We need advice. My wife and I are going to Vienna for a conference between 03-08 April. Either before (or after) the conference, we thought that we should ski for about two weeks. I know Vienna is far from Switzerland or Italy, but can anyone make suggestions for a 1-2 week spring ski trip (relatively inexpensive - at least for Europe). More about us. My wife is a strong intermediate and has backcountry touring ability (she can ski in-bounds double black diamond, but struggles in difficult conditions). I am a strong in-bounds and backcountry skier, with professional avalanche experience. I'd prefer small, inexpensive ski areas that have good off-piste skiing without lots of glacier travel, crowds, and party scene, but in the end we want the best snow and terrain. I suspect that we will not make any decision until later in the winter and get updated snow conditions. I have many friends that are professional guides, so we might hire a guide for a few day trips. We could also ski out of a hut and mostly use skins. I have friends in St. Anton, but this area seems way to glitzy and crowded. I remember a trip to Davos, where there was good powder within a 10 minute walk of the top of Jakobhormbahn. Most of visiting skiers at Davos did not take advantage of such off-piste terrain. We are flying from Seattle to Vienna, but perhaps we can fly via Geneva, Zurich, MIlan, or Munich. Is this too ambitious? We rather not rent a car, but perhaps this is the best option. Perhaps we are too picky and should just pick on ski area and have fun there. Thanks for the help.
Vienna and skiing in the Alps
- 62 Posts. Joined 7/2007
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Between Christmas and New Years we spent 3 days at Laax, Switzerland (also called Flims, Laax, Falera). I was skiing with my family so did not do anything off-piste. The attached British review I think captures well the resort. There is as much off-piste as you want. It is huge, and is often called "the best resort you've never heard of." Cheap in Europe is about impossible these days given the exchange rate with the $USD. We stayed at Casa Selva Hotel in Laax. Over the holidays the room was $214-$247 per night for three adults in a good sized condo. Not fancy but clean and convenient. It was 500 meters from the Laax base area (a gondola and tram) and free shuttle service right outside the condo that runs about every 15 minutes in morning and peak time in the afternoon as people are leaving the ski area. Can take the shuttle to Flims and Falera for dinner or sight seeing since Casa Selva is kind of isolated.
Looked at googlemaps and it's about 8 hours from Vienna so may not fit your itinerary. Have also included the link for the resort. Enjoy your trip.
I spent two weeks near Laax over Christmas and New Years last year. Honestly I was underwhelmed by it, but found many of the other, small ski areas in the region to be very good (Disentis and Vals especially). Over the holidays as well, we paid just €700 for two weeks for two adults (there would have been room for a third, as it was a two room + kitchen and bath condo). We were staying in a restored historic building in a small quaint village rather than in the resort, which turned out better for exploring the many different ski areas in the region as well as more our style. But yeah, it's nowhere near Vienna.
A colleague of mine is from Vienna. She says she would normally go to Kitzbuhl or somewhere in Kärnten (not sure where). Vienna isn't terribly close to the mountains. But if you're going to have two weeks of skiing, spending a day on the train to get somewhere good isn't that big of a deal.
If your conference were in Geneva or Zurich, I think you could easily go with the unknown hidden gems. But, given the distance to Vienna, I think you're best off going with convenience. My choice would be St. Anton.
You could fly to Zurich and take the direct train to the resort, which will get you there in about 2 1/2 hrs with no connections (which, after the long flight, would be more welcome than a transfer involving multiple connections). Then when you're done skiing, you can get a train to Vienna (either direct or with one connection, depending on what time of day you want to depart), which will get you there in around 6 hrs. Then, you can fly home from Vienna when the conference is over.
Although other parts of the Arlberg are quite glitzy, especially Lech and Zurs, St. Anton itself is more focused at regular skiers price-wise, so you can get much more reasonable accomodation, especially in the B&B's and guest houses in the outskirts of town (which are in pretty quiet areas). But, because of the layout of the area, you can easily get away from the crowds pretty quickly if you know where to go, and I imagine your friends there will.
I think the combination of convenience + price + friends is tough to beat for your situation.
Oh, and make sure you've got time set aside for sight-seeing in Vienna; it's a really nice city.
- 64 Posts. Joined 11/2007
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First of all you need to decide if you want to go skiing before or after your conference. I would recommend before, because towards the end of april, snowconditions will probably become scetchy. End of March however, all the resorts will be open and conditions are normally pretty well.
In that case you only need to figure out wich trainconnection to Vienne is convenient. There are a couple of very nice resorts near to Vienna, so it's very doable to get a transfer to the near resorts. Check out http://www.obertauern.com/en/ or http://www.skiamade.com/en/winter for instance, but there are a lot of other resorts and dozens of small familie oriented (and quiet) resorts nearby.
If traveling is not a problem for you (by car or train) The whole of the Alps are exesceble!
Since you're going to ski for 2 weeks, distance from Vienna isn't that big of a deal. So it's really a decision on where best for your kind of skiing. From Vienna, you can easily get to (obviously) all of Austria, and all of Switzerland by train (and maybe postal buses) quite easily. I never bother with a car when I travel in Austria and Switzerland.
For inbound lift-served skiing, you're running against the clock of closing dates. So probably better ski before your conference. For touring, I think mid-April is actually a good time to tour.
- 807 Posts. Joined 2/2004
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If snow prevails (which is mostly the case) the Hochkar is the way to go. Else Obertauern as mentioned.
The Krippenstein has great terrain but will most likely be bony on the lower section by early April due to it's lack of elevation.
Fiinally getting back to planing two weeks of spring skiing. OK, skiing before the conference it the ticket. Plus, why not arrive a day or so early and spend a a full day on a train. So where can we get to given a full day's train ride? We are game.
We could keep it simple (and perhaps boring) and go to small areas in the Tyrol - Pitztaler or Hintertuxer Gletscher (high elevation) - or Alpbach (too low elevation) - or are these areas way to small without a lot of terrain variation. Perhaps we might go to a larger and more established area, such as Obergurl/Ischgl (both hi elevation). Or just deal with it and go even farther away.
QmQ suggestion - Obertauren? Since its not far from Vienna, if conditions are good, we could end our ski holiday here for a few days before we return to Vienna.
Two weeks, so perhaps two ski areas in two weeks, so Switzerland beckons. The only reason I did not mention St. Anton, it just get tracked out within hours. Typically after the pistes get tracked out, my wife and I could easily explore off-piste, unless there are specific issues (crevasses) on glaciers. Without local knowledge, I would be a be pre-occupied dealing with risk management.
As "at NYC" mentions, I agree, no car. We will travel, with with two ski bags and our packs (simple clothing, snow safety gear) and use our touring skis (e.g., dynafit bindings). Conference clothes will be minimal (we can always wash our clothes).
I've been to Obertauren once, and was very much not impressed. Short, flat, and full of drunk Germans. It doesn't even have a charming village going for it. I was ready to leave after a day. It's high and therefore probably the most snow-sure non-glacier resort, but in my opinion that's about the only positive. If you go before your conference, snow cover shouldn't really be an issue anyway.
This opens up all sorts of possibilities then.
You could go to 2 big places, or you could hop around several smaller places. You could fly to Geneva for western Switzerland or France before making your way east, or you could fly to Zurich for central/eastern Switzerland or western Austria and spend all your time there.
Just as an example, you could spend a week around Verbier before heading east, and even Chamonix could be a reasonable option from Geneva. If you're willing to travel for most of a day, you could easily get to eastern Switzerland or western Austria from there. Or, if you want to explore smaller resorts, there are tons all around.
With 2 weeks for skiing and a full day for travelling in the middle, you could go just about anywhere in the Alps and still get to Vienna. It's like being a kid in a candy shop.
I think you need to start off with the big decisions and then work your way from there. First, do you want to start west and head east, or do you want to spend most of your time in eastern Switzerland/western Austria? Second, do you want to go with big resorts, or do you want to explore smaller ones?
CerebralVortex has a point - two weeks and two ski resorts. I’d go from the west to the east and end up on Vienna. As much I’d live to ski off the back side of Mont Fort Verbier, its been my experience that these areas just get tracked out way to fast. We cold ski off-piste, but that is a bit harder in Chamonix without local knowledge (e.g., glacier travel with crevasses – I am not as concerned about avalanche-related issues).
Big resorts vs. small resorts. I guess it depends on the cliental. If the general skiing cliental is not hard core, that good for me – it perhaps allows first lift and fresh tracks without too much agro-energy. ami in Berlin suggested Disentis (this sounds fairly inexpensive) and Vals. Or how about Grindelwald. In concept, I really like skiing at small resorts, but sometimes too small and limited. What does everyone think about central/eastern Switzerland or western Austria. Andermatt (less crowded than other areas?), or even Klosters (lots of off-piste skiing if conditions are good), or Murren (good off-piste). Or maybe we should consider well-known resorts.
Andermatt is great and could be easily combinded with a loop taking in Engelberg, Disenties, Vals any number of smaller areas (perhaps Meiringen and/or Melchsee), ending up in Klosters. That'd be easier to accomplish with a car, but would also be perfectly doable by train.
I personally love going to smaller resorts and prefer spending a couple days at an uncrowded place than a week at a large resort. I find those places to be more interesting and cheaper, and often times the skiing is as good if not better. Of course Verbier and Chamonix kick ass, but there's also a lot to be said for having a powder bowl all to ones self.
Such a loop is a ways from Vienna, though. It would probably make more sense to look closer to home. Take a look at www.bergfex.com for ideas.
After a bit of discussion, we decided on a week in Andermatt. Does anyone have any ideas on accommodations in Andermatt. Should we look for a week rental at a Gasthaus, or is it better to stay in a hotel. I check out nearby huttes, so we can escape during the weekend. Since much is written in German, its hard to get a good picture of the hutte system.
Now we need a second resort for a week. It would be nice to travel to the east, so we end up in Vienna. Is it possible to ski a week at Klosters without breaking the bank. It seem that this area has lots of off-piste terrain that is not glaciated (only have to deal with avalanche hazards and not getting lost). Or should we just to to St. Anton. I worry about crowds and trashed powder slopes. What do you think. It time to get air tickets.
You'll love Andermatt. We stayed in a private room in the upstairs of a family's house. It was the cheapest option. Breakfast included, and a kitchen that you could use if you want. Bath and toilet in the room, so you don't have to share. This is the link:
Hotels all seemed quite expensive. We were just there for a weekend, so an apartment rental wasn't an option.
While you're there, head over to Disentis for a day. It's worth it, and the weather can be totally different than in Andermatt (ie fog at one, not at the other).
Klosters is easy from Andermatt by train, but pretty damn expensive. You could stay in Chur and easily ski different resorts from there (Klosters, Arosa, Lenzerheide, Laax, Vals all within about 1 hr). That would be sacrificing convienience for cost savings, but it would also let you visit a few resorts. It's a trade off.
Or go to Engelberg.
Most people will probably tell you to go to St. Anton, and it is on the way if travelling by train. I haven't been there, so I won't comment on whether or not that's good advice.
The most important thing is to remember that there really is no wrong answer to this. Anywhere you go, you'll have a great time.
Actually, you worry about "trashed powder stashes" in first week of April? My (albeit limited) experience has been the crowd has long gone home gardening and you have all the powder to yourself!
Also, what's expensive in the middle of the season will be begging you to stay & eat there. If it were me, I'd go to the more expensive resort for that week! Just hunt hard (and hunt smart) for bargains. I did the same week 2 years ago at St. Moritz, 999 Swiss Franc, half board + lift ticket for a week at a 4 star hotel!
Finally get back online. We will arrive in Zurich on 18 May at 11:20am. We decided to go really small area in the Valle de Anniviers in either Grimentz or Zinal. There are some nice nearby ski huts, nice off-piste terrain, and perhaps not a lot of people. I know its far from anything and also a long train ride to Vienna, but its an adventure. The slopes mostly face east and north. Now we just need better snow conditions. Now I need to find topo maps for the nearby huts.
Good choice. I spent a week touring from Zinal a couple of weeks ago, skiing with a great guide who was finding powder seven weeks after the last snowfall! It's a bit off the beaten track for many skiers (so no crowds), and the off-piste possibilities are huge. I hope it snows for you before you go...
Thanks for all the advice. The Swiss topo maps are on order, so I can begin planning our trip. Now, I hope that we get more snow.... My wife and I will be self-guided, so we will be careful with a shallow and perhaps faceted snowpack. If conditions allow, we will tour from the top of Zinal (Corne de Sorebois) to Moiry Dam - Grimentz ski area (depending on avalanche conditions) - night at Cabane Bec de Bossons - Lac de Lona - Col de Torrent - Evolene. Or rather than going to all the way to Evolene, from the top of Grimentz at Bec de Bossons - ski to Lac de Lona - Basset de Lona - back down to Moiry Dam - back to Grimentz for wine and bus back to Zinal. A more challening tour would be from the top St. Luc ski area (Bella Tola) down to - Turtman lac - a night at Turmannhutte - up the the Bishorn (at least were we can skin) - a night at the Cabane de Tracuit - ski down to Zinal. Here I need maps to plan a decent and safe tour. Any comments or suggestions are welcome. If it does not snow much, perhaps we will stay close to the Valle de Anniviers ski areas and ski from the comfort of a hotel.
If you feel like a day tour, there's a good route over the back of Zinal, down to the Lac de Moiry (to skier's left of the dam), and then a 3½ - 4 hour skin up the Glacier de Moiry, leaving the Cabane de Moiry on your left and on up to the ridge. From there you have many possible routes down a huge bowl called La Lé, until you reach the track that takes you on the long traverse back to Zinal.
By the way, if you can't wait for your maps to arrive, check out http://www.gps-tracks.com Don't bother with the English version, just click 'Karten' at the top and select 'Topo Schweiz' or 'Ski Touren' options. You can view the maps on an iPhone or Android device too, which is handy...
Nice, more ski tour options. My wife and I will take mostly day trips and mulitday tours depending on snow conditions. In addition, my wife is an advanced intermediate-level skier (she can ski black diamond runs in just about all conditions with a pack). It seems to me that this region has a thin faceted snowpack, so we will be conservative in our touring options.
Thanks for the link to gps-tracks.com, I was planning to ski to the Lac de Moiry, but come back via Sasseneire to the road back to Grimentz. I like your option going south on Moiry glacier. From the topo map, it looks like you toured to the ridge, just north of Pigne de la Le and skied the east facing bowl? Any other suggestions for dining, ski touring, or skiing near Zinal, Grimentz, St. Luc. Thanks!
- 33 Posts. Joined 10/2012
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hi Mr Tee
I have a place in Grimentz (www.luxurygrimentz.com) and a couple of daughters. i like the place. next season a telecabine will link to ZInal but for this year the resort are a drive apart. for offpiste I know a number of UIAGM/IFGMA mountain guides although, as you may know, they do not really teach powder. for that you are probably better off with a private instructor.
you can message me for more info