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Advice on where to ski/snowboard in Europe in early January 2011?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

I'm planning a trip to Europe in early 2011, and it seemed like an awesome opportunity to get some boarding in amongst the rest of my travel.

 

The problem is, I've never skiied outside of New Zealand before (I've had most of my experience at Whakapapa/Turoa in the north island, and done a bit in Queenstown) so I really have no idea which ski resorts to look at or where to even start looking!

 

I found this site by doing a bunch of google searches, and it seemed like there's some really cool people with a lot of experience in this community, so I thought I'd take a punt and ask...

 

Info:

 

  • I'm an intermediate-to-advanced level snowboarder (I can do most black/double black runs that I've tried... but I won't exactly fly down them like I'm in a warren miller film or anything), and I've been boarding for about 7 years getting between 6 and 25 days in per year (I'm a 28 year old guy).
     
  • I'm planning on doing about 5 days of boarding starting on approx the 13 of January 2011, traveling by myself
     
  • I only speak English :-(
     
  • I prefer more "skiier-ish" runs than a lot of other boarders - I'd much rather go for some long runs or do some carving than hit the park.

     
  • I have a bit of money saved up, so I'd rather spend a bit more (within reason) if it means going to a better place
     
  • I'd like somewhere with a reasonably sized ski area (to not get bored after a couple of days), hopefully without giant lift queues
     
  • Based on hearsay, and random google searches, Switzerland seemed like a cool place to go, and specifically Zermatt?
     
  • I have all my own gear but thinking of leaving my board at home and renting one when I get there to avoid carting it round on all the aeroplanes. Is this a good idea or would it be worth bringing my own board?
 
I'd really appreciate it if any of you could spare a few seconds to help me out with some advice on where to go. Any comments about places in europe around that time would be great.
 
Thanks a lot! Orion
post #2 of 21

I'm from the US and skied Europe for the first time last year.  I flew into Geneva Switzerland on the overnight flight, then boarded a train to Zermatt where I skied for a few days.  The train ride was about 4 hrs i think.  This year I'm flying into Zurich and taking the train to St. Anton, 3-4 hr train ride.  Geneva is a good place to fly into to.  Another place you can go to is Verbier, which might have better skiing on more mtns than Zermatt, but they didn't have enough snow when I went in mid-December, so I changed my plans.  You can take a train right to a little village called Le Chable near Verbier and ski right from there.

Here are the resorts close to Geneva.

http://www.j2ski.com/ski_resorts/Airports/Geneva.html

Another super place is Chamonix, but i think no train there, and maybe you have to rent a car. 

 

google my trip report on this forum

Zermatt not my kind of skiing

to learn about my trip.

post #3 of 21

I'm about the same age as you. My mates didn't rate Zermatt, too full of old people.

 

I've skied all over teh alps (France, Austria, Switz etc). I really recommend St Anton. Challenging pistes, cute town, some awsome off piste (hire a guide) and the best apres ski and nightlife in the alps. Really, you won't be disappointed here. Check out Mooserwirt and the Krazy Kangaru. Craziest place ever!

 

 

Assuming you're flying from NZ: fly to London, then get cheap flight from tehre to Insbruck (or book a week chalet stay ex london trhough one of the specialist ski agencies. Is much cheaper doing it thsi way and you get meals and flights included.

 

post #4 of 21

regarding renting equipment, I know that I had second thoughts about schlepping my skis from the airport to the resort on the train, it might be worth the few extra bucks to rent, especially if you are paying luggage fees for the skis anyway.

post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks heaps for the replies!

 

I'll check out St Anton and see what other information I can find about it. From the quick googling I've done it seems to be party central with nightclubs galore which is not really my scene...

 

@SnowbirdDevotee: I googled your Zermatt report (http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/89239/zermatt-not-my-kind-of-skiing) and the photos looked awesome - well except for the Cervinia ones which are a pile of rocks. Perhaps I won't pay the extra $ for the combined Cervinia/Zermatt pass if I end up going there.

At any rate, it was a great report (thanks!) and while you didn't seem to love it that much it made me more keen on Zermatt than I already was, heh.

 

From the sounds of it if I want to go off piste at any of these european resorts and not get killed by an avalanche or glacier I'll need to hire a local guide - any idea as to what that might cost? I'm starting to consider doing an avalanche course this winter in NZ before I go too... :-(

post #6 of 21

Here are more pictures of Zermatt, pretty nice looking place. 

http://picasaweb.google.com/GlennCz/Zermatt#

I don't know anything about guide prices, are you going by yourself or with a group?

I was out there for only a couple of days and had plenty to ski, so I didn't bother with a guide, probably won't this year either.

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

OK, I've booked my flights! Still haven't booked any particular ski resorts or hotels but I'm thinking I'm going to go to Zermatt. Seems like I should book them soon anyway

 

I'll be arriving in Zurich at 1915 on the 12th of Jan, and leaving 18th of Jan at 1300.

Google maps tells me it's a 3hr 35 minute train trip from Zurich to Zermatt - does this sound right?

 

If so, I'll probably get to Zermatt around 10 - 11 pm on the 12th of January (allowing an hour or 2 for getting out of the airport, waiting for train etc). This seems a bit late but I couldn't get any other flights.

 

Does anyone know if this will be OK or if the hotels will need me to be checked in earlier?

Also is there a website I can look on to find out the train timetables? I can stay a night in Zurich if I need to but I'd lose a day's skiing which would be really sad :-(

 

Thanks a lot for everyone's previous advice, it really helped me a lot :-) Cheers, Orion

post #8 of 21
Are you really going all that way for only five days of riding and nothing else? I love skiing, but would not go halfway around the world only for that but who am I to say. Jan is a good month and you could wait to book to see who has the best snow if you are not too picky about where you are staying.

I like Zurich a lot, so a night there doesn't need to be a waste.
post #9 of 21

Timetables can easily be checked from the web site of Swiss Railways:

 

http://www.sbb.ch/en/

 

It takes about 3-4 hours from Zürich airport to Zermatt, and you have to change the train one or two times.

 

Swiss Railways offer a discount ticket ("Swiss Transfer") including journeys from the airport to a ski resort and back. You find probably more information on this from the www-pages.

post #10 of 21

Zermatt is not a particularly good choice in January.  The reputation is for modest snowfalls but superb preservation, thus best in March/April.  The resort's own website says some of the best expert terrain often isn't open until February.

 

St. Anton's reputation is the opposite.  High snowfall by Alps standards but a lot of sunny exposure, so best midwinter.  Ski terrain has a good reputation too; it's not just a party town.

post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks Tony for that info. It looks like st anton is a good deal closer to Zurich than Zermatt is (2 hours instead of 4) but google maps can't give me train directions to there. Presumably this will be OK?

 

@MEfree30 - I'm going other places around europe as well, but these 5 days are my chance to get some SNOW in :-)

post #12 of 21

Hey Borland,

 

you fly into Zurich? Maybe the Jungfrau Region with the world famous summits "Jungfrau", "Mönch" and "Eiger" would fit perfect for your needs! Have you ever thought about that? Here is a link:

http://www.myjungfrau.ch/en/welcome.cfm

With one skipass you have access two:

-214km Ski runs

-39km black diamond runs

-105km red...

-70km blue...

 

(i am not working for this area  )

 

 

St. Anton and all the other Ski resorts at Arlberg in Austria are very expensive! In Switzerland it`s Shoulder Season from Jan08 to Jan22 and you can get a lot of good discounts at this time! Maybe this is interesting for you too.

 

I live in Germany. I can help you organize if you want.

 

Cheerio,

 

Oliver

post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by borland View Post

 

 

@MEfree30 - I'm going other places around europe as well, but these 5 days are my chance to get some SNOW in :-)

Good to hear it...with that being the case, having to spent a day and/or night in Zurich might not be a waste...it is one of my favorite cities- mid size with a beautiful lake and decent food variety (which may or may not be important depending on where else you are visiting).
 

post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

Zermatt is not a particularly good choice in January.  The reputation is for modest snowfalls but superb preservation, thus best in March/April.  The resort's own website says some of the best expert terrain often isn't open until February.

 

St. Anton's reputation is the opposite.  High snowfall by Alps standards but a lot of sunny exposure, so best midwinter.  Ski terrain has a good reputation too; it's not just a party town.


Tony-

 

Have really enjoyed checking your stats & comments on all the US resorts, but have had trouble finding anything comparable for elsewhere.  What are the best sources of Euro snow history?  I have seen some on individual resort websites, but wasn't too confident about anything with a larger perspective.

post #15 of 21

I have been to the following resorts and loved all of them. 

 

Morgins/Monthey/Super Chatel

Crans Montan

Saas Fe

 

I would try to work in a world cup downhill event.  They are pretty sweet and Europe is the only place to see one.  I was 100 feet away when P. Street broke her leg at Cran Montana.  As for getting around I have found that if you can get close to a resort you can hitch hike the rest of the way.  Provided you don't look like a serial killer. 

 

My buddy who works for the Swiss Ski school always raves about Chamonix so my next trip over will be there

post #16 of 21

 

Quote:
What are the best sources of Euro snow history?

Well, if it were easy, I would have done it already.  I have 30 years of annual snowfall from Verbier, which I got only because I was on a press visit in 2004.  Ski Club of Great Britain is a source of some info: http://www.skiclub.co.uk/skiclub/snowreports/historical/snowreport.aspx. Their data is weekly base depth, upper and lower.  They will only show you last year unless you become a paid subscriber.  I have 7 years of that data before it became subscription.  I'd be willing to pay if it were snowfall, but since it's only base depth I'm not. 

 

I'm somewhat confident the data I want exists, possibly through the avalanche center in Davos.  I have not yet been willing to exert a strong effort in view of potential cost and language barriers.  I have a couple of leads and might have a shot at some Euro data by next year. 

 

Up to 8 years of data for some areas in Japan is available here: http://www.snowjapan.com/e/daily/niseko-now.php.

 

I've skied in the Southern Hemisphere during 6 seasons and have some scattered data there.  I'm confident I understand the ski area weather fairly well there.

 

For the Alps it's pretty much word-of-mouth and anecdotal. I recently came across this article, just covering last season: http://www.welove2ski.com/jsp/index.jsp?lnk=b01&featureid=851

 

Due to the low tree line, snowfall in the Alps tends to be measured low on the mountain or in the resorts, while in North America it tends to be measured as high as possible below the tree line.  Keeping that in mind the above source has the snowiest long term average in the Alps in the 350 inch range at Warth-Schröcken in western Austria.  There are a fair number of places in the 250 inch range.  The author believes that at ski elevations above the trees of 8,000+ feet the average is 300+ inches at places such as Andermatt, St. Anton and Grands-Montets.

 

So while there are no Alta/Niseko/Mt. Baker microclimates in the Alps, the overall powder disparity vs. North America is not as large as some people think.

 

post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for the replies. I hadn't considered jungfrau because I didn't know about it! Seems like there's so many choices.

I've tried to contact a hotel in zermatt to ask about late checking times but have received no response from them in a week or 2 :-( not sure if I should try other places in zermatt or look elsewhere

If i were to go to st Anton would I have any passport issues? I've checked and I'm fine to fly in to Zurich and travel around switzerland but if I have to take a train into Austria would this mean getting extra travel visas and stuff like that or is it fairly straightforward?

At this stage I'm still mostly considering zermatt - the matterhorn looks stunning and i'd definitely like to see it, but hopefully I can sort hotels out soon. As it comes closer and closer to the time of my trip I'm worrying that I need to book the hotels soon.

Cheers, Orion
post #18 of 21

Thanks for the good info Tony!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

So while there are no Alta/Niseko/Mt. Baker microclimates in the Alps, the overall powder disparity vs. North America is not as large as some people think.

 


I don't have a ton of experience skiing in the Alps, but did a full season at Les Arcs in 07-08 and would agree with the above statement.  The snow might not be as light as some Western US areas, but there was only 1 day that I really felt I had trouble skiing it (after a big dump became wind-packed overnight).  Not much in the way of huge dumps, but lots of very skiable powder days if you knew where to look off piste.  I like living in CO, but with the rate at which some places here get skied out, think I skied as much or more powder in France and definitely think I spent a higher % of time there off piste.

post #19 of 21

Borland,

 

I happened to stumble across your post and I happened to read the whole thing and I have to alert you about a few things.

 

I just got back to the US from Europe (I'm half Austrian and just spent about a month in Austria) I can tell you this from experience.  I took the train from Graz Austria back to Amsterdam via Zurich and noticed something you may be surprised to see, the Swiss Franc has gotten exceedingly expensive, (€10 for coffee in Zurich, which is an expensive city but its that way everywhere in CH) even for the NZ Dollar.

I would recommend going to Austria (it’s the cheapest and most reliable (snow) place to ski in the Alps), I don't know how much money you have nor do I care but you won't have fun exchange a ton of money to get a little bit back only to find out you have to part yourself with most of it.

 

You don't have to worry about visas or anything all the nations are under the EU Schengen agreement they won't even check your passport when you cross from Switzerland to AT or Germany. I checked NZ citizens have a weird 90 day limit but your fine to travel anywhere for your desired time period.

As for travel there is a train called the RailJet that goes from Zurich to Innsbruck, Munich, Salzburg and Vienna.  High speed and not that expensive.  

If you want better train information go to www.raileurope.com type in the city and will shoot out the time table and price.  You can also buy a whole country or multi-country rail pass.

 

There are some great ski areas around Innsbruck that I’d recommend, like Seefeld, or further east Maria Alm, (south of Salzburg) or Zell am See.  Yes it would be a good idea to book a hotel but its still a but early. Or maybe ski in one place and go to the next, Ive done that before and its actually a lot of fun, you need to lug your gear around though, but there are spots on the train for that.

 

Zermatt is stunning but be prepared to pay—you may not be ready for it. 

 

I’m actually going to be in Europe then and we were trying to figure out where we wanted to go ourselves.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means saying Switzerland is bad its just not cheap and its not going to change anytime soon.

  

post #20 of 21

Two pieces of advice for you:

  1. Keep an eye on exchange rates. The franc is insanely high right now. Even if you're flying into Zurich, consider skiing in another country (Italy or Austria) if rates continue that way. Zurich is right on the line to St. Anton, for example (and that would be my choice for you).
  2. Pay heed to what Tony Crocker says about snow.
     
post #21 of 21

Having skied both Austria and Switz back in Feb/March 2011, I have to say that Switz. is very expensive, irregardless of what is going on with exchange rates. I'd also look at Lech as an option. Although for boarders, you will encounter flat spots in the Lech/Zuers area. St Anton/Stuben are great places to ski/board as well. You don't have to go for the apre ski scene in Austria but my bet is you would get sucked into it even if for just one night. You can get a lift pass that is good for the Arlberg region and have access to massive amounts of terrain, and save some money too.

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