Forget High Altitude Ski Resorts: Medium Altitude is Where Smart Skiers Can Have Their Cake and Eat It
If you were to ask skiers and snowboarders what the most important question they want to know when booking a winter holiday, it would be whether the resort has a good snow record.
That’s a very understandable question if you are going to invest your hard earned cash on a winter sports holiday. Let’s face it, snow is an integral part of the trip, so who doesn’t want to choose high altitude over slightly lower resorts, in the pursuit of perfect snow conditions?
How many people check snow reports daily before their trip and agonise over whether they have chosen a resort that’s going to deliver the snow they need? Yes I can see you nodding!
However, choosing a snow sure resort doesn't always ensure a wonderful winter holiday. There is so much more to consider than Go High or Stay Home.
What No One Tells You About High Altitude Resorts
There are many advantages in choosing high altitude resorts for that peace of mind factor. However there are certain downsides, which aren't always apparent when doing your research, so please give them some thought.
- At high altitude, you are a captive audience and many of these resorts can be much more expensive for both the holiday itself and in the actual resort, such as Zermatt in Switzerland.
- When you are skiing at altitude, the pistes can be extremely cold and bleak. The runs are unprotected from snowstorms so make sure you are prepared for more severe conditions. e.g Obergurgl in Austria and Val Thorens in the 3 Valleys of France. At Les Deux Alpes, new snow is often blown away due to exposure, which can be very frustrating.
- People like tree runs! They enjoy the scenery and the added protection that the tree-lined runs provide. When you are at a super high altitude there are no trees and the big wide baron motorway pistes can often be intimidating for beginners.
- The infrastructure such as chairlifts and cable cars can be prone to being closed due to high winds early in the season. Believe me, there is nothing worse than having lots of snow but not able to get to it. e.g. Cervinia in Italy. Grand Montet which is part of the Chamonix ski area in France, is also often on wind hold!
- Sadly high altitude ski areas can be quite bleak and featureless. You end up skiing or boarding in a big bowl rather than through more pretty winding forest tracks. e.g Hintertux in Austria.
- Sometimes high altitude resorts can lack soul and the choice of other activities to experience in resort can be reduced due to their location. e.g Tignes in France
- Some resorts are purpose built so don't have historic buildings and authenticity which can add to the winter holiday experience. e.g Flaine in France, although some people might actually like this particular resort for its retro styling.
On a lighter note - did you know that sponge cakes don’t have the same rise at high altitude? In fact, they aren't light at all, if the recipe isn't modified.
As elevation rises, air pressure falls which has an effect on the baking process and makes your cakes flatter. The main factor affecting baked items is the low pressure resulting from the higher altitude, usually over 1800m.
This leads to lower boiling points, faster evaporation and rapid rising, and then sinking! In addition, low humidity can also dry ingredients out resulting in a dry texture and crumbly product. The result is a coarser textured cake (unless you use the chalet host's secret and add a dollop of yoghurt into the mix).
So if you want to have your cake and eat it, without it feeling like munching on a cream cracker, medium altitude is the smart choice!
Ski Smart: Ski Near High Altitude but Stay Medium Altitude - Have Your Cake and Eat It
So what do you do? What choice do you make when searching for the ideal ski resort?
What’s the secret to being in a cool resort that isn't just about altitude, but the whole winter holiday experience?
Enjoy the best of both worlds by combining all the advantages of high altitude with those of a medium altitude resort, in one brilliant winter holiday.
Don't compromise - choose resorts that offer everything you want. Make sure you choose resorts that are linked to high altitude areas, with super fast gondolas up to the high level pistes at 1800m or 2000m and above.
That way you can dip into the higher runs as and when you want, but aren't committed to being there all the time, and you can enjoy the tree runs lower down!
Choose a resort which has lots of other activities and events such as Morzine which hosts the music festivals Rock the Pistes and Snowboxx every March.
Medium Altitude Resorts Near High Altitude Pistes: What to Look For
Once you start researching, you will find that there are several medium altitude resorts which boast proximity to high altitude ski areas.
A word of advice - do your research thoroughly and double check the following details:
- How close the medium altitude resort is to the higher altitude ski area.
- How often the ski buses run or whether your chalet host will drive you and collect you at different times of the day. Morzine is great for this, but then we are biased!
- Duration of the mountain ascent. Sometimes this part of the journey can be lengthy - a cable car, chairlift, another chairlift. Go for a high speed lift network that has plenty of investment annually! It’s less than 6 minutes to get to Avoriaz from Morzine.
- Whether the high altitude ski area is connected to the medium altitude resort or if another ski pass is required. The Portes du Soleil is one of the cheaper large resort passes available.
- Find out the size of the ski area to make sure that it’s big enough for what you want. Morzine is part of the Portes du Soleil which is one of the biggest ski areas in the world with over 650km of marked pistes.
- Check on the amount of south facing slopes as these will be the first to suffer with lack of snow due to snow melt.
- Establish the types of accommodation available. Does what you want exist in the location you are looking at?
- Are there snowmaking facilities, as this can be the make or break of a good base and a good ski season.
How Does Morzine Compare As a Medium Altitude Resort?
Here are some interesting facts about Morzine and why it’s a wonderful choice as a medium altitude resort:
- Centrally located within the vast Portes du Soleil ski area which boasts 650km of pisted runs with great links between all the resorts.
- Huge variety of pistes for snowboarders and skiers or all abilities.
- The resort has many north facing slopes meaning the snow stays protected even when the sun shines.
- State of the art snowmaking facilities to create a good base for the whole season, with the flexibility to top up on the slopes if necessary.
- A busy winter town resort with lots going on both on and off the slopes.
Resorts that guarantee snow don’t always guarantee fun. Don’t miss out on an authentic ski or snowboarding holiday by thinking that high altitude is the only choice.