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International (Europe/Japan/Southern Hemisphere) Effective resort advice in Europe

Cheizz

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Once in a while, a member might seek advice on which ski resort in Europe (mostly the Alps) to visit. In most cases, others first have to find out what characteristics that member is looking for during this trip, both in the skiing sense and in the ‘alpine experience’ sense of things.

Here are some areas, themes, or criteria - whatever you want to call them - on which you could base your starter question. This serves a double purpose: 1. it eliminates that awkward first response on more clarification, and 2. it gives you some guidance and factors to think about and do some research on yourself. In both cases, it will help the one asking the question (and obviously, also the one answering it).

When are you planning to travel? And for how long?
The time/month/period you are traveling may limit your options. Some resorts or types of skiing are ‘better’ or come more into their own in certain conditions. Holidays and crowds are a factor in that (some areas handle crowds better than others), but typical snow cover is also something that is closely linked to the timing of the trip.

The length of your trip goes to the size of the ski area. Some areas are so big you could spend a week or more there. These monster ski areas are relatively expensive and sometimes crowded (the two main downsides of these huge areas, in my opinion). These areas may be overkill if the skiing part of your trip is only two days, for instance. For a short trip, I would rather suggest smaller areas for better quality skiing and a better overall experience.

Schermafbeelding 2022-08-06 om 16.06.37.png
The Alps. Ski areas in blue, cross country tracks in yellow. Source: www.opensnowmap.org

What type of skiing are you looking for? At what level?
Europe is diverse. Some ski areas are groomer heaven, others are mostly great off-piste. Some areas have it all, but maybe only from February onwards (because of snow cover). Bear in mind: anywhere off the marked runs is technically backcountry skiing in Europe, meaning you’re on your own as far as (avalanche) risk management is concerned, or insurance.

In the off-piste department, things are not as black and white as the official rules suggest, though. In some areas, there is a tonne of accessible, low-risk terrain between the runs. That’s where all the local kids and instructors ski if conditions are favorable. Areas with a lot of terrain above the tree line in France are great examples. They can completely white out during snowfall, though. That’s a downside of that open terrain above the tree line.

There is also the technical, advanced type of off-piste skiing, for which I recommend hiring a guide. Examples are La Grave, Vallée Blanche (Mont Blanc), Val Mezdi (Dolomites), and anything that involves off-piste skiing on a glacier. Do hire a guide for this. Not just to mitigate avalanche and crevasse dangers, but also because they know the terrain well, obviously.

Food and drink, both on and off the mountain
What food are you into? In some areas, there is a lot of fine dining - Michelin star-grade - even on the mountain. In other places, you may find a simple but heavenly pasta almost for free. And then there are areas that just have those massive boiled-in-fat-fries kinds of places to eat. If you care about this stuff, tell us about it. It helps narrow things down a bit. Or at least manage expectations.

The same goes for the village you will be staying in. Do you want to cook yourself? Do you want to go out for dinner every night? Drinks? Parties? Après-ski? And what kind? Party on the mountain and then glide home? Or more of an after-skiing kind of place at the base? A club for parties late into the night? Some villages offer these things, others not so much.

1661106534848.png
Food on the mountain

Practical stuff
Finally, there is the practical stuff, like transportation to and from and within the ski area. Car rental, public transport, airport transfers, etc. Ski rental, ski schools, and maybe other activities than skiing (snowshoe walks, winter hiking, cross country skiing, sledding, ice skating, ice diving, you name it). If you have specific interests, name them.

The more info you give beforehand, the better the quality of advice that is given. And yes, some of the most well-known places may not be the best for your specific list of requirements. And other ski areas - that you may never have heard of - perhaps are.

More information
On weather zones and snowfall in the Alps: https://www.skitalk.com/threads/know-where-to-go-in-the-alps.24434/
On transport to and in the Alps: https://www.skitalk.com/threads/getting-to-and-through-the-alps.24620/
On school holidays for the 2022-2023 season: https://www.skitalk.com/threads/when-to-ski-the-alps-in-2022-2023-season.26790/
 

fatbob

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+ if you want to ski offpiste tell us whether you're bringing shovel,probes & transceivers and possibly airbags and what avy training/ route selection experience you have. If you haven't got the trinity you're probably not ready to decision make off piste in Europe on your own, no matter how good your techical skills.

A lot of the time this really won't matter but the point is no- one sensible wants to encourage those who won't think clearly about things kicking down sluff on them.
 

Bolder

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+ if you want to ski offpiste tell us whether you're bringing shovel,probes & transceivers and possibly airbags and what avy training/ route selection experience you have. If you haven't got the trinity you're probably not ready to decision make off piste in Europe on your own, no matter how good your techical skills.

A lot of the time this really won't matter but the point is no- one sensible wants to encourage those who won't think clearly about things kicking down sluff on them.
The problem is the "gray area" of enticing-looking sidecountry between the marked pistes. You can clearly see those areas skiied every day by marginally competent skiers ... such as myself ... technically that's a no-go zone and can get you in a heap of trouble if you catch an edge and tear an ACL and need transport out...but ofc it's not really accurate to say "never ever ski there or you will DIE!"
 

Rod9301

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The problem is the "gray area" of enticing-looking sidecountry between the marked pistes. You can clearly see those areas skiied every day by marginally competent skiers ... such as myself ... technically that's a no-go zone and can get you in a heap of trouble if you catch an edge and tear an ACL and need transport out...but ofc it's not really accurate to say "never ever ski there or you will DIE!"
It's not a no go zone, what makes you think that?
 
Thread Starter
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Cheizz

Cheizz

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What people do (stupid or not) is one thing. What is allowed is another. And most things are technically allowed. If you mess up and hurt yourself, someone else, or someTHING else, you pay for it (literally). Let's not clutter this thread with that discussion.
 

Rod9301

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I think it's relevant so people can learn what's really possible there.

You can get insurance, cheap, for off piste rescue.
 

fatbob

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I think backcountry/sidecountry savvy is hugely relevant to N American skiers coming over to Europe to ski as it is perhaps the single biggest difference between resorts on both continents and a major part of managing expectations. The cost of rescue thing is a bit of a red herring given you are paying for on piste rescue in Europe so insurance is the vital thing to have. Fortunately available as an add on to the lift ticket.
 

slow-line-fast

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^ I think this point is already made clear in the first post (under 'What type of skiing..')
 

DanishRider

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I think backcountry/sidecountry savvy is hugely relevant to N American skiers coming over to Europe to ski as it is perhaps the single biggest difference between resorts on both continents and a major part of managing expectations. The cost of rescue thing is a bit of a red herring given you are paying for on piste rescue in Europe so insurance is the vital thing to have. Fortunately available as an add on to the lift ticket.
The add on is mostly in France - Do not expect to be able to buy it at ticket office anywhere else.
 

fatbob

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So should this thread not be a thread at all but more of a notice from the OP?

The biggest mistakes I see N American newbies making are

- Trying to go to too many different places/ countries
- Not understanding the Saturday- Saturday nature of many accomodations given Euro holiday habits
- Higher faith in powder than is warranted
- Not having Transceiver,shovel,probe
- Not really being in the mindset of having a groomer only holiday
- Not being clear on priorities between best skiing, best sightseeing, cultural experience
- Not being able to define cultural experience
 

crosscountry

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Not being clear on priorities between best skiing, best sightseeing, cultural experience
That's not a "mistake" but a nature of a "holiday".

If you're going to Killington, you're going there to ski. But if you're going to Santa Fe, you maybe going on a holiday with some skiing at Taos, or the other way around. Still, if you're going to Banff for the first time, you'll be shortchanging yourself if you only focus on the skiing!

However, anyone posting the question on a ski forum, everyone is assuming you're going there to ski! Whatever other sightseeing/cultural experience, I would assumed to be secondary unless clearly spelled out to the contrary.
 
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fatbob

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That's not a "mistake" but a nature of a "holiday".

However, anyone posting the question on a ski forum, everyone is assuming you're going there to ski! Whatever other sightseeing/cultural experience, I would assumed to be secondary unless clearly spelled out to the contrary.
Sure. But ask a bunch of Euro skiers and you're going to get their biases which might be best and most convenient skiing over anything such as prettiness or old buildings or stuff (hey it's Europe you can practically throw a rock and hit something older than the USA) OR it might be the perception that Merikins really like all that olde worlde stuff and thus automatically rule out a host of more modern resorts.

So people need to quantify what their expectations are and the trade offs they are willing to make. Me - I wouldn't try to tag Venice on the end of a ski trip unless it was explicitly the most convenient airport but for many it might be their chance in a lifetime to go there. Paris makes even less sense to me but might make sense for a US flight schedule etc.
 

James

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Paris has been significantly cheaper to fly to from NY/Newark than Geneva the last few years. Not sure why.

In terms of going to Europe after only skiing NA, it might help get a sense of how vert concerned they are. In general, it seems NA ski areas are far more efficient for taking lift up, ski down. Esp for advanced terrain. Part of that is because inbounds is controlled, the other the trail layout and smaller size.

Some European ski areas are prob better for that than others.
 

crosscountry

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Paris has been significantly cheaper to fly to from NY/Newark than Geneva the last few years. Not sure why.
That's been the case for far longer than just "a few years". I always assume it's because there're a whole lot more flights going to Paris.

Friend who travel to Europe for summer holidays often fly to London and then catch one of those budget flights into the continent...
 

slow-line-fast

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Yes, more competition into Paris than into Geneva.

Trouble with London is an extra border. Plus the chaos than can be Heathrow.
 

fatbob

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Nah there's always been a Schengen border flying ex UK into anywhere in Schengen.
 

Johnfmh

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I wonder how Europe’s impending winter energy crisis is going to affect ski resorts? Will some be forced to run fewer lifts, make less snow, or even shutdown for part or all of the season. Which ski countries will be most affected and least affected by the energy crunch. Do you have any thoughts on the matter @Cheizz ? Should North Americans consider delaying such a trip until the 2024-2025, especially given the pent up post COVID demand for skiing in Europe.
 

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