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Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 8:03 pm
by ChrisC
I was starting to plan an Arlberg ski trip and wanted some recommendations on other areas to add? Also, I was tempted to break up the Arlberg trip with a few days in St. Anton and a few days in Lech?

Some candidates for an additional two days: Ischgl, Davos, Kitzbuhel or Andermatt. Even Innsbruck areas. Was not sure what people liked better.

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2018 5:02 pm
by Tony Crocker
See my TR's from January 2017 (page 2) and January 2013 (page 4). Liz and I hit most of the major Austrian ski complexes in 2017: Arlberg, Ski Welt, Kitzbuhel, Saalbach/Fieberbrunn, Ischgl. After the Arlberg in 2013 Richard and I skied Davos, Flims-Laax and Andermatt. Both trips we flew into Zurich.

From a ski perspective Lech is a much more desirable base in the Arlberg than St. Anton.
1) Now that the Flexenbahn lift connection is there, traffic/liftlines are much worse for those daytripping from St. Anton to Lech/Zurs than the other way around. Coming from Lech Liz and I skied one way to St. Anton, had an apres drink at the Underground, then took the pay bus back to Lech.
2) Warth-Schrocken is easy to reach from Lech but could take all day out and back from St. Anton. It's very easy to ski Warth half a day from Lech. Warth is modest in scale but the snowiest resort in the Alps with not much competition for its powder.

The one caveat is that some guide services like Piste-to-Powder which I used in 2013 are based in St. Anton and from Lech I had to take the pay bus at 8:06AM to meet them by 8:45AM.

All of the other Austrian places we visited in 2017 were more intermediate oriented. Ischgl has a much higher altitude range than the others for snow preservation, so more likely to be able to ski off piste there. Ischgl is closer to the Arlberg than the other Austrian places and thus more convenient if you fly into Zurich.

At the other Austrian places (closer to Munich than Zurich) 95+% of our skiing was on-piste. That's not necessarily a criticism as weather was nice, pistes were well maintained and I set a bunch of vertical foot records that week. There is interesting and accessible off piste between Kitzbuhel and Pass Thurn and between Saalbach and Fieberbrunn, but you have be lucky with timing due to the low altitude where ungroomed snow does not preserve well. Ski Welt is lower still, barely reaching tree line, a snowmaking dependent trail complex like many in North America but on a much larger scale.

Coming from Zurich eastern Switzerland options are more convenient after the Arlberg than continuing east in Austria past Innsbruck. Davos has one large area (Parsenn) and a bunch of smaller ones, thus logistically like Chamonix. I did get a good powder day at Parsenn, though it's intermediate oriented. Off piste fall lines are short by Euro standards even though some of the pistes have huge vertical.

Flims-Laax is a big well-integrated complex, but heavily south facing. Based upon James' and other TR's, Arosa/Lenzerheide (bottom page 1) would be a better choice. I can't comment much about Andermatt because the weather was so severe I skied only one day there and visibility precluded venturing more than a few feet off piste.

The complex south or east out of Zurich that interests me most now is Engelberg. It rises to 10,000 feet, mostly north facing, has a good off piste reputation and its snowpack reputedly reached 6 meters last season.

I recall you planned to take a train from Zurich to St. Anton, which I've always heard is easy. Getting from St. Anton to some other ski resort may not be so convenient by train. If this is your Jan. 26 - Feb. 3 trip, that's only a week and the Arlberg may be enough. Our 2017 trip was 3+ weeks, included a 4 day detour to Venice between Saalbach and Ischgl. The 2013 and 2018 January trips were 2+ weeks, as will be 2019. We fly home the same day as ChrisC but we arrive in Geneva 10 days before he arrives in Zurich.

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:01 pm
by ChrisC
Yes it's a one week trip. Last year was a bit insane since we were in a different country every day for a week: Val d'Isere -2 days, Courmayeur heli, Chamonix/Vallee Blanche, Zermatt, Cervinia.

We are sticking with the train to St. Anton and stay for the week - especially with the Warth addition - and the total Arlberg interconnection. Also, I think it would be fun and scenic - No real reason for a car. If there is a down storm day, I always wanted to see Innsbruck which is just an hour down the tracks.

Kitzbuhel - if the snow is not good, then I would not really want to be there.
Davos - looks like a bunch of connections
Davos - I hear the town
Ischgl - looks great, but really need a car

I did want to do guided skiing - the goals being the obvious ones - Valluga and North Face of Rendl. So we will sign up for 2 guided days with Piste to Powder.

Finishing up lodging: Was trying to split the week - 4 nights St Anton, 3 Lech. Of course most places want you to do the full week, but there are options.

After the Arlberg, I will have knocked most of the interesting major Euro resorts off my bucket list:
(Zermatt/Cervinia, Chamonix/Courmayeur/Megeve/Les Contamines, Verbier, Val/Tignes, Les Arcs/La Plagne, 3 Vallees, La Grave/Serre Chevalier/Les 2 Alps).

This is likely the total antithesis of James' list :) But I like the iconic massive resorts with HS Lifts.

I was interested last April of going to Engelberg and Andermatt - but abandoned the idea after seeing lots of green pastures in the valleys that might have limited the famed off-piste return routes. I would like to see these two.

Also, Cortina/Sella Ronda looks super scenic, mellow - and likely could be done anytime in life when lunch is more important than vertical.

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:46 pm
by ChrisC
Re: Engelberg

I found a very cool guide offering for Engelberg today. Their guide association runs a group tour of the 5 major off-piste itineraries. ... the-big-5/" onclick=";return false;

This would be great since you get to hit all the big lines and you do not need to build your own group. This greatly reduces cost. It's not cheap ($170/per), but I would not go near some of the glaciated, steep terrain myself without a guide. And a couple of lines are look simply epic and 3-5k. I had hear of The Laub - but never researched the others.

Engelberg Off-piste route descriptions" onclick=";return false;

Off piste in red

I only really trust topos

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 11:12 pm
by Tony Crocker
Engelberg is now near the top of my desired but yet unskied list. It was one of the few places in this year's Warren Miller movie that I have not skied. Thanks for doing the guide research for me!

With the banner year in the Alps in 2017-18 it's hard to believe Engelberg's off piste would not have been awesome. Fraser said it had the highest base depth in the Alps at over 6 meters, but I'm sure that was up high.

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:39 am
by ChrisC
I wrote the Engelberg guide office:

"Group guiding:
Do you want to join a mixed freeride group? CHF170 (we need at least 5 participants to run the group). From 2019 Thursday to Sunday freeride or skitour group from 1 person. This could be a great option for you. What is your skiing level?
Duration: 1 day (08:30-17:00)"

That did not make total sense to me, so I asked again:
"So from Thursday to Sunday we run groups with one person. From Monday to Wednesday, we require a minimum of 5 participants."

I guess it's easier for them to pull guides on the weekend being so close to Swiss cities? Anyways, that sounds like a good deal. Outside the super large resorts, it's hard finding guides for on or two people to join a larger group.
Last year - I did private guides for my brother and I at Val d'Isere and Aiguille du Midi - but I had specific lines I wanted to try - and did not want other skiers potentially slowing us down.

If snow and weather look good - I may try to tack Engelberg onto this trip instead of hanging out in Zurich for a day - and push flight for a day. We'll see.

I wish Andermatt had a program like this.

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:24 am
by jamesdeluxe
Chris: Peter Niederberger, Engelberg's Overseas Sales Manager, was recently part of a Swiss Tourism webinar for the ski area. He may be helpful for additional queries:

Worth going to Andermatt just for this: :-D ... ender.html

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 3:52 pm
by ChrisC
I saw that there is another off-piste guide service in Andermatt running Sunday groups. Andermatt Guides." onclick=";return false;" onclick=";return false;

If the weather looks good and snow continues - we might try to do a Saturday in Engelberg and Sunday in Andermatt.

I have been watching the Andermatt snow. It appears they got hit by the Southern storm in November that also dumped on Cervinia and Zermatt. The guide service had good Facebook photos throughout December. All the pistes on Gemsstock were open for the holidays and they are reporting 4.5 m on top?!" onclick=";return false;

Engelberg also continues to build base - almost 3 meters. However, some mid-mountain pistes are not open - so it's hard to evaluate conditions." onclick=";return false;

These 2 mountains are often included on many "Best of Europe" Ski Lists: ... i-resorts/" onclick=";return false; ... rts-europe" onclick=";return false;

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:53 pm
by Tony Crocker
Andermatt and Engelberg are on our radar too. I was in Andermatt in 2013, similar scenario to ChrisC this year, the ending weekend of a trip. It dumped snow the whole time, which is not what you want in the Alps. I skied the first day, needing to stay in the powder right next to the piste for orientation, but still slow going. As the storm continued the upper Gemsstock tram was not open so I did not ski the last two days.

As for now both have decent snow above ~2,200 meters but not so good lower down, particularly with the rain just before Christmas and little snow since then. I think Andermatt and Engelberg are still a bit west of the northern Stau that is clobbering Austria this week. Fraser thinks the only Swiss resorts getting much snow are those closest to the Austrian border. ... uary-2019/

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 5:41 pm
by ChrisC
After a meter or two of snow in Austria over the weekend, it looks like Switzerland will also get into the act.

Austria is starting to look as epic as the Western Alps were last year - and my trip to Chamonix, Val d'Isere, and Zermatt in late January.

OpenSnow Forecasts as of 1/7/19

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:28 am
by jamesdeluxe
Fraser Wilkins' snow report for today. If the Eastern Alps/Austria were LCC, there'd be an interlodge.

Today in the Alps: Updated: 9.15am Wednesday 9 January 2019 - Extreme snowfall continues in Austria…

The Alps remain under the influence of a vigorous northerly airflow, with lots more snow to come across the northern half of the Alps today. By contrast, the southern Alps will remain mostly dry with sunny spells, protected by the “North Foehn”. However, wherever you are in the Alps today it is likely to be very windy.

The snow situation across some parts of Austria is now what could be classified as extreme – a once in a generation type event in parts of the Tirol, Salzburgland, Styria, Upper and Lower Austria. The Vorarlberg also has a huge amount of snow but they are more used to it here, so the current snowfall is considered less unusual.

Nearly all ski resorts in these parts of Austria are on at least a 4/5 (very high) avalanche danger rating, with some on the maximum 5/5 (extreme), with more resorts likely to reach the maximum level during the course of today. Needless to say, any off-piste activity in these areas is completely out of the question. The snow is also causing problems with infrastructure in these areas, including road closures and in some cases villages being entirely cut off.

If you are in the affected parts of Austria right now, the advice is simply to follow the advice of the local authorities. Do not ski outside of any open pistes, do not walk or drive on any closed roads or footpaths, and stay tuned to local media reports.

Elsewhere in the Alps, there has been a lot of snow in some central and eastern parts of Switzerland (e.g. Laax, Davos) where the avalanche risk is also very high. Snow has also fallen further west in the north-western Swiss and northern French Alps, though in more moderate quantities, with no more than a few centimetres in the mega resorts of the Tarentaise, such as Val d’Isère and La Plagne.

Back to the forecast and it will continue snowing all day across most parts of the northern Alps, heaviest in Austria and eastern Switzerland where it will continue for much of tomorrow. In the north-western Alps, especially in France, it will be more moderate and will die way during the course of the day tomorrow.

By Thursday we can roughly expect the following snowfall totals from this latest storm (i.e. since yesterday):

- Northern French Alps: 5-35cm - highest in resorts close to Lake Geneva and the Swiss border (e.g. Avoriaz);
- North-western Swiss Alps (e.g. Gstaad, Wengen): 30-50cm;
- Central and north-eastern Swiss Alps (e.g. Engelberg, Flumserberg, Klosters): 50-80cm, with more in places;
- Northern Austrian Alps (e.g. Lech, Saalbach, Hochkönig, Gosau): 80-150cm. This is of course on top of all the snow that these north-eastern Alpine resorts have already had in recent days – bringing snowfall totals since the New Year to well over 300cm in places.

By contrast, the southern Alps have seen very little if any snow in recent days, and weeks even and will continue to miss out over the next few days. The Dolomites, for example, are heavily reliant on artificial snow but it has, at least, generally been sunny, meaning that there has been some perfectly good skiing on offer.

We will go into much more detail with regards to snow conditions right across the Alps in our main snow report tomorrow.

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2019 11:59 am
by ChrisC
jamesdeluxe wrote:Fraser Wilkins' snow report for today. If the Eastern Alps/Austria were LCC, there'd be an interlodge.

True. I saw this on the Lech Snow Report page today. Looks like a shutdown.


The B 197 Arlbergpass road and the B 198 Lechtal road (Flexenpass) will remain closed until further notice for safety reasons and due to avalanche danger. The road between Lech - Zürs will be closed at 5.00pm, the roads between Lech - Oberlech and Lech - Zug at 10:30pm due to avalanche danger. The road between Lech and Warth is closed. We will keep you informed about the development of the road condition.

This is reminiscent of last January when an avalanche closed the fastest road between Chamonix-Zermatt, and access to Zermatt was cut-off 2x due to heavy snow/avalanches.

Well, there will be a good base in Austria. Just need surface conditions to hold up / refreshed before trip. Any mountain can get a dumps of snow - but the one that has been refreshed recently will generally ski better.

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2019 2:55 pm
by jamesdeluxe
Pix of Lech village today: ... 0#p5186005" onclick=";return false;

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:00 am
by Tony Crocker
ChrisC wrote:Well, there will be a good base in Austria. Just need surface conditions to hold up / refreshed before trip. Any mountain can get a dumps of snow - but the one that has been refreshed recently will generally ski better.

Yes, all those low altitude places east of Innsbruck are always just one rain event away from crappy surface conditions. We booked those places in 2017 on four days notice with a prediction of sustained sunny but cool weather. It had been over a week since the last storm so off piste snow wasn't good that low, but on piste skiing was excellent with overnight snowmaking refreshes.

The Alberg has decent altitude by Austrian standards. Its Achilles heel is excessive sunny exposures, which is why January is the safest time to go there. My 2013 trip still got warm enough to bring spring conditions to non north facing slopes. The 2017 trip was colder than average, so there was still good powder 3-5 days after the most recent storm.

I would say this year Austria needs a little breather to let the snow settle. If you were there now or very soon, you wouldn't be able to ski much off-piste with that avalanche rating.

Re: Eastern Alps Recommendations?

PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 1:26 pm
by ChrisC
And everything is shut down again in Austria - Arlberg .... passes, offpiste, 5/5 avalanche hazard, etc ... 47?sfns=cl

Looks like Switzerland got into the act with more than100cm at Andermatt and Engelberg over last 2 days.