Try Winter Country Hopping-on Skis
People often ask how they can ski several different countries during their short visit to Europe. Since many alpine resorts impose week-long minimum stays, especially during the high season, the easiest way may just be to ski from one country to another during a single ski day.
Skiing over the top of the mountain between villages in one valley and another is rarely found outside Europe. Even though several of these multi-country expeditions go outside the Schengen control zone, people are often disappointed that there are usually no on-slope border-crossing formalities. Nevertheless, as everywhere in Europe, it's wise to keep your passport handy.
Border-hopping on skis entails the same serious risk as all other valley-to-valley ski experiences: missing the last lift up. Overstaying your visit can mean a very long and expensive transfer back to your home resort.
Here are a few of the possibilities:
Ischgl (Austria) to Samnaun (Switzerland): Ischgl is located near the end of the Paznaun valley, about 90 minutes' drive from Innsbruck. Ischgl does not attract many Americans, except the snowboarding cognoscenti for which it has a magic allure and an aggressive après ski. The 200km of ski runs in the cross-border ski area are predominantly intermediate level.
The village of Samnaun is Switzerland's only tax-free zone, a paradise for the same type of merchandise found in airport boutiques. Most skiers settle for buying a bottle which they aim to "smuggle" back to Austria, only to be disappointed by the absence, or disinterest, of any border guard. As you head back from Samnaun, you will ride the world's first two-story cable car. For more information, visit samnaun.ch/de.
Zermatt (Switzerland) to Cervinia (Italy): In skiing from Zermatt to Cervinia, the journey is a greater reward than the destination. After arriving mid-mountain, the trip entails riding the breathtaking cable car from Trockner Steg to Klein Matterhorn. You emerge at the entrance of a tunnel, where a short walk leads to the year-round glacier ski area. Before beginning your descent, you can take an elevator to a sightseeing platform-at 12,736 feet, the highest in Europe-with a 360-degree panorama of the highest peaks in the Alps, or descend 50 feet below the surface to see the glacier structure. The runs down to Cervinia (and back) are intermediate. Once in Cervinia, it's a tradition to eat pizza or pasta and drink some fine Chianti. For more information, visit zermatt.ch/en and cervinia.it/en/inverno/home
Champéry (Switzerland) to Morzine (France): The Portes des Soleil is the largest interlinked multinational ski area encompassing 2 countries, 14 resorts, 200 lifts, 650km slopes, and 300 runs. Although many of the resort villages are in France (Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets), we prefer the Swiss base of Champéry. In contrast to the somewhat soulless, purpose-built centers, Champéry is picture-postcard-pretty. Although it's hard to tell when you've left one country and entered another, skiers will enjoy the planned exploration circuits, which vary in difficulty and follow interesting, historic routes. For more information, visit j2ski.com/ski_resorts/Switzerland/Champery.html
Courmayeur (Italy) to Chamonix (France): The country hops above are best for intermediates, but this one requires more skill. After taking the cable car from La Palud to Punta Helbronner, you'll confront the impressive Mer de Glace glacier. If you're up for the challenge (a ski guide and good skiing skills are a must), you'll descend between the crevasses of the glacier. Snow conditions permitting, you'll be able to ski down to Chamonix, or else you'll ski part way and then take the cable car to Montenvers, where you'll be able to take a cog-train back to the town of Chamonix. For more information, visit www.courmayeur-montblanc.com and compagniedumontblanc.fr/en/company.
Other Opportunities: In addition to skiing from resort to resort between countries, there are many other possibilities along similar lines. In most of these cases, having an automobile is virtually essential. There are some wide-area ski passes, which include multiple resorts in different countries such as the Garmisch Happy Ski Card (Germany and Austria). Another option is to stay near Landeck and ski areas in three countries: Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.
Most of the information in this story comes from our colleagues at SkiEurope, a longtime winter tour operator that specializes in arranging custom packages for groups and individuals. Gemütlichkeit is personally acquainted with the company's knowledgeable and caring management, and unhesitatingly recommends its products and services. Visit ski-europe.com/ or phone 800-333-5533, for information about 60 resorts in six countries and online tools that help travelers find the best ski resorts to match their interests.