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European ski vacation [2014-15 after study abroad]

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone,


So next fall I'm studying abroad in Europe, and am planning on staying the week after the semester ends to ski. I've done a lot of research, most of which has told me that the snow quality in most places before Christmas (or really before mid-January) tends to suck, but was curious where everyone would suggest, regardless. I love tree skiing, but have reserved myself to the fact that there probably won't be enough base built up at lower elevations to do that. But if anyone can enlighten me to some magical resort in the alps that has great early season snow but is one that I could potentially find some good tree runs, I'd really appreciate it.  I know I've sounded picky, but I really will ski anything that has snow on it at that point in the year. (I hear the higher elevations make for some terrific views anyway, so I'm really not all that upset.) Also, I'll have the luxury of being able to book tickets/accommodations a week or even days in advance, so I'll be able to track the forecast...nonetheless, still just trying to gather as much information as I can. 

post #2 of 5
Resorts in the Alps aren't designed to offer tree skiing. There are resorts with trees, and some of those trees are safe to ski around (i.e., no deadly cliffs hiding within), but they aren't thinned out to make it easier to ski in them.

You're going to find that your criteria are contradictory. You need a high-altitude resort for the best guarantee of early-season snow, but you need a low-altitude resort to offer a significant amount of tree skiing (the tree line in Europe is quite a bit lower than in the US).

Off the top of my head, Val d'Isere is probably your best bet for early-season snow with some trees to ski in. The town is nice, the terrain is good, they usually have pretty decent early-season snow, and there are some trees here and there that are safe to ski in. You can probably find a good deal on a studio apartment for the week as well given that it's before Christmas.

A couple of things that you'll need to keep in mind:

1. Prices for flights on budget airlines start cheap and go up. Last-minute flights tend to be fairly expensive, so if you're far enough from the Alps to need a flight, then it's best to pick the airport first and book your flight early. Geneva is probably going to be your best bet given the number of French and Swiss resorts nearby.

2. Accommodation in European resorts tends to be targeted toward 7-night stays. If you want reasonable prices, then you'll have to plan on a Saturday-Saturday or Sunday-Sunday trip.

3. European resorts tend to be gigantic. Don't think about hopping between 2 or 3 resorts in a week. One of the big areas will have more terrain than you can ski in 2 weeks, let alone 1.

4. Skiing outside of the marked pistes (in the trees, bowls, etc) can be pretty dangerous, even when you're well within the resort boundaries. Above tree line, the avalanche danger can be high since resorts usually don't do avi control unless lower areas are threatened. Below tree line, any hazards like cliffs and streams won't be marked. Always make sure you scope out your line from below or from the lift before skiing it.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply...Val d'Isere was somewhere I had been looking at.  Just to be clear, I know the European resorts aren't exactly known for their tree skiing, and I probably should have made more clear that my number one priority is without a doubt early season snow.  I'd much rather go somewhere with great snow (for that time in the season) and little to no trees over somewhere with spotty snow and trees.  Also, if possible I'd be taking the train, although I know this year it only runs to the French resorts (not sure about others) from just before Christmas-April.

post #4 of 5

French trains can be a bit... dodgy. Like tie everything you have with you to your person dodgy, so bear that in mind. Probably fine, just saying.

There's plenty of places within an hour's transfer of Geneva (e.g. Morzine & Chamonix, Cham certainly has the elevation but then again this year our early season was terrible, then again if we do have a good early season the trees are pretty awesome). Hintertux usually has good snow early in the season, as does Val Thorens. There's too many to mention. Just go for elevation, not trees, and if you want the whole transport thing to not be a pain, flying to Geneva is your best bet, because the trillion transfer companies from there pretty much do all the work for you, and are usually cheap. 

And bring some rock skis.

post #5 of 5

I was in education so had to ski at Christmas and Easter.


There is NO place that has reliable early season snow other than glacier resorts like Val Thorens or Tignes.


I did some research on which resorts got the early dumps and got surprising results. The southern resorts like Isola 2000 or La Mongie often had good snow when every one else was either rock hopping or picking flowers.


If you can wait until the last minute that is the best way. There is a company called Skiline http://www.skiline.co.uk/ who used to be very good at finding the last minute availability. I sometimes booked Friday evening and flew out the next day.


On the subject of tree skiing I can think of no European resort that has extensive tree skiing. Skiing on tree lined pistes yes but not through trees.

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