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Old 10.04.2015, 15:17
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White Christmas for our Australian family

Hi all
I would like to ask for your advice. My husband and I are new to Geneva and non-skiers (at this stage). We know nothing yet about what it is like living in the snow. However, we would like to fly our kids over from Brisbane for Christmas, and give them a real Swiss experience.

We were thinking of hiring a chalet somewhere for around 3 nights. We don't own a car but would consider hiring one to get to a special place (but again we know nothing about driving in the snow, and have not yet had a go at driving on what what have always considered to be the 'wrong' side of the road).

Our son is a keen skier and would definitely want to do some skiing, and probably try to get us out on the slopes. I guess we would need to be able to hire appropriate ski gear too.

I did a search on the forum and found an old thread where Evolene was suggested as a beautiful village, and a search on airbnb indicates there are places available there. But I've never used airbnb before either, so don't really know a great deal about what I'm looking at. It doesn't have to be an airbnb place either, it was just suggested to me as a good place to look for good accommodation.

As you can see, I know very little

Any advice that anyone can offer would be much appreciated.
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Old 10.04.2015, 15:48
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

Christmas is not snow garanteed in large parts of Switzerland. You coule go to Verbier by train from Geneva airport, train to Martigny, change and train to Le Châble, where you can take the cable-car up to Verbier resort.

If you look at the website for Swiss trains you can get a timetable:

www.sbb.ch

Evolène is really lovey, much nicer than Verbier- but lower altitude. You can take the train to Sion and then the post bus to Evolène, right outside the train station. Buses wait for the train to arrive. Depends what you want, but there are several really oldie worldy Hôtels in Evolène which have VERY reasonable prices, one is called l'Hermitage- 19C Style all in old wood with lots of alpine paraphanalia- or you can go up to the little hamlet of La Tour, a few mins further on (post bus will stop you there if you ask) and go to 'La Grande peur dans la montagne' B&B. Patrick and Magdeleine, who is a local girl (was a nun then later a great ski instructor!) speak good English and prices are great too- very very friendly. They have a small studio apartment with its own kitchen- accommodation is a bit tight, the double bed is made out of a single with another that pulls out at night, and 2 bunk beds fit flat against the wall during the day for more space. I think price is about 130 for all 4! Bathroom on each floor is shared. BTW it is a wonderful place for walking in Summer too, and the wild flowers are fabulous. Magdelene knows the whole region by heart and can advise you really well.

http://www.bnb-evolene.ch/

Skiing in Evolène is great for 1 day or 2- but will get boring for a week for a good skier. However, the post bus will take you to Arolla for another great day by the glacier, or the other way to Nax for another good day. So over 3 days, 1 day at each would be grand. There are several hire shops in Evolène, and 1 at the entrance to Les Haudères, a couple of minutes walk from the B&B. By car, you can also get to Thyon 2000, that links to the whole of the 4Vallées Verbier area- but it would take too long by bus.
Zermatt is snow sure too, but much further away.

Last edited by Odile; 10.04.2015 at 16:13.
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Old 10.04.2015, 15:50
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

Evolène is my favorite village in Switzerland, but I very much doubt that a "keen skier" would enjoy it as it is a rather small resort.
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Old 10.04.2015, 15:54
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

Just returned from our winter break in Australia and have used airbnb a few times, if you read the references and the write ups about the places on offer you should be reasonably safe. I must say the driving standards in Australia or far better than here and drivers even have manners.
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Old 10.04.2015, 16:14
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

Unless it's just snowed, the roads will have been cleared of snow. But you can get to most ski areas by train and bus.

If you are non-skiers I'd recommend somewhere similar to Zermatt, where you have a town with things to do other than just skiing, but there is also challenging skiing for the good skiers. You can get the train all the way into Zermatt from Geneva, with just one change in Visp.

At Christmas, ski areas are BUSY as it is school holidays. Ski accommodation rentals tend to be for a whole week, it's difficult to get something just for a few days. It is possible though, search on Expedia or similar. My dad is staying at the Butterfly in Zermatt for 4 nights over Xmas, but you need to book early as there aren't many short term accomodation options available in peak season!
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Old 10.04.2015, 16:39
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

This year you might be lucky, as Christmas day (25th) is Friday, and the hotel changeover day is usually on Saturday. So you just might find accommodation ending on Saturday 26th December.

Personally I like Portes du Soleil. It is modern with wood tacked on to the concrete buildings. The purists hate it but it functions very well, with everything there in the village, you can even ski up to the shop doorways.

http://en.portesdusoleil.com/ <-- at present are the summer pages, look for ski areas
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Old 10.04.2015, 16:41
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

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Just returned from our winter break in Australia and have used airbnb a few times, if you read the references and the write ups about the places on offer you should be reasonably safe. I must say the driving standards in Australia or far better than here and drivers even have manners.
So you were not driving in Sydney!
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Old 10.04.2015, 16:45
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

Most of Portes du Soleil are in FRance though...including Avoriaz which is the resort Sbrinz describes above. Getting to Avoriaz without a car could prove very difficult from Geneva?!

apart from the small village resort of Champéry- which would indeed be a good alternative, and with great skiing. The lovely thing with Champéry is that is is a traditional village before it is a ski resort- so great for that 'Swiss' experience the OP is asking for. Train to Aigle then change and train up to Champéry on a beautiful alpine route. You can ski over to AVoriaz, on the French side, which is the area Sbrinz is very fond of (and I find horrible and looks run down- built in the 70s of concrete and wood- but each to their own ). Champéry is opposite my favourite mountains in the alps, Les Dents du Midi. There is also a spa resort called 'Val-d'Illiez' a bit lower down- modern but wood clad and quite pleasant alpine architecture.

http://www.thermes-parc.com/

Many of the Portes du Soleil resorts on the French side are not easily accessible without a rental car, hence my recommendations above. Champéry, thinking back on it- would be ideal for that turly Swiss experience with easy access by train from Geneva.

Last edited by Odile; 10.04.2015 at 17:37.
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Old 10.04.2015, 17:02
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

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So you were not driving in Sydney!
Actually we were last year, and I think the fines and the fact that you can loose your licence means drivers are somewhat more responsible and they do not actually polish your rear bumper at the speed limit as the steerers do here.
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Old 10.04.2015, 17:19
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

I see a few suggestions have been made already, but I'll add my comments to them and more.

Verbier. You do not want to stay there, especially at Christmas/New Year. It's full of wannabee Posh brits, loadsamoney, daddy's got a place in the Alps, dontcha know, types. Load, boorish, too much money, and en embarrassment to the rest of the English-speaking world. (Yes, even worse than Americans ). Some pretty good skiing, but not snow-sure that early in the season. Not a patch on its reputation.

Portes du Soleil. Yes, some great skiing there. and lots of it. I'm there doing a course this coming week, as it happens ( TelemarkL1 Instructor). Avoriaz is not the most charming place, Morzine is better although large and also full of brits, albeit not to many of the Verbier types. There's a lovely little village just down the valley called St Jean d'Aulps with its own ski area and links to the rest of PdS, or you might like to stay in one of the other valleys, like Chatel/Abondance of Morgins/Champery on the Swiss side (although further to go from Geneva).

Very close to PdS is a little gem called Pras de Lys / Sommand, which I'd heartily recommend. Really nice little village, perfect for Christmas, I'd say, with surprisingly good and extensive skiing on the doorstep, but only a ten minute drive to les Get for the PdS or a little more to Samoens for the Grand Massif (Flaine), also a huge ski area.
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Old 10.04.2015, 22:29
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Re: White Christmas for our Australian family

There is a minibus service from Geneva airport to the French ski resorts.

Morzine is the village at the bottom of Portes du Soleil and Avoriaz is the village on the top, there is a road up to the top or you can take the cable car.
It really isn't worth hiring a car, avoid it if possible.

http://www.alpybus.com/home

.

Last edited by Sbrinz; 10.04.2015 at 22:46.
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