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North american alternative for Arlberg region goers ?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

I have been living in Québec for the last 5 years (lived in Europe before), where I can go skiing every weekend (Stoneham, Le Massif, ...), I still take my annual ski holiday in Austria (Lech, St-Anton, Arlberg region).

Since I was a kid I used to go there with my parents, and never changed destination.

 

Every year my wife and I start looking at north American destinations (it's about that time of year), but we always have the impression that nothing could beat St-Anton / Arlberg.

 

Main reasons we keep going there:

- accessibility: we hop on the plane to Zurich, cross the road at the airport to take the train and arrive in downtown St-Anton (no need for car rentals, ...)

- once there, public transportation gets us everywhere (Lech, Zurs, ....)

- the terrain (do I need to explain ? Weisse Ring)

- St-Anton and Lech are real villages: we often have the impression north american destinations are 'resorts' and a little artificial.

- food, drink, après ski, international relaxed crowd

- lodging: 'PrivatZimmer' instead of hotels

- price/quality: we always have the impression that we get more for out money in Austria (6 passes seem cheaper than prices I see for North American destinations).

 

We both are very experienced skiers, 70/30 on-off piste.

 

So: is there a resort / destination in North America that would have the qualities of St-Anton (well, let's forget the food):

- easily accessible by plane and no need for rental car to get to the mountain or to get around,

- interesting and varied on/off piste terrain,

- 'real' village

- reasonable price for the passes

 

Thx !

post #2 of 18

Pieter:

 

Take this with a grain of salt, since I've never skied the Arlberg, but I've read enough, both in your post and about the region, to get the feeling of the place.

 

From my perspective, the closest you'll come is Aspen (Park City has some of your list, and maybe someone with Sun Valley experience can chime in, I've heard it could be close too).

 

Aspen is a real town; it was a mining village 100 years before it was a ski town.  The town has a "real" center, with streets on a grid, not an outdoor mall.  While there are tons of typical American resort high-end houses, mostly out of the center of town on the mountain opposite the central ski hill, the main town has a classic American victorian era feel.

 

In terms of acces, from Quebec, you should be able to get there with one connection and in perhaps half the travel time of ZRH.  Assuming you fly right into ASE (Aspen), the airport is all of three miles from town and most hotels would pick you up, gratis - and once you are there, definitely no need for a rented car.

 

As to terrain, there are four total mountains, all distinctly different (unlike Europe, none are interconnected).  Aspen Mountain, nicknamed Ajax, is right in the center of town.  It's small (~600-plus acres)but great skiing as long as you are moderately skilled - GREAT bumps, short steeps and GREAT people watching.  Aspen Highlands, about a 8 minute bus ride from town (free) has the feel of a more extreme location; from the top, you can hike up to Highlands Bowl, some of the best in-bounds skiing in the US.  Buttermilk/Tiehack is mostly beginners but can be a sleeper place to have fun trying something new - it also hosts the Winter X-Games if that's your bag.  Snowmass, about a 15 minute bus ride (free) from Aspen, is a big mountain all by itself and has its own base area that has that "fake" resort feel you mention.  However, the skiing is phenomenal.

 

I can't imagine that Aspen couldn't hold up to St Anton in food or partying; it probably has one of the best concentration of superb dining outside the major cities in the US.  As to nightlife, well...

 

It can be expensive, particularly the passes, but you get all four mountains for the price.  Lodging can reach for the stars (Little Nell) or more down to earth.  There are lots of smaller hotels that could be up your alley, but no true "privatzimmer" that I know of, but you could try airbnb.com.

 

Aspen can get a bad rap because of it's connection with the Hollywood crowd, but that part can be easily ignored.  It truly is an American gem; I can't recommend it enough.

 

Do some research and see what you think.

post #3 of 18

Aspen is a great suggestion, but it will be expensive.  I think you'll have to make tradeoffs whichever place you pick.  First one that came to my mind was Whistler, then Alta/Snowbird, then Squaw & surrounding North Tahoe ski region.  Most of us rent a car after flying to a ski destination, it's in our genetic code.redface.gif

post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thx for the very complete information.

 

Quick check: lift tickets for Aspen cost 1.5x Arlberg Pass, plane ticket YQB-ASE would be more expensive than flying to YQB-ZRH + 1 night hotel + train.

(Lift tickets are a lot more expensive here in north america: my 8 day pass at Le Massif, which is a great mountain but in no way comparable with Arlberg, costs about the same as 7 days Arlberg)

 

We keep looking though: cost is only one part of the things to consider.


Edited by Pieter - 10/19/11 at 5:55pm
post #5 of 18
If you want the European experience, stick with europe. The best north American experience involves renting cars instead of taking trains, which for a family is probably cheaper anyhow, and more convenient. There are lots of resorts that have real towns... Banff, revelstoke, breckenridge, Aspen. Or you could do what the rest of poor guys do and stay in salt lake city and drive to a different resort everyday, spending WELL under $100 night for accommodations.

The best reason for north America though is the powder. The characteristics of the pacific storms combined with the north south topology of the mountains means our continent reigns supreme for snow.

Look at liftopia.com for cheap tix.

But in the end, if you're not about giving up the whole Euro experience you might as well go there. Itd be like going to Toronto for poutine!!!!
post #6 of 18

Aspen - except more $$ as you've already figured out.

 

Whistler Blackcomb - not the quaintness that you seek, and it's your home country so no passport which may make it less exotic (although they speak a different language than your home).

 

Park City - Pretty close to what you want, although you'll want to go to Alta/Snowbird one or two days which would mean rental car.

 

Bottom line - not really. How about going to Chamonix? You'll almost be speaking the same language as at home. Or Val d'Isere.

post #7 of 18

I agree with JoeSchmoe. It seems like a lot of your checklist is Euro-centric. If you want the scenic train to authentic Alpine village trip, you might just consider trying somewhere else in Europe. Ski North America for its superior powder, not its mass transit or authentic ski villages.

 

Train travel just isn't as big and advanced in North America, so it's not as practical to try to train to a ski trip. That being said, you can find shuttles to many resorts that are within a couple hours of the airport. A lot of Colorado resorts offer shuttle services. Some legit towns include Breckenridge, Steamboat and Aspen. I took a shuttle from Calgary to Banff that was as quick and convenient as any train, and Banff is as beautiful a mountain town as most anywhere in the world.

 

I think Winter Park and Glenwood Springs are the only two Colorado ski towns where you'll find train service, and the skiing there won't compare to Europe, though you might find some sort of public transportation from Glenwood to Aspen.

post #8 of 18

You might want to consider Telluride and Crested Butte. 

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post


The best reason for north America though is the powder.
 


Exactly the main reason we would consider going to a north American destination.

 

I get the message(s): to get to the powder, I'll have to review the priorties.

 

Thx again, will be looking into all the suggestions.

 

And just to be clear: don't want to criticize north American destinations or the different way of experiencing skiing over here in any way.

Maybe it's just some kind of 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' or even some kind of nostalgia thing that gets us going back to Europe...

 

But, as you can see, trying hard to convince ourselves of breaking that circle with your comments/suggestions help.

 

Happy skiing !

 

 

post #10 of 18

Quote:

Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

The best reason for north America though is the powder. 
 

Go for the powder, stay for the burgers. Though if you already live in North America maybe that's not such a draw. 
 

 

post #11 of 18

Hi Pieter.  Thanks for bringing back memories of my trip to St. Anton last year.  Just yesterday i was talking to my good ski buddy and trying to explain the vastness of the White Ring which I skied last year.  There is nothing comparable in N. America to the Arlberg Region.  The only two options that i see that might even be close, are the Alta/Snowbird combined resorts and Whistler.  But AltaBird has a combined 16 or so lifts, while the Arlberg Region has I think about 100 ski lifts!  You could easily take a shuttle and stay at The Cliff, right at the base of Snowbird.  However it is a quiet place, with no real village life in the evening.  It will cost you a few bucks though.  There is a cheaper option of staying 20-30 minutes away down in the valley, much cheaper.  AltaBird is not as vast as Arlberg, but the skiing is comparable, with some big bowls and plenty, plenty of off-piste skiing.  I only skied Whistler once, but of course there is plenty of lodging and a large, busy village and its' a huge mountain. 

 

For the US skiers reading this thread.  If you are considering Europe,  there is not need to look any further than St. Anton!  Like he said, fly to Zurich, hop on the train in the airport basement for a 3-4 hour ride right to St. Anton.  The place is HUGE.  Also, you don't need to even think about hiring a guide to ski expert terrain, which is plentiful.  A short bus ride from St. Anton is Lech, which is another enormous ski area.  I've been able to use my Continental miles to fly free to Europe the past two years.  Free tickets were easy to book, the planes were empty. 

post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post

 

For the US skiers reading this thread.  If you are considering Europe,  there is not need to look any further than St. Anton!  Like he said, fly to Zurich, hop on the train in the airport basement for a 3-4 hour ride right to St. Anton.  The place is HUGE.  Also, you don't need to even think about hiring a guide to ski expert terrain, which is plentiful.  A short bus ride from St. Anton is Lech, which is another enormous ski area.  I've been able to use my Continental miles to fly free to Europe the past two years.  Free tickets were easy to book, the planes were empty. 



Actually, from Zurich central, the train to St. Anton usually takes just over 2 hrs most Saturdays (occasionally, there's a 3-hr slow train), and it's a very scenic trip. The best plan is to leave the US Friday night so that you arrive Saturday morning since most of the hotels and B&B's in town prefer Saturday-Saturday stays.

 

As for not hiring a guide, you can ski a lot of nice terrain without one, but you have to be very careful about it. There are a number of lines which look nice from above but lead to serious cliffs or gullies that squeeze down to unskiable widths (I've found a couple that I had to slide down on my hip to get through). I saw a few people in Stuben this winter who had skied their way into a very bad situation. I'm not sure how they got down. Always scope your entire line from below to ensure there's a safe exit.

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pieter View Post

Thx for the very complete information.

 

Quick check: lift tickets for Aspen cost 1.5x Arlberg Pass, plane ticket YQB-ASE would be more expensive than flying to YQB-ZRH + 1 night hotel + train.

 


I don't know your dates, but I got $900us and $1100 respectively just for flights. You could be in Aspen in 8 hours and it looks like 12 just to get to Zurich.

If you use a travel agent or a tour operator you will probably get a little better rate?

 

I am biased, but I think Aspen has most ambiance and the finest dining of any resort in North America.  Aspen may not have the best skiing, but it's very consistent and pretty dam good.

 

I think the other resorts you should consider would be Whistler and Jackson.

 

post #14 of 18

I want to comment because I have skied extensively in Europe (including Arlberg) and North America.  Arlberg is my favorite place to ski in Europe and clearly you won’t go wrong going there again.  That said, I do prefer North American skiing due primarily to snow quality and topography.  (by topography I’m referring to variety of skiing such as more sustained pitches and options like glad skiing that are very rare in Europe.)  Overall Suggestions above are excellent, my recommendations in ranked order: 

 

  1. Aspen: great town and with 4 mountains there is a ton of skiing. Lift for Ajax is right in town.  Airport right in town.
  2. Banff: great town, several ski options via bus but not all of them have bus service.  Most beautiful views in the world.  Intra Canada has to be cheaper for you (fly to Calgary, then shuttle)
  3. Park City great town, with lifts right in town.  3 ski areas all short bus ride.  Major airport access about 30 min away.
  4. Telluride: great town, with lifts right in town.  Lots of good hike to steeps if that’s your thing.  Airport right in town.
  5. Crested Butte: great town, with short bus to lift.  Lots of good steeps.  Gunnison airport then hour shuttle.
  6. Whistler is more “resorty” but it’s the biggest single mountain skiing in North America.  Fly to Vancouver, 2hr shuttle.
  7. I have never been to Sun Valley and Jackson but you might consider them too.
post #15 of 18
Aspen would be the closest thing for sure, have skied both and love both in different ways, but if you decide to return to Austria , try iscghl this time, it has the best lift system in the world !!!! and some of the best lift served off piste going , and I wont even start on the party's smile.gif
post #16 of 18

We were in the Arlberg in 2009, and my son learnt much about skiing there, and the food at the Montana in Oberlech was ridiculously exquisite. That said, their snow conditions are definitely much worse than those in North America - generally speaking, especially in 2011, North America was hands-down better in terms of conditions.

 

For the best snow and consistent snow, Utah is probably the best, so Alta/Snowbird/Deer Valley/Snowbasin will be awesome for snow conditions. But for the best and longest continuous in-bounds terrain (as you know that does not mean all groomed) which can get as challenging as you want to challenge yourself, there is almost no place like Whistler-Blackcomb, in the world. Of course, Whistler can get rain but then again, in a year like last year, Whistler was powder heaven. Lech-Zurs longest SINGLE run is the run off the Ruffikopf backside in Lech, ending up in Zurs, it's long  but you take a few of intermediate lifts etc to get down to Zurs, Whistler has many runs which have 5000ft vertical, i.e. starting in what they call the Alpine (above tree line) ending up at the base, and many long, gigantic expanse glacier and bowl runs which can be combinations of heart-stopping steeps to broad, ice-cream cruiser/rippers.

 

Yes, one cannot compare lift-ticket prices, US is ridiculously expensive in many places, though Alta is a bit less than most, but one can't compare that to an Arlberg Season Pass for all resorts (i.e. Lech, Zurs, St Anton, St Christoph etc.) for kids is a whopping Eur 10 ! 

 

Deer Valley regardless of what folks say is a great resort for equivalent to Europe "on-piste" skiing, read "groomers", it really is a nice place with good food, and you have sister resorts with a tons of terrain, Park City and Canyons right next to each other but transit would be on terra-firma not skis. Snowbasin does have North America's best on-mountain lodges, and tremendous inbounds terrain, steep and relatively long runs , 2500+ ft vertical. No lodging at the base in Snowbasin though but it is Utah's hidden gem. Alta-Snowbird are good too, and many here are diehard Alta-Bird fans.

 

So there you have it, an plethora of ski riches here in North America. 

 

Final thought, not sure where you are (Quebec near Montreal I presume), but here in North America it is possible for you to ski  the day you arrive at your "major"  ski area, and ski the day you leave. Places you should be able to do that are the Utah resorts, and Whistler-Blackcomb. 

 

Of course, there are interesting places in the East too just south of you, in Vermont, Maine etc.

 

 

post #17 of 18

Whitefish has:

 

  • Glacier Park International airport about 25-30 minutes away.  Many of the hotels will provide lifts from the airport and have their own shuttles.  In addition, once you are here, there is the SnowBus that connects the ski area with downtown so that no matter if you stay at the area or in the REAL TOWN, you can get a taste of each.
  • Check the link above for pictures of the mountain galore.  You can judge its interest and variety.
  • Whitefish is mostly a SUMMER season resort, but the downtown is a town all year round.  The two seasons help support restaurants that you wouldn't ordinarily find in a town of this size in the wilds of Montana.
  • We are know for our low crowds, and our value.  You don't say how long you are planning on staying, but I believe it is still early enough to buy the Frequent Skier card.  Daily rates, even at FULL PRICE are much less than over 95% of the NA areas with 3000 acres.  Naturally, buying multiple days reduces the daily cost.  
  • The one caveat is, if you are desirous of tons of sunshine, you won't find it here.  Also, since it's Montana, we do have some really COLD days.  I've never let either stop me.  
     
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pieter View Post

 

We both are very experienced skiers, 70/30 on-off piste.

 

So: is there a resort / destination in North America that would have the qualities of St-Anton (well, let's forget the food):

- easily accessible by plane and no need for rental car to get to the mountain or to get around,

- interesting and varied on/off piste terrain,

- 'real' village

- reasonable price for the passes

 

Thx !



 


Edited by sibhusky - 11/4/11 at 3:43pm
post #18 of 18

North Lake Tahoe. Stay at Squaw Valley Hotel or in the village, walk to lifts.  Shuttle one canyon away to Alpine Meadows. Take a paddle wheel boat across the lake to South shore and ski Heavenly.  Their are shuttles to Alpine, Northstar, Diamond Peak from almost every major hotel at North shore.  Food, there are some excellent restaurants in Tahoe City, Truckee and the casino area at the Hyatt Regency.  My wife and I love the Soule Domain restaurant.  It is in a Pony Express relay station and the food is excellent and reasonable.  The owner Charlie Soule was a top chef at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco.   Can't dine in a log cabin that was a pony express relay station in  Europe. Some research and planning would afford you a very different and great trip.  Shuttles run from Reno airport to North Shore.  For scenic beauty Lake Tahoe is hard to beat.  Ski the ridge at Diamond Peak or Homewood and marvel at the vista.  Ski Heavenly and look West to the Lake and East into the desert, quite an experience.

 

Of course don't know exactly what you want but there are private home rentals that run the gamut from cheap to very luxurious.  You are only limited by your lack of imagination.  Aspen is very expensive.  Hell go to a casino and drink free.

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