Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Oct 05, 2010 3:17 pm

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.

Zermatt has the virtue of optimal altitude/exposure to make up for its reputedly modest snowfall. Some of their own marketing material says key expert sectors are often not skiable until sometime in February. March/April are best, probably somewhat like Taos/Crested Butte here, though Zermatt at least is open throughout April.

Andermatt is one of the places with a good snow reputation, probably well over 300 inches at higher elevation.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Staley » Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:57 pm

Zermatt had the most snow guns I've ever seen. I'd definitely love to go ski there for the unbelievably beautiful scenery and expanse of the trail network, but if I was looking for off-piste skiing, I'd surely go somewhere else. Even if the snow was good, the expert areas didn't look like they would compare to Chamonix, Val d'Isere, St. Anton, etc.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby jasoncapecod » Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:23 am

Rob, great pics , what a great trip..

When I was in Zermatt this summer, I was surprised to see hundreds of fixed snowmaking guns. My guess is that they have at least 50% of the mountain covered.

Crap, I should have read Stan's post first..
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Oct 09, 2010 3:20 am

jasoncapecod wrote:My guess is that they have at least 50% of the mountain covered.

That would be 50% of the pistes. Probably 5% or less of the mountain. Since the latter is what's important to most FTO skiers, they should heed the March/April recommendation.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:08 am

Tony Crocker wrote:
jasoncapecod wrote:My guess is that they have at least 50% of the mountain covered.

That would be 50% of the pistes. Probably 5% or less of the mountain. Since the latter is what's important to most FTO skiers, they should heed the March/April recommendation.


How good is the avy control off-piste in Europe? Places like the Alberg,Tirol and the French Alps, where there is more snow and lots of off-piste, would be great as long as avy control opens up that terrain safely. I would imagine if Zermat doesn't get too much snow, the off-piste doesn't play a factor anyhow.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Admin » Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:17 am

rfarren wrote:I would imagine if Zermat doesn't get too much snow, the off-piste doesn't play a factor anyhow.


a) You're underselling Zermatt's snowfall by a ridiculous order of magnitude; and
b) You're forgetting one word: glaciers.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:29 am

Admin wrote:
rfarren wrote:I would imagine if Zermat doesn't get too much snow, the off-piste doesn't play a factor anyhow.


a) You're underselling Zermatt's snowfall by a ridiculous order of magnitude; and
b) You're forgetting one word: glaciers.


Ahhh, glacier skiing. I've seen that in a bunch of places in Europe, but those glaciers (that I've seen: Diavolezza, Stubai, Kitzestein, Jungfrau) aren't tremendously large in terms of terrain. The glaciers were more like snow sure additions to the lower terrain, where the vast majority of the skiable area is.

What is Zermatt's snowfall? and again the question remains, how is the avy control in europe?
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:36 am

rfarren wrote:
What is Zermatt's snowfall? ?


This is Ski Club of GB's stats: http://www.igluski.com/switzerland/zermatt-snow-history_1747

Notice the huge difference between snow levels up high and below.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Admin » Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:44 am

rfarren wrote:This is Ski Club of GB's stats: http://www.igluski.com/switzerland/zermatt-snow-history_1747

Notice the huge difference between snow levels up high and below.


That's base depth, not snowfall. And Zermatt's lower slopes are inconsequential.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:27 pm

rfarren wrote:Ahhh, glacier skiing. I've seen that in a bunch of places in Europe, but those glaciers (that I've seen: Diavolezza, Stubai, Kitzestein, Jungfrau) aren't tremendously large in terms of terrain. The glaciers were more like snow sure additions to the lower terrain, where the vast majority of the skiable area is. What is Zermatt's snowfall?

rfarren has seen the summer glaciers, which do tend to be limited in scale and intermediate in pitch. I don't have stats for Zermatt's snowfall, but I've heard in the 150-200 inch range. Like most Euro areas, official measurements are unlikely to be at highest elevations. From the Ski Club Great Britain data you can see that the high elevation snowpack is adequate most of the time.

rfarren wrote:again the question remains, how is the avy control in europe?

That's the other key point about skiing in Europe. If you're an advanced skier and want to get the most of your experience you need to hire a guide.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Admin » Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:31 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:rfarren has seen the summer glaciers, which do tend to be limited in scale and intermediate in pitch.


In Zermatt's case intermediate yes, limited in scale no. I've skied the upper 2/3 of the mountain in May.

Tony Crocker wrote:If you're an advanced skier and want to get the most of your experience you need to hire a guide.


In most cases (places like La Grave notwithstanding), no way. All you need is snow sense and common sense.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby rfarren » Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:36 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:
rfarren wrote:again the question remains, how is the avy control in europe?

That's the other key point about skiing in Europe. If you're an advanced skier and want to get the most of you experience you need to hire a guide.

I suppose that takes the cheap cost of lift tix and raises it a few hondos.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Patrick » Sat Oct 09, 2010 4:00 pm

rfarren wrote:I suppose that takes the cheap cost of lift tix and raises it a few hondos.

Like Admin said above, guides are a good idea, but for not mandatory if you have good knowledge in moving around in the backcountry. I have a few friends (not at the same year or on the same trips) that have been to La Grave without a guide. True, to get the full experience, a guide is better unless you study a lot.

As for skiing in the Jungfrau ski areas, I really enjoyed it. Definitely among the World Classic ski areas.
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:30 pm

As most of you know my Euro experience is limited and much of it has been at areas that reinforce the conventional wisdom about guides.
La Grave is the obvious case. If not a guide, a very trustworthy local and full rescue gear seem appropriate all the time unless you're just staying near the lifts.
On Vallee Blanche guides are required.
Grands-Montets most of what's skiable off the upper tram has glaciers and crevasses. I took my chances with Combe de la Pendant off the gondola on my own.
Le Tour and Brevant-Flegere guides are not necessary but these are more intermediate areas.
Courmayeur we went WAY off-piste so needed the guide.
Verbier is a good example of a massive complex where guiding would greatly speed up the learning curve, so probably worth it your first day or two, then do what you want after that. That's also how I feel about Las Lenas the first time you get a decent day with Marte open.
Serre-Chevalier is a large complex but appeared mostly intermediate.

So yes it depends upon the area, but the areas with most extreme terrain that might attract FTO skiers are those where guides are more likely to be worthwhile, at least some of the time.

rfarren wrote:I suppose that takes the cheap cost of lift tix and raises it a few hondos.

I think there are programs where you can include guiding in lift and lodging packages for far below Extremely Canadian prices. And for situations like Staley's where you are going to live over there for awhile, you can make local contacts and ski with friends who are in some respects the equivalent of guides. Like some of us do on Utah trips. :lol:
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Re: Impressions of Switzerland and Austria

Postby Patrick » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:44 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:
rfarren wrote:I suppose that takes the cheap cost of lift tix and raises it a few hondos.

I think there are programs where you can include guiding in lift and lodging packages for far below Extremely Canadian prices.

When I stayed in France for March 2003, I tried to get a guide at La Grave through ski legends (not sure of the name), unfortunately at the end of the month they were all getting ready for the La Grave Derby and not available so I headed for 3 days in Chamonix instead.

I'm planning to write a really late TR on this Month one day and post it on the Ski Mad World blog, should I post it here also? I think so, Marc or Tony? Don't worry, I still catching up and putting my old TRs online first and trying to figure a few things out first like pics.
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