VAL D'ISERE, France (Money Magazine) -
We hesitated before recommending a European ski resort, knowing full well that the dollar has lost value against the euro in the past year. But Americans still benefit from 18 percent more buying power on the Continent since the European currency was introduced in Jan. 1999. And currency aside, European resorts have long drawn Americans with packages that offer better value -- not to mention a more interesting cultural experience -- than skiing in the Rockies.
Our current favorite? France's Val d'Isere. Located in a valley close to the Italian border, the village of Val d'Isere offers breathtaking views and consistently good powder snow. It's also got some of the best skiing infrastructure in Europe, thanks to extensive upgrades for the 1992 Winter Olympics men's downhill, which added fast cable-cars and gondolas to serve the locale's well-groomed slopes. And Val d'Isere continues to make improvements
In general, the resort is rarely congested. With 100 lifts and over 300 kilometers of runs, Val d'Isere is one of Europe's biggest resorts. (Colorado's famous Vail resort, by comparison, is roughly one third the size -- and notoriously crowded.) There are runs for everyone, including beginners, and some of the most challenging lift-served off-trail skiing in the world. The slopes sit at high altitude, so there's always plenty of snow from November to at least April. If that weren't enough, Savoie, the region where Val d'Isere is located, offers some of the tastiest dishes you'll find at any resort in Europe.
In January, SkiEurope (800-333-5533) is offering round-trip air fare to Geneva from New York, seven nights' accommodations, breakfast and shuttle transfers (but not lift tickets) for $969. A six-day pass that allows you to ski anywhere in the area costs just $28 a day.