Originally Posted by pookie
if I can re-frame the question in light of the suggestions: using Paris as point of departure for ski holiday, how would you compare Zermat and Val D'Isere as destination in terms of 1. the skiing 2. the feel of the place.
I haven't skied Zermatt, but have heard good things and imagine that you would be very happy with either as long as the snow was right the week you went.
I think Val has a nice feel in terms of being more upscale (less rustic) than some of the lower French Villages while not being too ultra modern like some of the higher purpose build places or too Disneyesque (like some describe the recently build 1950 Village at Les Arcs which is modern attempt at an older Alpine style village). While Val has a local school and small year round population, it is closer to a ski village rather than a town that would exist but for skiing. It sort of stretches along the main road between the mountains, so it is longer than it is wide (as opposed to something like Chamonix which is more square shaped with a bigger year round population).
The food in the French Alps is closer to Swiss than other parts of France, so you will certainly be able to get good fondue either place, but Val will give you the option of more traditional French fare (while Zermatt will likely offer more Swiss options). From Zermatt, you can ski into Italy (Cervinia/Valtournenche), condtions permitting, while from Val you have to drive a bit down the road to La Rosiere to be able to do this.
Not exactly sure when you were planning on going, but if it is a week that is not typically busy (Jan, late March or April), then you could give some thought about booking air to Paris in advance and then wait as long as you feel comfortable in booking train and ski lodging to see if one area looks like it will have better snow. I wouldn't recommend this during busy times like school holidays (France can get really busy during French and British school holidays, Zermatt MAY be a better choice during this timeframe) or if you really want to stay at a more popular chalet/hotel.
The first day I skied Espace Killy (starting and ending on the Tignes side with Val in the early afternoon), I thought I was in skiing heaven, but in stormy conditions, visibility at the higher elevations can be nil (most of it is above treeline), while the lower elevations may or may not have decent snow. I think Zermatt may be similar in this respect.
For more info and specific lodging/dining options, I would consider going to Snowheads,com as there are a lot of British who have skied extensively at both resorts.
Edited by MEfree30 - 4/3/2009 at 03:38 pm
Edited by MEfree30 - 4/3/2009 at 03:32 pm