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Comparing the Alps and North America-with a twist

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Recently I saw a post from someone who could have benefitted from something like this in terms of having their expectations in the right place for their first trip across the pond...no matter which direction. And right now I have plenty of time on my hands, so I hereby offer my observations from a life skiing in Western North America (hereafter, NA) and more recently, the Alps (CH, IT, AT & FR). This is macro-level stuff, not exhaustive. I've tried to be factual and keep my opinions separate.

I know this isn't the first comparison, but this one's different. The "twist" is that in each opinion section I've woven in some marginally germane rock lyrics, in italics. The first person to identify them will be famous. So here's hoping you've faith in impossible schemes!

Lift Systems:

In the Alps you will see every type of lift there is, including a cog-wheel train, a tram with heated seats, and a horse. But the Gondola is particularly ubiquitous. Kronplatz alone has 22, almost as many as NA's total. Lots of trams. You see a bubble chair or two at many areas, and a few have heated seats. Italy's lifts are a notch below the other three countries.

In NA the detachable chairlift is dominant and nothing else comes close. I can think of 7 trams, no funiculars, one funitel, one 3S. Not as many bubbles or heated seats on the chairs.

My take: I'm a lift infrastructure junkie, so I love the variety in the Alps. But I much prefer a high speed chair for many reasons. I'd rather not be packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes.

Lift Ticket Cost:

In the Alps you can get a lift ticket at a major resort for €50-60, and it can cover dozens, even hundreds of lifts. The price per day goes down slightly for multi-day tickets.

In NA the cost is 2X, sometimes closer to 3X what is charged in Europe. However, significant discounts are available if one does homework, is willing to purchase in advance, and has flexibility. Ikon and Epic passes can be a great value for those whose itinerary is in sync with the areas covered by those passes.

My take: the lower cost in Europe is hard to ignore. The savings can cover your airfare costs to get over there. I live in the US and have purchased Ikon passes. Last season I finished in the money; this year I'll lose (not due to the virus). Not getting one next season. I prefer to ski where I like, not where the corporate ski area conglomerates want me to. It's no surprise that they're giving none away.

Lift Line Etiquette and Chairlift Safety Bar Usage

I have never seen an employee managing a lift line in the Alps. But I have seen plenty of "every man for himself"-type behavior. On the chairlifts, safety bar usage is universal and sometimes automated.

In NA there is usually an employee managing the line if it is needed. It is definitely more chill. There are also singles lines which help fill the chairs in busy times. As for the safety bar, Canada is like Europe, but in the NW states it is seldom used except with kids. Even elsewhere in the US usage is far from universal.

My take: Some blame the management, some the employees, but regardless, wait your turn! And use the bar, but please warn me and other tall people in advance so you don't take our head off.

Snow and Snowmaking:

Anything is possible, but the Alps are not particularly renowned for their snow quality and depth. Some snowmaking is found even in relatively snow-sure areas. Areas whose snowfall is iffy have much more; Dolomiti Superski has 97% of its pistes (1,160 km!) covered. While man-made snow is not great snow, it can be essential in lean years, and it provides almost guaranteed coverage which is helpful especially to those who must plan their trip far in advance.

Anything is possible, but the BC interior and Utah are known for powder for good reason. The Rockies also get good quality snow which persists. Coastal areas are capable of dust but typically the snow is heavier, and rain is also definitely on the menu. So far, snowmaking isn't as necessary, with coverage limited to a few major runs at a few major areas so they can be operating during the financially critical Christmas break season. But more is coming.

My take: Whenever I'm asked what makes my dreams real, I tell 'em its a deep powder day. But real skiers ski in all conditions. Its a gift just to be in the mountains.

Slope Grooming and Marking

In the Alps, a "piste" ("run" or "trail" in NA) is always groomed by definition. The pistes are marked with poles and signage. Piste difficulty ratings are color-coded and vary a little bit by country so you need to look at a piste map and educate yourself.

In NA a run generally needs no marking beyond wayfinding signage, as the fact that they are mostly cut through forest makes the boundaries self-evident. Runs may or may not be groomed: all roads and easy runs are, as are most of the runs rated more difficult. Very few most difficult runs are groomed. One must be familiar with a given resort's typical grooming practices or else consult the daily grooming report. Run difficulty ratings are also color-coded and at first glance appear to be the same as in Europe, but that's not so. Again, look at the trail map for guidance.

My take: grooming should be reliable and predictable like in the Alps. I wish the industry could unite around a single color-coding system...which would be especially helpful if I'm wasted and I can't find my way home. They do agree that the slope ratings pertain to their own area only, not in comparison to others.

Treeline:

In the Alps, much, and often the majority of the skiing is above treeline. This provides massive amounts of off-piste skiing if the skier has the requisite ability, equipment and judgment. In bad visibility the lack of contrast can make this terrain unskiable. Where forests do exist, it isn't unusual for them to be off limits to skiing for wildlife habitat reasons.

In NA the majority of the skiing is below treeline, where the runs are delineated by the forest they were cut through. The added contrast provided by the trees, even when just on the sides of the run, is helpful in times of poor visibility. The forests prevent off-piste skiing when they are impenetrable, and provide wonderful skiing when the spacing and conditions are right. Nature provides such spacing in many areas, and some operators thin the forest selectively to create it. Where there is deep snow in the trees, there is immersion risk (falling into a tree well), and avalanches don't care if there is a forest in the way; they'll just relocate the forest to the valley. Wildlife closures are rare.

My take: Going off piste, whether in trees or above them, can be the pinnacle of our sport, but can also be risky. Safety gear, local knowledge, not skiing alone and so forth are things you should be thinking about so that you don't find yourself on the other side of no tomorrow.

Extent of Avalanche Control Efforts:

I'm covering an important safety issue very briefly and generally here. You need to look deeper to be on the safe side.

In the Alps, pistes are covered by such efforts and off-piste is not, even if in bounds. The amount of off-piste terrain can be massive, as would be the amount of effort required to control it.

In NA all in-bounds terrain is covered, and out of bounds is not. If you leave the controlled area, it is typically though a gate notifying you of this.

My take: this is a major safety difference. I think many first-time visitors to either continent do not know about this difference. Make no mistake: avalanches can occur anywhere, no matter what level of "control" has taken place. Some people don't do their homework. They don't know, they can't see. Are you one of them?

Skiing to the Bottom/Town, and to Other Ski Areas:

In the Alps sometimes the first lift you ride is mainly for accessing the ski area. At such places the few pistes leading back down can get crowded beyond their capacity. Downloading is common in such places, and the lifts chosen for those situations accommodate this. There are also lifts up in the ski area that exist to take you laterally, to another ski area or village. These provide the interconnectedness that is a hallmark of the Alps which is very appealing to many folks. Ski Arlberg and Dolomiti Superski are but two examples of this.

Most areas in NA have multiple, decent ways to ski to the bottom, so that's what you do. Downloading is an option only in the areas where gondolas or trams rise from the base, as downloading on chairlifts is done only in emergencies. NA has zero lift-interconnected ski "circuses", just a couple of next-door neighbors granting limited mutual access, like Alta/Snowbird.

My take: you do what makes sense where you are. At the places I usually ski in the Pacific Northwest, we often ski not just to the bottom, but to the car, which is convenient. But if there is carnage awaiting you on the last, tired run to town and there is an option to download (Val d'sere, Heavenly CA side) use your head, unless you think its alright, you don't mind a little pain. The interconnected ski areas of Europe are terrific, and they provide a distinctly different experience which I love.

The Land:

In the Alps, high elevation areas have rockier ground which takes a fair amount of snow to achieve coverage. At lower elevations the land is often pasture (and the cheese you eat may have been born there). Lower resorts often get less snow, but they don't need nearly as much snow for coverage. Land is usually privately owned, often with many stakeholders in what looks like one ski area.

I don't know about Canada, but in the US the land is nearly always federally owned and leased to the area operator. It is rocky, brushy and treed, and summer grooming and grading is sometimes required. No cows.

My take: In late spring I've skied on manure under the thin tan ribbons getting to the bottom of Kitzbühel and Kronplatz. Ooooh that smell! I thought it was kind of cool.

On-slope Dining:

In the Alps is is difficult to position yourself where you cannot see a restaurant worth eating at. It is impossible to exaggerate how many great options there are; 400 in Dolomiti Superski alone! Many are open in the summer for the hiking clientele. The quality and vibe is also amazing. If anything is missing, there is not an overabundance of fast, self-service options.

In NA there are far fewer options on the hill, and the majority is poor quality cafeteria food, though there are exceptions at the biggest resorts. Virtually none are open outside of ski season.

My take: Obviously the Alps have fabulous food, and remember: you know that what you eat, you are. The only similarity is cost. On both continents, I'd like a few more options for a quick break. Zürs put an old tram car on top of Seekopf, selling water and fancy breadsticks. Perfect!

Lodging:

Endless configurations exist, but family-owned hotels and catered chalets seem to dominate depending on locale. Half- and full-board situations are commonplace and of good quality. Most buildings are constructed in a manner suggesting they want them to last for generations. Walls are often concrete which helps control noise. Bathrooms seem to be an area of focus, with high-quality finishes. Furnishings are more modest and often built-in. True ski-in, ski-out lodging exists but isn't common. Hot tubs are rare, while saunas are not, and spa facilities are on the rise. Costs are below NA for similar situations.

Individually-owned condominiums in rental pools and large corporate-owned hotels dominate NA. All affordable options and some expensive ones are cheaply built of studs and drywall, and thus noisy. Furnishings in the condos are more variable and eclectic, reflecting the individual owner's taste, especially in the VRBO and Air BnB realm. Half- and full-board approaches are very rare. Ski-in, ski-out lodging is found at many resorts; this is a specialty of the BC interior. It is hard to find a property where you don't have access to a hot tub, and many individual units have their own. Lodging is more costly across the board. In Colorado and a few other places you will be at high elevation (8-12,000') which can be a two day headache for those who need time to adjust.

My take: find me a Euro-style half-board hotel that is ski-in, ski-out with my own hot tub on my deck, where I lock out all my worries and my fears.

Apres:

This varies dramatically from place to place. St. Anton is notorious, but just over the pass in Zürs there is literally none. Whistler rocks, while many of the BC interior resorts are tame, owing to their family orientation. In BC and some western states, cannabis is available for those so inclined. There is plenty of apres intel elsewhere on this site.

My take: my wild days are long gone, but if yours aren't, jump up, look around, find yourself some fun.

Terrain:

Just opinion on these last two. The best terrain I've seen in Europe so far is St. Anton, while over here its definitely Jackson Hole. Other places including 3 Valleys and Whistler are certainly in the conversation. These all have everything, particularly for the advanced skier, both in and outside the ski area boundaries. Their significant vertical provides long runs that many other areas cannot match. In selecting a destination, consider what the area offers if you don't get the weather and snow you're hoping for. For example, if you don't do well in fog, maybe Val Thorens is not for you, unless you want to let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic. Similarly, Alta/Snowbird and Revelstoke are places you want to be if there's pow, but if off-piste conditions are poor and you need to cruise, you're in the wrong place. Picking a destination that provides a Plan B that you can get to if necessary can pay big dividends.

Architecture:

There are pretty mountain villages everywhere, but the picturesque alpine village in my mind's eye is most often found in Switzerland. On the flip side, notable eyesores include Tignes (government housing projects), Snowbird (got a good deal on concrete) and Whistler (shopping mall with McMansions on top). But what matters most is the feeling you get when you're hypnotized by the skiing, and they all have the goods.

Hope this was helpful. See you on the hill, after this virus stuff is behind us. All things must pass.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Quote:

It's no surprise that they're giving none away.


Pink Floyd - Money
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Quote:

I lock out all my worries and my fears.


Beach Boys??
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@mozwold, 2 for 2.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Jump around - House of pain Very Happy
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All things must pass - George Harrison. Everything else is googleable.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Good write up. How about a section on Ski School:

Europe: Price typically 200 to 300 Euros per week. There is competition amongst ski schools. A resort will typically have a local branch of the national school (ESF/Swiss School etc.), at least one school specializing in English speaking instructors/classes often operated by British expats and finally at least one (sometimes many) outfit that specializes in off-piste and guiding. The national schools have standardized levels that translate across resorts, making it easier to place your child from trip-to-trip. Children are typically signed up for the entire week (Sun/Mon-Friday), with the same instructor and classmates the entire week. This adds a social aspect to the experience. Sometimes there's a kids party during the week(kinderdisco). There is a race at the end of the week. This year in Wengen, my six year old's race was electronically timed. One of the children that finished off the podium cried. Medals are given for 1st, 2nd, 3rd the rest get a participation medal. Classes tend to last about 3 hours and end between 12:30 & 1. Requiring parents to arrange and pay for addition afternoon childcare. Tips are appreciated. Comparatively more group & especially adult group lessons.

N/A: Ski school is typically way more expensive and booked by the day. 200 to 300 dollars per day in the US, 100-200 in Canada. The lift operator typically owns the ski school and doesn't allow independent instructors/schools to operate at the resort. Classes are typically longer and include lunch (beginning around age 5) allowing parents to enjoy a near full day of skiing without having to arrange separate aftercare. Because of the high cost of instruction it is unusual for children to be booked into ski school for an entire week. It's typical to have a different instructor and classmates everyday if you book a multi-day lesson. Comparative lack of group lessons. Adults tend to book privates if they take lessons at all. Tips are expected. Class sizes are probably slightly smaller on average. The cost of instruction/childcare can be a budget breaker for families with young children or older children that are new to skiing.
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@Scooter in Seattle, great post!
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@Scooter in Seattle, brilliantly written post. Rings true with my experience of skiing mostly in Alps and a few times in USA.

Wish I’d had this to read before my first ski trip to USA in 1992.

If you were to delve deeper, would be interesting to read your views comparing and contrasting the differences you perceive between countries/regions in Europe. Likewise different states/provinces in USA and Canada, eg East v Central v West USA.
snowHead
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Scooter in Seattle wrote:
Recently I saw a post from someone who could have benefitted from something like this in terms of having their expectations in the right place for their first trip across the pond...no matter which direction. And right now I have plenty of time on my hands, so I hereby offer my observations from a life skiing in Western North America (hereafter, NA) and more recently, the Alps (CH, IT, AT & FR). This is macro-level stuff, not exhaustive. I've tried to be factual and keep my opinions separate.

I know this isn't the first comparison, but this one's different. The "twist" is that in each opinion section I've woven in some marginally germane rock lyrics, in italics. The first person to identify them will be famous. So here's hoping you've faith in impossible schemes!

What a wonderful post.

Your are clearly privileged to have skied many of thebgrear resorts on both sides of the pond.

I agree with everything you've said. Ultimately, what makes for a great day's skiing is the company you.ski with and the weather/conditions on the day. Both can be great on both sides of the Atlantic.




Lift Systems:

In the Alps you will see every type of lift there is, including a cog-wheel train, a tram with heated seats, and a horse. But the Gondola is particularly ubiquitous. Kronplatz alone has 22, almost as many as NA's total. Lots of trams. You see a bubble chair or two at many areas, and a few have heated seats. Italy's lifts are a notch below the other three countries.

In NA the detachable chairlift is dominant and nothing else comes close. I can think of 7 trams, no funiculars, one funitel, one 3S. Not as many bubbles or heated seats on the chairs.

My take: I'm a lift infrastructure junkie, so I love the variety in the Alps. But I much prefer a high speed chair for many reasons. I'd rather not be packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes.

Lift Ticket Cost:

In the Alps you can get a lift ticket at a major resort for €50-60, and it can cover dozens, even hundreds of lifts. The price per day goes down slightly for multi-day tickets.

In NA the cost is 2X, sometimes closer to 3X what is charged in Europe. However, significant discounts are available if one does homework, is willing to purchase in advance, and has flexibility. Ikon and Epic passes can be a great value for those whose itinerary is in sync with the areas covered by those passes.

My take: the lower cost in Europe is hard to ignore. The savings can cover your airfare costs to get over there. I live in the US and have purchased Ikon passes. Last season I finished in the money; this year I'll lose (not due to the virus). Not getting one next season. I prefer to ski where I like, not where the corporate ski area conglomerates want me to. It's no surprise that they're giving none away.

Lift Line Etiquette and Chairlift Safety Bar Usage

I have never seen an employee managing a lift line in the Alps. But I have seen plenty of "every man for himself"-type behavior. On the chairlifts, safety bar usage is universal and sometimes automated.

In NA there is usually an employee managing the line if it is needed. It is definitely more chill. There are also singles lines which help fill the chairs in busy times. As for the safety bar, Canada is like Europe, but in the NW states it is seldom used except with kids. Even elsewhere in the US usage is far from universal.

My take: Some blame the management, some the employees, but regardless, wait your turn! And use the bar, but please warn me and other tall people in advance so you don't take our head off.

Snow and Snowmaking:

Anything is possible, but the Alps are not particularly renowned for their snow quality and depth. Some snowmaking is found even in relatively snow-sure areas. Areas whose snowfall is iffy have much more; Dolomiti Superski has 97% of its pistes (1,160 km!) covered. While man-made snow is not great snow, it can be essential in lean years, and it provides almost guaranteed coverage which is helpful especially to those who must plan their trip far in advance.

Anything is possible, but the BC interior and Utah are known for powder for good reason. The Rockies also get good quality snow which persists. Coastal areas are capable of dust but typically the snow is heavier, and rain is also definitely on the menu. So far, snowmaking isn't as necessary, with coverage limited to a few major runs at a few major areas so they can be operating during the financially critical Christmas break season. But more is coming.

My take: Whenever I'm asked what makes my dreams real, I tell 'em its a deep powder day. But real skiers ski in all conditions. Its a gift just to be in the mountains.

Slope Grooming and Marking

In the Alps, a "piste" ("run" or "trail" in NA) is always groomed by definition. The pistes are marked with poles and signage. Piste difficulty ratings are color-coded and vary a little bit by country so you need to look at a piste map and educate yourself.

In NA a run generally needs no marking beyond wayfinding signage, as the fact that they are mostly cut through forest makes the boundaries self-evident. Runs may or may not be groomed: all roads and easy runs are, as are most of the runs rated more difficult. Very few most difficult runs are groomed. One must be familiar with a given resort's typical grooming practices or else consult the daily grooming report. Run difficulty ratings are also color-coded and at first glance appear to be the same as in Europe, but that's not so. Again, look at the trail map for guidance.

My take: grooming should be reliable and predictable like in the Alps. I wish the industry could unite around a single color-coding system...which would be especially helpful if I'm wasted and I can't find my way home. They do agree that the slope ratings pertain to their own area only, not in comparison to others.

Treeline:

In the Alps, much, and often the majority of the skiing is above treeline. This provides massive amounts of off-piste skiing if the skier has the requisite ability, equipment and judgment. In bad visibility the lack of contrast can make this terrain unskiable. Where forests do exist, it isn't unusual for them to be off limits to skiing for wildlife habitat reasons.

In NA the majority of the skiing is below treeline, where the runs are delineated by the forest they were cut through. The added contrast provided by the trees, even when just on the sides of the run, is helpful in times of poor visibility. The forests prevent off-piste skiing when they are impenetrable, and provide wonderful skiing when the spacing and conditions are right. Nature provides such spacing in many areas, and some operators thin the forest selectively to create it. Where there is deep snow in the trees, there is immersion risk (falling into a tree well), and avalanches don't care if there is a forest in the way; they'll just relocate the forest to the valley. Wildlife closures are rare.

My take: Going off piste, whether in trees or above them, can be the pinnacle of our sport, but can also be risky. Safety gear, local knowledge, not skiing alone and so forth are things you should be thinking about so that you don't find yourself on the other side of no tomorrow.

Extent of Avalanche Control Efforts:

I'm covering an important safety issue very briefly and generally here. You need to look deeper to be on the safe side.

In the Alps, pistes are covered by such efforts and off-piste is not, even if in bounds. The amount of off-piste terrain can be massive, as would be the amount of effort required to control it.

In NA all in-bounds terrain is covered, and out of bounds is not. If you leave the controlled area, it is typically though a gate notifying you of this.

My take: this is a major safety difference. I think many first-time visitors to either continent do not know about this difference. Make no mistake: avalanches can occur anywhere, no matter what level of "control" has taken place. Some people don't do their homework. They don't know, they can't see. Are you one of them?

Skiing to the Bottom/Town, and to Other Ski Areas:

In the Alps sometimes the first lift you ride is mainly for accessing the ski area. At such places the few pistes leading back down can get crowded beyond their capacity. Downloading is common in such places, and the lifts chosen for those situations accommodate this. There are also lifts up in the ski area that exist to take you laterally, to another ski area or village. These provide the interconnectedness that is a hallmark of the Alps which is very appealing to many folks. Ski Arlberg and Dolomiti Superski are but two examples of this.

Most areas in NA have multiple, decent ways to ski to the bottom, so that's what you do. Downloading is an option only in the areas where gondolas or trams rise from the base, as downloading on chairlifts is done only in emergencies. NA has zero lift-interconnected ski "circuses", just a couple of next-door neighbors granting limited mutual access, like Alta/Snowbird.

My take: you do what makes sense where you are. At the places I usually ski in the Pacific Northwest, we often ski not just to the bottom, but to the car, which is convenient. But if there is carnage awaiting you on the last, tired run to town and there is an option to download (Val d'sere, Heavenly CA side) use your head, unless you think its alright, you don't mind a little pain. The interconnected ski areas of Europe are terrific, and they provide a distinctly different experience which I love.

The Land:

In the Alps, high elevation areas have rockier ground which takes a fair amount of snow to achieve coverage. At lower elevations the land is often pasture (and the cheese you eat may have been born there). Lower resorts often get less snow, but they don't need nearly as much snow for coverage. Land is usually privately owned, often with many stakeholders in what looks like one ski area.

I don't know about Canada, but in the US the land is nearly always federally owned and leased to the area operator. It is rocky, brushy and treed, and summer grooming and grading is sometimes required. No cows.

My take: In late spring I've skied on manure under the thin tan ribbons getting to the bottom of Kitzbühel and Kronplatz. Ooooh that smell! I thought it was kind of cool.

On-slope Dining:

In the Alps is is difficult to position yourself where you cannot see a restaurant worth eating at. It is impossible to exaggerate how many great options there are; 400 in Dolomiti Superski alone! Many are open in the summer for the hiking clientele. The quality and vibe is also amazing. If anything is missing, there is not an overabundance of fast, self-service options.

In NA there are far fewer options on the hill, and the majority is poor quality cafeteria food, though there are exceptions at the biggest resorts. Virtually none are open outside of ski season.

My take: Obviously the Alps have fabulous food, and remember: you know that what you eat, you are. The only similarity is cost. On both continents, I'd like a few more options for a quick break. Zürs put an old tram car on top of Seekopf, selling water and fancy breadsticks. Perfect!

Lodging:

Endless configurations exist, but family-owned hotels and catered chalets seem to dominate depending on locale. Half- and full-board situations are commonplace and of good quality. Most buildings are constructed in a manner suggesting they want them to last for generations. Walls are often concrete which helps control noise. Bathrooms seem to be an area of focus, with high-quality finishes. Furnishings are more modest and often built-in. True ski-in, ski-out lodging exists but isn't common. Hot tubs are rare, while saunas are not, and spa facilities are on the rise. Costs are below NA for similar situations.

Individually-owned condominiums in rental pools and large corporate-owned hotels dominate NA. All affordable options and some expensive ones are cheaply built of studs and drywall, and thus noisy. Furnishings in the condos are more variable and eclectic, reflecting the individual owner's taste, especially in the VRBO and Air BnB realm. Half- and full-board approaches are very rare. Ski-in, ski-out lodging is found at many resorts; this is a specialty of the BC interior. It is hard to find a property where you don't have access to a hot tub, and many individual units have their own. Lodging is more costly across the board. In Colorado and a few other places you will be at high elevation (8-12,000') which can be a two day headache for those who need time to adjust.

My take: find me a Euro-style half-board hotel that is ski-in, ski-out with my own hot tub on my deck, where I lock out all my worries and my fears.

Apres:

This varies dramatically from place to place. St. Anton is notorious, but just over the pass in Zürs there is literally none. Whistler rocks, while many of the BC interior resorts are tame, owing to their family orientation. In BC and some western states, cannabis is available for those so inclined. There is plenty of apres intel elsewhere on this site.

My take: my wild days are long gone, but if yours aren't, jump up, look around, find yourself some fun.

Terrain:

Just opinion on these last two. The best terrain I've seen in Europe so far is St. Anton, while over here its definitely Jackson Hole. Other places including 3 Valleys and Whistler are certainly in the conversation. These all have everything, particularly for the advanced skier, both in and outside the ski area boundaries. Their significant vertical provides long runs that many other areas cannot match. In selecting a destination, consider what the area offers if you don't get the weather and snow you're hoping for. For example, if you don't do well in fog, maybe Val Thorens is not for you, unless you want to let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic. Similarly, Alta/Snowbird and Revelstoke are places you want to be if there's pow, but if off-piste conditions are poor and you need to cruise, you're in the wrong place. Picking a destination that provides a Plan B that you can get to if necessary can pay big dividends.

Architecture:

There are pretty mountain villages everywhere, but the picturesque alpine village in my mind's eye is most often found in Switzerland. On the flip side, notable eyesores include Tignes (government housing projects), Snowbird (got a good deal on concrete) and Whistler (shopping mall with McMansions on top). But what matters most is the feeling you get when you're hypnotized by the skiing, and they all have the goods.

Hope this was helpful. See you on the hill, after this virus stuff is behind us. All things must pass.
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Please let's not keep quoting the whole of this post!!!
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A good read Smile

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like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
- The Police?

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Ooooh that smell!
- Lynyrd Skynyrd
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Good write up.

I think I'd add a possible point of "it depends" on acommodation. US appartments/ rooms can be way bigger than pokey little Euro ones and there can be pretty nice condo complexes set up with a shuttle bus to take you straight to the slopes.

Plus there is another side of N American skiing that doesn't really happen in Europe - the road trip. Can be surprisingly easy and relatively cheap to drive between multiple resorts staying in motels in nearby towns. And having the car means you can see/do other stuff from the giant dump truck at Sparwood BC to hot springs to Arches NP.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Dave of the Marmottes,
+1
We’ve also found combining weekday skiing with weekend ‘different stuff’ good in USA.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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Scooter in Seattle, Nice informative post - highlighting reasons why we make our trips across the pond.

Dave of the Marmottes, Agreed, have been loving our road trips over the years - have seen that monster en route to Castle.

Different folks want different experiences, so its not going to appeal to all.
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I’m an American, and I think the OP’s summary is excellent. I would add two additional big differences.

First, American ski resorts are more customer-service oriented than European ones. In general this means that the “customer is always right,” an attitude than spans everything from the ski hire shops to the lift operators to the restaurants and hotels. In Europe, I find that moderately-priced places are relatively indifferent to customers. Sometimes this can be refreshingly honest, and sometimes it is just frustrating. At the high end, I’ve never seen a European ski resort that provides the insane levels of service that you get at places like Vail and Deer Valley (but I haven’t skied Zermatt or St Moritz).

Second, I’ve found that American ski resorts are more social. People ALWAYS talk to you on the chairlifts and in bars, and depending on your personality this can be really friendly or really invasive. If you’re in a small group or on your own, it’s pretty easy to meet a bigger group. I find that doesn’t happen much in Europe, but this may be simply because I myself am American.

And last, I feel like I see more social and racial diversity in American resorts (although certainly
more cultural diversity in European ones). America still has ski bums who live in their cars, families who drive to the resort and pack their own lunches, workers who grew up skiing between the trees near their homes. When I ski in Europe I just see more money being spent, it seems hard to ski on the cheap and it’s not a sleep-in-your-car culture. That’s probably the only aspect of American skiing that I actually miss!

(The OP’s notes about American cafeteria-style restaurants that cost a fortune and the generally corporate, business mentality of the place makes me glad I now ski in the Alps!)
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Quote:

When I ski in Europe I just see more money being spent, it seems hard to ski on the cheap


My one and only trip to the US was February just gone to Heavenly, Lake Tahoe. Beer at East Peak Lodge - $13.90, beer at the Tamarack Lodge - $14.70!!

Year before, Schladming during Night Race week, beer 4 Euro everywhere.

Granted that is only one metric, but food in the local restaurants was hideously expensive as well (Schladming _ Tiroler gröstl ~ 12Euro, gulasch soup ~ 6Euro)
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@mozwold, our only trip to Tahoe to ski mainly Heavenly and Squaw was very different cost wise. Few years ago now but perfectly adequate motel room about $40 per night.

Sunny, so did packed lunches.
Great quality dinners and service in the casino hotel restaurants about half the price of the Alps. Just don’t get sucked into the casino!

The cost of lift passes is, as the OP highlights, harder to swallow.

It was mid December so maybe low season but snow and weather both excellent.
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@Scooter in Seattle, An intersting read. Just one question: are trams what we call in Europe funiculars, that is go up the mountain on tracks?

Oddly when skiing in NA I've always stayed in hotels whereas in Europe it is almost always apartments. OK I have only stayed in a couple NA resorts (Whistler, Banff and Santa Fe which perhaps I shouldn't mention as it's hardly typical), but we have always downloaded at the end of the day and from the base needed to get a bus back home. In Europe, we rarely download and most places I go to never need a skibus back either.

Another big difference between NA and Europe that @goweje, mentioned is tips. In Europe in a resaurant you get your bill, pay it and leave. You don't get waiters demanding that you pay them extra before they will let you leave.
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Quote:

are trams what we call in Europe funiculars,

US trams are cable cars
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What a strange name for things that hum on wires, not tracks!
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
What’s a condominium?
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@Scooter in Seattle, great summary - one correction there are pistes in France that are signed and secured, opened and closed by the pisteurs but they are never groomed/pisted so you get the full range of conditions - in Tignes they are all black and are termed Naturides.

@diaphon, There are a few mobile home parks around in France. As for the villagers, it depends whether it was a purpose built resort or there was a village there in the first place. In Tignes, I am still go to a restaurant run by a guy who just remember the old village before it disappears under the Dam. Many of the hotels are run by the old villagers and their descendants but the families are now selling out to big developers as the kids don't want the hard work.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Plus there is another side of N American skiing that doesn't really happen in Europe - the road trip. Can be surprisingly easy and relatively cheap to drive between multiple resorts staying in motels in nearby towns. And having the car means you can see/do other stuff from the giant dump truck at Sparwood BC to hot springs to Arches NP.

It isn't really harder to do this in Europe. I have been to lots of places, mostly in France, for races and stayed slightly outside a resort.
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@Scooter in Seattle, interesting summary and I agree with almost all of the general points for Europe. Should definitely be useful for Americans visiting Europe and vice versa.

I do however think your comparisons are more accurate for Italy and Austria rather than France, particularly regarding piste grooming, lift systems, snowmaking, skiing to the bottom of the ski area, and lodging.
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Yes, I'd say that the majority of skiers in French resorts stay in apartments rather than half board hotels or catered chalets (and, of course, there are very few "catered chalets", British style, in Austria or Italy.
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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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Whoa, my computer's blown up! Let's see....

@goweje, I have no experience with the instruction piece, but I liked your summary.

@PeakyB, since I have nothing much to do right now perhaps I'll take you up on your suggestion.

@halfhand, yep to both

@Dave of the Marmottes, agree with your comment on lodging. And I love/prefer road trips, but they aren't limited to NA. This year I was gonna do Kitzbühel, Dolomiti, Serfaus and Arlberg until you-know-what crushed all of our plans. Rental cars are WAY cheaper in Munich than NA, not sure about other EU portals.

@diaphon, agree particularly on racial diversity. The fingers on one hand were more than I needed to count the people of color I saw in two weeks in Austria. Ironically, I was taught to ski in 1969 by an African-American man, who in those days did not see anyone else who looked like him. I'm actually trying to track him down, he was a great guy.

@johnE, a tram has two cars, moving in unison and back-and-forth in opposite directions. Doppelmayr calls them "reversible ropeways". Funiculars are kin, just on the ground. (3S are what I'd call giant gondolas...they look like tram cars but there are more than two and they go round and round). And you're right about the whole tipping thing. But it isn't going away: Seattle is a big restaurant town, and some of the owners tried to impose a flat charge in lieu of tips, but it didn't hold. Just pay people properly!

@Gordyjh, a condominium is a multi-unit building, often many such buildings, where each unit is individually owned. Speaking generally here, you own the paint on the walls and everything inside of that. An owner's association takes care of the rest. You pay monthly dues to cover common area expenses like snow removal, landscaping, and reserves for replacement of roofs, paint etc.

@chocksaway, thanks, aware of those but didn't want to get too far into the weeds.

Time to get on the bike, they'll still let us do that, for now. Cheers.
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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
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
Scooter in Seattle wrote:

@johnE, a tram has two cars, moving in unison and back-and-forth in opposite directions. Doppelmayr calls them "reversible ropeways". Funiculars are kin, just on the ground. (3S are what I'd call giant gondolas...they look like tram cars but there are more than two and they go round and round).

Only in the American language, in British English a tram is this.
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You know it makes sense.
@rjs, fair point, we also call 'em cattle cars.
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mozwold wrote:
Quote:

When I ski in Europe I just see more money being spent, it seems hard to ski on the cheap


My one and only trip to the US was February just gone to Heavenly, Lake Tahoe. Beer at East Peak Lodge - $13.90, beer at the Tamarack Lodge - $14.70!!

Year before, Schladming during Night Race week, beer 4 Euro everywhere.

Granted that is only one metric, but food in the local restaurants was hideously expensive as well (Schladming _ Tiroler gröstl ~ 12Euro, gulasch soup ~ 6Euro)


I just did a road trip taking in Aspen, Alta, Snowbird, Jackson Hole and Big Sky and the average price for a pint of generally wonderful IPA was 6USD.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@Scooter in Seattle,
Great write up.
As an Aussie I have no bias at all and my take between the two is that are just........different.
North America certainly doesn’t offer the on mountain dining experience that Europe does.
I must admit that the North American ‘system’ suits my needs better. I took a road trip through Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana last month and I was lucky enough to get 4 powder days of at least 8 inches. Some of those days I was skiing fresh snow after 3pm (Campground area of Snowmass). Europe typically can’t offer the same chance of powder and the ability for a dumb punter like me to safely and easily ski it.
I guess if you’re a piste only skier then there is little reason to ski North America. The Alps wins hands down in that case.
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@rjs, I would suggest there’s no such thing as “British English”, it’s English - other dialects are widely used!
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@diaphon, Interesting, I feel the opposite regarding the social part of diversity. I think skiing has become almost exclusively a rich person's sport in NA, but can still be done less expensively in the Alps. Airfare aside, I spend far less on European ski trips than NA. Maybe influenced by the fact that almost all of my NA skiing is done at places that tend to be expensive, such as Vail, Aspen and Park City.
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A good summary OP

I would love to visit NA - not least to progress from all-piste skiing to getting some initial off piste skills in a safer environment.

re- service levels - I'm always intrigued as to why the NA perception of service is always translated into the "customer is always right" statement. I want service to be expertise and a job done well, not saccharine subservience.

e.g.if a ski hire shop disagrees with my choice of ski's for the level I've described to them and recommends different skis then I'd see that as value add, but that fails on the customer's always right metric.
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Quote:

unless you think its alright, you don't mind a little pain. The interconnec


Crosstown Traffic - Hendrix
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rjs wrote:

It isn't really harder to do this in Europe. I have been to lots of places, mostly in France, for races and stayed slightly outside a resort.


Yep I didn't say you can't really do it, indeed it iss often a necessity if you want a non standard stay like a long weekend in a busy part of the season. Just that people don't generally do it. To be fair Merkins and Canucks don't generally do it either on their home turf - they are much more geared up to being weekend warriors with occasional longer "destination skiing" trips.
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A very good overview. Would agree with @diaphon additions regarding more sociable lifts and better customer service too. For example most resorts in n america offer free mountain tours where a local shows you around.

Regarding dining one of the things I really like about North America is most places have some kind of lodge where you can use a microwave, get boiling water, serviettes, cutlery, condiments etc. perfect for those of us wanting to take our own lunch and not pay crazy prices.

I know you kind of cover it between the slope marking section and avalanche control section, but I think it should be emphasised more. In north America the variety of runs is outstanding. Chutes, trees, bowls, bumps etc. there is really everything and I'm talking named runs, not some hidden off-piste area. For example Ozone at kicking horse (https://snowbrains.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/best-190206-7042-min.jpg) is used as a freeride world tour face and open to the public and Avi controlled the rest of the year.

Of course this isn't to say there's not incredible terrain in Europe too, but the fact everything inbounds in north America is Avi controlled really opens a lot of options for those that don't have the equipment and knowledge to go off-piste in Europe.
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boarder2020 wrote:


I know you kind of cover it between the slope marking section and avalanche control section, but I think it should be emphasised more. In north America the variety of runs is outstanding. Chutes, trees, bowls, bumps etc. there is really everything and I'm talking named runs, not some hidden off-piste area. For example Ozone at kicking horse (https://snowbrains.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/best-190206-7042-min.jpg) is used as a freeride world tour face and open to the public and Avi controlled the rest of the year.
.


Good call - was just thinking that a Euro piste map ticker who prided themsleves on doing every "black" piste on the map could be in for a very "interesting" time somewhere like Kicking Horse or JH or Aspen Highlands if they could even find all the designated lines.
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@cheltom, correct. (We're proud of Jimi, who was a Seattle boy).

@boarder2020 & @Dave of the Marmottes, concur. Lots of blacks over here are steep bump runs that would kill somebody who was expecting a groomer. That's why I prefer the Euro way...a black piste is groomed, a black ski route, naturide etc. is not, and this is understood (by those who ski in the Alps).

@MHskier, while I understand this "customer is always right" thing, and I agree with you, I do find plenty of places over here where they'll respectfully set you straight rather than stroke you. I've got no use for "yes men" to use an old term.
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Quote:

Lots of blacks over here are steep bump runs that would kill somebody who was expecting a groomer.


I was more referring to the difficulty and variability of blacks in north america, which can include steeps, trees, cliffs, tight chutes. Not really comparable to European blacks at all. But the problem you mentioned is avoidable by checking out the grooming report. I actually oike the fact that not everything is regularly groomed, always a bit of excitement when you see the grooming report and see something rarely groomed got done last night.
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