Why skiing in Europe is way better than North America!
-This is an opinion piece written by an American currently living in a ski town in Europe.
-I’ve spent half of my life living in ski towns around the American West, and while I have made short European ski trips before, this year I decided to take the big plunge and spend an entire season living and skiing in Europe. After months of immersion into the culture and mountain town scene here in the Alps and the Pirin, I’ve observed that there are many distinct advantages to European skiing, so here’s my top 10. ~Z. Phelan~
10 reason why skiing in Europe is way better than North America
#1: The infrastructure is way better!
While most mega-resorts in North America will have a six pack or two in their arsenal, and maybe a gondola, 8 packs, bubble chairs and trams are very few and far between. Fortunately for Europeans, all the major lift manufactures are right here in Europe and even the local “Mom and Pop” ski areas have an extensive array of quality high speed lifts. 10-12 person luxury gondolas with vinyl seats, 6-8 person bubble chairs with heated seats and automatic safety bar foot rests, peak to peak mega trams… it’s all par for the course in Alps.
#2: The Apres ski scene is on point
Well it damn well better be, they invented it! Après-Ski, French for “After Ski” is a colloquial term used to describe a good old fashioned drinking session after a day on the slopes. And while we do that pretty well in North America, the European ski bar scene is a level above and the celebrating usually starts before you even get off the slopes as most European ski areas have a pub or two on almost every run. Skiing is seen as a celebration of life in Europe and drinks and snowy turns go hand in hand.
#3: You never have to drive anywhere
Pick almost any country in Europe and you’ll likely find that their public transportation system is leaps and bounds better than the U.S.A. Trains are absolutely everywhere, free ski shuttle busses abound and charter busses from major cities run right to the base of the ski areas. If you’ve ever been stuck in Colorado’s front range gridlock or caught a storm driving up I-80 into the Sierra you know driving yourself can really suck sometimes.
#4: The resorts are way, way bigger!
Take the largest ski area you’ve ever skied in North America, be it Park City, Big Sky, Whistler or even the newly combined Palisades at Tahoe and multiply it by 3, at least! Resorts in the Alps are so large that you can literally ski from town to town with vertical drops that will blow your mind. The lift infrastructure in many regions is so wide spread that you can ski multiple peaks at the same resort, and trying to ski an entire linked ski area in one or two days is an impossibility! Trust me, I’ve tried.
#5: The Lift ticket prices are reasonable.
Have you ever visited an American Mega-Resort for a one or two day ski trip and been at the mercy of their insane ticket prices? $150-$250+ at larger ski areas in the U.S. is commonplace now and most of the resorts that charge these prices also expect you to stand in huge lift lines and pay more insane prices for drinks and food. Not in Europe, $50-$65 will get you on the slopes most places and they don’t have that stupid “dynamic pricing” bullshit here either.
#6: Food & Drink prices are not gouged.
Forget inflation, food and drink prices on the slopes in North America have been expensive as hell for years. Trying to grab lunch and a couple of beers at most corporate owned ski areas Stateside will put a definite dent in your pocket book. From $12+ beers, $20 burgers, $15+ mixed drinks… on and on. I sat down at a lift-side pub today at an Austrian mega-resort and enjoyed a fine German Beer and a shot of Schnapps for about $9! Now that’s affordable!
#7: The people watching is epic
From skin tight spandex ski pants, tacky fur coats, racing suits and occasionally some jeans, the ski fashion in Europe is miles different from North America. I’ve always found skiing to be a great people watching activity, but Europe takes it to a whole other level and observing the outfit choices of skiers and riders here is a curiously amusing hobby.
#8: Most ski areas have soft boundaries
Duck the rope at an American mega resort and you risk getting your pass pulled. Most ski areas in the states have “hard barriers,” aka ropes, fences and gates that define the boundaries, but in Europe they assume you are smart enough to know where you should and shouldn’t ski and they don’t really give a shit if you go off-piste into some dodgy terrain. Warning signs are usually all you’ll see here and ski patrol is barely visible on the slopes, oh and definitely no stupid “Yellow Jackets.”
#9: Lift lines are rarely an issue
High capacity lifts, plus more terrain equals smaller lift lines. It’s a simple formula that most ski areas in the Alps have had dialed in for years. Sure it’s still a little busier on the weekends and holidays, but most of the mega-resorts here don’t get anywhere near the crazy big lift lines like you see in the States. Customer satisfaction is a real deal here, not share holder happiness or stock price concerns.
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#10: There’s more powder skiing!
Fresh snowfall in America cues a powder fever in many folks, and off-piste skiing is usually preferred, especially by those fortunate enough to live out West. In Europe the mood seems very different, and fresh snow does not tend to incite droves of rabid powder hounds the way in does in the States. Europeans view the slopes much differently and most would rather carve the corduroy rather than slash powder runs. Race skis and shaped skis are the norm over here and the majority of skiers tend to stay in bounds, which can leave powder untouched for days and gives a reward to those who are willing and capable to leave the groomed trails. Now I’m not saying there aren’t powder hounds in Europe, just that the ratio is seemly much lower.
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