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Closer to Europe - needing a bit more advice ...

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
sounds like I have a week in the EU in mid February. Now to decide where to go, where to stay for best conditions. Powder is especially desirable of course. Great grooming is a lot less so ... There will be two or maybe three of us. We'll be working in London for either the prior or later week so easy travel in and out of London is a priority. We'll probably ski Sunday through Friday and travel on the weekend days.

So St Anton ? Chamonix ? Courcheval ? OK I'm spelling impaired, but down by Mt Blanc, the Italian side as I recall Somewhere in Switzerland ?

Thanks for whatever advice you pass along! Mal
post #2 of 14
Don't go to Chamonix unless you are an off-piste skier and plan to hire a guide. Off-piste is the main attraction at Chamonix because the infrastructure there does not compare to richer resorts like Trois Vallees or the Arlberg.

From London, I'd probably go to Trois Vallees--you can catch a flight to Geneva and take a bus from there or if you have more time, take TGV. Val Thorens is the most snow-sure base but Courchevel is the most popular because of its central location and decent altitude.

If you go to the Arlberg, St. Anton is the most convenient base to get to and offers the best expert piste but Lech's lower slopes are more snow sure since they are at a slightly higher elevation than St. Anton's. The easiest way to get to the Alrberg is to fly to Zurich and then take a train from there to STANTON.

Some other resorts to chew on:

Val D'Isere/Tignes
Paradiski (a new alliance of French Resorts Les Arc/Le Plagne)
Dolomiti Superski Area (Italy)
St. Moritz

post #3 of 14
I've never been to any of the resorts in Europe but I have friends who lived in London for 3 years and they always went to France.

They went to Trois Vallees one year and Val D'Isere the next. They liked the me both and from the photos they passed around, both places looked awesome.
post #4 of 14
I've skied a lot in Europe and I must say that the 3 Vallees is the most fantastic ski domain in existance (650kms of skiing). I was just there last week. I stayed in the town of Les Menuires (1850m) which is in the Vallee of the Belleville as is Val Thorens. In the 3 Vallees you can find several towns to stay in. Val Thorens, Les Menuires, Meribel, Courchevel being the most famous ones. Here's my take on it... Courchevel is the celebrity resort and unless you are ready to spend some major major cash, I wouldn't recommend staying there. Val Thorens is great but you have to pay more for lodging compartively to Les Menuires which is just below it just because it's higher in the Alps and that garantees more snow in early and late season. Meribel / Montarret is nice if you like the feel of trees surrounding your resort. Most resorts that are higher in the Alpes are virtually tree free...

Of all, I got to say, I would probably go for Les Menuires. It's not the most beautiful resort (a couple ugly buildings in its center) compared to Val Thorens or Courchevel but compared to Val Thorens where for the same money you will only be able to afford an appartment, in Les Menuires you will be able to afford a luxury chalet right on the slopes (I recommend Les Montagnettes). Les Menuires is connected to the 3 Valles skiing domain so for example, by taking the gondollas "Les Bruyeres" in les Menuires you will be at the junction of Les Menuires / Val Thorens in a couple of minutes. Go down one long slope and you are in Val Thorens, go down one other and you are in Meribel...

Good luck, if you have any questions, let me know.
post #5 of 14

How would you compare the facilities, convenience for skier/non-skiers at Courcheval/Val D/Val T to those in the US.

post #6 of 14
How would you compare the facilities, convenience for skier/non-skiers at Courcheval/Val D/Val T to those in the US.
I've skied all of these resorts but never stayed in any of them when I lived in France. All are very expensive resorts especially Courchevel (hell, they even have an airport).

I think all the resorts in the Alpes have very good non-skiers activities. From dog-sledding to architectural tours of small surrounding villages, movie theatres, ice skating, cross-country skiing, shopping, etc. Every resort usually has a weekly theme. When I was in Les Menuires last week, it was "Wine Week". You could sample free wines every night... There was also the European Slalom championship during two days. Resorts are always very well serviced by free buses which you can even take between resorts in some cases. Buses typically run until midnight. In Les Menuires, most supermarkets (like Sherpa) delivered food for free to your door.
post #7 of 14
Originally posted by whitney:

How would you compare the facilities, convenience for skier/non-skiers at Courcheval/Val D/Val T to those in the US.

Another good place for non-skiers (albeit an expensive idea) is St. Moritz: shopping, theater, hiking, nightlife, etc. There's also a good rail station, where they can take the Glacier Express or the Bernina Express for a sightseeing tour, or just take a regular train to any number of Swiss and Italian destinations.
post #8 of 14
If you're in London and heading to the Espace Killy (Val D'Isere/Tignes), La Plagne/Les Arcs, or the 3 Valleys, a good way of getting there is the direct Eurostar train service. It goes out from Waterloo station in central London either friday night to arrive about 7AM saturday or about 10AM saturday to arrive about 5PM saturday evening. On the way back it leaves either first thing saturday or last thing saturday. The Eurostar has a few major advantages; it is far less hassle than flying, it gets you very close to the resort (about 30 min transfer in a taxi), it's very relaxing way to travel, and it means that if you get the friday night one out and the saturday night one back you get 8 days skiing.
We are heading out to Meribel saturday - just need to hope that the rain turns to snow and the avalanche risk recedes a bit (5/5 at the moment in most of the French Alps : )

post #9 of 14
Mal@hood, the problem you've got is dates, mid Feb specifically the w/c 14th Feb is half-term week and its Europe wide, so everywhere gets booked up really early. So it depends on timing or choosing a different approach, you may want to consider staying soemwhere like Bourg St Maurice, which is the valley town for the Haute Tarentaise, it has direct access to Les Arcs and bus services to Tignes, Val D'Isere, Sainte Foy de Tarentaise and a regular navette to Seez for access to La Rosiere and La Thuile in Italy. Three of the biggest resorts in France aare in the Haute tarentaise, almost the same is true of Moutiers with access to the 3 valleys resorts. You'll also find that flights are at a premium for mid Feb as well. The train makes a lot of sense but the overnight Ski trains are also known as the Vomit Specials, so not the most pleasant way to travel. You can get regular trains to Bourg, it just means you have to change in Paris. You can mail me on info@tracksvacations.com for more details.
post #10 of 14
The direct (non-stop London/Ashford to Moutiers/Bourg St Maurice)Eurostar is much more civilised than the snowtrain (which I went on last year!), and saves the hassle of changing stations at Paris, only slight downer is not having a couchette. Also agree with the tricky dates - would probably be a problem for the direct trains then too. If you do get a train to Paris then change, a Parisien friend tells me the transfers between station for the trains to the Alps is not too painful


[ January 15, 2004, 03:51 AM: Message edited by: stuarth ]
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Good info. Trios Vallees sounds like the place and the train sounds like the way to get there. I really like the train, can't understand why we don't do more of that here, but that is probably another forum ...

I'm actually working in London the week of 2/16 so I can move my ski date to the week prior, 2/9 or after 2/23. Would that help with the half-term break issues ?

I'm coming back in late March (around the 20th as I recall) and could do that as well. Would the later dates be a better bet vis 'a' vis crowds and reservations ? How about conditions ?

I like the sound of Les Menuires as a home base.

My wide and I ski off piste here as much as we can. Probaly 50 to 75 % - but it's lift served. We don't have back country skills and it's been 10 years since I took the NSP's avalanche awareness program. I'm a big believer in using Mtn guides at a new hill. It's worth a few bucks to learn where the best lines are and to be safe.

Thanks for the info and if anyone has more to add, feel free.
post #12 of 14
How would you compare the facilities, convenience for skier/non-skiers at Courcheval/Val D/Val T to those in the US.
I forgot to mention as far as food goes, the restaurants in French resorts are far better than the ones in the States. Avoid the ones at the bottom of slope areas which are ok for a quick grab at lunch time though. At night look for smaller restaurants throughout the resort most are very good and almost exclusively use local product (fresh meat, eggs, cheeses, etc.) You can't go wrong with food coming directly from the producer to the restaurant...
post #13 of 14
Having done a 3 day weekend last week(after years of not getting round to going there) I can now say, that without a shadow of a doubt, the best place for a one off or short trip to Europe with

a) Easy access from airports
b) Good, sorry great, mix of terrain (on/off piste)
c) Plenty of accom and night life.

is......wait for it.....ohh should I spread this over two postings....ahhggh go on then.


1 1/2 hours drive from Geneva. Trios vallees =2 1/2 plus and the skiing is not as good.
Try the Hotel Ermitage just off Place Central. Comfy without being flas and central to everything.

Left Manchester on a 3:50pm flight. Arrived in Verbier 9:15pm (CET). Skiied three full days. Caught plane from Geneva at 19:25pm arrived back through my front door 21:30pm (GMT). Superb.
post #14 of 14
I should not say it (damn...you'll be more people on line for the first morning lift)...and I have been silent so far, but there is no doubt verbier is the best place you can go from UK for a WE. Look for an hotel though www.verbier.ch and just let me know whether you need some more advice. At the present time there's lot of snow so mid february should be OK. If you want go to most of time on pow, be extremely careful with avalanches (sadly one killed one boarder in a group of 5 saturday), always ask to locals before getting in the wrong place. But I am sure you will enjoy
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