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Val D"iSere or somewhere in 2012?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

I skied St Anton this winter and Zermatt the year before.  I'm thinking about making it over again this coming winter.  This one book I have shows Val to have quite a bit more advanced % terrain than Courcheval or Les Arcs or Verbier - my other choices, So Val looks good for me.  Add Chamonix to the mix.  Chamonix is closest, and another choice, but it seems smaller.  Verbier is cool because I could take an easy train ride and wouldn't have to rent a car, like the other 3.  In 2010 I had a reasonable room book in Chable but switched to Zermatt because of poor snow.  I really liked St. Anton this past year and am looking for big fairly steep mountain to ski(but have no need to venture into true no-fall zones).  Someone I met at St Anton said I have to go to France for the big and steep mountains. 

Any advice from someone in the know? Also, any moderately price room suggestions at the right spot? If I go to France, I will have to rent a car.

 

Another option is a big resort with lots of advanced terrain that I could access from Zurich, same difference as going to the resort from Geneva above.  What else is there besides St. Anton, doing the train again would be nice.

post #2 of 25

The thing about Val d'Isere is that almost all of their pistes are groomed. So, even the steepest blacks will be tame compared to the ungroomed ski routes that you find in places like St. Anton. Bumps are hard to find in Val itself, though not quite to the extent of Zermatt.

 

That said, there is a lot of easily accessed off piste terrain. Some are in areas that are easy to scope out from the lift with no danger from cliffs and such. Plus, over in Tignes, there are a few nature runs (or some similar name) which are pretty much the same as ski routes in other countries. So, if you're tired of racing down blacks at ludicrous speed, you can head to these pistes for a different challenge.

 

Their slope grading is much more accurate than in St. Anton, so you won't find blues that should be reds or reds that should be blacks. Greens (yes, they have them) are really tame, so they're good as a transport route but not much else; though there might be nice powder on the sides. All in all, they've got 82 lifts and 182 marked slopes, so there's loads of stuff to slide on.

 

Finding cheap accomodation might be tough. They really do want a 7 night stay in that town. Tignes is usually cheaper, but the town is not as pretty. I'll dig around and see if I can find some helpful sites for you to check.


Edited by CerebralVortex - 4/26/11 at 7:59am
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

Whaat?  This is the kind of advice I'm looking for.  Seriously, a good day of skiing for me is beating myself up in the moguls.  Not interested in groomers.  St. Anton had plenty of good skiing for me, but somehow I think there is someplace even better, and I want to try a different resort each time, because I only have so many trips over there in me.

re: 7 days.  I did seem to find a few rooms on booking.com that were going to let me make a reservation for 3 nts for Val.  That was my problem last year.  I waited until September to book my room for St. Anton and I couldn't seem to find anyplace reasonable And close that would let me book for 3 nts, so I had to pay more than I wanted to(for a tiny room too) and a $100 meal I fell for while in a worn out daze, my only regret.

Verbier would be the easiest, because I can land, take a couple hour train ride, and ski that first afternoon, which I did in St. Anton. Those other big French resorts I would have to probably drive, because I don't want a long train ride, and I don't trust myself with the buses.

What I like is a place where I can almost ski a different lift every single time and do lots of exploring, St Anton was good for that, although I did have to do repeats.

 

Here's my St. Anton trip report.

http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/101032/st-anton-this-week

And Zermatt from the year before.

http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/89239/zermatt-not-my-kind-of-skiing

post #4 of 25

Well, the main problem is that moguls are not very widespread in Europe. You might not have realized it, but most of the bumps and chutes you saw in St. Anton were technically off piste. The only ones that weren't were the handful of marked ski routes and a couple of small high-traffic areas that somehow get bumped up despite the daily grooming.

 

Unfortunately, unless it's dumping down on the day, that's what it's like in most places in the Alps if you stay on piste. But of course, dumps usually mean whiteout conditions because most of their slopes are above tree line. (I spent nearly 3 full days skiing blind when I was in Italy in February. The snow was nice though.) So, skiing soft bumps/fresh snow on piste means skiing blind, and by morning it's all groomed away.

 

Apart from the handful of ski routes/nature runs/freeride areas in a few resorts, the only way you're going to get any bumps or other interesting terrain is if you go off piste, just like in St. Anton. That's just the way it is. Now, given the number of off-piste groups and solo skiers that hit Val and Tignes, there will be tons of stuff you can scope from the lifts that will be tracked out and maybe even bumped up while you're there. But none of it will be marked on the map; it'll all be in the gaps, off to the side of the pistes, and so on, and it won't be avi controlled.

 

It'll be the same in Verbier and pretty much anywhere else in the Alps (though Verbier has a nice ungroomed area around the top of Mt. Fort). Anything marked on the map will almost certainly be groomed every night unless it's specifically marked as a ski route/nature ride/freeride area, and most resorts only have a couple of those if any. I've been to Verbier (Four Valleys), Val/Tignes (Espace Killy) twice, St. Anton (Arlberg) twice, Monterosa twice, and Arosa, and the Arlberg area had the largest number of bumped up ski routes of them all. That said, all of them had plenty of easy-access off-piste terrain that was easily scoped out from the lifts or from above/below and loads of fun to ski; that's where the good stuff is.

 

No matter where you go, the choice boils down to cruising the groomers or going off piste. The only exception is La Grave, which is basically a cable car and 2100 m of off piste terrain (guide required).


Edited by CerebralVortex - 4/27/11 at 8:59am
post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 

I don't understand what the difference between off-piste and a ski route is.  I skied many of the ungroomed ski-routes in St. Anton that had signs on them.  But there was also quite a bit or unmarked, typical ungroomed stuff right off the main slopes and here and there.  What's wrong with these people that they want everything groomed? 

post #6 of 25

Ski routes/freeride areas/nature rides (name depends on the resort) are not groomed but they usually have avi control, ski patrol, and trail markers. Also, they're usually laid out in a way where there are no significant hidden dangers like cliffs, gullies, and so on. So if you want, you can blindly follow the trail with no real fear of danger (as long as you have the skill to handle the bumps, ice, soft snow, etc.).

 

Off piste has none of these features. There's no avi control, no ski patrol, no safety features in the layout; it's just the mountain in its natural state. Because of that, you can't just jump in without checking first. If you do, you can easily find yourself in a place you really don't want to be in. My favorite example is in Alagna: right at the bottom of a blue run, no more than 20 or 30 yards away from the cable car's mid station, there's a cliff that's around 100 ft or so tall. So, if it's your first time there and you think it would be fun to pop off piste at the end of that blue without scoping it out first, you will quickly find yourself in a bad spot.

 

That said, there are loads of areas between pistes and off to the sides that are pretty safe, and there are a number of people who will ski them, especially in places like St. Anton, Val d'Isere, and Verbier. But, you have to keep in mind that these people are only skiing areas they know have a safe exit route, whether it's because they scoped it out from the lift or they have been there before with a guide (though a few are stupid enough to blindly jump in without looking).

 

That's the fun stuff, but it's more dangerous than it would be in North America (it's like skiing out of bounds). It also takes more time to ski it because you have to scope it out first. This means you often end up riding the same lift two or three times in a row: first to scope out the area, then to make your first run (maybe another time or two to ski other lines in the same patch if you like), and then again to get to the top so you can head off to another part of the mountain. In a place the size of the Espace Killy, Arlberg, or Four Valleys, it would take a solid week to find and ski all those areas safely unless you're with a guide.


Edited by CerebralVortex - 4/28/11 at 3:07am
post #7 of 25

And if you want to know why everything is groomed in the Alps, all you have to do is check out the skis everyone is riding. Even in a place like St. Anton, you'll only see a handful of people riding anything other than little race skis or skinny park skis unless you manage to track down some of the guided off-piste groups.

 

Occasionally, you'll spot someone with an AT setup or a pair of fat boys (Scandinavians usually, because they love going off piste), but most are just there to carve. It's what they were taught to do, and it's what they like doing.

post #8 of 25

I'd be careful labeling ski routes as avi-controlled. At my mountain they most certainly are not.

post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

I'd be careful labeling ski routes as avi-controlled. At my mountain they most certainly are not.



Good point. Always check the resort's info. Some do avi control and some don't, and the terminology can be confusing.

 

For example, in St. Anton, a "ski route" is ungroomed but avi controlled and marked, whereas a "high alpine route" is not even though it's marked on the map. In other resorts, a "ski route" is the same as a St. Anton "high alpine route," and they don't have anything that's ungroomed yet avi controlled. Some places have "freeride areas" or "nature runs" which are the same as a St. Anton "ski route."

 


Edited by CerebralVortex - 4/28/11 at 4:34am
post #10 of 25

One good way to look at it is that a ski route is usually a recognized way down, generally feasible for capable skiers (let's say advanced intermediates). Other offpiste routes, while possibly traditional or recognized or whatever may include extreme hazards or no-fall terrain.

post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 

And if you want to know why everything is groomed in the Alps, all you have to do is check out the skis everyone is riding.

 

You are absolutely right about the difference in skis.  Most of the skis also seemed to be much older than ours in the USA.  Supposedly US is actually a richer country than most of Europe, we have more money, even though it certainly doesn't seem like that, and maybe they don't have the disposable income to upgrade.  Of course, I wait until my skis are outdated, then wait a few more years, and then upgrade!  But last year I got me some 97's and was completely pleased and surprised at how well they handled in all conditions, including tight moguls.  They definitely worked better!


 

 

post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 

Other offpiste routes, while possibly traditional or recognized or whatever may include extreme hazards or no-fall terrain.

 

I'm not a "super-expert" but am an experienced skier used to finding my way around gnarly in-bound terrain, mostly in Utah but also elsewhere.  I'm an athletic aggressive skier, looking to completely wear myself out on a day on the hill.  Also, I loved exploring the miles and miles of runs on these huge European mountain, even cruiserville Zermatt.  (but I was there in December and the one good area wasn't opened) But it's always safety first.  I know enough not to put myself in harms way by complete self-trusting stupidity.  And because I am doing these Euro trips by myself, i'm super careful about getting myself into a predicament, esp with no buddies around. 


 

 


Edited by SnowbirdDevotee - 4/28/11 at 6:25pm
post #13 of 25

Just depends, sometimes you can hook up with friendly, trustworthy locals who can safely navigate you through offpiste routes. Sometimes not. Obviously, the longer you stay at a place, the better shot you have.

post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post

You are absolutely right about the difference in skis.  Most of the skis also seemed to be much older than ours in the USA.  Supposedly US is actually a richer country than most of Europe, we have more money, even though it certainly doesn't seem like that, and maybe they don't have the disposable income to upgrade.   
 

 


Actually, the impression I got is that average skiers here aren't buying as often because the ski companies have painted themselves in a corner. They got everyone to buy short, skinny race skis that will turn on a dime and hold an edge even in icy conditions. At the same time, the resorts started grooming everything to ensure that the people have carving conditions every day.

 

Once you develop the ideal tool and ensure the perfect conditions for that tool, how do you get people to throw it away and buy a new one every couple of years? People in North America can easily find different types of conditions to ski in (cut up powder, bumps, trees, groomers), so you can keep selling them new skis with various design changes to cope with deeper snow, bigger bumps, etc. You can also get them to buy multiple pairs in order to have a choice based on the conditions.

 

But, in many parts of the Alps, it's illegal to ski in the trees, off piste is seen as dangerous and hard work, and serious bump fields are tough to find. Everything is set up for people to carve, and they already own skis that carve about as well as they're going to get. So, where is there to go from here for ski companies?

 

That's why more ski magazines have been writing about going off piste and so on, at least here in Britain. If they can get more people looking for powder and get the resorts to leave more terrain ungroomed, then they might be able to change people's buying and skiing habits.


Edited by CerebralVortex - 4/28/11 at 9:19am
post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post

That's the fun stuff, but it's more dangerous than it would be in North America (it's like skiing out of bounds). It also takes more time to ski it because you have to scope it out first. This means you often end up riding the same lift two or three times in a row: first to scope out the area, then to make your first run (maybe another time or two to ski other lines in the same patch if you like), and then again to get to the top so you can head off to another part of the mountain. In a place the size of the Espace Killy, Arlberg, or Four Valleys, it would take a solid week to find and ski all those areas safely unless you're with a guide.

 

I just give up on off-piste in the Alps. It's too much trouble. A week in a major resort is only long enough to cover the groomers once, there's not enough time left to scope out the off piste.   

 

Without a buddy, you'll have to be conservative, which means you can't even ski the kind of terrain you normally ski at home. I don't see the point of seeking out marginally interesting terrain. Change your perspective and enjoy the miles and miles of meticulously groomed runs.
 

I don't bother seeking out off-piste as a goal. I just cruise around. When I happen to see something easily accessible and the condition is safe, I drop in for a taste. Otherwise, it's sightseeing on skis.

With relatively few people skiing off piste, you don't get bumps.

post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 

There was plenty of off-piste ungroomed skiing in St. Anton, available off most of the lifts.  Here I thought the big resorts in France would be just like that.  Guess not. But I could enjoy myself anyway, the scenery is spectacular and it's good fun to overseas and skiing in a different culture on big mountains. 

When I got back last year I wrote in my trip report something like that St. Anton was much better than Snowbird.  In retrospect I don't think so.  Although much bigger, I doubt that there is anyplace that has the top to bottom skiing and easily accessible &  fun nooks, crannies and bowls that mother Snowbird has.  All right there in front of your face. 

 

(also, oops above I said I was in Zermatt in September, that was December)

Last year I booked a 35K freq flyer ticket on USAir from Newark>Zurich, booked in March.  But looks like I have to cough up 50K to make my trip this year.

post #17 of 25

I would give a big thumbs up to the Espace Killy (Val/Tignes).  Skied a week there in 2007 and loved it.  I would stack it up with Snowbird for terrain, and you'll have most of the off-piste to yourself.  Both villages are nice, and I think Tignes is probably a bit cheaper.  We ate lunch in Val and slept in the upper Tignes village.  Most of our nightly ventures for dinner and nightlife were in the dark, and the difference in decor is not that noticeable sans light.  Such a giant area - like 5 Vails all tucked together.  As for the skinny/fat skis issue, our group all rented, and the selection was slanted noticeably towards the ice racers.  I stuck out like a sore thumb on Pocket Rockets.

post #18 of 25


 


With relatively few people skiing off piste, you don't get bumps.


 

Not true, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view of bumps.
 

 

post #19 of 25

We must be talking about a different Val D'isere, don't recognize most of these comments on it.  IMHO it is one of the best resorts around, definitely up there with St. Anton and well ahead of Verbier and Zermatt...

 

Go, you will not regret it.  You can also get a bus direct from Geneva airport so no car required

post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post

There was plenty of off-piste ungroomed skiing in St. Anton, available off most of the lifts.  Here I thought the big resorts in France would be just like that. 


I don't think you are completely wrong.

 

I lived in Bourg St. Maurice 2007-08 and skied Les Arcs over 50 days (compared to 4 at Val/Tignes and 1 at La Plagne)...sure they groom all the blues and many of the reds, but most of the blacks are left ungroomed including marked runs under Varet- looking at their trail map, there are at least 10 runs marked "Natur" all of which I would feel comfortable skiing alone (but did purchase a beacon as we did some true off piste as well).  Combined with the La Plagne side (link broken when I was there, but should be fine next year), you have plenty to ski, especially if you are only there for 3 days.  I posted a specific itinerary in an older Les Arc thread if you are looking for route recommendations.

 

Pretty sure Altibus has direct service from the Geneva airport to 3 Vallee, Bourg St Maurice, Val D'Isere & Tignes.  There is also service between BSM and Val/Tignes that is cheaper if you do it same day return.  If you don't need ski-in/out, staying in BSM should be a cheaper option and the funicular runs from town to 1600 in under 10 minutes.  Not sure about the shorter tix, but the 6+ day tix for Les Arcs can include a day at Espace Killy.   

 

The mob at snowheads.com can tell you anything you want to know about these places as can SnowCrazy (on here and snowheads). 

 

post #21 of 25

Nope. No bumps in Europe.

 

3440134258_86eb316d6d.jpg

post #22 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post

There was plenty of off-piste ungroomed skiing in St. Anton, available off most of the lifts.  Here I thought the big resorts in France would be just like that.   

 

I think you're just misunderstanding our posts.

 

Val d'Isere/Tignes is one of the top destinations in Europe for off-piste skiing. Loads of groups go there to ski with their guides and instructors, in addition to the many other skiers who enjoy a good romp in the powder. It's right up there with St. Anton and others in terms of the amount of nice terrain with easy access.

 

But, we're just warning you that these areas are not avi controlled and usually have no hazard markers either; they are truly off piste. As such, it is a bit more dangerous than similar terrain in North America; if you don't check where you're going, you could possibly end up in a slide zone or on top of a cliff. That said, there are plenty of areas that are relatively safe to ski.

 

It's the same in St. Anton, but the snow conditions while you were there were deceptive. If I remember correctly, it didn't snow at all in the week between when I left and when you arrived. There were also a number of off-piste tour groups in town at that time. Because of that, much of the easy-access terrain would have been tracked out and even bumped up when you got there, making it look similar to the ungroomed terrain you'd often see in the Rockies. But, the difference is that, when new snow comes, that terrain in St. Anton would not have any avi control done unless it threatened to slide onto the marked pistes. Otherwise, it would be left untouched (at least until the next off-piste group came).

 

In the Rockies, inbounds usually means relatively safe (avi control, ski patrol, hazard markers) even if you're not on a marked trail. In Europe, inbounds doesn't necessarily mean safe. Marked pistes will be safe, but anything else won't have avi control and all that other good stuff. You can ski the other stuff if you like, but it's at your own risk. (The exception is the trees; many Swiss and most Austrian resorts will fine you for skiing in the trees. But, the French, Italians, and western Swiss don't seem as bothered about it from what I've seen.)


Edited by CerebralVortex - 5/2/11 at 4:33am
post #23 of 25

St Anton also has some unusually easy-to-scope offpiste, it's really user-friendly in that regard. I've never skied Val d'Isere but it's high, very high, on my to-do list. It has a great reputation among people who know, particularly for easy to access offpiste.

post #24 of 25

Just a couple of pictures to show some terrain in the Espace Killy. Pay no attention to the ugly mug in the bottom one.

 

Looking towards the rest of Val from le Fornet side.

 

PICT0007.jpg

 

Le Fornet area (far-left side of the trail map), which happened to be ungroomed and partially roped off that day.

 

PICT0006.jpg

 

PICT0005.jpg

 

 

From Val to Tignes.

 

a99017b1_PICT0015.JPG

post #25 of 25

Here are some pics I took 4/26/08, the last day of the '07-08 season at Les Arcs:

 

IMG_0805.JPG

Going down to Arc 1600 (base area out of picture on left)

 

IMG_0811.JPG

I believe that is the North face of Bellcote (popular BC/off piste accessible from La Plagne) in the background

 

IMG_0817.JPG

Wet slide in an easily accessible off piste area (unmarked, but some patrol work done) that I skied many times up until a few weeks before this pic

 

IMG_0820.JPG

same

 

IMG_0825.JPG

Part of Arc 2000 (Grand Col lift?) in foreground, Bellcote (?) again in background

 

IMG_0831.JPG

Looking down the Aiguille Rouge tram- two off piste skiers in the middle foreground, the wet slide from before is upper right crossed by the cables, marked piste and off piste inbetween.

 

IMG_0835.JPG

Might be top of Tram looking the general direction of Ville Roger (with Mount Blanc in the far background)?

 

IMG_0836.JPG

Looking up from Arc 1800

 

IMG_0843.JPG

Grand Col lift to right, center area is normally marked piste while right and left is easily accessible off piste.

 

IMG_0854.JPG

Off piste accessible from Grand Col

 

IMG_0871.JPG

same day in Bourg St. Maurice- elevation makes a huge difference!

 

 

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