Ski and snowboard in the Alps: What to do and what not to do

The Alps
The Alps

Ski and snowboard in the Alps: What to do and what not to do

by Patrick Swartz, The Snowboard Dad In Europe
Stripes Europe

Whether you’re new to Europe or have been here for a winter or two, it’s never too late to try your hand at skiing or snowboarding in the beautiful Alpine paradise. No matter if you’re well-versed in chasing powder or if you’re planning your first time strapping into skis or a board, if you’re going at it alone, with a group, or with kids, the Alpine countries have amazing villages and slopes in all forms that will guarantee a great experience.

Many people find themselves asking, “What do I do?” or “What don’t I do?” Ski and snowboard culture in the Alps has a different feel to it than other mountains, and I’d like to walk you through a few points to prepare you for Winter Alpine travel.

Getting To and Getting Around

  • Weather – The weather patterns (or lack thereof) that move in between the hundreds of Alpine mountain valleys can be unpredictable. A lot of basic weather apps will oftentimes not provide the full picture of what to expect. As you travel up and down altitude, temperatures can also fluctuate a fair amount. Be prepared for nearly anything and don’t get caught in the mountains without winter tires or snow chains. Regarding snow chains, make sure you’ve practiced putting them on before making your journey. Freezing temperatures at night with windchill is not when you want to have your first snow chain installation experience!
  • Vignettes and Tolls – Know when you need to buy vignettes/stickers for certain countries and how much tolls can cost. Switzerland, Slovenia, and Austria all require stickers. If you don’t do your route research, you can also find yourself getting surprised with  expensive tolls.
  • Non-driving cities – Know the Zermatt Sign and what it means! Don’t do what I did and listen to your aloof backseat friends that say, “I’m sure it’s fine. You can drive in.” If you’re headed to high alpine Swiss towns, avoid the high-stakes panic attack that I had and leave your car outside of town. You don’t want to come across the Swiss Polizei in a private automobile in one of these places. You’ll drive away 350 Francs lighter.