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Where would you live in EU for great skiing?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
OK - bit of an update on this old thread. After dealing with all the BS from COVID we are finally making our plans to get full ski seasons in somewhere in the Alps. To get us started we've booked a condo for all of June 2022 in Annecy - which, tbh, I'd never heard of before until some of you on this forum recommended it! So thank you for that - it looks amazing.

We plan on using Annecy as a summer base for exploring various ski resorts and scouting for a winter place to lease for a couple of months in winter 2023. It looks like the train/bus service around there is very good, so initially we're not going to hire a car until we get there, and then on an as-needed basis.

Feel free to post up any tips/suggestions for us on local hikes, sights as well as day trip ideas, and, of course, which resorts we should check out near there that would have a reasonably priced place for us to book for Jan/Feb/Mar 2023.

Thanks - you've been really helpful!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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@Tom_Ski, congratulations, that sounds exciting. Annecy is a lovely town on the edge of a lake, and in June you won't suffer the crowds that fill it in late July and August. But sorry, not an area where we have hiked.

There are a lot of ski bases you could visit from there. Not all are suited to day visits though, for example Morzine requires a train then a bus and you would hardly get much of an impression of Morzine before you had to start your return. And most places are rather different in the summer (Morzine for example is very much a mountain biking centre, places like Chamonix and St Gervais more focussed on hiking). However there are people here who can give personal views on pretty much anywhere.

The other thing is to think about what you value about skiing if you are going to spend 3 months somewhere. (Things like difficulty range of runs, access to back-country, ability to do long trips via lifts and pistes and access other nearby resorts). That affects which places are most suited.
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j b wrote:
@Tom_Ski, congratulations, that sounds exciting. Annecy is a lovely town on the edge of a lake, and in June you won't suffer the crowds that fill it in late July and August.
[snip]
The other thing is to think about what you value about skiing if you are going to spend 3 months somewhere. (Things like difficulty range of runs, access to back-country, ability to do long trips via lifts and pistes and access other nearby resorts). That affects which places are most suited.


Thanks, JB, appreciate you sharing your thoughts. My wife doesn't downhill ski, but we both enjoy x-c skiing and snow hiking, so somewhere that has those on offer in addition to solid alpine skiing is what we're looking for. As for my skiing, I enjoy groomers as well as tree skiing here in the US, on just about any run inside the ski area boundary. I'm not into the uphill skinning or hitting way off-piste areas requiring a transmitter. The long trips skiing is of interest to me for sure - haven't ever done that before, but I've heard about it and sounds amazing, so would love to check that out. Also, meeting others to ski with would be great, so a place that has a high level of expats.
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OK, some pointers.

I don't know whether there are many crosscountry skiers here. I get the impression most places have some laid out routes; since you are talking about France I can remark on an extensive network in Les Contamines and I recall encountering some X-C in La Plagne, but I have seen more extensive provision in Switzerland. You might need to hunt down more expert advice on that.

Europe doesn't do "ski areas" like the US, so anything outside a designated piste is off-piste and to some extent at your own risk. Having said that, there are many perfectly accessible routes and people here who can advise. As you recognise, there is some more serious off-piste that requires safety equipment and usually a guide.

You have probably already worked out that Europe describes ski resorts in terms of piste length, the notional distance you would travel skiing every piste, whereas the US is by area so comparisons can be difficult. But there are some seriously big areas, with Three Valleys the biggest on most counts, but the combined Les Arcs/La Plagne comes close (they are linked) and the Morzine/Avoriaz area always proclaiming its position though pistes there are less well linked. In those you will have no problem setting yourself a day's itinery (with the odd coffee and lunch stop) that keeps you covering the miles on piste to feel pretty satisfied at the end. For example we chose to buy ourselves a small apartment in St Gervais which is quite an overlooked resort in international terms but is a super village to have as a base and with something like 200 km piste accessible from the village, another 100 km involving a free bus to connect across Megeve town, and a further 130 km on the same ski pass in Les Contamines just a bus ride up the valley. Plus direct access to the neighbouring hill of Les Houches and easy public transport connections that would allow day trips to the Chamonix valley or another separate area, Espace Diamante. Not particularly a recommendation (you may think the skiing in St Gervais too tame) but making the point you might also find lesser known places good centres.
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As a mix of alpine and xc the Maurienne valley offers quite a substantial blend of the two that may interest.

Val Cenis for alpine and Bessans https://www.haute-maurienne-vanoise.com/winter/bessans/skiing/nordic-and-biathlon-ski-resort/ as a complete dedicated very substantial facility.
Alpine skiing has a number of descreet villages laced along the valley, but connected and on the same season pass to make it easy.
Further downward there's access to 3V ski domain via satellite lift entryway along with further local areas too.
Train access plus local bus as it's on the main railway route France/Italy, also large historical elements with it being Hannibal's route through the alps.
Very easy going atmosphere with many different villages, plenty of walking in alpin environments too.
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On the transport side - while EU public transport is generally great - and I would say you could survive in Switzerland and Austria in the alpine regions on public transport - I would not say the same about France. That being said - I do recall a few years back as I was looking at doing 2 months in France that they have some form of long term car rental service / leasing options - someone on here will likely be more familiar with the offerings and be able to advise.

These are separate channels from going through the car rental agencies and from what I recall they are buy-back programs with you getting a new car from the manufacturer - manuals are cheaper, and the manufacturers are allocated a quota of how many they can place on the market every year.

Check out - https://eurocartt.com/ , https://www.autofrance.net/ , https://www.auto-tt.com/

Edit: Dependent on number of days you want to ski - other activities during winter - Sallanches is a possible base - rent will be decent as well and its a sizeable town - you have easy access to a number of smaller mountains in the Mont Blanc massif Megeve, Combloux, St Gervais, Les Contamines, Flaine, Les Carroz and then of course Chamonix all within 30mins. Then an hour drive away you can get to Morzine and La Clusaz. You are also less than an hour from Geneva and Annecy incase you need to get into big cities - fly in and out - guests visiting etc.

Though there is something that is beyond charming about Austria - the country lives and breathes skiing in a way that you can only experience by being there - Zell am See is not a bad base, beautiful town on a lake - close to Kitzstienhorn (Glacier), Kaprun, Zell am See, Ski Circus (Saalbach, Hintergleem, Leogang, Fieberbrunn (FWT stop)), and Hochkonig are all within 20mins and Kitzbuhel is an hour away. Zell am See also has an ice hockey team that plays in the alps hockey league so some great evening activities https://www.alps.hockey/
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A couple of points, from an American who has lived in France for a decade:

--I think you want to carefully scope out the XC situation. The best place in France that's also connected to a ski area is at Les Saisies, where the 92 Winter Olympics XC events were held. The Espace Diamant area around it is "pretty good," but rather French, and I wouldn't say it's a bucket list destination alpine area. In Italy, I think there are good options in the Aosta Valley; Val Gardena has a pretty good network if you include Alpe di Siusi, Monte Pana and Vallunga. I can't say much about Switzerland or Austria but I'm sure you can suss that out. But if you pick a station where you have to drive an hour for good XC that's going to be suboptimal, especially for your wife.

--The larger point is, I think, why do you want to spend so much time in one place? I can see a few months in a ski town like Kitzbuhl, but I really think the shoulder seasons could be grim as far as activities and just generally filling up your time. Perhaps you have plans to travel in March-May and Oct-December? You've mentioned being near an international airport, which in the Alps basically means Geneva, Milan/Turin, Venice or Munich. Yes, there are smaller airports like Innsbruck or Zurich but that means connections. So if that's really important to you, it does limit your options a bit. Maybe spend ski season in one place, go back to US for a while, then summer in another area?

--I'm thinking that unless your French is "pretty good," i.e. conversational, you might not like spending that much time in France unless you choose a really international spot like Chamonix. Frankly, there aren't a lot of French people who enjoy speaking English (and I say this having French citizenship), and they are generally not likely to make friends with you easily. It's just the nature of the country. Curious to see how you get on in Annecy, one of my favorite towns in France. There is great hiking on either side of the lake. I suspect you will find a warmer welcome in Italy or Austria. Just my .02 centimes. But if you are set on easy airport access it's hard to argue with the Chamonix areas. Aosta is also close to the Turin airport.

--I like the idea of Innsbruck, but it it were me, I would choose a smaller, internationally flavored "ski town" where I could just walk to the lifts or gondola. So I think -- based on the experts on this board, you might focus on Austria or if you can afford it, Switzerland. One of my favorite daydreams is spending a winter/summer in Wengen, Switzerland.
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Le Grand Bornand and La Clusaz are your nearest resorts- Le Grand Bornand is hosting the world Biathlon champs again this December- both resorts have quite a few XC trails
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Pasigal wrote:
I think you want to carefully scope out the XC situation. The best place in France that's also connected to a ski area is at Les Saisies, where the 92 Winter Olympics XC events were held. The Espace Diamant area around it is "pretty good," but rather French, and I wouldn't say it's a bucket list destination alpine area.

Another serious XC area in France is the Vercors, the main alpine station there is Villard de Lans.

I have skied a lot in the Espace Diamant, it is very French, some people can speak English but I usually only hear French spoken from one week to the next. It is quite easy to drive to other resorts though, I can get to either Les Menuires (S) or Les Gets (N) in an hour, Chamonix is about 40 minutes.
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well if it was me I might try somewhere near Turin ...Not far from the beaches of the French and Italian riviera and not far from the Via Latia Bardonechia and Limone for skiing and a short drive toValmeiner .a bit further is the Val D aosta ..There are nice little villages round Alba
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Tom_Ski wrote:
OK - bit of an update on this old thread. After dealing with all the BS from COVID we are finally making our plans to get full ski seasons in somewhere in the Alps. To get us started we've booked a condo for all of June 2022 in Annecy - which, tbh, I'd never heard of before until some of you on this forum recommended it! So thank you for that - it looks amazing.

We plan on using Annecy as a summer base for exploring various ski resorts and scouting for a winter place to lease for a couple of months in winter 2023. It looks like the train/bus service around there is very good, so initially we're not going to hire a car until we get there, and then on an as-needed basis.

Feel free to post up any tips/suggestions for us on local hikes, sights as well as day trip ideas, and, of course, which resorts we should check out near there that would have a reasonably priced place for us to book for Jan/Feb/Mar 2023.

Thanks - you've been really helpful!


First off, you will definitely want your own car in Annecy.

Day trips: You can get to almost anywhere in the northern Alps in an hour or two. I'd suggest the Beaufortain via Les Saisies, over the Cormet de Roselend (great scenery and hiking) -- if you're ambitious you can go over the Cormet down to Bourg St. Maurice and check out a constellation of amazing stations; the Chamonix area, the Giffre Valley (Samoens and Sixt fer a Cheval), the Vercors or Chartreuse (maybe not go into Grenoble, though). Get a good Michelin guide to the French Alps, which will have good driving tours.

Annecy itself has a beautiful old town with collonaded main street, a good Saturday market, some quite good restaurants and of course the lake. Tons of hikes; just get a good guide book. It's also got a fair amount of traffic in the summer.

Where in Annecy is your condo? Hopefully it's near the water.
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Most locals from Annecy ski at Semnoz or La Sambuy.
A quick scooch along the Autoroute will get you to La Clusaz in about 40 minutes.
Or go south along the lake to Ugine, and then take the Gorges D'Arly to get to Megeve the scenic way.
Annecy is indeed a great place, I spent 4 summers working there, but to get back to the original question, it might be worth considering where the vast majority of ex-pats have chosen to live all year round as I am sure that most of them will have deliberated over the best year-round place for skiing and other activities before moving out here.
Whilst everybody's opinions are equally valid, many of the suggestions have come from people who do not live out here all year round, so may not have experienced the whole year-round experience.
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Lake Annecy is a beautiful area. You should have a lot of fun!

If you go to La Clusaz just watch out for the small guy doing double backflips over the pistes!
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And has lesser recognized cameraman.
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As a quick point of order, Zurich is the main Swiss airport, Geneva's less than half the passenger volume. ... And for most intercontinental flights you'll route thru Zurich.

Definite top call on a car in Annecy. Lovely town but public transport links to elsewhere don't look that great, at least from where I'm sitting in Chamonix.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Great input, all. Thank you -really helpful. Re some of the questions/points that you’ve raised:
Condo location: it’s about a 10 min walk to the lake, and less than that to downtown - sort of north and west a bit from city center. The area looks absolutely stunning; and our condo has a small balcony looking at the lake and mountains. I envision morning coffee there daily.
Hire Car my initial thought was to wait until we get there and suss things out a bit - take in the local scene and enjoy Annecy. And then figure out how much we want to get out of town. I couldn’t see the point of hiring a car and letting it sit for days on end.
Local public transport it looks like there is decent connectivity via a fairly direct bus line from Annecy to Geneva, including the airport there. Not something I’d want to do everyday, though; but serviceable until we figure out how far afield we want to go, and when.
Airport access same thing - Geneva appears to be a good enough hub for us, since there are no direct flights from the US anyways. We’re going via LHR since wife has family there and will visit them en route.
Language oooh…that’s a great point you make about the French, @pasigal. We debated back and forth on this, since wife speaks some French and I don’t; but I speak some German and she doesn’t. I think this all contributes to the vision of being somewhere with a strong expat community that we can connect with. And your point about the French being less inclined to speak English than some of the other places we’re considering is certainly worth being aware of - thank you.
Splitting time among different locales another great point. Yes, I think we’ve revised our thinking from spending a full year in any one place, to spending chunks of time in a few places and moving around a bit. We have friends who did this for a couple of years and eventually settled in Nice a few minutes walk from the beach - when we visited them last month we thought it was pretty idyllic, and there’s a vibrant expat community which they’ve tied into. Makes complete sense to mix it up a bit.
Austria yeah, I think that’s our next target for spending some time - a month or so to check it out and see if we can find a ski place. Looking at google maps it appears to be a lot longer of a trip to get there from Geneva than I would’ve guessed.

Again, this is fantastic - thanks, everyone, for being so generous with sharing your thoughts and comments. (And I am now curious about La Clusaz and the double backflip guy…Smile)
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@Tom_Ski,
There are French ski resorts where English is widely spoken - Tignes, Val D'Isere & Meribel for example. No doubt others will expand the list. wink
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Back flip guy - is that
candide thovex by any chance? La clusaz is his home mountain, I think
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I think that France certainly has the edge with larger, better linked ski areas. Which is great for staying in one place. If OTH you want to get a car and explore ski areas by day trips, Austria is much better. Base yourself a bit east of Salzburg and get a large area pass. The villages in France are high and it is a long and slow drive to get from one to another. In Austria everything is lower and much, much easier to access
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http://youtube.com/v/yKP7jQknGjs
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Innsbruck - Easy access to Austria, Dolomites and CH:-)
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@Tom_Ski,

sounds exciting and I think you'll love Annecy. I don't know it all that well but always enjoyed it when we have been there.

In terms of hiking I don't know the immediate area but I'm sure the Bauges and Aravis offer great options. If you aren't going to have a car then I might be tempted by electric mountain bikes both for fun in their own right but also to give you access to a wider range of hiking.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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@Tom_Ski, when you’re up at Annecy (gorgeous place to be in Summer!) drive down to Moûtiers area and have an explore. The valley has world class skiing everywhere you look. I wouldn’t recommend basing yourself in Moûtiers though! +1 for the mention of Bozel above, great little town!

I’m biased, but I always think Méribel is great for a season. English spoken everywhere. Right in the middle of the world’s biggest ski area. Check out Les Allues just down the mountain a bit - big permanent expat population and on the lift network straight into the 3V. And when the lifts close, there’s a free shuttle.

My only concern would be xc as I don’t have a clue…! Last winter it became clear there were a fair few tracks as we were snowshoeing in the Altiport area but that’s where my knowledge ends!

Echoing what others have said above (and I get the impression you are on board with) - I wouldn’t want to be in many of the resorts out of season - particularly ones like the 3V. Once the lifts stop turning, it’s a race to get out. We leave once the season ends. Back for summer, and then we’re gone til the lifts turn again unless (as next weekend) I have DIY to do….!

Summer season in the 3V is busy - lots going on, eBiking, hiking, mountain biking, the other, up hill version of cycling that I don’t understand, white water rafting etc.

I’d +1 for the idea of 3 months in the 3V or similar (let’s face it, you won’t get bored!) then down to Italy or French Riviera after the season ends.
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What a great thing to be planning. Annecy is probably one of my most favourites places in the world to spend a reasonable amount of time. It's got it all, well for me anyway, lake, mountains, history, good shops, the list goes on and on + of course all of the outdoor activities. You might find it hard to find a 'resort' that compares. If you want to ski 8am till late though you need to be nearer the slopes or have a car. I'd probably look for a resort where people live year round, not just in the 2 x seasons (Samoens/Morillon/Combloux/St Gervais/Les Carroz) are the ones I am most familiar with. That way you are going into a community and know that the shops/activities etc will stay open, even if they do cut back hours. Personally, I'd avoid bigger towns down at the bottom of a valley, as the inversions caused by high pressure in the winter can really trap particulates...Cluses (also Sallanches??) might be cheap for example but living in the soup for days on end can't be pleasant
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