % of the slopes have snow-making capabilities

The valley run is open most of the time.

http://www.skiresort.info/ski-resort/serfaus-fiss-ladis/test-result/snow-reliability/

Hopefully this eases your mind !

Very Happy Very Happy
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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?
Last two Christmasses were extremely poor everywhere in the Alps, due to lack of snow and high temperatures in all the weeks before, causing snowmaking difficult.
99% of the villages were brown, with skiing only on artificial slopes, also higher up (snowcover was too thin everywhere, apart from the glaciers)
Your comparison with Lech is interesting: Lech was one of few villages that had a -thin- white cover in both 2014 and 2015, giving it the real Christmas atmosphere, but with limited skiing as the Arlberg has comparably limited snowmaking. They have been improving on that the last two years, but I'm convinced that Serfaus/Fiss still have better snowmaking, also due to the fact that this region simply gets less snow (inneralpine climate)
So it is up to you: A white Christmas with comparably limited skiing or a brown village with skiing on white serpentines.

But in fact this coming Christmas of course will be drowned in snow, everywhere Toofy Grin Toofy Grin

Generally speaking: Christmas/New Years are always a bit nervous. It simply is very early in winterseason. Lasting snow often comes late in december, but sometimes as early as mid november. Lech had 70 cm in October 2014, 5 cm at Christmas....very frustrating
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@WellingtonBoot, If it's any reassurance, even in Saalbach (which you've rejected on account of its altitude) there was plenty of skiing last Christmas, our tenth consecutive Christmas there and certainly the worst for snow conditions. Practically 100% of the lifts were open, and it was possible to ski down to the village from three directions, as normal (albeit on narrower pistes). I'd be very surprised if you were to come unstuck in a higher resort - provided of course that there is adequate snow-making, in case the sky should remain obstinately clear of snow clouds during December, which was the problem last year.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@JoyZipper, thanks for your reply. The video is somewhat reassuring - well as reassuring as a video can be when it shows a completely brown village and bare slopes - and I enjoyed the amazingly inappropriate music...

I would add that that was taken in mid December, and according to a thread I read somewhere, conditions deteriorated until the end of the year, when snow arrived some time around New Year. So in Christmas week itself, after another week or more of no snow and high temps, PLUS all the crowds that presumably arrive, I can only imagine it became worse.

I'd seen that other link and was again somewhat reassured at the time, even if I don't completely trust it based on some reports. And again, the stats are good, but if people are talking about 50% open at New Year in the past couple of years, then I can only guess that the snowmaking doesn't cover the entirety of those 80% of slopes, or that high temps were a problem.

Then I've made the mistake of looking at some German threads, and some of the comments there are not reassuring. There are people talking about:
- how much less snow it gets than other places in the Tirol
- how if there's one place that needs more water to make snow, it's SFL... (and that they don't have enough water to make snow all over for very long
- how crowded it is even during January (busier weeks at the end rather than the quiet weeks in the middle)
- how windswept and terrible some of the conditions were, how some lifts/blacks weren't even open - and this is as late as late January this year, with accompanying photos that appear to show everything finally covered in snow after the poor start...

Some of the links are here: http://alpinforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3483&hilit=fiss+dezember&start=4625
http://alpinforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=53&t=54874&p=5059347&hilit=fiss+dezember#p5059347

I just can't believe that I'm finding all this stuff after I did so much research earlier and only saw positive feedback...


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Tue 4-10-16 19:04; edited 1 time in total
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@Tatman's Tours, that does interest me. I was very tempted by Saalbach for a while, but I've never been to a European resort below about 1450m at any time, and particularly after last winter, and PARTICULARLY because we're going so early, I just couldn't believe Saalbach would be a safe bet. I can see that it's further east, and maybe it's generally more prominent and attracts more snow, but it just seemed to me that the extra 400+ metres at Serfaus could well make a crucial difference at that time of year. And on top of that, Saalbach tops out at 2200m, whereas SFL goes up to 2600-2800m.

Can you tell me more about what your typical experience is like? What are snow conditions like normally? How reliant on artificial snow? How crowded is it at Christmas - it sounds like a very busy place? And even if lifts are open, what portion of runs is usually open?

Myself, I'm fairly flexible with piste conditions and crowds and I'm confident on pretty much any piste, but other members of the party are much more timid - they might be horrified by big crowds and scratchy snow on just a scattering of narrow pistes.

I just don't have access to accurate, historical snow reports from all these places, and reports are so subjective, so it's really difficult to discern how they really compare.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Langerzug, I hope you're right about this season. Surely we must be due a good year...

I see your point about Lech and the trade-off, and honestly if that's the choice, I'm not that bothered but I'd probably go for SFL.

More likely though, it won't be such a disastrous year, and then other places may be far ahead of Serfaus already. It's this dry climate you mention that worries me. It's so close on the map, just a couple of mountain ridges away, and yet even when I look at current high resolution precipitation forecast maps, there is always a blob over Lech and over the Oetztal and nothing over Serfaus. Difficult to understand, given that that area of the Oetztal is so much deeper into the mountains, but I'm guessing it might have something to do with prominence vs the surrounding area. Maybe it's just a quirk of the weather model, but if not, then it just again adds to the evidence that this is just a particularly dry area of the Alps.
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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!
Have you got a car. Worst case it's an easy drive to St Anton.
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I was in Serfaus for the Christmas week the year before last. Conditions were pretty terrible everywhere in the run up to Christmas, so bad that we packed all our hill walking kit as well as the ski kit. On the transfer over from Munich we passed several snowless resorts and when we arrived in Serfaus we couldn't see any snow at all. Went to the ticket office where they told us that there was only about 25% of the pistes open. They wouldn't sell us tickets for the week: said just take the three days and if you like it you can come back and buy another three days at a special rate so it's not any more expensive. The village was busy so I was convinced that there'd be enormous queues and the pistes would be in terrible condition.

Got up early on the first morning, thinking we'd beat the queues, get a couple of runs in then stop at lunchtime. No queue at the gondola and beautiful blue skies. The runs above the gondola mid station were mostly open and they were in excellent condition - really top quality corduroy and didn't feel like snow canon snow. Up around Masner (left hand side of the Piste map) it was proper high alpine scenery and conditions. Needless to say after the three days we went back to extend our passes and the hill-walking kit never got used. Compared to the previous New Year we missed some of our favourite runs in the Fiss area and getting between Serfaus and Fiss was a bit harder because the linking pistes were closed. But it was still a great ski holiday and a lot better than the majority of resorts across the alps.

Pay the money - you'll have a great holiday!
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@WellingtonBoot,
The Oetztal has similar dry climate as Serfaus: Inner Alpine. Difference is the glaciers, that get earlier snow and retain it muh better
Short explanation: Snow comes mostly from the Atlantic/North Sea. Clouds loose their first moisture at the first highest peaks after the German foothills, which are where the Arlberg is. This is called the North-Stau (in German, Stau is also used for traffic-jam Very Happy; ). Above this the Arlberg also functions as a West-Stau, with the extra bonus of the moisture picked up at Lake Konstanz.
The clouds gradually loose their moisture when heading south and east: Warth gets the most, then follows Lech. St.Anton gets less, and Ischgl less than St.Anton. And you'll see that Soelden and Serfaus get less than Ischgl. Same goes e.g. for St.Moritz: very dry (sunny!!) so called "Inneralpine" climate.
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@Dave of the Marmottes, You are wrong, last two Christmasses St.Anton was definitely poorer than Lech
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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.
@WellingtonBoot,
Quote:

Can you tell me more about what your typical experience is like? What are snow conditions like normally? How reliant on artificial snow? How crowded is it at Christmas - it sounds like a very busy place? And even if lifts are open, what portion of runs is usually open?


With pleasure. Before I answer your questions, I can certainly see the logic of going high in the early (or late) season, provided of course that the higher resort can match the lower ones in snow-making capacity. (If the weather remains clear for weeks on end, it doesn't really matter how high you are. If the air temperatures are seasonably cold (as they were during December last season), then snow can be made at any height, within reason). Whether a typical ski resort is covered in snow at Christmas depends more than anything on when the first big dump arrives. In my experience, it could be in late November or at any time during December, and this applies irrespective of the height. The exception to this logic would be if the air temperatures were unseasonably warm; however December tends to be a cold month, and the sun is of course very low and doesn't generate much warmth. (In Saalbach, incidentally, the lower slopes and village nursery slopes tend to be shaded by high mountains during the early part of the season and are therefore often colder than the higher slopes, owing to the configuration/orientation of the Glemm valley, the south side of which has some high mountains rising steeply from the valley floor.)

Our typical experience, before the last couple of seasons, was that we would arrive in Saalbach around the middle of December, to find all or most of the 200km skiing area open, and in fabulous condition. It used to peeve me to be told by smug ski instructors or fellow ex-pats that I'd been missing some wonderful skiing on uncrowded - in fact virtually empty - perfectly-groomed pistes. Based on my experience of the Christmases of 2007 - 2013 inclusive, I therefore thought that this was the norm and that I could reasonably safely assume that pre-Christmas conditions would invariably be excellent. I should perhaps have known better, because in 2006 (the year before we bought our first apartment) the snow arrived as late as the third week of December, and I recall that we got a cut-price package deal for Christmas. The timing was perfect, because, having secured the package, the snow then fell and the snow cannons were also belting out the snow, so it was white over for our Christmas week.

In 2007 the snow had arrived by the third week of November. I remember very well arriving during that week (to sign some paperwork with our lawyer) to find half a meter of snow (or more) on our back lawn, and also clear blue sky. The lift company decided to open part of the skiing area to enable the locals to take advantage of the perfect conditions, even though the resort was not due to open for another two weeks.

It wasn't until 2014 that we really experienced poor natural snow at Christmas and were thankful for the massive investment in snow-making that Saalbach has made over the years. In that year, and also last season, the poor conditions were replicated across the Alps, and resorts that have ploughed millions of euros into snow-making obviously reaped the rewards. In 2014 the long-overdue, first big dump of the season arrived all at once during Christmas week, and by the beginning of January, we were luxuriating in waist-deep powder (according to my Australian stepson-in-law, who is a ski instructor and had spent the last few ski holidays skiing in the USA, Canada and Alaska, we had the best off-piste powder conditions he could remember). Then last season, we had a similar situation. An encouraging dump arrived just before the season was due to start at the end of November, but then the weather remained clear and sunny (but thankfully cold) for several weeks. The snow-making enabled most of the (by then 270km) area to open before Christmas, and when we arrived on 19th December, we were relieved to find that we were able to ski around the valley and over to Leogang, and also down to the village on all three of the main homeward pistes. Again, the situation was dire across most of the Alps, but we felt relatively fortunate.

Christmas week tends not to be crowded - probably around 60% of capacity - a very nice time to go skiing. On the other hand, New Year week is at 100%, being the busiest week of the season. The crowds tend to arrive after Christmas (it will be interesting to see when they arrive this year, NYE falling on a Saturday). However, even during peak weeks, the Ski Circus doesn't suffer much from congestion and queues, as there are some 14 gondolas (i.e from the valley bottom, not including those higher up the mountains) scattered throughout the ski area, and these tend to distribute people and avoid bottle-necks.


Last edited by And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports. on Sat 8-10-16 0:08; edited 1 time in total
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-It is funny to read that everybody is writing the same, in different places: "Yes it was very bad across the Alps, but WE (in Serfaus, in Lech, in Saalbach) were relatively fortunate....."
-Saying that height is not of importance is a bit silly.
-Crowds (Germany+Austria) arrive on December 26
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Langerzug wrote:
@WellingtonBoot,
The Oetztal has similar dry climate as Serfaus: Inner Alpine. Difference is the glaciers, that get earlier snow and retain it muh better
Short explanation: Snow comes mostly from the Atlantic/North Sea. Clouds loose their first moisture at the first highest peaks after the German foothills, which are where the Arlberg is. This is called the North-Stau (in German, Stau is also used for traffic-jam Very Happy; ). Above this the Arlberg also functions as a West-Stau, with the extra bonus of the moisture picked up at Lake Konstanz.
The clouds gradually loose their moisture when heading south and east: Warth gets the most, then follows Lech. St.Anton gets less, and Ischgl less than St.Anton. And you'll see that Soelden and Serfaus get less than Ischgl. Same goes e.g. for St.Moritz: very dry (sunny!!) so called "Inneralpine" climate.


Yes and no...

Certainly Ötztal doesn't get the extreme Nordstau dumps like the Arlberg, but you might be surprised how much snow Obergurgl and Sölden can pick up from the south. Over a season I think it starts to balance out (at least compared to Ischgl, less so the west side of the Arlberg).

----------------

FWIW. Last two Christmases were terrible everywhere (even the places that were relatively fortunate were still well down on natural snow). Arlberg does generally get more snow, but I know for a fact that people on a ski instructor course in St Anton in Dec 2009 or 2010 (I forget which now!) were bussed over to Serfaus regularly as it had more snow at that time.

Make of it what you will...

Personally Arlberg and Ischgl are more reliable early season IMO but unless we have another terrible start to the season (3 years in a row? lets hope not!) Serfaus should be more than fine at Xmas.

Also FWIW I spent three Xmas's in a row (a while back) teaching in Saalbach and always had plenty of snow and powder on the 25th.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:

Saying that height is not of importance is a bit silly

Agreed (...especially if you take those words out of context). However there are also other important considerations: location (in the Alps), snow record, orientation of slopes, exposure to the sun, efficiency of lift company, size of area, popularity of resort and amount of revenue invested in infra-structure, such as snow-making and reservoirs...and most of all, feedback from other snowheads who have local knowledge or have had relevant experience.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@clarky999,
Yes, I know that Obergurgl gets southern snow. But does Sölden too so much?
For sure in Sölden the cover in the valley in general is much thinner than Ischgl and St.Anton.
And Ischgl too in general is much higher in the Schneehöhen lists (mountain) than Obergurgl.
But Obergurgl might have very well been the best snowy place in the Alps the last two Christmases

Ah, and I remember Hinterglemm 1991 (pre snowmaking); skiing was only really possible at the topsection of Leogang...(We actually had to drive from Hinterglemm to Leogang, and return to the valley with our ski's on our laps in the chairlift) The complete Glemmvalley southfacing side was brown up to the mountaintops (or rather, hilltops Twisted Evil ). And that was in Februari.....
After that, 1992 first time St.Anton, and never left the Arlberg since (with some short visits to 3V (overrated), 4V and others
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Langerzug wrote:
@clarky999,
Yes, I know that Obergurgl gets southern snow. But does Sölden too so much?
For sure in Sölden the cover in the valley in general is much thinner than Ischgl and St.Anton.
And Ischgl too in general is much higher in the Schneehöhen lists (mountain) than Obergurgl.
But Obergurgl might have very well been the best snowy place in the Alps the last two Christmases


Yep! Not as much (Stubai also does fairly well from the south, but again generally seems to be a bit less than Obergurgl) but still significant amounts - as much as 40-50cm, when Ischgl might expect 20-30 and Arlberg 10cm or so from the same system. That's based on my experiences obsessing over forecasts and webcams and reports when trying to work out where to ski during each storm over the last few years rather than anything particularly scientific though.

To be clear I'm not disputing that Arlberg and Ischgl generally get more snow, but the last two winters were short on Nordstau's (more west/northwest, which doesn't seem to benefit Ischgl as much as Arlberg) with a number of southerly systems coming through.
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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?
Yes the difference between Ischgl and Arlberg last winter was striking @clarky999,
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Lots of interesting replies here. Lots of reassuring stuff, but the more I read, the more undecided I am.

@Langerzug, Thanks for your messages. I actually do understand the concept of front range mountains picking up the most precipitation, and I realise Serfaus isn't suitably situated for that. What interests me is a) how sharp the drop off seems to be beyond the 'Nordstau' and b) these anomalous areas, deeper within the Alps, which still seem to attract more snow. And I was speculating that ultimately it is prominence that counts, whether on the front range (Nordstau) or simply by being higher than the surrounding mountains. So maybe the upper Oetztal has that advantage; in a similar way, the continental divide in Colorado always seems to pick up more snow, despite weather systems having already precipitated over a whole (and sizeable) mountain range by the time they reach it.

Either way, it doesn't work out well for Serfaus, which looks like rather a dry spot on a lot of precipitation maps I'm seeing, current and historic.

Something else I've been looking at (and I realise this is a bit weird...) is the comparison between freezing levels in different resorts, specifically Serfaus and Saalbach, since these are the two places I'm looking at. Essentially I'm trying to work out what difference the extra 400m altitude makes for Serfaus, and comparing freezing levels seems a reasonable way to do this. Now obviously at this point I have pretty limited data available, so I'm really stuck looking at today's 6 day forecast from snow-forecast.com.

Still, the results are interesting. Throughout the period, freezing levels are considerably higher for Serfaus, and over the 6 days, the freezing level in Serfaus is higher than in Saalbach by an average of... 408m. Now obviously the sample is seriously deficient at this point - too small, wrong time of year, only one set... - but looking at maps for 850 temps, it also doesn't seem like there's anything freakish going on.

So suppose for a moment that this difference is typical in winter, then the two resorts are kind of equivalent in terms of altitude, in which case the better bet is to go for the resort that gets more precipitation, all other things being equal.

Anyway, I'm sure the only person interested by this is me... maybe I'll make this a project and come up with some hard numbers to replace sketchy rules of thumb like Austrian resorts being equivalent to French resorts 300m higher...

With that said, I have also just found these climate charts for both resorts. Might be an easier way of comparing... These summaries seem reliable, and they do generally corroborate what I'm suggesting.

http://en.climate-data.org/location/158431/
http://en.climate-data.org/location/156426/

Winter temperatures almost identical for Serfaus/Saalbach despite the 400m difference, and Saalbach sees 39% more precipitation in the winter months...

On top of all this weather stuff, it's just these German threads I'm reading, where they complain about crowds - related to a massive expansion in number of beds alongside no expansion in the ski area, snow conditions, poor piste preparation, insufficient water supply to effectively make snow across the resort for any length of time (hopefully the new reservoir will help with that), high prices, closure of the link between the two areas/ulterior motives for keeping it closed, understaffing...

And then some of the early season videos. The youtube clip below is Christmas 2013, which nobody talks about as being a particularly bad year, but there seems to be little snow in the village and it's bare and patchy over a lot of the mountain.

Links here:
http://www.bergfex.at/serfaus-fiss-ladis/kommentare/?msgID=1000092409

http://youtube.com/v/ZbWnUtDCKhs

It's very strange to find all this after everything I saw initially that was so positive. And it's also strange given all this new information, that we are probably still going to end up going to Fiss. We have a hotel deal there, and Saalbach looks difficult to arrange at this point given our requirements. Maybe too close to the time.

@Valkyrie, that's great to hear, even if 25% open doesn't sound like too much skiing (for a week's stay). How were crowds in the end (after the early morning, and on the days after the 25th)?

@Dave of the Marmottes, no we probably won't have a car. Just seems like a bit of a headache when there is the potential for blocked roads, snowchains required etc. Easier to let someone else (the transfer company) worry about that stuff...

@Tatman's Tours, Thanks for your very full response. I actually found a thread about Saalbach from last Christmas with your updates and it sounds like they do a good job keeping skiing open. That said, according to your posts in that thread, new snow only really arrived in the new year and you were pessimistic about the coming week on the 26th Dec! Still, I get the general picture, that last year was particularly bad and they still did a good job of providing skiing.

After everything I've read and seen, and your extensive and positive descriptions, I definitely now want to go to Saalbach, and I'm a bit tempted to switch this Christmas, as it just seems a very solid option, as well as being more lively. But it might have to be another time...maybe Christmas next year (or sooner..??). Available, affordable, otherwise suitable accommodation is difficult to find at this point unfortunately.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
25% ski pistes open beats 0% open sitting in front of the tele at home! Let's all hope the Swiss/French Alps get a white Christmas this season, along with the Austrian regions, and the Rockies, the Wasatch, the Dolomites, the Sierras, the Scandies, the Cascades, the Pyrenees, etc, etc... Very Happy
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@Toadman, well when you put it that way... I am starting to relax actually after deliberately choosing to watch and read more positive stuff, and now I'm resigning myself to the inevitable nervous waiting game.

I just find a major panic about possible poor snow conditions is a necessary - well, inevitable part of booking an early skiing holiday.

Ultimately, there should be many more skiing holidays so no need to stress out. And if it snows, then great, and if it doesn't then it ought to be sunny instead, right? And skiing a run or two and then sitting on a mountain with a few drinks in the sun? Doesn't sound too bad...
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Langerzug wrote:
@Dave of the Marmottes, You are wrong, last two Christmasses St.Anton was definitely poorer than Lech


I meant as easiest motorway accessible access point to Arlberg. Not that within Arlberg it has best snow. Personally I find the Xmas NY a hi- stakes gamble anywhere because I don't care how vast the snow cannon coverage is I've yet to find any man made that beats real snow.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@WellingtonBoot, last year we were in St Anton 26 Dec - 2 Jan. While not a vintage year there was plenty to go at and even some pockets of almost ankle-deep powder if you looked hard enough. Anyway - the point of my post is that the highlight was sitting out in the warm sunshine at mountaintop cafes, drinking beer in the afternoon.... would never expect to do that at New Year (without a down jacket)!
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
@Inboard, yeah it's true. Whatever happens, we would have to be really unlucky if there were no perks at all. Not sure what that would even look like - NO snow, foggy and cold every day, hotel/food disappointing...? But even then there's gluhwein and it's Christmas...
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
@WellingtonBoot

The other option is looking at some of the bigger resorts where you can have options of booking accommodations via a booking website that allows you to cancel right up until a few days or maybe a week before the trip. I did this last year with a planned ski trip to Switzerland. I had booked two different hotels. One in Arosa, and one in Wengen. I ended up canceling both, however, and stayed state side to ski on a cheap last minute trip to Sun Valley, Idaho. ( used frequent flyer miles for the airfare, so I had to eat a few hundred USD in cancellation fees but made up for it with powder bliss in Sun Valley!)

It's definitely a gamble to book in advance for Christmas/early season ski trip.

FWIW - I did a ski trip to Serfaus way back in Dec. 1989, right after Xmas and into New Years. Was not a great start to that season either. But was able to ski most of the area up high, with slush and ice down low. It's a very pretty area, and hope to get back there some day. I imagine it's changed just a wee bit since last I was there!
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Ha, don't go and ruin it just when I've found some peace...

Honestly I agree that such an arrangement makes sense and I would probably look at doing it that way if it was just me. In this case, however, it's a group trip, everybody is committed to this hotel and these arrangements, and some of them won't really tolerate the uncertainty of waiting so late to book, particularly at such a busy time. Of course it could still work if, as you say, I found a cancellable booking at a suitable hotel on a big booking site, but I did a fair amount of research and didn't really find that option. Also tended to get better offers from the hotels when contacting them directly.

So we're basically locked in and we'll just have to make it work...
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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:

@Tatman's Tours, Thanks for your very full response. I actually found a thread about Saalbach from last Christmas with your updates and it sounds like they do a good job keeping skiing open. That said, according to your posts in that thread, new snow only really arrived in the new year and you were pessimistic about the coming week on the 26th Dec! Still, I get the general picture, that last year was particularly bad and they still did a good job of providing skiing.

@WellingtonBoot, I've just done some memory-refreshing from that thread (presumably http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=122352&highlight=saalbach+snow+conditions ), and the other relevant threads from last year and the previous year. I see that I seem to have made an error in what I said above, and I've now amended it - it was Christmas Day 2014 when the snow began to fall in earnest, not last Christmas Day. However (if my memory serves me correctly, and I say that somewhat tentatively), it is accurate to say that the Christmas and pre-Christmas skiing was better last season than the one before, because of a dump in late November (which was retained on the upper slopes), and sub-zero temperatures during most of December, which enabled more extensive snow-making than the previous season.

Regarding the conundrum over freezing levels and height, I can only venture the point that I have made several times in this and other threads, which is that, unlike many other resorts I can think of, Saalbach lies in a fairly narrow east-west valley, and is hemmed in by mountains. Since the sun is low down in the sky during the early season, the shade from the mountains lining the southern side of the Glemm valley keep the lower slopes and the villages cold for longer (the locals actually refer to the southern side of Saalbach as the "dark side", as it remains in the shade throughout much of the winter). This realisation dawned on me especially last December, when I found myself wondering why the village nursery slopes were in such good condition, and why I was skiing down later in the day from good snow at the top, through crud at the mid-point, and then back on to good snow lower down. I'm sure that other resorts with a preponderance of north-facing slopes (e.g. Leogang) will derive the same benefit from being almost continually in the shade of the mountains during December and probably most of January - viz, that the freezing level will remain at a lower altitude and for longer than other resorts whose lower slopes are more exposed to the sun, which may include some significantly higher resorts. Please tell me if I'm talking rubbish (it is late at night, so there's my excuse made in advance Smile Confused ).
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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
@WellingtonBoot, you're really over-worrying this. Not many British people go to Serfaus at Christmas because it's actually quite hard to find a hotel with rooms available. When I was there last time I realised that this is because nearly all their German and Dutch guests book for the following Christmas while they're checking out. I think that tells you all you need to know about how reliable the skiing conditions are.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
...


Last edited by You know it makes sense. on Mon 11-10-21 21:21; edited 1 time in total
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@Tatman's Tours, no you're not talking rubbish. That all makes sense and it does add to the case for Saalbach in the early season - it's already somewhere near the top of the list for future trips, having previously been one of many vague ideas. Also, I only called you out on your description of last year for fun, and I know how it happens and appreciate your input wink

It is interesting that the orientation probably can make a noticeable difference even at that time of year. Typically it is one of the things I worry less about with a Christmas/New Year ski trip, and that's partly based on experiences here at home, where the sun is so weak at that time. I guess you're that much further south in the Alps, as well as 1400m (or whatever) higher up, as well as probably getting much more sun generally, so I've likely underestimated the effect. Still, if you're going to ski south-facing slopes, it's a good time to do it.

@Valkyrie, also very true, and I pretty much have relaxed now, particularly having locked it all in. That said, I can think of examples where resorts attract heaving crowds at certain times for fairly unfathomable reasons... still, I'm feeling positive (dare I say excited?) about our trip now!

@anarski, Oh good... Just what I needed to hear, ha... Well, we're going to be staying in Fiss as it happens. But it's fine. Only looks like a couple of lifts and one extra run to hook into the route from Serfaus up to the Masner area, and even if it takes 60 or 90 mins, it's a 7 hour skiing day and it's not a problem. As for flying shards of ice, we'll just have to take our chances, but in any case I quite enjoy the feeling of being exposed at the top of a mountain, provided it's not like that the whole way down.
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