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Like PDS off piste but with more altitude

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Just back from another trip to the PDS with mixed weather and lots of rain and not for the first time spent the days wishing the ski area had another 1000m of altitude!

We have family ties to the area and know it well, which I guess is part of the appeal but we do love the touring there. Lots of easy routes, minimal avalanche risk and a "high pastures and meadows" feel, rather than full on mountaineering or steeper terrain (of which we've done plenty, often with guides). I'm sure our view of the area is largely because we know it so well and anywhere new always feels more intimidating, but lots of the higher altitude resorts we've visited tend to be steep and rocky higher up and lacking in straightforward or accessible day / half day tours.

Any thoughts on areas to try for next season? We've done many of the bigger resorts (St Anton, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Val D etc) and definitely prefer smaller, quieter locations.
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Loads of places in Austria! Probably even most places in Austria.

Are you looking for skitouring or lift-access stuff though?
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Probably more lift accessed tbh, but we do a bit of both. I was wondering whether Austria may be a good shout but recent trips there have been limited - St Anton (aggressively busy - in general in lift queues and also chasing good snow) and Mayhoffen (too disjointed a resort and a right faff to get between areas, plus big queues out of the village itself).
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@Dashed, somewhere like Andermatt or nearby maybe?

Monterosa?
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@Dashed, Val d’Anniviers. Stay in Zinal or Grimentz
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Thanks folks - off to investigate the suggestions. Have skied Monterosa and would definitely go back - liked the small town feel of Staffal.
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@Dashed, in that case check Montafon, Fieberbrunn, Alpbach. Probably also Ski Amade but I don't know that area.
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@Dashed, recently did a day trip to Stubai Glacier and found lots of easily acccessable and not so steep side pistes. There are plenty of villages in the valley leading to the main gondola which is reached by bus. I also assume some these villages offer skiing below the tree line in bad weather.
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clarky999 wrote:
@Dashed, in that case check Montafon, Fieberbrunn, Alpbach. Probably also Ski Amade but I don't know that area.


I know there is a difference in the effect of altitude as you go east, but many of these top out at the same altitude (or lower) as PDS. Is the impact so pronounced that I should be looking to go east rather than go high?
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@Dashed, Just thinking about this a litle more. I think it is unusual to have rain at PDS between 1500m - 2000m. If its raining in PDS at that altitude you are likely to have terrible snowy weather and viz if you are higher at 2500m+ - certainly not good off-piste weather. It is unusual to find pastures at c. 2500m as this is above the tree line and IFAIK cows don't graze that far up in Summer. The lack of trees leads to erosion which creates rocky landscapes. A glacial area a good bet - I dont think going east is going to give you what you want as it can also rain in Austria. I'd stick to the PDS and go in January / February.
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@Dashed, if you want more snow/colder with "high pastures and meadow feel" rather than alpine steeps, then it has to be yes! Otherwise you'll just be in high alpine terrain. Or did I mis-understand what you're looking for?

Obviously weather is weather and it can get warm anywhere at any time, but yes, IME there are plenty of places in the east which are reliably colder and snowier to lower levels than the PDS, often because they get most of their snow form the north rather than the (often milder) westerlies that bring snow to the PDS.

If I've mis-understood and you're just looking somewhere colder and snowier and fine with higher alpine terrain, there are other places that would suit better.
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Ozboy wrote:
@Dashed. If its raining in PDS at that altitude you are likely to have terrible snowy weather and viz if you are higher at 2500m+ - certainly not good off-piste weather. .


But once the storm clears and the visibility improves, at least there's new snow rather than a rain soaked slush / ice fest Smile
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Dashed wrote:
Ozboy wrote:
@Dashed. If its raining in PDS at that altitude you are likely to have terrible snowy weather and viz if you are higher at 2500m+ - certainly not good off-piste weather. .


But once the storm clears and the visibility improves, at least there's new snow rather than a rain soaked slush / ice fest Smile


Yes but you wont have your powder covered pastures as you wanted. I think PDS is perfectly good in Jan / Feb PDS for powder.
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You know it makes sense.
clarky999 wrote:
@Dashed, if you want more snow/colder with "high pastures and meadow feel" rather than alpine steeps, then it has to be yes! Otherwise you'll just be in high alpine terrain. Or did I mis-understand what you're looking for?

Obviously weather is weather and it can get warm anywhere at any time, but yes, IME there are plenty of places in the east which are reliably colder and snowier to lower levels than the PDS, often because they get most of their snow form the north rather than the (often milder) westerlies that bring snow to the PDS.

If I've mis-understood and you're just looking somewhere colder and snowier and fine with higher alpine terrain, there are other places that would suit better.


No, you've not misunderstood, I'm just not clear on what I'm asking!!

We often ski with guides (usually at least once per trip) and happy to get into some steeper alpine terrain / glaciers etc then, but it gets too expensive to do it every day we want to explore and get away from the pistes. The beauty of the PDS (and no doubt some of the lower Austrian resorts already mentioned) is that you can tour on shallower slopes and, with a bit of common sense, keep things pretty safe. The downside is the lower altitude and tendancy for milder W / SW airflow to bring rain to PDS.

I appreciate the point regarding the more Easterly resorts getting more snow from a N direction so that's definitely something I'd not given as much though to as I should have done but I suppose the question I was asking is are there any resorts with more mellow high alpine terrain?
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@Ozboy, Depends where you are, the Vallon de Rechy, easily accessible from the top of the Grimentz lift system, is pretty pasture like and that starts at 2900m
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rambotion wrote:
@Ozboy, Depends where you are, the Vallon de Rechy, easily accessible from the top of the Grimentz lift system, is pretty pasture like and that starts at 2900m


I had never heard but looks good on the valais web site.
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@clarky999, I was at Stubai Glacier last weekend and think this could be what @Dashed, is looking for?? I loved it up there and playing in the side pistes in mixed snow.
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If you like industrial ski, then Stubai is right for you!
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Ozboy wrote:

I think PDS is perfectly good in Jan / Feb PDS for powder.


The last few seasons (4-5 at least) have been very fickle / inconsistent in PDS. Yes, there have been good falls of snow in Jan and Feb but they’ve either been very late to arrive or have often been followed by warm spells / rain etc. Take Feb this year for example - 3 weeks of wall to wall sunshine and temps in the high teens. Certainly not a good month for powder. Although Jan was pretty epic.

So whilst the weather can be dry or mild anywhere, I think PDS is particularly prone to it due to its low altitude and influence of the Atlantic.
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@Dashed, I think most of Europe had wall to wall sunshine in Feb and untracked powder within easy reach of resort would have been hard to find. PDS has an excellent Jan and near the top of accumulations. Avoriaz accumulation totals are amongst the best in France year on year. I think if PDS is rubbish then most resorts with accessible pasture off-piste in northern alps will be rubbish. If you book eastern alps there is nothing to guarantee that it will be great while PDS could be better at that time. Better the devil you know and stick to Jan / Feb while the climate is all over the place.
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@Dashed, I’m with you. You want somewhere with skiing around 3000m to guarantee decent snow when it’s warm. Accumulations no good if the snow is soaked/ice fest. We were skiing powder at 2700m on Sunday while people were skiing in the rain at 1700m. Verbier sure isn’t quiet but the option of tree lined runs in Bruson or La Tzoumaz on bad weather days combined with high altitude skiing off Attelas, Mont Gele, Gentianes and Mont Fort is a hard combination to beat. No meadows to speak of but the Tour from Col de la Chaux to Rosablanche at 3300m is an easy 2hr skin up with a stunning glacial descent finishing at Siviez at 1700m. As above Zinal/Grimentz a quieter option with skiing up to 3000m.
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@Dashed, The British Army has it's Alpine Training Centre (ATC) based in Oberstdorf, Bavaria. The Mountain Training Association does it's Winter International Mountain Leader (IML) assessments in Oberstdorf, Bavaria, so ask yourself why the professionals go there? Loads of easy access Ski Touring and Snowshoeing Routes, non-glacial, superb hut system and much cheaper than the big Alps. I think I've done over 100 Touring days in that area and probably only a few "Training" routes have been done more than half a dozen times. Whatever the weather there's always a tour and many of them on exactly the sort of terrain you're looking for. Can recommend Nordic Blowfish for local advice, run by a couple of ex-military Mountain Guides. http://www.nordicblowfish.com/
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panaga52 wrote:
@Dashed, The British Army has it's Alpine Training Centre (ATC) based in Oberstdorf, Bavaria. The Mountain Training Association does it's Winter International Mountain Leader (IML) assessments in Oberstdorf, Bavaria, so ask yourself why the professionals go there?


If I was being cynical I could suggest it was because of the long standing connections the British Army has in Germany and easy logistics compared to, say, France or Austria Very Happy Very Happy

Joking aside, thanks for the recommendation - I'll take a look - definitely not an area I'd really considered despite having visited a couple of times with work.
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@Dashed, I think you came at wrong time - today has fresh pow and big blue skies Smile
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BobinCH wrote:
@Dashed, I’m with you. You want somewhere with skiing around 3000m to guarantee decent snow when it’s warm. Accumulations no good if the snow is soaked/ice fest. We were skiing powder at 2700m on Sunday while people were skiing in the rain at 1700m.


Yep, that's exactly my point. Relatively mellow high altitude touring that doesn't require a guide - assuming usual precautions and common sense employed!

I've still got a real love for PDS and some strong connections there - I met my wife there and we have friends and family out there so will no doubt still ski there in future but looking for other places to explore.
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Dashed wrote:
but I suppose the question I was asking is are there any resorts with more mellow high alpine terrain?


Ozboy wrote:
@clarky999, I was at Stubai Glacier last weekend and think this could be what @Dashed, is looking for?? I loved it up there and playing in the side pistes in mixed snow.


Stubai and a lot of the other Austrian glaciers (I assume also Swiss/French/etc?) would suit in that there's a bunch of wide mellow technically easy offpiste slopes/valleys carved out between the steeper stuff - but you also have to be aware that while the skiing might be easy, other alpine hazards - like crevasses - are there too. Not an issue everywhere and all the time, but something that does have to be considered.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
BobinCH wrote:
@Dashed, Val d’Anniviers. Stay in Zinal or Grimentz


This is a very good shout. Another superb option with a combination of mellow offpiste and some superb free ride terrain is Chandolin.
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Actually now I think of it, Laax would be a good shout too.
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@clarky999, that’s a good shout and there are also lots of long but not so steep pastures on the Flims side
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