rec.skiing.resorts.europe FAQ

Last Updated: Feb 21st 2003


Table of Contents

  1. When are the school holidays?
  2. How can I get from the airport to the resort?
  3. Where can I get snowreports?
  4. Will my mobile phone work?
  5. Is there any sking in England?
  6. Is there any skiing in Scotland?
  7. Where's a good place to ski with the kids?
  8. What UK companies offer childcare?
  9. Is ski gear cheaper in the resort than at home?
  10. What's the best resort for early/late snow?
  11. What's the closest resort to Geneva?
  12. Where can I find European Skiing Web cams?
  13. Is there any info on off-piste skiing in Europe?
  14. What's the best resort in Europe?
  15. Why doesn't Europe have any in/out of bounds skiing?
  16. Where can I get European snow forecasts?
  17. Does anyone provide European skiing weekends?
  18. Can I use my Mastercard/Visa/Credit/Debit Card in the resort?
  19. What is the snow going to be like in the resort in the future?
  20. What's the best insurance?
  21. Will my recco which is sewn into my jacket mean I can get rescued ?
  22. Where can I get English speaking instruction?
  23. What gradient does a slope have to be to be a red/black/whatever?
  24. Is a black/red/whatever run in one  resort/country the same difficulty as a one in another?
  25. How are European runs graded?
  26. How much are the French motorway tolls?
  27. What's the best route to drive?
  28. What is Swatch Access and where is it used?
  29. Does anyone have information on traffic congestion between Albertville and Bourg St Maurice?
  30. Where can I find ski piste maps?
  31. Which Ski Resorts have McDonalds?
  32. Should I buy snow chains before I leave the UK/Ireland?
  33. Do these two way radios work in resort?
  34. How do we get to the French side of Geneva Airport, we are picking up our hire car there?
  35. Will my hire car come equipped with snow chains?
  36. I've heard that Europe is bad for ski/board theft, what can I do?
  37. Links - a huge list of links on a seperate page
  38. Credits

When are the school holidays

http://www.net4ski.com/calendrier_vacances.htm for France
http://www.education.gouv.fr/prat/cal.htm alternate site for France
http://www.geneve.ch./dip/vac01_02.html for Geneva

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How can I get from the airport to the resort?

French Railway timetables and bookings http://www.voyages-sncf.com/ 
For Swiss Train times: http://www.sbb.ch/
Bus transfers from Geneva: http://www.gva.ch/en/transport/tpublics2.asp 
Bus transfers from Lyon Saint Exupery : http://www.satobus-alps.com/
Private minibus transfers to the Three Valleys: http://www.3vt.co.uk/ 

There is a reliable British run minibus taxi transfer between Chamonix and Geneva airport called Airport Transfer Services http://www.a-t-s.net/

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Where can I get snowreports?

French resorts - http://www.skifrance.fr/default.cfm?langue=a
Austria resorts - http://www.austria-tourist.at/winterline/home.html  or http://tiscover.com/1Root/Kontinent/6/Staat/7/AktuelleBerichte/schneebericht..__.1.html 
Switzerland - http://www.switzerlandwinter.ch/User007d.asp?REGION=T50 

Reports for most areas:

http://www.skiclub.co.uk/ 
http://www.born2ski.com 
http://www.pistoff.com/ 

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Will my mobile phone work in?

Probably. Most popular resorts are covered, but being in the mountains coverage can be variable outside the resort centres. DO check with your mobile company who gives the best rates - they can vary wildly.

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Is there any sking in England

Info on all the English ski tows can be found at
http://www.theboarder.co.uk/snowuko.htm

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Is there any skiing in Scotland

yes, check http://ski.visitscotland.com/index.asp

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Where's a good place to ski with the kids?

Flaine but  some of the more interesting runs are faced north and become quite cold in the afternoon.
Champagny en Vanoise.
Porte Du Soleil - close to Geneva and low resorts
Niederau - Austria. Superb but reasonable hotel (Hotel Brunner) right by the mail lifts and nursery slopes.

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What UK companies offer childcare?

Ski-Esprit
Mark Warner
Ski-Famille
Hiillwood holidays
Club Med
Erna Low
Crystal
Inghams
Le Ski
Meriski
Neilson
Powder Bryne
Scott Dunn
Ski Beat
Ski Esprit
Ski Independence
Ski Safari
Simply Ski
The Family Ski Holiday
Thomson

See the big list of operators at http://www.midski.org.uk/2000/skicos.htm 

 

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Is ski gear cheaper in the resort than at home?

It may be, it may not be. In resorts, prices commonly drop towards the end of the season so making them cheaper that at home at the beginning of the season. Also watch for currency swings both ways!

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What's the best resort for early/late snow

November skiing really depends on the weather. Tignes, Solden and Saas Fee with their glaciers will be open. Val Thorens will also try to open early November. Courchevel, Argentiere and Val d'Isere usually open in the first week of December. Some of the higher Pyrenean resorts such as Piau and Andorra will also open. Skiing will often be limited to a few pistes although the lift pass should be cheaper. There is normally more choice and more snow at the end of the season. At mid-April or just after the Easter break the small resorts and those in the South and Pyrenees will close. Andorra usually makes it to the third week of April. Tignes/Val d'Isere and Val Thorens run through to early May. Argentiere will open to mid-May when the Grand Montets cable car closes for annual maintenance for two weeks. For a number of reasons, 35 hour week, global warming etc, Tignes "la Grande Motte" no longer opens 365 days a year and is closed in May and September.

Tignes/Val D'Isere
Val Thorens (part of the Trois Vallees)
Les Deux Alpes or 2nd web site
Zermatt
Les Diablerets
Saas Fee
Engelberg
Verbier
St Anton

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What's the closest resort to Geneva?

The closest to Geneva (right bank, i.e. airport side) is Crozet/Lelex, whose first lift is the long vertical gouge on the Jura that you can see from the opposite the airport terminal buildings. It has around 10 lifts and pistes of various difficulties, takes about half a day to ski them all. It is about 15 minutes drive from the airport. This and the nearby Col de La Faucille (on the RN5 Geneva-Paris road) are where the locals kids
go to learn to ski and race. So it's extremely crowded at weekends and more or less empty in the week (except Wednesdays). Ideal for an afternoon's skiing if you are based in Geneva, and ideal for a cheap one week holiday with small kids, when just being in the snow is what matters (but then you would stay in Mijoux or Lelex, which are on the other side of the Jura, so one hour's drive from Geneva...). The snow is superb right now, but this February (2003) is exceptional, at Xmas there was no snow at all.

So it's ideal for locals, or for young families looking for a last minute cheap and cheerful deal, but not exactly what you would fly out from England for.

St.Cergue, La Dole, Les Rousses are in the same area but a little further along the RN5 (or alternately 20-30 minutes up the hill from Nyon by car or train).

The closest larger and higher resort to Geneva is La Clusaz, which is a nice small town with very few British operators. Wide range of skiing catered for, with a couple od specific nursery areas.

Then there's the Portes de Soleil resorts, the closest of which are Les Gets and Morzine. Again, both of these are fine for beginners,
although they're both also quite low, so you'll probably have to take lifts up and not always be able to ski right back to resort level.

Then there's the Grand Massif (Flaine/Les Carroz/Samoen/Morillon), which is probably equally close, at about an hour's drive. Flaine
itself is the best bet for easy access to beginner slopes, but with less 'character' than it's satellite stations.

At the (close) end of the Chamonix valley there are several stationsincluding Les Houches, St Gervais, les Contamines, moving round to
Megeve and Praz sur Arly, all of which are nice enough places but again with the town at lowish level.

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Where can I find European Skiing Web cams?

http://www.snoweye.com  
http://www.viewsurf.com/planete_continent.ttml?continent=Europe 

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Is there any info on off-piste skiing in Europe?

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/dennis.summerbell/skiing/skiingindex.html

Pistehors.com The English language website devoted to French off-piste skiing

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What's the best resort in Europe? 

For size, Trois Vallees, Espace Killy (Tignes/Val D'Isere)

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Why doesn't Europe have any in/out of bounds skiing?

Because there are no boundaries. In theory, you can ski anywhere: but you can't beat local knowledge and be aware of what you are getting in to, and hire a local qualified guide if you are at all unsure. 

Theoretically in Europe once you are outside the piste poles you are 'off-piste' and officially this area is not covered by the piste patrol, rescue services etc. You should get rescued however it may cost you more, so make sure you have adequate insurance.

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Where can I get European snow forecasts?

http://www.snow-forecast.com
http://weather.yahoo.com

http://www.wetteronline.de 
gives you fairly good weather information. Especially if you understand German
http://www.weatheronline.co.uk
The English counterpart.
http://www.meteoconsult.frweather information service in French. You have to pay (become a member) if you want the full weeks forecast.
http://theyr.com/cg/cny/I3dc0e59/F=js*L=en*h*010112*66*FR*fr_Grenoble

 

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Does anyone provide European skiing weekends from the UK?

If you want to do it yourself, on a reasonable budget the best bet is to use one of the budget airlines to Geneva, Turin, or other resorts and hire car or taxi pick-up. My best deal ever was 1p each way & £10 tax using RyanAir Stansted to Turin.

For the rich, Sion is close to Zermatt and Saas Fee. Nice is also close to the resorts of Isola and Auron.

http://www.powderbyrne.co.uk/default.htm
http://www.flexiski.co.uk/
http://www.whiteroc.co.uk/

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Can I use my Mastercard/Visa/Credit/Debit Card in the resort?

International Credit/Debit Cards are widely accepted in France, and  Switzerland. Much less so in Germany and Austria. There are cash machines in almost all resorts: http://www.mastercard.com and http://www.visa.com both have cashpoint locators.

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What is the snow going to be like in the resort in the future?

Impossible to answer. There could be 10 feet, there could be none. But you can get an idea by looking up the historical data at  http://www.skiclub.co.uk 

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What's the best insurance?

If you plan on taking more that one holiday a year, then annual insurance is almost certainly much cheaper than buying by the week: most annual policies cover two-weeks skiing as standard, some cover more Buying travel insurance from a Tour Operator/Travel Agent is always more expensive than arranging it yourself from an insurance specialist. Note that (in the UK at least) it is illegal to make offers conditional on buying that tour-operator/agent's insurance.

In many alpine resorts you can buy Carte Neige, is cheap and widely available means of getting rescue/repatriation cover, but you still need normal travel insurance on top of this.

My personal favourite is to get a year long policy. For the 00/01 season I will be using this company, http://www.direct-travel.co.uk 

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Will my recco which is sewn into my jacket mean I can get rescued?

Whilst the size of a Recco detection device has come down, not every pisteur carries one. If you are skiing off-piste: buy and know how to use a transceiver - that way those you are skiing with can search for you in the first vital 15 minutes without having to wait for a helicopter to arrive.

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Where can I get English speaking instruction?

Most of the major resorts in Europe have some instructors which speak English (or Dutch or Spanish), but they can be in short supply so availability isn't guaranteed - even if you book in advance! 

Andorra seems to have a high percentage of English, Aussie or Kiwi instructors.

Also see the British Instructors Abroad pages at http://www.midski.org.uk/2000/britabrd.htm

 

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What gradient does a slope have to be to be a red/black/whatever?

The grading of slopes varies resort by resort. A green run may be less than 5 degrees, whilst a Black may be as much as 40 degrees at its steepest point - but average much less. The only certain thing you can say is that the hardest (not necessarily steepest) runs in a resort will be black, and easiest green.

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Is a black/red/whatever run in one resort/country the same difficulty as one in another?

No. In Europe each resort grades it's runs based on other runs in that resort. Thus a red run in one resort may well be graded a black in another and vice versa, There is also the marketing angle to consider, in that a resort may want a certain percentage of runs to be red etc.

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How are European runs graded?

  Europe America
Easiest Green Green
Intermediate Blue Blue
Difficult Red Diamond
Very Difficult Black Double Diamond
Itineraries unpisted/not patrolled?  

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How much are the French motorway tolls?

http://www.autoroutes.fr/us/index.htm 

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What's the best route to drive?

http://www.iti.fr/direct/mappy/accueil French routes here
http://www.shellgeostar.com/
- Free detailed European planning
http://www.rac.co.uk - Free detailed European planning

To get to the Tarantaise / Three Valleys from Geneva or Paris/Dijon many people suggest getting off the motorway at Annecy, following
signs for 'le Lac' and then taking the route national to Ugine and Albertville. This route is better in bad weather as it is lower than the motorway, it is also shorter and generally quicker than the Chambery motorway and gives you a chance to stop at the big Shoppi supermarket just outside Annecy (car wash, cheaper fuel, snow chains, food etc).

If you are coming from Paris turn off just after Macon in the direction of Geneva. This avoids the busy Lyon motorways. Turn off to Annecy at the Bellegarde junction. There is about 40km of route national to Annecy.

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What is Swatch Access and where is it used?

The era of the traditional ski-pass is over. No more fumbling to look for your ski-pass. No more ski-pass slapping you in the face as you race down the slopes. Swatch Access, the first ski-pass you wear on your wrist, opens the gates even if kept nice and warm under your ski jacket. Thanks to its innovative technology, just walk by the swatch Access scanner and the turnstile opens.

So click here to find out where is it used?


Does anyone have information on traffic congestion between Albertville and Bourg St Maurice

As a general rule for the season outside of February, Saturdays peak periods (e.g. 9.00 - 21.00) or Sunday Morning/Evening it is bearable, that is if there isn't a landslide up to VdI or Tig.

Savoie highways department provide their predictions for the next weekend and further information on the state of the road:

http://www.3ct.com/dde73/ 

The French Government Clever Bison:-

<http://www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr/

Provides detailed route planning information.


Where can I find ski piste maps?

http://www.ifyouski.com  
http://www.skimaps.com/archive/ 


Which Ski Resorts have Mcdonalds?

In France Chamonix and Megeve have McDonalds in resort. There are two McDonalds in Albertville, the one at the Giant supermarket opens at 9am. The one on the Annecy road opens at 7.30am. Although not ski resorts as such Grenoble, Chambery, Gap and Digne les Bains also have McDonalds. Quick is the equivalent French fast food chain.

In Switzerland there is a McDonalds in Davos

In Austria Zell am See has one

And there is one in the Andoran capital


Should I buy snow chains before I leave the UK/Ireland?

Snow chains are a legal requirement on mountain roads in winter. In many European countries the police will stop drivers from using roads without special equipment when the weather is poor. Sometimes they even require 4 wheel drives to carry chains. There are arguments for and against buying chains before you leave. If you have an unusual tyre size chains may not be easy to find. It also gives you a chance to practise. On the other hand chains in Europe tend to be half the cost of those in the British Isles. For the average family saloon car you can find chains in any big supermarket in the winter, cost is between 20 to 30 UKP (30-45 Euros). Generally the more you pay the easier they are to fit and the bigger the wheel size the harder they are to fit.

Do these two way radios work in resort?

PMR 446 band radios advertise a range of 3km under ideal conditions, the big deal is you don't need a license. In ski resorts there are a number of obstructions that can get in the way of reception. Buildings, pylons and, of course, mountains. You will generally only get line of sight so they are useful for communicating from one end of a ski lift to another or for talking to someone a little way down the mountain. They can also be useful off-piste for signalling when the next skier should come down. Under no circumstances should they be viewed as a safety aid. Effective range is more like 1km. They are tending to get more popular, with many tour operators using them, so don't be surprised to be sharing a channel. PMR Radios from different manufacturers will work together. In France two of the eight channels are reserved for use by the French railways but using them in ski stations should not pose a problem.

How do we get to the French side of Geneva Airport, we are picking up our hire car there?

Right up the far end of the check in area is a small 'France' sign by a customs/immigration booth. One idea, because of the steps and the fact you cannot take trolleys from one part of the airport to the other you should leave all the group with baggage at Swiss-side arrivals, and send the driver to pick up the car. The driver just walks through some (non-existent) customs to the French side, goes to the car hire desks there, and picks the car up. On exiting the airport, turn right to go back through border control to Switzerland. Head for the airport to pick up the group. When returning the cars, do the same thing but in reverse. Drop the group at Swiss departures, and carry on - ignore *all* signs for the airport. Go past Palexpo, and follow signs to Ferney. Just after Swiss->French border control, turn left to go back under the runway and arrive at the French side. Drop the car, go back through customs, queue for passport control, exit to Swiss arrivals, go upstairs to departures, and rejoin the group (who by which time, may be close to the head of the check-in queue).

Will my hire car come equipped with snow chains?

It depends. Reports suggest that EasyCar in Geneva supply chains while EasyCar in Nice do not, even if asked! For other hirers you need to ask for chains, roof rack, child seats etc. If it is not on the contract chances are you will not get them. Confirm any telephone conversations with a fax and take all paperwork with you when you pick the car up.

I've heard that Europe is bad for ski/board theft, what can I do?

At lunch you can separate skis although potential theives may be watching you do this. Sometimes skis are taken by mistake, make your skis easy to identify and less attractive to thieves by putting your name on them or painting them (black!). Ski locks are available but you can just get a combination bicycle lock and chain to secure you skis. Don't leave skis or boards on balconies, thieves have been known to scale 3 or 4 floors to pinch equipment. If you have hire skis take the optional theft and damage insurance and inquire about any excess, for tops skis this may be quite a lot (150 Euros). For insurance purposes you will usually need to make a police declaration, be persistent as many police stations don't like doing this (it takes time and hurts their crime statistics).

Credits


Rob & Gill Weeks, Midland Ski Club - http://www.midski.org.uk/


Greg Hilton.
Copyright 2000  [Greg Hilton]. All rights reserved.