Opinion Where next in Europe as a backup for if Japan doesn't open?

elSpike

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Hey team.
You might remember me from my thoroughly food-centric trip reports over the past few years. I hope you'll indulge me with a very specific question for you all.

Our thoughts are turning towards the northern winter and while we'd love to return to Japan, I'd like to develop an alternate plan. After our 3 weeks in the 3 valleys last year, where should we be looking in Europe next?

Some parameters:
December/Early Jan timeframe. School starts back mid Jan. Probably 2 weeks of skiing.
Strong intermediate/advanced who love piste skiing. We can happily spend 3 weeks at the 85km in Shiga so a resort of that size or larger would be nice.
We don't hire a car. We like to base ourselves in a resort and explore it fully.
While ski-in, ski-out is a plus, we also didnt mind the whole take a dedicated ski bus to a local resort each day style in Myoko.
Either a solid half board accom, or based in a great village with plenty of restaurants.

Thanks for your time.
 

CarveMan

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Hey team.
You might remember me from my thoroughly food-centric trip reports over the past few years. I hope you'll indulge me with a very specific question for you all.

Our thoughts are turning towards the northern winter and while we'd love to return to Japan, I'd like to develop an alternate plan. After our 3 weeks in the 3 valleys last year, where should we be looking in Europe next?

Some parameters:
December/Early Jan timeframe. School starts back mid Jan. Probably 2 weeks of skiing.
Strong intermediate/advanced who love piste skiing. We can happily spend 3 weeks at the 85km in Shiga so a resort of that size or larger would be nice.
We don't hire a car. We like to base ourselves in a resort and explore it fully.
While ski-in, ski-out is a plus, we also didnt mind the whole take a dedicated ski bus to a local resort each day style in Myoko.
Either a solid half board accom, or based in a great village with plenty of restaurants.

Thanks for your time.
Somewhere on the Sella Ronda in the Italian Dolomites. We stayed in Corvara but I liked the look of Arabba.

The piste skiing is excellent and it's the home of Tecno-Alpin the big snowmaking company so they have fantastic infrastructure which helps ease the anxiety of skiing in that early timeframe. The lifts are excellent as well.

The food and views are likely unbeaten anywhere in the world.
 
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Sbooker

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Somewhere on the Sella Ronda in the Italian Dolomites. We stayed in Corvara but I liked the look of Arabba.

The piste skiing is excellent and it's the home of Tecno-Alpin the big snowmaking company so they have fantastic infrastructure which helps ease the anxiety of skiing in that early timeframe. The lifts are excellent as well.

The food and views are likely unbeaten anywhere in the world.
I second all of this. We stayed in Arabba. It was a great base as the Sella Ronda circuit, Great War circuit, Hidden Valley and Marmolada Glacier areas are all within easy reach. Check out the horse tow in the Hidden Valley. A must do for the novelty.

You're into food so you'll be blown away by the quality and relative value of great on mountain dining.
As far as logistics are concerned we flew into Munich and caught the train to Bolzano. We got a transfer from there.

Austria should also be a consideration. We had a great time in the Zillertal Valley. It's a bit higher than nearby areas like Skiwelt and Ski Circus so may be a bit better option early season? Check out Mayrhofen, Zell am Ziller, Kaltenbach and of course the Hintertux Glacier which are all in the valley.

A week in each with some time in Salzburg/Innsbruck in between to get your city fix.
 

Heinz

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Plenty of options in Austria. Check out some of the recent TR's.

Shiga Kogen is the biggest the linked ski area in Japan but would only be a mid ranged size area in Austria. Ski bus system in Austria is excellent and free. Can use it to visit several other areas. Not much need for a car.

A few places to consider:
- Leogang to access Saalbach-Hinterglemm Ski Circus and also Zell am See. An extra ski bus via Saalfelden can also get you Maria Alm/Hochkönig region.
- Flachau or St. Johann in Pongau to access Salzburger Sportwelt - Flachau, Wagrain, Alpendorf, Kleinarl, Zauchensee.
- Somewhere on the Wilden Kaiser network - lots of villages, not sure what best base would be - only skirted through there in a day.
- Kaltenbach or Zell am Ziller in the Zillertal to access the various resorts in the valley via the free train
- Schladming to access the linked areas of Hauser Kaibling, Planai, Hochwurzen & Reiteralm plus Fageralm via a short bus as well as Dachstein glacier.

You can do a combination of these with the right ski pass eg. Salzburger Super Ski card covers most of the above except Zilleratal or else a Tirol card.

Austrian mountain huts are awesome. Good food with table service.
 

Hyst

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Sbooker

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Pritty early - one can not be shure of snow thise days, The higher the better, Scandinavia to dark at that time.


Look at Paradiski https://www.skiresort.info/ski-resorts/paradiski/ , or maybe https://www.skiresort.info/ski-resort/saalbach-hinterglemm-leogang-fieberbrunn-skicircus/, https://www.soelden.com/winter/ski-area/information-on-the-ski-area.html (higher)

Paradiski - may be a catered chalet - can be very nice.

Sella?? very early.
Sella Ronda will have 90 percent of pistes open by Christmas even if there is zero natural snow.
 

Schnaxxy Schnaxxlburger

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I second all of this. We stayed in Arabba. It was a great base as the Sella Ronda circuit, Great War circuit, Hidden Valley and Marmolada Glacier areas are all within easy reach. Check out the horse tow in the Hidden Valley. A must do for the novelty.

You're into food so you'll be blown away by the quality and relative value of great on mountain dining.
As far as logistics are concerned we flew into Munich and caught the train to Bolzano. We got a transfer from there.

Austria should also be a consideration. We had a great time in the Zillertal Valley. It's a bit higher than nearby areas like Skiwelt and Ski Circus so may be a bit better option early season? Check out Mayrhofen, Zell am Ziller, Kaltenbach and of course the Hintertux Glacier which are all in the valley.

A week in each with some time in Salzburg/Innsbruck in between to get your city fix.

my turn in the horse tow a number of skiers came to grief in some excrement
be careful out there!
 
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Hermannator

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Since there aren't that many Swiss options put forth, I've some high-altitude suggestions:
  • Laax - a couple of hours from Zurich, plenty of variety
  • Davos/Klosters (similar distance from Zurich) also plenty of variety but spread over a few different villages
  • Crans Montana - lots of sunny slopes
 

rikedwards

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Great post idea - I share the same concern of Japan not opening and wishing to have a backup plan in mind. My main challenge is a lack of time - we are planning on a week in Nozawa in Japan (leaving a 2 and 4 y/o in Australia with family).

We are looking for something with a similar feel to Nozawa. Currently looking at Kuhtai in Austria or Monterosa in Italy. But some of the options listed here look great.
 

elSpike

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Some wonderful suggestions team. Thank you for sharing your excellent knowledge.

Stella Ronda looks like just the sort of thing we love to do. Very few places on Booking.com so will need to take a look at more direct hotel reviews/sites. Any specific places that would be good for 4 large humans would be good too!

Zillertal was on the list after @blueandwhite's exceptional Trip Report earlier this year. We'd have a few sideways glances from some other friends of ours who have been inviting us to Austria for years but who wont be there this Christmas/New Year LOL

Switzerland is interesting too. Will need to do a bit more reading on their early season stuff.

Lots of threads to chase down.
 

Heinz

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We are looking for something with a similar feel to Nozawa. Currently looking at Kuhtai in Austria or Monterosa in Italy. But some of the options listed here look great.

Similar to Nozawa in terms of village and thermal springs? Maybe look at Gasteinertal ie. Badgastein, Bad Hofgastein.
 
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CarveMan

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Stella Ronda looks like just the sort of thing we love to do. Very few places on Booking.com so will need to take a look at more direct hotel reviews/sites. Any specific places that would be good for 4 large humans would be good too!
Hmmm that's interesting. The Dolomiti Superski is the world's largest linked ski area so I'd imagine it's more of a factor of hotels not listing on the big aggregator sites.

dolomiti-superski-map.jpg
 

rikedwards

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Similar to Nozawa in terms of village and thermal springs? Maybe look at Gasteinertal ie. Badgastein, Bad Hofgastein.
Thanks Heinz - I'll have a look at those options!

We love Nozawa for the following reasons:

Decent sized resort with some inbounds off piste options
Range of restaurant options (at reasonable prices) in the town/on the snowfields
Charm of the village
Easy access from Tokyo

Over a week we might get to onsens on a couple of occasions. The only downside of Nozawa is the steep walk up to the gondola each morning!
 
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Sbooker

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Some wonderful suggestions team. Thank you for sharing your excellent knowledge.

Stella Ronda looks like just the sort of thing we love to do. Very few places on Booking.com so will need to take a look at more direct hotel reviews/sites. Any specific places that would be good for 4 large humans would be good too!

Zillertal was on the list after @blueandwhite's exceptional Trip Report earlier this year. We'd have a few sideways glances from some other friends of ours who have been inviting us to Austria for years but who wont be there this Christmas/New Year LOL

Switzerland is interesting too. Will need to do a bit more reading on their early season stuff.

Lots of threads to chase down.
For Dolomites (Arabba) check this out. It's excellent. Can recommend the half board.
 

Cecret Skier

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Some wonderful suggestions team. Thank you for sharing your excellent knowledge.

Stella Ronda looks like just the sort of thing we love to do. Very few places on Booking.com so will need to take a look at more direct hotel reviews/sites. Any specific places that would be good for 4 large humans would be good too!

Zillertal was on the list after @blueandwhite's exceptional Trip Report earlier this year. We'd have a few sideways glances from some other friends of ours who have been inviting us to Austria for years but who wont be there this Christmas/New Year LOL

Switzerland is interesting too. Will need to do a bit more reading on their early season stuff.

Lots of threads to chase down.

Some great suggestions above. Not sure of your budget but you went for a 'food-centric' trip to the 3 vallees last time so I'm going to assume its not backpacker! If you can stretch to this place in San Cassiano it is fantastic: https://www.rosalpina.it/

I was there more than a decade ago and had the chance to eat some pretty memorable meals at what was then 'only' a 2 michelin starred restaurant, but recent reviews and the 3rd star a couple of years back indicate it's probably only gotten better if anything. Costs have no doubt gone up though. Other on mountain dining (especially Scottoni's Hutte, a little bit up the hidden valley from that horse tow above) was also memorable but I don't remember eating outside of the hotel in San Cassiano. Skiing out of San Cassiano is quite good - no probs to get up to the Sella Ronda and the skiing in the immediate area is good. As an aside, I recall a very dangerous and fun bar at the top of the main run back into San Cassiano village but can't recall the name! Gee that was a good trip.

Of course, at that budget you will have lots of options at Zermatt too. Plenty of good half board hotels, but I've also had a great experience renting an apartment in Zermatt. It works well there because some of the best dining is still up on the mountain (perfect to go hard until a late lunch - again last trip was a decade ago but at the time Zum See and Vrony had the reputation but my favourite was the restaurant in a little village called Blatten) so you may not want the big meal every night. Of course also plenty of good restaurants and bars in town too - completely different to San Cassiano.

My only other observation for what it's worth is that when I lived in Europe I used to do a bit of skiing with a mate who grew up in Bolzano (aka the gateway to the Dolomites) and he was firmly of the view that a meal and drinks in the sunshine was an essential part of the Italian ski experience! I guess I just always have thought of Italian skiing (especially in the Dolomites) that way and have only ever been there a bit later in the season than you're planning.

That means I'd lean to Zermatt at that time of year (yes I know it is literally on the Italian border!) but you really can't go wrong with anything suggested above!
 

Kash

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Great thread idea.

Italy and Austria both meet the brief in terms of the ski experience you are looking for, but the issue is you are going early season. On that basis i'd probably be looking at resorts where the bulk of your skiing is above 1500m just to maximise base. Switzerland has more of this but its very exxie. There are so many enticing Austria destinations, im sure you can find something there.

By the way, i still think Shiga Kogen or Furano is a great option for you, but agree its very 50/50 at this point.
 

elSpike

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Great thread idea.

Italy and Austria both meet the brief in terms of the ski experience you are looking for, but the issue is you are going early season. On that basis i'd probably be looking at resorts where the bulk of your skiing is above 1500m just to maximise base. Switzerland has more of this but its very exxie. There are so many enticing Austria destinations, im sure you can find something there.

By the way, i still think Shiga Kogen or Furano is a great option for you, but agree its very 50/50 at this point.
Absolutely, most people on the forum know Shiga is our "home" mountain. Its the place we return to over and over again. If Japan opens up all of this becomes moot as we'll be booked in Chalet Shiga for the entire time.

We enjoyed Furano, but probably wont ever go back. It was just too cold for us and we had a terrible experience with a ski instructor who plain ruined the mountain for us. That said, I still dream of the omurice we had in some grandpa's front room (Saito's if you know it) there. Pure magic.
 

elSpike

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Some great suggestions above. Not sure of your budget but you went for a 'food-centric' trip to the 3 vallees last time so I'm going to assume its not backpacker! If you can stretch to this place in San Cassiano it is fantastic: https://www.rosalpina.it/
Yeah... that's a little outside our budget ;-) 63K Euros for 9 nights! We used to live in Perth, but not next door to Bondy.

679EDC00-00DB-4774-92A7-2AEB18CFD35E.png
 

Kash

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Absolutely, most people on the forum know Shiga is our "home" mountain. Its the place we return to over and over again. If Japan opens up all of this becomes moot as we'll be booked in Chalet Shiga for the entire time.

We enjoyed Furano, but probably wont ever go back. It was just too cold for us and we had a terrible experience with a ski instructor who plain ruined the mountain for us. That said, I still dream of the omurice we had in some grandpa's front room (Saito's if you know it) there. Pure magic.

Wow, thats a pretty strong endorsement for Shiga, good to know! I was booked there the beginning of 2021 for our first trip (done Japan a few other times before) but will def give it a try.

I found the place i stayed when i went to Val Di Fassa (off the Sella Ronda in the Dolomites). It was a wonderful full or half board lodge. Highly recommend.

 

elSpike

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Wow, thats a pretty strong endorsement for Shiga, good to know! I was booked there the beginning of 2021 for our first trip (done Japan a few other times before) but will def give it a try.
Intermediate skiing in Japan at its best.

If you haven't already, this trip report has a very comprehensive look at all the restaurants and the skiing available there: elSpikes Ski-Ski 2020 Shiga Kogen and Myoko with this post: #94 being the summary one.
 
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Kenzie

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A lot of solid options already. I'll throw in Montafon in the snowy Vorarlberg region of Austria. The main town is Schruns which is an authentic Austrian village. It's not a lively spot like St Anton or Mayrhofen, although there are a few spots at the lift bases that are lively enough in the afternoon and a number of restaurants in town and on the mountains. There is a Bahnhof in the middle of town which allows train access from Zurich or Munich, and Bludenz is a bigger town about 30 mins away by train. There is a cable car out of Schruns which accesses the Hochjoch area and then links into St Gallenkirch and Gaschurn. You can alternatively catch a bus to the other bases. They say 50% of the ski area is above 2000m. There are other ski areas accessed by buses (which run from the train station and are very efficient and free with a ski pass) including Golm, Brandnertal and Gargallen which is a very pretty, isolated high area near the Swiss border. The lift infrastructure has been substantially upgraded in recent years.
I can highly recommend Hotel Zimba which is very close to the train station and a short walk to the lift out of Schruns. We stayed half board in mid January 2019 and the price(including ski pass) was surprisingly cheap whilst the food was excellent.
 

Kenzie

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Having stayed in both Breuil-Cervinia and Zermatt I'd recommend staying in Zermatt, buying the International skipass, and doing most lunches on the Italian side, with maybe one or two on the Swiss side.
 
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Mister Tee on XC Skis

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Since there aren't that many Swiss options put forth, I've some high-altitude suggestions:
  • Laax - a couple of hours from Zurich, plenty of variety
  • Davos/Klosters (similar distance from Zurich) also plenty of variety but spread over a few different villages
  • Crans Montana - lots of sunny slopes
Since Japan looks a bit iffy for early 2023 for ski travel Switzerland was one of my other possible choices. My cousin lives there :) in Bern . Would the easy lifted DH ski runs and XC ski routes be open and skiable by mid Jan. 2023?.
 
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Annabuzzy

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Hey team.
You might remember me from my thoroughly food-centric trip reports over the past few years. I hope you'll indulge me with a very specific question for you all.

Our thoughts are turning towards the northern winter and while we'd love to return to Japan, I'd like to develop an alternate plan. After our 3 weeks in the 3 valleys last year, where should we be looking in Europe next?

Some parameters:
December/Early Jan timeframe. School starts back mid Jan. Probably 2 weeks of skiing.
Strong intermediate/advanced who love piste skiing. We can happily spend 3 weeks at the 85km in Shiga so a resort of that size or larger would be nice.
We don't hire a car. We like to base ourselves in a resort and explore it fully.
While ski-in, ski-out is a plus, we also didnt mind the whole take a dedicated ski bus to a local resort each day style in Myoko.
Either a solid half board accom, or based in a great village with plenty of restaurants.

Thanks for your time.
I’m not sure what you’re doing, but my plan B is Chamonix, with plans C and D being Alagna and Courmayeur respectively.

Probably 4 days to a week in a major city on arrival. Paris? Geneva? Milan? Rome? And then 2 weeks in a resort and out via the nearest major airport.

Sydney to Paris > TGV to Cham > Bus to Geneva > Geneva home looks like a possible itinerary.
 

Mister Tee on XC Skis

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Would love to ski Spain next time in Europe.
I trekked with this firm to Mainland Spain's highest peak when I went to Spain and would ski tour the BC with them for sure. It has me thinking about Europe and skiing in Spain. Spain is good.
 

Sbooker

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I’m not sure what you’re doing, but my plan B is Chamonix, with plans C and D being Alagna and Courmayeur respectively.

Probably 4 days to a week in a major city on arrival. Paris? Geneva? Milan? Rome? And then 2 weeks in a resort and out via the nearest major airport.

Sydney to Paris > TGV to Cham > Bus to Geneva > Geneva home looks like a possible itinerary.
When will you be in Chamonix? I just booked a week from 24th January.
 
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Annabuzzy

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When will you be in Chamonix? I just booked a week from 24th January.
Plan A remains to go to Niseko. I have flights booked and accomodation ready to go. Just waiting on the Japanese govt to come to the party. I started looking at plans B, C and D over the weekend, so if I need to pull the trigger I know what I want to do.

But if we did go to Cham it would be around 28 December out of Sydney and then back around the 19th of January, so out and back before you even leave!
 

Jacko4650

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Somewhere on the Sella Ronda in the Italian Dolomites. We stayed in Corvara but I liked the look of Arabba.

The piste skiing is excellent and it's the home of Tecno-Alpin the big snowmaking company so they have fantastic infrastructure which helps ease the anxiety of skiing in that early timeframe. The lifts are excellent as well.

The food and views are likely unbeaten anywhere in the world.
Was going to say the same. Awesome views, so many villages close to the snow or close to fast transport to snow, sensational views and more than a few weeks of groomed runs to explore. It really is a smorgasbord in so many ways. I visited 3 times and didn't dent the surface. Highly recommend.
PS: Would love to explore some of their secret off-piste areas - next visit.
 

Jacko4650

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Another vote for the Sella Rhonda. Very good piste skiing, but the food is tops in both quality and price.
Surprisingly, I thought the food was only average and couldn't help thinking Dominoes would have made a killing in the bigger towns for the toppings they had on pizzas compared to many of the cardboard versions I experienced over the years in the Dolomites. One of the best Pizzas was at the Ice Hockey centre in Corvara. We all know how Dominoes compare to real Aussie Italian Pizzas, so some perspective!!! I also felt the pastas were average compared to say Melbourne (Italy; who would guess?). My sense was that too many accommodation providers ran (average) restaurants leaving little scope for specialised restaurants to thrive; hence "popular, fairly bland" menus across the board. There were some pretty special on-mountain huts for lunch though. Lotsa punters appeared to ski the mornings and then retire to an on-mountain restaurant / hut for a huge lunch with bevvies before skiing/boarding home tiddly and having a light meal at the accommodation. Prices are def good all round.
 
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Mister Tee on XC Skis

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I struggle with most European food.
Auli and Gulmarg In India have ski options and some of my favourite food.I know this comment is off topic RE: Skiing In EU but there you go.Turkey has ski options and better food than most EU cuisines.
 
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