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Advice on Europe trip for family

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Sorry for yet another "where to in Europe" thread, but need some advice :)

 

Planning on taking wife, 1 year old baby and both my and wife's parents on a ski trip in the 2015/2016 season. I know it's early but my wife is insisting that we make reservations in advance given we need to coordinate the schedules of 4 different groups of people who all live on different continents/states :(

 

Basically, my wife, myself and my father would be the only ones really skiing. The grandmoms will likely not ski (although may take the gondola up just to sight-see and take it back down, assume that is an option?) and just do touristy activities. So what we are looking for are:

 

1) Close to airport with minimal hassle and time to get to resort (planning on renting a van or car, although train is an option if it is significantly faster) to the resort

2) Large world class resort area (glitzy is preferred, and price is not an issue) where the skiiers and non-skiiers can easily meet up without having to drive far in separate groups. Also, my mom is diagnosed with OCD so everything must be extremely clean and comfortable or else she will literally panic. "Small quaint town" is not what we are looking for.

3) Plenty of things for the non-skiiers to do within a 60 minute drive, such as shopping, sight-seeing and eating, preferably with much of it within the resort area.

4) Looking for a bit of that old "Euro" charm but also plenty of new, modern, clean facilities including spas and saunas for the lady folk

5) Off-piste, steep challenging runs, and powder don't matter - will be mainly skiing blues and easy groomers. Our objective is more to have a good time with the family, enjoy awe-inspiring scenery with the European flavor and do some good easy "touring" skiing.

 

and...

 

6) Our window for the start of the trip is 3rd week of December to 1st week of January, so it must be a place that will reliably have snow.

 

For some reason my heart is set on the Swiss alps, but I worry about the snow. I hear the French resorts have better reliability in the early season, but if it's 3rd week of December/1st week of January, should be fine in Swiss no?

 

Based on the above, would really appreciate any suggestions that you may have for me.

 

Also, want to hire a guide and/or instructor for a day (for my wife and dad, who are very rusty even though they ski), so if any of you lot are based in any of these resorts, please let me know via pm :)

 

Thank you!

post #2 of 15

About snow realiability: early season so go high, preferably with a glacier (in case of no new snow to prepare runs, you will still be able to ski). Given that, here are your options:

 

Zermatt (car-free, so by train from Geneva - glacier, mountain charm, pricy, high quality lodging, mostly 'advanced' runs, grandmas can come up without having to drive [lift only])

 

Saas-Fee (nice valley, easy to visit other villages, train or car from Geneva or Zurich, charming, not too small, all kind of runs, grandmas can come up without having to drive [lift only])

 

Sölden (two glaciers but not directly accessible from village, car from Innsbruck or Munich, all kinds of runs, not much to do nearby, one spa within 30 minutes)

 

What goes for Sölden goes for most Austrian glacier areas, but also for Val d'Isere (which has a long car transfer from Geneva or Lyon).

 

So I would suggest Saas-Fee, given your list of requirements.

 

Some info on Saas-Fee: http://www.skiresort.info/ski-resort/saas-fee/

post #3 of 15

Cheizz knows Europe better than me, but first place I thought of was Zermatt.  Thing about the Swiss Alps, you can enter a 400 year old hotel with a facade looks really rustic and atmospheric, but underneath is an infrastructure and facilities such as plumbing, food service, and furnishings that will surpass NYC's finest.

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post
 

Cheizz knows Europe better than me, but first place I thought of was Zermatt.  Thing about the Swiss Alps, you can enter a 400 year old hotel with a facade looks really rustic and atmospheric, but underneath is an infrastructure and facilities such as plumbing, food service, and furnishings that will surpass NYC's finest.

Thank you...will look into Zermatt and Saas-fee!

post #5 of 15

I was just at Zermatt; a beautiful ski village.  The train from Zurich is about 3 hrs; it includes 1 change, and completely uneventful.  You catch the train less than 2 minutes from the baggage area of the airport.

 

There are a handful of terrific, albeit, expensive hotels.  The Beau Site stands out.  Beautiful view, terrific amenities, close to the main streets(Bahnhoffstrasse) etc.

 

The food in town varies, is a little pricey, but is very good.  Not a bad meal in my 10 day stay.

 

The mountain is probably not for rank beginners, but perfect for all others.  The Italian side is full of wide cruisers, plenty of sunshine and better food (lol).   

 

Have fun.

post #6 of 15

Just to throw a few other names into the hat than those already mentioned...

 

1. Lech (Austria)

2. Klosters (Swiss)

3. Wengen (Swiss)

4. Chamonix (France)

5. Courcheval (France)

6. Val d'Isere (France)

 

They all tick some but perhaps not all boxes, still worth a look though I reckon.

post #7 of 15

One points 1-3, probably even 4, I'm mostly going for exactly opposite :) So based on this, I would start with St. Moritz and Davos. Most of "normal" ski places are basically just that... ski places, with not all that much to see, definitely not really much of shopping, even Livigno is not really all that much of a shopping place, despite their duty free status and being so called shopping center.

5 years ago I would say just don't bother to worry for snow in 3rd week of December to 1st week of January, but lately we are having really shitty winter starts here in Alps so time around Christmas is not really all that secure anymore. It's second year in row already, when Christmas/New Year period was basically without any snow... all over the Alps, so to be sure, I would pick something where you have glacier around, just to be sure. This basically excludes pretty much whole Austria, where you can surely have good skiing on glaciers, but you will have big problems with your 1-3 requirements. Soelden, Stubai, Hintertux etc. are all quite good ski places, but they are all far away from "large world class resort area (glitzy is preferred, and price is not an issue) where the skiiers and non-skiiers can easily meet up without having to drive far". Probably only glacier option would be Kaprun with Zell am See, and even this is not really "glitzy large world class resort area" :)

So I would go with Switzerland, and definitely exclude France completely... well ok maybe Chamonix, but even Chamonix is still more or less just a bit bigger village.

post #8 of 15

Chamonix ticks a lot of the boxes I think. Easy access from Geneva (just over an hour), spectacular views, some very good hotels with spas (perhaps not "glitzy" though), lots to do for non-skiers and high altitude skiing up the road at Argentiere if the conditions aren't great.  Main issues for Cham is the disjointed ski area and poor mountain restaurants.

post #9 of 15

I would say Zermatt or Val d'Isere.  If it wasn't the end of dec or beginning Jan I'd say Megeve, as great cruisy skiing, and a super swanky town with ace views.

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by iheartnyc View Post
 

4) Looking for a bit of that old "Euro" charm but also plenty of new, modern, clean facilities including spas and saunas for the lady folk

 

 

I can't really help here as I ski very different areas, but as someone from Europe I would like to understand what the old "Euro" charm stands for. :) 

post #11 of 15

To me, there are two types of old Euro charm.  There are the old wooden chalet style buildings and narrow, winding, cobbled streets with small, cozy family run hotels.  There are also the old Victorian hotels that have been updated to a high standard.  They might have wood paneled stubes, but they also have high ceiling hallways and rooms and formal, old school dining rooms.  Both styles have their charms. 

The purpose built areas, with massive, concrete towers for hotels would be the kinds of resorts that are lacking in the old Euro charm.  They usually offer things like ski in ski out and a well developed lift system instead of lift stations strewn up and down the valley for miles.  They can be more efficient but lack the charm that many north American associate with skiing in the alps. 

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGerman View Post
 

 

I can't really help here as I ski very different areas, but as someone from Europe I would like to understand what the old "Euro" charm stands for. :) 

 

You know, "classically" designed resorts (not the functional and practical you see in US resorts) with lots of wood, cozy feeling, "cute" cafes with excellent quality basics (simple things like tasty cheese, bread, coffee, wine) as opposed to burgers and pizzas at a food court and bid screen TVs showing X-games replays. Basically everything that makes Europe, Europe!

post #13 of 15

Chamonix is where mountaineering started. It has tradition that goes well back before skiing. Some of the guides have the same names as the streets and squares. As was said it is easy to get to from Geneva. Shuttles are cheap, although for a large party renting a van might be cheaper. Nonskiers can go to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi if they can handle the altitude for the spectacular view. One can also go through the Mt Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur for more skiing, more--different views--the massive south face of Mt Blanc--and better food on the mountain, although the food on the mountain at Chamonix is still worlds better than in the US.  Probably a much better value--at least this year--euro is down, swiss franc is up. I'd say the only negative is that it's a long walk or a free bus ride from most hotels to the various resorts, which are scattered around town and up the valley.You should have no trouble finding English speaking instructors.  The classic ski from the summit of the Aiguille du midi down the Vallee Blanche and the mer de glace can be managed (with a guide) by a strong, fit intermediate who can handle ungroomed variable snow and some bumps. As far as the availability of glitzy resorts with spas and the like I can't help you  but I'm sure you can manage to find them. The place certainly has the old Euro charm.  Since it is xmas/new years you would be wise to book as far in advance as possible and as late in your window as you can--or are you planning to go for the whole of the window? I don't think you're going to find a ski town anywhere on the planet where there's much winter sight seeing and other activities for the non skiers, but Cham is pretty big as ski towns go, there is the option of Italy, and Geneva if they get bored enough.

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post
 

Cheizz knows Europe better than me, but first place I thought of was Zermatt.  Thing about the Swiss Alps, you can enter a 400 year old hotel with a facade looks really rustic and atmospheric, but underneath is an infrastructure and facilities such as plumbing, food service, and furnishings that will surpass NYC's finest.


Wasn't aware that NYC's plumbing was setting standards.

post #15 of 15
Quote:
 
9 hours, 59 minutes ago
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post
 

Cheizz knows Europe better than me, but first place I thought of was Zermatt.  Thing about the Swiss Alps, you can enter a 400 year old hotel with a facade looks really rustic and atmospheric, but underneath is an infrastructure and facilities such as plumbing, food service, and furnishings that will surpass NYC's finest.


Wasn't aware that NYC's plumbing was setting standards.

Touche ! Karlsson - am a denizen of Manhattan, and plumbing standards here certainly breaks no records, nor should it be setting any standards. Hilarious.The quality of the running water, now that is another story, amongst the best on the planet..

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