Some value-packed reasons to carve up the Alps

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
News for Adventurous Travelers, December 1996

Smart Traveler: A Europhile's Ski Guide

Some value-packed reasons to carve up the Alps
By Lito Tejada-Flores

It can become an addiction--all those long runs above timberline, the 6,000 feet of vertical, the sci-fi ski lifts, and the interconnected villages and valleys that merge into one immense ski area draped across an entire mountain range. There's just one catch: the U.S. dollar, which doesn't buy as much of the good life in Europe as it used to. Solution: the ski package, the only sane way to ski the Alps these days. Here are four that stand out.

St. Moritz and the Engadin
True, St. Moritz is synonymous with luxury, but unlike certain ski areas whose snob appeal makes up for weak skiing, it's blessed with three remarkable ski mountains: sunny Corviglia above town, steeper Piz Corvatsch directly across the Engadin Valley, and glacier-hung Diavolezza only a few kilometers away. Plan a whole morning for the long, low-intermediate, but spectacular run from the summit of Diavolezza down the Morteratsch glacier. For a day off from alpine skiing, skate-ski from village to village up the broad Engadin valley.

The Package: Adventure Quest Travel (800-455-8785) offers a week at the four-star Schweitzerhof Hotel (and several other four-star hotels) for $1,100 to $1,300 per person. The package includes breakfast and dinner at the hotel (dinner is elegant enough to warrant putting on a tie), round-trip airfare between New York and Zurich, and transportation to St. Moritz.

Skiing beneath the Matterhorn on the wide slopes of the Testa Rosa or the Trockener Steg is one of the most holy moments you can have on skis. Fortunately for beginners and intermediates, these slopes are benign enough that you actually can concentrate on the view. On a sunny day, ski over the Theudulpass all the way into Cervinia, on the Italian side of the Matterhorn, for lunch. Advanced skiers can try the steep slopes below the Stockhorn and the Rote Nase ("Red Nose"). Back in the pedestrian-only village of Zermatt, be sure to sample the local white wine, Fendant, from nearby Sion, with a cheese raclette.

The Package: Lindenmeyr Travel (800-248-2807) offers a seven-day stay at the newly restored Romantik Hotel Julen. The balconied rooms, sauna, indoor pool, and solarium will keep you plenty pampered for a week. January packages start at $1,804 per person and include breakfast and dinner, one night in Geneva, a six-day ski pass, and round-trip airfare from New York on Swissair.

St. Anton and the Arlberg
The Arlberg is divided into two groups of neighboring resorts that aren't quite linked together. St. Anton, St. Christoph, and Stuben are one; a few miles west lies the second, consisting of ZÆrs, Lech, and Oberlech. The beauty of this is that in a week you can ski all of the resorts. The terrain opened up by the Arlberg ski pass is vast and beautifully balanced among easy, moderate, and challenging slopes, though St. Anton itself is known for difficult skiing. Highly recommended is the round-trip ski day from ZÆrs to Lech and back, followed by a steamy glass of glÆhwein at the Hotel Alpenrose in ZÆrs.

The Package: Lynx Ski Travel (800-422-5969; in Colorado, 970-453-4131) offers a seven-day budget trip with accommodations at the Schwarzer Adler B&B in St. Anton, round-trip airfare from the United States, airport connections, and breakfast for $999 per person.

Ski Safari
The French Alps are so big, so chock-full of ranges and resorts, that a whole new style of ski vacation has developed there: the ski safari. It's much like a trekking vacation, skiing from village to village, resort to resort, spending as much time as possible off the beaten slope. A word of advice: Bring fat skis! Off-piste skiing in the Alps is not always a matter of perfect powder. You can also encounter wicked sun crust and wind slab, but extra-wide powder boards can make everything ski like powder.

The Package: Wife-and-husband mountain guides Ilse Prevot and Bernard Miloz run an outfit called 9 Vallëes (phone 011-33-4-79-06-51-77; fax 011-33-4-79-06-44-89). Their ski safari lasts one week and winds across the heart of the French Savoy. Your luggage is brought around by shuttle each night, but all the travel is done on skis. A typical itinerary takes you from Valmorel to Val d'Isêre and all the resorts between, with accommodations varying from family-run lodges to mountain huts. Safaris are scheduled from January to March, cost $1,338 per person, and include guide service, room and board for seven nights, and six days of skiing.

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