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Spring skiing in the Alps

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

On a lift at Taos a couple of months ago I was asked how long I have been skiing. I had to think about it for a while - the answer is 40 years. Learned in Vermont, lived in California after college, moved to Colorado in 1985. I have skied everywhere in Colorado and just about all the major resorts in the western US - but have never skied the Alps. Bucket list time.

 

I had hoped to do a midwinter trip this past January or early February, it didn't happen. However, I have the opportunity to do a solo 2 week trip this April (the 10th through the 23rd).

 

After spending some time looking at flights, snow reports and closing dates, I'm thinking fly to Geneva, rent a car, and ski western Switzerland and eastern France. Possibilities in CH: Jungfrau, Saas Fee, Zermatt, Verbier; in FR: Chamonix, 3 Vallees, Paradiski, L'Espace Killy. Any other suggestions are welcome!

 

I used to be an aggressive all mountain skiier, however age and a hip replacement has changed that. These days it is all about all cruising, the more vertical the better. Just got a brand new pair of Bonafides - what a fine ride. I don't foresee any off-piste on this trip - I would only go with a guide, too expensive by myself.

 

Can I assume that the weather will be similar to springtime in the Rockies? Freeze at night, thaw during the day? Most days very sunny, and if clouded over find something else to do besides ski? New snow possible but not probable, big dumps unlikely?

 

Big question - how much terrain will be open this time of year? Is it completely dependent on conditions? Or do resorts routinely close lifts and terrain as the season draws to a close? (This is very common in the Rockies). I don't expect the huge verticals in April but I would be bummed if I had to ride multiple lifts just to ski a couple thousand vertical up on a glacier - and then ride back down.

 

Oh yeah - this trip is not all about skiing. I enjoy nature photography and hope to take lots of pictures. I'm thinking a couple of non ski days for scenic rides - Jungfraujoch and Aiguille du Midi are on the short list. Is mid-April late enough for spring flowers in the valleys?

post #2 of 7

You should definitely search Epic : but I will link to what we experienced and it's all April skiing, and there is so much more on Epic. You said you prefer groomers even though an expert skier at this point but here are three places a young kid growing up gave his hapless Dad a guided tour of: Please do a search for TR's , easier for me to link to YouTube tours - whatever suits you best. Looks like you are a very lucky person, as the Alps are getting blasted with snow finally and sustained snowfall. The places below are all huge, massive vertical and have different flavors. All are high, though, Zermatt peak is highest, then L'Espace Killy and finally Lech-Zurs. You have a long bucket list, just my opinion, that many of those places we have never been to and are incredible, but hope to make it one day if time permits, ski ability does not atrophy (for Dad) since without the off-piste seems a bit sterile, and young lad has the time from his busy schedule to take his old man.

 

  1. April 2009 : Lech-Zurs, Austria : Tons of Groomers, Spring freeze thaw, think we got no snow in our week but there was more snow than the eye could see, got very heavy in the afternoon but we skied proverbial dawn to dusk, 7 straight days. Groomers as far as the eye could see. They got a huge powder dump beginning the day we left, sometime mid to 3rd week of April . And St Anton is across the hill (right now bus ride, next year diff) . Access via Zurich
  2. April 2013: Zermatt-Cervinia, Switzerland: Longest inbounds vertical in the world (I think, verify) and the groomers in Cervinia are even better than the ones in Zermatt, go on forever, and you get to take the longest rope-tow in the world to get back to Zermatt if that is your home base from Cervinia. All connected. Only drawback, Zermatt has almost zero ski-in/ski-out, get ready to schlepp in boots to and from the lifts. Heavy snow late in the day. Micro-climates abound, bluebird on high, snow mid-mountain, drizzle at the base . Access via Geneva or Zurich
  3. April 2015: L'Espace Killy - Tignes/Val D'Isere, France : Nothing like this place we have ever seen. Steep groomers, a lot steeper than 1 and 2 above. But everything is off-piste really, as young guide then just turned 12, said 20% on-piste, 80% off-piste but the on-piste goes on forever end to end. Think of it this way, inbounds Whistler-Blackcomb is about 8200 acres, now the new Park City+Canyons is about 7500 acres, L'Espace Killy is about 42,000 to 44,000 acres (using ski area boundary definition loosely as anything off the groomers in the French, Austrian, Swiss and Italian Alps is basically off-piste (including a feet off the groomer lane), Avy control is to protect on-piste - rest is you are on your own or with your instructor or guide. Access via Geneva.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Dustyfog:

 

Thanks for the links. I get dizzy watching GoPro videos, but there were some nice views of the mountains.

 

I couldn't do a two week trip, but I found a deal at Val d'Isere and head over mid-April for a week. Yes, they have been getting lots of snow and I expect conditions will still be good in a month. Good thing as the snow in Colorado has been pretty sparse the last month.

post #4 of 7
You will be able to go off piste.(hors pistes) plenty of places you can size it up right next to the pist. Depending on snow, off piste could mean lots of bumps. Or it could mean fantastic cut up powder. A few feet from the piste. If the piste poles are connected by rope then don't go under unless your absolutely sure what you're doing. It can get bad very quickly.

You do mot need a guide to do simple off piste stuff or regular routes that people ski. However bushwacking, esp in April, with no knowledge is not a good idea. You may be able to join a guided group though. It's really worth checking out.
post #5 of 7

I would not book any accommodation ahead of time in your position.

 

Arrive in Geneva pick up your hire car and then decide where to go based on local conditions. 

 

All the resorts you mention should still be open but it is dependent on conditions and as Easter is early this year resorts will be less pressured to stay open if the snow goes.

 

I would pick Val Thorens in the 3V. It is the highest and has more high altitude pistes. 

 

Get used to following the sun SE facing slopes in the morning N facing in the afternoons and I am also pretty creaky I see no shame in downloading at the end of the day rather than risking having to ski in porridge.

 

But you can get surprised I have had two feet of fresh powder in the Dolomites mid April and it stayed cold.

post #6 of 7
He'a already booked for Val d'Isere.
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tog View Post

You will be able to go off piste.(hors pistes) plenty of places you can size it up right next to the pist. Depending on snow, off piste could mean lots of bumps. Or it could mean fantastic cut up powder. A few feet from the piste. If the piste poles are connected by rope then don't go under unless your absolutely sure what you're doing. It can get bad very quickly.

You do mot need a guide to do simple off piste stuff or regular routes that people ski. However bushwacking, esp in April, with no knowledge is not a good idea. You may be able to join a guided group though. It's really worth checking out.

 

Thanks Tog, that makes sense. Good tip about the rope between the poles.

 

I did check out a couple of guides in Val d'Isere. It looks like I can join a group, the price is less than I thought it would be and there are lots of options, including single half days. I just might give it a try!

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