Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

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Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:42 pm

I just got back from my honeymoon which took me from Grindelwald to Vienna over 17 days. I'm still a bit jet-lagged, and have to filter through literally thousands photos so I will upload the photos later. We went from Grindelwald to Landeck via the Grimsell Pass and Chur. We visited Garmisch-Partikichen, Innsbruck, Zell am See, Salzburg and Vienna.

Firstly, I would like to say that Grindelwald has the most dramatic mountains I've ever seen. The mountains literally drop 9,000 ft from the top of Eiger 13000ft to the valley 4000ft.

On our drives through the Tirol I saw that almost every town has it's own lift and resort. It seems like many of the mountains out there have awkward exposures( south facing/west facing). Also, the landscape reminded me more of Vermont/New Hampshire than the rockies. The valleys were very lush, and looked a lot like vermont, so it clearly isn't as dry as out west. The mountains, like I said, looked more like Vermont in that the usable/skiable parts were often not rugged and there wasn't very much above tree line skiing, however, on the top of many of the mountains were limestone ridges that were like spines/vertical cliffs of what seemed like thousands of feet (the exception to this was the alberg, which is immense ). There were places there like the kitzstein glacier and the stubai glacier which were truly immense in scope, but for the most part, it didn't seem like the mountains were incredibly large. Zell am See, (where Nikki and I hiked the Pinzgauer Spanziergang) is surrounded by ski resorts that all seem within the scope of a mountain like Gore or Whiteface. There was very little terrain above the tree line with exception of Kitzstein to which you need to take a bus. Many of the mountains there had direct southern exposure, and also the majority of the summits were below 7,000 feet.

I look forward to returning to these places in the winter sometime in the near future. Again, I'll get those photos as soon as I have time.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:00 am

The best mountains for summer activities are not necessarily the best for winter. Chamonix might an exception for that.
I would like to say that Grindelwald has the most dramatic mountains I've ever seen.

That was my impression of Chamonix. The Rick Steves guides tout both in those terms.

The valleys were very lush, and looked a lot like vermont, so it clearly isn't as dry as out west.

We were struck by the lush valleys also. There is no real wet/dry season in the Alps. They get a lot of rain in the summer, unfortunately including the 2 days we spent in the Austrian Alps above Salzburg in August 1999. And why half the places in England/France/Germany/Austria were clouded out of that eclipse. That was my first, and I heeded expert advice and went to Hungary before spending the rest of that trip in Austria and Germany.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Sun Oct 03, 2010 5:52 am

Tony Crocker wrote:The best mountains for summer activities are not necessarily the best for winter. Chamonix might an exception for that.


We drove by a lot of places that are renowned for their winter, such as kitzbuhel, and I will say they just weren't nearly as I imagined them. I've not yet been to Chamonix, but I would imagine it is very dramatic, and that the skiing there must be better than the Berenese Oberland where the top 4000 ft of elevation is useless. I've heard the town there is a souless, and not as nice as some others which have lesser skiing but more charm.

The place that looked the best for skiing was in the Tirol: St. Anton, Landeck, and Erwhald. It seemed those mountains were completely skiable, and had 6 to 7 thousand feet of usable vert. The kitzbuhel alps were much like the Berenese Oberland in that the highest mountains weren't really skiable because they were high due to sheer cliffs. Much of the skiable terrain was below the tree line, and frankly didn't seem too impressive.

I wonder if anyone here has skied Garmisch? We stayed there and the ski mountain didn't particularly impress. There are really impressive views, but I would imagine those are not skiable mountains.

Innsbruck, has impressive mountains but the ski mountains weren't anything special, although, the Stubai Glacier was very impressive.

Lastly, it seems to me that the cost of skiing is way more reasonable out there compared to the N. America. The tickets seemed always around 25 Euro per day, and sometimes that was for the whole ski region and included bus and train transport! If only the snow was as good out there as it was out west, or is it?
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby jasoncapecod » Sun Oct 03, 2010 7:49 am

:worthless:
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Sun Oct 03, 2010 1:09 pm

jasoncapecod wrote::worthless:

Tired, Jet-Lagged, and sorting through literally thousands of photos. Will get it done sometime in the next few days.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Admin » Sun Oct 03, 2010 1:21 pm

IMO the best ski terrain in Switzerland is in the southwest corner of the country near the French and Italian borders. Zermatt, for example has some stunning terrain and long vertical.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Oct 03, 2010 7:16 pm

admin wrote:IMO the best ski terrain in Switzerland is in the southwest corner of the country near the French and Italian borders.

Based upon my "barely scratch the surface" day at Verbier, I would agree with that.

rfarren wrote:I wonder if anyone here has skied Garmisch? We stayed there and the ski mountain didn't particularly impress. There are really impressive views, but I would imagine those are not skiable mountains.

We rode the tram up the Zugspitze from the Austrian side on that same 1999 trip. There's glacier surface lifts up there (for spring, not summer), and from what I read the main ski area is down low. I also read that not much of the terrain between the 2 is skiable.

rfarren wrote:If only the snow was as good out there as it was out west, or is it?

I'm still working on that. There may be a couple of microclimates in the Arlberg that hit 400 inches. Due to low tree line there aren't many places that measure high in the ski terrain. Verbier averages 230 inches at 7,200 feet, which is probably representative of many of the big resorts. I can tell you that if you're north facing at high altitude and that latitude the snow preservation is excellent.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:42 am

Tony Crocker wrote:
rfarren wrote:If only the snow was as good out there as it was out west, or is it?

I'm still working on that. There may be a couple of microclimates in the Arlberg that hit 400 inches. Due to low tree line there aren't many places that measure high in the ski terrain. Verbier averages 230 inches at 7,200 feet, which is probably representative of many of the big resorts. I can tell you that if you're north facing at high altitude and that latitude the snow preservation is excellent.


IMHO quantity is not the only determining factor on snow quality. Based on the vegetation we saw I would imagine the water content in the snow is quite a bit higher than what is found in Colorado and Utah.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Admin » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:52 am

In my limited experience Alpine snow is nothing like Continental North American snow. I found the consistency more akin to New England snow.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:10 am

Pictures now:
Eiger from Kleine Schiedigg.jpg
Eiger from Kleine Schiedigg
Eiger from Kleine Schiedigg.jpg (29.43 KiB) Viewed 5619 times

We tubed on the glacier, there is a ski run on the other side.jpg
The top of Jungfraujoch, we tubed rather than ski the bunny run.
We tubed on the glacier, there is a ski run on the other side.jpg (37.16 KiB) Viewed 5619 times

Eiger from grindelwald.jpg
Eiger from Grindelwald
Eiger from grindelwald.jpg (40.29 KiB) Viewed 5619 times

Wetterhorn from Grindelwald.jpg
Wetterhorn from Grindelwald in the morning
Wetterhorn from Grindelwald.jpg (22.45 KiB) Viewed 5619 times

top of grimsel pass.jpg
The top of the grimsel pass
top of grimsel pass.jpg (29.97 KiB) Viewed 5619 times

facing the furka pass.jpg
Coming down from the grimsel pass, with the Furka pass in the foreground.
facing the furka pass.jpg (56.38 KiB) Viewed 5619 times

Landeck and the tirol.jpg
Landeck, notice that the mountains have a lot of vert, and many of them are great for skiing, the backside from where the shot was taken is a ski resort.
Landeck and the tirol.jpg (67.87 KiB) Viewed 5619 times

The drive pass Zugspitz.jpg
On the way to fussen and Neuschwanstein. We drove passed the Zugspitz
The drive pass Zugspitz.jpg (40.44 KiB) Viewed 5619 times

Schloss Neuschwanstein.jpg
Schloss Neuschwantstein
Schloss Neuschwanstein.jpg (77.03 KiB) Viewed 5619 times
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:19 am

More pictures:
innsbruck.jpg
Innsbruck at night.
innsbruck.jpg (36.6 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

bolzano.jpg
Bolzano with the dolomites in the background.
bolzano.jpg (49.59 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

zell am see.jpg
Zell am see from the top of the hoheschmittenbahn
zell am see.jpg (42.39 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

the hohe tauern range from the panzgauer spaziergang.jpg
The hohe Tauern Range from the Pinzgauer Spanziergang.
the hohe tauern range from the panzgauer spaziergang.jpg (40.36 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

the other side from the pinzgauer spanziergang.jpg
The other direction from the Pinzgauer Spanziergang. Notice the ski resorts in the fore-ground. Those aspects are almost directly south facing!
the other side from the pinzgauer spanziergang.jpg (44.58 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

more hohe tauern.jpg
More of the Hohe Tauern Range. I believe that is the Kitzstein Glacier.
more hohe tauern.jpg (42.66 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

drive to slazburg.jpg
On our way to Salzburg
drive to slazburg.jpg (39.62 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

salzburg.jpg
Salzburg
salzburg.jpg (32.19 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

patron saints day salzburg.jpg
It was their patron saints day in Salzburg. Huge festival!
patron saints day salzburg.jpg (54.35 KiB) Viewed 5617 times

Wein.jpg
Vienna
Wein.jpg (47.69 KiB) Viewed 5617 times
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:21 am

I forgot one picture from the OberAlpen Pass. We went by Andermatt, and it looked like this:
Andermatt.jpg
Andermatt. It doesn't look terribly extensive, but it does go back around both sides of the pass, and probably has at least 3,000 ft of vert. It is, however, very exposed, as shown from the photos.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Staley » Tue Oct 05, 2010 10:28 am

Great pictures, it brings back some memories. I just stopped for a few minutes at the train station in Andermatt. It looked very interesting since it was clearly not as developed as the other locations I visited, but as you said, it's impossible to see the expanse of the area. The one thing that really struck me in Zermatt and the Jungfrau ski areas was how rocky, convoluted and cliffed-out the terrain was. There were gigantic boulders everywhere in Zermatt and tons of uphill sections and huge cliffs around Wengen, Kleine Scheidegg and Mürren. Although I'm sure there's still some off-piste in these areas, the low snowfall and the aforementioned terrain must really limit your options.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Tue Oct 05, 2010 10:52 am

Staley wrote:...The one thing that really struck me in Zermatt and the Jungfrau ski areas was how rocky, convoluted and cliffed-out the terrain was. There were gigantic boulders everywhere in Zermatt and tons of uphill sections and huge cliffs around Wengen, Kleine Scheidegg and Mürren. Although I'm sure there's still some off-piste in these areas, the low snowfall and the aforementioned terrain must really limit your options.


I would imagine that is true, especially when you consider that much of the terrain around First, Wengen, Murren, and Kleine Scheidegg is below 9,000 ft. I suppose the exception to that would be Murren, which has higher terrain when you consider the terrain off the Schilthornbahn. The other thing that doesn't come off in the photos, is that almost all of the terrain was a moderate blue(at most methinks). There just didn't seem to be much steep stuff. Zell am See however, did have some very steep terrain, but their issue apparently has to do with their low elevation and snow sureness.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Tue Oct 05, 2010 11:39 am

BTW, those slopes in the foreground of the picture below is Saalbach. We were on top of a ridge with north facing slopes. around 1900 Meters. The base was about 800M.
the other side from the pinzgauer spanziergang.jpg
the other side from the pinzgauer spanziergang.jpg (44.58 KiB) Viewed 5602 times
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