Advice needed Proposed Euro Alps 2016 intinerary

Chester

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Europe can be done on the cheap, but it can also be expensive if you ski big-name resorts during peak season.
 

Kletterer

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Sounds like you should be ok without a guide in some of the popular spots. Dropping into an area first is always a big risk. Wait till a few others have descended and have a chat with them at the bottom if possible. With luck you will meet a local or regular who knows the terrain and how it behaves. This is 1 good reason to stay in 1 area when travelling. Familiarity...= Safety
 
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Centago

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- If you are skiing without a guide and sticking to lift visible off-piste, then St. A will be tracked out within 30sec of lifts opening. Lech less so. If you are thinking skiing o/p without a guide or hiking to side country alone, then don't. People regularly die doing this even inbounds (Aussie couple last season on Rendl) and avies often close pistes. In my last season, even 2 guides died in avies.
Having read this again, and Kletterer's prior post, am I right to interpret this as: off-piste in Europe is a different story to NZ. In NZ, you can ski off-piste that is within the ski area boundary without a partner and avalanche gear because it is controlled. Whereas the impression I'm getting for Europe is that to ski off-piste, even within ski area boundaries, I'm going to need/want a partner and my avvy gear?
 
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Snorkler

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Having read this again, and Kletterer's prior post, am I right to interpret this as: off-piste in Europe is a different story to NZ. In NZ, you can ski off-piste that is within the ski area boundary without a partner and avalanche gear because it is controlled. Whereas the impression I'm getting for Europe is that to ski off-piste, even within ski area boundaries, I'm going to need/want a partner and my avvy gear?

France maintain and control slopes where it is likely to impact Piste, if it won't, then it won't be managed.
 

Kletterer

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Having read this again, and Kletterer's prior post, am I right to interpret this as: off-piste in Europe is a different story to NZ. In NZ, you can ski off-piste that is within the ski area boundary without a partner and avalanche gear because it is controlled. Whereas the impression I'm getting for Europe is that to ski off-piste, even within ski area boundaries, I'm going to need/want a partner and my avvy gear?
Certainly for anywhere out of sight from resort. You are obviously a believer in the realms of carefull assessment . That's a lot more than some of the punters out there.
 

Kletterer

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A lot of so called ski Routes are actually a narrow groomed trail with offpiste terrain opportunities that lead down to the common exit trail. These are located with offpiste riders in mind. Good examples at Zurs among others
 

Pat42

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Having read this again, and Kletterer's prior post, am I right to interpret this as: off-piste in Europe is a different story to NZ. In NZ, you can ski off-piste that is within the ski area boundary without a partner and avalanche gear because it is controlled. Whereas the impression I'm getting for Europe is that to ski off-piste, even within ski area boundaries, I'm going to need/want a partner and my avvy gear?

yep

unless its on a slope below 30 degrees
 

Untele-whippet

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Make sure your travel insurance covers off piste --- does NZAC have reciprocal insurance in EU.
Where we were skiing in Switzerland, ski patrol only used helicopter evacuation for injured skiers or boarders --- no blood buckets ---- v v v exy without approriate insurance.
 
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Budgiesmuggler

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Yeah Davos has been on my shortlist for a few years now.

When I worked in London they held an industry conference there every year. I got the short straw and had to go to the cold conferences - the summer one was BCN.
 

Budgiesmuggler

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Plenty more food for thought, thanks everyone for your contributions.

In terms of my off-piste training, I have my avalanche safety stage one, and I spent 6 weeks up Craigieburn Valley in NZ in 2012 doing fieldwork looking at snowpack stability which contributed to my post-grad qualification. So I have a solid theoretical knowledge regarding snowpack stability, and in 2012 my practical application of that knowledge was developing nicely as I was also getting into some backcountry touring. However I've been stuck in an office job in the North Island since 2013 and for various reasons haven't had the opportunity to apply those skills, so I'm feeling a little undercooked as it stands. I've had minimal experience with glacier travel in 2011/2012 (a couple fieldtrips moping about on Brewster Glacier in NZ) where I learnt a little about ropework etc, but I'd say those skills are back to square 1 for me now.

So we're now addressing the crux of why I originally alluded to not being too phased on the off-piste stuff on this trip: 1. I'm not going to be able to afford to utilise guides the whole time, 2. I'm aware my skills/lack thereof may constrain my ability to access the 'hard-core' off-piste terrain. Nevertheless, I had hoped I would still be able to ski something like Valle Blanche (with a guide of course), and I assumed I would still be able to ski some off-piste at most ski areas without needing a guide (or is that assumption misguided)?

I must say I haven't yet addressed the idea of how much a trip like this is going to cost me all up. And it doesn't help that I have zero previous trips under my belt so I have no yardstick. My plan was to make a plan, figure out roughly how much it would cost, then make adjustments to that plan accordingly. I'm determined to make it work but at the end of the day if I don't have enough money to do all I want then I'll have to compromise.

Valley Blanche is beautiful but it's not particularly challenging unless you have a decent group or guide. It's also full of people.

You may want to spend your money going somewhere more challenging (if that's what you want)
 

piolet

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Make sure your travel insurance covers off piste --- does NZAC have reciprocal insurance in EU.
Where we were skiing in Switzerland, ski patrol only used helicopter evacuation for injured skiers or boarders --- no blood buckets ---- v v v exy without approriate insurance.
Yes triple check this
AAMI was ok for me in lieu of my deficient annual policy. Be very specific when discussing and get it in writing; off piste, guided/unguided, elevation, touring or whatever
Edit: and differentiate between rescue and medical cover
 

Heinz

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Valley Blanche is beautiful but it's not particularly challenging unless you have a decent group or guide. It's also full of people.

You may want to spend your money going somewhere more challenging (if that's what you want)

It is true that the standard tourist route isn't that challenging, but there are a number of other more challenging variations. Discuss with guide beforehand. It is definitely a trip worth doing for the total experience - the walk down the arete from the Midi and the amazing scenery. It is a supersized Tasman glacier.

If you are doing just one guided skiing day I think you are right to choose this one.
 

piolet

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Re: heinzs post above on the VB
Plus its 85e, not full guide fees. With compagnie des guides they sort the riders into supposed skill. Worked for me, had a great group and did a nice variation.
 

Centago

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To get a bit of an idea on accommodation options and prices and much, much more I'll do my usual thing and post this site
http://www.bergfex.com/
Thanks Heinz, truth be told I came across you recommending this site a couple years ago so I 'favourited' it then and have visited it frequently since! Any tips on what kind of accommodation I should look for? I won't be wanting to stay anywhere fancy but at the same time hope to avoid roughing it if I can afford to (I'd like it to be a comfortable holiday!) Also is having meals included with accom useful, or are diy options cheaper and readily accessible?
 

Heinz

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LOL Yes, I've posted that link a few times. It is always my starting point for Euro skiing. I've booked several places using bergfex as the starting point and confirmed via email.

I normally go for pensions especially in Austria. Find them pretty good value. This year I was staying at comfortable pensions for around €40 a night with breakfast and free Wifi. Or you can get them with half-board (breakfast & dinners) for maybe €60. Depends on whether you want to eat out. The places near the lifts or direct in town centres can be a bit more expensive. Look for places that are close to one of the free ski bus stops.
 
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Kletterer

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www.ultimate-ski.com/ski-resorts/austria/tirol/st-anton/advanced.aspx After 13 Eurotrips and many resorts I still rate this place in photo( Shindler West flank) as the best offpiste terrain hands down. Just right of Top station is Chute #2 ( mostly in shade). This is the Holy Grail of the Arlberg and sees a few Hail Marys at the top. Steeper than it looks and quite a step up from Valluga North.
 
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CarveMan

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Valley Blanche is beautiful but it's not particularly challenging unless you have a decent group or guide. It's also full of people.

You may want to spend your money going somewhere more challenging (if that's what you want)

Depends on what variation of the Vallee Blanche. Go do the Grand Envers du Plan......
 

Budgiesmuggler

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Depends on what variation of the Vallee Blanche. Go do the Grand Envers du Plan......


Yep I agree, that's why I said get a decent group/guide. If you end up with an intermediate group then it will be one long cruise.
 

Red_switch

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Geeze, I am surprisingly pretty well placed to answer these questions. Visited all them bar Davos, in February, in the last 3 years.

For the casual 27 year old I would pretty much agree with everything already discussed. Few other points to note:
- Chamonix and Verbier, popular because of the off piste terrain. Only go if you are at least willing to join a guided off piste group for roughly 100 euro a day, pretty much every day. Not the sorts of places where you rock up and ask the guy on the lift what is good that day. Stretch to some proper guiding of the Aguile Du Midi toward the end. Sobering.
- If you fly economy, don't stay in Lech. Cool for a day trip from St Anton. Eat at the upmarket restaurant with DJs on mountain, forget the name, everyone knows it.
- At the current exchange rate, pass on Switzerland. Visit Matterhorn from Cervina if you want to see it.
- Note all the places you are going are popular because of the aggressive terrain they offer. You'd want to be ripping up the Otago resorts if you are to get the most out of these places as ski destinations.
- However travelling alone, they also happen to be the type of places international and european skiers visit solo with good villages/vibe so best social opportunities. So I couldn't suggest many better alternatives.

Skiing ability/terrain won't be an issue for @Centago (he's more modest than he should be!).

Envious mate, I always seem to end up in these places at the wrong time of year, guinea pig the shit out of it!
 

Chester

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Problem is half the people in the marshaling area oversell themselves and the guides use only a short section of skiing to decide which route to take. Can be a real crap shoot, not just a matter of 'getting a good group'. Unless u go private
Unfortunately that's the nature of skiers/snowboarders, they 'generally' over-rate their own ability.
 
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davekinkead

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Having read this again, and Kletterer's prior post, am I right to interpret this as: off-piste in Europe is a different story to NZ. In NZ, you can ski off-piste that is within the ski area boundary without a partner and avalanche gear because it is controlled. Whereas the impression I'm getting for Europe is that to ski off-piste, even within ski area boundaries, I'm going to need/want a partner and my avvy gear?

Not a good idea without avvy gear and a partner who can use it (and remember that your gear is to save them). Even though most lift accessible terrain is controlled, avvies still close pistes and kill in controlled areas.

If someone can see you from a lift, then ignoring the 30% who are killed by impact with something solid, you've got a good chance of being rescued and a EUR5000 scenic helivac. There is awesome stuff like this in full view of lifts all over Austria (Ostwang, Hochfugen)
BM_Hochfuegen_Venue.jpg


Out of line of sight however, then it's all up to your partner - if they aren't under the snow as well.

There will be lots of people venturing off piste in places they shouldn't. It can be especially hard not to follow on that first sunny day after a dump but that is when the pack is weakest :( Check this daily http://www.lawine.at/ level 3 can be sketchy, 4+ means don't venture off-piste.

And have fun!
 

Pat42

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I was lucky enough to ride this mountain on a quiet pow filled mid week in lenzerheide, the big valley in the middle is a 1400 vert backcountry run accessed directly of a back of a lift that runs to the top of the mountain on the left hand side

was riding the valley for an entire week and it never got tracked, got really lucky with the snow though


 

Centago

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I'm getting the distinct impression that given I'm travelling alone, I'm not planning to stay in one place more than 1 week, and an inability to afford guides all the time, I will have to resign myself to minimal off-piste skiing on this trip. I assume the big name resorts do groomers well, and if so, it now seems an even better idea to be headed there. But as a result to being largely constrained to groomers, I'm seriously re-considering avoiding peak time (February).
 

Heinz

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Look at March then. Generally better weather, less crowds, so gives you more flexibility ie. don't need to book much in advance. Still a good chance of powder. But it still doesn't limit you to groomers. There are places with plenty of fun inbounds ungroomed. eg. Hochfügen shown above I likened much to an up scaled Treble Cone. Only time to avoid is Easter which next year is at the end of March.
 

piolet

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Or stay where you can easily meet like minded riders, UCPA or a hostel for example.... or spring for a guided group on arrival at a new resort and hope to meet a partner - the guide may be able to point you in the right direction too.
 

Chester

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There is a lot of inbounds off-piste in Europe that is relatively safe. The only drawback is that the obvious stuff usually gets tracked pretty quickly, especially at the bigger resorts.
 
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Kletterer

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I was lucky enough to ride this mountain on a quiet pow filled mid week in lenzerheide, the big valley in the middle is a 1400 vert backcountry run accessed directly of a back of a lift that runs to the top of the mountain on the left hand side

was riding the valley for an entire week and it never got tracked, got really lucky with the snow though


Did you happen to run into Jimmy Pedderson ?
 

Kletterer

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I'm getting the distinct impression that given I'm travelling alone, I'm not planning to stay in one place more than 1 week, and an inability to afford guides all the time, I will have to resign myself to minimal off-piste skiing on this trip. I assume the big name resorts do groomers well, and if so, it now seems an even better idea to be headed there. But as a result to being largely constrained to groomers, I'm seriously re-considering avoiding peak time (February).
Don't worry. There is plenty of pow between the pistes as well.
 

Pat42

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Did you happen to run into Jimmy Pedderson ?

was in 2008 kletterer, we did it with a guide the first day then rode it ourselves for the rest of the week, didnt really meet anyone but the guide, english was not really spoken at all

awesome spot lenzerheide
 
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Kletterer

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was in 2008 kletterer, we did it with a guide the first day then rode it ourselves for the rest of the week, didnt really meet anyone but the guide, english was not really spoken at all

awesome spot lenzerheide
And no Rowdy Brits.
 

Pat42

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And no Rowdy Brits.

Yep was pretty much a locals resort, the ticket sellers didnt speak a word of english

We also rented our gear and as snowboarders had to rent the most ancient and dodgy boards and boots i have ever seen, didnt really cater to boarders at all haha
 

Kletterer

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I'm getting the distinct impression that given I'm travelling alone, I'm not planning to stay in one place more than 1 week, and an inability to afford guides all the time, I will have to resign myself to minimal off-piste skiing on this trip. I assume the big name resorts do groomers well, and if so, it now seems an even better idea to be headed there. But as a result to being largely constrained to groomers, I'm seriously re-considering avoiding peak time (February).
SKICIRCUS--- Leogang Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Fieberbrunn 2nd + 3rd week Jan.
 
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Heinz

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Plenty of pistes there and lots of freeride terrain at Fieberbrunn.
 

Kletterer

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Plenty of pistes there and lots of freeride terrain at Fieberbrunn.
Its amazing how much off piste there is in Skicircus. So much of it is out of sight. And when its on man its on. Fresh pow in Saalbach gets me more exited than Arlberg, Fiss, Solden etc . So varied and the secret spots have stayed that way .
 

Centago

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I didn't state in my OP that an additional ~2 weeks of my trip will be spent visiting friends in the UK. Originally I had thought to tack that on to the end of my time in the Euro Alps (i.e. March). With a recent shift in mind-set I'm now thinking to arrive in the UK between Xmas/New years and stay there until ~10 Jan, then head to the Alps and have my 4 weeks starting in Austria and ending Chamonix in early Feb. This seems to make a little more sense than my original plan as I see it: 1. I won't need to use annual leave for the Xmas/NY period, which gives me an extra week of leave to play with, 2. I'll largely avoid the busiest and most expensive time to be in the Alps (February).

Skicircus looks a great area and I did have it recommended to me a few months back. For some reason I'm drawn to resorts that have really high elevation lift access and/or surrounding mountains, and I think that's partly why I am drawn to St Anton/Zermatt/Chamonix, and partly why I eventually culled the Skicircus area from my list. Is the Skicircus area a little more 'relaxed' (for lack of a better term) than St Anton? I'm thinking it could be a good idea to start off my ski trip somewhere relatively chilled out in Austria before I join the rat-race in Zermatt and Chamonix.
 

davekinkead

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I'll be in the Zillertal (Mayrhofen-Zell-Hochfugen areas) 2 Jan - 22 March. Ping me if you are out that way. I don't do apres after dark any more but am happy to show you some easy backcountry for a few days.

Also, this will be no good if you want to see CH & FR as well but an area season pass can save you big $$$ if you are skiing more than a few weeks. http://www.snowcard.tirol.at/ EUR737 for 87 resorts October - May.
 

Kletterer

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Saalbach can be as relaxing or lively as you want it to be. Area between the 2 towns and Viehofen or Leogang is quiet. Off piste at Skicircus is on grassy slopes so is in condition before Arlberg will be.
 

gordonsson

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Centago,

Waiting til xmas/ new year is over is a good idea. French Hols don't start til mid Feb.
If you want lots of untracked without having to compete with Kiwi/Aussie/Scando/NorthAm rat-packs, go to a "no name" station with no "hardcore" reputation.
There are a lot of big areas where nearly everyone stays on piste, that have zero reputation amongst the 'hardcore' fraternity.
Google Earth is your friend in terms of checking out whether the terrain would be worthwhile.

Did 6 weeks in Valloire / Valmeinier in France a couple of years ago (mid-sized station by French standards i.e. considerably bigger than anything in North America), pretty much on the strength of a google-earth search and a promising early season base.
With a third of the snowfall you'd see at some North American "Powder Heaven" I got 3-4 times the untracked. Much of the time I WAS the off-piste crew. The biggest walks I had to do were all of a couple of minutes.
Pistes were scary (a lot of people at speed with marginal control) but useful for getting to and getting back from
one's line of choice.
Plenty of touring opps if one was keen for that.
Not as hairball as Cham/La Grave, but plenty of reasonably pitchy stuff if you looked for it.
Accoms outside of school holidays was pretty straight-forward. Went to the Tourist office (every resort has one) and 3 days later they came up with a studio (easily big enough for 2-3 people) for NZ 400/wk.
Season Pass was a bit over NZ1000.
Food and booze were pretty reasonable in price. Not a jumping joint socially.

There are plenty of other good places in the Euro Alps where you'd be able get a similar combo of good terrain without competition from the rat-packs.
If an area gets a lot of positive mentions on forums in Teton Gravity or epic ski, it is likely that there will be a sizable off-piste crew with the resulting competition for untracked.

Thinking about doing another session myself early 2016. Front-runners in my mind at present are Serre-Chevalier (main town Briancon is also very close to the Italian Via Lattea complex) and Val d'Annivers (incl Zinal /Grimentz) in Switzerland.

France (and no doubt Italy and Austria) definitely cheaper than CH.

Make sure you get off-piste rescue insurance. In France, you can buy a Carte Neige at the ski ticket offices.
 

Chester

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I agree wholeheartedly. The benefits are many, but the major sacrifice will be big name resort bragging rights.
 

Centago

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Centago,

Waiting til xmas/ new year is over is a good idea. French Hols don't start til mid Feb.
If you want lots of untracked without having to compete with Kiwi/Aussie/Scando/NorthAm rat-packs, go to a "no name" station with no "hardcore" reputation.
There are a lot of big areas where nearly everyone stays on piste, that have zero reputation amongst the 'hardcore' fraternity.
Google Earth is your friend in terms of checking out whether the terrain would be worthwhile.

Did 6 weeks in Valloire / Valmeinier in France a couple of years ago (mid-sized station by French standards i.e. considerably bigger than anything in North America), pretty much on the strength of a google-earth search and a promising early season base.
With a third of the snowfall you'd see at some North American "Powder Heaven" I got 3-4 times the untracked. Much of the time I WAS the off-piste crew. The biggest walks I had to do were all of a couple of minutes.
Pistes were scary (a lot of people at speed with marginal control) but useful for getting to and getting back from
one's line of choice.
Plenty of touring opps if one was keen for that.
Not as hairball as Cham/La Grave, but plenty of reasonably pitchy stuff if you looked for it.
Accoms outside of school holidays was pretty straight-forward. Went to the Tourist office (every resort has one) and 3 days later they came up with a studio (easily big enough for 2-3 people) for NZ 400/wk.
Season Pass was a bit over NZ1000.
Food and booze were pretty reasonable in price. Not a jumping joint socially.

There are plenty of other good places in the Euro Alps where you'd be able get a similar combo of good terrain without competition from the rat-packs.
If an area gets a lot of positive mentions on forums in Teton Gravity or epic ski, it is likely that there will be a sizable off-piste crew with the resulting competition for untracked.

Thinking about doing another session myself early 2016. Front-runners in my mind at present are Serre-Chevalier (main town Briancon is also very close to the Italian Via Lattea complex) and Val d'Annivers (incl Zinal /Grimentz) in Switzerland.

France (and no doubt Italy and Austria) definitely cheaper than CH.

Make sure you get off-piste rescue insurance. In France, you can buy a Carte Neige at the ski ticket offices.
Thanks for your post gordonsson. I understand your perspective and totally agree with the sentiment. When push comes to shove I would say I've gotten most skiing enjoyment at NZ's clubbies (Craigieburn and Temple Basin), and backcountry touring, rather than battling crowded groomers at Remarkables or Coronet Peak. Nevertheless if I'm on skis then I'm content, regardless of what run I'm skiing, weather and snow conditions.

As this is my first overseas ski trip I am happy to go to the well known locations. Visiting Zermatt and Chamonix is something I want to do at least once in my life. What you've outlined is what I envisage I'll do in subsequent trips, once I've had a taster for skiing in the Alps. Having said that I'm considering heading to a lesser-known Austrian location for my first week, and may well have the opportunity to try such a Swiss location in week 2 of my trip.

Is anyone able to throw out a ball-park figure of what insurance (including off-piste rescue) may cost?
 

piolet

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Just visiting cham in a carp season is a really cool experience, the vibe is great. There's a lot of intangible value there, I reckon a balance between something like that and what gordonsson/chester is saying would be the tantamount euro experience. And you will be back... ;)
Check with the NZAC for insurance or the Austrian one. I took last minute insurance (as I was heading to the airport) with AAMI here in oz for 6 weeks for ~$150 or so when I realised my annual travel ins no longer covered what I needed. They covered me for anything on skis (touring/unguided/glaciers etc) as long as it wasn't professional/racing so I put my proski career on hold for the season.
Be sure to be covered for both rescue and medical expenses post rescue, repatriation included. And clarify that you will be skiing off piste/guided/unguided/backcountry/glaciated terrain etc as applicable.
 
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Centago

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Thanks for the advice on insurance piolet - nice to be aware/reminded of the need to be super-specific about what I need cover for.

I'm currently considering whether or not I should take my own skis. Ideally I'd like to take them. But given my plans of 2 weeks in the UK initially, a fair bit of travel between destinations in the Euro Alps, plus a 1-week stopover in Singapore on my way home, I'm thinking carting around my skis could be a right pita. Just wondering if anyone has recent experience with hiring skis over there. If I did hire I thought I'd still take my boots over and hire skis/poles only. Roughly what cost per day would I be looking at to hire in Austria/Switzerland/Chamonix? Keen to hear others opinions on whether or not to take skis too.
 
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