Friday, February 24, 2017
Okay skiers. I've done this for you. I have put up links that I found to help you ski almost anywhere in Switzerland. Here's why I love Switzerland. Hands down it's one of the most beautiful countries in the world and every chance I get I go there. From Lake Geneva to the Matterhorn, to the lakes to the eastern border with Liechtenstein. It's gorgeous. So, while I don't care whether Alpine Skiing was born in Murren or in St. Moritz; I guarantee that it was created in Switzerland. And as I always say, why not go to the source? Is skiing better there? I don't know. I don't ski, but they have 154 different ski resorts there in that tiny country. That tells me that the skiing is probably pretty good.
There are several areas famous for their skiing. I already mentioned St. Moritz in the south of the country along the Italian border. There is also Gstaad north of Lake Geneva and all the resorts around there. There is another area around Bern in the center of the country. There is all of the Bernese Oberland deep in the Alps around Interlaken. There is also a huge area of famous ski resorts in the east along the border with Liechtenstein. Face it, whether you're along the Rhone, Lake Geneva or in the Lauterbrunnen Valley; there's some great skiing in Switzerland.
The only thing that I can say for sure is that when you ski in Switzerland, you have to travel there; and for that I have some advice. First, take the train. Especially in the winter driving can be an issue and you will probably have some large gear to take on a car too. You can run around on the trains with a Swiss Pass or a Eurorail Pass and take your skis with you. There may be a baggage charge in some areas, but it's still pretty convenient. They have one of the best train systems in the world. Use it. Then you just have to get a shuttle in most cases to the resort where you are staying or the hotel. Train passes can also be used to help with the cost of cog railways and gondolas to reach the more remote areas, so it's worth the investment.
Other things that you should know about traveling in Switzerland. They still use Swiss Francs. You can spend Euros and they will be happy to accept them, but your change will be in Swiss Francs. Also, there are ATM's all over the country where you can get money with most times a small fee from your bank back at home. Most places take all kinds of credit cards and debit cards. Hopefully you made sure that your credit cards had no fees for international use. Switzerland is extremely convenient for travel and that's only one of the many reasons why I am so fond of traveling there.
Where's my favorite spot? Lauterbrunnen Valley beyond a shadow of a doubt. Interlaken is close by for all your needs. Lauterbrunnen is where you will get your classic Swiss experience with the small towns and the towns on the cliffs and so on. Murren is one of the places that claims to have created Alpine Skiing and they have some great skiing up there and all over the Schilthorn. The Schilthorn has the distinction of also having Piz Gloria, the rotating restaurant that was used in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service on it's peak. From the gondolas to the cog railways to the James Bond World Museum to the top of Europe on Jungfrau; Lauterbrunnen Valley is my favorite spot on Earth.
There are some other reasons why I enjoy the Bernese Oberland and Lauterbrunnen so much. The atmosphere is just great, as well as the scenery. There are little cliff towns everywhere above on the cliffs. It's exotic, but unlike some areas of Switzerland; most people speak English. If you visit some of the areas in the west you will find out really quickly that although these are the areas that have English versions of their websites, they don't like to speak anything but French. That can make it hard to get around. You can run into similar problems throughout the country seeing as Switzerland is a country made up of several cantons and there are five different languages spoken throughout this tiny country. Lauterbrunnen Valley has relied on tourism for a very long time and British folks were their original clientele. English is spoken widely there and just gives you one last thing to worry about.
So, if you want to ski; I mean really want to ski, then go to Switzerland. I've done the best I can to link you to some good information on traveling through Switzerland to ski. I hope you find something that suits you. Look at price too though. Switzerland is expensive and some areas more than others. Enjoy!
We're going alphabetically on this one. That is by resort name. So check the On The Snow website at the bottom and find what you like from there. There's a lot.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
It's February and it's time to ski. It's that simple. A lot of people spend a lot of money to ski in the Rockies, the Sierra Nevadas, the Alps and so on. What a lot of people tend to forget is that New England is full of skiing and the people out here can't get enough of it. Welcome to New England. We don't mind winter at all and we have a lot of great places for you to ski. I didn't really pay much attention to the whole ski thing before, because it's not a particular interest of mine, but my son went to work at Mohawk Mountain Ski Resort in Cornwall, CT this year, and I've gotten a real taste of what that culture is like. Needless to say, this is currently my favorite resort in Connecticut, but it's mroe than just my opinion. It's the largest mountain we have here for skiing and it's a very popular spot for New Yorkers out for the weekend. It's a great place to spend some time with around 20 runs and 3 restaurants. It's a day resort with no hotel, but it's a great place to get away.
Now, that being said; I have some favorites of my own, not because I ski, but because I have friends who ski and because I've still been to most of the resorts even though I don't ski. So, many people favor Killington in Vermont and Sugarloaf in Maine. They are both huge and they are both part of incorporated areas that revolve around the ski resorts. Both have festivals and activities throughout the year as well. They are a great place to get away to even if you don't ski. Killington also has a fabulous view in the fall for the foliage and a gondola ride that is unmatched for that time of year.
Mount Snow is one of ny favorite spots. It's in southern Vermont just outside of Wilmington. Wilmington is one of my favorite small towns no matter what time of year it is. If you ride a motorcycle, southern Vermont is the place to be in the summer or fall. If you stop in to ski at Mount Snow, make sure you get a lunch at Dot's Diner and pick up a little something to read from Bartelby's Books.
Just down the road from Cannon is Loon Mountain. The two together round out my favorite resorts around Lincoln, New Hampshire. This area is great all year round. The foliage in the fall is spectacular. In the summer there are ice caves on the top of this mountain. There is Clark's Trading Post for the kids. There are scenic train rides and local car racing. There is even a little car museum in the back of a local souvenir shop in Woodstock. The hiking is amazing with Franconia Notch and Lost River. The Appalachian Trail makes an appearance in the area. There is also Mount Washington with it's cog railway and famous moutain road. Don't count on Mount Washington in the winter though. That mountain is famous for having some of the worst weather on Earth.
On the other side of Mount Washington you will find the resort of Attitash. This place is huge and has great conditions all through the winter and into spring. The elevation is high there and the skiing is amazing I hear. Now, that being said, they have a great summer resort as well with alpine slides, mountain coasters and water slides. I should probably mention here that Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts also has these things in the summer minus the water slides plus and adventure park, zip lines and Segway tours.
But let's not forget Maine. It's always winter up there unless it's summer. They really only have two seasons. In between they just have moose. Big Squaw Mountain is one of my favorite spots. They don't do much in summer, but the simple fact is that this place is in my favorite places in the country. It's in Greenville, Maine which is the coolest town in the United States. The people are special and friendly, the place is laid back, and you cannot be in a bad mood when you're there. They have more moose than people around there. The best part about Greenville is that not only can you ski there in the winter, but they have festivals. They have a chocolate festival and a memorial snowmachine ride up to the crash site of the B-52 airplane that crashed on Elephant Mountain in the 1960's. They also have one thing that you won't get just up the road from any other ski resort. In the winter, they race cars on Moosehead Lake by Kelly's Landing. You can't miss that.
So, enjoy winter. Come to New England. We love winter. We know how to have fun. And trust me, people here love to ski. Enjoy!
We should all know by now how much I adore Europe, and it's time to start looking into vacations for the year if you intend to go to any of the best spots. So, I'm starting my information early this year. And I'm starting with Italy and the Liguria Sea. What is this you ask? Have you ever heard of the Italian Riviera? Well, there you go. Along these dramatic seas you will find villages and cities that tumble down gargantuan cliffs into the sea. There are many wonderful stops along this piece of coast that they call Amalfi, but one of the most popular, most beautiful, most traditional, and most colorful areas is the National Park and World Heritage Site called Cinque Terre. Is Cinque Terre a village? Is it a park? Is it a province? Well, as the name would suggest, it is five villages. Each one has it's own flair, but they are all staggeringly beautiful with cliff buildings, beaches, and some of the best views in the world.
Riomaggiore is the first village that you will reach if you start in the south of the chain. Cinque Terre is known for it's colorful houses and cliffs all the way along, but each village has it's own speciality or flair. Riomaggiore is famous for it's wine and it's harbor. There are vineyards in the hills and dolphins along the shore. The night life is good there and there is no escaping the fabulous scenery anywhere in the area. This is not the village that is big on resorts, but there are trails that lead to fabulous botanical gardens and Nazi bunkers as well as on to the next village up the coast. Cinque Terre is one of the best summer hiking spots in Italy with hundreds of hiking trails throughout the area around and between the villages.
Manarola is the smallest village of the five and will be the next one you find going north from Riomaggiore. It still has the pastel houses on the cliff and great views of the sea from it's cliffs and harbors. The best view here is from the bar if you climb up Punta Bonfiglio. There is also an old cemetery up there to look at. Remember though that this is a cemetery and the people of the area have friends and relatives buried there. Be respectful. Manarola is one of the oldest villages in the region dating from the 14th century.
Still heading north you will find the village of Corneglia. This is the only cliff town that doesn't sit directly on the water. It is also a wine producing area and this village is the highest elevation of all the villages in Cinque Terre. You can take the train to the villages if you like, but the best way to see the area is to walk. The cliff trails provide unmatched views of the Amalfi Coast. The town was supposedly named by a Roman farmer after his mother Cornelia. If you do decide to take the train to this town, you will have to climb 400 stairs to get from the train station to the village on the top of the cliff.
Next up the coast heading north is Vernazza and this is one of my favorite spots. It's like a step back in time. There are no cars. It's the land of the pedestrian with shops and bars and restaurants and amazing views. There are ruins of an old castle there, world famous olive oil and the Santa Margherita d’Antichia church. If you are looking for that old world charm and truly feeling like you've traveled in a time machine; this is the spot for you. It has an amazing harbor as well and as the rest of the area, a great view from above. You won't find much in the way of beaches here, however, so if you have to have them; this is not your stop.
As you reach the north end of the national park, you will come to Monterroso. This is the touristy town in the park. This is the resort town with the bars and nightlife. This is the place with the most beaches and the best shopping. This is the place where you can show off your fancy Italian sports car. This is where you will find the who's who of people traveling along the Amalfi Coast. It's the largest of the five towns and the most modern. Not to say that it lacks old world charm, because of course it has old world charm. The whole area is old world and gorgeous. If you're looking to stay along this coast park, however, this may be the spot for you to look for a hotel. Once again the hiking is spectacular and the views are amazing. The beaches are to die for around there too.
So, Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe or the world for that matter. The Amalfi Coast is a cliff area of the Riviera that leaves you breathless from it's cliffs and beauty. There is no place else on Earth like it and this is the time to start looking into it if you would like to see it in the summer. The area is a National Park. The villages are not large, so finding a place to stay even in Monterroso takes some planning ahead. So, start looking into it. Get a better camera, because there are no cameras good enough to do this place justice anyway. Check Air BnB, check Home Away, check Booking.com. Find the best place. Plan a train or rent a car to get there. Go out and get a little in shape so that you can do some walking, because it's the best way to see this amazing World Heritage Site. Take a step back in time and take time to smell the roses. Cinque Terre awaits with memories that will last a lifetime. Don't miss this. Enjoy!