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Seeking advice on first European ski trip

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hello folks.  My wife and I are planning a 2 week ski vacation for the end of March this year and would like to give the Alps a try.  We have never skied in Europe and need some help getting started with the planning.  About us:


Experienced skiers- Level 8-9.  Alta/Snowbird are our favorites and we prefer to ski off-piste, natural snow conditions (bumps, crud, powder, trees etc) 


Quality/quantity of snow is very important.


Don't care about shopping


Like to explore the local culture, so we like to sample local food and lifestyle.


Not big partiers, but like après-ski drinks & food


Would like to do some sight-seeing, art/architecture appreciation, but skiing is the primary activity so don't want to sacrifice snow/terrain for access to urban area.


Reasonable access from major airport (flying from DC).  Open to train from airport.


Also if this season looks like a bad one condition-wise, we would probably opt to stay in the US- so let us know if you think we should wait for another year. 


So any help getting us started would be very welcome.  Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 8

I was in Zermatt at Christmas and it was pretty bad. I think it's gotten a bit better since then but western US seems to be a lot better right now. Could change by end of March, but I'd be looking at staying in North America. Current Alps overview <http://www.weathertoski.co.uk/weather-snow/archive/snow-report-28-01-2016/>.

post #3 of 8

I did my first European ski trip last winter to Solden, Austria.  Lots of fun.  We spent extra time in Amsterdam, a flight change point.  One non-skier spent a few days in Vienna, then took the train to join the rest of us in Solden.  Other things equal, I'd go to Italy or France for the food--German and Austrian aren't my favorites.


A good travel agent is a big help.  In some cases you can be added to an existing group and get the group's rates.  We used Monica at http://snowtourswest.com/


I rented skis.  Great selection, fair prices, no additional air baggage fee, didn't have to schlump them through the airports and on the charter buses.  Equipment prices in Europe are great.  If you know what you want, email some shops at your destination to get pricing.  Get your currency at an airport ATM or ATM in the town you're staying in.


Solden is one huge ski area, plus the other end of the valley is a pair of connected resorts, Obergurgl and Hochgurgl a free bus ride away.  Off piste usually requires a guide for both safety and local knowledge, but when we were there the snow was too thin.  Decide on the types of runs you like--I'm not interested in the multi-mile long runs.  Buy the skiing insurance there as well as travel insurance when you book--I look for high lost-luggage coverage, high foreign medical, and medical repatriation. There are several European ski weather sites...here's one:  http://www.onthesnow.com/europe/skireport.html

post #4 of 8

Fly into Zurich and get the train from the airport to St Anton.[ about 3 hours. ] St Anton is one of the premier European ski resorts and the village/town of St Anton is Austrian chocolate box pretty. The ski area is enormous by US standards and includes Lech [ 10 minute bus transfer ]. If you go make sure you visit the Mooserwirt for an apres ski beer at least once. 


If you want to be a little more snow sure as the end of March is getting toward the end of the season then either Val d'Isere/Tignes known as Espace Killy or the Three Valleys should be good. Fly into Geneva or Lyon and get a coach/minibus transfer to the resort. 


If you go to Espace Killy then staying in Val d'Isere would give you more of a village feel. Tignes is car parks on the snow  very convenient but soulless.I liked staying in Tignes Les Brevieres which is still a working village or at least was the last time I was there, but it is lower at 1550. If conditions are good there is an epic run down to Les Brevieres which is never pisted called the Sache. One of my favorites. It also has runs through the trees. 


If you choose the Three Valleys then Meribel is central and has a lot going on. It also has the closest to a village feel especially if you stay in Meribel Centre with it's traditional looking chalets. Avoid Mottaret. If you go ski over to Courcheval 1650 on a sunny day and have lunch at the Bel Air at the top of the telecabine out of 1650. Booking is a good idea. You will not be disappointed by the food and the people/celeb watching is excellent. Lots of fur coats and handbag dogs.There are many great runs but my personal favourite is the one under the Cime de Carron cable car. I have happy memories of hooning down in full GS mode on good viz days. 


If you are talking March the 12 to 26th you could wait till the last moment keeping an eye on conditions before booking and still be sure of finding accommodation but it will get busy over Easter weekend. 

post #5 of 8

Europe's a bit variable this winter so far.  No snow early then extreme avalanche hazzard then recently very warm and wet snow combined with rain.  So in picking for late March you really want to shoot for somewhere with a deep snowpack already so that when spring warming comes around then it doesn't completely rot out.  Western/Northern Alps seem to be the best bets so far.

post #6 of 8
Should add that if you decide on St Anton over Easter I'll be happy to show you around ( not that it's super difficult)/
post #7 of 8

St. Anton faces southeast and is not all that high.  That's a bad recipe for late March and April.

post #8 of 8

End of March?  Sport Gastein might be a good choice for snow quality and skiing for the "better skier". ;-)


Weather dependent....... 


The Gastein Valley has a few options of entertainment.  (Radon spa anyone?)


No affiliation,  just a happy one time "user". 

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