Skiing in Europe
December 8, 2006
I am planning a business trip to Bangkok in January and I have the option to lay over for four or five days in Europe. I have never skiied in the Alps and would love to give it a shot. Which major cities are closest to the slopes? From what I can tell it looks like Munich is a good bet. It has to be a major city and then I would arrange additional transportation, so time is an issue. Any ideas?
Geneva, Switzerland is about 75 minutes from the Chamonix Valley. I imagine that getting a connecting flight thru Geneva may be a bit more difficult than getting one thru a larger city, but if you can swing this then I think Geneva could fit your needs.
For accessing the valley on the other side of Mont Blanc, Turin, Italy may be a good choice.
PM me if you end up going with the Geneva option, I may be able to offer different resort reviews/recommendations
Check the weather, rumor has it they've had a slow start this year.
Geneve is probably the best "major" city to explore from. Depending on timing you might be able to land in places like Frankfurt and take a night train to Switzerland or Austria. I boarded a train at 12:30 AM in Frankfurt and arrived at Zermatt the next morning. Munchen (Munich) is a little closer to the action. Zurich is not a bad choice. After a different trip to Zermatt, I took the train to Milano, got a room for the night and flew out the next morning. That wasn't too bad. It's a little pricey, but you can also land in Paris and take a high speed train to the resorts.
This is shaping up to be the worst season ever for Europe. This was posted recently on snowheads:
Andorra: Very little snow. No major resorts open. Worst start for a few years.
Spain: Limited snow. No major resorts open, either in the south or north.
Mediterranean: Resorts in Portugal, Corsica and Cyprus are closed. Unlikely to open much before Jan.
France: Coverage is very poor. The Times of London reports France had its warmest Autumn since 1950. Temps have been way above-average. Val Thorens has just 3 skiable runs. ValTho suspended day-pass sales over the weekend. Val d'Isere abandoned its scheduled Downhill race. Tignes is only 5% open. Rumors of 99 vacations to Les 2 Alpes during Dec are popping up on the Web.
Switzerland: Conditions are mostly bad. Temps remain high. It was 8c in Zermatt (1600m) at midday today. Saas Fee is running a creditable 20%.
Italy: Patchy cover. A few glacier stations running, but little else. Cervinia is about 5% open up top.
Germany: Limited snow. Garmisch is roughly 10% operational, mostly on the glacier.
Austria: Big snow a few weeks ago has been replaced by high temps. The Times of London says it was the warmest Nov for Austria since records began in 1775. It was 12c in Saalbach (1000m) at midday today. St Anton failed to open this week as scheduled. Soelden has the most terrain, with 25% open. Obergurgl is partially running on artificial neige.
CE Europe: Limited snow across Poland, Czech Rep, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and Turkey. Temps are high. No major stations are believed to be operating.
Things of course could change but I'd be hesitant about booking anything now. In fact, I had planned to go to Bad Gastein in late January but decided to delay the trip until March, and even then, I'm hesitating. If things are better in the American West, I'll gladly head west. Skiing is about snow. You gotta go where the snow is...
PS 12 cms of snow are predicted tonight to fall at Bad Gastein, but the freeze/thaw line will be 2000 meters. In short, most of the terrain will get rain, and even if snow fell everywhere, 12 cms ain't enough to open a trail in Europe--20 cms is about minimum.
PPS In addition to Geneva, consider these HUBs.
The cheapest HUB city within striking good distance of good slopes is Munich. It's 3 hours by train from Munich to most of the Ski Amade Region (Schladming, Bad Gastein, etc). It's also within a relatively easy train trip to the Arlberg, Solden, Ishgl, etc.
Another good hub is Zurich, which connects by train to many of the Swiss resorts and is only 2.5 hours by train to St. Anton in the Arlberg, and easier bus shuttles run on Fri, Sat., Sun.
Milan is a third hub to consider because it connects well with many Italian resorts and also St. Moritz, which is an excellent place.
Paris has TGV access to Trois Vallees and other French resorts. It's bit more of a haul but may be worthwhile for the savings.
Wow, c'est terrible. On the bright side, I didn't even know there was skiing in Cyprus.
Internationally, the place to be right now is British Columbia. They've been blitzed, and the dollar is holding out better against the Canadian dollar than it is against the Euro. Speaking of which... did anyone see the article in Ski Magazine this month about the big expansions up north? I guess if one place in the world should be investing in ski tourism right now, it should be Canada.
By the way, from what I understand, there's also skiing in Morocco, or shall I say there used to be skiing in Morocco.
Anyway, the current mild trend in Europe is likely to linger for most of the Winter. It seems that Europe is having the type of Winter that we had last season and, as a consequence, the World Cup schedule is now in real trouble. Hopefully, the Jet Stream (over North America) will remain in it's current pattern for most of the Winter. However, it's likely that most of the cold weather and snow will be found in the West, especially Western Canada. So, I agree that the Winter of 2006-2007 is the year to head for Western Canada; plus, most of the facilities there are top notch and just keep getting better. Also, Canada seems to be doing a pretty good job of protecting the environment and it's natural beauty. In contrast, I think that the best we can hope for in the Mid-Atlantic is a solid but average ski season.
Ski resorts sweat in warm weather
The peaks are snowy but the valleys remain bare
European ski resorts are hoping for sudden snowfalls to rescue the start to their season after an unusually warm autumn left slopes bereft of snow.
The worst thing about this warm December is that Christmas is a major ski week in Europe. Resorts there typically get many more Christmas bookings than resorts in North America.
Lech-Zurs, the most expensive resort in Austria, is offering what amounts to a fire sale for the week before Christmas.
Canada seems to be doing a pretty good job of protecting the environment and it's natural beauty.
Hmmmm... you sure about this? This is the wrong forum to discuss this matter any matter, but BC is virtually synonymous with clear cutting. Google Earth picks it up very well. But, generally, I agree with you, Canada- particularly British Columbia- is stunning and the folks up there for the most part are wonderful. Every time I ski in Canada we quickly find common ground in commenting on how rude European skiers are.
Take a look at this site I found today (slow afternoon at the office):http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/
It shows arctic ice coverage for the year as well as long run trends. What's really interesting is the 30 day loop you can run:http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/CT/animate.arctic.1.html
This is centered over Europe and you can see just how amazingly bad this winter has been for them. It looks like there's some type of blocking system- everything to the west of the Urals got buried about a week ago and shows no signs of getting thinner anytime soon. You can also see that James Bay is in the process of freezing up solid pretty soon.