Skiing in Europe vs. Skiing in America

It's more than an activity, it's an experience.

Imagine skiing or boarding on perfectly manicured slopes framed by some of the most famous mountains in the world – the Matterhorn, the Eiger, Mont Blanc or the Dolomites! Picture skiing or boarding on wide open runs that stretch for up to 10 miles long. Discover dining on incredible, farm to table cuisine in converted 400-year-old grazing huts and mountain chalets. Visualize flying into an airport and taking a train to your ski resort and not have the hassle and cost of renting a car or parking. Envision staying in affordable, luxurious ski in / ski out lodging. Imagine not enduring long lift lines!

Sound expensive? It’s not. Because “Skiing in Europe is an Experience”, not just an activity, and it’s not designed to break the bank.

Marcus Caston skiing in Engelberg with Alpin Luxe

The Advantages of Skiing in Europe

My first trip “over the pond” in 1975 was to compete on the Europa Cup ski racing circuit. Only 18 years old and I spent 6 weeks traveling to races all over Europe. I fell in love with the culture, the food, the people etc. – and have been going back ever since. In the 1980’s I spent most of that decade in Europe coaching the U.S. Ski Team Men’s Ski World Cup Speed Team.

Fast forward to 2014 & 2015, I was again hired by the U.S. Ski Team to go back on the Ski World Cup circuit – this time coaching the Women’s Technical Team. However, it had been nearly a decade since I’d done much skiing on the continent. During that remarkable season, I was mesmerized by the renaissance going on with European ski resorts – in virtually all the alpine countries. The creativity, technology and customer service were a game changer at every turn.

I was greeted by a number of exciting new innovations that really brought skiing into the 21st century:

high tech gondola and lift system in LAAX
European resorts boast high tech gondola and lift systems
Top-of-the-Line and State-of-the-Art

At every ski resort, there were new high-speed lifts with heated seats and windscreens, technologically advanced gondolas & trams, and ultra-modern lift stations with incredible restaurants.

Lift tickets were only $50.00/day, and now nearly a decade later, are still only around $75.00/day today. Their ticket prices are adjusted based on inflation only.

On mountain dining at numerous mountain huts was organic, locally sourced, and affordable.

Lift passes were recyclable RFID plastic cards (that could also access a locker for the day). You had to put a deposit on the card – which would be returned that day, or week, or then end of the season. Recycling is paramount in Europe, and they don’t want lift passes (or anything plastic) tossed in the garbage.

Some lifts are powered by rotating solar panels, and others have “naming rights” that helped defray the cost of construction.

Neighboring ski resorts are linking lifts so the collective can provide hundreds of miles of slopes on one pass.

Snow making and grooming are state of the art, so snow conditions remain fantastic throughout the season. Being aware of their melting glaciers over the past half century, ski resorts have invested heavily in snowmaking capabilities.

A majority of ski runs are wide and long – with a majority being in the blue category, which provides a safer skiing and boarding environment.

winter skiing in Europe

Stepping Into a Whole New World of European Skiing

At the conclusion of that magical Ski World Cup season, I came home and told my wife that “we need to start bringing American skiers to Europe. It’s so good, they won’t believe it!” It’s been nine years now, and European skiing continues to improve while maintaining affordable pricing. Skiing in Europe is an incredible bargain when it comes to lodging, meals, and lift passes. Check out these tasty morsels:

Luxury Beyond the Slopes

Most upscale hotel properties at European ski resorts are anywhere from $150/night+ and include a gourmet breakfast buffet of freshly baked breads, pastries, meats, cheeses, natural cereals, smoked salmon, eggs, juices, fruits, coffee (expresso / cappuccino) teas etc. You won’t see an American “continental” breakfast of processed pastries, sugary cereals, or powdered eggs and sausages.

Organic, farm to table lunches are available at numerous quaint, yet modern restaurant facilities on the mountain (most of which are independently owned). Europeans in general are healthier than Americans and take pride in their food offerings. No $25.00 hamburgers or $15.00 bowls of chili made months prior to the ski season and frozen.

Dinners are included in many 4 & 5-Star hotel properties and often feature Gault et Millau or Michelin starred chefs who prepare incredible cuisine. Pizzas are real, natural, and cooked to order in wood-burning ovens.

European hotels are also famous for their spa facilities with some even having in room saunas or radiant chairs for recovery.

skiers having fun skiing in Europe in the Zillertal Valley

Has Skiing in America Lost its Magic?

When you end up paying way more money on a ski trip than you ever expected, you almost feel obligated to squeeze every ounce of time on the mountain skiing. The nice relaxing ski vacation turns into a hustle to get in as many runs as possible – to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Skiing in Europe at a more reasonable cost allows one to enjoy the experience and not feel like they wasted money by taking an afternoon off or spending a couple hours dining or enjoying the vistas at a mountain hut.

No rush, no “hurry up and wait”. Just pure enjoyment.

Balcony at Soelden Ski Resort
Savor every opportunity to relax and enjoy the view
The Nose to Tail Phenomenon of Skiing

One of our esteemed coaches described skiing in America this way: the Nose to Tail Phenomenon. It’s the feeling of sitting in traffic, one car jammed up against another, fighting crowds everywhere you go, waiting in lines and rushing from one thing to the next. And we believe it’s antithetical to everything skiing is supposed to be.

Skiing has always been an opportunity to break away from the daily grind, escape traffic, breathe clear mountain air, arc turns on nicely groomed slopes, punch through some fresh powder, and relax with friends for drinks and meals. But now, in most major ski resorts in America, it’s become the same Nose to Tail phenomenon as your work week, and sometimes worse. Crammed in like sardines in a can, spending half your day waiting in lines.

Here’s some examples of Nose to Tail activities that many weekend skiers endure in America:

Driving to the ski resort: Nose to Tail.
Waiting to park at the resort: Nose to Tail.
Remote parking shuttle: Nose to Tail.
Lift lines: Nose to Tail.
Waiting for a lunch seat / table: Nose to Tail.
Driving home from the resort: Nose to Tail. 

What was once a wonderful experience, is now either a burr in the saddle or a pure nightmare – depending upon the time of day or week. How many relaxing ski vacations have been spoiled by the rush and bustle of the crowded American Ski Resort Machine?

A Crowded American Ski Resort
Spending all day fighting the crowds is no fun

I'd Love to Ski in Europe but...

Isn't it expensive flying to Europe?

No, it’s not! Winter is low season for European flights. You can often get cheaper tickets to Europe than flying domestically, especially to high-demand US destinations like resort towns.

Aren't the flights long?

Not really. NYC to Zurich, Switzerland, for example, is around 8 hours. NYC to Bozeman, MT is around 5 hours, but that’s only flight times. With layovers on the way to Bozeman, it could be 8 hours+. Besides, more and more cities in America are flying direct to Zurich, Munich, Paris, Barcelona, and other European cities. 

I don't speak German, French, or Italian.

That’s ok. Most Europeans (especially in resort towns) speak English, and often signage includes English as well. Staff and workers are friendly and welcoming to foreigners and will be happy to help you find your way around.

I wouldn’t think of renting a car - how do we get around?

Easy – Europe has the best train system in the world. They even have train stations in many airports. In Zurich, for example, you pick up your bags, take two escalators down to the train station and can be in many of their resorts in a few hours. Their trains are efficient, affordable and stress free. Much easier than trying to navigate traffic in an unfamiliar place!

What about the war in Ukraine or the Middle East?

It’s a long way from central Europe to either destination. These are what Europeans call “regional conflicts” and it does not change their daily lives. You’ll find that these countries aren’t any more affected by these conflicts than we are here in the US. NATO (which includes the alpine countries) is very strong militarily, and nobody will mess with them. 

Skiing in Europe enjoying the view

Discover Skiing in Europe with Us!

There has never been a better time to visit Europe since the exchange rate of the Euro to the Dollar is almost 1-to-1. Come join us for the experience of a lifetime skiing in Europe. Skip the crowds, the rushing around, the stress, and experience true relaxation. Your wallet will thank you!

Picture of Gary Miller

Gary Miller

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