There are two things besides travelling that I absolutely love. That would be sports (doing, not watching) and food. So if I can combine these three elements, I am the happiest girl on the planet. That’s why I go on a snowboarding vacation every single year. I’d rather give up a summer holiday than a week in the snow. I’m not one of those people who has done snowboarding from when she was a child: I only started about 9 years ago. But from that moment on, I haven’t missed a single year!
Basically there are two countries in Europe which are most common to go snowboarding / skiing. That would be France and Austria. The question is: which country is the best option?
Quality of the slopes
I don’t know why, but France doesn’t seem to have many snow groomers. They just don’t know how to prep the ski slopes. Too bad, because hardly anything tops the feeling of cruising down a freshly prepped ski slope and creating your very own trail. In Austria they prep everything, every single night. When arriving at the ski lift in the morning, still slightly tired but very excited to go up again, you will see the nice vertical lines of a beautifully prepped slope. What a lovely feeling.
Sorry France, this one goes to Austria for sure.
GoPro screenshot of a beautifully prepped ski slope in Sölden, Austria
Length of the slopes
I love it when you take a couple of ski lifts, then step on your snowboard and keep going for a loooong time before having to take a lift again. Long runs are my favorite. Especially when you can just keep going and you don’t have to wait for people to keep up. Put on some of my favourite travel music and goooo.
Austria has a couple of long ski runs, but not nearly as much as France has. In France, the glacier is usually connected to the rest of the ski slopes. For example in The Vallee Blanche (Chamonix, France) you can ride for 14 miles / 22 km in one go (but mostly off-piste). In Sarenne (Alpe d’Huez) there’s a 10 mile / 16 km run.
Congrats France, this one’s for you.
A windy day in Les Deux Alpes – France
Distance accommodation to piste
The good thing about skiing / snowboarding in France? Many of the accommodation are very close to the piste. And when I say ‘very close’, I mean literally going out the back door of the hotel / apartment and being on it. Just like that. In Austria the villages are not on a high altitude like in France, so you have to take a lift to get up to the actual skiing / snowboarding area. Also: everyone needs to take that very same lift, so if you’re in the high season, it’s very much possible you have to wait in line to get up the mountain. Annoying.
France, another point for you.
Food on the mountain
I like to eat multiple smaller and cheaper dishes during the day: around 11am, right before the lunch madness, and around 2pm, right after it. Usually I opt for something sweet in the morning, like a piece of pie. In the afternoon I choose a nice soup with some bread, or another light and small dish.
In France, there’s no such thing. Everything is dead expensive (soup + roll for €12,-?!) and most of the menu consists of big and heavy dishes like hamburgers and fries. Also, the amount of mountain restaurants is not even close to what you can find in Austria. In Austria there’s literally a restaurant near every lift. In France you actually have to look for places to eat.
So in terms of quantity AND quality: definitely two points for Austria.
Food compilation of Kaprun, Austria
I’m going on a snowboarding vacation for the actual snowboarding. Of course I like to have a drink and go for a bit of après ski, but I will never ever miss a day of snowboarding because of a hangover. However, there are many people who go skiing or snowboarding mostly for the après ski. We actually have a friend who goes with us every year, not for the snow, but only for the fun, food and drinks. Perfectly fine of course, but if you’re into this, Austria is definitely the place to go.
Austria is more fun: the atmosphere is nicer and there’s a lot more to do. In France, especially in the low season, it’s not as party-ish as in Austria.
But I have to give a honorable mention to La Folie Douce in Val Thorens. This is a party house on the mountain, with a DJ and a live saxophone player. Party every single day, very cool!
Bonus round: Glühwein
Especially for the glühwein lovers out there, like me, this is important. Why? Because French Glühwein is horrible. Seriously guys, what are you adding that makes it taste so bad? I definitely prefer the Austrian version! It’s a bit sweeter and a lot more tasty.
Bonus point for Austria.
The winner: 4 (+1) points for Austria, 2 points for France
All in all, Austria is the winner. And I indeed do prefer Austria over France for snowboarding. But it really depends on what you find important. To me, the most important factors are prepped ski slopes and decent food on the mountain. So my next snowboarding vacation will be in Austria for sure!