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Chamonix, and other classic destinations

Poll Results: What's the destination in the Alps you most want to visit?

 
  • 52% (12)
    Chamonix, France
  • 8% (2)
    Zermatt, Switzerland
  • 17% (4)
    St. Anton, Austria
  • 8% (2)
    Val d'Isere, France
  • 13% (3)
    Verbier, Switzerland
23 Total Votes  
post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I just posted a review for Chamonix....was frankly amazed that none had been posted.  I assume most people in the EpicSki community are living in the US, but I also assume that many of you hope to ski the Alps at some time.  I'm fortunate enough to be living and skiing in Europe at the moment, and would be happy to hear from anyone who is contemplating a trip and looking for insider information.  

 

If you are considering a trip to the Alps, I can only say, chase the dream!

post #2 of 19

Been to both Chamonix (and returning in January) and Verbier. So I voted for St. Anton. Probably not going to make it this year, but maybe next. So many mountains, so little time ...

post #3 of 19

Been to Chamonix, Zermatt, and Verbier so my vote was for St Anton.

Skied just over the Flexen Pass in Lech/Zurs as well. We wanted to go to St Anton this year however we had a hard time finding a cheap airfare to Munich or Zurich. A deal (under $400 RT) materialized to Milan so we're going back to Bormio in Italy's Alta Valtellina region. I love skiing out West too but I agree you can't beat a trip to the Alps. It's the blend of the fantastic skiing, Alpen scenery, culture and food, that makes it a complete vacation.
 

ZUG5 065.jpg  in inin

post #4 of 19

I agree the Alps are underutilized by American skiers.  I have somewhat of an excuse living in California, but still have only 2 Euro ski trips vs. 6 to the Southern Hemisphere for example.  First time was with NASJA ski journalists to Chamonix in February 2004.  That included daytrips to Verbier and Courmayeur.  TR's and pics bottom of this page http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=5&start=50 and top of the next.   March 2008 I was on an Extremely Canadian trip to La Grave: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2008/12/05/la-grave-ski-france-extremely-canadian/

 

I should be trying to get over there every year now that I'm retired, but I was lured by Japan instead in 2011.

post #5 of 19

My opinion on skiing in Europe (or any other continent, for that matter) has always been, "It can't be all *that* different, so if I'm going to go to that region, I'd rather spend my time sightseeing".  For instance, instead of a ski trip to Garmisch, I'd probably be more likely to go see Vienna + go ski in CO or UT.

 

Am I way off base here?  Is the skiing there really that much different and/or better?  I mean no offense, by the way - it's a sincere question.

post #6 of 19

Been to all but Verbier & Val d'Isere.  I voted Verbier, but I would like to do them all!

JF

post #7 of 19

 

Quote:
Am I way off base here?  Is the skiing there really that much different and/or better?

Different.  Superior in scale with the huge verticals and lift accessible off-piste.  If I lived in the East I would probably ski West and the Alps in somewhat similar proportion as price and travel access are not that different.  But I can ski Mammoth or Utah dirt cheap so it's a much higher bar to mix in a Euro trip, which really requires at least 2 weeks to do it justice.

 

If you have the time I would combine the skiing and the sightseeing.  I did not have the time on either of my trips.  This advice goes double for Southern Hemisphere.  Those trips have always been a mix of skiing and other activities.  Bob Peters' recent week in Portillo was far superior to any of my 6 southern trips in ski quality. 

 

FYI whoever set up that poll was listing the right places for advanced skiers from all I've read and observed.  Any of them would be well worth a trip IMHO.

post #8 of 19
North America to Alps is somewhat like US countyrclub golf to links golf. Same sport but different. Our week in Chamonix included lots of sightseeing with the skiing. Spots like the Vallee Blanche and lunch in 200 year old stone huts on the side of a glacier are not something that can be duplicated in the USA. I have had the good luck to ski most of the best in North America and I guarantee you the Alps are "worth the trip".
post #9 of 19

In US skiing is a recreation, in the Alps it is a culture.

JF

post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by chase View Post

My opinion on skiing in Europe (or any other continent, for that matter) has always been, "It can't be all *that* different, so if I'm going to go to that region, I'd rather spend my time sightseeing".  For instance, instead of a ski trip to Garmisch, I'd probably be more likely to go see Vienna + go ski in CO or UT.

 

Am I way off base here?  Is the skiing there really that much different and/or better?  I mean no offense, by the way - it's a sincere question.



 

As a person who learned to ski in CO and NM, I can say there are quite a lot of differences in Europe.

 

First, there's the size of the mountains. There are loads with over 1000 m of vertical, a few with 1500 m, and even a couple with 2000 m (the longest continuous run I've been on is about 1700 m, made up of two connected slopes; it was a leg-burner, but I managed to pull it off once). Throw in the overall width of an area made up of multiple towns (Four Valleys, Three Valleys, Espace Killy, etc.), and you can find places with 80-100 lifts under one lift ticket. Even in a well-connected area like Espace Killy, it can take almost two hours to ski from the edge of Val d'Isere to the edge of Tignes, even taking the shortes route, going mach stupid down empty slopes, and not having to wait in lift lines. (1:30 was my best time, but that doesn't include going down the Sache in Tignes, which was closed at the time.) There's so much exploration you can do; it's a sensation you don't really get from too many places in North America.

 

There's also the difference in terrain. Europeans have no qualms about building resorts with major hazards right in the middle of a bunch of groomed pistes. For example, in Alagna there's a gigantic cliff right at the bottom of a blue trail. Engelberg is similar with pistes and lifts running right around a bunch of cliffs. The smaller ones, plus any other rocks, gullies, etc., usually don't have any warnings either. Plus, there's little to no avalanche control outside of the groomers, so stepping off the groomers gives you much more of a back-country feel, even when you're just going down a sliver of powder between two pistes.

 

There's more open space as well, given that much of the terrain is above tree level (though you do have to put up with whiteouts because of it). You're not constantly in a framework of trees, so when you do go off-piste, there's more sense of freedom. That combination of open space with unmarked hazards and heavier snow pack is a very different experience from running through the trees in the Rockies; it's one reason my brother keeps coming back to the Alps to ski with me.

 

Of course, there are also a bunch of cultural differences, too. Many resorts are pre-existing, functioning towns with schools, churches, etc., which gives a place a much more historic feel. In the bigger resorts, there's also much more cultural diversity in the workers and visitors. In a big resort like St. Anton, you can meet loads of people from all over Europe and other parts of the world. Even a single 6-seater can often have three different languages being spoken at the same time. Oh, and the food, too. Mmmm.


Edited by CerebralVortex - 8/22/11 at 6:50am
post #11 of 19



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chase View Post

My opinion on skiing in Europe (or any other continent, for that matter) has always been, "It can't be all *that* different, so if I'm going to go to that region, I'd rather spend my time sightseeing".  For instance, instead of a ski trip to Garmisch, I'd probably be more likely to go see Vienna + go ski in CO or UT.

 

Am I way off base here?  Is the skiing there really that much different and/or better?  I mean no offense, by the way - it's a sincere question.


 

I think for a lot of us more seasoned American skiers the Alps represent the final frontier, but there are a few factors working against traveling in that direction even for those of us in the Eastern US.  The exchange rate has not been very conducive over the last five years or more, tightened airport security after 9-11 has complicated air travel everywhere, the trend for people to take less than full week ski trips, and finally the perception that we could go all that way and hit worse snow conditions than the US West.   Having said that, the Alps are still tantalizing to me.  I've had a taste of how extremely fun they can be.  I have skied in the Alps just one week (multiple areas in Austria), but I have also made non-skiing/summer visits to the renowned ski towns of Zermatt and Grindelwald in Switzerland and Garmisch, Germany.  

 

The skiing, scenery, and cultural atmosphere is much different from US skiing, it REALLY is special to ski over there.  My one Alpine ski trip was based in Salzburg and I took full advantage of the off-slope cultural attractions, while also skiing during five days at five different places.  While the province of Salzburg is hardly the epicenter of the best skiing in the Alps, all the places I skied were great and the size of Alta-Bird, yet mostly unknown to Americans.  See here for 2003 trip report:  http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_article.php?article_id=446

 

I definitely want to go back and ski some of the places listed in the poll at top of this thread (checked St. Anton), but must pay off a few children's college tuitions first.

 

Sorry, low res old 2003 Austrian trip photos

 

cable car at Zell am See:

zell My Pictures.jpg

 

Bad Hofgastein (Schlossalm pistes):

IMG00012.jpg

 

Paragliding at Saalbach/Leogang:

My Pictures0006.jpg

 

After running the Ladies DH course at Zauchensee:

My Pictures0014.jpg

 

lunch view at Flachau:

IMG00004.jpg

 

Hanging out in Salzburg:

castle and rook My Pictures.jpg

 

 


 

 

post #12 of 19

Eurohound,

 

I already have two fantastic ski experiences in Europe: One at Stubai another at Les Arcs.

I would say, I need to go there again. No matter the place, it would be Chamonix, Zermatt, Verbier, St Anton, Trois Valle, Cortina,...

As I need to get to Colorado, Whistler and so many places.  What realy matters is get there to ski!!!!!!!beercheer.gif

 

Cheers,

 

 

post #13 of 19

I voted for Val d'Isere since I haven't skied there yet. I've heard and seen the trail maps and it is massive. I don't think you could go wrong with any of these resorts and if you time it right and get some powder, then wow! I would like to go back to Europe and ski Chamonix and St Anton again.

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

Chase - a couple differences that spring to mind for me:  First, the scenery in the high mountains is just spectacular.  So much of the skiing is above treeline, with vistas that stretch forever of 3000m peaks and glaciers.  Second, the mountain culture, like all the little huts where you can get a hot wine, really gives it a different feel.  And finally, if you like to ski off-piste, the possibilities in the Alps are almost entirely unrestricted...if you are good enough to ski it, have at it.  

post #15 of 19

I voted for Chamonix because I haven't been there yet.

 

Zermatt doesn't interest me all that much, and I've already been to Verbier, Val d'Isere (twice), and St. Anton (twice). I'll probably go to Val d'Isere again this year on an off-piste holiday, and I'm hoping to do a similar trip in Chamonix, but I'll have to see how things pan out this winter.

 

Apart from that, I have shifted to lesser known resorts. Famous places get tracked out too quickly, even outside of peak periods.

post #16 of 19

I am very fortunate to have been to all of the above destinations so this was a hard vote, but I chose Chamonix. Before I was born, my parents lived in Munich, as my father was stationed there while in the US Army, they picked up skiing in Europe and I am eternally grateful! Growing up we would usually take a two week trip to Europe to ski and one week out west, in the 80's with the independent European economies it was cheaper to ski in Europe for 2 weeks then one week in the US. My resort list is huge and now that I am a man of independent means I still try to get to Europe to ski, it's the whole package. This year I will spend a week in Vail, a week in Aspen and God willing 3 weeks in Europe! I plan to spend a week in Megeve with my family, my father is still my favorite ski partner, a week in Saas Fee with some friends, and then a week in Chamonix with another group of friends, good thing I can work from my laptop!

 

When it comes to skiing in the Alps, you can't help but be awed by the beauty of your surroundings. They are very different then the Rockies, Sierra Nevada's and Tetons, they seem a bit softer and let you know they are old. The towns have real history, before skiing was what it is today. Skiing in the Alps is a different experience; I've always felt bad for people that don't ski, they'll never get to see what we see, well, people that never ski the Alps are missing out on a similar level. You have to go, at least once, and I would highly recommend Chamonix as the HALO resort.

post #17 of 19

Bigdog, I agree. I feel very fortunate to have to have taken the time and experienced the Alps both in Summer and my favorite, Winter. They are awesome to ski and also like you mentioned quite a different vantage point being in them and experiencing what we see from a skiers (or snowboarders) perspective.

 

Cham was my favorite as well (didn't ski Val) and has quite the cool vibe. I found the rest to have their own identity and unique qualities. I'd like to go back to St Anton to hope and catch some of their renowned powder. If I had to go back for a family Christmas vacation, then Zermatt (what Vail is patterned after) would be the place.

post #18 of 19

If the snow is good then Europe as good as anywhere in the world....my vote goes for Alpe D'Huez if the snow is deep

 

http://www.skiweekenders.com - for some news advice and short break reviews for resorts in Europe.

post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by chase View Post

My opinion on skiing in Europe (or any other continent, for that matter) has always been, "It can't be all *that* different, so if I'm going to go to that region, I'd rather spend my time sightseeing".  For instance, instead of a ski trip to Garmisch, I'd probably be more likely to go see Vienna + go ski in CO or UT.

 

Am I way off base here?  Is the skiing there really that much different and/or better?  I mean no offense, by the way - it's a sincere question.


 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portes_du_Soleil

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_m0AY-010Fg0/SxlB5VIgdVI/AAAAAAAABo0/lNY28NbwUGI/Avoriaz-resort.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Blanc

 

I have to say that after comparing what it is like in Europe to America it certainly is much different. Portes Du Soleil is an interconnected lift system that literally allows you to ski from Switzerland to France and back. This massive lift system has something like 200 lifts. Imagine all of Summit county Colorado being interlinked...amazing. I think I read that it was something like 400 square miles in total. 

 

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. Avoriaz is perched on a cliff. A true ski-in/ski-out car free (access is by horse drawn carriage or snowmobile only) town. Avoriaz is just one location that is in Portes Du Soleil and is an example of a town unlike any other in America.

 

Finally who can talk about skiing in Europe without mentioning Mont Blanc. The mountain that can truly cost you the ultimate price as even the local mountain guides need to be rescued from time to time. In other words, no Alta ski patrol using artillery to control the dangers above or rope off the crevasses large enough to swallow a school bus. 

 

The amount of skiing available in Europe can be overwhelming. I haven't even mentioned Austria or Norway yet, and they both hold their own quite well. If you plan a trip to Europe you should allow yourself time to ski and sight-see. Don't forget there are many cable-cars and trams worth riding up for the views alone. I think it was quite interesting just to see the sheer # of cable cars/lifts in entirely remote areas, and the sheer quantity of lifts all through the various Euro countries.

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