Europe Ski Advice/Question
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nvrsmr06
December 24, 2007
Member since 12/24/2007 🔗
2 posts
Hello All,

I'm trying to plan my first Europe ski trip for mid-March and was wondering if anyone could offer advice.

Is it standard to pay per person for a room? I'm accustomed to paying for just the room for my wife and I when we go out west, but all of the Europe ski websites appear to charge per person for each room. It's quite a sticker shock to see a price of $500 or more per night. Is this the way it is, or, is there a better way to reserve lodging?

Because I'm using free miles for the plane ticket- Zurich is the only airport that works within my timeframe. Any advice for which resort may be the "best" for an intermediate skier and snowboarder? I've looked at St. Anton and Zermat on the ski.com website, but I'd appreciate any firsthand knowledge.

Thanks for any advice anyone can give. I appreciate it!
Reisen
December 25, 2007
Member since 01/25/2005 🔗
364 posts
Europe's going to be expensive with the exchange rate right now, no way around it. I'm not sure about specifics, or about paying per person, but I just know it's really unfortunate how poor the value is right now.

That said, you're going to absolutely LOVE any of the major resorts over there. St. Anton is a great choice, as is Val D'Isere or Val Thorens in France, Murren, Grendelwald, etc. If the snow is good, the experience over there is unrivaled...
MangyMarmot
December 25, 2007
Member since 12/25/2002 🔗
183 posts
You'll love skiing Europe (assuming the snow cooperates)!

The food is fabulous. Especially slopeside -- no flaccid fries and soggy burgers for $25.

Um, my experience is mainly limited to Italy, with one trip to Andorra. But one thing you might consider -- a SportTube. It makes schlepping the skis WAY easier if u have to take trains, etc. The wheels on the end and hard case make maneuvering crowds a lot better. Also, most train stations have luggage checks, so you can lose the gear for a few hours (or days) if you plan on adding some sightseeing to the trip.

We generally found the rates to be per person. Though that usually includes some or all meals. I skied the Cervinia side of Zermatt. Not my favorite place in Italy, but nice enough. Be aware the high pass is prone to wind, which can shut down the connector between Italy and Switzerland. We were there 5 days and wind shut it down 3 of them. So if you are considering doing the ski in 2 countries bit, take advantage of it the first day it's open.

I travel kind of modestly, so $500 per night sounds pretty high. We have found some quite nice (if a bit small) lodging in central villages for about $120 p/p a night. Though that was 2-3 years ago. Despite the decline in the dollar, I'd have to guess you can do better than $500. Though that might be in a tres chic place with gourmet all meals.

I bailed on the Europe trip this year because of the miserable dollar.

One last thing... if Italy is at all on your map, can u use miles to fly to Milan? or even Turin. Both can lead you to some nifty spots in Italy...
mm
crunchy
December 25, 2007
Member since 02/22/2007 🔗
596 posts
there was an article about traveling cheap in one of the recent ski rags...(powder or backcountry.. i forget) anyway, one of the big points was to not make reservations for too much stuff online or whatever before you go. you'll find much cheaper options all competing for your business when you get there and end up paying much less. but even if you book a place online you should find places for less than half the price you mentioned in and around zermatt. we have some ppl comin over for dinner who go there all the time, so i can ask them where they usually stay. also you should ask this same question on the teton gravity forums since there are tons of euro's on those forums who might be a good local resource to give up to the minute tips \:\)
The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
December 25, 2007
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,107 posts
I am sure John will chime in with info for you. He skis Europe frequently and has written DCSki "How To" articles in the past.
Take care and have fun.
The Colonel \:\)
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
December 25, 2007
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
Like the marmot, I bailed on Europe this year because of price also.

From Zurich, St. Anton/Lech is the most convenient venue--just 2.5 hours by train.

The prices at St. Anton are less than Lech, and it is more convenient to get to than Lech because there's a train station within meters of the ped zone. However, St. Anton can be very crowded with a lot of aggressive skiers. Although the marked trails there are easily accessible to intermediates, St. Anton caters to experts, who come for the off-piste, and these experts kind of set the tone for the place. I prefer Lech and generally ski the slopes around Zurs, which connect to Lech via a tram. These slopes are much quieter than St. Anton and generally get more snow. The problem with Lech is that the prices there are stratospheric. It's apparently now a haven for the Russian jet set.

The major Swiss venues are similar in terms of price, so I have not even mentioned them.

A place I like that is less expensive but with a lot of variety for all levels of skiers is Bad Gastein. It's an old spa town and many people visit the place for spa treatments rather than skiing, but the skiing is extensive (albeit a bit spread-out). It's also a bit of a hike from Zurich. A rental car would be your best transportation options: 5.5 hours according to via michelin.
therusty
December 25, 2007
Member since 01/17/2005 🔗
422 posts
I stayed at a 2 star hotel in Zermat and had a great time. When I went it was early season (Dec) and the dollar was strong so the $50/night rate for the room won't mean much now except that if you can stand using a room for just sleeping and washing up, you can get by cheaper than $500/night. I rode the train in and arranged the hotel from the train station (not recommended during busy season, arriving early in the day helps a lot).

Zermat was an outstanding vacation experience. The culture of the town is highly dependent on the season. I visited twice within 2 weeks and each visit was unique (first time was German/Italian, second time was Brits). The skiing was great too.
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
December 25, 2007
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
Agree with the previous topics. IF the snow holds... and that's the big IF... frankly, I would much rather go to Switzerland or Austria than anywhere in the Western US. Now, before I get pilloried by the skiing right, it is simply a matter of choice. I am much more comfortable in Europe than in the Western US (excluding the coast).

Having said that, you can indeed get some good deals in Zermatt and the surrounding towns. All of them are served by outstanding train service and it isn't uncommon to find the conductor profusely apologizing and totally humiliated because the train was five minutes late.

Please check on http://www.zermatt.ch/index.e.html and you may find what you're looking for. The star ratings are not as much a discriminator as in the US. As therusty said, a two-star hotel can be an excellent deal. I stayed twice at the Albana Real, a four-star, and it had nothing over a couple of two-star hotels where friends were staying. They just had to walk a bit longer.

The other thing that may make it a bargain is the half-board system. When you look at either breakfast and/or half-board, this may take some of your freedom away, but if you add the normal dining expenses on the economy, the half-board may make sense, as well as getting you to sit with Europeans at the same table.

The Zermatt Grand Hotel, for example, will give you a room, breakfast and a sumptuous dinner for roughly US $300 a day. That's for a five-star. The Albana Real, where I stayed, will run you US $200 a day half-board. A three-star in Tasch, the last motorized town before Zermatt, will run you US $135 with breakfast. And a good two-star may even run as low as $85 a day but it may be farther from the town.

The cultural experience in Europe, especially Switzerland, and specifically Zermatt, makes up for all the traveling and insidious expenses. Zermatt is an amazing town. The internal combustion engine is outlawed, and electric buses will take you wherever you need. But everyone walks. You can get back on your skis literally to the hotel doors. Zermatt is on the headwaters of the Ruhr, so wines and cheeses are plentiful. As well as good hearty and fairly inexpensive food. Locals are super and I found a general friendship towards Americans.

Of course, if you want to hang with the Royal Family, get thee to St Moritz. And spend the price of a Ferrari on your vacation (not really). Actually, I spent six days at the Grand Hotel Kurehous for I think $400 per day and it was with succulent meals and it included ski lifts.

So go Europe and enjoy.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
December 26, 2007
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,723 posts
Welcome to DCSki.
A few other suggestions: Engelberg is one of the nearest major ski resorts to Zurich, maybe 1.5 hrs. Some others around 2 hrs are Wengen/Grindelwald, and Davos.

Some short summaries of these and most other Alpine ski areas are available online in an abbreviated form at:
http://www.wtss.co.uk
Go to your library to get the book by these guys for excellent details.

Another website to search for info or ask questions on European skiing is http://www.snowheads.com
nvrsmr06
December 28, 2007
Member since 12/24/2007 🔗
2 posts
Thanks to all for this helpful and terrific advice. Lots to think about! (Part of the fun, though!) :-)
k_alice
December 28, 2007
Member since 11/22/2005 🔗
92 posts
Mid-March is a fabulous time to ski in Europe - I've done so for the past 5 years or so, and the conditions have been excellent. I have mostly gone to Les Arcs in France, but last year we went to Villars in Switzerland. Villars was a really different experience than Les Arcs, given that we were actually in a real town. It's actually an interconnected series of smaller ski resorts: Villars, Gryon, Les Diablerets, and the Glacier 3000. We stayed at the Eurotel in Villars, which was a 5-minute walk to the town's gondola, so it was fairly convenient. When there's a lot of snow (which was not the case last year) you can ski back to the hotel. The rate of $500 per day that you quoted sounds really expensive to me - I think we paid something like $900 per person which included a full week in the hotel, three meals a day, and lift tickets! For lunch, we were provided with restaurant vouchers that we could use at nearly any slopeside restaurant, so we enjoyed fabulous meals on outdoor terraces with spectacular views.

From Villars, we could also access the Glacier 3000, which, because of the altitude, had fantastic snow. The Glacier is also accessible from Gstaad, I think. The highlight was when my dad got to ride down from 3000 meters on a paraglider with my son's ski instructor. Kids' ski lessons are a bargain, by American standards - I paid $150 for a week of lessons for my 10-year-old, and the instructor was excellent.

If you have any flexibility with your travel, try to avoid when schools are on vacation, whether the French or Swiss schools.

Finally, check on trains to Swiss ski resorts. We were able to take a great little train all the way up the mountain to the ski slopes!
Norsk
December 28, 2007
Member since 05/13/2003 🔗
315 posts
One consideration related to the calendar: Easter is early this year (March 23), and Easter week is legendarily hyper-crowded at European resorts, since vritually every country has a national school break that week. If you are going the week leading up to Easter, I'd consider somewhere other than the most popular megaresorts. Engelberg, suggested earlier, would be a good option in this category from Zurich. Also consider Ischgl, in Austria but on the Swiss border.

On the other hand, if you have flexibility to go the week after Easter, the inverse will be true: the resorts will be empty, prices will be noticeably lower, and yet the skiing can still be fantastic, assuming an average or better snow year. I once spent a week in Zermatt immediately after Easter. We had the place practically to ourselves, and it dumped three days in a row. It was like going heli-skiing without the heli. My take on Zermatt is that the town is very expensive but the lodging ranges all over the map, price-wise. So if you stay in a three star hotel and take your meals there, it can be reasonable.
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