By Bill Dante
Have you ever noticed that a lot of the ski areas in the USA resemble the cozy ski villages of Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland? For the best ski-in-ski-out convenience, head to Europe. European resorts are often within historical villages, with charming chalets and of course a distinctive local culture and cuisine.
I’m not saying that the US ski resorts are lacking. No, not at all. Colorado comes close to resembling a European resort, thanks to charm, great restaurants and mountain scenery.
But why not go to Europe, at least once, and experience the food, the people and of course the famous alps you have heard so much about.
Surprisingly it doesn’t have to be expensive.
In North America, it’s all about the sporting adventure. Most skiers grab a quick lunch, maybe a burger and fries, wolf it down and get back up on the slopes as soon as possible. After all, those lift tickets are expensive!
In Europe, you can sit down on the slopes and get a sophisticated, unhurried meal accompanied by a great glass of wine. European skiers like their long lunches, sunbathing on terraces and most of all their apres-ski. There’s no where in America that can compete with the likes of St. Anton for apres- ski shenanigans.
For the most part, Europeans see skiing as a relaxing social activity.
At the age of 18 I was stationed in the US Air Force in Germany. That’s where I learned to ski. The armed forces had their own ski areas located in Bavaria. Keep in mind that driving on the autobahn
will put you all over Europe in a very short time. Fly to Munich and drive two hours and you’re in the Bavarian ski villages.
A few are located near the highest mountain in Germany. It’s called Zugspitze, with an elevation of 9,718’. This mountain, with three glaciers, connects Tyrol Austria and Bavaria Germany. The villages do look and remind you of those miniature Christmas garden villages that we were all raised with under our Christmas trees.
I learned to ski in the towns of Garmish-Partenkirchwn and Berchtesgaden. It might surprise you to know that Germany has over 700 ski resorts.
ST. ANTON, AUSTRIA
The cradle of alpine skiing…
Over the years, as my skiing improved, I moved up to skiing the Austrian alps. Tiny alpine villages allow you to ski to links to other villages, so you never got bored. It’s very casual, English is spoken, and all levels of experience are available for beginners to expert skiers.
The cost? Put a pencil to this. Start with air fare, ski school, quaint hotels, lift passes, and you will be surprised at how reasonable Austria can be, compared to skiing North America.
You can ski down the slopes, through the automobile- free streets, past fabulous shops and right up to your favorite restaurant. Kitzbühel is another favorite, but primarily for expert skiing.
ST. MORITZ, SWITZERLAND
Hands down, one of the best countries to ski in is Switzerland! In a prior life, I was the Sales Manager of a few radio stations in Texas. My first job was to raise immediate dollars for the owners who were living in New York City. So, I suggested a sales incentive, a New Years Eve ski trip to Switzerland. After a few seconds of staring at me, they said yes.
We left that year on December 27th and came back on the 8th of January. There were 20 clients, some names you would recognize as prominent local business owners and a few members of the staff.
It was a five star trip. Nothing but the best!
It started with a pristine look and feel from the minute we arrived in Zurick. Then, it was onward to the beautiful ski areas that ring of being exclusive. There was impressive glitz, international movie stars, royalty and much more. Welcome to St. Moritz, Zermatt and Grindelwald, the entrance to the Jungfrau region. This needs to be on your bucket list!
You will enjoy everything that Switzerland has to offer. Besides skiing, there are many side trips to enjoy by rail. Their train system is one of the best and not far to other nearby cities and countries.
Take a couple of extra days with the bullet trains, and you can be in Paris, the French Riviera or Milan, Italy in a few hours.
Once you see the beauty and the available skiing you’ll know why at least five of the James Bond movies with ski scenes, were filmed in Switzerland. You can actually take a James Bond tour. Some of those ski areas are easy to find, as are the casinos that are featured in many Bond movies.
The casino that we spent New Years Eve was black tie required, of course. Casino Interlaken is in the town with the same name.
I think you will be surprised at some of the available ski packages that meet your budget.
I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a New Year with lots of fresh powder!