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European resorts information

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 



I've being looking for information about some big resorts in Europe, but some information like: size of skiable terrain (acres of ski), average snowfall... seen to be a mistery.


Unlike all resorts in North America, where you can easily find a "mountain status" in their website, in european websites I generally only see valley and top elevation + number/type of lifts.


I know that some resorts in the Alps are HUGE, and can connect many villages and even diferent countries.

But I'd love to have some numbers in order to compare with some previous experiences.


Does anyone knows average snowfall and acres of ski for resorts like:

St Anton, Lech, Zermatt, Cervinia, St Moritz, Verbier, Chamonix, Courchevel, Saa Fee ... etc???


Any good website with this kind of information?

post #2 of 17

Where to Ski and Snowboard. Buy a copy, Dude, and your f***in' troubles are over.


Edited by prickly - Fri, 06 Feb 09 20:21:28 GMT

Edited by prickly - Fri, 06 Feb 09 20:22:15 GMT
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm searching their website right now...

It is nice, but has some doubtful information... like giving Keystone 5 stars for snow reliability, while Jackson Hole gets only 4 stars...



Edited by Thiago - Fri, 06 Feb 09 20:48:16 GMT
post #4 of 17

That sounds right to me, actually. Anyone?

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 



Keystone average snowfall = 230 in

Jackson Hole average snowfall = 459 in


I know Keystone is higher than JH, and they may start snowmaking earlier... but that is quit a big diference...


So far this season:


JH= 300 in

Key= 118 in


post #6 of 17

Well, maybe you're right. I remember them giving JH four stars, but I can't remember the Keystone chapter. Trust me, it's a book you need.

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm still exploring their site, lots of GREAT information

I only miss South America... (at least in the website)


My doubts about European resorts is just because people always say:  "great terrain, huge vertical, amazing lift-systems... but the snow is not as good and as it is in the rockies"

I just want to compare by myself...  in a future ski trip


I know places like Alta/Bird, JH, etc are hard to compare because they get tons of light snow, but I was wondering what is the average snowfall for the western Alps resorts (france, Italy, Switzerland) and eastern Alps (Switzerland and Austria)


Anyway, I bet it's certainly an amazing experience... a must do for every ski enthusiast



post #8 of 17

Now, be fair Thiago, very few places get the blessing of snow that the Rockies does!


European resorts almost only provide snow/base depth, I've rarely (if ever come to think of it) seen a European resort provide a record of the season's 'cumulative' snowfall in the way that most central or western N American resorts seem to.


The snow is a bit inconsistent by comparison, but when it does snow it is still very good. On-piste will almost always be in excellent nick by New Year (if not before) due to the amount of snowmaking in most resorts. With off-piste it is more hit and miss. Then again, I've just spent a fortnight in Whistler and didn't see a single snowflake. Planning big ski trips always leaves a little to chance.


Traditionally, Austria has better early season conditions than France because of its geographic position and small base required (don't need as much snow to make skiing fields fine as you do to cover up a rocky run at higher altitude). France, due to a generally higher elevation, keeps the snow better so has a better end to the season.


Tignes, Val d'Isere, Zermatt are all high and big resorts that will generally have huge bases by mid-season (Tignes is famous for its awesome powder days on the glacier in October  ). Chamonix, the mecca that almost everyone who makes the trip from the Americas heads to has its own reputation to uphold - being under Mont Blanc, it gets dumped on with regularity, especially on cold winds from the north. I'm working in Courmayeur a lot this season, just the other side of Mont Blanc from Chamonix. We've got a great base, but lots of sunny skies - meanwhile, as the weather comes in from the north it hits Mont Blanc, rises, then decides it can't be bothered anymore (technical meteorology speak  ) and dumps everything in the clouds on Chamonix...


Whilst snow can be less consistent and not quite as light, size is what's going for Europe. Again, acreage isn't often quoted for European resorts, but, the big resorts in France and Switzerland dwarf their American and Canadian cousins. (Just don't get stuck in Courcheval at the end of the day if you're staying in Val Thorens - another good, high, resort - as it will probably come in at about €150 to get back, it would be cheaper to stay the night... even in Courcheval 1850  ).

Edited by skisimon - Sat, 07 Feb 09 01:39:53 GMT
post #9 of 17

This site has a list of some of the largest ski areas in Europe, which will give you a good starting point for research:  http://www.igluski.com/ski-areas
Alpine ski areas with high bases, approximately 1500-2000m, will be the most snowsure.

post #10 of 17

I'll cut to the chase. If I were coming from another continent, first time, first experience, I'd go to St Anton, simple as that. But that's just me.


From Brazil, my view is you'd have an easier time putting together a good trip to the States rather than Europe, particulary, as I've said many times on this forum, the North American resorts have huge advantages in terms of visibility.


I can't imagine booking a week in the Alps way ahead of time. If you get a week of shitty weather, the skiing is not going to be great. That is not the case in North Am. And I say this as someone who does 90% of my skiing in the Alps.


It's awesome here, but I'd only plan trips to the Alps from abroad if: a) it were much closer than the US/Canada (eg, from the UK); b) I were willing to accept the whiteout risk and spend some days hanging in the village or doing the tourist thing (like going to Venice from Trentino, say. A week in Innsbruck would give you some options outside skiing, for example. WTF are you gonna do in Tignes for a week if it's grey?); c) I could book last minute; d) I were going someplace like Serre Chevalier where there are lots of trees; or e) I were just one of those dudes who can ski fine in a whiteout (I'm not).

post #11 of 17
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

b) ... WTF are you gonna do in Tignes for a week if it's grey? ...

Run up a massive bar bill and take 5 years off your liver.

(well, that's what I normally do)


post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks skisimon, jamesj and prickly for the information!


Well there is a point that being from Brazil we usually have to plan ski trips in advance, (except for south america) and North America is generally a safe bet (not aways, we got 10 days of rain in Whistler in january 2005)


Definitely some of the best ski days I had in my life were in the Rockies (US/Canada) and during storms!

(In the Andes, skiing during storms is not that fun...) and there are lots of places in North America that I'd love to go skiing.


But the Alps is a "must do experience"... the scale, the glaciers, the villages, the vertical, etc.

I know there are lots of diferences, the way "out of bounds" is treated, the need of guides... price, food...

but I plan to do this trip in such a way that I have enough time to ski/visit more than 1 country/resort and to deal with possible bad weather.


I have some places in mind: Zermatt, Cervinia, Saas Fee, Three Valleys, St Antonn/Alberg...

Would February be as good in Austria as in western Switzerland? (on average...)

How would you compare in size (in bounds) St Anton and Vail?

Is freezing level usually an issue in mid winter/February?



post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

b) ... WTF are you gonna do in Tignes for a week if it's grey? ...

Run up a massive bar bill and take 5 years off your liver.

(well, that's what I normally do)



I'm too far away for that...

I can do it at home

post #14 of 17
Originally Posted by Thiago View Post

I have some places in mind: Zermatt, Cervinia, Saas Fee, Three Valleys, St Antonn/Alberg...

Would February be as good in Austria as in western Switzerland? (on average...)

Zermatt and St Anton are must skis. I wouldn't bother with Cervinia if you visit Zermatt as they are linked as part of the same area.


The Three Valleys is a great experience due to its size and variety of terrain. Meribel is in the central valley of the Three Valleys, so offers good access, and is largely made up of wooden chalet style buildings. Courcheval, in the 'left' hand valley is very nice also, C1850 is very expensive and swanky, C1650 is a better value choice which is just a little bit lower. Val Thorens is at the other end and is the highest ski 'village' in Europe, it's got good skiing, but isn't very pretty... (There's actually a fourth valley, Orelle with a couple of nice little runs - but definitely don't stay there... it's quite out of the way).


I would say though, that if you're considering Zermatt and St Anton, then the Three Valleys is a bit of a trek to get to, stick to the eastern Alps instead and try some other Swiss/Austrian resorts. I'd also say that if travelling all the way from Brazil, you don't want to spend your time in a French mega-resort - however big and good the ski area is, the village will lack a little 'something' (that "je ne sais quoi" as the French themselves would say  ).


Kitzbuhel is a magic place with a huge history in skiing; whilst the actual ski area isn't the greatest (still good though), the medieval town is fantastic! Davos/Klosters is a good Swiss region at the upper end of the market and then there is Wengen, set under the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger mountains (not much exciting skiing though). Verbier has a huge freeride scene and large ski area (the 4 Vallees). You could also drop down into the South Tyrol in Italy. It used to be part of Austria so has a simply fantastic mix of the two cultures. It is also home to the Dolomites, possibly the most beautiful range of mountains in the world with their subtle pink hues. Ischgl is a good place to visit if you want to try out the world famous Austrian apres-ski!


As for Switzerland v Austria, at the end of February everywhere should be doing pretty well and there won't be much to choose between them.


Originally Posted by Thiago View Post

Is freezing level usually an issue in mid winter/February?

From mid-January until the start of March is more or less the most snow-sure period. Be warned though, if you decide to spend time in a French resort in February it will be manic - French school holidays are in February. February is, in general, the busiest month of the season in Europe as most countries have got school or national holidays at some time during the month. If you head over for two weeks, it might be worth doing one week at either the beginning or end of February, and then the other either before or after it in January/March.


Originally Posted by Thiago View Post

How would you compare in size (in bounds) St Anton and Vail?

Most European resorts don't specify 'acreage' in the way that North American resorts do, however, as I understand it, the unofficial acreage of St Anton is 5400 - just a small amount bigger than Vail, but the area of which it is part measures in at about 65,000 acres.


Here's a little something I found regarding the Three Valleys:


"Another way to demonstrate the expanse of this region is to compare it to resorts in the States. It’s been estimated that the six largest ski areas in the U.S. could fit inside Les Trois Vallées. That means that Killington, Vail, Heavenly, Steamboat, Squaw Valley, and Park City could all fit inside the space covered by Les Trois Vallées with almost 10,000 acres left over! So you can throw in Jackson Hole, Taos, Sun Valley, Keystone, Crested Butte, Alta, Solitude, Cranmore, and Stowe and still have room. The expanse is amazing. The scenery is breathtaking. And the overall skiing is unmatched."


The Valais ski region, the one which Zermatt is part of, is estimated to be just under 100,000 acres.


As these are all unofficial, it is always hard to know how much would be out of bounds/unskiable. However, as you can see, one way or the other, these resorts are massive!!!

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

Definitely an authentic alpine medieval town is something I'd look for in a trip to Europe.

thats why Zermatt and St Anton/Alberg seen to be great destinations...


Elevation, snowfall and views are also very important... (guess I want it all ), anyway, Zermatt seens to have it. I'll probably stick to Switzerland and Austria.


Which is the easiest/cheapest way to go from Zermatt to Alberg?


Glacier express is probably the most beautiful way...


So, Davos would be a nice stop on the way to Austria?

What about St Moritz? is it to expensive and fancy?


Thanks again

post #16 of 17

I'd also consider Wengen - it certainly is a pretty town, great views of the Eiger and Jungfrau, and plenty of good skiing.




Skisimon, I had to laugh at the quote on the Three Valleys. "The scenery is amazing"...only if you block out the architecture.

(Personally I think the skiing in the 3V is easily matched by places such as Espace Killy, Aspen, and others, unless the key measurement is the length of piste)


post #17 of 17
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post

Skisimon, I had to laugh at the quote on the Three Valleys. "The scenery is amazing"...only if you block out the architecture.


Yes, I should have edited the quote really, we don't want people getting the wrong idea... Even if you take away the architecture, the scenery isn't all that great anyway.


I think that there is some really good skiing in the 3V - although that is mainly due to the law of averages - if you've got a hell of a lot of skiing, there's more chance of having some good stuff. Most of the area is quite samey, and there's a lot of flat stuff around Meribel and Motterat, but I'd say there are a few corkers in there somewhere, they just don't account for as much of the area as in other places (like Espace Killy or St Anton).

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