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Ski Europe

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Official Travel Notes Blog

Schussing Around The Ski Resorts

There's been good snow in Europe before Christmas this year, so choosing a resort for early skiing has been made a lot easier.

Normally, skiing in Europe at Christmas often means aiming high... smaller, lower ski areas -- like Appenzell (near St. Gallen, Switzerland) -- are often only suitable for grass skiers.

When I asked the lady in the Appenzell train station for a piste map, on Christmas Day a few years ago, I was looked at like I'd arrived from another planet.

Although it was obvious that there was no skiing in the area that Christmas, I already have a large collection of piste maps and like to add to it whenever I can.

The beauty of European resorts is still their quaintness and Appenzell is indeed very quaint. Even without the guaranteed snow of resorts like St.Moritz and Zermatt, Appenzell continues to draw the day-trippers for it's charm and authenticity.

The shops were closed that Christmas Day, but still the main pedestrian street was full of sightseers admiring the exquisite architecture of a place better known for its cheese than its ski slopes.

This year my sister, her husband and two boys have spent the week before Christmas skiing in Verbier and have been very pleased with the snow, they even called me to look at them on the webcam.

Just to be sure of the snow conditions before you book your skiing holiday, it's always wise to surf the webcams.

Swiss Webcams:
This is my favourite bookmark for looking at conditions around Switzerland.

Skiing in Austria
Austria has had its share of tragedies recently; with avalanches and the deadly fire in a train, carrying early season skiers up through the U-Alpin mountain tunnel, at Kaprun.

The country has put this all behind them and visitors to Austrian ski resorts can enjoy a good party atmosphere when the skiing is over for the day, with St. Anton still very much a party animal's favourite.

The best way to reach St. Anton is to use the train. There is limited car-parking in St. Anton itself and the train station is only a short walk from the ski-lifts.

St. Anton is also easily reachable from southern Germany or eastern Switzerland.

Train Connections
European Train Timetables.
Austrian Railways -- ÖBB.
Deutsche Bahn -- DB.
Swiss Federal Railways -- SBB.

And the regional train from the St Gallen/Lake Constance area of Switzerland: Bodensee-Toggenburg-Bahn.

Another popular venue in Austria, for the downhill fans, is Kitzbühel; where the famous Hahnenkamm race takes place.

Zell am See, located on the shore of a lake, is beautiful in Summer; although winter sports enthusiasts prefer the hills, near Salzburg, a fluffy white.

The Kitzsteinhorn ski area, at 3,000 metres, has plenty of runs open early in the season.

If you're staying in Zell am See, the Schmittenhöhe area is the most accessible, although a little lower. Almost half of the 500 acres of slopes have snow cannons, guaranteeing ski descents right down to the valley.

As Après Ski is considerably cheaper in Austria, than Switzerland or France, the country is very popular with party animals on a budget; the Kangaroo Bar in St. Anton is legendary.

Weather in the Region
Meteo Alpin provide graphical coverage of weather affecting the Austrian Alps, with text in English, German and Italian; you'll need to scroll down the small frame in the bottom right hand corner.

Skiing in France
If you like it bigger, better and higher, then it has to be Val Thorens; the highest ski resort in Europe and, with three ski areas, the largest skiing domain in the world!

Tignes offers year-round skiing, so the lack of snow is never a major problem here. They call it Espace Killy after the famous French skier. There's an excellent webcam page; with nine views of Tignes from various positions. The piste-map is huge and is available as a PDF download.

Chamonix is a gorgeous alpine town in the shadow of the Mont Blanc; famous for the Vallee Blanche ski tour and adventurous climbers.

Discover even more ski regions at Ski France (Alpes du Sud - Auvergne - Dauphiné Isère - Haute Savoie - Jura - Pyrénées - Savoie - Vosges).

Skiing in Italy
The Dolomites is my favourite ski region in Italy; skiing the Della Ronda and sipping an afternoon Grappa in Grappa is a wonderful way to pass a sunny Winter's day.

Sadly, the Dolomiti website was returning a lot of database errors when we looked. It used to be a very good site, with almost as many interconnecting links as the ski area itself.

If you'd like to discover the Rendena Valley, try the less touristed Madonna di Campiglio. The Skirama is well worth the journey.

Skiing in Switzerland
Switzerland really is the ski centre of Europe for me.

The Davos ski area is great for mileage seekers (315 km). It links to the elegant Klosters, where Charles and Princess Diana used to ski, and Prince Charles still does. When they separated, Diana preferred to go to Lech, in Austria.

Davos Webcam.

Saas Fee often loses out to its famous neighbour, Zermatt. The skiing in Saas Fee is more challenging, especially the Sommerski run.

Saas Fee Webcam.

Zermatt and the Matterhorn are synonymous with Switzerland.

I always have a soft spot for this car-free resort, since I worked there as a teenager. I have returned there many times and the magic never fades.

It gets very cold on the Klein Matterhorn, so wrap up well. If the snow is good, you can even ski over to Cervinia, in Italy.

Zermatt Weather.
Zermatt Webcam.

Verbier has always been a popular resort area with the English, for much longer than Prince Andrew's ex-wife has been going there.

The 4 Valley Ski Area is immense, at 360 kilometres, so you will have no problems getting away from the sloanie cries.

The nearby Portes du Soleil region is another wonderful ski area. From the quaint resort of Chambery you can ski over to the purpose-built, French resort of Avoriaz.

St Moritz:
Ski with the rich and famous in Switzerland's premier resort.

Well, we're running out of space here although I'd love to go on all night, so I'll leave you with a few more helpful links.

Alpine Skiing:
The best ski resorts online.

Events Calendar:
Follow the major ski races that are taking place this year.

Hotels in Austrian Ski Resorts
Arlberg, Gasteinertal, Kitzbüheler Alpen, Klagenfurt, Stubaital, Villacher Skiberge.

Hotels in French Ski Resorts
Chamonix, Megève.

Hotels in Italian Ski Resorts
Cortina d'Ampezzo, Courmayeur, Dolomites, Folgaria Lavarone, Merano, Sella Ronda, Val Gardena, Alta Valtellina.

Hotels in Swiss Ski Resorts
Crans-Montana, Davos Klosters, Les Quatre Vallées, St. Moritz, Zermatt.

Feel free to post your ski reports in the comments.

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At 23/12/05 17:12, Blogger Peter Porcupine said...

Came here surfing AND Shoutbox, but admit I'm afraid of skiing!


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