Ski season in the Alps: Where to go

When you live in a country that is synonymous with skiing, you are bound to get a lot of questions about where to find the best slopes. I’ve sent so many emails to friends detailing how to check “ski the Alps” off of their travel bucket lists, that I’m finally writing a post I can refer them to in the future…20160216_123558Chamonix-Mont Blanc. If there was one place I would recommend near Geneva, it would be Chamonix. Incredible vistas, powdery slopes and mountain-top fondue.

Getting there. If flying into Geneva, reserve a spot in one of the ski busses that run between the airport and downtown Chamonix. It is an easy one-hour drive. We’ve used Cham Van from the airport and the Alpy Bus from downtown Geneva, but soon the CEVA train will connect us to Chamonix — located just blocks from our apartment!

Lodging. An Airbnb is the most affordable option for staying in the downtown area, which I highly recommend. We stayed in this adorable cabin for two one Christmas, this apartment for four in 2016 and this swanky hotel when we wanted a romantic getaway.

What to do. I’d recommend starting with the Brévent Gondola which will connect you with a variety of green-, red- and black-level pistes. If you want to try off-piste skiing, hire a local guide. Take the Brévent Cable Car up to the very top–Restaurant le Panoramic–where you can have lunch looking at Mont Blanc. If you are not skiing, you can go to the top of Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Midi or visit the Mer de Glace glacier. There are fantastic restaurants and nightlife for all budgets (we love the pirate bar), as well as plenty of shopping. Chamonix has a busy downtown.

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Flaine. This is the family-friendly option if you have children in tow. Most hotels cater to families with kitchenettes and child care. You’ll find more delivery pizza places and cafes than fine-dining and nightlife here (that said, Le White Pub is always hopping).

Getting there. We rented a car (it’s a quick, 45-minute drive), but Peak Transfers also provides shuttles between Geneva Airport and Flaine.

Lodging. We have wonderful things to say about our apart-hotel — Les Terraces d’Hélios — that provided a crib, baby bathtub and high chair. There was also a grocery store on-site, spa, indoor pool and nursery. This hotel also has high ratings.

What to do. This would be an ideal spot for a beginner or a child, since there are a number of blue and green pistes. I especially enjoyed the Grand Vans and Grand Platières gondolas which had long, red runs. There are some lovely hiking and snow-shoeing trails if you are not skiing. There is an ice skating rink in town, too.

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GstaadA.k.a. “The millionaire’s playground.” Gstaad has a long history for attracting famous people like Julie Andrews (who has a home here) and Princess Grace of Monaco, among other royals. That is why you will find Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren stores instead of hamburger joints in Gstaad. That said, there is great skiing to be had.

Getting there. From Geneva we always take the train, since it snakes through some gorgeous territory. It takes about two and a half hours from Geneva by train and three hours from Zurich. You can hop on the train at Geneva’s Airport.

Lodging. Considering the clientele, Gstaad costs more than Chamonix or Flaine and less than Zermatt. We’ve stayed at the Hotel Arc-en-ciel for its proximity to the slopes, but I’ve always wanted to stay at the more central Posthotel Rössli where Ernest Hemingway used to spend a month every year skiing and writing.

What to do. From downtown Gstaad, the easiest gondola to hop on is Eggli. At the top you will find two restaurants overlooking the slopes and a number of easy pistes. We’ve often skiied the Schönried pistes for greater variety. End the day at either the über-German Restaurant Kuhstall or the reggae-feeling Hornybar (where I cannot imagine you will into royals!).

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For a girl from southern California, winter can feel especially long. I’m learning to embrace the season in a country that looks best dressed in white. I hope–wherever you are–you are not wishing away winter too quickly. For now, a few links for the weekend:

Where the royal like to ski

The seven wonders of the modern world

Do you have a baby? Please read this.

This recipe might get me to watch the Super Bowl

The 18 best islands for 2018 (yes to #1!)

Simple shoes for summer

Apparently California’s “taco trail” ends in Bakersfield

Why the U.S. is becoming a less attractive travel destination

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There are California girls and there are Bakersfield girls. I am the latter.

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