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5 Day Central Europe Trip in Late January: Recommendations?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I was able to finagle a 5 day layover in Europe during work travel, 1/26 to 1/31. I'd like to stop over somewhere for a few days to slide snow and take in some local culture.

 

  • Logistics: I fly into Frankfurt the morning of 1/26 and out morning of 1/31. I'd like to split my limited between skiing and urban exploring, so ideal is resort within a 2-3 hour drive of a major metro.
     
  • I'm advanced weekend warrior. Can handle most anything in-bounds and am comfortable off-piste. Would rather shred than cruise.
     
  • I typically ride Tahoe, have ridden PNW, Mammoth, UT, CO, and have even had the pleasure of Alaskan heliskiing. I'd like to experience something unique to Europe, something I've never experienced and can't get within a few hour flight of home. I'm thinking this means high elevation.
     
  • Night scene doesn't matter to me, long as I can find somewhere to stay.

 

Thanks for your help and recommendations!

 

Moderator Note: moved to International Zone (outside North America)

post #2 of 12

From Frankfort you can reach a lot of great resorts in SZ and Austria by car or train.  Here is an old thread that discusses a bunch of them:  http://www.epicski.com/t/44373/suggestions-for-trip-to-austria

 

I'm not sure if Engelberg, SZ was mentioned in that thread, but believe it is one of the closer ski resorts to Frankfort, about 4.5 hours away.  Here is a link to the great wheretoskiandsnowboard website that will allow you to do homework on Engelberg and all the rest resorts in the Alps:  http://www.wheretoskiandsnowboard.com/resorts/Engelberg/

Make this side trip happen.  It's worth the effort and you won't regret it.  The scenery and ambiance in the Alps is incredible.  You could visit the beautiful city of Luzern/Lucerne coming or going.

 

Engelberg/Titlis:

 

image-467109-galleryV9-ybqi-467109.jpg 201103_titlisSteinberg.jpg 

post #3 of 12

I agree on Engelberg. Hire a guide or join an off-piste group while you're there, and you'll get a combination of history and terrain that you won't see in any North American resort. And, you can pop over to Zurich for some urban sight-seeing before heading back to Frankfurt.

 

I'd recommend going by train. If you time it right, the train journey is only a few minutes longer than driving, and it saves you the hassles of parking, traffic, etc. Plus, there's always a chance that you get no sleep on the overnight flight, leaving you unfit to drive that first day.

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks to you both for the suggestions! Engelberg looks amazing, but after poking around a bit, I'm leaning towards either France or Austria due to relative exchange rates. Seems like in the best of times Switzerland is more expensive and life in the rest of Europe's about 20% cheaper for those using dollars these days.

 

Eyeballing Chamonix or St. Anton currently.

 

Anyone ever done Eastern Europe? Getting conflicting advice. I would love to check out top notch, less-developed off-the-radar mountains, but don't have interest in saving money to ride lesser mountains with worse snow.

post #5 of 12

Nothing wrong with Cham or St. Anton.  Not sure what you mean by Eastern Europe?  There can be good skiing in places like Slovakia and Bulgaria,, but you are doubling travel time from Frankfort and the infrastructure can be less than top notch.

post #6 of 12
Hi, the snow situation is bad in the Alpes. The west of France, Switzerland en the West of Austria are the better parts wenn you stay higher then 1800-2000m. We hope for fresh snow the next weeks. St. Anton is a good spot for descent skiing, even now there is not so much snow. Normaly no problem at the end of January. Zermatt in Switserland is also a good option, but you pay more for a hotel, meal and lift pass. Have fun in Europe!
post #7 of 12

If you  are considering Chamonix, then I would say drive the extra 90 minutes and go to one of the big, high areas in France which will likely have better snow if it’s a lean year.   Either Val D’Isere/Tignes or Trois Vallees.  Val D’Isere is very pretty – one of the Top 5 ski towns in the world.  Tignes is up in the mountains, with modern architecture.  For the Trois Vallees, look at Courchevel or Meribel or (cheaper lodging but access same skiing) Les Menuires or Val Thorens.   Those big areas with miles of runs are unlike anything you will find in the US.   If you’re by yourself and want to save money and get taken to the goods, then sign up for a ski lesson, even if you are a good skier.   The instructors are allowed to take you off-piste (but not on a glacier or outside the resort, I think) and love to do it, in my experience.   I have had great experiences with ski lessons in France, for much less money than a guide.

 

Maybe for your city stay, look at Geneva on the way?  It’s a little quiet, but pretty enough.  Geneva is less than 2 hours from Trois Vallees, maybe 2.5-3 from Val D’Isere.  You might want to look at a cheap flight from Frankfurt to Geneva, then rent a car there to drive up to the resorts. 

post #8 of 12

I would also agree on not looking at Eastern and Central Europe this time round.  You will be passing by world-class ski areas with good snow, to travel further to smaller areas, less snow on average and less infrastructure.  Agree small and off the beaten path can be interesting, but just doesn't seem to make sense for you on this trip

post #9 of 12

About 6 hrs by train to St Anton. Ski Lech Zurs and St Anton. You will like it. Good little town to explore.

 

OR 8 hrs by car if the traffic is quiet and the road conditions are OK to Val Thorens. Skiing is a little better IMHO. But it is a purpose built resort. You could stay in Meribel and ski over to Val.

post #10 of 12

Frankfurt's kind of awful in my experience, so hopefully you'll be urban exploring elsewhere. Its old city is alright, but overall it lacks the old world charm of other German cities and feels more like a US city with modern buildings and skyscrapers and not much soul. Even the beer was meh compared to the cities that really do beer. I guess it could be better if you're with someone that knows it, but overall my least favorite city of the ones I've travelled in Europe. 

 

Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world, but that can be relative. Lift tickets are cheaper than they are here, and the lodging I found there was pretty comparable to what I'd expect to pay here. Without checking the current rates, the franc has tended to be closer to the dollar than the Euro on my recent trips. Food is the killer, but I try to mitigate it by doing more grocery shopping, less eating out. Anyway, I wouldn't strike Switzerland completely off your list, since it's among the convenient destinations from Frankfurt and may or may not have better conditions during your trip.

 

Europe resorts aren't great for last minute bookings if you're looking for slopeside/in-village stuff, but if you don't mind commuting, I've always found last-minute accommodations. Better public transportation there means it's easy enough to hop a bus or train to get to the slopes. I find the commute worth it for the chance of powder chasing. 

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks all for the suggestions. I think I'm going to aim for a last minute booking. I hadn't realized how bad the snow situation was in the Alps. If it's not looking significantly better by mid-January I may divert to full-on urban exploring, save the funds for a Utah or Whistler trip, and save my European snow adventure for another time.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koos Van Moosel View Post

Hi, the snow situation is bad in the Alpes. The west of France, Switzerland en the West of Austria are the better parts wenn you stay higher then 1800-2000m. We hope for fresh snow the next weeks. St. Anton is a good spot for descent skiing, even now there is not so much snow. Normaly no problem at the end of January. Zermatt in Switserland is also a good option, but you pay more for a hotel, meal and lift pass. Have fun in Europe!
 
Is this normal or a particularly bad year? Hoping for the best, but like I said I may hold off on skiing if it doesn't dump over the next month.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Needham View Post
 

If you  are considering Chamonix, then I would say drive the extra 90 minutes and go to one of the big, high areas in France which will likely have better snow if it’s a lean year.   Either Val D’Isere/Tignes or Trois Vallees.  Val D’Isere is very pretty – one of the Top 5 ski towns in the world.  Tignes is up in the mountains, with modern architecture.  For the Trois Vallees, look at Courchevel or Meribel or (cheaper lodging but access same skiing) Les Menuires or Val Thorens.   Those big areas with miles of runs are unlike anything you will find in the US.   If you’re by yourself and want to save money and get taken to the goods, then sign up for a ski lesson, even if you are a good skier.   The instructors are allowed to take you off-piste (but not on a glacier or outside the resort, I think) and love to do it, in my experience.   I have had great experiences with ski lessons in France, for much less money than a guide.

 

Maybe for your city stay, look at Geneva on the way?  It’s a little quiet, but pretty enough.  Geneva is less than 2 hours from Trois Vallees, maybe 2.5-3 from Val D’Isere.  You might want to look at a cheap flight from Frankfurt to Geneva, then rent a car there to drive up to the resorts. 

 

 

This is a great suggestion that hadn't been on my radar. Like I said above, I'm considering writing off powder-hunting if the snow situation doesn't improve, but higher elevation definitely help the odds.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by JoeUT View Post
 

Frankfurt's kind of awful in my experience, so hopefully you'll be urban exploring elsewhere. Its old city is alright, but overall it lacks the old world charm of other German cities and feels more like a US city with modern buildings and skyscrapers and not much soul. Even the beer was meh compared to the cities that really do beer. I guess it could be better if you're with someone that knows it, but overall my least favorite city of the ones I've travelled in Europe. 

 

Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world, but that can be relative. Lift tickets are cheaper than they are here, and the lodging I found there was pretty comparable to what I'd expect to pay here. Without checking the current rates, the franc has tended to be closer to the dollar than the Euro on my recent trips. Food is the killer, but I try to mitigate it by doing more grocery shopping, less eating out. Anyway, I wouldn't strike Switzerland completely off your list, since it's among the convenient destinations from Frankfurt and may or may not have better conditions during your trip.

 

Europe resorts aren't great for last minute bookings if you're looking for slopeside/in-village stuff, but if you don't mind commuting, I've always found last-minute accommodations. Better public transportation there means it's easy enough to hop a bus or train to get to the slopes. I find the commute worth it for the chance of powder chasing. 

Re: Frankfurt, that's in line with what I've heard, so I won't be spending much time there. Frankfurt was set in stone due to the Lufthansa route. Thanks for the heads up re: Switzerland, I'll keep it in contention for time being.

post #12 of 12
I can't remember the situation was this bad around this time. Last year we had a big amount of snow just before Xmas and in January much more. Check www.wepowder.com for updates in the Alpes.

St. Anton is great to hunt for powder but al lot of Powderhounds will be there too.
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