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European newbie! Advice needed for easy, leisure terrain.

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hello! I am seeking a resort that has a large coverage of wide green/blue. My skiing experience is strictly in the States, primarily in New Mexico, where from any lift a green can be chosen. Ski ability is beginner-intermediate and prefer leisurely strolls down the mountain. Skiing will be my teenage daughter and myself. She is a bit more adventurous but not by much.
I have been studying piste maps, however it looks like for a lot of resorts, while green/blue may be mixed in, you may also have to pass a red or black. Am I looking at these correctly? I have found 2 options that seem to be the exception: Saalbach and Alpe d'huez.
Any advice on these two or any other options. Prefer Austria or France but open.
One other thing, my husband does not ski so if at all possible a nice town center. If not, skiing takes priority as this may be once in a lifetime as we will move back to the US next year. Thank you so much for any help!!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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Les Gets would be a good bet for I think. Nice town and you can get up the mountain to restaurants for your husband. There are blues I think down any major route and you would not hit a red unless you wanted to. My favourite resort and not far from Geneva for a short transfer.
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@lexib, 3 Vallees, Meribel based - not a particularly nice town but plenty of greens and blues, also La Plagne (same comment applies)
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Quote:

One other thing, my husband does not ski

So, what will be want to be able to do?
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@lexib, welcome to snowHeads! snowHead

Apart from the French resorts already mentioned then look at the Alta Badia region of the Italian Dolomites, specifically San Cassiano, Corvara or Colfosco. Lots of blue runs in the Alta Badia region, plus the Dolomites have amazing scenery and excellent good value mountain restaurants. Smile If you intend flying to Italy then for the Alta Badia region the most convenient airports are Venice Marco Polo or Venice Treviso (a bit further inland than Venice Marco Polo so about half an hour closer to Alta Badia). Both airports have coach transfer services to Alta Badia, alternatively you didn't say where you were based but if you don't want to arrange things yourself then several UK based Tour operators do inclusive package trips to Alta Badia.
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Thanks for the suggestions!

@pam w, He's not too picky. He'll read a lot, and if there is a nice town, he'll probably just walk around and have lunch or find a nice coffee shop.
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Well, almost anywhere will satisfy those modest needs. What sort of travel and accommodation arrangements are you thinking about? Personally I'd not bother with anywhere like Meribel, which is far from a nice town, and is in a vast ski area you simply won't need. And expensive. Austria, France and Italy are full of small resorts which will fit the bill. But Covid will complicate everything!
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
One problem with places like Meribel is that even on easy runs you can encounter a lot of wannabe boy racers who can't ski as well as they think they can. Timing is critical. If France, avoid the French school holidays!
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@lexib, May I suggest you buya copy of "Where to Ski and Snowboard" , the old copies are better than the recent ones and do a good job in describing the resorts, the skiing etc. Amazon are selling 2015 ones for less than £6. Even though I have skied in lots of resorts I still enjoy browsing through it.
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@lexib, Obergurgl, high, cruisy but little town centre .......i'm not a fan of large sprawly French resorts but onto the two I mentioned Meribel and La Plagne, also add Risoul/ Vars and PdS (I'd stay in Morzine if you want a town feel), these others would also work - no town vibe but if your OH is reading he could be anywhere I guess. If you want a town then I suggest Davos (but its a wallet buster). Also Kitzbuhel (stay in Kirchberg if you want cheaper) and glacier access here are Pass Thurn/ Jochberg, or Cervinia (Italy).

As above avoid France peak seasons.
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Also depends on your weeks. If quieter (not half term) then places like Morzine/Les Gets are the good options ti cover your needs. If busier weeks in February, then smaller resorts would be better as besides blue/green, crowds could significantly impact on your experience.
Althiugh I like Meribel and the whole area, would not choose it tbh. Saint Martin de Belleville in 3V would be a better call (again part of the bigger area so depends on a week when you are planning to go. Still relatively quiet even for a big area)
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Thanks again all! Really appreciate the input!

@pam w, we will be coming from Belgium and considering covid, will more than likely drive so if we have to cancel it will only be accomodation. We are looking around Dec. 17-22 to be a bit more budget friendly than Christmas or half term but are limited to school holidays.
Accomodation wise, probably a modest apartment or hotel.
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lexib wrote:
Hello! I am seeking a resort that has a large coverage of wide green/blue. My skiing experience is strictly in the States, primarily in New Mexico, where from any lift a green can be chosen. Ski ability is beginner-intermediate and prefer leisurely strolls down the mountain. Skiing will be my teenage daughter and myself. She is a bit more adventurous but not by much.
I have been studying piste maps, however it looks like for a lot of resorts, while green/blue may be mixed in, you may also have to pass a red or black. Am I looking at these correctly? I have found 2 options that seem to be the exception: Saalbach and Alpe d'huez.
Any advice on these two or any other options. Prefer Austria or France but open.
One other thing, my husband does not ski so if at all possible a nice town center. If not, skiing takes priority as this may be once in a lifetime as we will move back to the US next year. Thank you so much for any help!!


I believe that you are on the right track there, and for a Italian flavor, i could throw in the Dolomites too. The good thing about Alpe D'Huez for beginners is, that the easier slopes are the ones closest to the village, and the further you move away, the harder they get.

Wagrain in Austria could also be a possibility:-)

Edit: Just saw the dates - I would probably aim high up in december!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:

We are looking around Dec. 17-22

Is this the departure date or are you thinking of going on the 17th and returning on the 22? This is very early in the season - the first week of opening in many, if not most resorts and by and large they will not be fully open. If you could wait until the Easter School holidays you will get better snow and IMHO a much better experience.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
skiing before xmas?

good luck with that. Europe will be closing down again in the coming weeks until 2021
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@johnE, great, I'll look at those dates as well. We're open, other than must be a school break. Maybe when resorts state their opening date, it's only partially:)
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Val d'Isere. If it will be accessible due to Covid 19.
It's perfect for the end of December. Not cheap but you have a gondola taking you up to Bellevarde, a bowl full of greens and easy blues.
Alta Badia as well, but who knows if Italy/France will be skiable in 2 months time
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
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@lexib, if you are looking at pre Christmas this year then not really sure it is going to happen, unless the situation improves dramatically in Belgium (some pretty bad reports from there at the moment ) folk who have been there are unlikely to be welcomed in many if any resorts.

That aside I am always a bit dubious when folk ask about where the best blue runs are. Snow conditions are far more important to how hard any particular run is than what "colour" they are. A black run with good snow can be easier to ski than an icy green path. This is especially true early season when there is unlikely to be any sort of decent base and icy conditions are more common. You also need to take into account your other half, there is little for non skiers to do in the high altitude French resorts which is not a good recipe for a relaxing holiday. Two suggestions, Dolomites - these resorts have the best networks of snow making around so you are pretty much guaranteed piste skiing (though artificial snow is not always so easy for beginners) and many of the villages are perfect spots for an amble around to visit a cake shop or whatever, some of the Swiss resorts would also be perfect, though cost is an issue, Davos has been mentioned but maybe also Murren / Wengen / Grindelwald (even if not much skiing the scenery is fabulous).

Austria is a bit of a risk pre Christmas, some years there are great conditions, some years no snow. Maybe look at the Ski Amade area, Flachau for example, there are easy day trips to Salzburg (though no Christmas markets etc this year). Kitzbühel is perhaps not ideal from a snow perspective, though good for non skiing. The higher snow sure places such as Obergurgl, Ischgl really are not good for a non skier.

I would say that it is best not to set your heart on this trip this year, fingers crossed it will be possible but all governments are getting very nervous about how "possible" it will be to have anything like a normal Christmas this year Sad
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European red is pretty much equal to a blue in the US. Green us = blue eu, blue us = red eu, black diamond = black , and double black is not really officially marked in eu (or marked as offroad terrain etc). If you see green in Europe - it means almost flat terrain for kids to learn Smile So don't be afraid of the reds!

Furthermore, as resorts need to "have" reds and blacks for marketing purposes, some resorts will mark as red slopes, which in other european resorts will be considered blue...
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@munich_irish, as I always say...not Flachau for a beginner. only 1 blue through the trees and the rest are reds and very busy. The runs don't really equate to US green/blue runs. I would expect the OP to be horrified at how busy Flachau is in school holidays
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second @munich_irish about the high elevation locations - while glaciers usually have easy blue runs, weather and snow conditions are difficult most of the time (and can change in a minute), visibility is worse... I was very uneasy on those places before I became a more confident skier.
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Thanks all! You given me a lot to consider and research.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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@lexib, Bourg St Maurice. Easy access with a car to Tignes/Val D'Isere, St Foye, La Rosiere/La Thuile, Les Arcs/La Plagne & The 3 Valleys. Between them you should find the best of the early season snow. It is also a town for your hubby to explore.
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Quote:

You also need to take into account your other half, there is little for non skiers to do in the high altitude French resorts which is not a good recipe for a relaxing holiday.

I beg to differ. Let's take two resorts for comparison: Tignes and say Le Grand Bornand. For the non skier in Tignes you have: ice climbing, snow shoe walking, Skidos, scuba diving under the lake, indoor climbing wall, swimming pool, sports centre etc. In Le Grand Bornand, the odd restaurant, cafe, shops and that is about it. Most valley towns are the same whereas the high level resorts have invested in activities for non skiers.

@boyanr, My experience of skiing in North America is that Greens map to greens, blues to blues, most reds to single diamond blacks and blacks to double diamonds, but it depends a lot on the country and the resort. I have, for example, skied in some European resorts where they piste bash the blacks turning them more or less into reds. I certainly wouldn't reccomend a skier who has skied blues at Santa Fe for example to think it is anywhere near comparable to Claire Blanc in Les Arcs.
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Sweden? Not at Christmas, later, as otherwise limited daylight.
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@johnE, thanks for your input on the coloring. This is really my concern. I've skied mostly Taos, but also Santa Fe and Ruidoso. I have never been uncomfortable on any green, but (US) blues are iffy and blacks are terrible for me.
From looking at maps, my thought was I could start going on a green and it end up a red or black. Again, I wonder if I'm looking at the maps wrong, but this is what I am absolutely trying to avoid.
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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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I think you can't really go wrong.

As people have said, don't pay extra for a huge piste map (eg 3 valleys etc). I don't love Alpe d'Huez although from what I remember the easy stuff is closer to the village, but the village isn't particularly pretty and it's not a real town. I'd go to Austria, if they'll let you in, and find somewhere cute which isn't full of racer types strutting their stuff. I'd avoid Chamonix because it's mostly too steep. Or consider Zermatt which is fun just riding the lifts never mind exploring the quirky layout. Lots of French places would work, but they don't have much charm.

I would avoid Scandinavia: when I lived there everyone flew to the Alps for their ski holidays. It's cold and dark.

I would say that smaller places are probably better for more timid people as they do not attract people who think
they're fast; often their harder stuff is all off piste and the pistes are designed for their family customers.

Otherwise, resorts work the same as the US in that they have to cater for families and they necessarily have a range of abilities.


---
I rode Taos once hell froze over - a fine place.
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Quote:

From looking at maps, my thought was I could start going on a green and it end up a red or black.

That will not happen. Once on a green or blue it will finish at a lift or in the town. A black or red may stop at a blue to finish the run to the lift. Once start the grade of a route may get easier but never harder.

My memory of Sante Fe was it was the coldest I have ever been in my life. That and the very dry ar meant my nose bled continously as did those of most of my colleagues.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
A month of lockdown in France may turn in a longer period, concerning ski etc. Plus limitations in general access
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There is always an issue of the quality of the pistes. I say that because there are some pretty horrid hard pack veering on icy pistes down into meribel, with heavy traffic and i recall on occasions some incredibly mogulled or slushy blues by mid afternoon on sunny slopes in other resorts, especially low down ones like skiwelt. So i would suggest perhaps looking at some quieter resorts but maybe everywhere will be quiet this winter. +1 for sella ronda and san cassiano area
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
johnE wrote:
Quote:

From looking at maps, my thought was I could start going on a green and it end up a red or black.

That will not happen.


You've clearly not skied with some of the people I have. It absolutely can happen if you (or someone in the group) aren't paying attention. Although as you say, greens and blues tend to end by a lift so it's just a case of being aware and not skiing past the bottom of the lift unless you're sure.

Courchevel has some nice greens and blues, plus a bit of a town and if you have the right lift pass there are some good runs down towards Meribel Villages through the golf course area. Downside is that it'll probably be $$$$.

And the bigger problem is going to be Covid, as people have said. If you're currently in Belgium you'll know that things are gradually getting worse, France is entering another strong lockdown, Germany also shutting down things. Quite simply I can't see that countries are going to be happy to allow people to travel about for something as frivolous as skiing, even if it does make up a huge part of the economy.
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If driving from Belgium and considering "a modest apartment or hotel" then mainly due to Covid-19 I would pick your dates but then decide on country at the last minute. If you are looking for a pre Christmas European experience then this year won't be perfect as some "Christmas Markets" are just not happening this year (Covid-19 again). Once you have decided on a country that is possible due to quarantine etc you will be able to choose from plenty of resorts. In December, look at snow conditions. Alastair Pink suggested Corvara / Colfosco / San Cassiano and that would be my first choice due to the fantastic snowmaking capabilities and the superb scenery. If the snow is good, then Alpbach in Austria.
If the main ski areas in Western Europe are ruled out because of Covid-19 then don't rule out places like Kopaonik in Serbia although as I say, my first choices would be Italy or Austria
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Worth consideration is Val Cenis, very subtle in comparison to some of the big names, but nevertheless ideal from your listed requirements.

Genuine access via blue from the highest point on piste map, fabulous views over Italy from there, with extensive green piste too running wide and gentle all the way to villages. Good snow holding as it's northward aspect for piste but wide shallow gradient valley that has sun most way through the season.

Primarily accessible via chair lift which may be advantage given current climate of concerns too.

Good cost base for accommodation, lift pass and food, with many gentle skiing miles to enjoy.

Its a decent drive too with very easy access as the whole valley climbs gently up to the ski villages.

Bonneval Sur Arc at the end of valley also well worth seeing if you're driving. Beautiful peaceful atmosphere, very handsome village and with it's own ski area (on same pass as VC if right option) is only about 30 minutes drive.

The valley Maurriene is worth visiting anyway, irrespective of skiing (look up it's history) I don't feel you'd be disappointed either way.
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If still considering France, Megeve might be worth thinking about. It has a fairly big town and lots of easy runs.
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All of the following is subject to whatever happens with Covid. I’m going to enter a little fantasy world as I type and pretend it doesn’t exist and I was writing this a year ago.....(like Bobby Ewing waking up in the shower-if you remember that far back).. cue “going back in time/dream sequence music.”.

I think in France in mid Dec before Christmas you will probably need to go high. Some would say head to Tignes or Val Thorens but they can feel pretty soulless and Arctic-no trees at resort level-and not so nice if it’s stormy or blizzarding..
In theory your dates are the probably the opening dates for most resorts, and snow Cover under about 1400m base elevation can be a bit hit and miss that early, though snow making usually plugs the gaps. However, given that it’s a low season week, you can wait till the last minute to book. As you say Covid also adds to the uncertainty.
I had a nice day trip to Valmorel last Jan - an attractive ‘new build’ resort -far nicer that most as they have built a very attractive village street. It might suit as the pistes seemed very intermediate friendly.
Alpe d’Huez would be another option. Been there once..a bit scruffy perhaps, not sure about options for non skiers.

My own suggestion-Courchevel 1650 (Officially known as Courchevel Moriond). Lovely wide blue and green runs into the resort itself, and great for intermediates with trees. You can ski over (or get the bus) to far posher and more blingy Courchevel 1850, where the runs about the village are equally intermediate friendly, and you can glide along the green runs into the village gawping at the piste side luxury chalets (often occupied by rich Russians sporting ludicrous Bognor ski suits).

There’s a very nice swimming centre in 1650 (assuming it is open given Covid) and these days I’m sure there are plenty of marked footpaths for a non skier to walk in the woods, plus it’s easy for a non skier to get about on the cable car and bubbles to meet you for lunch or a coffee. 1650 has good native English speaking ski schools such as New Generation. Note-private instruction is way cheaper than in the USA, so you might want to check it out and even get hubby interested!
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Valmorel is a good suggestion. Many years ago (well, we know it is 20) that is where my wife and I went when she was pregnant. She wanted to be careful for obvious reasons, and decided she didn't want to do anything harder than a blue. There were routes that took as pretty well everywhere in the resort, including making a "trip" across into St Francois.

Most piste maps can be found on the internet, so you can make your own choice from all the suggestions.
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Quote:

I have found 2 options that seem to be the exception: Saalbach and Alpe d'huez.

@lexib, many alternative suggestions have been made, some suitable, others positively not, but of the two you seem to have shortlisted, I would suggest that Saalbach is the better choice.
It opens on 27/11/20, has excellent snow-making, has a high proportion of blue runs (140km out of 270km)(and you would not be at any risk of accidentally getting on to a red or black), has plenty of sheltered tree-lined pistes for poor weather/visibility (unlike AdH), has a pretty village centre with nice restaurants/cafes, has relatively cheap prices (especially compared with some of the French/Swiss suggestions above, and perhaps most importantly has mountain restaurants at the top and mid-mountain points of all the gondolas, facilitating lunch time rendezvous with your husband. Your husband can buy a cheap walkers’ lift pass, so would be able to get to the top of more than half a dozen of the mountains surrounding Saalbach, and he can take his book with him.
But of course there is nothing I’ve said that will not have been apparent from the piste map. Happy to answer questions though.
All this assumes that the doomsday bug doesn’t screw everything up - but so far Saalbach has been thinking positive and has announced a “code of conduct” to try to minimise risk of infection.
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Thank you all so much! I truly appreciate all the responses and ideas!! I have spent the day looking at each of the places suggested, and I really like the idea of Valmorel, still like Saalbach and found a new possibility that may be less crowded, Morillon.
I'll just keep crossing fingers for the stars to align:)
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@lexib, Morillon is low, the skiing starts properly as Les Esserts at 1100m. You rarely get to ski to the very bottom, and then only well into the depths of winter. It would only really be a last minute option at the best of times for the first week of the season, and the lower slopes even above 1100m without snowmaking might not be open in the first week. So if you do think it’s an option try looking for accommodation in Les Esserts and check the snow before you book. It purpose built, but pleasant.

Having said all that, the pistes into Les Esserts would be just what you are after, and there are some great slopes above Les Carroz too. In fact, if the snow is good- Les Carroz might be another good option. It has more of a village feel. (We rented there for a couple of seasons so got to know the area well).
PS- I’ve never been to Saalbach, but from all I hear that might be a wonderful choice..the full Austrian alpine charm of the resort and the right sort of skiing too!
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Quote:

a new possibility that may be less crowded

@lexib, I doubt if any ski resort will be crowded this season! Even in a normal season you wouldn't find Saalbach (or most resorts) crowded until after Christmas, and then normally only in peak holiday time, such as New Year week and the half term period.

I forgot to mention above that Saalbach is only a 20 minute easy drive up a side valley from the pretty, all year round, lakeside holiday resort of Zell am See, which your husband could easily get to by car or local bus. You could even ski there and meet him for lunch. Kaprun with its glacier skiing (Kitzsteinhorn) is only a further 10 minutes by car or ski bus. Both Zell am See and Kaprun are on the same lift pass as Saalbach, so it wouldn't cost extra. Lots of options!
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