Skiing in Europe
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JoeSoccerFan
January 26, 2001
Member since 12/19/2001 🔗
17 posts
We (My wife, my 7 year old daughter, and me) are taking a European vacation in March. We'd like to go skiing for 1 day. We're all "advanced beginner's". I.e., I can do the blues at Wisp including the end of Deer Run onto the bottom of Squirrel Cage (challenging); Heavenly at Liberty; etc. My wife is a little more conservative, generally staying on the greens. While my daughter doesn't have as much control ("turning just slow you down") as my wife she'll do the front of Liberty without any problems.

Are there trails that are equitable to our skill level? Or are we going to be way over our heads?

Travel plans include traveling from Venice (I know you can't ski in the canals !) to Munich to Switzerland to Paris. We're considering going to Jungfrau Region, as much for the scenery as the skiing, specifically (Gimmelwald) but the Murren slopes may be too difficult.? I've also read the Grindenwald might have easier slopes. Are they easy enough, given our skill level?

Is there another resort/area that might be a better fit?

Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Joe

JimK - DCSki Columnist
January 26, 2001
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,723 posts
Interlaken, with lots of shops and restaurants is lakeside resort town and gateway to Jungfrau region. Nearby, but several thousand feet higher is gorgeous Grindelwald with astonishing scenery of north face of Eiger, etc. I was there in summer, didn't ski, but from edge of town rode long chairlift called "First" or something like that and walked back down through cow pastures. That terrain had amazing views and was solid blue, about like the more advanced runs at Wisp or blue runs down from top of Whitetail express chair. You should try to take your family skiing here a couple times before trip for "training". Though you appear to have a packed itinerary, I'd make room for at least 2 or 3 days at the ski area of your choice rather than one night stand. I've heard Davos in Sz has amazing Parsenn area with very long (but probably pretty challenging) intermediate runs favored by british royalty. But there are many great resorts in Alps along the route you plan, I defer to others with more on-slope knowledge.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
January 31, 2001
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,723 posts
I noticed that www.usatoday.com has a ski guide. I fished around in there recently and saw profiles on "ski resorts of the week" and they had a lot of short profiles on european resorts that you might find informative. I think a lot of european resorts have beginner areas that are part way up the mtn, you have to ride a lift up and back over tougher terrain to access the beginners area, which requires care not to take a wrong turn, but could be incredibly scenic. In fact, if terrain was intimidating, your family could just take a scenic cable car ride to a meal at a mtn top restaurant and call it a great day! I did that at the Zugspitz near Garmisch, Germany. www.goski.com also has a lot of info on european resorts. I would think all the alpine countries would have some sort of ski/tourist website with possibly an email contact to get a direct answer on a good place for beginners. Have a great trip.
Jim
January 31, 2001
Member since 11/22/1999 🔗
317 posts
My wife and I went skiing in the Jungfrau area a few years ago. It was really beautiful. I don't think you'll be able to do it one day though. There is an area called "First" near Grindenwald and there is a variety of terrain - both easy and difficult. For scenery, you should take a series of gondolas up to the very top where the film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was filmed. Its breathtaking. If you an advanced skier, you'll want to ski down - otherwise, you can ride the gondola back.

Some tips about skiing in Europe:

1. Buy insurance - unlike the U.S., ski areas charge for patrol services. The first thing patrollers will ask you if you get hurt will be for a charge card. Insurance is cheap and can be bought at the base.

2. Trails are not marked well. Again, unlike the overly litigious U.S., Europeans don't mark trails very well. That includes not marking obstacles or cliffs too well. The mind set is that skiing is dangerous - the responsibility is on you to mind where you're going - not the area's.

3. Be prepared to take lots of surface lifts. Towards the peaks of the ski areas, there are many many surface lifts (T-bars primarily). Don't be surprised to see surface lifts in funny places. Not always where you need them - sometimes where you don't.

4. Europeans don't stand in line. Don't know why, but Europeans don't believe in standing in lift lines. Instead of the semi-neat, semi-orderly lines where people take turns, Europeans tend to mash through all at once. Be prepared to have people step all over your skis to get ahead.

5. BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS. These thieves can spot a tourist a mile away. Hang on to purses, wallets, etc. Better yet, invest in one of those pouches that you where UNDER your clothing.

lbotta - DCSki Supporter
January 31, 2001
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
Agree with Jim. I spent a couple of weeks in Zermatt last year, this year it's going to be St. Moritz. A couuple of additions to Jim's list would include:

* If you have Blue Cross/Blue Shield, they do cover Europe and have several providers available through their web site including several in Switzerland. I downloaded the information and had it with me with my passport just in case

* DON'T HANDLE THE FRUIT at fruit stands. Especially in Germany. You'll get an angry look and if the stand is staffed by a corpulent Helga, you'll get your hand slapped and told "You must not handle the fruit, point to it instead"

* Carry your rock skis. Better yet, rent them there. Some of the resorts have huge verticals, and 5 to 6 thousand feet makes for very different conditions between the top and bottom of the areas. At Zermatt, the lower third of the mountain close to the town was basically ground and rocks covered by a thin layer of snow.

* Learn the posting of the trails in case of a blizzard or low visibility conditions. The poles that serve as trail markers are painted red and yellow, and they are different between the right and left edge of the trail. That's about the only thing that may keep you from falling into a cravasse or down a cliff when the visibility gets to near zero.

* Your ski poles are also enforcement implements to delineate your position in a gondola line if they're strategically placed in front of others' skis. That, and as Jim says, stepping on someone elses' skis. More the reason to bring your rock skis.

* Instruction in Europe stresses parallel skiing and good form. If you want to get really good at these, Europe is an excellent place to get some lessons.

twin58
February 1, 2001
Member since 04/1/2000 🔗
198 posts
These dang furrin boys may not speak English real good like me, but they do have websites:

http://www.skiinfo.fr/
http://neige.sncf.com/
http://www.skifrance.fr/

JoeSoccerFan
February 13, 2001
Member since 12/19/2001 🔗
17 posts
Thanks for the info.

We've decided to skip Switzerland this trip. In a few years, we'll take a skiing vacation there. Then, we'll have the proper clothes, skiing skills, and the time to really enjoy the experience.

Thanks again.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
February 13, 2001
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,723 posts
Are you flying from Venice to Munich to Paris? or are you driving or using trains on your trip? I traveled on train from Munich to Florence via Innsbruck, Austria. I believe road or train from Venice to Munich would go same route through Brenner Pass and Innsbruck. You will see excellent Alpine scenery on that route and before you totally forego skiing, Innsbruck is a very nice small city (hosted winter olympics in '70s) where you could get off train or hwy, spend one night and ski in one of many ski areas around outskirts of town, then continue just a couple of hours to nearby Munich.
JoeSoccerFan
February 14, 2001
Member since 12/19/2001 🔗
17 posts
Jim,
Thanks for the reply. We're taking a night train from Venice to Munich. So much for the scenery.

The other issue is the gear. There's nothing more miserable than trying to ski when you're cold. With us traveling by trains, we don't carry alot of extra equipment nor clothes. 1 backpack for each of us.

The good news is that Europe isn't going away. I think a ski vacation would be ideal if properly prepared. I still want to go hiking in the Swiss Alps during summer. Can you say 2 vacations. Oh, Ireland, England, Scotland. er. 3 vacations. Spain and Portugal, 4. Never been to Chamonix (sp.), Cinque Terre 5 vac. Croatia supposed to be lovely. You see my point.

Thanks again for your insight.

Any tips on Munich, Florence greatly appreciated...

Rich
February 16, 2001
Member since 11/30/2000 🔗
194 posts
Just back from 9 days in Grindelwald by coincidence. Actually warm...took layers off after sweating the first day. Tip: I ski almost exclusively in Europe...never bothered with Western US - too small. I like being able to ski 40 or 50 miles straight forward in the Porte du Soliel or the Dolomites from town to town. I cover Europe with 2 bags: a padded double ski bag that carries 1 pr of skis and pants laid out long ways, sweats, etc. And a boot bag for boots, t's, toiletries, etc. You can usually spot the first time travelers by the abundance of their luggage, sort of like they've just joined the witness relocation program (!). With those two pieces you should be able to carry enough to cover most all temp. extremes.
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