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Perceptions -Europe

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Born a Brit, but feeling that BC is my spiritual home and with a passion for skiing, in particular N American skiing I've found these forums a great source of info and way of keeping in touch with 'the vibe'.

It intrigues me though to find out what the North American perception of European skiing is. Your mission...shoud you choose to accept.

In two weeks the world will end. You have time for two trips. Where wil you go?

I'll dip in with my choices in a while.
post #2 of 21
Europe is definitely on my must do list. Honestly I don't really know what to expect other than terrain and scenery quite different from what we in N. America are used to. Sampling Euro culture and sightseeing in between runs is also a plus.

Places on my list to see:

St. Anton
Lech/Zurs
Innsbruck
Kitzbuhl
Chamonix
post #3 of 21
The world ends in two weeks!!!

Well, I know I wouldn't waste my time skiing. It's a lot of fun, but not high enough on the priorities list to get even one of those 14 precious days.

...To answer the skiing part of the question: One place I want to go is Innsbruck and the surrounding area. I hear a lot about lift lines, smokey restaurants, and crowded areas that make me think differently most of the time; but I am curious. ..The other place would definitely be a trip to B.C.. Conditions and time of year would dictate the individual resorts/areas visited.
post #4 of 21
I wrote an article last season in a perception/reality format that might answer some of your questions.
post #5 of 21
I'm not sure if you mean 2 places period, or 2 places in Europe. So I'll answer both ways.

2 in Europe: Chamonix or Trois Vallees (sic?), and Bormio.

2 in general: Jackson/Targhee, and Chamonix or Trois Vallees.

I skied Switzerland in Feb. and it was wonderful. The snow was not anywhere near Utah quality, but everything else made up for it (like 6,000 feet of vert!).
post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally posted by jamesdeluxe:
I wrote an article last season in a perception/reality format that might answer some of your questions.
Nice article, your experiences mirror mine almost 100%. I was blessed/cursed with an extremely sensitive schnoz, so the smoke and the BO really kill me over there. The views and cultural aspects are truly worth the inconvenience though.

I don't know whether to give you a pat on the back, or a straight jacket for torturing yourself like that with a busted leg. Must've been tough.
post #7 of 21
Gotta and I mean GOT TO get to Milton Keynes.
post #8 of 21
ry,
When you do, I'll buy you a beer.



S
post #9 of 21
Well, I skied in Europe last year for the first time and went to Verbier. And almost everything that article referenced above is true about Verbier as well, but I'll add one thing - if you go in the French-speaking part of the Swiss Alps, you get french cooking! And nothing beats it - nothing!

And the scenery and terrain is awesome - the length and variation of the runs is truly astonishing. So, if I had only two weeks, I would take in Verbier for a week, and then come home and hit Jackson Hole, purely for sentimental reasons.

But Verbier beats everything in the US, even when everyone in Europe hates our guts (someone tried to pick a fight with me b/c I was American, it's true) and smokes like a chimney.
post #10 of 21
IRT Fresh Tracks question about final two ski trips: 1st week Chamonix including Vallee Blanche, 2nd week Dolomites including Sella Ronda. Scenery and length/scope of terrain is what attracts me to those two. 3 Vallees also of high interest. Would you Euros consider my choices analogous to a first time visitor to US choosing to go to Walt Disney World and Hollywood??
I enjoyed article by Jamesdeluxe. I've been to Europe a few times, but trip to Austria last winter was first time for skiing. See these two links for long (possibly excellent cure for insomnia) account of my enjoyable experience. http://www.dcski.com/news/2003/03_10_2003/salzburg.php3
http://www.dcski.com/news/2003/03_27...salzburg2.php3
post #11 of 21
For killer terrain, I pick Chamonix, but for the variety and services, I'd go to Trois Vallee.

Austria does seem to get better snow though...maybe St Anton should be on the list too?

Guess it depends on the time of year. Too many places too little time.
post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally posted by Xdog:
I was blessed/cursed with an extremely sensitive schnoz, so the smoke and the BO really kill me over there.
Hey we have chemists (Apotheker) here too, das Deodorant should kill your BO.



[ October 02, 2003, 02:15 PM: Message edited by: DangerousBrian ]
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally posted by Steep_Skier:
Well, I skied in Europe last year for the first time and went to Verbier. And almost everything that article referenced above is true about Verbier as well, but I'll add one thing - if you go in the French-speaking part of the Swiss Alps, you get french cooking! And nothing beats it - nothing!

And the scenery and terrain is awesome - the length and variation of the runs is truly astonishing. So, if I had only two weeks, I would take in Verbier for a week, and then come home and hit Jackson Hole, purely for sentimental reasons.

But Verbier beats everything in the US, even when everyone in Europe hates our guts (someone tried to pick a fight with me b/c I was American, it's true) and smokes like a chimney.
This is the most sensible thing I have seen written on this site and I have seen some quite sensible things.

Steep-Skier is my leader.

PS. Did a season there in 01-02 but did go last year but I hear they're making it better this year. Quicker lifts, much better cut through the mountains to avoid that stupid cut back to La Chaux. I think I may pop back for a couple of weeks in Feb! I miss Verbier.

I'll make a guess and say you went to la Ferre a Cheval for lunch/dinner and if you didn't you really should have for Swiss cooking (not French) basically bread, cheese and wine - the basis of all Swiss cooking and it's fabulous.

If I only had two weeks til the end of the world I'd go to Verbier and not even think about anything else - it wouldn't even be close to be honest!!
post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally posted by Steep_Skier:
Well, I skied in Europe last year for the first time and went to Verbier. And almost everything that article referenced above is true about Verbier as well, but I'll add one thing - if you go in the French-speaking part of the Swiss Alps, you get french cooking! And nothing beats it - nothing!

And the scenery and terrain is awesome - the length and variation of the runs is truly astonishing. So, if I had only two weeks, I would take in Verbier for a week, and then come home and hit Jackson Hole, purely for sentimental reasons.

But Verbier beats everything in the US, even when everyone in Europe hates our guts (someone tried to pick a fight with me b/c I was American, it's true) and smokes like a chimney.
Steep
Wrong! Italian cooking is far better!!!
Wrong again, not everyone hates "you" because you're an American, but if you are obnoxious, and behave rudely (to your hosts perceptions) then they'll hate you, because of you.

K2 rider,
Huge,well it depends.
Crowded? Definitely yes, too much crowd for my tastes.
Italian lift lines are on a par with the French ones.
But it depends on the crowd factor. You know, the more people in a place, the bigger the possibility to have high numbers of "bad apples"
(and even if in Italy, not all "bad apples" are Italians, Germans take a big chunk of winter tourism here, and most of the people come here and think "well, Italy is a mess, no one respect the laws, so, why should I?" This is very wrong behaviour. Then, Slovenian and ex-eastern block tourists in general, have acquired a very bad reputation in the past few years, as an examples. Pity for the "good ones" of them thought)

Anyway, to whomever thinks of coming here this winter:
Welcome!
Enjoy!
post #15 of 21
K-2,

They have some huge areas in Europe, but they range in size from one rope tow to 200+ lifts. The runs can be extremely crowded on holidays and weekends, but the good news is almost no one skis off piste.

The liftlines can be crazy, but not really that violent. Its all about position. I rarely had anyone push me out of the way, but if you didn't fill even the smallest space in front of you, someone else would squeeze in.

The food is not Ultra expensive, but it is very good. Even the cafeteria food in the main lodges is well above what you would find in the states, but some of the best are the little huts on the mountain.
post #16 of 21
My *percetions* without ever having been to Europe (skking or otherwise) is that the resorts:

* Are HUGE and not very crowded on the slopes....

* That the liftlines are one big quagmire where everybody pushes one another out of the way...and the French are the worst.

* That you better take a guide if you plan on touring around or else you're going to ride/ski off a cliff...

* That food is ULTRA expensive but delicious!!
__________________________________________________ ______

Now if the world is coming to an end in 2 weeks....I'm going to Canada for 2 straight weeks of Heli-boarding. The more trees the better!!!
post #17 of 21
The highest Austrian peaks are forecast up to 1 meter ca 40" of snow this weekend [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]



[ October 03, 2003, 01:53 PM: Message edited by: DangerousBrian ]
post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 
Some great comments and very much enjoying seeing everyone share their travele experiences.

A couple of my perceptions/experiences.

Lift lines. Competitive to say the least. French and Italian just as bad as each other. Having people ski/trample across your skis with their skis is common place. Best way of protecting your space is the old 'ski pole between the skis' of those to each side of you.

Worst lift lines... the inter valley transfers in the Trois Vallees.

Ski Areas. Some huge areas even when compared to the largest in the US. Makes for interesting trips, but not always easy to find exciting terrain all the time.

Heading Off Piste. Pretty free and easy. Though at times there does seem to be a degree in ignorance / lack of attention to snow conditions in comparison to those seeking freshtracks in N.Amerca. Not true of everyone by any means, but you need to keep a watchful eye out to make sure other people don't put you in danger.

Food. Much worse value than in N.America (though exchange rates do seem to help us in this respect.)and on the whole eating on the moutain is pretty pricey. Some of the restaurants in the 3 Vallees are a total rip off.

Okay. Now for the tough one.. two weeks left.

In Europe.... I'd have to head to Verbier as I've not yet had the pleasure and it gets fantastic write ups from all. As it's only 45 mins to Cham from there I'd be very tempted to try my remaining seven lives on some of the lines there.

Then it would be straight on the fastest plane to Canada. Qick stop off on Blackcomb to pay my respects to Spankies and the Blow Hole, before heading over to Creekside (via Peak to Creek) to catch a quick ride to Fernie -not had the pleasure there yet either. Couple of days there then off to the backcountry at Island Lake Lodge to fulfil a ten year dream.

Th,Th,Th, That's all folks!
[img]smile.gif[/img] [img]smile.gif[/img]

[ October 04, 2003, 11:53 AM: Message edited by: freshtracks ]
post #19 of 21
I travel quite a bit to to Austria for skiing and other reasons (12 trips or more since 1999). I just made my third trip of 2003 two weeks ago, and will be heading there again in January. Here are some of my impressions.

1. LIFT LINES. The big Austrian resorts have invested huge dollars to alleviate these problems. At St. Anton or Lech, it's hard to find a lift older than 1991, and most are high-speed, detachables with bubble canopies. That being said, you can still encounter lines. Getting on the Naserein gondola last year after a 3 meter dump on a Saturday was a competitive experience indeed. Three days later, I experienced no lines on the Schindler lift at 1 pm--very rare. Schindler, btw, is a lift the resort does not want to replace because it does not want to cram too many people on Schindler at once. The first part of the trail leading down from the lift is narrow, steep, and generally icey.

2. SMOKING. It's dying, but slowly. With every trip, I am noticing more non-smoking cars on trains, more non-smoking areas in restaurants, and non-smoking hotel rooms. The EU is waging war on smoking in Europe and its gradually having an impact.

3. PISTES. Unlike in the US, you are not going to find much challenge on most marked terrain--even at a place like St. Anton. I skied Kandahar last year for the first time and was not blown away. It was steep in sections but pretty wide and manageable for any advanced skier. St. Anton has some marked Extreme Trails that are challenging, but most of the truly challenging terrain is off-piste. In otherwords, don't look at the trail map trying to find challenge. You'll need to reserve a guide and go off trail for that, but if you do, you won't be dissappointed.

4. PRICES. Lift tickets are cheaper, and food is about the same price but better. Lodging is the big wildcard. US travel agencies try to steer US skiers to 3&4 star venues that can be very expensive. They don't tell you that you can and 6 buddies can rent an appartment in a nearbye town for 66 euros a night or stay in a modest two star for less than a hundred a night for two people. To find modest digs, you have to go directly to a resort's web site and book it yourself. You also have to be willing to sacrifice ammenities: pools, bars, restaurants, sauna, etc. However, you can get the most important ammenities at a low cost: a comfortable room and a private bathroom.

5. LOCAL TRANSPORTATION. A car is indeed a nice convenience at a big resort like the Arlberg, but it can add a lot of cost to your trip. Expect to pay up to $100 a day for a vehicle (that includes extras such as taxes, highway stickers, ski racks). On top of that, gas is over $5 a gallon (close to a euro a liter), and parking is generally not free. At STANTON, if you decide to drive from your hotel to Rendl for the day, expect to pay up to 25 euros for daily parking near the Rendl gondola. That being said, if you go for cheap accomodation in an outerlying village, the conveniences of a car may make the costs worthwhile.

I personally prefer going the route of public transport. Most resorts have decent local shuttle bus systems, and many are conveniently linked to airports via the train or coach services.
Going this route will save you cash and in at least one case, it allowed me to get to the slopes during a huge storm (roads were closed but the train rolled on). I truly enjoy train travel b/c it allows me to soak in views, sleep, or sip a cool beverage after or before a long flight. 2d class train travel in Europe is also remarkably cheap--especially if you buy your tickets locally.

6. FOOD. I have a love/hate relationship with Austrian food. I love getting into STANTON after a long flight and enjoying a big Weiss beer and a Weiner Schnitzel at Amalis followed by a Sachar Torte. However, after a couple of days, Austrian food gets kind of borring. It's very heavy and contains too much meat for my tastes. Fortunately, Austrians make fairly decent salads, pasta, soups, roasted potatoes, and pasteries, and that's what I tend to live on after about day three. At big resorts, you'll find some Italian and Asian restaurants to help you with the monotony: Charlie's Pizza at Lech comes to mind. Also, seafood entrees can be quite good in Austria despite it's inland location. The Italian and French resorts definitely offer better food.

7. OBNOXIOUS SKIERS. You get them in Europe and you get them in the United States. There's no difference.

8. FIRST TRACKS. There's no such concept in Europe. If you get up early, you'll be rewarded by untracked snow after a storm or fresh groomed corduroy--depends on what your preference is. Euros sleep late, and eat long lunches. That means there's good skiing early in the morning and during the lunch period.

9. SNOW. Unlike say Stowe VT, which gets lake effect snow almost daily during long stretches of the winter, European resorts tend to get there snow in a 2-4 big storms a year. Some resorts get their snow early in the season (Solden or St. Anton), but many do not get major storms until March (Wengen/Murren for example).

Between these storms are long dry spells. In the Western Alps, snow does not hold well below 1300 meters, so always look for a resort with lots of terrain above that mark. Be prepared to dowload on gondolas to get back to your village at night: top to bottom skiing is becoming the exception rather than the rule in the Alps. Even when conitions are excellent, downloading is a good option in Europe because lower trails tend to be steep and crowded. I'd rather save my energy for the better snow and borader expanses at higher altitudes.

European resorts rely on extensive grooming to keep pistes skiable during these dry spells, so be prepared to ski groomed hardpack. At St. Anton, most locals have two pairs of skis (Atomic GS-IIs for hardpack and ultra fats for powder days).

Snowmaking is not popular in Europe because of the high cost of energy and environmental concerns. Most resorts only use it to keep the runs that head back to the village covered--yet another reason not to ski these slopes.

PARTING SHOTS:

Well, that's about all I can think about for now. Where to Ski and Snowboard Worldwide has a good chapter comparing the differences between North American and European resorts. My overall feeling is that you have to go where the snow is. Europe can be hell during a bad snow year and there have been quite a few of those as of late. Travel agencies want skiers to book European vacations months in advance. This is a huge, huge mistake, and a formula for profound dissapointment. Unless you have to travel to Europe for some other reason, always book last minute and go where the snow is--even if that means going to Utah rather than Austria. No travel agent will tell you this but airlines offer extremely reasonable last minute deals to Europe during the slow months of Jan-March, and you can almost always find some type of room (even at the big places) last minute using the resort's online booking system.

[ October 05, 2003, 05:00 AM: Message edited by: West Virginia Skier ]
post #20 of 21
WVS is right on the money ....

Here's a few tips ....

1. Food - Most hotels / B&B's will pack your breakfast to take with you. Just say you have to meet somebody early. If you do eat breakfast at the hotel / B&B be the first in and out or you could get stuck behind a German family choosing which type of sausage to have today. I very rarely eat at the mountain huts because it's expensive, heavy and you lose too much skiing time while waiting - Prefer to take energy bars and camelback with me. Best to stagger your eating times out of sync with the majority. Get up early and get first tracks (in the powder when possible). Take a break while the majority hit the slopes between 10 & 11am. Ski through lunch while they are all eating, maybe take another short break around 2 as they come back onto the slopes. Save any heavy eating till the end of the day - just before Apres Ski. [img]smile.gif[/img]

2. Smoking - Coming from England I was surprized how many smoke here strange really as Europeans have more concern for the global environment. This is changing in Austria, just recently large health warnings have to be displayed on packets. There is a push to ban all smoking in public places. If the smoke from somebody near to you gets on your nerves just cough until they notice. Another reason to hit the Mountain Huts during quieter times is that you can normally get a place in the ever increasing no-smoking areas.

3. Accomodation - Agree with WVS. Get a last minute flight, car and follow the snow. If the conditions aren't right choose a different country or put off the trip to Europe for a year. The snowfall doesn't seem to be as reliable as across the pond.

4. Lift lines - When in Rome ..... don't give an inch always shuffle forward into the smallest of spaces, use your poles defensively to prevent anybody 'poaching your lift line'. It's a different mentality but it has it's advantages - that ignorant bognor wearing gaper who is chatting/waving to his buddies on the mobile normally gets left behind / pushed over or just stampeded.

Done the 3 valleys, Portes du Sol and main Austria resorts so
Verbier / somewhere in Canada would be my two picks (if not Milton Keynes)

[ October 05, 2003, 11:21 AM: Message edited by: DangerousBrian ]
post #21 of 21
Great post WVS, I'll chime in to challenge 2 statements, just based on very limited experience.

Cars- we did not find them to be as expensive in Switzerland. A weekly rental was like under $300. The convenience of a car was awesome for the non-skiing days when we just decided to head down to Milan, and Liechtenstien (when the hell would I have ever gotten to Liechtenstien?). No parking fees were incurred in the particular place I stayed, but I could see that being a problem elsewhere. And you are right about gas, muy $$$.

Obnoxious Skiers- I haven't skied it all, but I've got 3 continents, and 8 United States under my belt. Nowhere have I encountered the likes of the French, German and Italian skiers in Switzerland. Even at Huntah Mowntin in NY, people will not dance on your topsheets, blatantly cut lines, and blow smoke and stank breath in your face. Sorry.

DB, I'll add a defensive lift technique. My wife and I named it the Euro-Block. Similar to a mini-phalanx, just stand side by side with your ski partner, and extend your arms to the fullest width possible, then plant your poles. An individual must be truly determined (or French) to break through.
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