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Wengen love?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Seems like this forum would put 10 or so other resorts ahead of Wengen.

Caveat before I start that I've only been to Cham and Wengen

I thought Wengen was great. Relatively convenient to Zurich and Geneva by train, very nice car free village, very easy access to big tram up to skiing, incredible views, the basically standalone Lauberhorn downhill (with permanent start shack you can start from), nice high village of Klein Scheidigg for lunch, skiing right next to the Eiger, etc.

Only negative might be terrain, such as lack of super challenging runs. But you also have Grindewald and Murren to explore so I don't think you'd run out of ideas.

Again I don't have a lot to compare to.

But I'm really curious how folks would compare and contrast Wengen to St Anton. Verbier, Saas Fee, Lech Zurs, Zermatt, Val D'Isere, Andermatr, etc.

Thanks
Jon
post #2 of 17

The greater Lauterbrunnen/Grindelwald area is certainly very beautiful and the Eiger and Piz Gloria are truly iconic (if only for fans of Clint Eastwood & Bond films). The cutesy trains for ski uplift are cutesy and there is a certain Brit demographic ( the Downhill Only Club) that wouldn't holiday anywhere else. But the tougher skiing is kinda meh compared to many of the other places you've identified (don't really know about Saas Fee) and it's more of an experience than a bucketlist type of place for pure skiing.

 

Course if you make it a plan to be there Lauberhron week or ski the Inferno or whatever that's a bit different. 

post #3 of 17

I don't think it would make it into the top 25.as far as the skiing is concerned.

 

Poor early snow record

 

Pretty village stunning scenery great lunches and plenty cruisey blues.

 

Very popular amongst upper class Brits.

post #4 of 17

I can't really compare Wengen, since I only know it from the descriptions of others. But, I can give an idea of what St. Anton and Val d'Isere are like.

 

St. Anton isn't the prettiest ski town in the Alps, but it is pretty in a subtle way. The town sits between the river and the mountain, so it's long but fairly narrow and fairly flat. That makes it pretty easy to walk around. And if you're staying in town, you're no more than 5 minutes from one of the lifts.

 

The location is pretty convenient, as it's on the train line between Zurich and Vienna. Zurich is about 2:20 away, and Innsbruck (if you can get a flight there) is about 1:00 away. The combined ski area isn't fully linked up yet, as you still have to take a bus between Stuben and Zurs to get from one side to the other. But, each side of the area is big enough that the bus ride isn't too much of an inconvenience; once you get to the other side, you ski there all day, rather than going back and forth multiple times a day. The mountains aren't the biggest, but they offer a good amount of vertical and plenty of challenging terrain.

 

So even though it doesn't win the title of biggest/prettiest/best in any particularly category, it's a great all-round ski town.

 

Val d'Isere isn't quite as pretty. It tries to look pretty, but it's a bit artificial. Too many buildings look like new buildings built to look like old buildings, whereas other resorts simply have nice looking old buildings. That said, it's not an ugly town by any means. Like St. Anton, it's a fairly long and fairly flat town that's not difficult to get around on foot. Parts of it are farther from the lifts, but they have free shuttles running all the time.

 

It's at a higher altitude than St. Anton, which is both good and bad. The good is that the altitude helps keep the snow in good condition. The bad is that there isn't much terrain below tree line that you can ski when visibility is bad. The mountains are also bigger than in St. Anton, but there aren't really any pistes where you can ski the entire amount of vertical in one go. That said, the combined ski area with Tignes is one of the most conveniently laid-out areas I've ever skied, and there's plenty of challenging terrain (even some of the terrain just off piste in the ski tranquille area is fun).

 

But, it isn't a conveniently located town. It's about 3:30 from Geneva and 3:00 from Grenoble, and you'll pass a couple of similarly big ski areas on the way.

post #5 of 17

Potted opinion keeping it brief

 

St Anton - Home of skiing, big apres, challenging and big off piste.  Aspirational place for lots of ski bums

 

Verbier - Kinda like St Anton but more visible money and privilege.  Big area, big off piste.  Variable lift infrastructure away from Verbier zone

 

Saas Fee - Dunno

 

Lech Zurs - The rich and flashy end of Arlberg.  More 5* and fur than you can shake a stick at.  Skiing more sedate than St Anton/Stuben though still good.

 

Zermatt - Probably the quintessential ski experience. Not cheap but unique big area, great lunches on Italian side.

 

Val D'Isere - Upper middle class Brits abound.  Huge area with Tignes but some critical runs are unpleasant and off piste is not for novices danger wise

 

Andermatt- Ugly garrison town, ski hills scattered.  Big freeride opportunities and popular with a Scandi crew.

post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbob View Post 
 

Potted opinion keeping it brief : Great opinions - what is "potted" not familiar with that British or Aussie or Kiwi term, or does it mean after consumption or inhalation of medical pain amelioration fumes !

 

St Anton - Home of skiing, big apres, challenging and big off piste.  Aspirational place for lots of ski bums 

 

Verbier - Kinda like St Anton but more visible money and privilege.  Big area, big off piste.  Variable lift infrastructure away from Verbier zone

 

Saas Fee - Dunno

 

Lech Zurs - The rich and flashy end of Arlberg.  More 5* and fur than you can shake a stick at.  Skiing more sedate than St Anton/Stuben though still good.

 

Zermatt - Probably the quintessential ski experience. Not cheap but unique big area, great lunches on Italian side.

 

Val D'Isere - Upper middle class Brits abound.  Huge area with Tignes but some critical runs are unpleasant and off piste is not for novices danger wise

 

Andermatt- Ugly garrison town, ski hills scattered.  Big freeride opportunities and popular with a Scandi crew.

CBVortex is the tour guide for the Alps, though Prickly knows a lot too, FatB's one-liners are great. Will add my two cents : 

  1. Wengen known for great WC downhill run and famous on the circuit, but not exactly a place to visit traveling from Australia, Asia or the Americas unless, friends take you there.
  2. Lech-Zurs is really nice, Lech is a nice town, Oberlech is a great place to stay, Zurs is kind of barren but the uber-wealthy and royalty stay there often, and you'd be surprised, there is pretty reasonable lodging there, all things considered, it is a ski area, for christ's sake. I mean in the US, you pay 'much more' to eat 'burger-fries or chicken fingers-fries with a soda' at a 800ft vertical slope with really just "5 runs" in the North-East than you'd pay at Lech for a nice, delicious meal. The terrain is alpine, no trees, none really, even though it is low, but pretty darned snow-sure into the late season. Good long runs, steep in parts and off-piste to be had, if one goes looking. Good ski in, and some ski out (Oberlech and Zurs, very few in Lech, where it is walk to shuttle to the lifts). Excellent food, really superb.
  3. Zermatt : Big, big town, pretty old houses, hoisted on rocks to keep out the pesky rodents for preservation purposes. On-mountain food is bland unless one finds the Michelin starred places, or one has a thing for hash-browns, called "Rosti" there, and yes, there are good restaurants in town but nothing is cheap courtesy the Swiss economy and their pesky always appreciating currency. The runs are the longest vertical in-bounds in the world by and large, nice, big, broad runs spread out across 3 features, Rothorn, Gornegrat, Furi-Matterhorn Ski Paradise (if memory serves me right, have not checked the map). Some real gnarly terrain, you can see all the off-piste to be had, it's all-around the piste, but rare will you spy people on it, guides are a must as crevasses abound and they drill it into your head. Cervinia is a pleasure, run lengths as long as Zermatt, just over the top under the Matterhorn, longest tow rope in the world perhaps - went on for miles, beautiful piste runs, food on mountain Italian style is good everywhere. 
  4. Val D'Isere-Tignes: Am surprised at the tempered commentary by CBV and FatB. But will say, lot's 'town' to be had in Val D'Isere, and all four of the Tignes hamlets: Val Claret, Le Lac, Les Boisses, Les Brevieres, and there is La Daille, and Le Fornet...you can go nuts at night, or sleep soundly. Sure Brits there, but Germans too, French of course, Belgians, Aussies, Israelis and Americans. The terrain, big, bad, wild, and endless, 20% on-piste, 80% off-piste: http://www.epicski.com/t/134457/a-12-year-olds-seven-days-of-exploring-val-disere-and-tignes-commonly-known-as-lespace-killy-in-the-french-alps 
post #7 of 17

No criticism of the skiing in Espace Killy but some intermediates report unfavourably on the difficulty of supposedly moderate runs into VDI (only ever really skied it from Tignes side).  VDI not really my sort of place compared to say Chamonix which feels much more egalitarian even if demography is similar. pistehors neatly summarises the off piste danger 

 

http://pistehors.com/backcountry/wiki/Savoie/Val-D-Isere-Off-Piste

post #8 of 17

Got it, what is 'potted' FB? 

 

And yes, everything is steep, even the Reds are the steepest "red" on average, but as we are occasional Alps skiers, (3 times now, all in different parts, Austria, Switzerland, and France once each), we got verbal commentary from many at Val D'Isere who said by and large on-piste  is steeper than other Trois Vallees terrain, and we can personally attest, no question, their on-piste is steeper than the Arlberg, and Zermatt-Cervinia. 

 

Hors-Piste blog is spot on, it's hairy in so many places, but the adrenaline rush is ridiculous, often would go "for f--k's sake" again as we went over into some steep, convex or just fall-away off-piste lip, but when done, the on-piste seemed strangely relaxing at first, then most lacking in potency thereafter. Go figure. 

post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by dustyfog View Post
  1. Val D'Isere-Tignes: Am surprised at the tempered commentary by CBV and FatB. But will say, lot's 'town' to be had in Val D'Isere, and all four of the Tignes hamlets: Val Claret, Le Lac, Les Boisses, Les Brevieres, and there is La Daille, and Le Fornet...you can go nuts at night, or sleep soundly. Sure Brits there, but Germans too, French of course, Belgians, Aussies, Israelis and Americans. The terrain, big, bad, wild, and endless, 20% on-piste, 80% off-piste: http://www.epicski.com/t/134457/a-12-year-olds-seven-days-of-exploring-val-disere-and-tignes-commonly-known-as-lespace-killy-in-the-french-alps 

 

There are three main disadvantages about Val d'Isere that keep me from recommending it more:

 

1. It's inconvenient to get to. Unless you're able to get a flight to Chambery, you'll be spending over 3 hrs on the road to get there. And if you're coming from Geneva, you'll pass the Paradiski area (Les Arcs, Le Plagne, et al) and the turn-off for the Three Valleys along the way.

 

2. There aren't a lot of trees. So when it snows, you're either skiing blind or you have to stick to the same few runs in Le Fornet and La Daille. My last day there back in March, I was skiing almost everything from memory with my brother following behind me because we couldn't see the signs or even some of the piste markers.

 

3. It's full of Brits. This one is personal for me, but I spend 46 weeks a year surrounded by Brits, so I like to see a more diverse crowd when I go away on vacation.

 

Still, it's a very good mountain and the town has plenty to do off the slopes.

post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post
 

 

There are three main disadvantages about Val d'Isere that keep me from recommending it more:

 

1. It's inconvenient to get to. Unless you're able to get a flight to Chambery, you'll be spending over 3 hrs on the road to get there. And if you're coming from Geneva, you'll pass the Paradiski area (Les Arcs, Le Plagne, et al) and the turn-off for the Three Valleys along the way. 3.25 hours from Geneva Airport by car, yes but what awaits at the end of the valley on mountain is 'sick'. And yes, we did pass the Trois Vallees turnoff as well as the Paradiski turnoff.

 

2. There aren't a lot of trees. So when it snows, you're either skiing blind or you have to stick to the same few runs in Le Fornet and La Daille. My last day there back in March, I was skiing almost everything from memory with my brother following behind me because we couldn't see the signs or even some of the piste markers. True, in video, you see our first day, visibility zero, off-piste no go, on-piste we had an instructor as we ski, come rain, snow, fog, wind, ice, but are not crazy! you know the area, so that is your advantage, nice.

 

3. It's full of Brits. This one is personal for me, but I spend 46 weeks a year surrounded by Brits, so I like to see a more diverse crowd when I go away on vacation. Brits are great ! But i get the escape clause request, a personal thing. Young brits at night are a tad out of control, just too many spirits roust those animal spirits.

 

Still, it's a very good mountain and the town has plenty to do off the mountain. Biggest, baddest, hairiest and just the danger factor is a persistent adrenaline rush, the terrain, the avalanche danger everywhere, coming off this endorphin rush has been the worst case of 'endorphin/adrenaline' withdrawal this guy has experienced, still walk around in a world war z zombie fog!

post #11 of 17

Potted just means summarised. I assume there is some etymology which links it to potted plants or potted forms of food. Nothing to do with your marry jah wannah.

post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbob View Post
 

Potted opinion keeping it brief

 

St Anton - Home of skiing, big apres, challenging and big off piste.  Aspirational place for lots of ski bums

 

Verbier - Kinda like St Anton but more visible money and privilege.  Big area, big off piste.  Variable lift infrastructure away from Verbier zone

 

Saas Fee - Dunno

 

Lech Zurs - The rich and flashy end of Arlberg.  More 5* and fur than you can shake a stick at.  Skiing more sedate than St Anton/Stuben though still good.

 

Zermatt - Probably the quintessential ski experience. Not cheap but unique big area, great lunches on Italian side.

 

Val D'Isere - Upper middle class Brits abound.  Huge area with Tignes but some critical runs are unpleasant and off piste is not for novices danger wise

 

Andermatt- Ugly garrison town, ski hills scattered.  Big freeride opportunities and popular with a Scandi crew.

 

By Italian side, you mean Cervinia. I only highlight this because so many that espouse the delights of Zermatt have disdain for the Italian side. I have spent a few weeks in Cervinia and Monte Rosa and found the Italians and their 'joie de vivre' (ya, I know that is French) most enjoyable. The skiing and dining is excellent as well. :-) Ciao!

post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbob View Post
 

No criticism of the skiing in Espace Killy but some intermediates report unfavourably on the difficulty of supposedly moderate runs into VDI (only ever really skied it from Tignes side).  VDI not really my sort of place compared to say Chamonix which feels much more egalitarian even if demography is similar. pistehors neatly summarises the off piste danger 

 

http://pistehors.com/backcountry/wiki/Savoie/Val-D-Isere-Off-Piste

That PisteHors piece is a fount of interesting info and references other sources for stories and books, and now having skied in those hallowed canyons and faces, it's quite a trip.

post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by dustyfog View Post
 

That PisteHors piece is a fount of interesting info and references other sources for stories and books, and now having skied in those hallowed canyons and faces, it's quite a trip.


An old friends kid brother do (did?) the Henry's Avalanche talks. Have never been to one, but anecdotal evidence suggest they're "a must".

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karlsson View Post
 


An old friends kid brother do (did?) the Henry's Avalanche talks. Have never been to one, but anecdotal evidence suggest they're "a must".

We depended on our instructors but if anywhere one needs those talks AND practice, Tignes-Val d'Isere is one place, that knowledge would and does save lives and then some.

post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbob View Post
 

No criticism of the skiing in Espace Killy but some intermediates report unfavourably on the difficulty of supposedly moderate runs into VDI (only ever really skied it from Tignes side).  VDI not really my sort of place compared to say Chamonix which feels much more egalitarian even if demography is similar. pistehors neatly summarises the off piste danger 

 

http://pistehors.com/backcountry/wiki/Savoie/Val-D-Isere-Off-Piste

The big problem for intermediates is getting back to the village from Solaise. The runs start off looking like blues then get nasty then funnel into a busy narrow section that is almost always boilerplate ice by the end of the day. The resort works hard to keep some snow on it and but it is almost always nasty by mid day.

 

The trick is to swallow your pride and take the lift down. Both the Solaise express and the cable car allow downloading. 

post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by TQA View Post
 

The big problem for intermediates is getting back to the village from Solaise. The runs start off looking like blues then get nasty then funnel into a busy narrow section that is almost always boilerplate ice by the end of the day. The resort works hard to keep some snow on it and but it is almost always nasty by mid day.

 

The trick is to swallow your pride and take the lift down. Both the Solaise express and the cable car allow downloading. 

 

Even the top part of Plan gets some patches of boilerplate in the wide open part as it hits some steeper pitches. I saw quite a few people choosing to butt-slide down that part on my last trip. The funny thing is that the terrain just to the skier's right of the piste markers is actually easier to ski than the groomed part because it isn't scraped down to the icy base and parts of it only have small bumps.

 

There's actually an easy way back to the Solaise base that people overlook: the Traversee du Laisinant. If Piste L is closed, which it often is due to the avalanche danger from the face to the skier's left, then you can take Germain Mattis down towards the Laisinant lift and then follow the fork in the road to the traverse. It's a much easier red and blue combination than any way down the front of the Solaise area. But if you don't carry enough speed onto the traverse, there are a couple of places where you'll have to pole/walk a bit.

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