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First European Ski Vacation. Recommendations?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hi All,

 

My wife and I usually ski Tahoe and Idaho but now we're planning our first European ski vacation and we're looking for tips.    Does anyone have any recommendations?  What are the best resorts?

 

We're planning about a week on the slopes. We're both advanced skiers and looking for a truly great experience (since we won't be doing this very often).  On the other hand we'd also like to keep the expenses reasonable (as reasonable as possible, I guess).

 

Some of the places we're considering are:

 

Val Thorens in France.

Vaujany or some other resort with access to the Alpe d Huez.

Mayrhofen in Austria.

 

Any other suggestions would be very welcome.

 

Thanks

post #2 of 19

I have limited Euro experience, a trip to Zermatt and St. Anton each of the past two years.  Zermatt is a nice remote village but I liked skiing at St. Anton much better.  The advanced terrain was much more plentiful.  There is a direct train right from the Zurich airport into St. Anton.  The place has almost 100 lifts when you include Lech which is right up the road by easy bus.  Skiing the white ring at Lech should be on every skiers bucket list. There are economy places to stay, but most require a weeks reservation.  Also, there are rooms for rent.  I skied a short half day upon arrival, two full days, then another day to noon on the way out.

 

I want to ski the big french resorts like 3 valley and escape de killes and courcheval.  They take more travel to get to, but I hope to get to at least one of them someday.

post #3 of 19

A couple of years ago, I spent a week in Soelden, during the WC opener GS.  At that time, only the glacier skiing was open - about 20% of the whole mountain - and I had a blast.  When the season is in full swing, the whole mountain looks incredible, and I'm now trying to figure out how to convince my wife to do it again.

Besides, the US Ski Team, selected Soelden as their European base - they must know something.

 

Seriously, it's an incredible mountain, and I really liked the local vibe - really laid back.  If you're up for the Euro night clubs - there are some, if you'd rather shop at Billa and make your own dinner at the hotel, it's there too.

 

 

 

post #4 of 19

It looks like I'm going to beat Prickly to this one, but I am paraphrasing his answer to a similar question a while back so he gets all the credit for the first bit.

 

1. Check out the Where to Ski and Snowboard website and make notes about all the resorts in Europe.

2. Make a short list of all the places you're seriously interested in.

3. Go to St. Anton.

 

There are plenty of fantastic resorts throughout the Alps, but with a trip to St. Anton you get it all. As SnowbirdDevotee mentioned, you can catch the train from Zurich airport, and you can get right to the center of St. Anton within a couple of hours. So, it's easy to get to and the journey is very scenic. Plus, there's loads of terrain to suit everyone, so you definitely won't be disappointed with that.

 

Now, some tips to keep costs down:

 

1. Go in the middle of January or early March. February is full of school holidays (similar to spring break in America) around the continent, which drives up the price of accomodation throughout the Alps for almost the entire month.

2. Fly out Friday (arriving in Zurich on Saturday morning) and return Saturday or Sunday. Most of the hotels and B&B's in town prefer or even limit their guests to Saturday-Saturday stays, so that will get you the lowest prices.

3. Use the St. Anton website for booking accommodation. It has the widest selection with loads of little B&B's and pension houses.

 

If you get a Sunday return flight, you can take the train back to Zurich on Saturday and spend a day sight-seeing there, which is a nice day out.

post #5 of 19

I could just add that Val Thorens would be a good choice late in the season, not sure I'd go there mid-winter. If you want to do the 3 Vals midseason, maybe one of the other villages would work better (and some of the "sub" villages like La Thania are even better, I believe). 

Consider too whether you want a real big resort or not. I think for good skiers there are also a lot of excellent choices in the Alps among the smaller (by Alpine standards) places, like Alagna, Andermatt, Engelberg, La Grave (which is really out there, not really a resort per se), etc. 


And to throw out some names of bigger places if you want hairball stuff: Val d'Isere, Verbier, Chamonix.

A few random points to keep in mind:
-If you're interested in saving money, Switzerland would rank dead last, France and Austria somewhere in the middle, Italy probably tops.
-Skiing the Alps is a weather crapshoot because of limited terrain below treeline. If there's no sun, you're generally very limited in what you can see/ski.
-As in North America, the best resorts for skiing and the best for "experience" are not usually the same. That's one reason I think so highly of St Anton, it ranks very high in a lot of different categories (though I wouldn't go there late in the season, myself). 
-Hard for me to tell whether that's a very informed list (eg, you've already done some research) or not. Doesn't strike me that your choices have much in common. 

-Lots and lots of resorts in the Alps have enough challenging terrain to keep anyone happy for a week or so (even my humble home hill). BUT, the lion's share of that terrain is offpiste, requiring you to have BC skills, hook up with someone who does, hire a guide, or just be plum loco to try them. 

-The nine or ten pounds you shell out for WTSS 2012 is the best money you'll spend before coming to Europe. 

 


Edited by prickly - 10/24/11 at 4:51am
post #6 of 19

Pick a place that is not terribly hard to get to, i.e. one on a trunk rail line and pick a place that is a place.  You are in Europe, you want to experience the culture and life.  To that end places like Kitzbuhl, or Innsbruck, or Chamonix come to mind.  In some of these ski regions there are literally dozens of distinct ski areas.  Best day of skiing ever for us was at St. Anton, but that is very, very exclusive.  (we did not spend a night)  

post #7 of 19

I'll agree with the other posters here, St. Anton is a fantastic resort and pretty much have everything you'll need. Apart from the varied and excellent ski-terrain, I also like the village, the people and the ambiance there. If you want luxury you can easily find it, or you can choose to be more frugal.

 

Personally, I find Lech to be much more exclusive and flashy than St. Anton and it's just a little bit further up the valley, you can easily ski there a day or two as well should you so desire. If you go to any Austrian, Swiss or German resort, make sure you have the rösti potatoes if you haven't had that. mmmmm.

 

While it can be argued that Norway is the birthplace of [all] skiing, St. Anton and the Arlberg area is the birthplace of modern alpine skiing, where Hannes Schneider refined the Norwegian techniques into the Arlberg technique, if you go there you're in the midst of ski history.

 

Other resorts I like is the Port du Soleil system. I've stayed in Avoriaz in this system. Avoriaz is a more futuristic place and is made for skiing. One of, if not the, largest ski-system in the world with 600 km+  slopes. Chamonix is also a favorite and a classic. 

 

That said, I'd choose St. Anton.

post #8 of 19

I don't think St Anton is exclusive, really. There are some very reasonable places to stay and eat there. I have a few names if you want to message me. 

post #9 of 19

I agree with prickly, reading my post I see it's not evident. St, Anton is a cosy place. One more tip: where ever you go, try to find accommodation with access to a sauna. The perfect way to end a long day of skiing and soothe those sore muscles, and it'll make the early morning start easier. 


Edited by madMads - 10/27/11 at 7:09am
post #10 of 19



+1. I've never had problems finding a single room in a B&B in St. Anton for a reasonable price, usually €50 or €60 per night. Double rooms would probably cost less than that per person.

 


Edited by CerebralVortex - 10/27/11 at 6:11am
post #11 of 19

I'm thinking of putting in a sauna at my place this winter. But don't come stay with me. 

post #12 of 19

I thought you said Epic members were welcome to stay at your place for free this winter.

 

I'm going to have to rework my plans now.

post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post

I thought you said Epic members were welcome to stay at your place for free this winter.

 

I'm going to have to rework my plans now.



Maybe it'll be ok if you say you don't  sauna....

post #14 of 19

Very boring...always the same tips....what about Lenzerheide or Laax in Switzerland? Two very cool resorts, quite big. Or Samnaun-Ischgl? And when you rent a holiday home, it's not too expensive. And a secret tip which I do once a season: for beginners, there's the round trip (all off piste) from Lenzerheide - Arosa - Tschiertschen - Lenzerheide which is a unique experience.

post #15 of 19

I like both those resorts a lot, not sure they're what this guy wants, though. If it's me coming over St Anton or Val d'Isere fit the bill more than Laax or Lenzerheide.

 

Keep in mind that most people who post here are from North America, so they may not have skied around the Alps as much as you have. Still, they're just trying to help based on their own experiences. Hope you post often this winter, cool corner of the Alps where you live. I'd ski over there a lot more if the Splugenpass were open in winter.


Edited by prickly - 11/5/11 at 4:21pm
post #16 of 19

Hi,

It really depends on what yo are looking for: big ski area, charming ski village, off piste.....and also when in the season. I have skied in various places in Europe ( Italy, France, Austri, Switzerland) but I know Italy and France best (I am italian btw).

I would suggest:

  • Tignes/Val D'Isere for big, snow sure ski area with lots of mileage and accessibile off piste. Views are fab (as more or less everywhere in the Alps) and the villages are improving. Val D'Isere is surely better looking (the town centre at least) than Tignes but more expensive and crowded. My choice: Tignes Val Claret.
  • Val Badia or Val Gardena in the Italian Dolomites: amazing views, lots  and lots of trails, great food. Cons: not too challenging, erratic snow record but snowmaking is impressive.
  • Courmayeur in Italy: Italian side of the Mont Blanc. Pretty town with excellent food on and off the slopes. You can ski on nearby LaThuille which is linked to La Rosiere in France. The area is deserted during the week as most Italians ski during the week-end. There are also other nearby resort you can explore (Pila, Cervinia for the Mattherhorn). Cons: you need a car .
  • Chamonix and particularly Argentiere for Les Grand Montets ski area. Amazing off piste (hire a guide) and I mean off piste as it is not patrolled and you go high, so you are skiing glacier (crevasses - seracs - etc) . Cons: high altitude, small resorts not linked to each other on skis (need to move by bus or car).
  • Adelboden in Switzerland - beautifully village. Cons: ski area is not too big
  • Lech/St Anton in Austria: Big ski area with lots of off piste, nice village. Cons: St Anton can be vwery rowdy at night.

 

Hope it helps: enjoy!!!

 

post #17 of 19

Some good suggestions so far, giving me a limited amount to add.  I think you will have a great time wherever you go, but agree with Prickly that your list does not seem to have a lot in common other than being high quality Euro resorts (of which there are dozens of others).  What got you thinking about Europe and what would you most like to experience?
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by twizansk View Post

Hi All,

 

My wife and I usually ski Tahoe and Idaho but now we're planning our first European ski vacation and we're looking for tips.    Does anyone have any recommendations?  What are the best resorts?

 

We're planning about a week on the slopes. We're both advanced skiers and looking for a truly great experience (since we won't be doing this very often).  On the other hand we'd also like to keep the expenses reasonable (as reasonable as possible, I guess).

 

Some of the places we're considering are:

 

Val Thorens in France.

Vaujany or some other resort with access to the Alpe d Huez.

Mayrhofen in Austria.

 

Any other suggestions would be very welcome.

 

Thanks


When you say a week on the slopes, does that mean you are planning on spending time elsewhere in Europe?  This may influence where it makes the most sense to ski.  I haven't been to any of the 3 on your list, but have heard good things about them all.  Val Thorens is one of the highest villages in the Alps at 2300 m/7600 feet and is a favorite for many for spring skiing.  

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post

I want to ski the big french resorts like 3 valley and escape de killes and courcheval.  They take more travel to get to, but I hope to get to at least one of them someday.


FYI, 3 Valleys consists of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens (and some other places nearby).  Meribel is in the middle making it a bit easier to explore the other two.  If you want to research Espace Killy think space not escape (or just look under Val d'Isere or Tignes) 

 

post #18 of 19

I'm off to Megeve, Chamonix and Saas Fee this year and really looking forward to the 3 weeks in the Alps. For a first timer I would highly recomend Chamonix, they have a great mix of places to stay and it works well for all kinds of budgets. With fellow ski bum buddies we've stayed as cheaply as 20 euros a night in Chamonix, I wouldnt recomend that tho. My family has an Exclusive Resorts membership and with that a house in Megeve, where I plan to spend week one, Megeve is the next valley over from Chamonix. We then head to Saas Fee, I'm not sure where yet as my father booked it, and I am but his humble ski buddy! I will be back in Chamonix for the 2nd week of February with my former ski bum buddies, we will stay at The Aiguille Du Midi, over in Les Bossons, as it's a step up from ski bum hostels we stayed at in our college days.

 

I think for the total package you just can't beat Chamonix! I have skied all over; Davos, Zermatt, Kitzbuhl, Cortina, The Arlberg - St. Anton, Lech and Zurs and if you are going for a first time trip fly into Geneva and grab the bus to Chamonix, it is the most amazing alpine village and one hell of a place to ski! Check out the Chamonix webiste for places to stay, they are very descriptive and have the best deals, most of the time even better then the hotels will quote you!

 

Hope I was a help!

 

Sean

post #19 of 19

I've been to Chamonix 4 or 5 times, but the only time I skied there was for a week with Club Med in March 2004 with mostly Spring like conditions.  That was my first non-US ski experience and I had a great time.  Cham is certainly the Mountaineering capitol of Europe and one of the best expert off piste destinations you can pick.  It is also a real year round town, which has an appeal to many people.

 

With that said, it is probably NOT the place I would recommend for a 1 week trip to experience European skiing (although I am sure you would have a great time if you did go there).  The main reason I say this is that the areas at Cham are not as interconnected like you will find at Trois Vallee, Espace Killy, Paradiski, Porte du Soleil, etc.  The best skiing I did at Cham was at Grands Montets about a 20 minute bus ride away.  There was skiing accessible from town, but it was unseasonably warm and very slushy at the lower elevations.  Don't get me wrong, I had a great time and really enjoyed meeting other European skiers at Club Med.  The on mountain lunches were also very enjoyable (with Club Med organizing lunch at what seemed like remote locations most days).  While there may be a few options in the US, having independently run on mountain dining located away from the lifts is one of the things that I think is different about skiing in the Alps vs the US.

 

To get the most out of a one off skiing trip to the Alps, I think I would pick a large, mostly interconnected domain and stay someplace where I would be able to interact with European skiers like a catered Chalet or Club Med type place.  FWIW, I got a great deal at Club Med in 2004, but their prices seemed to have gone up from what I can tell.  Something with an authentic feel would also be nice which is why St Anton or some of the towns that make up 3 Vallees is probably a good suggestion (although I haven't skied either yet).

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