News Headlines     |     


A CANADIAN IN THE ALPS: PART FOUR - Marie Taylor, Les3Vallees, France
Friday March 1, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Marie Taylor has skied the finest resorts in Canada, but never the Alps. She ends her series of reports for PlanetSKI comparing the two.




You may have been reading some of my earlier reports as I compare the mighty Les3Vallees in France to my home ski resorts back in Canada.

It is the first time I have skied in Europe and it is different.

Very different.

First there was the ski hire and my initial impressions:

Then  the accomodation options - chalet or condo?
And then my last report I looked at the skiing experience:

And now I have saved the best till last - comparing the slopes and the snow.

Which is gunna come out on top?

Yours truly in The AlpsYours truly in The Alps

















Now for the concept of 'on' and 'off' piste in Europe.

This is something that is completely new to me and somewhat baffling.

In Canada the authorities don't open runs as such, they open the whole mountain, or part of it, and you can ski wherever you want.

Whether it's on a groomed run or the terrain to the side - in the trees, in a bowl or on an open slope.

Everything that is within a resort is fair game.

And if there is danger of avalanches, the entire area will be closed.

It's not up to you if you want to ski it or not.

Ski patrol will only open the areas that are safe to be skied.

Safe and open, Kicking Horse, British Columbia, CanadaSafe and open, Kicking Horse, British Columbia, Canada
















And if you do go somewhere that is closed, you will usually receive one warning - then your lift pass is taken away.

In the Alps you can pretty much ski anywhwere, though off piste is at your own risk and not the responsibility of the resort.

A Canadian in the AlpsA Canadian in the Alps















In Canada there is usually so much amazing skiable terrain that there is never the need to go onto the one or two runs that are closed due to avalanche danger.

Sunshine Village, Alberta, CanadaSunshine Village, Alberta, Canada - all fair game.
















Lake Louise, Alberta, CanadaLake Louise, Alberta, Canada
















In the Alps most resorts simply have pistes - marked trails through the mountains.

Though I'm told there are exceptions with itinerary runs and a growing number of so-called ‘freeride zones'.

These 'freeride zones' sound like the Canadian experience.

The off-piste skiing that I experienced on our final day at Les3Vallees, I would have to say is within one of the top five days of skiing I have ever had.

It's right up there.

The sun was out, we were skiing in powder that was waist deep (with amazing Black Crow skis from Intersport as I mentioned in an earlier article), and we were able to access the entire Les3Vallees.

Such amazing conditions.

Les Menuires, Les3Vallees, FranceLes Menuires, Les3Vallees, France

As for the on-piste, this is what we would call groomers... the runs that are groomed.

Back home, the groomers are great for anyone, whether it's beginners or someone who just wants to work on their technique.

Especially because they are never as busy and crowded as the on-piste runs I experienced at Les3Vallees.

Considering the size of Les3Vallees, the amount of people there almost spoilt it a little bit - so, so busy compared to Canada.

The crowds of Les3ValleesThe crowds of Les3Vallees
















But if you know where, and when, to go it is possible to escape the crowds.

A Canadian in the AlpsA Canadian in the Alps
















However, the one thing I can say about the on-piste runs in Europe  is that they are much longer and much steeper.

In a totally different league in fact.

They beat Canada hands-down.

As for the quality of snow, I cannot compare or even tell you if Canada has better snow than the Alps, because the three days that I was there the snow was unbelievable.

However, I did hear the Alps had a slow start this winter.

Accoring to people I have spoken to say Canada gets more snow, but crucially it is colder to the snow remains for longer and the powder is lighter and drier.

I'm not sure if I just got lucky when I visited, but the amount of snow that was at Les3Vallees could be found at any resort in Canada as well.

Another difference that I noticed was the amount of skiers compared to snowboarders.

At Les3Vallees I would estimate there was a ratio of about 5:1 skiers to boarders.

Whereas back home it's about 50/50, it's just as likely to see as many boarders as you do skiers.

Lastly, the way the restaurants are set up all over the mountain, and that you can usually find somewhere to stop at the top or bottom of a lift is much different than Canada.

There are nowhere near as many independent restaurants spread out on the hill.

To be honest, there are no independent restaurants at all.

And very few on the hill.

At ski resorts in Canada, usually there is one hotel at the base, and anywhere from two to four lodges that are spread out on the mountain.

The Lodges at Lake LouiseThe Lodges at Lake Louise
















And all of these are owned by the resort.

Depending on the lodge, you can have a sit-down meal where you order from the menu.

You can go to a canteen area where you order your soup, chili, burger & fries, etc., or you can eat your lunch that you packed from home.

Most often, people tend to choose the last two options.

In general eating is basic.

Ski dining, Canadian styleSki dining, Canadian style
















When in Canada, when you go skiing for the day, it's to ski.

It's not to have a fancy lunch and stop for coffee multiple times (unless the temperature in colder than -30C), and it's most certainly not to make any fashion statements.

I am a skier not a luncher though I do like the hot chocolate in Les3Vallees:

A Canadian in the AlpsA Canadian in the Alps
















This is something I especially noticed at après when we stopped at La Folie Douce in Meribel.

La Folie DouceLa Folie Douce















It's a great atmosphere with live music and entertainment, it's just, er, so very different to Canada.

We spend the entire day skiing and the after party happens in the evening, after dinner.

Don't get me wrong, we will most definitely have a beer or a few at the lodge before heading back to town.

But we wouldn't skip out on a few hours of a powder day to party, we save that for once you're back in town.

Both the Alps & the Canadian Rockies have their major differences.

The size, the terrain, the number of people.

A Canadian in the AlpsA Canadian in the Alps
















But there are also many similarities, the incredible snow and the amazing ski conditions.

I was asked on my trip to Les3Vallees if Canadian skiing would be a lot better if it was to become more like a European resort.

If we were to have more independent restaurants where you can stop for a coffee, and to just take on a bit more of a European ski culture.

And my answer is a most definite NO.

The fact that skiing in Canada is different compared to the Alps is the beauty of it.

I don't see why Canada should change the way they are doing it.

It's minimalistic, and what is there is all that you ever need to enjoy the skiing and the love of the mountains.

Whereas skiing in the Alps seems extravagant.

The people, the parties, the restaurants.

It's more of a luxury.

And I'm not saying that's a bad thing.

The fact that they are different is what gives them character.

You would never want them to become too similar, otherwise there would be no need to travel around and experience something new.

The Alps were absolutely amazing, and I will 100% be back to ski other resorts.

But I will forever love the Canadian Rockies, they are my home, but they are also a wonder to visit.

And I would recommend that if you can visit, you should most certainly check out the differences for yourself.

Vive La Difference!

Les Menuires, Les3Vallees, FranceLes Menuires, Les3Vallees, France


So why did Marie select Les3Vallees as her first place to ski in Europe?

Well, why not the largest linked ski area, not only in the Alps, but in the world.

Step forward Les3Vallees in France.

600kms of piste served by 180 lifts.

The skiing starts at 1,260m and goes up to 3,230m - 1,970 of vertical.

Even the largest ski area in North America, Whistler in Canada, would fit into a tiny corner of it.

With plenty left over.

Her favourite in Canada is Lake Louise in Alberta: 10 lifts and a decent 4,200 acres of terrain.

Skiing starts at 1,645m and goes up to 2,635m - 990m of vertical.

And where better to stay than Les Menuires in accomodation provided by the traditional UK chalet company, Powder N Shine?

It could hardly be more different than the Canadian ski experience.

A Canadian in the AlpsA Canadian in the Alps















For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

Related Articles

POLITICS, PISTE & POWDER (Sunday December 15, 2019)
HOW TO SKI SCHOOL... (Saturday December 14, 2019)
DECEMBER SKIING SECRETS (Saturday December 14, 2019)
VIDEOS TO WHET YOUR APPETITE (Saturday December 7, 2019)
HOW TO DO A CITY AND SKI BREAK... (Saturday December 7, 2019)

With thanks to our main sponsors...

Platinum partners

Bronze partners