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First time in Europe - where to ski

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
PeakyB wrote:

I wonder whether the distinctions and finer points of contrast between off piste in N. America and Europe are all that important to them?

Yes!

Can a face the gradient of red avalanche? (or easy black, as the OP indicated her husband is)? What if that red gradient off piste is below a steep face?

And, using your approach, “I wonder” whether a “strong intermediate” skiing in Europe for the first time has the experience to factor in weather, snowfall history, snow stability to make appropriate decision?

You’re “not advocating” it. You were just suggesting to the OP it’s probably safe to do it as long as it’s in view of lifts and piste. rolling eyes
ski holidays     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
You sound like you are advocating it to be honest. That most of the time it works out ok so why worry. Others do it so it must be ok. You yourself do it etc. Sorry but, the "doing it in view of others between lifts" comment is as good as saying - I have no clue about avalanches.

As someone without any knowledge of avalanches (which I'm going to guess op family comes under as they never ski out of bounds), there is no "finer points" to worry about. Treat off-piste as you would out of bounds in N America. At minimum carry avy equipment and you really need some education or guide.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@abc, @boarder2020,

I specifically said I don’t advocate it. Same as I don’t advocate...
Smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
Dashing across a rail level crossing, when the red lights are flashing, to try to beat the train.
Regularly eating lots of high sugar and fat content food.
Driving at 50mph in a 30mph limit busy urban area.

NONE of these things U advocate. ALL of these things MANY people do lots of the time.

If you don’t believe me....whateverrr.
snowHead
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@photuris, Where in the US does your family ski? Any of the places in Europe that people are recommending will be mind blowing for most newbie Americans and TBH you really can't go wrong. I grew up skiing on the east coast (Ontario, new York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania ,etc) and none of that compares with the Alps/Dolomites. It's fantastic.

I've got 4 kids. We live in London and we drive to France to ski the busiest school holiday week in February. AirBnB accommodation near (but not in) resorts can be astonishingly inexpensive .. we stayed near Chamonix last Feb in a terrific house for $50 USD per night .. self cater with basics (lasagne, chilli, etc) and pack lunch (saucison, baguette, baby bel, etc) and your main costs will be the rental car, ski hire and lift passes.

Proper off-piste is a big deal .. we're not talking about little routes off the main trails through the woods .. off-piste means un-groomed, avalanche-prone terrain way off the main resort trails .. apparently great stuff but way way beyond a modest family budget. You'll need a guide, avalanche beacons, shovels and training to use all of that gear. You won't miss it IMHO there's so much cool terrain to ski on the pistes.

March will be snow sure in any of the resorts mentioned so far .. just pick a place and go.

Best,

Brien
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@abc, @boarder2020, whether you like it or not when @PeakyB, says:
Quote:
Whilst never underestimating the dangers of going off piste, a reasonable degree of mountain knowledge, daily information checking and common sense keeps the vast majority of skiers in Europe safe.

Many make perfectly rational decisions to dabble in off piste that is between lifts, easily visible and reachable from patrolled areas, etc.

She is correct.

And in relevance to the OP... it's quite feasible for them to do the same... given they are experienced in bound skiers in the States. Though it's correct that we all ensure they understand the different statuses.

I think it's worth splitting this down into two things:

#1 Is the danger of being away from the piste in terms of hazards, hurting yourself, etc. I would imagine that you still have to have a bit of mountain knowledge and use a bit of common sense in the States when in bounds but off trail. So maybe this aspect isn't so different.

#2 Avalanche danger. Assuming in bounds American skiers don't consider this... then at the very least when skiing off piste (even tame stuff) in Europe they should be at least become aware of the possibility, when, why, where avalanches might occur. So they can make relatively smart decisions.

And as ever the motto should "if in doubt, dack out" or to put it another way, err on the side of caution.

There is a third aspect, much discussed on here.... which is insurance.....

And finally, whilst I am not adverse to dabbling and indeed have done plenty some in my younger days... getting a bit more clued up, and getting the basic avy gear, can never be at bad thing and opens things up a little more for more adventure. Which, after all, is what it's about for many of us.

And finally finally, there is the dabbling off piste with kids debate.... again, much discussed on here......!!
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@Layne, you 2 point are right on.

But reading @PeakyB’s posts, she had it exactly backward. She “advocates” watching out for rocks. Telling that to American skiers that, is like telling cruise passengers the deck can be slippery when wet!

Then she went on to down play the avalanche danger. Exactly the sort of thing Americans are good at judging... NOT!

That’s why I called her out for completely missing the perspective of north American skiers.
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On the issue of off piste insurance and mountain rescue. I assume the OP will probably have travel insurance.

Most North America based travel insurance typically do NOT explicitly exclude off-piste insurance. So it’s probably a non-issue.

Some medical insurance includes mountain rescue also, under the broad term of “emergency transport” or something like that.

Also, unlike the UK, the rest of the world don’t tend to be as fully insured. Many people simply choose to self-insure. As a consequence, for people living outside of UK, the insurance they can get are also more limited. sometimes it’s quite near impossible and extremely expensive to get certain things explicitly included.
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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!
@bpirkle we ski on Mt. Hood in Oregon.

I'm not any closer to making a decision. *sigh*
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@Layne,
Quote:

She is correct.

Thanks for common sense interpretation. Not so keen on gender change but quietly pleased my posts are not so macho wink

@abc, How you interpret my posts as 'playing down the dangers of avalanches' is beyond me. Ultimately, sliding down a mountain on 1 or 2 planks is dangerous.
Also I would always advocate taking out additional insurance in Europe where available, such as Carre Neige in France. Available when buying lift pass.

@photuris,
Quote:

I'm not any closer to making a decision. *sigh*

There should be plenty choice left but bookings usually start to gather pace September onwards.
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In the European Alps....about 50% of all avalanches occur when the avalanche risk is rated 3/5. A further 20% when the risk is rated only 2/5.
Never be complacent.
snowHead
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Quote:

Many make perfectly rational decisions to dabble in off piste that is between lifts, easily visible and reachable from patrolled areas, etc.


This is downplaying the risk. Calling it a rational decision to ski off piste as long as it is easily visible and reachable from patrolled areas. Unless you understand the risks (which are not somehow removed by it being easily visible or reachable), you shouldn't be chancing your luck. Honestly, the lack of education/decision making is quite shocking. Even someone straight out of a basic avy course would be shaking their head.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@boarder2020, you’ve selected one extract from my earlier post, outside the context of the other information in my posts, to try to misrepresent me and justify your views.

I think what some people call
FAKE NOOOSS.
snowHead
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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
+1 on the insurance with the lift pass.

I said "oui, avec assurance s'il vous plait" every time I bought passes for years and didn't need it until I did. It saved me the 400 euro trip from Megeve to the hospital in Sallanches.

Had Francois taken me out somewhere I needed to be evacuated on a helicopter the bill would have been way way more.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@bpirkle, American medical insurance, inadequate in other ways, often covers “emergency” including blood wagon trips and medicine worldwide.

So while travel insurance is still a good idea, it’s not the same calculation as for UK residents.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
On-mountain insurance saves having to pay and re-claim for the recovery .. or at least it did in my case in Megeve.

Disclaimer: I'm no expert in American insurance of any kind and hope to keep it that way.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Looks like the advice on where to ski has turned into the dangers of off piste...

Does anyone have any further recommendations for @photuris on where the family should consider skiing?

@photuris, I think you'd enjoy all the recommendations posted here... but I would still endorse the 3 Valleys for the sheer scale of the skiing, endless on piste cruising and stunning scenery; or Val D'Isere; or Zermatt... Toofy Grin
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I don't know if the OP still needs MORE options with all that's been suggested... Toofy Grin

Time to start pricing them out and the decision might just become obvious.

My personal favorite is the Dolomites. Partly because, most US ski resorts are purpose build, so a sprawling ski domain that stretches to connect existing village is a "cultural experience" on the skiing context. The OP just need to find a base village that has some "charm". Job done.

Also, as the US dollar is pretty strong. Switzerland is not out of the question either. That's where 'charm' is practically guaranteed. And there're quite a few large interlinked domain also.
ski holidays     
 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?
The dolomites sound awesome and I'm leaning towards booking in Selva.
I did want to ask about apre-ski with older children.
What do people tend to do with their teens/pre-teens.
Some of the big resorts have a lot more accomodations with swimming pools or swimming centers which is our usual go to when we have time to kill.
What would we do between when the slopes close and when we are ready to sleep?
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photuris wrote:
What do people tend to do with their teens/pre-teens.
Some of the big resorts have a lot more accomodations with swimming pools or swimming centers which is our usual go to when we have time to kill.
What would we do between when the slopes close and when we are ready to sleep?

We don't do much with ours (just turned 12 & 14). When they were younger they would go out, dig in the snow and sledge but last couple of years they've become less reluctant to do so and tend to eat cake, play on phone/ipad or read/draw. Then get showered and what for dinner.

We once had a swimming pool in our apartment building but only used it a couple of times. Another time we were in Tignes Val Claret and got the bus down to Lac to the big pool with slides and what not. But everyone was tired and it was a bit cold so we didn't stay that long. Seems for ours going for a swim isn't much of an attraction.

We do generally ski until the lifts close and after getting the gear off, relaxing a bit, having a cuppa and some cake/biscuits, it's time for shower and dinner prep (we self cater). After dinner we play games (Jenga, Uno, card games, Ubongo...) I stick some music on, we have wine and cheese....
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@photuris, Selva has a sports centre with swimming, sauna, steam room etc.

There’s 10 pin bowling, pool tables, climbing walls, etc.

They may even have an ice hockey team to watch I think. Once they had World Cup downhill racing on when I was there, which produced a lot of entertainment.

Larger towns occasionally have live music concerts, not sure about Selva those times of year.

Chill out with computer games, TV. They could even try conversations longer than two or three sentences wink

Reviewing the days skiing and planning where to go next day usually whiles away half an hour, or a bit longer if challenging to get agreement.

If they complain they’re bored, have some online school homework ready as a back up.
snowHead
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@photuris, thinking about your conundrum, what does European skiing do that NA skiing doesn’t?

Imho,

- big interlinked areas
- food (and wine) ((on the mountain))
- (to an extent, depending) history and culture

Which rather narrows it down. I haven’t skied the 3Vs (!) Shocked but my received perception is while big and linked, there is not necessarily an over abundance of gastro or culture.

For fans, I totally understand that it’s an enormous area, and it is in France, therefore, while perhaps a bit pricey, you will have more than you need of all things.

But maybe for a single special trip you could go somewhere a bit more , err, concentrated?

I have been to the Dolomites (Cortina 1ce, Madonna 3ce) and they are lovely but Aosta valley a bit easier to get to, at least, for me, from London originally, then from Geneva, which was important (we now live in Chamonix, so priorities have changed). And possibility of doing a multi station trip.

I think that other than iconic Euro resorts - Chamonix, Verbier, Val d’Isere, etc., - I’d be inclining towards Italy...

Problem really being one of too many excellent choices Happy
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Late entry to the discussion here, but another voice for the 3V. Dead easy to get to from Paris by train to Moutiers if you don't want to hire a car. Bergmeister recommended Couchevel 1650, and I would second that. However, my own fave resort in the 3V is St Martin de Belleville. It has plenty of charm-probably the prettiest of the 3V villages. For apres ski with the kids, there's a huge swimming pool up the road in les Menuires (6km) as well as a toboggan run. Also dog sledding locally. Last season one of the best things I did with my sister and kids (their Christmas present) was an evening piste basher ride -bookable on the les Menuires website. There is a great wide gentle area above the village designated "Liberty ride" that offers some limited patrolled off piste, though the whole mountain side gets skied out very quickly on a snowy morning.

One of the nicest things about St M, if you are looking for charm, is that you can probably find yourself some cute converted barn or old stone house to stay in, either in the village or within a mile of the lift (there is good supply of rental apartments piste side too).
https://en.st-martin-belleville.com
We have used agence des alpes over the years ti book rentals in the area
Here's a link to a lovely looking old apartment available for the week of the 7th March for example. https://www.agencedesalpes.com/annonce/appartement-saint-martin-de-belleville-centre-saint-martin-de-belleville-la-croix-de-fer-1817
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I absolutely appreciate all of the additional feedback and information as I am no closer to making a decision but I think I am starting to have a clearer picture of our options.

I think absolutely #1 priority is picking a good snow-sure location. It would suck to travel across the pond just to discover that there's no snow or very poor snow conditions.

#2 is finding a good fit for our family. We like to walk a lot. Not as big on tourist attractions. We just like to walk and to "be" in a place if that makes sense. Which is why I'm not sure that a mega-building resort would be a good fit.
BUT on the other hand if we're going on a skiing holiday I want to be able to do ski-in-out and enjoy all of the conveniences of a mega resort. So perhaps a mega resort but with a good pedestrian zone?

#3 budget - Yes we can stretch the budget, but staying on budget means less stress which is good for a vacation. We could do it "poor" style but that's how we do it back home. So if we're going on a ski holiday I don't want to have to penny pinch and we do have another 6 months to save up. At the same time, spending $25/per person/per meal/per day is just not realistic. I will say that for our family the most memorable things from our travels are usually the most excellent meals that we've had.

Dolomiti - I'm worried about the snow, I know they have excellent snow making, but skiing in slush sucks. The big pluses are all of the huts and restaurants in town and on the slopes.

French mega resorts -
Les Arcs 1950 might fit the bill with their pedestrian zone, but how are the mountain restaurants there? I do agree that while we may not be the resort types, this is our chance to experience something new.
I'm also looking at La Plagne

Switzerland - Zermatt is I think too steep for me piste wise, though I'm sure my boys will love it. Prices are high but I do see some budget options. All other Swiss resorts seem to be lower down. I like Wengen/Grin but from online reviews they don't seem to be as snow sure.

Austria -
Lech looks amazing, but is not in our budget and is probably too upscale for us. And if we go self catering restaurants are really expensive so we'd be stressed the entire time about how much we're spending.
What about staying in Warth? It would take about 5 lifts to get to Lech, not sure how we'd feel about that. There's also the Flexenbahn connection from Stuben, but I'm having a hard time understanding the route.

St. Anton is a good option, but I'm worried that again the pistes would be too steep for me.

Anyway, I think this about sums up my conundrum.
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@photuris, Italy is not just Dolomites.... ...
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@photuris, a conundrum....but a nice ‘problem’ to have.

FWIW I don’t think Paradiski has the wow factor I’d be looking for if I were travelling that far. That said, it ticks your main boxes of snowsure, without being overly demanding, unless you go looking for that. Of the two sides, if you choose that area, I’d go Les Arcs. 1950 fine if an apartment is what you want. I actually prefer the lower lying villages Vallandry and Plan Peisey. Fairly quiet but well connected and very close to amazing double decker cable car that links the two sides.

Val D for me has the edge. However, the slopes can certainly be more unforgiving than Paradiski, if concerned about overstretching yourself. Staying in the satellite village of La Daille would be a great compromise. Easy 10 minute free bus ride to centre of lively Val D. Underground funicular or fast new gondola a very close walk. Much more enjoyable home rubs than to town centre. Quick and reasonably easy links to Tignes.


Lech a good choice if you can afford it. Never stayed at Warth. St Anton really buzzes. Rather like Val D, the slopes have a higher likelihood of being very challenging than say Can be a bit raucous for a family holiday in town centre. Nasserein not a bad base?

Dolomites for me wins on overall alpine experience, for the reasons you’ve said. Maybe more risk of slush than the aforementioned places. But not that significant a risk IMO.

Last but not least, Trois Vallées. Pick the right location to stay and it ticks more of your boxes than the rest I think. Provided you’re not offended by unattractive architecture, or too concerned about stretching your budget. I’d think about La Tania, Meribel or Reberty, with careful attention to detail of accommodation location.
As others have said, St Martin de Belleville has much to commend it, if you can find accommodation at the right price.

Finally, an option if you don’t mind some driving. Stay in Bourg St Maurice. Visit Paradiski, EK, La Rosiere/La Thuile and even 3V on the same trip. Drive to places where you fancy a walk too, if the visibility for skiing is poor, for example.

snowHead
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I find food and drink (on the mountain and in the villages) cheaper in Lech than in Val D or the 3V. If you can find affordable accommodation there then I wouldn't be too worried about the cost of food. It's cheaper again if you ski over to Warth. For character and a good range of groomed pistes and reasonable value my choices would be (best first) - Lech, Champoluc, Saalbach and Serfaus.
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under a new name wrote:
@photuris, Italy is not just Dolomites.... ...


I was specifically referring to the Dolomiti Superski area as that's what I've been researching and considering as an option.
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photuris wrote:
#2 is finding a good fit for our family. We like to walk a lot. Not as big on tourist attractions. We just like to walk and to "be" in a place if that makes sense. Which is why I'm not sure that a mega-building resort would be a good fit.
BUT on the other hand if we're going on a skiing holiday I want to be able to do ski-in-out and enjoy all of the conveniences of a mega resort. So perhaps a mega resort but with a good pedestrian zone?

Hmmm, for me if after a days skiing I have neither the inclination or energy to do a lot of walking. Me and the missus have been known to take a stroll but it's usually a short one that even the smallest ski station is big enough for. It's probably a once a week thing. If you do like to go for a good wander of an evening then yeah you need to choose carefully and might have to forego the ski in, ski out aspect.

photuris wrote:
Les Arcs 1950 might fit the bill with their pedestrian zone, but how are the mountain restaurants there? I do agree that while we may not be the resort types, this is our chance to experience something new.

The pedestrian zone isn't that extensive/big. And the front de neige in a lot of place would serve as well. And I can't imagine the restaurants there would be streets ahead of other places. I think apartments are relatively pricey in 1950. Also if a storm blows in I'd rather be below the tree line. There is nothing wrong with 1950 per se but I just you would be as well served in other ski stations. When I go to Paradiski I stay in Les Coches but Montchavin just below it is one of the prettiest villages IMO. As mentioned Vallandry on the other side of the VE is good too. I think you would like Paradiski a lot.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@photuris, I'll focus for the moment about insurance as I have been subject to the vagaries of being an American skier injured in France.
First: Nearly every (I can't find one in the US that isn't) US travel insurance states that it is secondary to your primary and BOTH are always PAY FIRST and claim back later . . . the claim system being akin to prostate exam with a cattle prod and just as productive (5 years fighting on and I still haven't got a cent back).
The French additional insurance on your pass will get you of the hill and into the med centre and will actually get you home to anywhere in the world though medivac is one of the few things travel insurance seems to cover.

It has to be noted that full price medical care in Europe is stunningly inexpensive with comparison to the US. I had major surgery and 5 days in hospital for less than $7,000
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@photuris, what do you think about the suggestions and information offered by SnowHeads so far?

A club worth joining and supporting, or not?
snowHead
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Club?

Like the tea club?
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@abc, PG tips in the American pack is disgusting and not a tea club I'll be joining Evil or Very Mad

Even that Lipton shoite tastes beter!
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
If I was looking for a taste of what the Alps can offer, on a reasonable budget, reasonably snowsure, charming and with extensive skiing and good value eating and drinking, I'd go for Saalbach-Hinterglemm. If you wanted the views to be more jaw-droppingly stunning but lose a bit of the party atmosphere, then the Dolomites deliver on the same basis.
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@photuris, ah, I see. You note that the Dolomiti pass is not all joined up so I think you’d want a car? Not the end of the world at all.

How snow sure is it? I’ve only been to Cortina, for a weekend, the wife and I had only recently met and wanted neutral territory to check out each others skiing... Twisted Evil it was very nice, but we haven’t been back in 19 years... which maybe says something.

Not sure Zermatt is that steep? I mean, it doesn’t have any sort of hairy reputation?
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photuris wrote:
For a random week in March I want to make sure we have well groomed intermediate pistes with plenty of snow to ski on.
Dolomiti Superski fits this bill perfectly.
I confess I only skim-read most of this thread so forgive me if I'm duplicating info or missing any criteria but, unless your primary intent is to ski off piste, I can't think of anywhere better than Dolomiti Superski.
- Their snowMaking is second to none so even if their natural snow isn't mega, their pistes are open and groomed and in great condition all season.
- The area is one of the most beautiful, anywhere.
- The people are warm and welcoming, hospitable in a way that the French can't even comprehend, let alone reproduce.
- The food is amazing, with the best of what Italy has to offer coupled with the best of Austria*
- There are cheaper areas in Italy but this is a world class mega-domain and in that context, on-hill food prices are really reasonable. Stops for coffee or inter-meal snacks become a regular delight while in France they tend to be a thing of terror to the purse-holder.
- My son, who has investigated this field in depth, insists that the cake is consistently better in Italy than anywhere else.

*Although technically in Italy, part of the area is in the Sud Tyrol where people tend to consider themselves "Tyrolean" rather than Italian or Austrian.

SnowHeads celebrate the birthday of snowHeads there each year. The Birthday Bash is a hugely popular trip but at the start of Feb so wouldn't suit your purposes, but we use a couple of hotels in Arabba that I can highly recommend.
The Hotel Portavescovo is right next to the lifts while The Garni Belavista, owned by the same family, is 5 minutes walk away. The Belavista, being that short walk, is a very affordable option with the bonus that its guests get to leave their skis and boots under the Portavescovo, making the walk to and fro a pleasure rather than a chore. All guests eat dinner in the Portavescovo where the food is plentiful to the degree that one has to be careful not to overeat and spoil tomorrow's lunch! This would clearly be of benefit to your boys.

Staying here, you would not need a hire car - the area covered by the connected lift system is wayyyyyy more than you could cover properly in a week and there's a cheap bus transfer service to Arabba from Venice Airport.
They really are very favourably disposed toward snowHeads as a group so if you do stay there, it's worth mentioning that you're a snowHead snowHead
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abc wrote:
Club?

Like the tea club?
Not very Wink
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I don’t think I can add or counter anything @admin has said. He knows his beans.
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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!
PeakyB wrote:
@photuris, what do you think about the suggestions and information offered by SnowHeads so far?

A club worth joining and supporting, or not?
snowHead


I think you're all amazing and I am grateful for all of the information! I have a tendency to get a little OCD about travel plans hence the painful lack of making a decision.

Is there a secret club handshake I need to know about.
latest report     
 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
@photuris, yes, but it’s secret...

I totally understand your OCDness ...
snow report     
 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
@photuris, shall we have a referendum for you? Laughing
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