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Where do go for early season trip in Europe?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I want to take a family ski trip for the holidays, Dec. 19-Jan.2 time period, and am wondering about the most snow reliable places to go for these dates. I am told Europe has been getting the same pattern as where I live in the Western United States the last decade, with some early snow and then much of it coming in March and into April. I really don't know how to evaluate the info I have found on early season skiing, which basically lists some places above 3200 m with at least some glacier skiing, including Verbier in Switzerland, Les Deux Alpes, and Val Thorens.  We will go anywhere the good stuff is.


I am going with my wife and two kids who are ski racers out here in California but love off piste.  The three men at least are quite aggressive and want to ski the best the Alps has, at least at this time of year.



Our priorities are:


1. Snow

2. Snow

3. Steep terrain and lots of acres, long long runs like I hear about

4. Decent food, not a giant Euro ski theme park scene, etc.

5. Lodging Expense (I hear Zermatt is just crazy expensive). We are used to roughing it.


Any suggestions?





Moderator note: moved to International Zone (not North America)

post #2 of 8

I'd put Tignes on your list as well as Zermatt/Cortina. Not as familar with the Austrian glaciers (Hintertux, etc), but they may merit a look as well. Les Arcs doesn't have summer skiing, but is pretty snow sure with a small glacier up top. Staying in Bourg St Maurice and taking the funicular up will likely reduce costs (You have similar options at some of the other places as well).


At most areas, the steepest terrain will be snow dependent.Not exactly sure what you mean by "giant Euro ski theme park scene, etc" but some of the places with the most acres might qualify. However, many resorts have multiple villages with a wide range of lodging/food options. I think less expensive lodging options will be easier to find the week before X-Mas than the week after.

post #3 of 8

Val d'Isere and Tignes are my go-to ski area for early season, usually staying in Val d'Isere.


They've both got a glacier and a lot of terrain at high elevations in case it's a warm early season. But the reason I choose to stay in Val is because that side also has some terrain below tree line, which comes in handy when they get storms. The visibility gets pretty bad above tree line when the snow starts falling.


If you check the resort's accommodation finder, you might be able to find an apartment or two at a reasonable enough price. But as @SkiSchoolPros mentioned, you might struggle to find something for the holiday week.

post #4 of 8

Val Thorens is another early season banker. I am pretty sure it will be easy to find some self catering accommodation at a reasonable price although you may have a problem with your specific dates. 


Try these guys for help on accommodation http://www.valthorens.com/en/lodging/private-rental-accommodation.18.html


I can recommend the Chalet du Caron for lunch and the Cime de Caron cable car runs for some long steeps as well as breathtaking views from the tops. 

post #5 of 8

Another vote for Val Thorens for good snow chance.  I lived in Germany for 3 years and an eventual ski buddy steered me to V.T. as the best bet for a December holiday ski week.

post #6 of 8

I would support Val Thorens/Trois Vallees or Tignes/Val D'Isere as good options.   If you want to stay high and ski out the door, choose Val Thorens or Tignes   But the architecture can be a little ugly..  If you want more character/nightlife, but might have to ride some lifts to get up to the snow, stay in Val D'Isere or Meribel (which is in the next valley over).  Val Thorens and Tignes will be cheaper for accommodation probably.   Lots of apartments available, but generally smaller than US condos.   Another option to consider is Les Menuires - slightly lower than Val Thorens, but still high enough and easy access to all of the Trois Vallees.  


Apart from glacier access and more reliable snow, another reason to recommend these areas is that you will be right in the middle of the truly huge interconnected ski areas, which really have no parallel in North America.    High-speed touring from village to village is an incomparable experience.   But be ready for a few crowds also.   You'll have a great time!

post #7 of 8

Note for clarity - Meribel is in the Trois Vallees and in the next valley over from Val Thorens, not Val D'Isere

post #8 of 8
If you are coming at New Year holiday period it willl be busy in all the major resorts. However the last three years have not been very good for snow at this period in most of the Alps so you need to book somewhere which has skiing above 2500m as well as lower down to be safe.

I am based in the Paradiski area of Les Arcs and La Plagne which are connected by cablecar. There are two glacier areas and loads of tree skiing as well. There are many small station across the domain as well as the big purpose built ones. Staying in the valley at Bourg is also a cheaper option.

For your son it is a cool place with different parks suitable for all levels, skicross, air bags and loads more. The teen ski groups are good if he needs that and there are also people around for you to hook up with if needed.

Hope that helps. Maybe see you here next winter.
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