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Resort "Piste-Easiness"

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all, I will be skiing in the Alps for about a week starting on the 13th. Snow cover is important, however I am going with early intermediates, as such I'm looking for "easier" resorts for us to go to (thus no Zermatt, Tignes, Verbier, St. Anton). So far I have narrowed my list down to the following which already have good or are forecasted to have good snow coverage. How easy are these resorts relative to the likes of St. Moritz or Warth-Schröcken? How do they compare to each other?

Here's the current list:
Hochgurgl
Cervinia
Livigno
Saalbach-Hinterglemm
Alta Badia
Alpe d'Huez
Arosa-Lenzerheide
Val Thorens
Lech
Sölden
St. Moritz
Courchevel 1650
Avoriaz

Are the Italian resorts particularly easier than the Austrian one's and the French one's harder? Is it true that the French scale is graded up (Huez Green=Lech Blue)? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Thu 6-12-18 23:01; edited 2 times in total
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@südtirolistdeutsch, inconsistency of piste grading between countries and different resorts does affect overall ‘difficulty’. But not as much as other variables.

I’ve only been to 80% of the places you list and can’t compare with St Moritz, which I’ve never visited. Generally, I’d say the French resorts are a bit more challenging. If the snow is OK I’d rather be in Italy or Austria.

In mid December, I’d try to avoid mountains that are exposed and prone to high winds. Places with tree lined pistes and more shelter make it easier for early intermediates.

Some of those Austrian and Italian villages are quite exposed too, so more research on that needed. Of your list, Alta Badia and Lech could be good for your group I think.

Of the French resorts, I’d say Courchevel 1650 best meets your needs.

The biggest variable is the weather when you’re there. You can study forecasts but a lot of luck involved.

Good luck snowHead
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Quote:

Of the French resorts, I’d say Courchevel 1650 best meets your needs.


But 1850 is better from the piste-easiness point of view.
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@südtirolistdeutsch, I'm not sure about other Italian resorts, but Livigno doesn't have green runs, only blue, red and black. There are lots of super easy shortish blue runs in the valley floor, then plenty of long cruisy reds from the top of the mountain. It's great for intermediates as the runs are very wide and well groomed, and the tree line is higher than other parts of the alps so plenty of shelter at relative altitude. There isn't much in the way of challenging piste skiing, the black runs are more like reds in the 3 valleys or alpe d'huez in my experience. I would say they grade a bit easier than in big French resorts. Can't compare to St Moritz as I've never been.
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There is a variance from resort to resort even within the same country and to be fair, a piste that is "red" in its difficulty one day, might be "blue" under different snow conditions and different weather on another day.
I would say try to be aware of the piste colour grading as a general guide in the back of your mind, but be aware that the grading reflects the opinion of a particular person on a specific day.
Go out there and enjoy the snow
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Its not that easy! The big resorts can get a lot of traffic and their pistes can become icy in early season, whereas some of the smaller/lower resorts with meadow grass underneath can offer better conditions for beginners. I'd choose a smaller Austrian or Dolimiti resort with access to higher skiing nearby.
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Can't comment on most of the resorts but I've skied a lot at Ober/Hoch -gurgl and Soelden.

You could consider them to be one area now they have the Oetztal Super Skipass.

Having completely lost my confidence skiing at St Anton we moved onto Soelden - I tried it a few times but the crowded, icy lower slopes weren't helping (The glacier was great but it can take a while to travel there and back, with some short, narrow pinch points near the lifts) - I ended up hopping on the bus for a 20min ride to Hochgurgl and skiing more benign runs there and in Obergurgl.

A criticism of the 'gurgls from more advanced skiers is that it is too tame and not enough variety but I think it's perfect for the level you are taking, especially if you also ski at Soelden.

PS, staying in Soelden would work out cheaper.

I've skied at Lech (anything to avoid St A!!) but just for one day - possibly for a week you'd wish there were more runs.

I saw Les Arcs wasn't on your list?
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In general, France has green/blue/red/black, but Switzerland/Austria/Italy only blue/red/black. Since most resorts have a similar range of actual slopes, splitting them into four groups means that in general blue/red/black in France are more difficult than the same colour slopes in the other countries. Beginner slopes in the latter have to be blue, but in France blue slopes are generally more difficult, and the same applies to a reducing extent with the other colours. Probably most noticeable when you ski across the border, e.g. between La Rosiere and La Thuile.

But even this general rule isn't consistent, e.g. Les Arcs doesn't have any "green" runs, so it's easiest slopes are graded blue when they would be green elsewhere in France - and even though it is now linked to La Plagne which does have green runs!

The other point to be aware of is that some places may grade a few runs slightly easier than they should be - or would be elsewhere on the mountain - as they "have" to have a circuit of runs graded at the easiest level to attract beginners. This can be a particular issue with runs returning to resort level.
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@südtirolistdeutsch, my very timid mother only wants to ski in Lech, and that is not because of champagne and shops.
Warth-S. (connected to Lech) is even slightly easier.
@Scamper, the Lech-Zürs-Warth resort (190 km) is larger than St.Anton, Sölden and even Ischgl
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@Langerzug, Cheers - thought there would be more to it Smile
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All pistes are white. Piste pole colours are just for guidance. Due to higher traffic blue runs can often be the most challenging on the mountain.
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Have a look at Obertauern, seems like it fits the bill exactly to me
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Leysin and Les Diablerets/Villars in Switzerland both have lots of not-difficult terrain and are much quieter than most french resorts. They are not as expensive as you think either; lift passes are free for young children.
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@südtirolistdeutsch, given the week you are going the whole thing is a bit of a punt at the moment. If the heavy snow occurs down to low levels occurs this weekend and doesn't get washed away quickly the world becomes your oyster.

FWIW ADH sounds an ideal place for you. There are lots of really nice easyish piste skiing in the bowl directly in front of the main town, off Signal, off down towards Montfrais and over in Auris. And if the Sarenne is open despite it being a black it's mostly anything but and the scenery is excellent.
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@südtirolistdeutsch, Since you are planning to go in 8 days time may I suggest you look hard at the weather forecasts and snow reports.

Given a good forecast the Dolomites may be an excellent choice for easy pistes, Grödental or the Kovara area would feature on my list.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
From your list I would choose Obergurgl - easy skiing and good snow.
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Conditions are everything. Freeze thaw creates ice which is always tricky. North facing is always best as is altitude.
Make sure there are blue runs higher up, not just at the bottom of the mountain.
The busier it is, the more cut up the pistes get and it's also harder to navigate the crowds.
A quick Google on the number of beds in a resort.compared to uplift per.hour along with km of.piste will give you an idea.
Short transfer times to large towns and cities also means it's going to get busy, particularly at weekends.

From your list id go for Alta Badia, Lech or Cervinia. I tend to avoid the northern French Alps as they are so busy. ADH also falls into that category due to the promiximity to the motorway network. Serre Che and Risoul are well worth a look though.
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Quote:

I tend to avoid the northern French Alps as they are so busy

nowhere is exactly busy in mid-December
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PeakyB wrote:

In mid December, I’d try to avoid mountains that are exposed and prone to high winds. Places with tree lined pistes and more shelter make it easier for early intermediates.

Thank you for your suggestions. Is this comment directed toward Cervinia? When I look up the weather forecast, what should I look for to avoid whiteouts? Is "partly cloudy" enough to white out the pistes high up as in Cervinia?

Quote:
If the snow is OK I’d rather be in Italy or Austria.

Why?


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Wed 5-12-18 15:11; edited 1 time in total
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pam w wrote:
But 1850 is better from the piste-easiness point of view.

Really? Obviously I've never been but from the piste map it seems that 1650 is tucked away with nice easy greens and blues. I suppose they aren't as easy as they look?
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Scamper wrote:
Can't comment on most of the resorts but I've skied a lot at Ober/Hoch -gurgl and Soelden.

You could consider them to be one area now they have the Oetztal Super Skipass.

Having completely lost my confidence skiing at St Anton we moved onto Soelden - I tried it a few times but the crowded, icy lower slopes weren't helping (The glacier was great but it can take a while to travel there and back, with some short, narrow pinch points near the lifts) - I ended up hopping on the bus for a 20min ride to Hochgurgl and skiing more benign runs there and in Obergurgl.

A criticism of the 'gurgls from more advanced skiers is that it is too tame and not enough variety but I think it's perfect for the level you are taking, especially if you also ski at Soelden.

PS, staying in Soelden would work out cheaper.

I've skied at Lech (anything to avoid St A!!) but just for one day - possibly for a week you'd wish there were more runs.

I saw Les Arcs wasn't on your list?

Wow based on those comments, Hochgurgl is looking pretty great Smile Les Arcs isn't on the list since they open too late (Dec. 15)
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twoodwar wrote:
Have a look at Obertauern, seems like it fits the bill exactly to me

Taken a look, looks pretty good. However it seems a bit small for a week, or not in your experience?
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johnE wrote:
@südtirolistdeutsch, Since you are planning to go in 8 days time may I suggest you look hard at the weather forecasts and snow reports.

Given a good forecast the Dolomites may be an excellent choice for easy pistes, Grödental or the Kovara area would feature on my list.


Thank you, I have been keeping an eye on the snow. Unfortunately it looks like Südtirol will miss out on this upcoming storm, otherwise it would be at the top of the list.
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It is a bit small with relatively low verticals, however snowsure, easy slopes, and enough for a week with early intermediates. I took my family there (3 daughters at 11,14 and 16 ), with only a full weeks skiing and it was fine. Some great on slope (literally- I once skied into my groundfloor bedroom) accommodation.
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Oh and what they claim is Austrias steepest black run (probably), so not all easy.
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cameronphillips2000 wrote:
From your list id go for Alta Badia, Lech or Cervinia.

How likely is bad weather, grey skies, and high winds in Cervinia? I'd love to go but I'm worried about spending the whole week in the hotel since it's no fun to ski in white-out.
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Layne wrote:
@südtirolistdeutsch, given the week you are going the whole thing is a bit of a punt at the moment. If the heavy snow occurs down to low levels occurs this weekend and doesn't get washed away quickly the world becomes your oyster.

Where would you recommend then?
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Lech is great for a timid intermediate. Wide well groomed pistes with no nasty surprises.

St Anton is OK with the following caveat, do not ski down to the village but download on a ski lift. Rendl is often quieter than the pistes above St Anton. Download!

The Dolomites are expecting rain so unless the forecast changes I might skip them.

Courchevel is good again watch out for La Tania which is significantly lower.
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@südtirolistdeutsch, regarding places particularly exposed to high winds, I think Val Thorens, Cervinia and possibly Livigno are in that category. Maybe others that I am not familiar with.

Regarding Courchevel 1650 and 1850, including the comment by @pamw. I think it is true that the zone immediately above 1850 centre, including Jardin Alpin, has the easiest pistes. Ideal for beginners I think. Higher up above 1850 gets significantly harder.
However, you say your group is early intermediates. For them, 1650 has a good range of fairly open, wide, blue pistes.
Anyway, those 2 villages are close together. 10 minutes on the free bus or a couple of lifts to ski between them.
1850 has a reputation for being very expensive. 1650 could not be described as cheap but is better value.
snowHead
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@TQA, agree fully with your suggestion about Lech.

Do you really think St Anton suits early intermediates? I was a fairly confident skier with 10 weeks experience when I first went and found it quite challenging. Around the same time I had no problem with Val D’Isere, 3 Valleys, Kitzbuhel, etc.
snowHead
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Plenty of easy pistes in Tignes. You can easily tour the whole resort on blues.
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Thing is, in mid December you often need to aim high. Tignes, for example - so you have a glacier to ski on if the weather is bright and sunny (the glacier has some easy slopes and you can get up there on a cosy funicular) but also lower - but still hopefully snowy - slopes if it's bleak and windy. There is tough skiing in Tignes, for sure, but also plenty of easier skiing (the same applies to Val d'Isere, though if you are less than confident you need to download in a gondola, not that I ever find that a problem).
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südtirolistdeutsch wrote:
Layne wrote:
@südtirolistdeutsch, given the week you are going the whole thing is a bit of a punt at the moment. If the heavy snow occurs down to low levels occurs this weekend and doesn't get washed away quickly the world becomes your oyster.

Where would you recommend then?

As I said above Alpe D'Huez sounds ideal for you.

And if this weekends snow arrives as forecast it should all be in good shape.

Although looking at snow forecast it might not get quite as much as snow as further north. So that brings in Les Saisies, Les Contamines, Sainte Foy. Lots of small to medium size French resorts with good intermediate skiing.

Perhaps hold off until Monday though to ensure the dump happened down to low levels and temps will stay low thereafter.
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Comparing the two I've been to. Alta Badia has a much larger selection of easy slopes than Livigno, and they're much more connected together. There's lots of long (very long even) easy runs to explore even as someone who only likes the easier end of blue runs I found plenty to explore and enjoy there. When I went back last year (skied over from the BB in Arabba) I was like a kid in a candy shop wanting to ski all the runs I remembered from my previous holiday. Ended up having a rather late lunch cos I couldn't stop skiing.
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Actually, a lot of resorts - including Les Saisies - won't be properly open till the Christmas week, even if they're buried in snow.
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Warth has the easiest black runs of any resort I've ever been in (the ones next to the Saloberjet chair). Lech is mostly fairly easy, although the home runs steepen just before the bottom and I've seen plent intermediates struggle there. Obergurgl has easier home runs and is great for intermediates but lacks challenging routes and real variety for advanced skiers.

I'm going to Lech on the 14th so fingers crossed for the promised snow this weekend!
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I am a nervous intermediate and had no problem skiing in Obergurgl/Horgurgl and Obertuarn.
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Yep, no point going somewhere that isn’t actually open ...
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Just wait until this weekend. A major dump is predicted for the North Alps, and when it comes, Lech is in the front row. Currently they are expecting over a meter of snow. Lech has lovely easy skiing, and is one of the best destinations for a pretty pre-Christmas atmosphere.
Cervinia is very ugly, can be very cold and yes white out is likely. Also Cervinia is in the last rows for the coming snowdump.
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I'd say Alta Badia is the most sheltered and the least likely to suffer from poor visibility or lifts closed by high wind or avalanche risk.

It's got loads of easy skiing and probably the best range of mountain restaurants in your list. At the moment it is just over half open (70kms out of 130kms) but with temperatures dropping from Saturday I would expect more runs and lifts to open with more snow making next week. Indeed the Sella Ronda is forecast to open tomorrow.

https://www.dolomitisuperski.com/en/Experience/Ski-areas/Alta-Badia/Webcam
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