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Espace Killy vs. N.America - compare and contrast - Page 2

post #31 of 44

I have skied E'Killy and most of the Utah/Wyoming/Colorado resorts.  They both have their charms, but I feel far more comfortable skiing in the US.  No mega-long plane rides, no customs ( no matter how nice, I always feel like I'm in 'Midnight Express"), no strange money, my cell phone works here.  Culture?  Sorry, there were just enough rude Frenchmen.......ah, not to purpetuate a stereotype.

post #32 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpikeDog View Post

I have skied E'Killy and most of the Utah/Wyoming/Colorado resorts.  They both have their charms, but I feel far more comfortable skiing in the US.  No mega-long plane rides, no customs ( no matter how nice, I always feel like I'm in 'Midnight Express"), no strange money, my cell phone works here.  Culture?  Sorry, there were just enough rude Frenchmen.......ah, not to purpetuate a stereotype.

I am not American born (live here since 1990), but I do feel the same about certain level of comfort skiing here - how to ask, what to ask, what to answer, how to answer etc. Everyday routines are very important and make our lives somewhat easier. I even got a comment in France that I say too much 'thank you" ! Well, that's what we do in the US, even if we do not mean it. 

My cell phone worked in France - it is 21st century !!!

Rude Frenchmen - I can "out rude" them (as most Americans can) so they do not mess with me.

If I live in Wyoming of course I would have no reason to take mega long plane ride to Europe to go skiing. 

Oh, "Midnight Express", one of those "they are out to get us" movies, but of course we are innocent and justice (me) prevail at the end. Is Chuck Norris in that one (BTW - Happy B-day Chuck Norris, I am sure you are not skiing in France - you take chair downhill and ski uphill )?

post #33 of 44

As others have mentioned, flying to London can cut costs quite a bit. Around November or December, some UK tour operators start offering trips for two to France in mid-January for about £200 per person. So that's flights, transfers, and accommodation for two for about $650 total. If you can get a flight to Gatwick (where the tour operators fly from) instead of Heathrow, you don't even have to deal with transferring across London.

 

As for rude Frenchmen, I guess I must be doing something wrong. I've been to France six times (three to Paris and three ski trips), and I haven't run into any rude Frenchmen. I keep hearing about them, but I must be looking in the wrong places. Seriously though, if you go into a situation with a bit of humility, an adaptive mindset, and a polite tone of voice, pretty much everyone will be nice to you. It's worked for me in every country I've ever been to.

post #34 of 44
I live in Argentina so traveling and customs is always a problem. having skied in both US (taos and Aspen) and Europe (St. Anton and Zermatt), I would choose US. Snow quality in the rockies is far better, in my view, to European snow. Additionaly, as somebody stated before, going off piste in Europe without a guide is dangerous. I like that "gate system" in the US where you can ski not groomed piste, but still in the boundary area.
Obviously, apres ski and dinning is much nicer in Europe. but if you really like skiing, I would recommend some US resort.
post #35 of 44
If you want a ski vacation, go to any north American resort. All the terrain is lift served and since they are run by hotels, they will give you a good experience.

Go to Europe for a ski adventure. Whole other world out there. If you are missing it, you will be another year older when you finally do.

You can fit several of the largest North American ski resorts inside 3 vallees France and have some changes leftover. I used to think the East Coast skiing was enough, then West was best. Now having Been to Europe, South America and recently Asia, I will just say they are all different with their own charms, pros and cons. It costs money but i would have been poorer having not tried.

Sent from a Samsung Fascinate running CM 10.1
post #36 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post

As for rude Frenchmen, I guess I must be doing something wrong. I've been to France six times (three to Paris and three ski trips), and I haven't run into any rude Frenchmen. I keep hearing about them, but I must be looking in the wrong places. Seriously though, if you go into a situation with a bit of humility, an adaptive mindset, and a polite tone of voice, pretty much everyone will be nice to you. It's worked for me in every country I've ever been to.

 

Could it be that you're British and not American?  

 

Most Canucks backpacking through Europe will sow a Canada flag patch on their backpack.  This isn't for patriotism- rather so they don't get treated like an American - France being the #1 culprit.  Never went myself, but you hear that all the time.  For that reason, France does not interest me much.  I'll stay in NA and ski Italy if I ever make it over there as the general consensus is that it's friendlier.

post #37 of 44
I've been to France 3 times and I didn't find them to be ruder than advertised. They just prefer you try to speak to them in French before trying broken English. Sometimes a "excuse moi" goes some way to getting assistance. Don't use that as a reason not to go to France. 3 vallees and Chamonix are definitely places to put on your bucket list.

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post #38 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

 

Could it be that you're British and not American?  

 

Most Canucks backpacking through Europe will sow a Canada flag patch on their backpack.  This isn't for patriotism- rather so they don't get treated like an American - France being the #1 culprit.  Never went myself, but you hear that all the time.  For that reason, France does not interest me much.  I'll stay in NA and ski Italy if I ever make it over there as the general consensus is that it's friendlier.

IF you make it over there and show some resemblance of proper behavior around people that do not share your culture, customs or habits you might be OK. 

French people are nice, generous and respond kindly to your kindness. It is about you - not French people. I agree that some things are different over the Atlantic.

post #39 of 44
Quote:
If you live in the West you have so many places to explore that Europe should be well down your list, unless you have excess funds and time to do it. 
I'm writing this from Golden, BC - skied Kicking Horse yesterday and leaving for Revelstoke very soon.  Two years ago I grabbed a 30K USAir freq flyer ticket to Zurich to ski St. Anton, that was worth it! - if i had to buy a $1000plane ticket, maybe not so much.  But as I was skiing yesterday I was thinking, instead of using my miles to get to Europe, I'm going to save them for the resorts and areas that are left on my skiing bucket list.

Over the years this has resulted in my skiing a very deep list of areas in the western US and Canada.  As a result most of the "bucket list" resorts I haven't skied are in the Alps.   First two years of retirement I didn't make it to Europe either.  In 2010-11 I went to Japan.  2011-12 schedule and some incentives resulted in my skiing over 3 weeks in interior B.C.  That was really lucky considering the season up there vs. most of the western U.S.  How many people had their best lifetime season for powder in 2011-12? In my case it was by a very large margin.  

 

So this year I made the effort to get in a Euro trip.  Detailed daily reports and pics are here:  http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=5

 

The centerpiece of the trip was a week in the Arlberg. I was with an intermediate friend who skis nearly exclusively groomers.  We stayed at the Sandhof Hotel in Lech, which was recommended to me by an online contact who had been there. http://www.sandhof.at/en/home.html  During "Winter Sports Week" of Jan. 19-26 it was 1330 Euros per person including dinners and lift tickets.   This was a very good value in an upscale resort like Lech.  Food was excellent; nice "biospa" in the basement for apres ski.  It's very convenient, short walk to 3 of Lech's lifts. A free bus runs every 10 minutes to Alpe Rauz if you want to ski St. Anton.  2 of the days I had to use the 4 Euro bus to St. Anton that runs only once per hour.  This was due to my skiing 3 days with Piste-to-Powder off-piste guides. http://www.pistetopowder.com/ You need to go with someone like that if you want to get off the beaten path and ski famous areas like the backside of the Valluga. 

Quote:
 Snow was spotty in some North American ski areas last couple of years. Europe had some of the best snow years at the same time. Base of 280cm (top - 110 inches) is not too shabby, show me ski area in the Rockies with that much base in mid-January. So, winner in this category varies on given year, this year the winner might be Europe.

The odds are against that in the long run.   Most resorts in the Alps average ~250 inches or so.  Volatility is high, like the Sierra.   When I was in La Grave in 2008 it had not snowed in a month.   The Arlberg is high snowfall for the Alps.  The Galzig station at 2,200 meters in St. Anton averages somewhat over 300 inches.  I have read (but not seen data despite lengthy and futile attempts on this trip) that Zurs may get 400. But St. Anton is the Jackson Hole of the Alps, great terrain but a lot of south facing.  That's why I went there in January.   La Grave and Grands Montets at Chamonix (my other Euro trip in 2004) are the opposite: north facing and extremely good snow preservation.   One of the advantages of hiring Piste-to-Powder in St. Anton is that some of the off-piste you would have trouble navigating yourself is better exposed than the more direct lift accessible slopes.

 

Going that far from L.A. and flying into Zurich, I wanted to sample a few other places within a reasonable drive itinerary.  First up was 3 days in Klosters.  The last of those produced the best powder day of the trip on the Parsenn.  It is true that you can ski untracked right next to the pistes without the intense competition we get at most places in North America.  As noted in posts above you can't ski much powder during storms because of the bad vis with no trees and necessity to stay on piste.  You need a storm and than some clear but not too warm days afterwards.  Thus I think having some north exposure for the 2-3 day old powder is desirable.

 

The next 2 days were at Flims/Laax.  This is a massive intermediate oriented complex with even more south exposure than St. Anton.  Off piste at all but the highest elevations was refrozen and essentially unskiable.  We were lucky to have 2 sunny days there. With overcast the pistes would have been frozen granular all day long instead of just in early morning.  So our skiing there was pretty good.  I can imagine it might be very sloppy in March though.

 

The final stop in Andermatt was a bust for skiing as it snowed all 3 days. First day I skied by Braille, didn't bother the last 2 as in addition to bad vis the upper lifts were closed for wind/avalanche.  Everyone extols the great public transit in the Alps but we were glad we had a car.  Andermatt is on top of the Gotthard tunnel, the main route form Zurich to Milan.  So we had a "tourist day," driving to Bellinzona, Lake Como and Milan.  We also had a dinner in Lucerne and visited the transportation museum there.  My friend Richard has been in the Alps before, and strongly advocates having the car for some sightseeing on the bad weather days.

 

Switzerland is breathtakingly expensive, especially for dining.  It's hard to get a decent dinner for less than ~$60 per person.   Austria was less, but still no bargain.  With the breakfast/dinner food quality at the Sandhof it was easy to blow off lunch or just get a snack or bowl of soup on the mountain.  I think half board breakfast and dinner is the way to go to control food costs in the Alps.

 

I was very interested in this thread because Espace Killy is at the top of the remaining bucket list.  I suspect many of you would consider it bizarre that I've now skied 180 places and not yet one as renowned as Val d'Isere yet.

post #40 of 44
Thread Starter 

^^^ I am sure there are some "renowned" places among those 180 wink.gif. As for Val D'Isere, that place is truly special and combination of scenery, culture, culinary excellence and great skiing would certainly earn a special spot among those 180 ski places.  Money is real, but the experience and memories are priceless.

One of the good points of skiing the Alps is that resorts are set up to receive and accommodate wide spectrum of clients - from "uber" rich Russian oil barons to middle class Americans or working class Brits or French. Everybody can find their price point and enjoy their "winter vacation". 

post #41 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

 

Switzerland is breathtakingly expensive, especially for dining.  It's hard to get a decent dinner for less than ~$60 per person.   Austria was less, but still no bargain.  With the breakfast/dinner food quality at the Sandhof it was easy to blow off lunch or just get a snack or bowl of soup on the mountain.  I think half board breakfast and dinner is the way to go to control food costs in the Alps.

 

Part of your problem is timing. Exchage rate had gone against US dollar since the financial meltdown. Prior to that, US dollar worth more than Swiss Franc, sometimes as much as 30% premium. I was lucky I went to Switzerland a few times during those "golden years". Everything felt perfectly reasonable when the dollar had such an advantage. I've not been back since 2008 which was my last visit.

 

But even then, I always took the half board option. Eating out in Europe has a different connotation than in N. America. They're just setup differently. The food in most hotel/pension are better than even the typical resturants here in the US. And typically of local food. So why not?

 

Funny thing is, while I was skiing in Switzerland, I neglected Canada, when the US dollar also had a 30% premium against Canadian dollar during the same time frame. Now, everything in Canada felt pretty darn expensive!

 

By the same measure, Espace Killy would be a fair game now. The Euro, after years of over-hype, is coming back down to a more reasonable level against the US dollar.

 

Quote:

 My friend Richard has been in the Alps before, and strongly advocates having the car for some sightseeing on the bad weather days.

Travelling alone, I never rent a car. That didn't stop me from touring at the front and back end of my ski trips. Instead of driving AROUND sightseeing, I took the train to whatever destination that appeal to me and walked.

 

I figured I could always rent a car for a day if I feel like it. But so far I hadn't felt that urge.

post #42 of 44

I do rent a car alone in U.S. or Canada; it would be quite expensive in Europe with the gas.  

 

Yes you can plan to do touring before or after a ski trip.  But if it's dumping, you can't ski off-piste and you can't see on piste, it's nice to have the option to do something else.

post #43 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

I do rent a car alone in U.S. or Canada; it would be quite expensive in Europe with the gas.

Yes you can plan to do touring before or after a ski trip. But if it's dumping, you can't ski off-piste and you can't see on piste, it's nice to have the option to do something else.


that's why diesel is so popular in Europe.

and.... they tend to be stick shifts
post #44 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

 

Could it be that you're British and not American?  

 

Most Canucks backpacking through Europe will sow a Canada flag patch on their backpack.  This isn't for patriotism- rather so they don't get treated like an American - France being the #1 culprit.  Never went myself, but you hear that all the time.  For that reason, France does not interest me much.  I'll stay in NA and ski Italy if I ever make it over there as the general consensus is that it's friendlier.

 

Actually, I'm American. I've just lived in Britain the last few years. Some Brits also have the same complaints, but most of the time it's for similar reasons.

 

Like I said before, all it takes is a bit of humility and polite speech. The words "please" and "thank you" go a long way and yet don't get used as often as you might think. America has become so informal it's bordering on impolite (you don't really notice until you go away for a while and then come back), which is why some Americans have problems when they go abroad. In America, you go to a coffee shop and say "hey buddy, gimme a coffee." In Europe, a lot of people would find it patronizing and rude if strangers talked that way to them, and some might not tolerate it. 

 

The "rudeness" that people complain about is actually intolerance of being patronized. It's not about who you are or where you're from; it's about the way you talk to people. But if you speak politely ("can I have a coffee, please?"), especially if you combine it with a smile and a soft tone of voice, you won't ever have any problems.


Edited by CerebralVortex - 3/25/13 at 5:35am
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