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Where to Ski in Europe

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

We've never skied in Europe but have the opportunity to do so over the Xmas-New Year break.   Our group consists of a beginner plus 3 strong intermediates and 2 advanced skiers.  We've been skiing Deer Valley and Alta out west or Vermont slopes like Stratton in the Northeast.


Looking for the best shot at early season snow and a good mix of trails for the varied skill sets.  I've heard not to expect the level of trail grooming that some of my group is most comfortable so grooming is a concern. We will definitely be hiring guides/instructors to make sure we get the most out of our time and we will lean to staying on the trails more than off-piste.  


Currently looking at Chamonix but really quite open to anything. Half the group is starting in Paris so our thinking is to fly to Geneva and go from there.  That said it seems just as easy to fly anywhere else in Europe so my primary focus is to find a ski area that gives us the best shot at a great trip.


Kind of a broad question and appreciate any guidance.  cheers

post #2 of 23
I wouldn't recommend Chamonix for your group. The advanced skiers will love it, but the rest won't enjoy it so much. It's quite a disconnected area that's better oriented for those going off piste.

The main obstacle for your trip is the timing. Christmas/New Year is a very busy time, so a lot of the resorts that would suit your whole group could get quite crowded.

Of the few less-crowded places that would suit you, I'd suggest Arosa, Switzerland. Starting this winter, they'll be connected to Lenzerheide (similar to the Alta-Snowbird connection), so the combined area will have enough beginner and intermediate terrain to keep you cruising around the groomers for a week. The advanced skiers will enjoy the freeride areas and easy-access off-piste terrain, so they should be happy as well.

Arosa itself is a pretty village, and it's fairly easy to get to from Zurich (train with one connection all the way to town or a bus/taxi from Zurich). The altitude should be high enough for early season snow but still offer some stuff below tree line for low-visibility days.

Here's a short trip report from a few years ago http://epicski.onthesnow.com/t/95320/photos-from-arosa.
post #3 of 23

There are a lot of options to go from here, do you have other criteria (village, hotel/apartment, country maybe?)? From Paris you could also go by train. Transfers from the airport could still take long, you could look for a ski area nearby.

post #4 of 23

Three Valleys (Val Thorens, Les Menuires, Mérible, Courchevel), Espace Killy (Val d'Isère, Tignes) and Paradiski (Les Arcs, La Plagne) are all premium French ski areas near the TGV (direct high speed train from Paris) station of Bourg-S. Maurice (with a short bus transfer to any of the mentioned resorts). Great areas, large enough to ski for two weeks and the most snow-sure of France. Karlyboogy and I have been to all three, so feel free to ask any questions. 


Areas such as Verbier or portes du Soleil are accessible from Geneva; if you fly to Zurich and take a very scenic train ride, Austrian areas like St. Anton am Arlberg/Lech, Sölden or Ischgl are great for Christmas skiing as well.

post #5 of 23

Although Xmas-NY break might not be the best time of the year for it (snow-wise, crowds etc) the Dolomites in Italy do offer a good mix of trail difficulty level, good grooming (what I always thought as "to the excess"), and good possibilities for off piste experiences (please, please hire a guide)

post #6 of 23

I'd recommend Portes du Soleil- levels for everyone, huge ski area, great parks and brilliant apres. Really good snow record last season as well and really close to Geneve (one of the closest resorts to it I think...) my friend runs a website www.snoworganiser.com which organises all the extras you need for winter holidays (passes, equipment etc.) if you wanted a discount you could drop her an email.... ally@snoworganiser.com. sure she could sort you something out. It's a brilliant place to go skiing spent 3 seasons there.

post #7 of 23
Portes du Soleil is great but too low for X-mas. Pretty risky IMO.
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 

wow - you guys are great, thanks so much for taking the time to respond.  I'll share this thread with my group!  I may be back with some questions but this is really helpful.  cheers

post #9 of 23

I dunno, the Portes du Soleil last year had better snow at Christmas than Tignes ( I was working between Les Gets and Tignes), and the year before was pretty good too. But if you wanted guarenteed snow I guess somewhere higher might be a better option....Tignes has a good snow record but pretty expensive!

post #10 of 23
It's a bit of a train ride from Geneva but you could look into doing Zermatt. We went last Christmas, albeit we went the week before Xmas, and then left a few days before New Years. So some observations. It was not crowded leading up to Xmas. And in fact it was Dec. 26th before the heavy duty crowds showed up. Zermatt has glacier and high altitude skiing, so is fairly snow sure for early season. Last December was some what of an above average snow fall for Switz. So the coverage was very good, and you could ski all the way to the village. Plus lots and lots of intermediate terrain. Plenty of really good mtn restaurants. Chey Vrony is chez terrific!

And the village is really pretty, good choice of restaurants too. And large and varied selection of accommodations to choose from. It's pricey though, and especially going during the holidays.
post #11 of 23
Talking of expensive.... Zermatt is the priciest resort in Europe for lodging and lift tickets.
post #12 of 23

Your first thought was on target. Hard to beat Chamonix. Don't miss Vallee Blanche, high intermediates in good physical condition can handle it and it will probably be your favorite memory of the trip.

post #13 of 23
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post

I wouldn't recommend Chamonix for your group. The advanced skiers will love it, but the rest won't enjoy it so much. It's quite a disconnected area that's better oriented for those going off piste.


What CV says is very true. Chamonix is great for expert off-piste skiers with a guide, but for anyone else it is by no means ideal. Have a look at the other resort mentioned: lots of great choices.

Edited by Cheizz - 10/11/13 at 1:48am
post #14 of 23

Still, there are a lot of options. If you would like a bigger ski area you could go to the Dolomites (beautiful scenery), Espace Killy (compact and big at the same time), Les Trois Vallées (biggest, a lot is quite easy), les Quattre Vallées (Switzerland so more expensive, great off-piste) or Portes du Soleil (a lot of trees).. They will all have enough snow by christmas, or they make sure they do. I wouldn't recommend Chamonix, but I've never been there. Could you be more specific about country, accommodation, etc?

Edited by Karlyboogy - 10/11/13 at 6:02am
post #15 of 23
Originally Posted by Karlyboogy View Post

Could you be more specific about country, accommodation, etc?


Tolerance of crowds would also be helpful, so we know whether to include the big names or suggest lesser known places.
post #16 of 23

I'd probably favor Espace Killy and the 3 Vals myself, though nothing is particularly snowsure that time of year and everything will be crowded. I have a house in the Alps and kids in school, so I always ski at Christmas, but I'd never pay to come at that time of year. 

post #17 of 23

Chamonix can really suck at Xmas/New Year, crowds, not a super efficient lift system with potential for patchy snow cover is a recipe for disaster.  Personally I'd try Zurich at least and consider the more snowsure areas in Austria.

post #18 of 23

+1 for St-Anton/Lech

St-Anton is easily accessible by train from Zurich

post #19 of 23

Agreed re: St. Anton.  Just not sure whether Xmas is the time to go but I guess there will be crowds most places that week.

post #20 of 23
Originally Posted by docmartin View Post

Portes du Soleil is great but too low for X-mas. Pretty risky IMO.


We even struggled during February back then however that was an exceptionally low snow year in general. For the group described that area is hard to beat terrain wise. Stay either at Morzine (France, my personal favorite there) or Champery (Switzerland).


The French mega resorts fulfil the purpose really well too but as already mentioned stay away from Cham or Verbier. Else the Austrian Paznaun valley with the resorts around Ischgl nicely fit the bill as Portes du Solei but probably aren't as cheap. Great and extended lift system though and a safer bet on snow due to higher elevation.


Nothing is going to be a bargain around Christmas but you know that.

post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 

I wanted to thank all of you for your guidance and follow up questions.  I wish I would've reached out this this group much earlier in the planning process because  I was unable to sway the rest of my party away from Chamonix despite the limited skiing ability.  Ultimately, we're going to have a tremendous trip to Chamonix but you guys gave me some great options for the next trip and I'll certainly reach out much sooner the 2nd time around.  Thanks again



post #22 of 23
There's easy skiing in Courmayeur/Italy on day trip distance from Cham. It's pretty snow sure too.

post #23 of 23

And if the snow conditions are good, a day trip to Flaine is great too: very accessible off-piste terrain, lift-served and nog guide neede. Just watch out for the rocks (you need over 1.5 meters of snow to be sure, so check the snow levels before you go).

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