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GAP Course-Val D'isere, Courchevel or Vail

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I am taking a gap year next year and want to do a BASI Gap instructor course. I have the choice of a course either in Val D'isere, Courchevel or Vail. There are other resorts, but i felt these were the biggest and best for skiing as well as nightlife and the others (such as Pila, Haute Nandez etc.) would get a bit boring after a while.

So basically, i am just looking for any feedback on any of these resorts-i have been to Val D'isere before and enjoyed it alot and my brother also did the same course there 2 seasons ago so i kind of know what to expect there-it would probably be my 1st choice.

However, i have not been to Courchevel, and have never skied in America full stop. What are either of these resorts like? I have always fancied skiing in America, but i'm not sure either the skiing or nightlife would be any better (or even as good) as the other two.

Any feedback is much appreciated
post #2 of 19
Chris, Vail is big by American standards, and it's probably comparable in size to Solaise/Fornet at Val.
Nightlife is reasonable if you're going to be studying and resting, although there are good places to go.
I didn't find anywhere that served Red Eric or Mutzig.
But, you are more likely to get a better consistency in the powder in Vail, and you'll have very few problems with language (although speaking Spanish would be a bonus), and many conversations will include the line "I love your British accent" (You're less likely to pull a chav/minger in Vail...)
post #3 of 19
Courchevel is not the best resort in the Three Vallées but it's in the Three Vallées so it wins on that count alone. I haven't skied Vail in particular but nothing on the East Coast compares to the Three Vallées and the little I've skied in the West (Lake Tahoe region) doesn't come close either... that's not to say, that skiing the States is not good but so far the Alps have always provided me with bigger mountains, much better food and an authentic atmosphere. I'm sure many will disagree.
post #4 of 19
I foresee one major problem with Vail in a gap year.

The Americans, crazy people that they are, don't let you drink until you're 21. If you're there for a season, you will get ID'd, and if you use fake ID for a season you will get caught.

They also have irritating habits about letting people with criminal records back into the US . . . . .

I can't recommend a gap year skiing without alcohol - so I'd rule out Vail for the season.
If there's time left after your course finishes, then DO go to Vail, for the skiing . . . . it's definitely something to add to the list. Better yet, make a trip around all the Vail resorts - Breck, Keystone, Vail, Copper, and A-Basin are all on the same ski pass now.

There's a lot of skiable area in 3 Valleys, you can drink there, you learn the language, and you get the benefit of learning the skills to be able to work/play closer to home.

(edit - and yes, the food is better)
post #5 of 19
Chris, ski-ing wise both Val D'Isere and Courcheval/Trois Vallees are going to give you a greater range and varietyof terrain . Vail is good but doesn't have the same level of challenge IMHO. (based on skiing all of them on several occasions)

Both Kelly and WTFH make good points. It also depends on what sort of culture/nightlife exoerience you are looking for in addition to the skiing. In both Val and Courcheval you are going to have a higher proportion of Brits. Depends if you want this or not. Also, one important point, it might also depend on your age. Remember you have to be 21 to drink in the US and it is enforced much more rigidly than you might expect
post #6 of 19
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat
(You're less likely to pull a chav/minger in Vail...)
He may be more likely to end up with a fat bird in Vail though !
post #7 of 19
Disclaimer 1 : Val d'Isère is my 'home resort'...
Disclamer 2 : Both resorts are actualy splitted. Val d'Isère is Val village and La daille, the latter being a concrete cheaper condos ensemble, linked to the village by a free bus. Courchevel has 4 resorts (1850, and the cheaper, more family oriented 1650, 1550 and 1350 I think), all linked by free buses. The following comments concern Courchevel 1850 and Val village, the actual core of both resorts.

I can't comment on Vail.

Regarding Courchevel vs Val d'Isère : Both are up-scale resorts, Courchevel being the most expensive (probably the more snobbish of french resorts, for the 'rich and famous') and Val (linked to Tignes) the more ski enthusiast oriented. Bottom line : Both are expensive, beware of lodging cost...
You will find plenty of brits in both resorts (you can easily live a season in Val without speaking a word of french...) and plenty of good ski schools aimed at british customers.
Both domain are huge, the bigger being definitely les Trois Vallées (ie Courchevel). But from Val d'Isère you can easily access other Tarentaise resorts such as Les Arcs.
Regarding night life, France is not the best country for aprés ski experiences. Austria or Swizterland are much more lively when the lifts close. Now, both Val d'Isère and Courchevel (thanks to a important british population maybe...) are probably the best french resorts in that respect. My preference goes strongly to Val d'Isère, where you find a more young and relaxed athmosphere (again, more serious skiers in Val), but Courchevel should be OK too.
Bottom line : If you already know Val, Courchevel is more fur coats and less gore tex, and higher bills... And a tremendous ski area.
post #8 of 19
I totally agree with PhilippeR but keep in mind that he's talking and comparing by French living standards. To me it's still cheaper to go and ski the Three Vallées than it is to ski an American resort (especially an East Coast one). The States are a lot more expensive overall when it comes to every day expenses.
PS: I still like the Three Vallées better than Val d'Isère but frankly it's comparing pure white diamonds and pink diamonds. You still got diamonds in the end however way you cut it.
post #9 of 19
Kelly, what do you mean by "every day expenses"? In my experience, the only thing that is more expensive in the US is lift tickets.
post #10 of 19
food, healthcare, lodging, transportation, etc.
then again your British pound will go a lot further in the States right now than in France.
post #11 of 19
OK, Lift Tix and healthcare, the rest, I'd disagree (particularly since I'm paying over $6 a gallon for gas)
post #12 of 19
yes, gas would be the one exception. But think how great the train infrastructure is in Europe compared to the States... Lodging in the States is minimum $50/night in a shit hole, you can do a lot better in France for that kind of money.
post #13 of 19
My experiences as a tourist (un-related to ski) has been that life is cheaper in the states, even without the incredibly great Euro/$ rate of now. I'm talking of the everyday expenses of a non resident, ie food, gas, hotels, car rentals, clothes... excluding health care, insurances, school fees and so on, all much cheaper in France.
We're not comparing living standards but costs of life as a foreigner.
Anyway, I guess that Chris5000, being part of a BASI program, should benefit from special opportunities for lodging and ski pass expenses. But I also guess he may face (as a long term resident in the US) some health insurance issues.
post #14 of 19
I'm surprised that you say that Philippe, but it might depend on which part of the country you've visited. When my french buddies come for a visit in Boston, they are always really put off my the cost of food, lodging and things like that. But then again, Boston is one of the most expensive parts of the country to live in.
post #15 of 19
Maybe I should be more nuanced. It's true that cities such as New York or San Francisco (I've never been to Boston) are expensive for a frenchman. And it's also true that I live in Paris (lot more expensive than the rest of France) and somewhat biased. But in more 'rural' parts of the US, and that doesn't mean just desertic places as New Mexico but medium towns as well, I've always found more than decent lodging or food for very reasonable prices. I also remember that most of 'consummer goods' or services such as clothes or car rentals were cheaper than at home. We have, for instance, a more efficient railway system, that's very true, but your domestics air fares are lower. I guess part of the explanation resides in your sales taxes, much lower than ours, and your lower minimum wages.
Anyway, that's not an indication on the cost of living a full season in a US vs a French resort. Lots of other factors here ! I was just stressing that my experience of a 'tourist life style' in most parts of the US is not of an expensive one.
I'm curious : It's really cheaper for you to cross the atlantic, with the according air travel costs, to ski in France (in the trois vallées, not exactly a cheap resort) than to stay at home ? If yes, that's a good thing I've postponed my ski trip to the US for this year ! I need to do a more in depth budgeting...
post #16 of 19
My last trip to Les Trois Vallées was $370 airfare, $200 week lift pass, $160 lodging for the week in luxury chalet.
A trip to say Killington for a week would be $74/day lift, $50/night lodging in a nearby town for a cheap & gloomy motel or $80/night on the ski-resort's grounds in a no-thrills hotel/motel.
And frankly, the Trois Vallées and Killington are like comparing a desert to a sandbox.
Skiing the West cost is a little cheaper for lifts, about the same for lodging and I need to add about $220 for airfare. Ski/lodging packages are usually a little more attractive out West.
post #17 of 19
$160 lodging for the week in luxury chalet
: Wow, that's a bargain ! (Ditto the 370$ air fare)
Do you have an adress/link, for the chalet ?
Regarding the cost of lift tickets, I budgeted 250 to 300$ for a week pass in a good US resort. But I didn't check Killington. 75$ a day, that's awfully expensive for sure.
Thanks for the infos.
post #18 of 19
Yes, it was a very good deal, planned months in advance. It's was in the middle of January so not the most expensive period. We stayed in a 10 person chalet called les Montagnettes in Les Ménuires. http://www.montagnettes.com/ At the time, 2004 it was 1500 Euros for the week and we were 10 friends in the place. The euro vs. dollar was not as steep either when we paid for the rental in July 2003. I recommend that place, it's probably one of, if not the nicest residence in Les Ménuires (which for the most part is not attractive at all). It's on the slopes with all the amenities one could want. Even croissants and bread delivered fresh to your door every morning...
post #19 of 19
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