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French Alps Dec10-12, Here is My Plan - Page 3

post #61 of 70
Thread Starter 
post #62 of 70
Yeah, I saw that too. Had no idea it was that close. Those roads all OK in winter?
post #63 of 70
prickly, the two main passes: Col de Montets and Col de la Forclaz are normally passable with chains.
post #64 of 70
Yeah, I never really think about how far resorts are one from another, think more in terms of their distance from Milan. I don't do the combi-vacation thing, wouldn't occur to me unless I had at least two weeks for resorts as big and varied as Cham and Verbier.
post #65 of 70
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

An hour and 20 Argentiere to Verbier? Anyone?

Not too far out Argentiere up across the border through Trient and down to Martigny.  Turn right at Martigny & straight up to Le Chable & on the gondola from there.  Hairpins down to Martigny through the vineyards may freak out a first time euro driver though.  Slower in the dark, would want pho stops in the light if clear. 
post #66 of 70
Thread Starter 
I finally have the logistics of this trip figured out!  I now find out that Verbier will be very likely open for mid-December, my local contact tells me the skiing should be just fine in a normal year. 

I arrive in Geneva at 7:30am and I can take the train from Geneva airport to Martigny, then a short train ride to LeChable(Verbier), hope to arrive at noon unless there is a flight problem.  I found a $100/nt hotel at LeChable right near the lifts.  This means I won't need to rent a car and I'll be able to sleep on the train to Martigny, I should be fresh and ready to go for my first half day of skiing there.  And, thankfully, no worries about foreign driving and navigation, esp since I"ll be traveling solo "eurostyle" via train.

Also, Verbier has the reputation of being one of Europe's best resorts for experienced/advanced skiers.  Hopefully, I'll be able to hook up with a day of group guided skiing for one of my days.  After my 3rd day of skiing, I'll hop back on train to Geneva.  Thanks everyone again for your help, I'm going to book my hotel/train today. I'll let you know how it all worked out...


Edited by SnowbirdDevotee - 10/21/09 at 7:31am
post #67 of 70
Originally Posted by ami in berlin View Post

As fatbob hints at, don't count on being able to ski the Vallee Blanche. Quite a lot of snow is first required to make it skiable. The Aguille de Midi cable car being open does not mean it is skiable. That cable car is primarily used by sightseers, not skiers, and is thus opened based on a schedule that has nothing to do with snow conditions.

Having said that, you could certainly get a guide one day at Grands Montets. It really is a much larger area that you would think from the piste-maps.

Speaking of piste maps, I find them generally very poor in Europe (maybe because I grew up with the James Neuhaus American maps). In Europe, it's usually a black line signifying a lift and a couple of squiggly lines hinting at a run but telling you nothing about its nature. Or there are the annoying online interactive maps that do not really give you any more information but are always ridiculously small on your computer screen and cannot be printed. Why can't they just publlish a simple pdf?

That's a long way of saying no, I have not seen an adaquate map of just Avoriaz. Only completely useless maps of the enitre Portes des Soliel. But put simply, what you want to ski are the Swiss Wall (the official name on the map is something starting with "Che" with a "v" or two in it, can't remember off the top of my head) and Crozats. If they are not open, do not go there.

I know you might feel like you're getting overwhelmed with information here. Just keep in mind, whatever you end up doing, you're going to have a great time.

Morzine-Avoriaz being my hometown and as a founding member of the ESF Avoriaz Ski School in 1966, I know pretty well the area. What Ami de Berlin speaks about is Le Mur de Chavanette (on the swiss side of the border) et Les Crozats, a trail which takes you to the lower station of the cable car going up to Avoriaz.

Check with SAMA (Avoriaz ski lifts corporation). Before December 15, even with excellent conditions, the lifts would run only during the weekend, the clientele being local (Geneva, Thonon, Evian, Annemasse, etc). As you guess, the corporation does not want to pay the lift attendants getting sun tanned (if there is any sun) (and at this time of the year there is no base snow) if the number of visitors is not sufficient to amortize the expenses.

At this time of the year, as it has been said, snow fall is a lottery. We have seen previously heavy snow fall in November, then a period of foehn (like the chinook in of the Rockies) would melt the whole stuff. I have the experience of taking my ski students to the tennis courts in Morzine, play golf in Evian or cruise the Lake of Geneva during the Xmas holidays.

You also have to keep in mind that mid-december the days are the shortest of the year and by 4:00 pm it can be pretty dark because the sun is very low on the horizon.

Lift tickets are expensive and half-day ticket could mean only 2 hours of skiing.

Skiing a higher resort like Tignes, Val Thorens, Cervinia, Saas-Fee or Zermatt at this time of the year is another bet. Bad weather with blizzards and white-out conditions, then then the whole area shuts down and you are soaking wet to the bones.

On top of that it's a long trip from Geneva.

We have seen too many WC races cancelled in december due to lack of snow. Val d'Isère is a good exemple. That's why many early WC races are in North America at this time of year.

Also skiing on glaciers can be poor skiing after a hot summer; a couple of feet of snow won't be sufficient for good skiing.

Many resorts have very limited facilities at this time of the year: shops, restaurants and bars closed

Forget la Vallée Blanche in Chamonix in December. No guide will take you there. A change in weather could spell the difference between life and death and it happens so fast that you have no retreat possible.

You need visibility, longer days, snow well packed above the crevasses, Without the view of the surrounding summits, the Vallée Blanche is worthless.

Same thing for the Grands Montets; all the upper parts of the trails are on glaciers and without visibility. Too much snow at this time of year is an excellent cause for avalanche; no base, the ground is still warm and the grass under is slippery like ski-wax.

Remember that most of these high mountain trails are reached by cable-car and cable-cars hate wind so they can shut down without warning even when the weather looks decent in the lower altitudes.

In December the skiing in Chamonix is on the other side of the valley: Brévent, Flégère, Lognan (lower portion of Les Grands Montets) or in Les Houches.

So if you still want to ski mid-december, choose a resort with plenty of below tree-line trails. At least you'll get some skiing then come back in march or april for the big stuff.

post #68 of 70
Originally Posted by patrick1944 View Post
Morzine-Avoriaz being my hometown and as a founding member of the ESF Avoriaz Ski School in 1966, I know pretty well the area. What Ami de Berlin speaks about is Le Mur de Chavanette (on the swiss side of the border) et Les Crozats, a trail which takes you to the lower station of the cable car going up to Avoriaz.

@patrick1944 : Welcome to EpicSki!  Hopefully your info will help someone heading to Europe in the future.  The original question was from 2009 (post date in top left corner above username).

post #69 of 70

Thank you for mentioning it.

post #70 of 70
I am an experienced skier who likes black runs and moguls.  I'm not really much for cruising and usually try to find the harder way down.

Then why on earth are you going to the Alps Dec.10-12? You tried this with Zermatt once, came back and reported on how boring it was.  Zermatt is a great advanced ski area but to no surprise the advanced terrain wasn't open that early.  What makes you think it will be any different this time?  Most places in the Alps get about half the snow that Snowbird does and snowier places like Avoriaz get about 2/3.    That's why many of your December Snowbird trips work out OK.

If you were in the Alps Dec. 12 of last year, you would have found phenomenal skiing, with most everything accessible

Yes, on the southern side where prickly lives, that happened to get a big November storm.  The NW Alps were bone dry until Dec. 26-27.  A Geneva trip last Dec. 12 would have been a complete wipeout.

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