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Question for skiing in Europe....

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I have posted this in the epicski forum (mostly US based) from my observations while in Europe. I wanted to get a more European view of what I saw because (1) it could have been a very limited view (only one resort in Europe) or (2) not typical for most resorts. I would love to hear from those of you that have skied both US and Europe and seen any similar things, different things?

Here is my post as written in the other forum:

As some of you may know I spent 10 days skiing in Europe (Switzerland specifically) two weeks ago. I noticed many differences in the experience and while it may not be like it in all European resorts...it was facinating to observe the differences at this Swiss resort vs. the ones I know well in Colorado. For example:

In Europe I noticed:

No roped off areas
Markers identified "on piste" (right and left markers) but no barriers
No roaming ski patrol
One injury - in 10 days as opposed to 10 injuries on a typical CO day (note here that it was a groomer that radiod to the patrol to get them)
Many lifts were automated. ie you showed your pass to a reader (machine) and it let you through a gate. There was always one person inside a shack but they did not assist people getting on/off chair.
I imagine their operating costs are significantly less with this kind of approach. I also am guessing that the European culture is not "litigation frenzied" ...thats an entire discussion I imagine. But here is what I felt (the message they were sending) as an individual skier in Switzerland.

I am capable on the mountain and able to be self sufficient
I am reasonable about my expectations
I am able to make smart/educated decisions about what/where/how I ski
I can bring my "beginner" friends to the mountain and I am responsible for helping to teach them the basics about lifts, terrain, etc.
These are only observations. I felt very "free" over there. I just am puzzled by the apparent "non-invasive" ski experience there compared to the number of injuries (1), number of people falling off chairs at the bottom (1 and parent "fixed" it, not liftie), number of people falling off chairs at the top (0), number of people skiing off piste (I can count that high....they were all awesome too).

Question may come up...how many boarders? Probably 35% of the mountain, maybe more. How many teens? Same as here. How many beginners? A lot less than I see in CO (perhaps therein lies the crux of it...skiing is more a part of their lifetime culture?) Don't have the answers. I should post this on the European "snowheads" forum as they are mostly European and see what their view is as well.

Lisa
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Thanks Lisa, interesting post.

On injuries, you were skiing mid January? If so, it's one of the quietest periods of the season, although perhaps you were comparing like with like. As we enter the Feb holidays, for example here in France, collisions and accidents become commonplace. Less beginners on the slopes in Jan, few children.

There probably is a common 'European theme' in terms of personal responsibility/litigation/off piste, but bear in mind the very considerable cultural differences from one country to the next that make most other US/European comparisons rather moot.

I'm not sure where the line lies between your suggested assumption of responsible behaviour, and basic lassez-faire. In France it probably leans towards the latter. However litigation is a growing threat to this approach, and there are signs of change. Policing the slopes has been discussed in other threads, as well as the possibility that the freedom to go off piste may be restricted because of the irresponsible actions of a small minority.
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Lisa, I'd say you've summed up European skiing pretty well, it doesn't vary too much from country to country. Perhaps the key difference is that in Europe we do not have the concept of a resort being owned by a single entity, so skiing has evolved from it's roots as a 'free' activity, the first skiers walked or climbed up the mountain and went whereever they wanted. That spirit is still very much part of the ethos of European skiing.
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Hi Lisa,

Interesting post and one that wouldn't have occurred to me to send, as I think there's already a fairly strong perception of the differences between NA and EU skiing amongst Europeans: at least insofar as NA resorts being more controlled/controlling and litigious. Which makes your post all the more interesting coming from the "other side".

And, following the others, I think that's a good summation of how it generally works and how most mature Europeans like to be treated. A couple of points that I'd add;

You may not have noticed but the ski patrol do "close" runs at the end of the day and in properly run areas in mid/high season you'll generally see enough of them skiing around working that there's reasonably close cover in case someone on their own or whatever hurts themselves. One thing we don't have are "Ski buddies" - basically a low level cover of basic patrolling who are omnipresent to help people who are just lost, etc that i've seen in VT and BC. Maybe we should as it seems like a basically good idea and also provides cheap skiing for the volunteers.

Interesting to contrast your sense of freedom with the experience of skiing Alta for example - where I felt very "free" but also was impressed that I could pretty much go anywhere and if something went wrong, the ski patrol would assist.

What's maybe most interesting is your injury stats - purely as I think your's are pretty much what I'd expect in a typical (albeit off season) day in Europe and I'm surprised that they'd be so much higher in the US. That sounds like it's worth (someone) investigating.
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As a couple of people have said - interesting question.
I pretty much stopped skiing in Europe about 10 years ago and would only ski in the States. In the last couple of years I've drifted back to skiing in Europe again.
Maybe it is a perception thing, or maybe a reflection on skiing in Switzerland in particular as I have not been there for 20 odd years.

So just to put a different perspective on things, these are my views of skiing in the U.S. vs skiing in Europe!!

Standard of skiing in the US is generally higher, particularly on Black/double black diamonds.
I prefer the freedom of being able to ski anywhere in a ski area (U.S. style) rather than between poles on marked runs as in Europe.
I think that there is a higher standard of respect for you fellow mountain user in the US than in Europe. Generally people there are more polite - I'm thinking lift lines in particular.
Use of safety bar on chair lifts seems optional in the US but is pretty much mandatory in Europe.

Could it be a bit of 'The grass is always greener' syndrome creeping in here?
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Quote:

Use of safety bar on chair lifts seems optional in the US but is pretty much mandatory in Europe.


That's going to make a difference to the number of people falling off of course, and completely escaped my attention. I've felt quite exposed on a number of chairs without bars in the US. I also heard (apocryphally) that Breckenridge had removed all its safety bars as then it couldn't be held responsible for anyone not using them and falling off. May not have facts exactly square there but...

Quote:

Could it be a bit of 'The grass is always greener' syndrome creeping in here?


Could be, I just reckon they're different. I prefer Europe, partially because it's a 1 1/2 hour flight away. If I lived in Salt Lake City, I doubt I'd ever leave. Actually, I doubt I'd have a career. I'd have lots of pairs of skis though...
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I was impressed, when I injured myself in Fernie, how a pisteur almost instantly appeared from nowhere to assess me, and summoned a skiddoo to get me down the mountain.
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My North American skiing experience is limited to Canada. In Europe I have travelled to quite a few Western European resorts. I found this post to be pretty accurate too.

North American measure their resorts by the area whereas European do it by the length of piste. When the majority European stay within the groomed piste limit the injuries should be less and roaming patrol can be reduced too. European insurance coverss accidents within the piste. Off piste cover is an upgrade. American insurance probably covers the roped area, regardless if the skier is on or off piste.

It is true that European regard skiing as part of their lives and do it regularly. Many Canadian skiers I saw took skiing like "having a go at it" because their buddies were doing it. Thus there seems to be more beginners around or people who did it but never take it up seriously.

In Europe people would either learn and stick with it or stay away from the slopes. If they come to ski they would be committed and follow the code of the skiing public. It is rare to find them wandering off piste if they do not have the knowledge and ability to cope with it.

It does seem nearly every European skier knows what he/she has to do. I was surprised by the intervention by the Canadian skiing patrol on the spot I stood on the piste ( regarded possibly as blind spot to other skiers) but I do like a fast skier being stopped and told off by the patrol. Due to the presence of the skiing patrol beginners taught by friends instead of qualified skiing instructors are watched and hassled regularly if they step out of line (affecting or inconvenience other skiers). Thus it gives the impression that the European resorts are pretty free relative to the North American. It is not in the European culture to provide more skiing patrol to intervene skiers' behaviour unless the act is dangerous. But as European skiers are mostly committed to the sport it is also less likely that they would behave unreasonably or doing something silly to the fellow skiers.
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Lisa's observations and the implied comparisons with N.America confirm my perceptions. Some of the differences in attitude may be due to the fact that in N.America ski areas are owned by private companies whereas in most of Europe (SFAIK), they are run by the local community on land owned by lots of individual owners. The idea in Europe is 'Here's the snow, go and ski on it if you want to, oh and here are some lifts if you can't be arsed to walk up to the top. Fallen over and hurt yourself? Yeah, well, skiing's like that.' In N.America, skiing's a commodity like any other, to be marketed and sold as the owner sees best. In my experience, that seems to mean a higher level of service on the slopes; litigation culture may contribute to this, of course. The downside is that slopeside catering is usually a monopoly in N.America (the distance of most ski areas from human habitation also contributes to this), with the inevitable result.

On the question of pistes, my perception is that in N.America, above the tree line you can ski anywhere inbounds that isn't roped off (which is great), whereas in Europe you are expected to stick to the pistes, or you're on your own. Is that due to a difference in topography or attitude?

Has Breckenridge really removed the bars on chairlifts? I hope not.
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Hi Rdy2ski Wink
Hope you're getting the answers you were expecting!
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A bit of forum swapping - the same thoughts on EpicSki...
http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=24037
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richmond, as I hopefully caveated, I think it might have been Breckeridge, but equally it might not! Someone might know for sure!
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Largely I agree with the above posts. On the subject of buddies I did notice them in effect in Bad Gastein in Austria when I was there in 2001. I do not know if it was only a trial but I hope not.

Also I must stress that Europe has a general problem with lift lines. People push in, you often see unfilled seats when there is a 5-10 minute queue and rarely come across a singles line to fill odd seats. Also, there is an increasing tendency for skiers to block the entrance to ski lifts while waiting for friends to join them.
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I only have limited experience in NA, having only been to Winterpark Colorado. I loved the friendliness and politeness of the people and the great lift etiquette, the lack of long button lifts, and the fantastic snow. I prefer in Europe the amazing scenery, the sense of freedom (i.e. the sense of being on the mountain not in a snowpark) and the feeling of being in a different culture, oh and not forgetting the music from the mountain resturants in Austria!
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I think I have read all the posts here and it would seem that the cost of ski passes/lift tickets has not been thrown in yet as a signifcant factor - which it is. I have skied East Coast USA - and Panorama in Canada and the ticket prices are much higher than in Europe. I think Stowe was about £230 for 7 days last time we went, obviously subject to exchange rate and sadly it wasn't 1.8 then. Day ticket prices at Stratton VT was quite incredible - $65 IIRC and Bromley, a small local area near Manchester VT was not much cheaper either.

Plus point I really like, which has been featured in this discussion, is the lift queue management in The US and Canada. I think the single skier lines are an excellent way to in-fill spaces on chairs. They had this system in St. Anton a copule of years ago but I have not seen it anywhere else, yet!, in Europe.

CP
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Having spent a lot of time skiing on both side of the pond, I'd concur with Lisa's original observations. Viewing things from North America, I must say that I prefer the European approach. To me, European skiing is much less of a pre-packaged, commercially marketed product and more of a moutain lifestyle experience. I find it much more relaxing and less hurried. I avoid the holiday weeks so the legenday Eruo lift line chaos is a non-factor. After 20+ years skiing in Europe, I still have to conciously slow down my pace and realize that if I don't catch the first tram in the morning that I'll still get in plenty of skiing. I still have to try to not be impatient when lunch stretches beyond an hour. Too many years of swallowing a cheeseburger and and some greasy fries (usually while standing in the cafeteria line) in an over-crowded, overpriced US baselodge so I could dash back out the door to the slopes I suppose.
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As I've never skied in the US, it may seem an odd for me to give an opinion - esp. one like as this, but I often wonder what on earth any US skier is doing coming to Europe (not against, them, but for them if you see what I mean). Especially in a year such as this where, early on there was more snow in the US weather station measuring patch than on the whole of an Alp. I suppose that some people (be they European or US) will prefer one place and others will prefer the other. The differences may exist and have an affect on people's enjoyment, but I wonder if they are more perceived than actual? A little dressing emphasises a small difference?
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What excellent perspective...I'm so glad I posted it here! Just to clarify Breckenridge did NOT remove their safety bars. That's my home mountain so unless they did it in the last three weeks they are still there. Shocked

I didn't understand (before reading here) the ownership structure...that could certainly have a strong impact. Based on all the input I'm seeing I think I should happily tell my current boss that I'm off to ski across the world to write up an international trip report on ski cultures in different countries. I think it should be an international team! And please don't tell me it has been done Smile

Thanks again for all the input!
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I agree with the differences noted (except that I've not been aware of more casualties around me in the States!). skanky, I think it is the differences in themselves - not a feeling of one being "better" than another - that would attract N. Americans to Europe. Variety is the spice of life!
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nextascent wrote:
I think it should be an international team!


May I apply for the position of "piste/lift/bar companion" on the trip? I believe my credentials are impeccable (unlike my spelling, which is second rate at best)
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I could be trip first aider and cook snowHead
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laundryman, that's true and though that idea may have been intimated in my post that that would be the only reason, it wasn't what I intended. However, some people above have stated a preference and there are obviously those who hold them (there are Europeans who only ski in the US for example), and they were the people I was referring to. I know that many US visitors this year will have booked well before any snow amounts would have been known, and all first time visitors would have been doing it for a change of scenery (and they will account for a certain percentage) - but I've always thought that the snow was *generally* that much better in the US (and Canada) that you're always taking a bit of gamble booking to come over here. I suppose that I'll end up skiing in the US one day, and will be able to make a comparison, but I've hardly seen a representative section of European skiing yet to bother with the hassle of transatlantic flight to ski.

Maybe you weren't aware of the "more casualties" as they've been whisked away by ski patrols before you've noticed them? wink
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I'll be the "..there's always one..." one. snowHead
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Not wishing to gazump Mr Hat but I may come in useful to nextascent as I speak french, italian, spanish and german so would be invaluable in take an active part in the research in Europe, South America and Canada.

I am able to translate into/from several English dialects.

Don't take this as a CV but I am skier, boarder and blader and I cook, tell jokes and carry gear at the drop of a dollar.

Full name and address supplied upon request.
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I'll service your skis/board aswell snowHead
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skanky, points taken. As a matter of fact, all of my skiing in the States has been on the back of trips I would have taken away: business trips, visiting friends/relatives, touring and (once) a stopover on the way to Australia!
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Oh yes, well said Lorraine Agass. I am also a certified ski technician (yes, really!). Mmm - if only I could write I could offer to do some of that too - but then someone's got to do the actual research haven't they?.
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B00thy, I can only muster English, French and Romanian. I can't board, but have been known to race on blades in the past. I service my own gear, and am self-suficient. My musical ability is well documented on Epic. I also have friends and guides in many nations in both hemispheres.

All of that fades into insignificance when I play my trump card:
I'm from Ireland.
I'm NOT English.
So, hands up how many countries prefer the English to the Irish?
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Oh, I see one hand up, and it's a guy shouting about 1966... Very Happy
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No certificates for ski servicing- you beat me there. But I could do it with such style! I am a qualified 'Technical Author' though (got the certificate for that one!) so research would be a piece of cake!.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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I have absolutely no good points or qualifications to mean that I should come along...but would rather like to, if I may?
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I .. um .. got drunk in .. um .. Dublin once Wear The Fox Hat. But, I have Aussie and Kiwi skiing friends and Bosnian and Greek boarding friends.

Lorraine Agass, you can keep the cake. I prefer something colder.
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You buy 'em I'll pour 'em!
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nextascent, sorry if I dissed your home mountain! My failing memory.

CP,
Quote:

I think the single skier lines are an excellent way to in-fill spaces on chairs. They had this system in St. Anton a copule of years ago but I have not seen it anywhere else, yet!, in Europe.


You won't have skied in Scotland then? I think the Americans learned from us Scots. We had carefully ordered lift lines, in batches with Single queues - at least as far back as I can recall.
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saikee, Insurance wise, one of the main differences between the US and Europe is that most of us already have health insurance which generally covers skiing (my basic coverage does).

In California there is no requirement to have safety bars on chair lifts.

We usually have well ordered lift lines - the lift ops have to keep control.

choucas, to me skiing here is not a pre-packaged, commercially marketed product - it has become part of my life style! I ski at an expensive resort, but I have a season pass and I've already skied enough days this season to make that worth while. I don't eat on the mountain (the food is horrible) but I do take sandwiches. Yes, I'm lucky enough to live close enough to the mountains to do this (which I know is a problem if you live in Britain). Other people have other hobbies or sports which they do at the weekend - I ski! snowHead

I would ski in Europe if I could afford it, but I'd rather ski every weekend during the season than try to manage a couple of weeks a year. And it's not always easy - just before the New Year it took me 9 hours to drive 200 miles, but the powder was worth it! Very Happy Very Happy
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Smile and the team pulls together. Only qualifications needed: great sense of humor, no "anti-drinking" candidates allowed...oh wait, that shouldn't be an issue and seems like I haven't met a skier I didn't like! Now...to find a ridiculously wealthy investor. I'll have to ponder that one a bit. Oh and anyone with languages is an easy in. WTFH...you're just IN Smile language or no! (no spelling required...we have a writer on board)
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Don't forget your token saggy@rsed boarder that just happens not to need visas in the US or UK and can translate from boardspeak into usable English (or at least something that Fuxup can understand) Laughing
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I can speak English and American! Oh, and like Masque I don't need visas in the US or Europe! I can drive on both continents, too. Very Happy
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nextascent wrote:
Just to clarify Breckenridge did NOT remove their safety bars. That's my home mountain so unless they did it in the last three weeks they are still there. Shocked


I'm relieved to hear it. I'm off to Breckenridge immediately after Easter en famille; the old lady, the nippers (both 10) and me. We're all reasonably strong intermediates, happy on most marked runs with the exception of genuine double blacks (such as Freefall at Sunshine, which scared me). We have virtually no off piste experience, and we'd like to try a bit of powder if there's any about when we're there.

Any advice on the skiing, eating or relaxing fronts (we're staying in The Village)? Which of the linked resorts are worth a visit?
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richmond, ah well your ticket should cover Keystone as well. You'll be able to take the shuttle to Keystone and back easily if you're not renting a car. Take lift 6 when you're feeling a bit more adventurous (at Breck) and you should be able to find some powder runs not far off piste. As far as places to go, I can tell you my favorites:

If you like spicy food you must make a stop at Rasta Pasta. It's on main street and has excellent food. The 10'ers can get "spaghetti knuckles" which won't make them run around with their hair on fire.

Downstairs at Erics is a great place to get the all American burger or pizza. They have arcade games for the kiddos to play while you wait on your food and drink a Fat Tire (decent beer brewed in CO)

So you're at "The Village at Breckenridge"? This is right at the base of Peak 9 where you'll pick up the Quicksilver lift. Very convenient. Make sure you explore Peak 8 as well...I think your family would love the "Claimjumper" run. There are also some progressive parks that they might like to play around in (learning to small jumps on rollers, etc).

If you have any questions at all ...ask away. I'm also happy to send you my number when you and the family arrive so you can access some local help if needed.
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