An Insider's Guide to Skiing Europe: Extras

From renting a car to cheap places to stay and where to go, 15 tips for skiing the Alps

Mar 5, 2013
Outside Magazine

Engelberg-Titlis cableway.    Photo: Natan Flayer/Wikimedia Commons

TIP 11: There are tons of amateur races, competitions, and derbies in Europe. These are a great way to get involved in local ski culture, meet natives, and connect with possible ski partners. One of the most famous is the Inferno race in Mürren, Switzerland. Held each January, it’s the longest, oldest, and biggest amateur downhill race in the world. Registration opens in August and sells out within a week, so sign up early. There’s also the Derby de la Meije in La Grave, France, a Chinese downhill on one of the wildest ski areas in the world held every April, and the Atomic Waymaker, a new ski-touring event in Austria, which also takes place in April.

TIP 12: Hire a guide. European resorts are massive, as in hundreds-of-miles-of-runs massive, often span several mountains and multiple countries, and connect to different villages. Throw in a foreign language and in-bounds terrain that turns into out-of-bounds terrain with little distinction, and navigating them can be overwhelming. Get the most out of your time in Europe by hiring a guide for at least a day. They’ll show you secret powder stashes, how to avoid crowds, and where to find what you’re looking for, whether that’s couloirs, tree skiing, or lift-accessed steeps. If you want to do extensive backcountry exploring, make sure you’re guide is certified for glacier travel.

TIP 13: Bring low-light, yellow-tinted ski goggles. Most of the resorts in the Alps are above tree line, so when it’s overcast or snowing, things get blind quickly.

TIP 14: When traveling by train in Switzerland, it’s possible to check your bags directly through to your final destination without lugging them yourself from train to train. Head to the luggage transport kiosk at the train station from which you’re departing and check the bags through to your endpoint. Your hotel will fetch the luggage from the train station. Your bags will arrive shortly after you do.

TIP 15: Buy locally. Hit farmer’s markets and local shops for affordable, tasty, high-quality local meats, cheeses, produce, sweets, and wine. There’s a farmer’s market on Wednesdays at the gondola station in La Grave, France. In Chamonix, it’s on Saturday mornings in the center of town. Wednesdays in Val d’Isère. There’s nothing better than a high-alpine picnic. Well, maybe fondue.