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Where to ski late December?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
HellO!We want to ski 2-3 days around New Years Eve. We prefer options near Geneva, or from Zurich/Munich with easy transfer.
We usually go to Megeve in late January, but We're afraid its too low and that there will not be any snow in december.
Thanks


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 22-08-18 22:33; edited 1 time in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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Welcome to snowHeads @RonWeltyPT snowHead

Avoriaz is 1800m pretty snowsure and 1hr 20m from Geneva.
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@RonWeltyPT, best bet near Geneva is probably up the Grands Montets, stay Argentiere or Chamonix.

There’s a lot of snow cannon installation going on and remodelling to open up more red and blue slopes for next season - even though it’s above 1,800.

Otherwise I’d be inclined Espace Killy.

Be aware that short break accomodation will be difficult to find.
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@RonWeltyPT, welcome to snowHeads.

As has been said, booking three nights accommodation over New Year in resort will not be straightforward as the vast majority of accommodation options will be looking for a 7-night booking, weekend to weekend. Having a car and staying "down the valley" somewhere might make it easier to find accommodation for a few nights, as well as giving you a bit more flexibility to chase the snow if it's a slow start to the season.

The general advice for that time of year is to go high in whatever country or region you choose. For resorts in travelling distance from Geneva I'd say that means choose somewhere with plenty of skiable terrain above 2400m, preferably with a good network of artificial snowmaking.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Head as high as possible.

Ideally, above 1800-2000m.

Go to Val d'Isere, Tignes or Zermatt.
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From experience New Year is not snow sure at all, sometimes you need hiking boots not skis. That said most resorts now have extensive snow making but skiing on artificial snow is not great. As has been pointed out the short break aspect is not ideal for booking in a resort. Perhaps look to stay in somewhere like Innsbruck or Salzburg where short break accommodation would be easier to find and drive to a nearby resort. If conditions are not good for skiing it will still be possible to do more general touristy stuff. Do be aware that if conditions are really not good any resorts with half decent snow sometimes restrict the sale of day passes in busy periods.

One option to look at is Ischgl, though expensive most accommodation is in hotels which might be less aimed at the one week market. It is very snow sure I have been skiing there when there has been practically no other non glacial skiing in the Alps. It is relatively easy to get to from Zürich either train to Landeck then taxi / bus or about 2.5 hour drive or 3 hours drive from Munich


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Thu 5-07-18 12:31; edited 1 time in total
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munich_irish wrote:
From experience New Year is not snow sure at all, sometimes you need hiking boots not skis.
I've skied at Christmas and/or New Year every year for the best part of two decades. Always been able to ski with the majority of the pistes open, even in the years with a poor start to the season. I've gone high (Courchevel, Val d'Isere, Les Arcs) and sometimes the pistes have been pretty scratchy, other times (last winter for example) conditions have been brilliant. But no matter how poor the snow there has always been a good amount of piste skiing available.
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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!
Val D' Isere is good for early season snow cover but can be unreliable for early season skiing. High winds, avalanche risk and poor visibility can mean only limited terrain open, late starts and even lost days.

If you were prepared to fly to Innsbruck or even Venice, then Kronplatz in the south eastern Alps might be worth considering? Most years it seems to have about the most early season lifts and ski runs open, because of its sheltered location, tree cover, lack of rocks and impressive 100% snow making.
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Whitegold wrote:
Head as high as possible.


Very poor advice. Very often cold and windy, added to the featureless landscape can mean a miserable time. Give me a lower resort with trees at that time of year. Somewhere lower but further north and east like Austria is nearly always skiable top to bottom at that time. If you do suffer from LOSA (Lack of Snow Anxiety), go somewhere like Mayrhofen or Zell am See where there are glaciers up the road.
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Peter S wrote:
Val D' Isere is good for early season snow cover but can be unreliable for early season skiing. High winds, avalanche risk and poor visibility can mean only limited terrain open, late starts and even lost days.
That's a good point. Somewhere with tree0lined terrain does provide somewhere to escape to if the weather comes or if the upper runs are closed because of too much snow. Some of my best days this season were when the upper lifts in Les arcs were closed but a few of the lower lifts were open providing great skiing on the piste or off to the side through the trees. On some of those days Tignes and Val d'Isere were almost entirely shut down.
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Advice to "go high" seems to presuppose that the basic problem in a relatively poor early season is mild temperatures, as opposed to continual sunny weather and lack of precipitation. However my experience has been that, even in poor years for early snow, the air temperatures have been cold enough during November and December to enable the snow cannons to blast out large quantities of snow day and night. Consequently, even in the 2016/17 season, which was supposed to be the poorest season for early snow in living memory, we arrived in Saalbach (medium height for Austria) on 10th December to find at least 150km of pistes open, all circuit links open, and people generally raving about the quality of the piste skiing. Conditions were actually better than in some much higher resorts. In view of the comments warning about high resorts, the best advice might be to select a resort that, not only has plenty of tree-lined runs, but also has invested heavily in state of the art snow-making - purely as an insurance policy of course (I'm sure we're all hoping for a repetition of last season's fantastic conditions).
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Given the unlikelihood of finding a few days accommodation in a resort at New Year staying in the valley with a car and driving to somewhere with snow sounds the best idea.
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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
There must be some data somewhere about kilometres of open runs by date ?
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
The higher you go, the more snow you get.

Ignore the losers trying to send you lower.

Go high.

Val d'Isere hosts the Premiere Neige race.

* Val d'Isere = 1800m = 155-day ski season.
* Saalbach = 1000m = 120-day ski season.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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Thank you all. I was a regular user in this forum without registration, but now I hope to be more active in here.

I was seeing lodging options....the best place seems to be Chamonix... I was there in February and it was great, but late december is it too risky?
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

the best place seems to be Chamonix... I was there in February and it was great, but late december is it too risky?

Yes if you want snow on your doorstep. But it does have more options for flexible stays than many places. It's all very well to suggest Val d'Isere but overlooking the fact that it's New Year is really not too helpful! The "losers" suggesting you might do well to stay in the valley and drive to the snow include people with a mountain of relevant experience. wink
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@RonWeltyPT, you don't say what sort of skiing you are after but I assume any piste skiing will do. Given new year is peak time, I would, in order, sort out cheap flights (you should have done that already ideally but asap); then hire a car; then find a valley Hotel that access to some decent ski areas. Given it's a short trip it's an ideal opportunity to go to smaller resorts and give those a whirl. But you can decide on the fly once you've got your transport and accommodation sorted.
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@rob@rar, I know things have changed, with most resorts having lots of snow cannons now. However I went on a new year trip to La Plagne about 25 years ago. Very little snow, so little we drove to Val d'Isere everyday, not ideal at all but at least a reasonable number of the pistes were open. In more recent times there have been years when it simply hasnt been worth going skiing before mid January (in this context I mean the resorts in the central Tyrol and Salzburgerland). Yes there have been pistes open but they were all artificial, which is not great snow and will be crowded. It isnt much fun skiing down sugary white ribbons on an otherwise green mountainside.

I understand that for many people new year is a practical option for holidays and they need to book in advance (I am lucky in being able to decide to go or not go depending on conditions) if so you need to either go "snow sure" (which generally does mean high and live with potential storms) or be prepared to do other things besides skiing.

In that context Ischgl is one good but expensive option, other places such as Obergürgl are a bit limited. The Arlberg in theory should be OK but in my experience it needs a reasonable amount of natural snow to be worthwhile visiting.
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munich_irish wrote:
@rob@rar, I know things have changed, with most resorts having lots of snow cannons now. However I went on a new year trip to La Plagne about 25 years ago. Very little snow, so little we drove to Val d'Isere everyday, not ideal at all but at least a reasonable number of the pistes were open.
Yes, definitely changed with the installation of snow-making. I wouldn't expect there to be a huge difference of piste conditions between Val d'Isere and L Plagne these days if the season got off to a slow start.
munich_irish wrote:
In more recent times there have been years when it simply hasnt been worth going skiing before mid January (in this context I mean the resorts in the central Tyrol and Salzburgerland). Yes there have been pistes open but they were all artificial, which is not great snow and will be crowded. It isnt much fun skiing down sugary white ribbons on an otherwise green mountainside.
I suppose whether you agree with this depends a lot of what you want from your skiing, and, as you say, whether you have the flexibility to ski later in the season. If you ski on-piste, never ski off-piste and are restricted to school holidays (or worse still to New Year or nothing) then I'd say it's worth skiing at that time of year, and to maximise your chance of decent snow you should head to one of the higher resorts in whatever country you choose. But if you'd like to ski off-piste and you have the flexibility to ski when you want New Year isn't the best time to go. Busy, expensive and snow can be poor.
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Lack of snow is sometimes because conditions are warm - then snow cannons don't help. A couple of winters ago they were bussing snow UP the mountains - because the strong temperature inversion at night meant it was far colder in the valleys than up on the slopes. Admittedly that's unusual - but not unheard of.
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Whitegold wrote:
The higher you go, the more snow you get.

Ignore the losers trying to send you lower.

Go high.

Val d'Isere hosts the Premiere Neige race.

* Val d'Isere = 1800m = 155-day ski season.
* Saalbach = 1000m = 120-day ski season.


* Niseko = lower than both = shorter season than both - but much more snow than both wink

Location matters at least as much as altiture.

Val d'Isere averages around 5-6m of snow a season, it just holds what it gets well.

Western Austria - Voralberg/Montafon/Bregenzerwald/Arlberg - collectively average 8-9m a season (FWIW also more than higher Austrian resorts/glaciers in other regions).

Plus they have grass-based slopes and plenty of trees, which is nice to have if snow IS thin or if there's a huge storm.

Altitude is massively important at the end of the season, but pretty irrelevant early season (past mid-November or so anyway).

But this is the right answer:

pam w wrote:
Given the unlikelihood of finding a few days accommodation in a resort at New Year staying in the valley with a car and driving to somewhere with snow sounds the best idea.
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clarky999 wrote:
Altitude is massively important at the end of the season, but pretty irrelevant early season (past mid-November or so anyway).
That's not my experience. For the last 10 years I've mostly skied all of December. Frequently headed higher to find better snow (Val Thorens rather then Meribel; Hintertux glacier rather than lower down the valley; Avoriaz rather than Morzine; Arc 2000 rather than Vallandry). On the very few occasions I've chosen to head lower is because of too much snow rather than too little snow. Access to lower altitudes can be useful if upper lifts are shut because of weather or high avalanche risk because of the quantity of new snowfall; I can count the number of times when lower terrain had better snow on the fingers of one hand (normally because of very high wind scouring the slopes of any snow which wasn't packed down to the base layer).
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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!
@rob@rar, interesting.

I frequently head north, south, east or west to where the snow is best; very very rarely do I head somewhere like Stubai/Obergurgl/Kühtai for the altitude past - ok, probably really start of December rather than mid-Nov. Very often west towards Arlberg region.

Whereas from April onwards I'll more deliberately head to higher places.

I'm pretty confident those areas I mentioned regularly have the best conditions in the Alps early season, and equally confident the big big French resorts have better snow than them later in the season (classic difference between snow-y and snow-sure).
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@clarky999, generally I don't have the flexibility to head to a different locality or region.

When the snow is very bad I think you need to travel a long way France/West Switzerland across to Austria or vice versa rather than a day trip to a few valleys hence. Great if you have the flexibility, but not everyone does. The option to head high is, I think, still the best insurance policy.

Alternatively sacrifice a few goats to the snowgods and ask them to repeat last winter every year. Best day skiing I've ever had in Europe was on 14 December, skiing thigh deep cold, fresh, white smoke, in Hintertux around about 3,000m.
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@rob@rar, honestly can't agree on this one. Obviously where I'm based almost exactly in the middle of the main alpine ridge makes a difference, as 15 mins drive or north or south often = a huge difference in conditions, and more of a difference than just to the higher resort up the same valley.

IME at the start of the season new snow is what you need as you're starting from scratch, and so going to an area statistically likely to receive more snow makes sense (and even though I'm lucky in having a lot of flexibility, the fact I very regularly choose to head west to Arlberg region should be applicable to booking in advance too). Going late season you know there's going to be a base anyway, so somewhere high enough to preserve what's already had time to accumulate makes a lot of sense.

Although a repeat of last year would be awesome though! 20 powder days before Christmas, with fluffy powder below 1800m in the Arlberg on October 24th Wink (Actually I think all but the first at Stubai were in low or normal altitude spots)

And actually, after checking my records form last season, other than one day in I think November to meet scarlet at Stubai, I didn't then head anywhere based on altitude until going to Ischgl for a warm storm on April 11th.
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clarky999 wrote:
@rob@rar, honestly can't agree on this one. Honestly where I'm based makes a difference, as 15 mins drive or north or south often = a huge difference in conditions, and more of a difference than just to the higher resort up the same valley.
OK, that's not my experience, but unfortunately I haven't skied much in your part of the world. Out of interest, how do you decide which is the best area to head to, what info sources do you use? Do you decide day by day or a longer term plan?
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
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@clarky999, I think - in the Haute Savoie, I'm generally with Rob on this. But on the other hand, if you look at Utah, one valley across can be wildly different from its neighbours.

So I am more than happy to believe that your situation works like that Happy
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Your resort of choice also needs to turn on the snow cannons. We gave up going to La Plagne after three years of poor quality pistes at end of December (even after snowmaggedon). They just didn’t seem to want to turn on the cannons in good time for the crowds. Even though Austria is lower altitude generally, the quality of pistes (IMHO) is better in years of poor snow. Yes temperature is the key but so is the action by resort management.

Interestingly the same years we found Les Arcs pistes so much better.

I would pick based on, yes altitude to some extent but also history of piste management.
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rob@rar wrote:
clarky999 wrote:
@rob@rar, honestly can't agree on this one. Honestly where I'm based makes a difference, as 15 mins drive or north or south often = a huge difference in conditions, and more of a difference than just to the higher resort up the same valley.
OK, that's not my experience, but unfortunately I haven't skied much in your part of the world. Out of interest, how do you decide which is the best area to head to, what info sources do you use? Do you decide day by day or a longer term plan?


Yep generally day by day (the night before then double check in the morning), but it's very noticeable that west is more often than not best, especially for early season touring (though once the lifts start spinning I only have a limited number of days there on my pass). Other than Stubai September sessions, the Arlberg is pretty much always where I make my first powder turns each season, and is pretty much always better than say, Kühtai, even though Kühtai is all above 2020m. Equally can almost always ski more offpiste sooner in the Arlberg than Obergurgl, despite the latter's altitude.

Re sources, a mashup of various forecasts from wePowder to Bergfex and WetterZentrale (and Nozawaonsen Wink) and webcams + Instagram, which I find invaluable for real-time reports on the ground.
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@Bennyboy1, for some places turning on the snow cannons is not a trivial decision. Factors include but not limited to - will it stay cold enough to keep the snow and do they have enough water to actually run them appropriately.

Not always easy.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@under a new name, you make a good point. But I still think a track record of running the cannons and be a good indicator of decent early season pistes, albeit man made.
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Reading back through the VDI thread you can see just how many late starts, lost days, poor visibility and closed terrain there were in the first half of last season.

I don’t think there was a single lost day or any closed terrain in the whole of the Dolomites, all of last year. Good weather and open runs seem to be the norm in the sheltered south eastern alps.

In terms of reliability for early season conditions and quantity of open terrain somewhere like Kronplatz with its grassy slopes and 100% snowmaking in the dry air of the Dolomites , seems to be a good option for pre January skiing most years.


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Sat 7-07-18 8:35; edited 3 times in total
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Peter S wrote:
Good weather is the norm because it is so sheltered from the Atlantic and from the north.
That's why they spend so much money on snow cannons wink
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