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Where to go when it starts to snow; the lowdown on some of the best ski runs in the Alps.

Cosy resorts are nice, but I like to ski in the larger ski areas. Skiing is all about travelling across mountains and valleys, from one resort to another; stopping at quaint mountain restaurants along the way for a vin chaud or Gluhwein. And of course, the ultimate long run down to base camp at dusk.

Get Your Skis On

There's been good some snow in Europe before Christmas this year, so choosing a resort for early skiing is not that hard.

Sylvia Eder in Crans Montana � Michel Guntern,
Sylvia Eder in Crans Montana
� Michel -

Quite often, skiing in Europe at Christmas often means aiming high. Smaller, lower ski areas like Appenzell (near St. Gallen, Switzerland) are often only suitable for grass skiers.

When I asked the lady in the Appenzell train station for a piste map, on Christmas Day some years ago, I was looked at like I'd arrived from another planet.

Although it was obvious that there was no skiing in the area that Christmas, I already have a large collection of piste maps and like to add to it whenever I can.

The beauty of European resorts is still their quaintness and Appenzell is indeed very quaint. Even without the guaranteed snow of resorts like St.Moritz and Zermatt, Appenzell continues to draw the day-trippers for it's charm and authenticity.

The shops were closed that Christmas Day, but still the main pedestrian street was full of sightseers admiring the exquisite architecture of a place better known for its cheese than its ski slopes.

Just to be sure of the snow conditions before you pack your skis, it's always wise to surf the webcams.

Swiss Webcams:
This is my favourite bookmark for looking at conditions around Switzerland.

Skiing Around the Alps

Skiing in Austria

Austria has had its share of tragedies in past seasons; with avalanches and the deadly fire in a train, carrying early season skiers up through the U-Alpin mountain tunnel, at Kaprun.

The country has put this all behind them and visitors to Austrian ski resorts can enjoy a good party atmosphere when the skiing is over for the day, with St. Anton still very much a party animal's favourite.

The best way to reach St. Anton is to use the train. There is limited car-parking in St. Anton itself and the train station is only a short walk from the ski-lifts.

St. Anton is also easily reachable from southern Germany or eastern Switzerland.

Train Connections

European Train Timetables.

Austrian Railways - �BB; Deutsche Bahn - DB; Swiss Federal Railways - SBB; and the regional train from the St Gallen/Lake Constance area of Switzerland, the Bodensee-Toggenburg-Bahn.

Another popular venue in Austria, for the downhill fans, is Kitzb�hel; where the famous Hahnenkamm race takes place.

Zell am See, located on the shore of a lake, is beautiful in Summer; although winter sports enthusiasts prefer the hills, near Salzburg, a fluffy white.

The Kitzsteinhorn ski area, at 3,000 metres, has plenty of runs open early in the season.

If you're staying in Zell am See, the Schmittenh�he area is the most accessible, although a little lower. Almost half of the 500 acres of slopes have snow cannons, guaranteeing ski descents right down to the valley.

As Apr�s Ski is considerably cheaper in Austria, than Switzerland or France, the country is very popular with party animals on a budget; the Kangaroo Bar in St. Anton is legendary.

Weather in the Region

Meteo Alpin provide graphical coverage of weather affecting the Austrian Alps, with text in English, German and Italian; you'll need to scroll down the small frame in the bottom right hand corner.

Skiing in France

If you like it bigger, better and higher, then it has to be Val Thorens; the highest ski resort in Europe and, with three ski areas, the largest skiing domain in the world!

Tignes offers year-round skiing, so the lack of snow is never a major problem here. They call it Espace Killy, after the famous French skier. There's an excellent webcam page; with nine views of Tignes from various positions. The piste-map is huge and is available as PDF download.

Chamonix is a gorgeous alpine town in the shadow of the Mont Blanc; famous for the Vall�e Blanche ski tour and adventurous climbers.

Discover even more ski regions at Ski France.

Skiing in Italy

The Dolomites is my favourite ski region in Italy; skiing the Della Ronda and sipping an afternoon Grappa in Grappa is a wonderful way to pass a sunny Winter's day.

If you'd like to discover the Rendena Valley, try the less touristed Madonna di Campiglio. The Skirama is well worth the journey.

Skiing in Switzerland

Switzerland really is the ski centre of Europe for me.

The Davos ski area is great for mileage seekers (315 km). It links to the elegant Klosters, where Prince Charles and Princess Diana used to ski, and Prince Charles still does. When they separated, Diana preferred to go to Lech; in Austria.

Davos Webcam.

Saas Fee often loses out to its famous neighbour, Zermatt. The skiing in Saas Fee is more challenging, especially the Sommerski run.

Saas Fee Webcams.

Zermatt and the Matterhorn are synonymous with Switzerland.

I always have a soft spot for this car-free resort, since I worked there as a teenager. I have returned there many times and the magic never fades.

It gets very cold up on the Klein Matterhorn, so wrap up well. If the snow is good, you can even ski over to Cervinia, in Italy.

Zermatt Weather and Zermatt Webcam.

Verbier has always been a popular resort area with the English, for much longer than Prince Andrew's ex-wife has been going there.

The 4 Valley Ski Area is immense, at 360 kilometres, so you will have no problems getting away from the sloanie cries.

The nearby Portes du Soleil region is another wonderful ski area. From the quaint resort of Chambery you can ski over to the purpose-built, French resort of Avoriaz.

And last but not least, St Moritz is where you can ski with the rich and famous in Switzerland's premier resort; or try Gstaad, if you like your high-life a little more low key.

Hotels in Ski Areas

Skiing in the Alps? From Grenoble to Salzburg -- Choose where you'd like to stay.

Hotels in Austrian Ski Resorts

Achensee, Alpbachtal und Tiroler Seenland, Arlberg, Bad Kleinkirchheim, Bregenzerwald, Brixental, Dachstein, Dachstein West, Defereggental, Fiss - Serfaus - Kaunertal, Gasteinertal und M�lltal, Hermagor, Hochmontafon, Innsbruck, Seefeld und Leutasch, Kaprun - Zell am See, Kitzb�heler Alpen, Klagenfurt, Kleinwalsertal, Obertauern, �tztal, Pitztal, Stubaital, Villacher Skiberge, Zillertal.

Hotels in French Ski Resorts

Chamonix, Is�re, Le Grand Massif, Les Arcs et La Plagne, Les Portes du Soleil, Les Trois Vall�es, Meg�ve, Serre-Chevalier, Val-d'Is�re, Vall�e de l'Ubaye.

Hotels in German Ski Resorts

Garmisch Partenkirchen.

Hotels in Italian Ski Resorts

Adamello, Alpe di Siusi - Sciliar, Alta Val Pusteria, Alta Val Venosta, Alta Val d'Isarco, Alta Valsugana, Alta Valtellina, Altopiani di Folgaria e Lavarone, Altopiano della Paganella, Altopiano di Asiago, Altopiano di Pin�, Altopiano di Renon - Val Sarentino, Auronzo, Misurina e Sappada, Bolzano and Strada del vino, Breuil-Cervinia, Cogne, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Courmayeur, Dolomites, Gran Paradiso National Park, Gran San Bernardo, Gressoney, La Thuile, Marmolada - Arabba, Meran and surroundings, Monregalese Neve, Monte Civetta, Ortles, Pila, Plan de Corones, Rosengarten Latemar, San Martino di Castrozza, Sella Nevea, Sella Ronda, Stelvio National Park, Tarvisio, Val Badia, Val Brembana, Val Camonica e Val di Scalve, Val Gardena, Val Germanasca, Val Rendena, Val Senales, Val Venosta, Val d'Ayas, Val d'Isarco, Val d'Ultimo, Val di Corteno, Val di Fassa, Val di Fiemme, Val di Non, Val di Rh�mes e Valgrisenche, Val di Sole, Val di Susa, Vallagarina e Monte Baldo, Valle San Giacomo, Valle Varaita, Valle Vermenagna, Valle del Po, Valle dell'Adige, Valle di Biois - Falcade, Valli dell'Ossola, Valli di Tures e Aurina, Valmalenco, Valsassina, Valsesia, Valsugana orientale - Tesino.

Hotels in Swiss Ski Resorts

Adelboden, Aletsch, Alpenarena, Andermatt, Arosa, Crans-Montana, Davos Klosters, Engelberg, Gstaad et Ch�teau-d'Oex, Jungfrau, Les Quatre Vall�es, Saas Fee, San Bernardino, St. Moritz, Zermatt.

By Michel.

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