European Skiing Pointers

The following are a number of points that our members have assembled about skiing in Europe. Skiing in Europe is a dream for many of us. It can be a great experience if well planned. We recommend to plan at least a year ahead. Ski Legends is looking forward to offering a European destination in the 2020-2021 season.

Currencies

At the time of publishing this list:

  • Swiss Franc was $C1.35 (currently high )
  • Euro was $C1.50 (currently high)

See current rates from the Bank of Canada.

Countries

Switzerland

  • Very expensive
  • Some very pretty villages (e.g. – Zermatt)
  • Some ugly (e.g., Davos)
  • Everything works as it should
  • People are not particularly friendly, especially in the German speaking areas

France

  • Resorts run from very expensive (Courchevel) to less expensive (Les Menuieres)
  • Purpose built resorts are not pretty
  • Most things work as they should
  • Friendliness is very dependent on the resort

Italy

  • Some beautiful towns
  • Things may or may not work
  • Generally friendly people
  • If you stay away from a couple of the main resorts, less expensive

Austria

  • Everything works
  • The best hoteliers in Europe
  • Pretty villages
  • If you stay away from main resorts, less expensive
  • Many hotels contain spas
  • Smoking is allowed

Mountains and Weather

  • The best weather for skiing, enjoying the ambience on the hill and in the villages, is early to mid-March
  • Be careful of European holidays
  • Need to go to resort which peaks at about 3000 meters
  • Ensures snow, ensures good snow at higher elevations, glaciers ensure snow
  • Most people can handle the altitude but note:
    • Villages are around 1400meters (4500-5000 ft.)
    • Stay away from low resorts, such as Kitzbuhel
    • Some resorts, such as Zermatt (12,500 ft) top out high and can create a problem for some people.
  • Sunniest destinations are the Valais region in Switzerland and the Tirol in Austria and Italy
  • The Haute Savoie in France gets more fog
  • Few resorts are ski in/out most are a short walk or require shuttles

The European Ski Experience

A lot of the reason people go to Europe to ski is for the total experience:

  • The huts on the hill (Lunch, morning snapps, après)
  • The pretty villages
  • Skiing from country to country
  • The huge ski areas with 10’s to 100’s of lifts
  • The après

But know the bad

  • Very crowded in nearly all areas
  • People push and shove and do not line up properly. This bothers North Americans
  • Need to get into the Alpine (out of the village) early in the morning
  • Shuttles can be a real hassle

Travel

Travel can be a long and arduous process, a few points:

  • 6 hour time difference
  • Direct flights are 8- 9 hours
  • Easiest airport to fly into to get to Austria or the South Tyrol (Northern Italy) is Munich
  • Best to fly directly from Toronto to destination airport
  • Avoid connecting flights, definitely avoid Montreal, Charles DeGaulle and Frankfurt
  • Don’t, for instance, go Zurich/Geneva if you can
  • Ensure ground transportation is reasonable
    • Example, several travel pieces to get to Zermatt
      • From Zurich
        • Train or bus from airport 4 hours
        • Electric taxi in town
  • Val D’Isere
    • There is no direct flight to Geneva from Toronto; transfer in Montreal
    • About 3 hours by coach from Geneva
  • Otztal Austria and the Dolomites
    • Easy transfer (2 to 3 hours) by coach from Munich
  • Remember ground travel is after picking up luggage in airport and then getting right to your hotel, so add a couple of hours. So, from home , including getting to Toronto and check-in expect about 18 hours of travel.

Timing and stay

Going for 1 week is a bad idea

  • People are tired after the travel
  • People will be sleeping at higher altitudes
  • Skiing at higher altitudes
  • Will only get about 4 days of skiing

A better approach

  • Fly to gateway city and take a couple of days to recover from flight
  • Then head to resort and stay 2 weeks
    • Or travel somewhere in Europe for a week

Hotel definitions

  • Hotel garni, gasthaus, pension are basically bed and breakfast
  • Half Board, Breakfast and dinner in the hotel (not lunch)
  • Full Board, Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • All inclusive(Club Med)
    • You are paying for lunch which you will most likely want to have on the hill.

Hotels in Europe usually have much smaller rooms than in North America and don’t have amenities, in the rooms, like coffee makers/microwaves and you probably won’t find your favorite TV show. You are expected to use the common areas for coffee, etc..
The star system goes from 1 to 5. 3 star is generally adequate with good meals, especially in Austria, while 4 star is quite luxurious.
Austria and Switzerland provide breakfasts which are more along North American lines (eggs, etc.) as does the South Tyrol (Dolomites, Italy) while many hotels in France rely more on croissants etc.