Switzerland Skiing Resorts: Andermatt

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When you approach Andermatt from the east and you're in for a treat to one of the most spectacular arrivals in any ski resort: you put your car on the train at Sedrun, then travel above the snowbound Oberalp pass before the steep descent into Andermatt. This engineering feat is matched to the west via the Furka rail tunnel and the north-south Gotthard road and rail tunnels, which go underneath Andermatt and have abandoned this former major Alpine crossroads in isolation. This picture isn't aided by the stark army buildings that inhabit the outskirts of this barracks town, but the old center is way more attractive place with cobbled streets and ancient chalets.

Despite being left behind, Andermatt is still flocked by weekenders from Zurich to experience the steep Gemsstock mountain towering 1,500m above the town.

Served with 14 lifts and a great deal of weekend traffic, queues can quickly build up on Gemsstock, particularly for the two-stage cable-car, which opens as early as November up to May. There are actually three unconnected ski areas - Gemsstock, Natschen and Winterhorn - connected by bus or train, and the lift pass likewise covers a few other ski places on the train line over the Oberalp pass. When you go here for a week then you would probably get to visit them all, as on-piste choices are gravely limited on shady Gemsstock, with only two runs down from the top station - red or black -and a sole black piste going back down to town. Not the greatest terrain for beginners, but estimating on the number of people donning helmets in the cable-car, Andermatt's skiers are an extreme bunch. The off-piste possibilities from the top are superb, having descents down to Andermatt or Hospental, and countless of routes down the main bowl itself.  For non-extremists, there are a couple of blues around the mid-station, but the sun-drenched Natschen is way better bet for beginners and early intermediates, in spite of being accessed by one of the slowest chairlifts. When you are up there, things start to get exciting and a fast chair goes to a few short reds and a long blue that go all the way back down to town.

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© 2012 Athena Goodlight

Chalet Stella Alpina Chalet Stella Alpina: Image # 1Chalet Stella Alpina
The hotel Chalet Stella Alpina is beautifully situated in the heart of the Swiss Alps, 1,500 metres above

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Ski Destinations in Italy: Bormio

Many people would agree that Bormio ranks among the most beautiful ski resorts worldwide.

The focus of Bormio's skiing is the network of red and blue runs leading north-west back to town from Cima Bianca (3,010m), and accessed by the new gondola going from town via Bormio 2000. The most famous of these - the Pista Stelvio - is closed off for yearly competitions, but when accessible forms a steep, long red with good views all over. A lot of the reds here are steeper than normal, and their upper exposure allows winds to whip them into icy trails closer to black runs.

Off the Slopes:
The old town is a clutter of cobbled streets and ancient squares; guided tours leave from the Piazza Cavour. A 3km journey by bus or taxi leads to the Bagni Vecchi, Roman and medieval baths open to the public and providing a huge range of on-site treatments.

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Hotel Nordik Hotel Nordik: Image # 1Hotel Nordik
The hotel is located in Santa Caterina Valfurva 10 Km from Bormio.  

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Ski Resort Review: Montgenevre, France

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Montgenevre was popular in the 1930s with the Parisian jet-set together with Cocteau, Gabin and Colette.  Nowadays, it may have lost the glamour of its earlier years, but it remains to be a pleasant little resort having a wonderful snow record.

The first draglift in France was opened here in 1936 and they certainly chose the correct spot; with high, north-facing inclines and westerly storms pouring huge amounts of snow as they churn across the valley, Montgenevre gets some of the ideal snow in the southern Alps.

The cluttered up main street along the busy road might not make it the most charming of resorts, but the old town behind the main road contains some appeal. Accommodation is cheap and cheerful, and generally no more than five minutes walk from the slopes.
When you get up there, an immense area of great skiing in two countries lies waiting, and if your wish to explore the far end of the Milky Way circuit - Sauze d'Oulx and Sestriere- it's quicker to go by car; unless you prefer to spend all day going up and down lifts.

Going up the mountain from the village is easy; nine lifts await you leaving from the area just off the main road. Two of these are gondolas - one, right near the tourist office gets you up into the Chalvet area north of the village; the other, Les Chalmettes, is the quickest way to take you to the mid-mountain station in the main area, above the nursery slopes.

Montgenevre is excellent for novices; the nursery area above the village is far-reaching, having a mix of wide open slopes and more narrow but really gentle runs through the trees -great for honing technique. It's also great for some intermediate cruising, having a couple of friendly reds below Les Anges offering a bit more of a challenge for those wanting it. This is a popular region, but the number of lifts indicates there are rarely queues.

To embark further into Italy, get on the Rocher de I'Aigle chairlift, which brings you over the prominent scenery of the Massif du Chenaillet, a vast open bowl having breathtaking rock formations and outcrops. The top of this lift sits on the France-Italian border; heading east into Italy takes you to a few fantastic high-mountain reds and a black. Lower down, the Claviere and Monti della Luna regions have a lot of nice trails through the trees. Monti della Luna has some truly long runs that are easier compared to the black grading given on the piste map. In fact, experts will discover that pretty much all the runs are easier than their gradings, so the best bet is to head off-piste or to the Chalvet section, which has a couple of challenging runs down from Col de I'Alpet.

Restaurant Les Anges is large and functional rather than cutesy, but offers a wide range of crepes and bruschetta. In the Chalvet area, La Bergerie is like the French edition of a greasy spoon, but it's an excellent place to stop for a cafe au lait. On the Claviere side, the best restaurants are in Italy ; the small, cosy hut at the top of Colle Bercia is a great place to stop and warm up.

There is a snow-sure terrain park having a quarter-pipe, jumps and a tow just below the Gondrans chairlift on top of Les Anges. Unfortunately, there are also a bit much draglifts around, so pick your route carefully. There is an outdoor ice rink at the bottom of the slopes, and walking trails and snowmobiling. The more adventurous should try out 'ruisseling' - climbing up frozen waterfalls - in the Rio Secco canyon. The less adventurous may go to the cinema.

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 © 2012 Tip Writer

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Ski Resorts in Poiana Brasov, Romania

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The purpose-built resort in Poiana is located 13km up the mountain from the medieval town of Brasov, on the south-eastern fringes of the Carpathian mountains. The random sprawl of hotels in the pine forests around Mount Postavaru is short on architecture and atmosphere, but the insides are pretty spacious.

Mount Postavaru is served by two cable-cars and a gondola, all ancient and all leading to the same spot on the shoulder of the mountain 750m above the resort. With the top station at a lowly 1,775m, the runs are cut from the forest and graded more on breadth than steepness, but all the colors are represented on the piste map. Any competent intermediate would exhaust the area in a-day, but having 68 instructors, many fluent in English, this is a cost-effective and enjoyable place in which to learn to ski.

The Kanzel pub, at the top lift station, could be just about the cheapest mountain restaurant in Europe.

In the absence of a village focus, the most convenient place to stay is the Sport, Bradul and Poiana complex, three well-run hotels under the same corporate ownership less than five minutes' walk from the Bradul cable car.

Most visitors have half-board packages that include dinner in their hotels, but the touristic Sheep-Cot is a top regional attraction, with bear steaks (which can be tough and overcooked) served at communal tables in a kind of folkloric Romanian yurt.

The pubs and cellar bars in Brasov are unexpectedly sophisticated, with a decent range of Romanian wines on offer. Festival 39 is recommended for its extensive cocktail list, while the Blitz Club, in a new brutalist complex away from the centre, is the late, late choice.

© 2012 Tip Writer

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Ski and Snowboard Destinations: Zakopane, Poland

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Zakopane is a town rather than a resort, with a pretty river running alongside its bustling pedestrianised high street. There are four ski areas spread out around the mountains surrounding the town, but there is no area lift pass. Even inside the areas, it is often requisite to pay for each ride on each lift separately. The most Alpine of the zones is Kasprowy Wierch, a rocky crag accessed by a venerable 30-person, two-stage cable-car. As it can just move 180 people per hour, the queues look interminable, though it is possible to short-cut them by booking a time slot the day before. When you are at the top, two efficient chairlifts maximize two decent runs with interesting off-piste variants. The modern funicular on Gulbalowka is the best option for intermediates, though they will need nerves of steel for the high-speed chicane across the mid-mountain bridge. The hill has a half-pipe and night skiing, with the train running till 9pm.

Novices will find a wide stretch of nursery slopes at Nosal, but the main run is short, narrow, icy and unfriendly. Beginners would do better to graduate to Polana Szymoszkowa, which has two modern chairlifts, snowmaking and night skiing on flat, open pistes.

The luxury Belvedere Hotel, patronised by the Polish president, serves good food in the penthouse Pod Aniolem Restaurant and long night time driks in the subterranean U-Boot bar. The Litwor, centrally located and under the same ownership, is of a comparable standard though less ostentatiously opulent. The main street has a wide choice of bars, among them Seagrams Pub-Cafe where draft Guinness is served.

© 2012 Tip Writer

Luxury apartment with sauna and swimming pool Photo #1Luxury apartment with sauna and swimming pool
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