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Euro-Trip 2015/2016 [from western Canada] - Page 2

post #31 of 46
In my 70 or so ski days in the Alps, I can only remember 2 days of white outs (skied anyway) and two afternoons of lift closure due to windspeed.
post #32 of 46
Originally Posted by Cheizz View Post

In my 70 or so ski days in the Alps, I can only remember 2 days of white outs (skied anyway) and two afternoons of lift closure due to windspeed.

That is an impressive record, and my opinion is that you are quite lucky to have that. Maybe not so lucky in the powder department though.   My view of good luck was my week in Zermatt last February.  The 2 white-out days were a worthwhile trade for the powder skiing on the other 4. 


Your Alps record is similar to mine in Utah.  My first 100+ days in Utah had 55% of expected snowfall.  The locals would say to break out the shades and sunscreen when they heard I was coming to Utah.  Perhaps unlike the Alps, that is not viewed as a compliment in Utah. 

post #33 of 46
Originally Posted by Cheizz View Post

In my 70 or so ski days in the Alps, I can only remember 2 days of white outs (skied anyway) and two afternoons of lift closure due to windspeed.


I did not keep records and often had the majority of my days at Christmas New Year but my numbers would be a lot higher than that. say 10 to 15 % days that had bad viz. I know I remember clearly how happy I was to have 18 blue sky days in a row.

post #34 of 46
Well, up until recently powder was not my priority. Moreover, when it snows, that doesn't mean bad visibility to me. With white out, I mean scenes like in the video CV posted. That has more to do with skiing in the clouds or mist, than in snowfall, IMO
post #35 of 46
Originally Posted by BrendonR View Post

Thanks a bunch for the info everyone - I'm sure i'll spend a few days pouring over it all here.

To give you a bit more info as per the requests; Our "local" mountains are Lake Louise, and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Not totally local, but close enough to day-trip, so I count them. We can typically be found off the backside - in off-piste terrain. We probably end up skiing trees most often, but when the light cooperates the high alpine is where you'll find me!

We've skied Whistler once for a week, and loved the place.

I think our ideal holiday is going to be ~ 2-3 weeks long, spent mostly on skis, but heading out and about to check out some sights while we're there on our down days.

I do have another batch of questions now - as I notice a BUNCH of you are from Euro-land, and my Wife has talked about it before.... Where do you live, where do you ski, and how often do you ski? As a 30ish day/year skier, I like to get out every weekend, and could be at some great skiing in less than 2 hours from my house via car. Would I be able to hold a similar ski-lifestyle in Europe? Where? @Cheizz - your profile states you're in the Netherlands; how far from Amsterdam am I looking at traveling to a ski resort?

Hi Brendan,


I don't know what Lake Louise and Kicking Horse are like but heres a bit of a suggestion for your trip.  With 2 to 3 weeks I'd visit 2 areas to get a bit of variety.  Spend a week in Val D'Isere (Espace Killy) as the variety of terrain is just incredible.  Stay in La Daille for ease of access, a more chilled out vibe and its cheaper!  Val and Tignes make up Espace Killy and while a lot of it is above the tree line theres some below on the Val side.  Don't let the rest of this thread put you off!  Travel through Chamonix for a few days off piste stuff and ski the Vallee Blanche with a guide.  Between these two you can visit Annecy which is a beautiful town and lake.  Carry on through Chamonix into Switzerland and to Saas Fee for some beautiful snow.  Go visit Lake Geneva on the way home and take a detour into the Jura mountains.  Make sure you try all the various cheeses en route!


OR Go further south and visit Alpe D'Huez, La Grave, Serre Chavallier and Briancon/Gap etc.


To answer your other questions.  I live in the Portes du Soleil ski area, and move between Chatel and Morzine.  Skiing in winter and road biking with a bit of MTB in summer.  Geneva is 1 hr 15 mins from Morzine and there are masses of ski areas within 1 1/2 hrs.  But GVA is expensive and you'll need a swiss work permit visa... You can live on the French side more easily.  Grenoble is also really accessible for ski resorts.  Feel free to send more specific questions over!



post #36 of 46

I think some N Americans have an unrealistic view of Euro skiing - thinking it all to be mindblowing vert in spectacular mountains, or dream offpiste that the natives are too stupid to touch with a healthy dose of the best food you'll ever expect to eat.  It can be all this of course but it can also be the tedious reality of a warmed over hot dog in a baguette after a morning elbowing half of Paris/London for a skid round on a snow brazillian.


Whiteouts and droughts are a feature of Euro skiing, over a season they probably aren't material, over a week they can really put a damper on a "dream" trip.   Have realistic expectations and be prepared to surpass them. If I've got one tip it's by all means choose a flight to a sensible hub but don't commit on precise resort too early.  Unless you're in a peak week (New Year, most of Feb) you can usually find something at shortish notice if you're a small group and not too fussy.

post #37 of 46
I've averaged around 40 days a year in the Alps for the last 20 years and I'd guess around a third of those days had some visibility issues. Would be more if I included days I bailed early or just sat out, a luxury I have since I have a mtn home here.
Edited by prickly - 9/8/14 at 10:29pm
post #38 of 46
I think some N Americans have an unrealistic view of Euro skiing

I think the typical North American view of Euro skiing is too negative.  Otherwise there would be more North American visitation.  When you live in the western third of North America, it takes some effort, given prevailing impressions that's it's expensive and that the snow is not as good.  I've been skiing since 1976 and I've had only 4 Euro trips, the first of those in 2004.  For those who live in the East, I think cost can be similar to many western resorts, but I'm pretty sure ski days in the Alps by residents of the eastern US are dwarfed by their ski days in the West.


The expansive terrain can indeed be mindblowing, and if you get powder it's much less competitive than North America.  But it's also more high-risk/high reward with the weather, not as extreme as Alaska heliskiing in that regard but in that direction vs. a typical western resort. About 10% of days the weather is severe enough to be "not worth skiing," and since day-to-day weather is serially correlated, you can get skunked for nearly all of a one-week trip, as happened to Liz in 2001.


As far as "the snow is not as good,"  in my extensive correspondence with Fraser Wilkin of http://www.weathertoski.co.uk/ has informed me that's a much more complex issue than left by cursory research and casual impressions.

post #39 of 46
Originally Posted by fatbob View Post

I think some N Americans have an unrealistic view of Euro skiing - thinking it all to be mindblowing vert in spectacular mountains


That has always been my impression and only recently has my view on that been challenged based upon the opinions/advice given on the forums here.  I've been skiing out West since 1986, but never made it across the pond to ski though have always been fascinated by the idea.  I have mostly made up my mind to take my wife to Cortina to celebrate our 20th anniversary next February.  To temper my skiing expectations, we will probably be doing a half-ski, half-other stuff trip to include a few days in Venice.

post #40 of 46

I think the snow here compares favorably to snow in, say, the Sierras. Probably lower quantity though. 

post #41 of 46
I think the snow here compares favorably to snow in, say, the Sierras. Probably lower quantity though.

At altitude 2000+ meters, snow density in the Alps is in the 8% range, similar to Utah and only a bit more than in Colorado.  It usually doesn't ski as deep because high altitude off-piste isn't open during storms and the snow is exposed and can be wind-affected. 


Quantity is hard to generalize due the vast elevation range and sketchy data above resort levels.  The snowiest verified microclimate is 422 inches November-April in Warth-Schrocken, Austria.  Once you get up to 3,000 meters, as much as 30% of annual snowfall may come OUTSIDE November-April. 


Mid-mountain average snowfall at most places tends to be in the 250 inch range with similar pattern as Colorado.  Volatility is higher than in the Rockies, almost as much as California in some places. 

post #42 of 46

Tony Crocker, ladies and gentlemen! 

post #43 of 46

There is something else to consider when evaluating snow and snow depths in Europe. How well do they manage the snow and the pistes.


I will happily go and ski in the Dolomites in Italy with 12 inches reported. They have been clearing the rocks off the pistes for 50 years. Think golf course fairways. They have extensive snowmaking and their snow management is the best in Europe. I have never encountered a sheet of boilerplate in the Dolomites.


I would want 30 inches before I went to Val d'Isere . Even with that, lots of the runs will be closed or open with warnings of rocks. Their signature run 'Le Face' will most likely be closed and if open expect to wreck your skis, I know I did. The funnel run that is the return at the end of the day from Soleil will be 500 feet of boilerplate littered with crying kids and out of control intermediates.


I would want 60 inches before I visited Le Grave and I would call before I went to make sure there had been no strong winds. There is no snowmaking and almost no piste bashing.

post #44 of 46

The above post has close analogies in North America.  Sun Valley and many other low snowfall areas clear rocks and can have good coverage on less snow than one might think. 


Val d'Isere is a relatively high snowfall area, probably less attention paid to rock clearing, so probably does not ski well in low tide conditions, sort of like Jackson or Snowbird.


La Grave's closest North American analogy is Silverton.  It's probably laughable to try to ski either place in December of most seasons.  Crested Butte and Taos also fall into the category of wanting at least 60 inches of base for a trip to be worthwhile. 

post #45 of 46

Well there are tons of options for a Euro Ski trip. Fly into Geneva, and you have access to Chamonix, Verbier, Porte du Soleil, Zermatt, Val d'isere, Les Gets, Trois Valles, and about 100 other ski resorts. Fly into Zurich, and you have access to Jung Frau region, and also the Arlberg region in Austria with access to the likes of Ischgl, Lech, St Anton. Munich is more suited for Austria, but also the South Tirol areas in North Italy. Personally, if it's your first time to Europe, you should take a look at some of the bigger resorts. But even staying in a smaller ski area, that connects to the bigger resorts is a good option, and much easier on the wallet.


I usually alternate ski trips to Europe and North America. Last year I was in your backyard skiing in Lake Louise, and Panorama. The year before we were in Zermatt, This year, we are going back to Lech. We have done Euro ski trips the week before Christmas with almost no crowds. After Dec 26th, things get busy. Two years ago Zermatt got hammered before Christmas, and we could ski from 3,700 meters down to the town. Awesome experience. We hardly saw a soul on piste. The on mtn restaurants are amazing too. 


Weather will be the wild card in any ski vacation if you are booking in advance. Our trip this winter was some what restricted as we cash in FF miles to save money. But if you are buying tickets, I'd look at either last week of January into first week of February, and also look at first week of March. I believe 3rd week of Feb is Carnival/Fasching, so that will be crazy busy. Plus UK mid-term, and French are on holiday during 2nd/3rd weeks of Feb.

post #46 of 46

Cheizz posted the Euro holiday calendar recently:



3rd week of February will indeed be especially overcrowded in 2015.  2/3 of France is out 3rd and 4th weeks of February, 1/3 of France is out second week of February and first week of March.  Note from that chart that the weeks either side of Easter should also be avoided, particularly since in spring there can be big liftlines downloading over sloppy or burned-off lower terrain even when high altitude skiing is good.


And like everywhere Christmas/New Year's should be avoided if possible. 


We have done Euro ski trips the week before Christmas with almost no crowds.

That's pretty risky if you're advance committing with airfare/lodging etc. with a quite high chance of finding very limited terrain open.  I've been learning recently that there a lot of microclimates in the Alps, so maybe if you fly into a gateway airport and are willing to drive some, you can get to wherever the most early snow is.   Booking lodging last minute should not be an issue during that "vacation dead zone."


The best odds of success with manageable crowds are late January/early February at high snowfall areas and  mid-to-late March at high altitude areas with the best snow preservation. 

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