International (Europe/Japan/Southern Hemisphere) Europe in April, but not this April

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chris_the_wrench

chris_the_wrench

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This website has tonsof descriptiosns of lines, including photos... http://freeskilly.canalblog.com/pages/les-barbus/33460850.html
Adittionally, I would suggest a good topo-map. This is one I use a lot. You can turn on the slope angle layer as well... https://www.bergfex.com/sommer/auvergne-rhone-alpes/touren/freeride/
Très Bon! My French isn't good enough to say that I think I fell down the rabbit hole on those websites. WOW!!!

As others mentioned, could you go earlier? That would open up more options for finding a location that is a nice non-skiing destination as well.
Somehow I messed up quoting on a previous post. The Mid-April dates are set by my local mountain closing in early April. I love skiing my home mountain and I'm basically looking to extend my season abit and experience some new places.

-Chris
 

Slim

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@chris_the_wrench , regarding the group vs solo with a guide:

I am assuming a few things, so please correct me if I am wrong. Assumptions:

-You only want to ski a few days, because you want to spend the rest of your (limited length trip) time with your partner, doing non-skiing things.

-you are a skilled skier, with touring and backcountry experience. Any experience with technical gear (ropes, ski and boot crampons etc.)?

-you want to ski steep terrain. This might include crossing glaciers, exposed ridge walking, possibly rappeling. Skiing couloirs etc.

In that case, I would still look for some group events to join, but I would not change my plans to do so.

As a strong, skilled (backcountry) skier, you can probably get at least 50% more quality/quantity in if you go out solo with a guide, than with a large, random, group.

In other words, 3 days of you+guide = 5 or 6 days with a group. Meaning you have the same experience in the high alpine, and get to spend more time with your partner.

Groups, especially in consequential terrain, are slow. Add in people unfamiliar to the guide, and to each other, and you have a recipe for slow downs.
 
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James

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She's a good sport. If the ski base is in a small town or village, all the better. If it's isolated we would stay in town and I'd travel on ski days.
Don’t underestimate the town issue. It really can be a plus and one of the things that makes European skiing unique. Especially when you do say an off piste route and end up in another town. Even on piste you end up in other towns and getting back, if too late, can take buses and trains. Which can be fun.

Looks like I should be revising my expectations for this trip. I originally thought it was going to be like spring skiing at Arapahoe Basin, but sounds QUITE different.
I mean it could be. North American skiing is generally very efficient for advanced skiing. Take lift, ski over, repeat. In bounds is all controlled, so it eliminates a huge issue. European skiing can be rather inefficient for that, but varies greatly. I don’t have the knowledge to lay that out, but I’ve heard Brits complaining about the lift systems in 4 Valleées. (Verbier)

Realize that tree line is much lower than in North America. Not sure, but thinking around 1,800 meters.

For our European friends, here’s what he’s talking about with spring skiing at Arapahoe Basin. First off, the base is at roughly 3,200meters, the top would be around 4,000 meters, but that requires hiking, and is steep, narrow and wide couloirs. It’s avy controlled and either open or not. Most skiing it have no avy gear.

Overall vertical isn’t large, if you eliminate the hike to part, which you might do 1x per day, or not at all, you’re talking 1,550ft or about 470meters. There is a very good selection of advanced steep, moguled terrain, treed and untreed, if Pallavicini is open. That depends on waterflow underneath the snowpack. May can get iffy or not, depending. Early to mid May can see dry powder, graupel, wetter powder, spring corn to slush. The full range depending on weather.


As for sharing a guide: most guide agencies don't offer a group service, I believe. In most cases, you have to make your own group and then hire a guide together (in that order). But maybe there are organizations that do offer that service.
I’m only familiar with Chamonix and Verbier. Verbier has random group guiding 1x per week on Wednesdays. It was expensive, but they give you an airbag with shovel and probe. You need to get a beeper. I think it was 130 Ch Francs. Problem is, they’ll cancel it if not enough interest. The last time I was there they cancelled it because of low snow and not enough interest I guess. I tried calling a bunch of the ski schools and basically they thought I was nuts. What is this random group guide? We have ski school groups. Those instructors have some limitations, but I think it might be just they can’t use ropes.

-Occurs to me :
Mt Gelée tram. (Telépherique), in Verbier would basically be lift served Arapahoe Basin hike to terrain. Except, it’s not avy controlled like Abasin. Prob not as straight, direct down. I’m not that familiar with skiing it. But, if your skilled and not an idiot, you’d probably be ok given the usual warnings skiing alone in that terrain. It might make sense to go up there once with a guide.

Chamonix is a different story. You walk into the guide office and can join a group. But, I don’t know what happens if there’s only a few people. Are you now paying an increased fee? I suspect so.My only encounter with that was when the Aiguille dunMidi tram was on windhold and they cancelled our group. Two Germans and I basically hired the group guide. I will say that with only three, we went places you could never take a group of 8 random people with one guide. It was pretty amazing and intense at times.

That evening I went back to the guide office and said I wanted something a little less intense. “How about Italy?” So I joined a group to Courmayeur and we took a van through the tunnel to Italy.

Guiding in Cham in April might be different. You might have to hire the guide yourself. Don’t know.

Check this out. Chamonix off the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi. The tram you take in town. It’s kind of insane up there because you see the town in the valley like you’re in a plane.
This type of thing is not uncommon, but not common either obviously. You could do a less intense version, but not with a random big group.

 
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Slim

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She's a good sport. If the ski base is in a small town or village, all the better. If it's isolated we would stay in town and I'd travel on ski days.

Thanks again for all the suggestions.
-Chris
Unlike many US resorts, most ski areas in Europe are actual towns or villages* so it is easy to stay in a real town/village.

I’d guess, in mid-late April, most valley descents won’t be skiable anyway, so you won’t be skiing straight to your accomodation anyway. Combine that with the fact that your partner is a non skier, and I’d say, pick a nice village on a south facing slope, and enjoy spring there, then drive/bus/gondola up to the snow.

Do you use Caltopo? It has a sun/shade feature, that lets you check whether your prospective loding has sun exposure at crucial après-ski patio time/locations.


*except for many French resort, which were developed as purpose built ski resorts.
 
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James

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For lift-served off-piste (i.e. no skinning or long hikes required), I would find accommodation in Val d'Isère itself. Charming village (for French standards) and central enough. The area is huge but well-connected. You could stay in Tignes too, but it's much less charming and everything is above treeline (white-out risk).
Sounds good. I have stayed in Val Claret over near Tignes many moons ago as a teenager. Mid March. Yeah, nothing quaint. Looking back on it, we were incredibly dumb in what we knew. Fortunately, we didn’t push things too much.

We did do one day were we started out in Tignes, skied all the way down to below that dam, right side of map, then came back, went over the mountain into Val d’Isere, then took a bus to whatever is way left on the map. Then skied back, I think or took a bus, to Val, then took that crazy up/down chairlift and skied back to Tignes.
I remember being amazed that they had poma lifts in the middle of nowhere that you activated with a magnetic strip on your pass. It took decades for that to reach the US.


@chris_the_wrench, here’s an example of types of groups that run clinics or camps. Remember, in Europe, there is no one ski school run by the resort like in North America.
I see they have a late March one in Verbier, but no April. The FWT comes to Verbier end of March beginning of April.

Would love to ski with that Italian woman-
 
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jmeb

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@chris_the_wrench -- while you're getting an overwhelming amount of info here -- don't let it dissuade you. Skiing a week of lift served in Europe for me was completely eye-opening and wonderful. Jumping off the tram and skiing a 1200' rock lined, 40-degree chute right off the cattrack from the top is wild. Or traverse a bit and ski something like this:


Then you eat an awesome lunch on a sun drenched patio that costs less than a meh Vail cafeteria but is worlds better. Ski another tram lap or two, and have après far below on a warm deck.

You don't need to go to one of the "famous" areas either -- just something the suites you and your partner. Even relatively "smaller" areas still have more terrain than you could ski in many years. For example, my limited experience was staying in the small village of Rueras, in this place https://www.mt-lodge.com/ , grabbing a train (free with lift ticket) to either Disentis, Oberalpass or Andermatt/Gemstock for the day. Getting the après (all bar-cars) train home, and then eating wonderful food in the inn and watching ski videos at night with others, or curly up by the fire with a book and little digestivo.

This is just an example, not an exact recommendation for your needs. (Rueras is so small it doesn't even make it on the map, is between Sedrun and Dieni with its own train stop. The tram from Sedrun to Disentis is new last year.)
 
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fatbob

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I think you need to travel with a bit of an open mind - it's more than possible to ski heaps of off piste terrain off the lifts in alpine gear but there are circumstances where a short skin can give you something else or facilitate a return etc from a drainage.

I think the real variable is finding groups to ski with - there's lots of people wiling to ski off piste with people who seem to know what they are doing but if you're after the steepest gnar then obviously it's going to be difficult to hook up with those people immediately when proving you won't be a risk is an issue.

So if I was you I'd moderate the expectation on the steepest stuff and find somewhere you can ski good spring snow on more casual basis.
 

James

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Somehow I messed up quoting on a previous post. The Mid-April dates are set by my local mountain closing in early April. I love skiing my home mountain and I'm basically looking to extend my season abit and experience some new places.
-Chris
I would reconsider that. Maybe go mid to late March, finish at your home mt mid April. I guess Easter can be a factor, those who ski Europe can weigh in. - I just looked it up, Easter 2022 is April 17, so very late.

This, below. v You’ve got plenty of time to prepare. The names are a bit overwhelming. For every ski area you’ve heard of, there’s at least 10 you haven’t. Even many more than that.

@chris_the_wrench -- while you're getting an overwhelming amount of info here -- don't let it dissuade you. Skiing a week of lift served in Europe for me was completely eye-opening and wonderful. Jumping off the tram and skiing a 1200' rock lined, 40-degree chute right off the cattrack from the top is wild. Or traverse a bit and ski something like this:


Then you eat an awesome lunch on a sun drenched patio that costs less than a meh Vail cafeteria but is worlds better. Ski another tram lap or two, and have après far below on a warm deck.

You don't need to go to one of the "famous" areas either -- just something the suites you. Even relatively "smaller" areas still have more terrain than you could ski in many years.
What type of gear did you ski on?
Did you basically have private guiding?
 

jmeb

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What type of gear did you ski on?
Did you basically have private guiding?
For reference, that's not my video, although we did ski that line is very fun conditions.

I took a single setup -- a lightweight 104 touring ski, with Vipecs and Hawx XTD 130s. But this was chosen more because I was doing the Urner Haute Route from Andermatt-Engleberg than for its downhill prowess. If I was primarily skiing off lifts with small amounts of bootpacking/skinning to access the goods I'd probably take a 105ish, 1800-1900g ski with Shifts or Tectons instead. If I was anticipating more time on groomers too, then a 95ish ski with Shifts.

I had a mix of skiing partners. First day the owner of the inn took me and a guest on a couple of laps to get to know the area. I skied with a couple friends-from-the-internet off piste most days (all of whom had avy gear/training.) One day skied with a guide and small group of 3 off the lifts, the same guide who led the haute route trip.

This was the first line I ever skied in Europe (that inn owner led us too.)
82021581_2452736511710698_6303866819102900224_n.jpg
 

jmeb

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I'd personally aim mid-march. While the Gemstock terrain is mostly north facing and has various aspects that would work in april, much of Oberalppass and Disentis (where the best storm skiing is) is primarily south facing.
 

Jacob

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@chris_the_wrench as others have said, I think you should reconsider your decision to go mid-April, especially since Easter will be in mid-April in 2022. That will significantly increase crowd sizes and, as a result, prices for accommodation. That’s on top of the late season limitations on choices.

But if you are completely set on going in April, then I would recommend Val d’Isere. The Espace Killy (Val d’Isere + Tignes combined area) is one of the best places in Europe for early and late season skiing due to the amount of high terrain and the two glaciers. On top of that, there is a lot of off-piste terrain that you can scope out from the lifts, in addition to the terrain that a guide can take you to. And, the town itself has some activities for non-skiers, including the swim center.

If you do end up going there, I can give you a quick rundown of the parts of the area where you can find relatively safe lift-served off-piste terrain. Obviously, avalanche conditions on the day will play a key role in safety.
 

Seldomski

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Somehow I messed up quoting on a previous post. The Mid-April dates are set by my local mountain closing in early April. I love skiing my home mountain and I'm basically looking to extend my season abit and experience some new places.
I know you said Europe, but I think Whistler is hard to beat for spring skiing into April and May (in my admittedly limited experience). Have you been there already? Definitely not the same feel as Europe, but the terrain is amazing and all the crazy parts will likely still be open and 'safe' to ski. Vancouver is also lovely in spring - you could spend a few days there on one end of the trip.

They also have the extremely canadian two day steeps clinics that might scratch your gnar itch, though do note they may not run late enough to cover Easter.
 

Cheizz

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Thanks. These are not new lines that I discovered or something like that. They are all famous and well-known. The only thing I did is list them and added some info that is relevant for day planning and decision making when you have the avalanche bulleting available (And in Europe, there is a daily avalanche bulletin covering most of the Alps, in any case all lift-served ski areas). And I put the info in a spreadsheet for easy filtering.
If the avalanche bulletin states that NW-NE slopes are to be avoided, one can just filther those aspects out. Same goes for altitude. Obviously one needs a decent topographical map or app such as FAT MAP to confirm and to actually prep for these routes, but such a list is a good starting point to rule options out fairly quickly.
 

Ulmerhutte

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Just be aware that while many resorts stay open until well into April, the social/dining side dies off pretty quickly after Easter. Bars and restaurants start closing, and there are figurative tumbleweeds in the streets. Great for skiing quiet slopes, but the feeling can be a little melancholy, like being at a party after most of the guests have left (especially if you are single)!
 
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chris_the_wrench

chris_the_wrench

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So much to digest here. Thanks again to all for the input.

For Tignes-Val d'Isère I made a list of easy access off-piste lines.


On this topo map, most ski runs are drawn in: http://www.opensnowmap.org/
This is AWESOME!! Thanks!!

I know you said Europe, but I think Whistler is hard to beat for spring skiing into April and May (in my admittedly limited experience). Have you been there already? Definitely not the same feel as Europe, but the terrain is amazing and all the crazy parts will likely still be open and 'safe' to ski. Vancouver is also lovely in spring - you could spend a few days there on one end of the trip.
I haven't made it to Whistler, it's on the someday list, but we're VERY anxious to get back to Europe. We've had some really good trips to France, and I would like to get back there.

Just be aware that while many resorts stay open until well into April, the social/dining side dies off pretty quickly after Easter. Bars and restaurants start closing, and there are figurative tumbleweeds in the streets. Great for skiing quiet slopes, but the feeling can be a little melancholy, like being at a party after most of the guests have left (especially if you are single)!
That sounds like the January trip to the Amalfi coast we did a few years back. Had an amazing time, but 80% of the dinning options were closed.

had a mix of skiing partners. First day the owner of the inn took me and a guest on a couple of laps to get to know the area. I skied with a couple friends-from-the-internet off piste most days (all of whom had avy gear/training.) One day skied with a guide and small group of 3 off the lifts, the same guide who led the haute route trip.

This was the first line I ever skied in Europe (that inn owner led us too.)
THAT is what I'm talking about!!
 
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