Europe 23/24

I'm guessing the April trip to a non snow destination is eclipse orientated?
Yes, April 8, 2024. This will be a very big deal, twice as long totality as 2017 and crossing larger population centers in the U.S. However weather is likely a challenge over most of the U.S. path, which is why we are going to Mexico. Exhaustive weather analysis here. While 99% of visitors will view from the beach at Mazatlan, we are renting a car with tentative plans to drive to 8,800 feet altitude near El Salto. The car also gives us the option to drive over those mountains to Durango if there are weather issues.

Fortunately in the current era there are no January/February total solar eclipses. This year and last year are in April and the prior two were in December. 2015 and 2016 were in March but the Iceland trip in 2015 contributed to rather than detracted from ski season. For each Saros series, the eclipse date 18 years later advances by 10/11 days, example our first Aug. 11, 1999 in Hungary/Turkey and the U.S. eclipse Aug. 21, 2017.
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No, one has nothing to do with the other. Wow, having to purchase rental company car cover(age) would seriously increase the cost of a trip.
What does healthcare have to do with auto insurance? Is it packaged together or something in the US?

Healthcare has everything to do with auto insurance. Almost all states require Personal Injury Protection (and usually Personal Damage Liability).

If someone gets hurt in an auto accident, we have no national healthcare, so states require a basic level of insurance to pay healthcare costs no matter who is at fault.

Therefore, almost every US citizen has auto insurance to defray healthcare costs. And we use this required insurance to rent cars in foreign countries.

It's Obamacare at the state level - that people do not seem to rebel against. However, I am sure we can get the American population to be anti-auto insurance -- just like being anti-vaccination.
Snowmass lodging can be reasonable, though the last time I was there was 2014. The places where I have found no reasonably priced lodging within an hour's drive are Big Sky and, ahem, Telluride. For dining, several Aspen restaurants had happy hour bar menus that were very good value. Again, that was from 2014.

Telluide's moderately priced lodging disappeared in the mid-2000s (2008) real estate bubble. Essentially, it converted to inexpensive local housing.

Now a minor war is going on between 'hot beds' and 'local housing'. The town does not want AirBnB because investment properties detract from potential affordable housing. However, investment properties put beds in the rental/lodging pool.

Telski (Telluride ski company) threatened if the Town of Telluride continues to limit 'hot beds' they will not invest in the mountain since skier days will not grow accordingly. And they have a point.

And I am not sure why every hotel needs to be 4-5 star luxury accommodation. They could zone for more reasonable places - at least in the Mountain Village. Do we really need another St. Regis??!! (It's coming)

The issue: Telluride is so topographically land-constricted, even more so than other ski towns. Park City and Steamboat can sprawl on open plains, pop-up Walmarts, and housing. So can Jackson. Aspen and Vail down the valley. .

I remember when ski bums used to clothes dry their underwear/tighty whities in front of mining cabins on the way to the lifts. It's changed.

The only way to make a living in a ski town is real estate, rentals, and booze.
Healthcare has everything to do with auto insurance.
I was replying to his question "Is it packaged together or something in the US?"

almost every US citizen has auto insurance to defray healthcare costs.
Not to be argumentative, but I'd argue that "almost every US citizen has auto insurance" is far from accurate. We'll never know the truth but it would be fascinating to learn the percentage of people without car insurance.

We were recently in an accident with a teen driving his mother's uninsured car. It's shocking that he wasn't immediately thrown in jail on the spot. Our insurance company had to cover my car's damages AND we learned that every state has a different deductible for uninsured motorist claims. NYS's is $500! Purely out of principle, we're going after them to reimburse us for that money.
Not to be argumentative, but I'd argue that "almost every US citizen has auto insurance" is far from accurate. We'll never know the truth but it would be fascinating to learn the percentage of people without car insurance.

Agree. Do people just get some form of insurance to register their car once and then drop it? Be interesting to know actual numbers.

Read that VA and NH do not require any form of auto insurance?!

I keep uninsured motorist insurance coverage due to lots of immigration in CA and FL. Had some minor body work done (<$1k) do a driver changing lanes into me - going maybe 25 mph.
I keep uninsured motorist insurance coverage due to lots of immigration in CA and FL.
Not sure how it is in CA but I've always been under the impression that we have no choice about uninsured motorist coverage -- it has to be included in any car insurance policy.
I'm not sure how it is in CA, but I've always thought that we have no choice about uninsured motorist coverage -- it has to be included in any car insurance policy.

Yes, it is required. However, I learned it was not on my vehicle - just ‘the person’. Found this out in FL on a used car I keep there.
And Europe continues to impress pre-December:

Most of the major resorts of Central and Eastern Switzerland received over 100+ cm (almost 4 ft) this week - with more in the forecast.



Glacier 3000 near Gstaad is approaching an 80" base with 70" new in the last week.


Jungfrau/Murren looks great with a 50" base and 40" new.


Davos with a 50" base and 3 ft new.


Engelberg is solid:
Love it when the map has a ton of red on it!

Looks like models are converging on the idea of 60-75" of snow for the NW Alps - France & W Switzerland.


A lot of Switzerland (West and East, not South) is nearly 150-200%+ above normal. Snow depths are approaching 125-200+ cm in the major mountain resorts.


I received my new Off-piste Ski Guidebooks for Val d’Isere and Tignes.

Great! Semi-sarcastically. Now, I have nearly 700-800 pages of maps, diagrams, and descriptions to review. I am somewhat of a ski guide's nightmare (or privilege) because I have an entire day's worth of suggestions.

I have steadily accumulated off-piste guidebooks for the Alps:
  • St. Anton - All Around the Arlberg. Guide office.
  • Freeride Verbier. Guide office.
  • Freeriding the Dolomites (need to use this book). Ordered Backcountry Books.
  • Mont Blanc Freeride
  • Vamos book - La Grave, Alpe d'Huez, Les 2 Alpes. Ebay.
Books I would like to have
  • Jungfrau Freeride Guide
  • Monterosa guidebook - forget the name. I should have bought it at the guide's office.

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Then there is the south side of the Alps - Monterosa: fantastic terrain, but no snow.

I assume the Dolomites and Monterosa/Alagna regions will be promising together, so I must choose one. Rather do Cortina and Arabba.

Monterosa is not doing well despite all the Alps storms:

It's still early to be getting info. The Alps areas do not have a big November holiday like we do to prod them to early openings. Italy has a surprising number of areas open with 50+% trail counts despite meager base depths. We have all learned that Italian skiing is primarily weekenders, so maybe it's easier for them to lure customers in November.

Rather than get too far into the weeds, I've browsed SnoCountry reports by country, which can be filtered to only open areas. Of course there's the caveat on accuracy of third party reporting. I'm suspicious that the other alpine countries aren't showing much larger base depths than Italy on SnoCountry.
I'll continue to stand by for the forthcoming winter award sale
I knew I wasn't imagining things -- United did run a winter award sale in late-November 2019 (see first sentence). Since it appears that their 30% markup on overseas awards is sticking, I'll have to adjust to this brave new world.

American Airlines seems to still have decent rewards.
Still the only U.S. carrier offering good-value nonstops to skiing gateways (Zurich and Milan).

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As I mentioned in my Bonneval sur Arc report last March, these peaks:

... appear to be the section circled below. I'd be interested to know the route to get there from Val d'Isere's in-bounds. Only a couple miles as the crow flies, it's a 3+ hour drive in the winter.
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I'd be interested to know the route to get there from Val d'Isere's in-bounds.
This exploits a loophole in the French ban on heliskiing. You ride lifts from Fornet up to the Pisaillas Glacier, ski off the back to Bonneval Sur Arc. Then the heli takes you back to Solaise as opposed to dropping you at the top of a ski run.
Could this be a year where the Xmas holidays may actually provide good conditions?

Today in the Alps...

Updated: 2pm Wednesday 29 November 2023 - Complex new storm approaching the Alps!

The weather in the Alps is about to get very interesting, with a complex new storm set to reach the western Alps tonight which will affect all areas to a greater or lesser extent over the next two or three days.

Bergfex chart showing accumulated snowfall forecast between Wednesday 29 November and Saturday 2 December, with the brighter yellows and reds showing where the greatest accumulations are likely – Weather to ski – Today in the Alps, 29 November 2023

This new storm is extremely complicated to forecast because the rain/snow line will be all over the place. It will generally start very low on Wednesday night (at which point the heaviest precipitation will fall in the western Alps) and will stay low for a while in the more enclosed valleys, including areas around Bourg Saint Maurice and Chamonix. However, on mountains more exposed to the west (e.g. Avoriaz) it will quickly rise, with rain falling to 2000m or higher later on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, the rain and snow will move steadily further east reaching most parts of the Alps over the course of the day. The rain/snow limit will again start low in the more enclosed valleys of the central and eastern Alps, but will soon rise to 2200-2400m across the western Alps (e.g. France). It will also rise further east, albeit more slowly.

All in all, a significant loss of snow can be expected at lower altitudes over the next couple of days, especially in the western Alps, though it will probably not be as acute as during the last ‘rainy thaw’ the other week. This milder interlude won’t last too long either, with rain tending to turn back to snow on Friday, at first in the north, then later further south.

Between now and Sunday morning we can expect a lot of new snow at altitude across the Alps, perhaps 60-90cm (or even more) above 2200m in parts of the western Alps, but more generally 30-50cm. The risk of avalanche will become very high and flooding could again be an issue lower down.
I backed up our departure date to Geneva from Jan. 17 to Jan. 11. It's highly likely there will plenty of attractive options for 3+ weeks of skiing in the Alps, still returning home Feb. 4.